Saturday Jaurary 29th 2011 Myself 56 and DH 61 headed to the airport around 6:30am for Delta flight that left Detroit at 8:40am headed for Tampa. I had pre printed boarding passes along with purchasing one checked bag on line, saved $2 yippee!! Once at the gate we checked if the flight was full, hoping to take a bump but no luck. Flight boarded at 8am. The flight was about 2 hours and this plane had little monitors in the backs of the seats so got to watch CNN, Food network along with many other show. Just need your own earbuds or you can purchase. I had mine from my I pod so worked well. We were served drink/snack en route. Landed in Tampa early at 11:15am. Proceeded to pick up bags and then walked across the street to rental car area. I had pre booked a two day rental thru Dollar for $55.47 with AAA discount, about $20 less than competitors. We were given a Chevy Malibu (midsize). I had brought our Garmin GPS from home, so plugged in address and we were on our way. It was sort of neat driving over the Sunshine Skyway bridge realizing we would be passing under it in just a few days. Around 1pm we stoppyed at Applebee's in Bradenton-this location offered half off appetizers and 2 for one drinks if you ate at the bar. My DH and I split the Chicken Wontons, Boneless Chicken wings and Spinach Artichoke dip-all excellent. We had 2 for 1 beers (pints), 2 each and our bill came to $16. Amy at the bar was wonderful. With full bellies we continued on our way. We arrived in Marco Island at 3:30pm-had a great visit with our friend a former Michigander whom we used to boat with. Around 7pm we headed out for dinner. We went to Cocomo's in town. All of us had some sort of grouper dinner-2 blackened and 1 grouper francaise-it had capers, white wine, scallions but lacked taste. Entrees were about $20. Beer special at $1.99 for a pint. Headed back to our home for the next couple of days. Visited for a while and then off to bed
Sunday January 23, 2011. Up around 7am. Relaxed as we drank coffee and planned our day. Our host was very familiar with Marco Island so around 11am took us on a tour of the island. Many beautiful homes-even got to see Shania Twain's house which is currently up for sale. We were getting hungry and decided on stopping at Stan's in Goodland. I had read quite a bit about it on Trip Advisor. It is only open on Sunday. The weather was getting nice (now 60 and sunny) so we chose a table outside. Mixed drinks aren't cheap for the size at $7, beers were $4. We ordered chicken strip basket $9 with fries and slaw, DH had clam chowder $4 (he said it was so so) We people watched while having lunch. Many bikers stop here. On site is a boutique-jewelery, clothes, trinkets. There also is a fresh produce market. We didn't see Stan during our visit. The do have a live band which was just setting up around 1pm. From Stan's we drove to Alligator Alley and Everglade city. We turned down one road and saw may gators. Our friend told us that in warm weather there would be gators all up and down the road. The ones we saw were all in the swamp area. From there we headed back to Marco to put our dinner in the oven. About 4p we headed to the beach on the gulf shore. It was quite windy but still sunny. It felt great to us Michiganders. We walked a few miles and collected a variety of shells and some of the pure white sugar sand. Stopped at Winn Dixie on the way back to pick up some items for dinner and our two bottles of wine to take on board (750ml per bottle). After a wonderful dinner we got our suitcases in order. We put our cruise tags on our cases-I had covered the tags with clear stapping tape, punched a hole in each end then secured with snall zip ties. We programed the airport address into the Garmin ready for our return trip in the AM.
Monday January 24 2011
Up around 6am. We showered and did final packing. My DH went to load the car and couldn't find the car keys. We searched every where without luck. I called Dollar rental customer service and spoke to a very nice lady. She understood our concern as I told her we didn't want to miss the boat. She was going to check out a variety of options and call us back. No sooner did I hang up the phone with Dollar my DH annouced he had 'found' the keys. They were deep down in his sweatshirt pocket. Crisis averted I call Dollar back and cancelled and further assistance. By 7:30am we were on our way back to Tampa. We were glad we allowed extra time. It was sunny and around 57 degrees when we started on our way. Our drive back to Tampa airport was very uneventful. We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and then again to fill up the gas tank. We stopped at a 7/11 station just outside Tampa and it was $3.05 per gallon. We made it back to the airport car rental drop off around 10:45am. Very well marked and easy to find. We checked the car back in, given our receipt and we were on our way. We waited in the Dollar/Thrifty office for about 10 minutes for the complimentary shuttle to arrive to take us to the pier. The van can hold 7-8 passegers at a time. Vern, the driver was quite a character. It took about 15 minutes to get to the pier. Vern told us where he would pick us up following the cruise (saved paying for transfers/taxi) and return us to the airport to catch our flights home. Arrived at the port and tipped Vern $5. Ship porter picked up our bags as we unloaded them from the van, tipped $1 per bag. We got processed in very quickly. We were in zone 15 and only had to wait 10 minutes or so till allowed on the ship. We were on the Lido deck having lunch by 12:15pm-very efficient. The Lido restaurant was very busy but to be expected. I opted for a sandwich from the deli, salad and fruit-trying to keep it light. DH had Capricosa pizza and said it was good. We sat out on the back area of deck 10 that over looks the serenity deck. Once done with lunch we went on a short tour of the ship. Being that we had been on the Imagination many years ago we had an idea of the layout. The water slides were open but the pool/hot tubs on the lido deck were closed. The hot tubs on the serenity deck were open. We relaxed on the serenity deck, watching all the items being loaded onto the ship. Around 1:30pm we headed to check out our room. We had an inside cabin on the Riviera deck -R 214. We found the room quite comfortable-twin beds that were pushed together. Desk/vanity with 4 drawers under along with stool. 3 closets 2 for hanging and 1 with shelves/safe. Bathroom good size toilet on left, shower on right-nice heavy curtain. No luggage yet so we explored. Around 3:15pm we had the muster drill. We had muster station D so met in the Rock N Roll lounge on the promenade deck. They review how to put on a lift jacket and then had us all walk up a deck to where our life boats are. Very painless. Those with disabilities have a separate meeting area. Around 4:15pm we started to pull away from the dock and then make our way down towards the Sunshine skyway bridge. It was still quite sunny and pleasant to hand out on deck. By 5:30pm I found that all 3 pieces of our luggage had made it to our room. I opened them and found that our powere stip was removed-a note left saying that it would be returned when we arrived back in Tampa on the 29th. I had also packed a 32oz rum runner with vodka-unfortunately it was gone and wouldn't be returned. I am sure some of the crew are having a party somewhere. We have used rum runners many times in the past without problems, but it seems that the cruise lines is definitely doing a more thorought seach. There was definite evidence that they were very thorough going thru the luggage. Oh well, not going to let that ruin our trip. About 5:45pm went to deck 9 by the casino and had sushi. My DH and I split a large Fosters can 25 oz for $6.75 enough for 2 glasses. We went up on deck and found we were still a ways from the Sunshine bridge. it was quite dark already, so opted not to stay on deck. Returned to the cabin, I took a shower and found the water very hot. While I was in the shower DH said the cabin steward and assistant came around and introduced themselves-wish I would have met them as didn't see them the entire cruise although room was spotless. Around 7:30pm stopped by casino to get sign and sail card punched and attached to a lariat. Ended up donating some money. The casino is on the small side but a good variety of machines-1 cent, 2 cent, 25 cents, dollar. Went to dinner. Table 315 in the Carnivale dining room (aft). Ended up by the window at a table to 10. Only 1 other couple showed up, Brenda and Tom from New Hampshire, very nice. Good conversation. Waiter Luis and assistant Adam-up front I told Luis that I like my food hot-he delivered as requested. I had the fried shrimp and fruit for starter, the chicken a la Grecque for entree-very good, like a chicken breast with pesto on a bed of rigatoni with tomoatoes, olives and artichoke hearts. DH had tilapia and ribs-he wasn't really impressed with either. Headed back to the casino after dinner (see a pattern?) Waited until 10:10pm and then headed to the Welcome aboard show in the Paris lounge-found dancers and singers very good. CD Paul Santley was very entertaining. Got a taste of 2 comediennes who will perform later in the week. Stopped by the casino and ended up winning $1400 so well ahead for the day. Got our first towel animal. Headed to bed around midnight with smooth waters and sea day tomorrow. Before we went to bed we hung our room service tag on the door-like to have coffee as we are getting ready. More to follow