We just arrived home from what was my second cruise and my partner's fifth cruise. We cruised Eastern Caribbean out of Miami 7 nights on Sept. 17th. All of our cruises have been with Carnival and we are not Platinum. That being said because it is important to remember "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR"!
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the Friday prior to our cruise. I had arranged to have SAS Transportation pick us up upon arrival. What a great choice!! Our driver(Laurence) texted me early in the day to give me his name and number should we need to change times, or to just call him when we arrived. He was there within 5 minutes of our phone call and took us straight to our hotel with a little history and background of Miami along the way. Laurence made the time fly by with information and tidbits of what to do and what to see! And the Best part? It only cost 15 dollars per person/each way. (60 dollars plus tip round trip for 2 people)What a deal folks! Highly recommended!
The hotel was the Hyatt Downtown Miami. We used Priceline to book and it was under 100 dollars before taxes and fees. Upon our check in we were upgraded to a Suite with river views!! Bonus!! Our view was amazing! And the room was great! We had a couch, chair, coffee table, two dressers, a desk, flat screen TV as well as the bed and bathroom. The couch had a torn back but big deal, we had an awesome suite!!
Because we were in close proximity to the Bayside Market we walked down, had a great dinner at Cuban Cuisine! Expensive but worth it for the experience! Saturday morning we cabbed it to South Beach, had breakfast at one of the many hotels with outside seating, and walked the beach. South Beach should not be missed if you have the time!
Transportation to the cruise terminal was slick. We had friends drop us off and the lines were minimal and fast at 1 PM. I had forgot to print boarding passes, but it was no big deal. I would recommend you do, however don't fret if you forget. We had to go to a desk to speak with an agent versus doing the automated machines, but again lines were short and moved really fast. Up we went to the gangway and onto the ship. Overall less than an hour to get on-board!
The ship's decor and overall condition is wonderful! Nothing gaudy or over the top. Wrought iron, stone and classical garden decor is the theme. Very nice! Smoking had been regulated some more and there are fewer places for smokers to hang out, so the smoke is not as horrible as some say it is. I think it would be a good idea to make the casino non smoking as there are plenty of non smokers that enjoy their time in the casino. I am a smoker and would be fine with that proposition.
Food was as always great! Nothing to complain about! We did dine at Harry's Steakhouse one evening and I cannot say it loud enough, DO IT!!!! For the 30 bucks per person, it is soo, sooo, sooooooo, worth it! Amazing food, Amazing service and many things to try that you normally would not get the chance to have! More food than you can eat so be prepared! It was FANTASTIC!
Main Dining Room was great too! We opted to ask the Maitre'd for a table for 2. He did a great job accommodating us with a super table with a ocean view, tucked back away from the hustle and bustle! We loved the entire week. Our wait staff(Cyrus, Vijay, and Sutama) could not get to know us as well as we would have liked, due to two very demanding and rude tables that were in our section. No fault to them! They did the best possible job they could and we always felt special!
Our interior state room was the same as all other cruises, nothing to complain about here. Ni was our stateroom steward and she did wonderful as well. Again no super personalized service but always efficient and always recognized us in the hallways! To all of the hard working staff that make our cruise so enjoyable, they need to be thanked much more than I think they are! So many people here on CC are very hard on them. Everyone has a bad day and often times people expect way too much from Waiters, Line cooks on the buffet, room stewards etc...please give them a break and appreciate all they do!
Entertainment options were on par with other cruises. Great shows, great parties, great meet and greet times. Crowd participation was very much encouraged and made for great times!! For those of you that were on this cruise, I am "Lucas" from the juggling act! We noticed a lot more bingo this cruise so if your a bingo player you will love it! The casino took most of the money we played until later in the week when our luck changed and we had some good long play time!
Here is how the Ports of Call ranked with us:
1. Grand Turk- AMAZING!!! By far the best stop!! The palm trees, the sand, the crystal blue water, the shopping, the island music playing at the far end of the beach, the food, the drinks, it is all that you expect in a tropical dream!! We could not get enough of it, and will plan future cruises and other vacations around Grand Turk! Do not miss the local conch entrees and drinks at the end of the beach. They have a large sign visible from the ship(Says "LOCAL FOOD BEER). Head there as soon as you can! The beach there is less crowded and they play great music!!! Be warned no chairs but well worth it!!
2.St. Thomas- Wonderful despite the rain! We took a cab downtown for 4 dollars per person(but could have walked-its a beautiful walk with a view of the ship!) for some shopping. Highlight of this stop was Gladys Cafe. Ask the locals downtown to direct you as its in an alley way. It's very safe please don't miss it! Gladys was in in singing along to the wonderful Jazz music they were playing while she fixed drinks. Miss Pauline was our server and was as smooth as butter! She took super duper care of us and made us feel right at home! I wont lie, its expensive, but I know you will come home with the same fond memories of this little gem! She is on Facebook as well if you want to get a preview of her menu and AMAZING hot sauces! We bought 2 to take home! We ended by walking back to the port and shopping around there as well!! Very nice stop cant wait to go back!
3. San Juan- We never even made it out of Old San Juan but that was just fine!! Started by touring the Fort. Well worth the money and and a pretty easy walk from the ship. Then shopped all the wonderful stores throughout the streets of Old San Juan. Be sure to check the little tent areas set up for local artists. They have some real amazing artists making great art! We brought home an elegant beaded necklace made from local seeds. True Beauty folks!!
4. Half Moon Cay was least favorite. Not much to do but relax! And that was perfectly fine by us! The sand and water are amazing here, however personally I missed the tropical palms and flowers here that other ports had to offer. Please I am not complaining by any means, well worth your time, just know its gonna get a lot better as the cruise goes on!!
Getting off the ship was by far the fastest ever!!! We woke up at 7 am and we were on the shuttle to Ft Lauderdale before 8!! Wow! While we would have liked more time, it was because we chose self debark. Again a phone call to SAS Transport had a driver there within two minutes and off we went!!
To wrap up, I have to say that I personally found other reviews of this cruise to be untrue. While I recognize that there are bad experiences out there to be shared, ours was great. I would ask that others preparing for this cruise take these reviews with a grain of salt. Some people will never be happy no matter what. And also please remember common courtesy. We are all on vacation and we all want to enjoy it. Stay in line, don't budge, wait your turn, don't take up the entire walkway with your group, don't smoke around people enjoying a meal etc...Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Most of all remember that no one I know of paid a fortune to go on this cruise. Service will at minimum meet your expectations and most likely exceed your expectations. You will get what you paid for! The staff on these ships work unbelievably hard and just like you and I, they have bad days and make mistakes. Often times there maybe other guests that are taxing them beyond their capabilities. Please give them a break and RELAX! You're on vacation!!
Don't miss this itinerary! Already looking to book the next cruise!