Flew into Fort Lauderdale with jet blue. we like this airline, more leg room and 1st bag is included in fare. not all the extras.
1st night we stayed at the Holiday Inn at 2905 sheridan st in Fort Lauderdale. It was a lovely hotel (i don't know why it gets some bad reviews. Once we retrieved our luggage we called the hotel, they told us it would be approx 15 minutes or so and where to go outside for the shuttle. They arrived approx 20 minutes later. Which we did not think was bad. The hotel is fairly new, nice lobby, elevators, bar area, restaurant. Room was larger than some although no balconies. Pool area was very nice. We ate at the hotel and had a great dinner and breakfast the next morning. Denny's and a gas station are right there also. You can walk or take a taxi for around $8 to a mall close by with kmart etc.
The hotel offers shuttle service to Fort Lauderdale Port, we were gong out of Miami, we arranged through Miami411 shuttle service a private van for the 4 of us. It was $114 which included tip and taxes, etc. They were prompt and courteous. It took approx 40 minutes to get to the Port of Miami. Very busy as there had been a huge marathon that morning which ended at 10am.
Embarktation - this took a bit longer than normal as they seemed to let passengers stay on the ship longer due to the marathon which had blocked the exit. We all sat fairly comfortably and were on the ship by 12:30am. They told us the only restaurant open was the buffet, we decided to check out the main dining room and it was open, although only around ten tables taken. we were seated right at the back by the window, had a lovely meal. They started making announcements that other places were open. we imagine the buffet was crazy.
Pearl - rooms were ready around 2 as they stated, our luggage was there when we came back from the safety drill. Cabins are quite small. We were on the RCI inside promenade last year which was approx 45 sq ft larger. makes a difference. Everything worked fine in our cabin and it seemed cleaned, one of our friends had a few things dirty in their cabin. we were mid ship on deck 11, which was great. up 1 flight of stairs and you are at the pool and buffet area. we really liked this area.
Most staff were really good. The dining and bar staff work really hard, our thanks go out to them for making our vacations. The cruise director did a good job and everytime we saw her she had a big smile and said hello. We overheard others having the same opinion of the shopping consultant and cruise consultant, not impressed. In all fairness the shopping consultant had a bad cold, possibly was not at his best.
The $400 cpn booklet we received for booking when we did was useless, pretty much what you get anyway. The food was good, not great. Did not seem to be the variety as the last time. The buffet pretty much never changed, same things over and over and over again. A little variety would have been nice.
The shows were good, we enjoyed the oh what a night tribute. shark bait was good, almost the same show we saw the last time in 2009. The comedian was not so funny.
We missed the private island due to weather. Disappointing, but safety first. We all seemed to get $18 credit to our account for this.
Ocho Rios was our first stop. We were all looking forward to this stop. We hired Paul Williams as a private tour guide. He charged $50 per couple, plus lunch and drinks etc were paid for him and his driver. we went to mystic mountain which had great views and the bobsled ride was lots of fun. It is not cheap to go, but worth it we think. then we went to dunns river falls. They say you have to do this if you come to Jamaica. NO, you don't. it was okay. Guides take way too many people, pay little attention to the customers as they are trying to video tape to sell you something later, take pictures etc. My husband fell really hard. He was hurt, but it could have been much worse. The lockers are $8 each and you get $3 back. A pack come and stand at the steps so you cannot leave the area until you tip them. We tip, and we had to this time, but i did not feel they should get one as they did not do their job in our opinion. Then they tell you to go down a certain path to leave and you are bombarded by people looking for money, not necessarily to buy something from them, simply give them the cash. You cold not slow down in this area, I carried something in each hand as they would try to grab you and pull you in. I would have loved to stopped and look at things, and probably bought but you literally did not feel safe. It was the same downtown, everywhere. We were planning to go to an all inclusive in Jamaica next January, but NOT now. This was the worst pan handling we have ever saw on any of the islands we have been to, and this is our 5th cruise, so there have been a few. Even Paul and his driver took you places you did not necessarily want to go as it was obvious they got kick backs. If you did not go there, you were left on your own to go elsewhere.
Georgetown Grand Cayman - loved it, not a lot there, but you felt safe. things were clean, people friendly etc.We purchased some jewellery, t shirts etc etc. We will return there.
Cozumel - same as ever, this is our 3rd time there. We thought the first time they were pushing and had their hands out. It is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to Jamaica. We did Discover Mexico and Senior Frogs.
Disembarking - Easy, once you get off the elevators on floor you need. Rented a vehicle and stayed at Ocean Manor Resort on Galt Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Would have stayed 2nd time at holiday inn if we had known it was as nice as it was. The woman at Ocean Manor was fabulous. The beach and pool area are nice etc. we were in a ocean front room with a balcony. most of the rooms are very dated. Our room was okay, it was clean and had what we needed. 322 was scary, beware. Would not go there again, but we lucked out and had a nice evening.
Hope this helps with your cruise.