This was my husband's and my 5th cruise, all with Carnival. My kids' (ages 9 and 12) 3rd cruise, and we also had my sister, my 7 year old nephew and my mom and dad along with us.
11/1/12- drove to Milwaukee after everyone got off work and as fast as we could get the vehicles loaded. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on West Zellman Court and would stay there again. Rooms were comfy, staff was friendly and shuttle to the airport was on time and fast. Our vehicles were in a lit parking lot, near the entrance to the hotel and we returned to find them in the condition we left them.
11/2/12- we got up at 3 a.m. to catch our 5:40 a.m. flight. Arrived at the airport around 4:00 to find although there was a short line at the United counter to check our bags, once we hit security, the TSA agents weren't even there yet. So we waited about a half an hour and breezed through security. The other thing that stinks about that early of a flight is that nothing is open in the airport, as far as for breakfast OR coffee, until 5. No bueno. Luckily we were able to grab something at the last minute prior to boarding.
We'd never been to Antigua before. Our plan was just to hop a cab to the closest beach and bum around. We found a cab easy enough (just start through the port shopping area and there's the "Taxi Dispatch" which is LITERALLY 25 cab drivers standing around an old man in a plastic lawn chair, who has a book and is calling their taxi ID numbers as people walk up, LOL). I think it was around $6 per person to Dickenson's Bay beach. Beach was clean, but there were a LOT of peddlers (though none of them were too pushy or rude) AND quite a few reports of jellyfish stings. My dad and nephew got nailed (interestingly, my dad got nailed on the back of BOTH knees at the same time, so those tentacles had to be pretty decent sized = no small jelly fish) but Tony at Tony's bar (where we had purchased a few drinks...very reasonable prices and very clean and friendly service) gave us some vinegar in a small cup and it worked like a charm and provided immediate relief (no no one had to pee on them, LOL!). We shared the leftovers with the others we noticed had gotten stung. My husband, early in the morning, said he felt something that resembled a basketball hit the back of his legs and we brushed it off as just odd. Then the epidemic of jellyfish stings. Then a few hours later, he felt the same basketball in the water and we decided we'd best get our behinds back on the beach. We had had enough beach time for the day at that point and headed back to the ship area to pick up a few quick souvenirs. Not a whole lot to choose from but we scared up some tshirts and our Christmas ornament (we buy one from wherever we travel to). Ate at "Cheers" where they not only didn't have half the things listed on their menu, but they served the most disgusting burger any of us had ever eaten. Do yourself a favor and SKIP "Cheers" in Antigua, LOL.
Not overly impressed with Antigua- it ranks just above Nassau for us, because the people were nicer than those we've encountered in Nassau previously.
TORTOLA Our first time in Tortola and we really enjoyed it. Didn't start the day out great, our guide I had arranged for ended up double booking himself, so we had a heck of a time trying to find a guide for a decent price that would STAY WITH US. We just wanted some beach time and then a few photo ops. One of our new Cruise Critic friends, Rachel, came through and negotiated well for us and Carlos was the man for the job.
Tortola is INCREDIBLY hilly. The roads give new meaning to the term "hairpin curves" and it's all straight up or down a mountain. We headed to Brewer's Bay beach, based on good Cruise Critic reviews. Carlos also confirmed that's where his family likes to go on beach days as well. It was a nice, out of the way and quiet beach. No peddlers. Cheap drinks and chair rental ($5 for a full size lounger). A storm had passed through earlier and kicked up some rocks from the bottom on to the beach, but they were smooth ones, so as long as you avoided them it was no big deal. Fun wave jumping here, the kids loved it. My husband and I headed out to the snorkeling area with our gear and eventually found it. It was quite a way off the beach, so I'd recommend some kind of flotation device (the bar rents them) or taking your time to float out there. Spent a good few hours here, loved every minute. Friendly locals as well. Abandoned ruins of a rum distillery nearby...wish I had gotten pictures, but it was cool. The still is right next to the road, still standing. Headed back across the island for the ship area. Local craft market is located about 200 yards from the ship and was the same you see everywhere...tshirts, magnets, bags, assorted jewelry.