About us: We are 49 and 50, we were celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary. 7th cruise not all on RCCL. We had been on Explorer of the Seas last year (February, 2006) when my husband got sick with the Noro and thus we were confined to our cabin for over 48 hours, we received from RCCL a credit to use on a future cruise, this being that cruise. I took every precaution; Purell, Clorox wipes, we both took Airborne and this time no Noro!
We flew to Miami on Friday (Northwest) using our frequent flyer miles and starting off the cruise sitting in first class; it was an awesome way to start this trip. We had booked an SUV through Enterprise, very easy to get, hopped on a bus which took us to the Enterprise location just outside of the airport and in about 20 minutes we were on our way. We had booked our hotel through Priceline getting Hyatt Downtown Miami for $100.00 for Friday night, which they rate as a 5 star (I would question that) easy to find and the first impression of the hotel lobby and valet service was excellent. Asked at check-in for a room overlooking the port and high but all that was available was 12th floor which we took. We could not see the port except for a few smoke stacks from the ship, I am sure at one time you could see the port but now there is a building being constructed which obscures the view. The room was fine for the night, but I definitely would not call this a 5 star as it is very aged.We decided to be daring and left our car parked in valet and decided to take the tram which is a slight walk to get to a station through a couple of buildings from the Hyatt, at first got on the wrong train but then got off and got on the right train and went to Bayside Marketplace. The hotel front desk told us how to get there and they had a map which on the bottom in little writing states "not a good place to walk after dark" which I found frightening but I could see why, very poor neighborhood and we saw a lot of beggars even though it was early evening, the Metro Dade police were also out near the stop for Bayside. This was probably around 5 p.m. and we were starved so we decided to try Chilis. We ate outside overlooking the water it was very interesting to watch people here and the boats were amazing. We decided to be tourists and took the Island Queen excursion to see the "millionaire houses" on Star Island. It was 8 p.m. and getting dark but well worth the $20.00 a person as it was awesome to see the houses and the boats they have. When we were leaving Bayside we decided to take a cab back to the hotel, I think it was about a 10.00 cab ride without tip.
CRUISE DAY: Since I had been planning and been so excited for this cruise we left the hotel about 8:00 taking a drive over to South Beach just to look around. When we cruised a few years ago we stayed at the Fountain Blue (I know I spelled this wrong but I cannot remember how to spell it) and we loved this hotel so we wanted to see it again since we had found out that it was undergoing major renovation. WOW was it ever, there is nothing left at least that we could see from the street, it is such a shame because this was one of the "original" old hotels that had so much character. Our cab driver on the way to the pier said that he used to work there and also expressed the disappointment in what was going on. Apparently it is being turned into a condo. After seeing this we decided to return to the Hyatt to get our luggage and on to the ship. While on the way back to the hotel we found a Walgreens and purchased a roller cooler and pop and water to take on board (which by the way was NO problem). Turned our car into the Enterprise location that is attached to the Hyatt and took a cab to the ship. This was about 11 a.m. As everyone knows going over that bridge and seeing the ship for the first time still makes me giddy. The cab driver hailed a porter and the porter took the luggage from the trunk and we saw it again when we were on the ship. There are signs all over the terminal that state no boarding until 2 p.m. but we decided to chance it and went into the terminal where we were ushered to a waiting area with chairs and approximately 1 hour later we were going through security. The longest wait came after getting our sea pass cards and it was QUITE a wait. There were two wedding parties getting on board the ship and then the platinum and diamond members but then we were the first "regular" people in line to get on, I think the wait was over an hour and people were getting antsy, but it was very fun people watching and watching people try and worm their way to try and get on the ship sooner. We had quite a fun time with this and remembered the people that we saw who were creating the drama. I met the Chaplain for the week in line and he told me that he always cruises the week of Easter to do the Mass in the chapel. I wish we could have talked longer as he was quite interesting (Hi Father Bob).