Well, we patiently waited for our cruise by doing tons of research online. I used a lot of tips and secrets from CC, so thank you all! We flew American Airlines from Newark, NJ (13 degrees outside!) to Miami, Florida. We were leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, but the price from Newark to Miami was $90 cheaper. I booked and paid in full for the flights, hotel, cruise, excursions and wines (bought from the Wine Cellar online at RCCL so I could have my champagne waiting for us in the room when we got there, and a red and white for dinner) in July because we had planned a cruise before and due to unforeseen circumstances, had to cancel it. In July we had won $7,000 in the lottery, so decided if we just paid for everything ahead of time, we wouldn't have to come up with the money later, and wouldn't have to cancel another cruise. Also, the other perk was that I avoided the fuel surcharge and we didn't feel a huge hit to our pockets since the only thing we got a bill for after the cruise was whatever we purchased while on it. Anyway, we used to live in Miami Beach for a year and wanted to go to see some of our old favorite places. My boyfriend is an accomplished chef, and was the Sous Chef at La Goulue in Miami Beach. If you ever get a chance, you have to go there. Its at the Bal Harbour shops and is definitely worth a visit! So, thats why, combined with the great price of $160 rt for each, we flew into Miami. We left for our flight at 4am and got to the airport by 4:30. We had a really quick line at self check-in (printed our boarding passes the day before) and we on our way to the security line. We got through that okay and found some coffee. At 5:00 all that was open was Seattle's Best, but that was okay by us. We waited for 1/2 an hour and boarded. The flight was uneventful, but I should now mention my motion sickness. I took Bonine the evening before the flight, then every night till we got home again. So I pretty much slept the whole flight. I've flown between Jersey and Miami pretty often while I lived there, so I was pretty used to this airport. We got off the plane at 9 am and headed towards baggage to claim our things. To my surprise, we had to board a train for the baggage claim. Luckily, the ground transportation and rental car shuttles are located right outside of the baggage claim. We found our bags (after half an hour, standard for Miami)and headed outside. I asked an airport transportation employee where I wait for the Budget Rental Car shuttle and he gestured and mumbled. I walked back to my boyfriend to tell him I still wasn't sure, so he asked the same man and was nastily told "I told her, over there in the middle". incidentally, this is the reason we left Miami in the first place - really terrible customer service everywhere. We waited in the center lane on the median, for the Budget shuttle. Sure enough, 5 minutes later, we saw it coming. Please remember to flag down the actual shuttle you need, as they won't just stop for people waiting. We flagged him down and were met with a very gracious man that brought our bags onboard and picked up a few more folks. We reached the Budget Car Rental office about 10 minutes after getting on. I tipped him $7 for our two bags and we entered the office. Its very large, and a bit confusing. My boyfriend went on line to wait, since the car was in his name. I got the car for one day. Picking it up at 9:30 am and dropping it off in Fort Lauderdale at 5 pm. It was only $38.95, much cheaper than a taxi and it also gave us the freedom to go to South Beach to visit our old haunts. It took about 10 minutes at the office to get our car. The person at the counter was rude, but par for the course in Miami, really. We got to our space and the car was super nice (I don't remember what kind!). We drove right over to South Beach and parked in one of the pay lots. We walked down to Lincoln Road and got some breakfast at Van Dyke's. Then we just walked around and reminisced, going over to the ocean as well. After a while, we decided to head over to my boyfriends old restaurant for lunch. It was great to see everyone again and we had a wonderful lunch. We then drove from Miami Beach to Fort Lauderdale. It took us about 35 minutes to come to our hotel. We stayed at the Extended Stay America Fort Lauderdale Convention Center on the 17th Street Causeway. It was the closest hotel I could afford. I booked it on Orbitz since it had the cheapest rate. I paid $170.58 through them and brought documentation of all of my purchases just in case. The gentleman at the desk seemed to want to charge my cc but I showed him the paid itinerary and he finally stopped. The room was fine. We got there around 4:45 and the Budget rental office is literally across the street. We went to return the car but the woman said she was closing so we wouldn't have a receipt but could give her the keys and drop it off. We did that and crossed our fingers that she was honest! Back at the hotel, I called the local taxi company and reserved a car for 10:30 am. to bring us to the Port. Then we showered and watched some t.v. At 6pm, we passed out but thankfully, I had set the alarm for 9:30 am. We ran across the street and got two bagels and two coffees and got ready to go. Well, we waited outside at the car port. And waited...and waited. At 10:40 I called the taxi and he mumbled that someone was on their way. After waiting, my bf went to the street to flag down a cab. I walked over to a shuttle bus that was filling and asked how much. He took us for $8 a person. I think it may have been Sunshine, can't remember now. Great people, nice driver. We got to the port and saw our ship. What?? It was so big, we couldn't see the end! Wow. We got our bags, paid the driver and went inside. We walked through an xray, showed our passports and got into a line to get our paperwork. We breezed though that and were told to go ahead up the stairs. From here we walked through a scan, got our set sail passes and that was it. We walked onto the ship from there. It was only 30 minutes at the most from when we stepped off the shuttle to when we were on the ship. Amazing. We went directly to Chops and made a reservation or wednesday night. Then we went over to the dining room to check our room assignment. We requested late seating with just the two of us. We were at a table for 10! So we asked for something smaller, like 6. They accommodated and the table looked great. We couldn't get into our rooms yet, so we walked around, went up to the SeaView cafe and got some food, then saw the huge buffet at Windjammer. It was such a great selection and the food was really good. We went through every room on every deck we could find and just looked at everything. It finally sunk in that we were on our cruise! The ship is beautiful and in great shape for sure. The artwork is beautiful and the theme is really calming and classy. The elevators are so cool, they face out into the ocean and its a really neat feeling to look out while you ride. After we ate, we were finally able to find our room. Wow. Double wow. We were shocked. We were expecting something so small due to reviews and were amazed at how big the room was. We had a balcony on the hump, with the second largest balcony. It was outstanding. The room was very pretty, plenty of closet space and hangers. The bathroom was bigger than our first apartment together in Brooklyn! The water pressure was really good and the water was always nice and hot. The safe worked fine and the suitcases easily stored under the bed. I had my bags by 6pm. We were really happy with the room and our champagne was there on ice waiting for us. We didn't do the sail away party - decided to have our own! We then got ready for dinner and headed out. Here, I have to interject that the hump cabin on deck 8, 8588, was perfect. It was quiet and right behind the wall for the elevators. So easy! I must say, as well, that everyone told us that we didn't need a balcony - that we would never be in our room. We were there ALL the time! We loved to go to our room with a drink, relax, sit on the balcony and talk. It was wonderful. One night, we stayed in, ordered pizza and watched movies. We just enjoyed each others company in our cabin and really took advantage of our balcony! So awesome! At dinner we met our tablemates. They were all really nice and the 6 of us got along just fine. We were the only ones that had ordered any wine ahead of time - we always offered a glass but everyone declined. Our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful! So relaxed and great. Our headwaiter came by every night to tell us the weather for tomorrow and the port. I found them all to be delightful. We had done the pre cruise gratuity, and I felt they all earned their tips. We went to bed early that night, listening to the water right off of our balcony. At night, every night, we filled out the breakfast in the cabin cards and hung them on our door to be collected. We always asked for a carafe of coffee, and a fruit plate. Then we would take turns upon waking and go to the Windjammer and load up a plate of breakfast from the buffet and grab a juice, then just go back down the elevator to our room. There, we would go out to the balcony, bringing our little coffee table from inside, and eat our breakfast and have coffee looking out over the ocean, or a port. It was magical. 8588 has a really large balcony, kind of like an obtuse triangle. Very spacious. We didn't go to any shows, besides the comedian. Everyone enjoyed them, from what we heard, though. We had dinner in the main dining room most every night, we ate lunch in the Windjammer for lunch each day. The Windjammer is great, plenty of choices, plenty of food. There are drink self serve stations in three different areas in the Windjammer, just keep walking around in a circle and you'll find them. For activities, we like to be active. We did mini golf, played a lot of ping pong, and went to the arcade a few times. My bf took part of every dodge ball competition, and we did the volleyball competition together. We did the rockclimbing and it was sooo cool being so high over the water! Everyone was rooting and cheering for me because I was a big baby, but I made it. We went to the movies one night to watch Blades of Glory, one of our favorites. We did the casino a lot, but ended up only donating about $100. We did Quest - lets just say that the pictures will stay locked up for now!! We also went to the newly wed game and that was really fun. My bf was in the Sexiest legs contest but didn't win... We did go to one bingo, but it was so hard not to get disappointed for not winning! I went to the captains cake decorating class by myself and that was so fun. Two things we thought were a bit of a negative. We were never able to go to the champagne lounge, because it was never open after 12:00. Also, one night it was 1 am, and we went looking around to do something or get a drink and none of the bars or lounges on deck 5 were open at all. We had to go to the casino for a drink. That seemed really unusual to us - not the fun atmosphere we expected, I suppose. Also, we were never able to use the adult solarium hot tub because at night they were always draining it or 'cleaning' it, even though when we came in they were sitting on lounge chairs talking. The two on the pool deck were never warm. It was actually lukewarm. Yuck. I called the guest relations about it and he actually said there was urine in there. I said "every night?". No answer, really. But all in all they were super lovely. Ports of Call: Key West: We had been to Key West before and didn't really care for it. Maybe because we already lived in Miami Beach at the time, but except for the main area near the port, the rest is not very attractive at all. So here we decided to do a ship excursion. We had prepaid for the Para sailing excursion with Fury. It was so awesome! Really fun. We went out with two other couples. Our captain and the helpers were really nice and funny. I will say, thank god I took an extra dose of Bonine, the water was really, really choppy. Now, I can't swim, so I made sure to check a million times if this was safe for a non swimmer. I was assured many times that it was. They suit you up and you go to the back edge of the boat. You hold onto a bar, then you just kind of 'go' backwards, till they dunk you in the ocean a little and then you are just up in the air and the Radiance looks like a toy boat in the bath. It was really cool. I had a Fuji underwater disposable camera with me that took great pics. Now they also had a really nice camera on board that took lots of digital pictures of you, then you can buy the disc for $20. It was so worth it. The pictures were amazing and the price was great for what you get. Cozumel, Mexico: Oh wow. This was our favorite port of call. The people couldn't have been nicer. We got off the ship and the first thing we noticed was how clear the water is. We did, however have a hard time finding the taxis. Just keep walking towards the indoor flea market place and you will see a cool old tree with an underwater area - behind that is the taxi stands. The line was super, super long, but it went pretty quick. Here, we were just going to Chakanaab Park. I wanted to relax on the beach and maybe snorkel. This was going to be a little expensive with everything I was getting, though. So I told the taxi stand man where we were going. He said, do you want to just snorkel, because its rocky there, but good for snorkeling. I said what do you like? He recommended Paradise Beach. Well, let me tell you, we went with his advice and are so glad we did. We paid $20 to get all the water sports and man! What fun! My bf was on the floating iceberg forever. Plus the trampoline. We went snorkeling, relaxed in some chairs (plenty of people around to watch your things) climbed the trees in a race that I lost, got some cold Sol's and Mojito's and just walked the beach. We were going to kayak too, but couldn't' believe the time went by so fast! We could have spent all day there, really. Then we took a taxi back to the port and bought some souvenirs and got on the ship before the huge lines! Grand Cayman: We decided the night before to do an excursion here with the ship. We chose to swim with the Sting Rays. When the whole group for that excursion got off the ship, we couldn't really locate our excursion. Everyone else was holding signs. We found a guy with a sign similar to our excursion, but first he tried to charge us. Then we showed him our tickets and he seemed confused and got a woman to help him. Everyone else was leaving for their excursion and we still sat there. Finally, they got us on a van to go to the boat. The snorkel boat was great, the captain was nice and he let a bunch of us sit on the bow and roof. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy, so as I got pelted with salt water, I was freezing! Good for me, though, when we all got to the sandbar and time to get in the water. Everyone else was cold, the water seemed like a nice warm bath to me! I can't describe how awesome it was to have the stingrays (they are so big and have stingers) swim by you and touch you. They seemed to be enjoying us as much as we were them. We got pics done by the crew, but they were trying to charge $50 for about 6 photos. Do what we did - bring a disposable underwater and have someone take pics of you while you pose with the stingrays for the crew photos, and then do the same for those people. It worked great for us! We then had a great, informative bus ride back to the port and got on before a huge line, again! Montego Bay, Jamaica: I will admit I was nervous about this one. We didn't have a plan really, just wanted to catch a taxi to Doctors Cove Beach. Well, we got one and the beach is beautiful. I will say, EVERYONE wanted to braid my hair and we got more than 6 offers for drugs. One enterprising guy was snorkeling up to people in the water seeing if they want some pot. Crazy! There was a really big police presence, though. Big machine guns and everything. And the people really WERE nice. They were just annoyingly persistent. We left Doctors Cove because it was about 95 degrees and we were lobsters by then. My bf said he wanted to actually walk around, so we walked down to the Margaritaville, but the bus wasn't coming for a long time. So we walked back to Doctors Cove. The bus drivers and taxi guys were intimidating and pretty annoying saying we had to go with them to get back. They were saying over and over that we can't take a bus because we don't have a wristband. So we got in with a driver named Winston who charged us $20 to get back to the ship. We felt taken advantage of, for sure. But we had no real alternative. Not sure if I would go back here, to be honest. We dined at Chops and it was wonderful. The service was great and the food was really, really good. Especially for the price! We had them go get our red wine from the dining room and they were really nice about it. Well worth it, for sure. The dining room was consistently good. My bf, a classically trained french chef that works in really high end places, had nothing but good things to say. For the amount of people they cook for, it was great. We would love to see more of the game show style events and just more to do. We didn't want to scrapbook, dance, linedance, shop - so it doesn't leave a whole lot. I think next time we'll try a ship with the ice skating and flow rider and stuff. We would like to see lounges open till late - its vacation, you know? Disembarking was a nightmare. Just awful. They called us all down at the same time. They said 'no one by the doors on 5', but everyone was. We chose self disembark, and we still took about an hour to get off. We couldn't even get off the elevator to get in line. It was crazy. When we finally got off, we were able to get through the lines okay. Then we found a shuttle and paid them. We had to wait till it was full, though, and we had a 12:55 flight home, so thought we were safe. Let me tell you - Miami was horrible for the flight back. We wound through a line that took an hour to get to a discernible location. When we finally got to a desk to do a self check in, they weighed our bags, then made us take them and bring them to the baggage load on! What? I've never heard of such a thing ever! What the hell is that moving conveyor belt for, then? So crazy. Of course there was no room to turn around through the long line to do that. Just nuts. By the time we got to our gate, we had 10 minutes to board. So awful! The worst was arriving to the cold weather. We loved our cruise and cherish our memories from it. I can't wait to plan another! Thanks for reading!
The cabin, 8588, balcony on the hump, was awesome! We were right next to the elevator, but situated away from the sound! There were plenty of closets, drawers and shelves, and the suitcases fit right under the bed. The bathroom was big enough, good water pressure and tons of hot water. There were lots of hangers. The coffee table in front of the couch is perfect to bring outside to have breakfast on the balcony. The bed was huge and tv worked great. We will stay in there again for sure!