The New Orleans Voyager of the Seas departure was smooth & simple 12/3/2011.
We easily parked at Fulton Place Parking Center http://fultonplaceparking.com on Convention Center Blvd. The parking structure takes up the whole block from Fulton to Convention & you can enter from a few sides. Cruise parking is $84 paid in advance & they accept credit cards. (Condo Parking Services, (504) 566-7275 was on our receipt.) After 11a, there are guys holding signs with a picture of the boat trying to direct you. You can park anywhere in New Orleans. I found the price reasonable for the week.
They have shuttle service to the ship & guys to help with luggage, if needed. If you have special needs, this location is helpful.
We had an interior lower level stateroom, room 6639. We decorated our door with a Nutcracker Soldier, making it easy to find.
Loved, loved, loved our cabin & it's location. Chad kept calling it a closet, but I've seen smaller dorm rooms. Yes, the shower is what I'd envision a time capsule might look like, just don't drop the soap. Ladies, bring a shower cap.
We didn't plan to spend much time in our room & the best deals are on the small interior rooms. We were just around the corner from the stairs to everything. It was quiet - no neighbor noise above, below or on our sides. Below us was a dining area & above us, staterooms.
The library is one flight up on the 7th & 8th floor. Pick up your daily Sudoku. The Promenade & Guest Services are down one flight on the 5th floor. The buffet dining hall, the Windjammer is up, up, up on the 11th floor. We never had to go to the front of the ship if we were lazy.
I read about fans, but one was not needed. The thermostat worked fine. I am pre-menapausal & no one can make it cold enough for me at night. So, I can't complain that I couldn't create small snow flurries. Turning the thermostat all the way to cold should please most.
Chad thinks being low & toward the back of the ship really diminished the 'roll'/turbulence/waves. We slept wonderfully - except for the sinus challenges I had. I think the recycled air was tough on my sinuses. Fortunately I came prepared for anything allergy/sinus related.
I would book the same room again. And, our room attendant was excellent. The room was very clean when we arrived & I'm a snob about cleanliness.
I only give Falmouth a 3 because my husband swears we'll never go back. Until we were married 3 years ago, he'd never left the U.S. This was my 3rd trip to Jamaica & I've traveled to poorer, more intimidating locations. "NO & No, Thank you" are easy for me to say. I'm more assertive & speak with conviction. If you keep in mind this is a poor country & people are doing what they have to do to survive you will better understand them.
Some people on our ship weren't even leaving the boat for Falmouth because of stories they heard. If you are in good health, show confidence & keep your head up, you will be fine.
The port is a tourist haven. You can overpay for everything inside the gate; taxis, liquor, excursions. Of course, if you have good negotiating skills, you can find a deal or two.
This is what we did.
We walked around the Falmouth port, inside the gate, checking out the shops, excursion offers, etc. Then we walked outside the gate where you will immediately hear 'offers' being yelled across the street to you. When you walk across the street the sales pitches will come from everywhere. Remember, "No, thank you."
We walked straight ahead & within a block we found all the taxi drivers. Inside the gate a typical taxi runs $150 for the day. These guys know that because they are on rotation for working inside the gate. They are licensed & wear a tourist I.D. badge. This day, they are on their own. Some will work, some won't. Remember that when you are negotiating.
We wanted to go to Dunn's River Falls. It's less than 2 hours away. The first guy wouldn't budge under $100. As we walked away another guy came to make his pitch. I told him, "You heard me with the other guy. What's your bottom line?" He said something like $95. My loving husband was like, "Let's do it." That really kills your ability to continue negotiations. Still, I quickly looked at Chad & said, "No!" & gave him 'that look.'
Oh, this is where I should mention, CASH is your only option when negotiating with these guys. I told the driver, "I might have $85, how's that?" He hemmed & hawed. . .Me, "I don't even know if I have that much, but if you want to walk over to your taxi, I'll count my cash."
We walked down a side road, behind a restaurant & there was his van taxi. This can be intimidating if you aren't sure of yourself. I think I could have done better on the price, but I could tell Chad was READY. He thinks I'm ripping people off when I do this. (Our table mates where able to negotiate $80 for the day.)
Mistake I made: I wouldn't normally do this & even told Chad before we left port how to properly secure a driver, but the haggling, the walk & keeping Chad happy -â€" After counting the $, I gave the driver the $85 cash. Do NOT do this. You can give him a little security deposit, but pay the balance & a tip (if earned) after your round trip.
Our driver was Neville. His card reads Neville's Taxi Service Ph# (876) 583-5128. He whined about how mad his boss was going to be that he took such a low fare, etc. He didn't have a great personality, BUT he was trustworthy & I'm happy to share his information.
We went to Dunn's River Falls. The entry fee is $20/adult. www.dunnsriverfallsja.com They accept credit cards. They also have lockers for rent. We left our backpack with Neville, but put our wallets in the locker.
You don't need to stay with a tour group. You can take the falls at your own pace. Just act like you know what you're doing & where you're going.
Be prepared: Bring your water shoes, a towel & a change of clothes. Also, be prepared for all the vendors wanting to braid your hair & guide you into their shops. REMEMBER, "NO, THANK YOU." Be strong. Chad hated this constant nagging to buy, to look, etc. This is everywhere -â€" yes, even inside the park.
One guy stood between us & the exit of his little hut in an effort to keep us in there, but when I forcefully said, "I need to get out of here," he kindly stepped aside & kept Chad inside. Chad learned volumes about assertiveness on this trip. The most assertive wins.
Neville was waiting for us outside the Dunn's Falls park & we asked him to bring us to a place where locals eat. We ate at the Ultimate Jerk Centre. I had the jerk chicken & Chad had the jerk pork plate. We both agree, the chicken was best. Also, they can make a good drink.
We wanted to buy some Appleton Rum & a soccer jersey. (watch for knock off jerseys) Neville was happy to bring us to his friend's shop where the shop keeper was not happy to take a credit card, but he did. Chad stopped me while I was talking him down, "I have this." So, he paid $12/bottle of rum that we could buy for $9 elsewhere. We all have to learn through experience.
We were able to walk back to the ship from the shop.
Note to the less assertive, less experienced spouse: Don't help with comments like, "Let's do it." "Oh, baby, that sounds good to me." "We can do that." "The other guy wanted more than that." Or, "I have this".
Grand Cayman was our favorite stop. Upscale & tax free is always a plus in our book. If you were considering purchasing jewelry or a watch, Grand Cayman is the place.
We chose the Snorkeling & Stingray swim package deal. We booked directly online at www.captainmarvins.com . I printed out a screen shot of my booking process because I read a review that someone's online reservation was lost. I didn't need it.
These guys are very organized & have been in business forever. The guides were excellent & friendly.
Captain Marvin's stingray excursion starts a few blocks away from the port. You'll tender (take a small boat) from the ship to shore. You can check in early & walk around the shops until it's time to leave. Just remember where you put the paper she gives you after you check in.
There's a coffee shop a block off the main road on your way to Waterfront Centre where you check in for Capt Marvin's. This is a great place for a bathroom break. They stay busy & won't notice an extra person or two walking through. The coffee is good, too.
Capt Marvin just turned 95. He won't be your guide. There are tons of reviews for the stingrays & Captain Marvin's. I won't repeat what's already been said. Know that I support all the good reviews.
You can bring all the items you want in your backpack onboard. Wear your swimsuit. Online info encouraged environmentally safe sunscreen. I couldn't find any, but SUNSCREEN IS A MUST. On the excursion no one said anything about, "what kind of sunscreen are you using?" They had complimentary punch & water on the boat. Bring a towel & a change of clothes. You'll also want an underwater camera.
Capt Marvin's also lets you make a call home after the excursion. We didn't want to call anyone, but a number of people did. I definitely recommend booking with Captain Marvin's online www.captainmarvins.com .
We didn't have an opportunity to change into dry clothes before going to lunch. We simply changed in the restaurant bathroom. We ate at Hammerheads Brew Pub on the beach. The food was excellent. Chad LOVED their fries. And, the drinks were well made. Our waitress was cute, efficient & friendly. The bill reflected our enthusiasm. 6 drinks, 2 entrees, & an appetizer, over $100. I'm foggy from the drinks, but I think the basic tip was included & we left another $5 because we were very happy with the service. She didn't flinch when a large group came in & we never felt neglected.
Chad fell in love with some chocolate rum at one of the shops. This is where we discovered - You need to buy liquor an hour and a half prior to the last tender to insure your purchase makes it to the ship. You can't carry it on the tender. It has to be delivered to the ship. Chad was really bummed that he missed out on this rum & is still pining over it.
We walked back to the port & checked out the shops. If you like ice cream, IT'S SUGAR, is a must. You can finish it on the tender, but you can't bring it on the ship.
In Cozumel, we walked out the port, went half a block to the left & rented a late 90's/early 2000 jeep for the day - $60 plus tax & $10 insurance (required.) I was thinking I could have done better, but my loving, generous spouse was READY.
There's a tourist info center (AKA -â€“ sales center) in front of the El Cid hotel. You can start there. Or, walk past the El Cid drive/entrance & the car rental office is on the corner.
These guys are all friendly & helpful. They'll provide you with a map & make recommendations. The island is small & easy to navigate. We headed down the beach front road. We went to one of the tequila tours. Yes, this is a big sales pitch. Still, we had a great guide who wasn't pushy. We tipped him $5 & did NOT spend $45/bottle on tequila you can buy for $20 in the forum shopping area.
We stopped to take pictures at the beach. Then, we went to the main shopping forum & parked on a side road for $1/hour. We even left our keys with the attendant since they were full & we were blocking someone in. The attendant recommended eating at Casa Denis. I always ask locals where to eat. Casa Denis was authentic & obviously still family run. I felt they were a bit under staffed. Yes, I would go back. CASH ONLY.
Then, we shopped. I love "the deal" more than shopping. We bought 6 knock off Coach purses. First, I bought two small ones on the main strip for $30 total. Later, I thought, "I should buy one for Claire & June." I went back & he wouldn't do 2 larger ones for $50. So, I went back to the place across from Casa Denis where I ended up buying 3 large for $75 total.
Chad bought some full priced cigars & realized later, "that's the only thing we didn't negotiate." This is the same shop cigar shop where he told me, "I have this."
If you're looking for a bathroom, the McDonald's doesn't have a lady asking for tips inside the restroom. However, the ladies room was nasty, but it's free to pee. And, the food must be fine based on the number of people eating.
On the walk home, Chad decided his mom would like a purse. I told him, now that he knows the going price, it was time to show me what he'd learned. He couldn't get the first place to budge from $85. And, he made me proud in the next store when we walked away with his $25 knock off Coach.
Know that we used credit cards for all our purse purchases. They really want cash, but won't lose a sale if it comes down to cash vs. credit.
I think our parking was CASH ONLY, too. Yes, our jeep was still there with the keys in it.
When we go back, we'll do the same thing.
I printed a ton of Cozumel coupons from the internet but didn't use any. Still, you might want to look for some.