I finally talked my husband into a cruise! We got an amazing deal on it because we have a Hilton Grand Vacation time share and we listened to their presentation. Ian had always been convinced that he wouldn’t enjoy being on a ship but since we had a good deal, he agreed to go.
We got in a day early, which I HIGHLY recommend if you are cruising. We departed from the port of Miami and decided to spend the day exploring South Beach. We used some points and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Beach. Great location on the north end of South Beach so it wasn’t too busy down there. We were one block away from the boardwalk and right on the Trolley route so it was very convenient .
If you are in Miami Beach the Trolley is a very easy and free way to get around. We just rode it for awhile checking things out then got out to explore some of the Art Deco. We ate at an amazing Cuban restaurant called Havana 1957 on Ocean Drive. I highly recommend the guava mojito! We only found one beach front bar/ restaurant and that was at The Sentai hotel. Food and drinks were amazing!
Our favorite thing in South Beach was a stop at Giannini’s. This was Giannini Versace’s home and it is now a restaurant. We just stopped for a drink and luckily we met the dress code! It is beautiful inside and worth going in for a drink and look around. I would love to go back sometime and splurge for dinner.
The next day we boarded the ship. We used Uber to get to the port and it was very quick and easy. This cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. This ship was in dry dock and basically totally renovated this year. It was beautiful! Service was very good and always a lot of good food options for you. We had the deluxe drink package this time so and really enjoyed not having to worry about the cost of what you were drinking. It may not be for everyone, but if you like to have a couple of drinks a day while you are on vacation, it will probably be worth it.
The entertainment was overall very good. Our favorite was the improv comedy piano player in the Schooner bar. He was there several nights and it was different both nights we attended. There was a lot of other good live music on the ship and several different shows, including an ice show. Yes,,, an ice show, on a ship in the middle of the Caribbean!
Our second day on the ship was in port at Nassau Bahamas. We took the Funky Jeep tour of Nassau. Our guide was great and apparently knows everyone in Nassau! We visited 2 old forts, the Queen’s stairs, a rum cake factory, a rum distillery that was used in the last James Bond movie, a tea shop with local teas and Junkanoo museum. Junkanoo is the islands version of Mardi Gras parade but they have them on Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and a summertime festival. All costumes are handmade and we got to see, and try one, some of the elaborate headdresses. While we were there they were filming a tourism commercial so we got to watch several of the drummers in full costume perform with the actors. The tour also took us to lunch at the Fish Fry. The meal was EXCELLENT and I highly recommend going there if you visit Nassau. Later I asked someone working in one of the shops downtown where you could get good conch and she said to go out to the Fish Fry, that is where the locals go.
The 3rd day we were on Coco Cay, the cruise lines private island. They call it the Perfect Day at Coco Cay and they aren’t far from wrong! It was a great beach day with a lot of relaxing. Near the snorkel beach there are plenty of chairs and you can rent umbrellas. You can also rent covered beach chairs or Bali beds which are further down the beach. They even have bungalows that you can rent for the day. Ian and I rented snorkel gear and I have to admit that it was pretty good snorkeling for such a busy area! We saw a variety of coral and fish, a sea turtle and I saw a stingray and a smaller type of ray. I do recommend going out during high tide because some areas are not easily accessible during low tide. They are currently adding a water park and other things to the island and the plans look just amazing.
Our last day on the ship was at sea so it was a fun and relaxing day. There is enough to keep you very busy on the ship or you can choose to just do nothing! We had the internet package but not great service so we couldn’t even surf the net and we loved it! Internet is not always great on the ship and since it was a reward for completing all the online training for Royal Caribbean, I didn’t even go check to see if it should be working better. It was nice to disconnect and just enjoy the moment.
We had a late flight out of Miami the day we disembarked so we booked a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. We didn’t have time to really get off and explore at any stops but we enjoyed the guide and the tour of Miami since neither of us had spent time there before. You can book this on the ship at the excursion desk or once you get off the ship. It is great because they take your luggage and store it for the day. Once you are done you go back to the first stop on the tour, pick up your luggage and they bus you to the airport. This is available for departures from Miami and from Ft. Lauderdale. The first/last stop is at a mall so there are dining options there if you don’t get off the bus at other stops.
Overall I think this is a great ship and nice short trip for those who are not sure cruising is for them. They also have a 3 night option for a weekend trip. The stay in Nassau is shorter, we were there until midnight, and there is no at sea day.
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