Well, I'm back from a pretty darn nice week on the sea and in the Caribbean. Some good things happened, some not so great things happened, but all in all, I was satisfied.
The first two days, as expected, were pretty putrid from my perspective (Walt Disney World). DW and Dkids enjoyed, but for whatever reason, I just ain't a Dizzy World guy. Sorry. Too many people, too much money, and frankly, not dat much fun.
Now, the trip from Orlando to Miami was a breeze; thanks to those who gave input on taking 95 instead of the turnpike. Good advice. Also, thanks to whomever suggested being alert when taking the offramp to the cruise port; I would have been mildly confused had I not received that advice. Thanks.
Now, the cruise in a nutshell:
Embarkation: started at 11:15, on the ship by 11:45. Downside was what I feared; they did not allow my declared wine. Upside: I got it back (I just hope they stored it properly).
Some luggage received in a timely manner; other luggage (specifically, the ones with the additional wine), was delayed. Several additional bottles seized from the luggage. Curiously, they must have pitied me and left us 2 bottles in one of our pieces of luggage.
Tablemates: Excellent; a couple from New Jersey with 2 kids about the ages of ours. Very nice family, exchanged addresses, phone numbers. We will be seeing them in May when I speak at a conference in Atlantic City.
Food: As I go in with a realistic frame of reference, I am never disappointed with the food. Good selection, good quality, good service, nice window table. Waiter was good, but no personality; Asst Waiter was excellent, although she came down with the flu on the 4th or 5th night. Poor girl.
I purchased the "Diamond" Wine package for dinner. Pretty pricey for some run of the mill wines. It kind of bunched my shorts knowing I paid that much for inferior wine; the Rosemount Shiraz wasn't bad, but not what I had planned for enhancing our meals. Oh well, such is life in the fast lane.
Junior Suite: nice size, accomodated the four of us nicely (cabin 1694). Whomever likened the view on this class of ship from the aft cabins as looking through a football helmet, was right on the money. Huge balcony, but somewhat of an obstructed view. Loved the JS
and balcony just the same. I would go for a corner cabin in the future on that class of ship. Didn't really care for the view of the people on the deck below us...
Cabin Steward-Dean-the best we've ever had. My youngest (almost 12) loved the towel figures each night. Dean gave him a private lesson which lasted for a good hour on consecutive nights.
Ports: Puerto Rico: Needed more time in port (pulled in around 2pm and gone by 7:30 or 8pm). I could have spent a whole day instead of a couple of hours at El Morro. I could have sworn I heard cannons firing at least a couple of times.
St. Maarten: Took the 4 by 4 jeep trip which lasted 6 hours. Too much time in traffic, but were able to spend 2 1/2 hours at Orient Beach and a good hour at Mullet Beach. Not enough time off road, and the off road wasn't really off road. Next time, I'll do more beach time. Not sure what I expected, but was somewhat surprised by the poverty on the island. May have been my naivte' in thinking that the island was wealthy because of the great advertising...
St. Thomas: Did the Deep Sea Helmet Dive. It was fascinating (I'm a total underwater novice), but I felt the actual time under water was too limited (half an hour). We did have the benefit of viewing other parts of the complex, ie. the aviary, the iguanas, the baby sharks, and a predator tank. I wouldn't do this excursion again. We saw enough of the island to know there is significant poverty here as well.
Nassau: We booked the Pirates and Dungeons Tour, thinking it would be cheesy, but appealing to our kids. Not only was it not appealing, it was a downright ripoff. We boarded a tour bus and went to a small fort near the cruise port, spent 25 minutes learning of the history; that was okay. Then we boarded the bus and went to another fort, for 25 minutes, only to find out entrance to the fort was not included in the price of the tour. An additional $5 a head was required.
We purchased 4 sodas, $1 each, from a vendor's booth at the fort; I handed the vendor a $20, she asked if I had anything smaller, and as I reached for my wallet to pull out a $10, I noticed her palming my $20. When she gave me $6 in change for my $10, I politely, but without pulling any punches, advised her that she was palming my $20 and she needed to return that as well. She did, with a certain amount a feigned embarassment.
The rest of the time was spent in traffic, getting to the Pirates of Nassau Museum...now that was cheeeeeesy! Just as I expected, and the kids kind of enjoyed that.
We also met a great, wild couple from the UK who will be moving to Vancouver in 6 months and will be spending time touring the wineries of the California Foothills with their personal guide, goin' cruisin', sometime next year.
The Explorer, is not our favorite ship; we didn't really care for the Promenade. We like the openness of the Centrum in the Radiance class ships better; just our preference.
The entertainment didn't seem to be up to that on the Radiance a couple of years ago. Also, cruise staff versus passengers in 4 on 4 dodge ball; way too much testosterone exhibited by the cruise staff, accompanied by trash talk which to me, was embarassing.
All in all, a good trip. Lots of relaxation on the balcony; sunrises, sunsets, my honey. That was a highlight. Seeing the islands the way we did was a precursor; next time we'll do our own deal now that we know what the islands are all about.
The only other negative: flying from the left coast to the right coast is a long ordeal, especially with having to be at the airport 2 hours before your flight. Is it worth it? I'll have to ponder that one. In the meantime, I'll be working on booking the Mexican Riviera for next year.