Sunday, January 1, 2012

Prelude to another cruise

When Greg & I arrived in Miami on November 21st after our 15-night transatlantic cruise aboard Holland America's ms Rotterdam, we had no definite plans other than to spend a few nights with my friend Adena. Adena & her husband, Raul, live in a 21st floor penthouse in the "Miami Vice" building (the Atlantis on Brickell) which gained fame for being featured in the opening credits of the television series. Adena & I worked together often as flight attendants for Delta Air Lines and we also vacationed in China together in 2005.
Adena & I in Beijing - May, 2005
We spent two lovely days & nights with Adena & Raul, enjoying a walk around South Beach, spotting Dan Marino at The Delano, strolling Lincoln Road Mall, and a delicious meal at the famous Cuban restaurant Versailles in Little Havana, not to mention just relaxing and catching up.
Miami's South Beach
We had already been considering what to do for the remaining two weeks prior to our scheduled flight back to Nashville on December 7th. Not wanting to fly anywhere or rent a car, our options were pretty much limited to chilling out in a beach house somewhere in Florida or taking another cruise. As it turned out, our first beach choice, Key West, was definitely the more expensive option plus getting there wouldn't be easy without flying or renting a car. And I really wanted Greg to experience another cruise so we would know if it was a viable vacation option for the future.
toasting our return to the U.S. on the balcony of Adena & Raul's apartment
Choosing which cruise to book at the last minute was made easier, once again, with the expert help of Sherrie Funk at Just Cruisin' Plus in Brentwood, TN. I had made an appeal for help on Facebook prior to booking our transatlantic cruise and we were referred to Sherrie by her step-daughter, Angel Funk, with whom Greg & I attended high school. We were able to book everything for the first cruise via email and Sherrie was the one who made it easy & stress-free. This time, since we were back in the U.S., it was much easier just to dial her toll-free number!
Surprisingly, there was still plenty of availability for cruises out of either Miami or Fort Lauderdale on the weekend after Thanksgiving, considering we were booking only five days before departure. We used a variety of criteria to pick which cruise to take: it couldn't depart on or before November 25th (we had nonrefundable hotel reservations), it had to return by December 7th (for our flight back to Nashville), the overall itinerary/ports had to be accessible to independent travelers who didn't want to book shore excursions (ie so we could walk off the ship or take public transportation to see the sights), and we were only interested in Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Norwegian cruise lines (to compare to my previous cruise experience with Celebrity and our recent experience with Holland America). As always, the total price was also a big consideration. Including taxes and approximately $11 per person, per day (pp/pd) in tips, the one option on Royal Caribbean priced out at $97pp/pd; the three options on Princess were $81-96pp/pd; and the one option on Norwegian was $78pp/pd. It was then pretty easy to eliminate all but the two cheapest cruises - on either the Ruby Princess or the Norwegian Pearl. Then it was 50/50 with Greg leaning toward the Pearl primarily because it was the absolute cheapest option.
Will we be able to top our Holland America cruise experience?
Once we had booked the cruise, we had more time to relax and do research on the ports of call. We had already reserved three nights at the Homewood Suites Miami Airport/Blue Lagoon in anticipation of higher occupancy or higher room rates over the Thanksgiving holiday. With a separate living area and kitchen apart from the large bedroom, we had plenty of space to spread out. We saved money by buying a few simple groceries and cooking meals, but mostly took advantage of the free hot breakfast every morning as well as the free weekday dinners which included beer & wine. Unfortunately I got sick with a stomach virus so didn't feel very well over the holiday. Plus it was a little depressing to be alone in a hotel room on Thanksgiving Day while the rest of our relatives were feasting on turkey & dressing and enjoying the warmth of home & family!

We still needed one more night's accommodation prior to boarding our cruise on November 27th. The best rate the Homewood Suites was offering was $140 per night so I went online and found a comparable hotel (Springhill Suites) closer to the Miami cruise port for only $97 per night, plus they offered shuttle service to the port for only $6 per person. We packed up and transferred to the new hotel (using each hotel's free Miami airport shuttle service) and spent our final evening watching football, eating Papa John's pizza and doing laundry.

The link to my Miami photos is embedded in this post's title.

1 comment:

  1. Miami sure looks like a great place to visit especially for those who love the beach, babes, the waves and the sun!