As a first time cruiser I was able to appreciate everyone’s reviews and learned a lot from their experiences. I’d like to pay it forward with my own lengthy, hopefully entertaining and informative review. I’ve broken it down into different aspects of the trip. So read it all or only what interests you. Enjoy!
Connie (me) 39 Newbie Cruiser
Chuck (DH) 42 Newbie Cruiser
Jackie 13 Becky 11 Sarah 9 Newbies
Donna (SIL) Mickey (BIL) Heather 13 (DN) 4 cruises under their belts (rccl)
Hazel (MIL) Skip (FIL) Newbies
Elsie and Paul (My parents) 1 cruise
Our friends and their kids 3 Cruises (rccl)
We cruised with a group of 32 family and friends ranging in age from 7 to 70 all from NJ most of who’d cruised at least once before.
Friday night: The kids and I started taking bonine since we all get motion sick. Chuck’s lucky that motion does not affect him.
Saturday Pre-Cruise:6:45am we were picked up from our home in NJ and driven to LaGuardia Airport in NY. If you are from central jersey I recommend Harrington Limo. They did a nice job for us at a reasonable price. ($160 per family RT) 3 families: my SIL BIL DN and MIL & FIL 14 passenger mini bus – comfy with lots of room.
Our plane left on time and we actually landed in Fort Lauderdale 25 minutes early! Got our luggage and called for our limo service. We booked with LIMOS OF MIAMI. I tried to find some reviews on these boards but it seems nobody ever heard of them. I was a little concerned at first but I spoke with them a few times before the trip and they were very helpful and professional. Plus they gave a great price: $250 RT + tax& tip for a 14 passenger stretch Excursion – I had originally spoke with them in January and they quoted me that price, I was very lucky they honored it with the price of gas and all. It ended up costing each family $108 RT. Well, they pulled up in a Gold Stretch Hummer (free upgrade) and the kids went wild!!! This thing looked like something out of “pimp my ride” with a mirrored, lit ceiling and wrap around leather seating. Backlit bars on either side, lava lamps….. it was wild!!!! The driver cranked the music and we were off to the Embassy Suites at Miami Airport for a 1 night precruise stay! (People actually took pics of us as we drove by! COOL) The ES was - OK for 1 night only $70 on Hotwire.. Clean but under renovations. Great full hot breakfast in the AM. Yes, you can hear the planes but it wasn’t too bad. NOTE: Once again, the kids and I took bonine before bed.
Sunday Transfers & Embarkation:We arranged for ES’s $9/pp shuttle to the Port of Miami. What a nightmare. People and luggage were overflowing in the lobby. We finally gave up waiting for our “turn” and grabbed 2 cabs for less money (each cab $24 + tip) and had an enjoyable “private” ride to the port. We arrived around 11:45 sent our bags off with the porters (yes we tipped them) and got in line. It was hot. My parents had arrived earlier and were lucky enough to be on line inside the building. We would take turns going inside to talk with them – and cool off in the A/C LOL. RCI reps came out a few times to apologize for the wait, explaining that customs had not yet cleared the ship. They even passed out a typed apology and explanation. Finally the line started moving. We took a group picture (all 10 of us) went thru security and made our way to the setsail pass line. It was very crowded – I don’t know if the SetSail pass saved us any time. I do know that I almost had a heart attack when I couldn’t find my Birth Certificate. DH ran back to security to retrace our steps – couldn’t find it. I was starting to hyperventilate! My hands were shaking, everything was getting fuzzy! My MIL grabbed my paperwork and started going through it. Miraculously, right before we had to approach the counter, she found it! Thank God!!!! We got our seapass cards, took our pictures and stepped onto the ship at 12:58pm!!! Not bad I thought. 11:45 to 1pm.
SEAPASS CARDS AND KIDS: This is where RCCL disappointed me. Weeks before our trip I sent $25 to be put on each childs seapass account. I checked by phone and was assured the money was applied. OK. Great. Now Chuck and I had our seapass backed with a CC. The kids cards were backed by CASH. Went to Guest relations to put a $25 limit on their cards. Had to sign a special form. If and when they used it up I would add more money. No problem. Well, by day 2 Sarah’s card kept being rejected even though she had a $25 credit on it. It worked as a door key but she could not charge on it. So Becky would use her card for the both of them. Guess what? At the end of that day, after tattoos and the late night party zone in AO, Becky hands me receipts for $45. No big deal I don’t care that she spent it but I was concerned that they let her charge OVER the $25 limit. So Parents just keep an eye on your kids spending habits because RCCL did not honor the limitations we requested and signed for. My SIL had the same experience with my niece’s card – In fact she fought it and received a refund of the difference her daughter spent over the limit. Anyway, Sarah’s $25 went MIA until the end of the trip when I saw on our final bill that somehow it was applied to my account. Poor Sarah. Her card never did work the whole cruise.
Keep an eye out for PART II
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