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  1. For your future reference: Consider that a flight departing at 10 am means you actually need to be at the airport at least an hour before that, and preferably more. So you're really wanting to be at the airport at 8:30 to 8:45 am. While that is technically possible, you would want to be in the first walk-off disembarkation group, carrying all your own luggage. You would want immediate transportation to the airport (cab or uber, lyft). You would be hoping for no delays in the start of disembarkation. The ship will dock at 5am to 6am, but won't usually begin disembarkation until around 7:00 am The good news is that the Miami airport is about 15 minutes from the pier. The bad news is that Miami airport (under normal, non-coronavirus conditions) is almost always a crowded mess with long lines for baggage check and security clearance. You would be helped if you had status with the airline you were using, and if you had TSA Pre-check. In any case, I wouldn't suggest a 10am flight. If you miss it, you're looking a long day of trying to get home. Why put yourself in that situation after a nice relaxing vacation? Next time, take a flight at noon or later.
  2. I would suggest any Brickell area hotel. Far more options for good dining and shopping, most within easy walking distance. Bayside market is just a tourist spot with the usual chain restaurants. Hampton inn and suites Brickell is very popular with cruisers.
  3. Since you mentioned Mayan ruins specifically, you should be aware of the following: First, do not take the Mayan ruins excursion from Cozumel. There are no ruins on the island, and the excursion actually involves a long ferry crossing to the mainland, and then a bus ride to and from the ruins, and of course the long ferry ride back again. This is an all day excursion for (IMO) minimal time at the ruins and a maximum of time getting to and from. You can see Chacchoben ruins from the Costa Maya port stop. There is a fairly lengthy bus ride involved, but many people feel the tour is a good value. If you're doing a longer Western Caribbean itinerary that includes Belize, consider the ruins at Lamanai (spl?) in Belize. This too is an all day tour involving a river trip and bus ride, but the ruins are far more impressive than any of the two offered from the Mexico ports. As to cruise line choices, I would always prefer Royal over Carnival. But the mainstream cruise lines all offer the same basic product, and in the end a cruise is what you choose to make of it.
  4. Just wanted to put up another good word for Celestino at Advance Car Rental in Willemstad, Curacao. We couldn't have been happier with our one day rental during an NCL Epic cruise stop in Curacao. All the preliminaries were handled promptly and efficiently by email. Celestino meets you at the port with your car, gives you a programmed GPS unit to use in the car (and he'll enter any destinations you're interested in if they are not already in the GPS). He also gives you a pre-programmed cell phone that can be used to call him if you should happen to need it. He'll give you a nice map, and discuss your tour plans with you, making recommendations as to the order you might want to visit them, and tips about things you may not know, such as early closing times. The car (a recent model Nissan Versa) was clean and well maintained. Driving in Curacao (and indeed in all the ABC's) is easy, particularly if you're from the U.S. as they drive on the right hand side of the road. Signage is clear and easy to decipher, and all the other drivers are uncommonly courteous. The GPS (or Maps.Me running on your cell phone) is definitely needed, as many of the secondary roads do not have signs. Perhaps the only hitch in the whole process is refilling the car before you return it. There is a gas station near the port that only takes credit cards, but I could not get any of my credit cards to work in the reader. I ended up paying $US at another station, and of course got the change back in the Netherlands Antilles coins. But they'll make a nice souvenir. I highly recommend Celestino and Advance Carrentals if you're looking to do your own thing on a cruise stop or vacation in Curacao.
  5. Not much difference between the mainstream cruise lines. All three have several kids clubs organized by age group, and they keep them busy. You might want to look at it from the point of view of the ship size at those ports. NCL has Getaway at New Orleans right now, a large ship with tons of activities to keep kids busy. RCCL sails a large ship out of Galveston, I believe. I don't think Carnival has their large new ships at either of those ports. The larger, newer ships tend to have more outdoor activities (rock walls, rope courses, multiple water slides, etc) then the older smaller ships. So if your kids need or like that sort of thing, you'd want to go on a large newer ship.
  6. If you're booking through the ship, they will coordinate the excursion time no matter what. If you're booking independently, just discuss this with your excursion operator. Most of them are very familiar with the various ship's port times, and would not remain in business for very long if they ignored those times.
  7. AFAIK, Non-refundable OBC cannot be used in the casino. Refundable OBC can be used (and cashed out as you've indicated).
  8. If you purchase OBC, then it's basically your money, in your account to spend as you please. If you are *given* OBC by NCL you cannot use that money for casino charges. However: There is a 3% casino fee each time you charge money against your cabin cabin account, so I would not recommend using your purchased OBC for this purpose - you're basically giving up 3% of your money each time, for the convenience of them holding your money for you. Just bring that same amount in cash for use in the casino. Note that the 3% fee is waved for CAS Sapphire and higher members.
  9. The "pull the card, money goes in your account" routine really confused me at first. But then I realized it's for your own protection...the assumption is that you've pulled your card and walked away, possibly before collecting your ticket, which may be printed out and sitting in the machine for anyone to take....although what gambler would do that? But as a protection for the gambler, it makes sense.
  10. Yes, you can and the system works, although at peak dining hours it can take some time to get your bottle retrieved from the last restaurant. I don't believe they store them centrally anywhere, but just in the last restaurant where you drank from the bottle. I used to do this all the time on cruises, but now my practice is to take the bottle back to the cabin and store it there. Since I typically only drink about a serving and a half of wine with any meal, I'll just pour myself a large glass in the cabin and carry that to the restaurant. No different than bringing a glass of wine into the restaurant from a bar.
  11. On our recent Getaway cruise, there were endless announcements in the casino that non-playing smokers were not allowed. They did little good. I only witnessed one instance of a casino employee asking two non-playing smokers to move on to a designated smoking area. IMO, NCL's policy is a halfway attempt doomed to failure. They either need to make the casino non-smoking (with a smoking room on those ships that have them), or just let it go. There are now many non-smoking casinos on land, and several cruise lines have non-smoking casinos. It can be done, but it requires a complete commitment to the policy, no halfway measures.
  12. 1 point for every $5 in ($10 in when playing Video Poker). You can use your cabin key to play with, or get a CAS players club card from the casino desk once they open (if there's not one already in your room when you board). Definitely use one or the other when playing in the casino. Slot play is tracked electronically to your account, table play is mostly tracked by the pit boss as usual in casinos (although some ships and some table games are now being converted to tracking chips). There is an ATM in the casino, or you get money as a charge against your room account. There is a 3% fee for doing this, each time you do it. You can also setup a line of credit with CAS in advance of your cruise, or just bring your money on board. Slots are money or ticket in, ticket out. NCL CAS comps work a little differently than other lines. After your cruise with tracked play, you can contact CAS in Miami and ask about a comp on any cruise you like. They will tell you what you'd be eligible for on that cruise. Comps vary with the ship and itinerary...the more popular the cruise, the lower the value of the comp. There is no fixed relationship of points earned to level of comp earned. Your comps are based on your ADT, just as with any land casino. Here is the NCL CAS web page: https://www.ncl.com/why-cruise-norwegian/casino-cruise
  13. VideoTech

    Shete Boca

    Notice no one has replied to this - I'm researching for our upcoming trip and plan on renting a car (we have a full day in Curacao. Shete Boka is open from 9am to 4pm and the entrance fee is U.S. $10 per person. You must leave the park by 4:30 pm. It takes about 40 minutes to drive there from the cruise port, per google maps. Here's the official park website: http://www.christoffelpark.org/opening-hours-fees/
  14. The ship's internet is fine for sending and receiving emails. If you have a limited minutes package, I would suggest using an email client. Sign on, download your new emails, sign off. Then compose your replies, sign on, send, and sign off again. That's the best way to preserve your minutes. Sign on / Sign off is simple via the "logon.com" and "Logoff.com" pages. Text messaging is a different animal. You will not be able to use SMS messaging, as that is done via cell data. You can text via Facebook Messenger, or any other texting program that uses wifi and internet, not cell data. The issue again, is minutes. If you sign on and leave it on for texting, you'll use up your minutes quickly. If you plan to do a lot of texting, I would recommend upgrading to an unlimited package. You can do this on the ship...typically they offer discounts on the second day of the cruise.
  15. There's really no good answer to this question. Every port has cruise line airport transfers, taxis, ubers, lyft, and shuttles. If by easy you mean the shortest transfer time, I'd say New Orleans or maybe Mobile for Western (sorry, never cruised out of Mobile so don't know for sure). Galveston is an easy port to cruise out of, but it's a long ways from the two Houston airports.
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