A Travellerspoint blog

Georgetown, Grand Cayman on Monday

sunny 28 °C

Grand Cayman is one of a group of three magnificent tropical islands. George Town is the capital with a population of about 36500. All ships have to anchor offshore and tender their passengers ashore. Passengers disembark in Georgetown, in the center of the Grand Cayman shopping district.

We had a shore excursion in which we kayaked over to a reef called Cheeseburger Reef where we were able to power snorkel for a while, then we kayaked over to a sunken wreck to snorkel around there before paddling back to shore. It was a lot of fun – there were only 4 couples, the kayaks were 2 person kayaks and the power units were small portable machines with propellers that you held in front of you as it pulled you along. They are made by the Sea Doo folks.

After a couple of hours of snorkeling and exploring we took the tender back to the ship, had a shower and grabbed the computers to head to a Starbucks in town to write this blog and check our e-mails. The Starbucks is packed with people using their laptops – how travel has changed with technology.

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Posted by DavidandHazel 11:43 Comments (0)

Sunday - Sea Day

sunny 24 °C

We rose about 8 and called to reserve a Galley Tour which we attended after breakfast. It wasn’t bad but a little light. Afterwards we attended a Shore excursion presentation which gave us an overview of the offerings in the days to come. After a quick lunch Dave headed to a presentation by the navigation and engineering staff. I returned to the cabin to sit on the balcony, watch the amazing blue water and write this blog. We are now passing thru the Florida straits so for much of the day we could see the coast of Cuba way off in the distance from our cabin balcony.

Tonight is a formal night which means men wear jackets & ties and women wear something a little fancier than casual – but there is no real pressure as you find everything from quite plain up to a formal long gown. We sat with 2 very nice couples from Minnesota and Delaware. After dinner we attended the after dinner main stage show which was a Broadway review . This was quite good and featured many of the performers we saw last night.

After the main stage show we wandered around the ship to some of the other venues where misicians were playing. However we got back to our cabin by 10:30 or so for an early night because we have an early start tomorrow when we are going on a kayak and snorkel trip.

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Posted by DavidandHazel 11:36 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Departure Day - Saturday

sunny 25 °C

Departure day has arrived, we grabbed the usual basic all included breakfast, organized our gear leaving the warm clothes and some other gear in the car. We then boarded the shuttle van for the 20 minute drive to downtown Miami and the cruiseport pier. The hotel shuttle was well organized and packed full.

Once at the pier with about 5000 other folks boarding the 4 or 5 ships that were departing today the embarkation process was a snap. The lines moved quickly, they were very well organized and even the security checks seemed more perfunctory than careful. We were allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine (which we did) but they never even asked.

Once on board we were able to go directly to our staterooms although the luggage would not be delivered until around 3:00 or so. We unloaded our carry on gear and headed up for a bite of lunch and to explore the ship. An hour or so later our luggage arrived at the rooms. We unpacked and although at first thought there wasn’t much storage area, we found everything to be very efficient and there was plenty of space to store all of our “stuff”. Once again we probably packed a bit too much even though we were able to get everything in one case each. Adding dress clothes and shoes for the two "formal" nights always takes up extra space plus snorkel equipment is also bulky. We each brought our own laptop too which adds a bit of weight.

The Eclipse is just gorgeous and modern looking with a hi tech style having just come into service a year ago. In the centre they have a beautiful multi story atrium stretching from deck 3 all the way up to deck 14 or 15.

We sat out on our little balcony off our cabin with a cocktail watching as we pulled out of the port of Miami. Once things got settled we wandered up to the dining room for a lovely dinner and watched the sun set from our table. Once again on Tanja's recommendation we have selected open seating so we have lots of flexibility as to when we eat. After dinner we walked forward to the theatre where all the big shows are held. It is a huge room that must seat 1000 people or more with all the usual stage lighting and two sections of the stage that decend or raise the performers from a level under the main stage. The show wasn’t bad but nothing to write home about. Some of the singers were good, the musicians were great but the dancers costumes and choreography had a lot to be desired. The band leader/musical director was a trumpeter of amazing talent who could play 2 trumpets at the same time – and also do the same thing with his nose. There are 4 very strong male singers who do a good job acapella and a string trio of 2 violins and a cello who seem quite talented as well. In addition to the nightly big stage shows these groups also perform at various venues around the ship during the afternoon and evening.

Posted by DavidandHazel 11:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Friday - Miami

March 18

sunny 19 °C

We rose, checked in with the rest of the world, organized and packed before heading out to find a Laundromat. We found a nice one and while Hazel was doing laundry Dave got gas and checked into the hotel. This Hyatt is very nice – nice sitting room separate from the bedroom. We found this spot through the site www.stay123.com. They are a site that specializes in fly or cruise and park packages. You book a room leave your car at the hotel for the duration of your flight or cruise. They also provide shuttle service to and from the cruiseport. They offer packages at most major US cruiseports and many airports. In our case the cost for night at the Hyatt plus 15 days parking plus shuttle both ways to and from the cruiseport was $145. The budget hotels offer a cheaper daily room rate but charge $10 a day for parking.

After settling in at the Hotel we again headed out and down the Tamiami Trail (US 41) for an airboat tour. We went to the one called Coopertown – apparently the oldest in the area. The water level in the Everglades is currently very low making it a bit of a challenge for the airboats to get around anywhere except in the main canals. The water level situation is made even worse as the water authority continues to divert water from the Everglades to the resivoirs of the big cities like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Regardless it was most interesting to board one of these boats. They are very noisy - powered by a big open air V8 engine often without mufflers. As noisy as the engine is the huge prop is even noisier. We saw lots of birds, alligators and turtles. The boat itself is an interesting craft. It had seating for roughly 20 people (we only had 7 or 8) and is built of sheet aluminum. It is not a very rigid structure so you can feel the whole boat flex and twist as it goes over large mounds of roots in the water or very shallow areas.
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After the airboat tour we headed back east to Miami. We crossed the bridge over Biscayne Bay and drove out to the land spit of Biscane Key. It is a very scenic drive and a great view to look back on the city of Miami as the sun sets.
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Well this will be our last entry for a few days as we board the Eclipse tomorrow at noon. I hope the boarding process for Celebrity lines is as well organized as Holland America was. It is quite a feat loading 2800 people over a fairly short period of time. They do all the same screening as they do at an airport plus a few other things such as creating your on board ID card etc. It is another beautiful warm sunny day so who cares if we have to line up a little.

Posted by DavidandHazel 08:04 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wednesday & Thursday - Port Charlotte to Miami

March 16 & 17

sunny 25 °C

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday started out like most days since we arrived in Florida. We got off to a leisurely start and got ourselves sorted out at the motel. We then got on the laptop and scanned the Hotels.ca web site to book our lodgings for the night. For tonight we selected the Best Western in Naples a large modern Motel/Hotel that we had stayed in when we were here in January. It is well located (if you have a car) and very price competitive. One of our goals today was to hit a big outlet mall near Ft. Myers on the way to Naples. So early in the afternoon we headed off the I-75 and did a little mall cruising for a couple of hours.

We then headed back out to I-75 towards Naples. By late afternoon we reached the Best Western on the East side of Naples. Upon checkin we were delighted to find out that due to overbooking they had upgraded us to a suite. That is hard to beat, you book on the cheap thru an online site and then get upgraded to a suite. Wow what a juxtaposition from the micro room at Microtel. We had a full kitchen an eating area, a large living room and a separate sleeping area. Essentially we had a large one bedroom apartment. The apartment even had its own outside balcony. So we got unpacked poured a nice long drink sat out on the balcony in the late afternoon sun and listened to another chapter of Harry Potter.

For dinner drove down the road a few blocks to a nice little local fish restaurant called Steamers that we found on our last trip. Ths is nothing fancy, just a cheap and cheerful neighbourhood fish restaurant that seems to be always packed with locals. Once again Steamers did not disappoint.

Once back at the hotel we made the decision to head off to Miami on Thursday rather than stay another day in Naples. Once again we got on the Internet and searched out a hotel. Hotels.ca didn't have much to offer so we decided to hit Hotwire.com. Hotwire is an interesting site. You select the level of hotel you want, two to five star, the location and then search. The site returns you a listing of what is available without any names or exact locations. You have to make your mind up on the basis of that very limited information. Once you book you can't change or cancel your reservation. So why would you use this site? Price my friends is the answer, especially for more expensive properties. So we found a hotel for $106 per night near where we wanted to end up in Miami and pulled the trigger on the web site. Bingo, we had a room at the Sheraton. As usual it turned out to be a lovely room in a classy hotel - ya gotta treat yourself once in awhile.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

We had breakfast at the Best Western and met a lovely couple from Oakville who had been staying there for the week. That place is one busy place in the morning. It has a very large breakfast area and is just bustling. It has 4 waffle makers, a hot tray of eggs and breakfast meats, cereals, juices, bagels, toast etc. Other than running out of food because there are so many people, it is one of the better free breakfasts we have found down here.

We checked all our e-mails, updated our expense logs, and did some research on the various places we would be visiting on the cruise, and packed up and headed out towards Miami shortly after 11 am. We stopped at Costco (for Hazel's weekly fix) and Walgreens and headed over to the Naples Beach area. We cruised down along the beach and turned into many of the small roadways that run to the beach. It was very difficult to find any parking at all. There are a number of spots which have meters and others which are reserved for those with “beach permits”. We finally found a spot after about half an hour of searching and headed out for a walk on the beach. We were a bit surprised by the large number of people on the beach – it was really quite crowded especially compared with the gorgeous uncrowded beaches we had been visiting slightly to the north of here. The beach is also a little smaller in depth – but clearly a lot of people loved being there. This visit with the crowded beach and difficult parking made us a little less enamoured with the Naples area.
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Naples Beach

We headed out down the Tamiami Trail towards Miami. It was another beautiful and warm day. We arrived at the Sheraton near the airport shortly before 6 (which we had booked on Hotwire last night). It is a nice property right on a golf course. As with many of the higher end hotels in airport areas, parking is not complementary – so the original price of $106 increased by $13. That is still a good price for a very nice room in an upscale hotel.

We settled in, had a cocktail, checked e-mail and Hazel wrote e-mails and blogs while Dave did some work for Lafarge. We had a nice dinner right in the hotel and got organized to do a quick laundry tomorrow before the final packing of what we will take on the ship and what we will leave in the car.

Posted by DavidandHazel 06:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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