May 4, 2002
I booked the whole trip through Carnival including airfare and pre-cruise stay at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay. I booked an 8A guarantee in August of 2001. Using the Kelly method I found out 3 weeks prior to leaving that we had been given a major upgrade to a category 11 on the Empress deck (7322). The Kelly method really does work as this is the cabin we got.
We arrived in Miami at 1pm and were met at the gate by a Carnival rep. who directed us down to pick up our luggage and told us another rep. would be waiting by the luggage claim. After picking up our luggage we followed the rep. to the shuttle. There were mostly people sailing that day (Friday) and 1 other couple going to the Sheraton. Be warned it is quite a hike to the parking lot to board the shuttle. Once on board we proceeded to the Port of Miami to drop the people sailing on the Fascination. Then it was on to the hotel. We had a very nice room, it did not face the port but it still had a nice view. After freshening up we took a taxi to Bayside Market. The concierge did say it was only a 15-minute walk but it was very hot and humid and I didn?t feel like walking. The taxi only cost $6 including a tip. We spent a pleasant afternoon at Bayside checked out the shops and stopped to listen to a Reggae band play. We went a 1 hour 15 minute boat ride around the Miami bay area on Celebration cruises $10 each. There are many others to choose from. After the boat tour we ate at an outside restaurant right up the steps and to the left of the Celebration pier. (sorry I don?t remember the name) I had a hamburger with all the fixings and fries $5.95 and my husband had a breast of chicken sandwich with fries $6.95.
There is also a Hard Rock Cafe with very reasonable prices. It was now 8pm and we decided to head back to the hotel with the hope of find a store along the way to purchase some bottled water and munchies for the ship. There was nothing of this kind to be found at Bayside. Just up the street from Bayside on Flagler Street I noticed a Walgreen?s, unfortunately it had closed at 8pm. We then caught a taxi back to the hotel with the intention of coming back to the Walgreen?s on Saturday morning (they open at 7am). We did just that, taking a taxi there ($3) and walking back. We had breakfast across the street from the Sheraton at the Coffee Beanery. Bacon and egg bagel, sausage and egg bagel 1 coffee and a large OJ cost approx $10. Prices at the hotel restaurant were very high. Carnival reps. where in the hotel lobby at 9am to pre-check in guests. It went very smoothly, just be sure to have all the documents filled out and have your id handy. The shuttle bus to take us to the port was to arrive at 11:45. Most of the people were waiting outside by 11:15. by 12:15 the shuttle had not arrived so I called the 800 # on the shuttle coupon. A very polite man explained that due to traffic the shuttle had been held up and would be at least another 15 minutes. by this time many other passengers had jumped in taxis and made there own way to the pier, after hearing we would have to wait at least 15 more minutes for the shuttle to arrive (then you?ve got to add time to load the people and the luggage etc.) we decided to do the same. The taxi dropped us off right by the baggage handlers and after giving them a generous tip we made our way to the Triumph. I would definitely recommend the pre-check in at the Sheraton as it enabled us to bypass the people waiting in line when you first go in the terminal. We went straight upstairs and picked up our Sail and Sign cards. There was a short wait in line to have your picture taken for the cards and then on to the ship.
All I can say is wow!! You enter on deck 3 and the first thing you see are the glass elevators we jumped in one and made our way to the Empress deck. Our room was great lots of closet space and a four-draw dresser. There was an outlet over the dresser and one in the make-up area, there was also more draws in this area. We checked out the balcony-four chairs and a small table and then made our way up to the Lido deck. Luggage had started to arrive already but not ours yet.
We had lunch in the South Beach Restaurant and then began exploring the ship. We made our way back up to deck 10 in time for the ship to set sail. The reggae band Eclipse was playing on the stage by the Continent Pool it was a great start to a great week. Our luggage arrived just in time for dinner; we had the 5:45pm sitting in the Paris Dining room, table 568 right at the back with a great view. Ivan from Croatia and Iketow (sp?) from Indonesia were our waiters and they both did a great job.
We ate breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck. Lots to choose from for breakfast, the chefs are there to prepare omelets and fried eggs. I loved watching them flip the omelets and catch them behind their backs!! The pizza was delicious and always fresh. It was constantly busy. The hamburgers from the Grille were also a big favourite. We only had the ice cream once but it was very good. The sandwiches from the NY deli were also very good. I had turkey and my husband had the corned beef. We didn?t try the Hong Kong Noodle. The buffets were very good always something different each day. We ate dinner in the dining room five of the seven nights and everything we tried was delicious-Lobster, steak, prime rib, filet of sole, lamb, and filet mignon. Desserts were to die for.
Corey Schmidt the Cruise Director was very good, now as this is our first cruise I don?t have anyone to compare him to but I think he did a great job. The Welcome Aboard show was a howl, the audience participants really made the show. All the shows were very professionally done and very entertaining. Corey?s show with his birds was good but too short we left when the juggler came on. Callen and Joyce were in the Venezia Lounge; they had the place jumping playing some oldies but goodies (Bob Seger, Lynard Skynard, Grand Funk etc.). The crowd refused to let them play any slow songs they wanted to rock!!! We didn?t go to any of the late night comedy shows and didn?t hear anything good or bad about them from other passengers.
We took a taxi $10 to Chankanaab park and spent the most of the day snorkeling and laying on the beach. It was $10 each to get in. It was heaven, not too crowded at all. Later we took a taxi to the town $10. I personally did not enjoy the town, too many locals grabbing at you to try and get you in their store. Grand Cayman We took the ships Stingray City Island Tour-You stop at Hell (make sure you have your pens and addresses handy so you can send postcards), the Turtle Farm which was a big hit with our crowd and then it?s on to Stingray City. Our boat was not crowded about 40 people. There was quite a breeze and there were big waves that made it difficult to stand up in the water, but even with that the Stingrays were amazing. The boats captain got in the water and held one of them so you could take a picture and touch it. We stayed there for about 90 minutes and then back into town for shopping. Much more civilized here, very pleasant to walk around the town and shop. Ochos Rios.
We took Highlight Tour A. We went to Fern Gully and then Shaw Botanical Gardens, be advised there is a lot of climbing up and down stairs here and it was very hot even first thing in the morning. Then on to Dunns River Falls. Hubby and I did not climb the falls instead we made our way down to the beach, again be advised it?s quite a walk down to the beach and of course you have to climb back up after. But it was worth it. This tour also stops at two shopping plazas. Hubby got a fake Rolex for $25-talked the guy down from $70 (of course his last one we got in NY for $10 but?.).
We took a bungee cord to hold the balcony door open but we never used it the door stayed open just fine, maybe we were lucky, I will take it next time just in case. I did ask our room steward if he could empty the fridge so we could use it but he said he couldn?t. He was very good with keeping the ice buckets full. The funvision was working so we ordered our excursion that way. You can also check how much you have spent on your sail and sign cards. The crew was great, very polite and friendly. No one ever passed you by without saying hello and asking how you were. Some actually seemed surprised when we would ask how they were and how their day had been. Definitely go to the front of the ship on deck 6,7 or 8 and watch the stars at night. Also a great place for some peace and quiet is right off of deck 3. Lots of lounge chairs and very serene. People did save lounge chairs, but?in their defense you can?t honestly expect to sleep in till 1pm and then come out on the lido deck and think you are going to find a chair in a prime location. Most of the people who saved chairs had been there since early morning. So my advice if you want a chair where the action is get up early and snooze on deck. Disembarkation.
I guess when you have 2900 people all wanting to get off at once you are going to run into snags. We were late arriving in Miami it was after 7 when we finally docked. Being non-US citizens we had to go to the Club Rio Lounge to pickup our passports. Mass confusion is the best way to describe this. We then went back to our cabin one last time and went to wait for our colour to be called. We had a 1pm flight out of Miami and wouldn?t suggest you book anything earlier than that. Many people with 12:30 flights were just leaving the ship at 12. Finding our luggage was not a problem, I had heard horror stories but it went very smoothly.
All in all this was a wonderful vacation and we can?t wait to cruise again. Sorry this is so long. Anyone with questions, don't hesitate to ask.