Destination: Ft. Lauderdale pre-cruise at the Harbor Beach Marriott then sailing on the Caribbean Princess to the Eastern Caribbean
When: April 17-27, 2008
Travelers: Shelli, Ross, Riley (8) and Sydney (7)
Day 1: We started our trip a day earlier than originally planned. I was able to get a great rate on a room at the Days Inn Eagan and use their park-n-fly service. We have really enjoyed using this service lately! Once again, our stay here was nice. We were able to take advantage of their breakfast buffet in the morning since our flights didn't leave until mid-morning. Breakfast was the typical hotel breakfast... waffles, fruit, pastries, bagels, etc. Their shuttle service is on-time and convenient.
Day 2: We flew from Minneapolis to Ft. Lauderdale non-stop on Northwest Airlines and boy was it a bumpy flight! Of course I can't blame NWA for turbulence. Despite the rough flight, we landed on time and made our way by taxi from the airport to the Harbor Beach Marriott. The taxi was $16 plus tip for the 4 of us.
Harbor Beach Marriott: Wow, this place was amazing!!! We were upgraded to an oceanfront room which was absolutely lovely. We looked out over the Atlantic and enjoyed the most spectacular sunrises from our balcony. The beds were comfy, the room was spotless, the pool was a lot of fun and the whole property exceeded my expectations. And the beach! The beach was more than I ever imagined. There were wide stretches of soft sand, clear water and tons of room to just spread out and take it all in. I was so impressed with our stay here. I'd consider doing a vacation back at this hotel even without the cruise! My only complaint is the cost of food and drinks here. We had 2 drinks from the beach bar at the tune of $18. That's for one pina colada and one rum and Coke.
Day 3: We rented a car from the hotel (Hertz has an office on site) and took the kids to Wannado City for the day. They had been looking forward to this place for months and were so excited to finally get there! It was fabulous!!! Wannado City is an indoor, role-playing theme park for kids. At Wannado City, kids can be whatever they want to be. From paleontologist to news reporter, to everything in between, kids try out tons of grown-up jobs in the first indoor city just their size. They can operate on a patient, cook up a pizza, dig for dinosaur bones, be an actress or even solve a crime. It is built like an indoor city for kids, with shops and offices that kids can go into and "work" to earn their pay. When they have received a paycheck, they can spend their money at the grocery store, or the spa. Super cool place and I highly recommend it!
Day 4: Boarding the ship! We left the Marriott and took their shuttle to the pier ($20.) Check in went smoothly. We used the Elite/Preferred line since Ross and I are both Elite status Commodores with Princess Cruises. Lines were not that long anywhere, though. We were in our rooms within 30 minutes of arriving at the pier. We had two inside cabins on the Caribe deck, #244 and #240. The rooms are small, but acceptable. I liked the dressing/closet area by the bathroom. We requested that the rooms be set up with 2 single beds per room since we didn't have a connecting door. Ross and I each took a room and the kids took turns in our rooms. This worked well for us, although I would have preferred upgrading to a suite that would have fit us all together for convenience purposes.
The entire ship was very nice. Everything was polished and clean. The ship was huge! There were over 3000 passengers and 1500 crew on board. I had to keep an eye on the ship maps on the wall so I knew if I was heading forward or back, and also the carpet on the sides so I knew if I was on starboard or port. We used the Palm Dining room once and the buffets, pizzeria, grill and room service the rest of the time. It was fun trying all the new foods. I'm proud of the kids for being brave, too!
Our absolute favorite thing on the boat was Movies Under The Stars. There is a huge movie screen above the pool on the Lido Deck. Movies were played throughout the day. The kids enjoyed watching a movie while swimming, and it gave us something to do while basking in the sun. But the best part was after dinner. The deck chairs were covered with a dark red "Movies Under The Stars" covering and popcorn was served while family oriented movies were played into the night. I think we watched a different movie every night. It was wonderful!!!
Days 5 and 6 were spent lounging around the pool, eating and watching movies!
Day 7: We docked in St. Maarten (Red Stick Pin On Map) at 7am. I had booked us on a Lord Sheffield Pirate Boat to go snorkeling and sailing all day. Unfortunately, the winds were coming out of the south which made the water really choppy and rough. We were able to sail along the coast towards the airport. We found a protected cove to drop anchor for awhile. We were able to jump off the boat and swim for awhile before we made our way back. On board we were served rum punch, fruit, BBQ ribs and chicken and soft drinks. It would have been much better had the weather cooperated. We shopped a bit back on shore before returning to the ship.
Day 8: We docked in St. Thomas (Yellow Stick Pin On Map) at 7am. I hired a driver to take us on an Island Tour for 2 hours. He did a great job! We went all over and saw all the sites. The scenic overlooks were breathtaking. I got to sample the famous St. Thomas Banana Daiquiri here. Yum! We ended up at Coki Beach where we swam and snorkeled for a few hours.
Day 9: Princess Cays (Green Stick Pin On Map) was such a surprise to me! I was almost dreading stopping here, but it turned out being our favorite day! I rented a beach bungalow from Princess for $199. It was a small, air-conditioned bungalow right on the beach with a private patio, table and chairs, and lounge chairs that belonged to our bungalow (not fighting over them on the beach!) At lunch time, our personal waiter brought us a terrific sampling from the main buffet and served it right in our bungalow. Having a space of our own was super. There are not many bungalows, so be sure to reserve in advance!
Day 10: Disembarkation was a breeze. We made our way to the Island Dining Room and waited to be called. We knew we were early, but it was the perfect time for the kids to sit and finish their homework. Another taxi back to the airport ($18) and we were on our way home. Another great vacation in the books!