Arrival in Miami
A no-hassles arrival at Miami airport and seamless transition to our hotel was a great way to start our two week Caribbean adventure. Alighting from the taxi it was blowing quite a gale, causing the nearby palm tree fronds to do their own little welcome dance. But the sun kept appearing through a smattering of clouds and the temperature out of the wind was pleasant.
The afternoon markets and food trucks setting up for what was going to be a bit of a ‘do’ in the evening were piquing our interest, so a marina stroll was in order. The chill of the Florida wind nearly required a cardigan, but we persevered and managed to pick up a knick knack or two of kitsch to take home as fun gifts. As the crowd began to build for the big street party, we decided to head back to the hotel – one of our party was feeling under the weather, and an early night with some room service was more in our line. As with most large scale events in the USA, this evening was all about sport – football, in fact. Having no interest in it ourselves, we were content with the view of our cruise ship and the fireworks from our marina bay view room and an early night.
Our hotel of choice for our sole night before embarkation was the InterContinental Miami. It was fine, but that’s about all. Yes, the facilities were exactly as expected, but the prices were highly inflated, and the service (apart from reception, where our platinum status provided swift attention) was exceedingly slow; half an hour to have plates (empty plates) brought to the room; half an hour to have a salad served in the bar. When water was brought to the room within 15 minutes we were shocked! We ended up buying provisions from the nearby ‘Whole Foods’ store, which were healthy, tasty and cheap. The big ‘plus’ of this hotel was the wonderfully comfortable beds, providing us all with an excellent night’s sleep.
Boarding the Ocean Princess was the smoothest embarkation experience we’ve had. No clumps of people waiting for their group number to be called, just a short, fast moving line, a call to the next counter, and we were sorted. Probably helped that the ship only holds 680 passengers. And that, for us, was one of the appeals of this particular cruise – 14 nights cruising the Caribbean with the intimacy of a smaller ship (apparently, she is to be decommissioned shortly afterwards and sold to another cruise line).
One of the first things we did after our ‘welcome aboard’ drinks was to check out the spa. Had a massage at an introductory rate but was so exhausted, and it was so gentle, that I slept through most of it. Afterwards there was a big sell about all the other treatments I was going to need during my fortnight on board, but I didn’t buy – there are other things I would like to spend my money on, and onboard spa treatments (on ANY cruise ship) are not bargains. Instead, our little group ventured to the Tahitian Lounge for a spot of trivia, had a blast and started making new acquaintances immediately.
Our first night at dinner we met our new dining companions, a lovely German couple who were great conversationalists and excellent company. There was supposed to be 8 at our table, but the other couple did not show up (we had chosen a table of 8 as we were concerned that our little group of 4 might be a bit overpowering – foundless fears!).
Days at Sea
One of the reasons some people are not fans of cruises of 10 days or more is that there are often numerous days at sea. But for people whose lives are lived intensely through work in non-stop, I’m-a-machine-kind-of-way, the few days at sea between ports can provide enforced relaxation time. I was happily reacquainted with my love of reading for pleasure, not for work, and participating in the various diversions offered, and enjoying the company and conversations of strangers was lovely. Trivia and bingo were both lures, and I was sometimes in a conundrum if they clashed in scheduling times. On this first full day, we won at trivia as well as $45 at bingo – maybe we should quit while we’re ahead!
Food on board was basically anything you fancied. We lunched in the Panorama Buffet, and indulged in what was apparently the best pizza on the seven seas (does not bode well for my restraint!). But it was mighty impressive pizza!
Our first full day at sea was a formal evening, so that meant a lot of hair, make up, and dressing up – men have it so easy! We posed for formal photos and tried to take it all very seriously, not always succeeding! But we did look fabulous!
Had fun at the production show of the evening – ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll.’ The dancers were fantastic (choreography was exhausting, but nothing original), and the singers very good – all working very hard…especially with the ship lurching like it was.
Our next day at sea passed in a similar fashion. At our morning trivia game we were greeted by the people we beat yesterday who wished us ‘second place’ (sore losers much?), and we wiped the floor with them with our score of 19.5 out of 20. There were many in the room peeved at the final question – Who was the director of Moulin Rouge? – no one had heard of Baz Luhrman. Maybe someone needs to explain to them the definition of trivia (and thus began the bias from one particular group to any question that had anything to do with Australia…yes, they were American).
We encountered particularly rough seas and a challenging rocking and rolling of the ship. The result being that we would be several hours delayed getting into Marigot. Normally, this would not be an issue, but in this instance we had planned to meet up with friends who were docking on the same day from another Princess ship. Our original docking time was 9am, now it appeared it would be after 2pm. This presented issues with the tour guide and driver we had arranged for the day. Oh, well – it was all beyond our control. When I explained our dilemma to the concierge, I was allowed to call the other Princess ship and talk to my friends to explain our situation. Nicely done, Princess.
Also happy with the accommodating staff in the dining room in the evening. I fancied the ratatouille that accompanied the pork chop, but being vegetarian had no interest in the chop, so they simply gave me more ratatouille – very content passenger.
After dinner we went to the cabaret lounge for headliner entertainment, Kevin Spirtas. He was really, really good. He has had 7 years on Days of our Lives, and was Hugh Jackman’s understudy for Boy from Oz on Broadway (and Hugh did not miss ONE show in the entire year’s season!). But Kevin clearly adores Hugh, who brought Kevin out in the bows of the final show and talked him up. Classy, Mr Jackman!
Read our full Caribbean story here:
Part 1 (current): Miami, Embarkation and First Days at Sea