What to pack for a cruise?

As we get ready to depart on the NCL Escape, I went back to my trusty cruise list for those things that I simply can’t do without on a cruise. For a family of 5, we have a lot of “must haves” that cost a lot more if we don’t prepare. Preparing is key. We usually drive to Florida, so room is not the issue.

Here are my must haves!

  • Tide pen
  • small blue tooth speaker for music in room
  • Bonine for kids and adults
  • Downey wrinkle release  (smells great and no more wrinkles!)
  • nail clippers
  • ear plugs (in case the cabin is noisy!)
  • wet ones (small children, plus melting ice cream es no bueno!)
  • camera and extra sd cards and extra batteries
  • headphones
  • Power strip (Make sure your power strip DOES NOT have the surge protector. They’ll confiscate it. )
  • multi usb charger for charging devices
  • Highlighters for the Daily Schedule
  • First aid and over the counter drugs (we bring kids cold medicine, pain relievers and tummy medicine)
  • bandaids and antibacterial cream
  • waterproof bag for phone
  • magnet hooks (can hang wet stuff up or hats or jackets — walls are all magnetic)
  • sunblock (bring enough for the whole time, it’s expensive in port and on the ship!)
  • spf lip balm
  • aloe for after sun in case get burnt
  • bug spray
  • garbage bags (for dirty laundry)
  • dryer sheets (just a few to put in dirty laundry bag so don’t smell)
  • nightlight
  • copy of passports and driver’s licenses (keep separate from actual passports and licenses — bring copies of passports into port with you)
  • blister feet rub stick (if your excursions will take you far)
  • powder gatorade (in case of tummy trouble or hangovers)
  • kids snorkel stuff
  • large towel clips (so you know which chairs are yours)
  • lanyards for kids room cards (so they don’t lose them)
  • special stuffed animals or blankets for little ones
  • beach bags
  • water shoes
  • hats and sunglasses for all
  • goggles
  • air spray for bathroom
  • anti-itch cream
  • cards
  • snacks (only take ones that don’t melt and remember you can bring small cereal boxes with you off the ship for snacks in port)
  • ziploc bags (for receipts, snacks, small items)
  • small umbrella
  • glow sticks from dollar store and white clothing for glow party (if on NCL)
  • 80s costume if want to dress up for 80s night (if on NCL)
  • hanging up bathroom organizer to hang on back of bathroom door
  • One set of something with sleeves/pants in case cool
  • back up eye glasses/contacts
  • sanitizing towelettes for room (door handles, remote control — anything you touch)

After that, Bon Voyage!

Can’t wait to share our experience on board the NCL Escape!

When’s the best time to plan a cruise?

While this is a difficult question, there are many tips that can help you get the best deal on your cruise.

  1. When the itinerary first is released. Recently Royal Caribbean released their 2018-2019 itinerary for the Caribbean and I’ve seen some super low prices. E-mail me and I can help walk you through an amazing vacation and the best you can get for your budget!
  2. September! When you’ve just come back from your summer vacation, cruise lines are tempting you with free on board gratuity and other great perks. Spend your summer looking for the itinerary you want for 2018, and I can help make your dream come true!
  3. January-March. In the travel agency, this is wave season. Best deals hands down. If you didn’t book during the times listed above, watch the cruises you want (or better yet, let me do it for you) and then pounce when the sales come forth in winter.

We have 41 days until our cruise, which we booked during September of last year and we can’t wait! Watch this space for my review of the Norwegian Escape. It’s sure to be a blast!

Don’t miss out on this earmazing opportunity!

Always wanted to go to Disney, but think the tickets are too expensive?

This summer, the 4 Park Magic Ticket is a great way for your Clients to experience everything new in each Walt Disney World® Theme Park. This value-packed, limited-time ticket lets your Clients experience all four Theme Parks for only $79 per day (plus tax) with one admission to each Park on four separate days from April 30 – Sept. 30, 2017.

Let me know when you want to go and I’m happy to help you plan your time there and make the most of these great ticket prices!

When’s the best time to purchase a cruise?

Just like with airplane tickets, this question gets asked a lot. The answer isn’t easily defined.

Why not?

Cruise lines run many different types of sales throughout the year. Sales vary whether you can plan last minute or if, like me, you are a long-term planner.

What can you tell me?

The good news is that January through March is known as Wave Season. The major cruise lines run various sales throughout this time period. Hey, guess what? It’s March 23! Get on that next cruise!

I’m not ready to purchase now. When’s the next time?

Another good time to purchase is September and October for the following year. At this point of the year, cruisers are done with summer vacations and are starting to look at the following year. Usually additional amenities are added into sales prices this time of year. Items like free gratuities, drink and meal packages.

How far in advance should I book?

If you are free of responsibilities and don’t need airfare, you can wait to see what cabins need to be filled, and go from there to find the best deal. For the rest of us, book as far out as you can and during the Wave season, when dates are just released or in the fall post-trip haze. You can also get special deals on board if you book on board your current cruise — either by getting a certificate toward your next cruise or by actually putting a deposit down.

So, what’s next?

Email me and let me help you find the best fit and best deal for you!

Our birthday magical getaway

Four Walt Disney World parks, two and a half days, what could go wrong? Nothing really. We created a spreadsheet with all of the rides we wanted to ride, booked fast passes for what we did not want to miss and booked the hotel I most wanted to stay at on the Walt Disney World property, Bay Lake Tower. It was finally here, time to leave for Disney!

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Bay Lake Tower is unlike most other Disney properties. You have to squint to see the traditional Mickey ears and the hotel appears to cater more to adults than children – although the pool does have an amazing slide that the children loved.

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The one bedroom has two bathrooms (ideal with a family of 5), a full kitchen, laundry room, living room, master bedroom and a balcony. The living room has a queen-sized pullout sofa and a twin-sized pull out chair. The furnishings are all modern, clean and beautiful. Our room was on the 10th level and had a nice view of the lake and the pool.

The hotel can’t be beat for its closeness to the Magic Kingdom – a 10-minute walk and you are at the gate. Another bonus feature is the bridge between it and the Contemporary Resort. I found it to be an amazing place to watch the nightly fireworks at the Magic Kingdom – a perfect view of Cinderella’s castle and Space Mountain.

Despite all of these positives, there were a few negatives. Nothing that ruined the trip, but they definitely caused me to lose some sleep. I could hear the toilet in the room above us flush – a very loud high-powered flush. I could also hear a baby crying from the room above us as if he/she was in our room. Not the five o’clock wake up call I was looking for each morning. There was also a nightly 10:30 electric water parade on the lake. When reading the description, this sounded cool, but I definitely didn’t think about how loud the parade would sound!

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The best part of our trip was the decision to purchase Disney After Hours. I read on some of the Disney forums that you could get in earlier than the 7 pm promised when purchased and that was correct. The problem with going in earlier is the crowds. Oh the crowds! I looked at all of the crowd calendars before we went and I naively thought that the long weekend we were going would be before Spring break crowds and, therefore, not at top business. I was completely wrong.

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From the moment we walked into the Magic Kingdom at 5:30 pm, it was obvious that there were many more people there than I had forecasted. The good news is that with the After Hours tickets, there is a special “gate” for you to go through and they give you your lanyard for the evening indicating it is ok for you to be there after park hours.

Some had indicated on Disney forums that they were able to make fast passes for that evening, but that was not the case for us. Everything we thought of going to when we first got there had wait times 45 minutes or longer. We decided to have dinner at the taco place (walk up and sit down to eat) between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain. It was delicious and helped us kill time until more people left the park. We were going to go on Pirates right after we ate, but the ride went down, so we went over to the Haunted Mansion. We waited about 25 minutes, but it was fun as always.

 

Afterward, it was nice and dark and time for the Wishes fireworks. We found a place to stand and enjoyed. As always, it is a great show. We knew that we still had about ½ hour before the park cleared out, but went over to tomorrow land. The Toy Story Rangers Spin ride had a shorter wait time so we went on it. The kids had a blast!

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Ok, now it was time for After Hours. Woo hoo! We went over to Space Mountain and they were checking to make sure anyone trying to get in had a lanyard. Success! No wait time. The kids loved it so much we went on it two times in a row with no wait time. We then went on the Tomorrow Speedway (maybe 5 minute wait), Winnie the Pooh and then we were dying to try the Mine Train ride. None of us had been on it yet. Despite the After Hours, we waited 25 minutes for the ride. It was fun, but I was disappointed that we had to wait – keep in mind that same day some waited in line three hours to go on it, but that is not my style at all!

We went from Mine Train to It’s a Small World. It was the same as always until the end. There are electronic signs as you are coming to the end of the ride that say goodbye to you personally with your names. The RFID in the bands is a bit creepy that way!

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We then went to Thunder Mountain, which had a small wait and right on to Splash Mountain. We got soaking wet on Splash Mountain and then followed it up with Pirates, which was working again. I wouldn’t recommend going on them in this order again at night. Pirates is quite cool and since we were wet, I was freezing!

We had a fantastic time and then walked back to do Space Mountain again before calling it a night. Since we had After Hours, we also got to get free ice cream and drinks for the carts that are all around the Park. This was very convenient – and yummy!

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The Park was closing and it was time for bed. We did the 10-minute walk back to Bay Lake Tower, and called it a night.

Next up Hollywood Studios and Epcot. I was so excited that I was up at dawn.

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We brought food with us to eat in the hotel room since we had a kitchen. We had breakfast and were on the bus to Hollywood Studios by 8:15 am. The Park opened at 9 am. We did the traditional waiting at the stop line before the Park was opened. We had a plan, but it was all for naught.

While we were waiting, Cast Members walked through the crowd to tell us that Rock and Roll Rollercoaster was down. This was a huge bummer. We were going to do that one first, then Tower of Terror and then Toy Story.

Instead we went straight to Toy Story. We had about a 15 -minute wait, which was definitely the shortest it would be all day. We never did get on Tower of Tower – the ride was immediately a 45-minute wait and went up to 135 minutes before we left the Park.

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After Toy Story, we did Star Wars and saw the Star Wars Imperial Star Trooper show. The boys really enjoyed all of these, but when we saw that the ride was still down and the wait time was so high for Tower of Terror, we decided to hop over to Epcot. We had fast passes for Epcot, so we knew we would get to do more over there.

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We took the convenient boat at the front of the Park. It stops at several beautiful Disney Resort before heading over to Epcot. Conveniently, the boat drops you off near France at Epcot. No need to walk the huge distance over to the countries from the front of the Park. I did have my first instance of problems with the magic band here. I had a similar problem at Animal Kingdom the next day. All Cast Members were very nice about the issue, we cleared it up and started moving.

The Flower and Garden festival was at Epcot. The flowers and exhibits were truly amazing. We checked the app and again, the wait times were terrible.

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We walked over to the Mexico and Norway side of the lake. I had a fast pass for 1 pm for Frozen, so we searched for a place to eat before it was my turn. I was able to find something at China, but the kids were a little bit more difficult.

Frozen was amazing. It is the same track and ride overall as the previous Norway ride, Maelstrom, but the animatronics and overall ride was really beautiful and well done. I really enjoyed it.

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Meanwhile, the rest of our party had a fast pass for Test Track, but you guessed it, the ride was down. We headed over to have a snack and then do Imagination, which is always a family favorite. We had really no wait. We did Ellen’s Energy Adventure afterward. I had never done this ride. It was funny, there was no wait and it was nice and cool in it – a win!

Then the family did Mission Space with a fast pass and finally Test Track was back up again. The rest of our party had the fast pass, so they got right on. I did single rider and came out of the ride five minutes after they did – so that was perfect timing. We all love Test Track so that was fantastic!

We ran into a lovely Cast Member at Starbucks while getting coffee. She was so nice and asked if we were having a magical day. I said we were, but my one regret was that we couldn’t get a fast pass for Soarin! and the line was too long for me to get on it. She told me to wait where I was and came back with a fast pass for all five of us. I love Cast Members!!!

Getting to see the new movie on Soarin! really made my day! The movie takes you all over the world. It was beautiful.

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We had dinner reservations at the San Angel Inn in Mexico for my birthday. Dinner was delicious. There was only a short wait. The service was good, the food was excellent (I had a Chicken Mole) and the price, well, it’s Disney!

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We had a long day and decided to take the Monorail back to the hotel. It’s a bit convoluted to get back from Epcot – much more so than I thought it would be anyway. You take the Monorail back to the transportation center. Then at the transportation center, you get off and go down and around and back up to another platform for Disney resorts. It then stops at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and then goes to the Contemporary. Every one was happy to be back.

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The pool at Bay Lake Tower has a long slide, which the kids really enjoyed. While they went to the pool, I went to the Contemporary Shops to see what they had for me to get for gifts. At 9 pm, we went to the bridge between the Contemporary and Bay Lake to view Wishes at Magic Kingdom. It’s a fantastic view, but a bit windy so if it is cool out, it isn’t very comfortable. I still enjoyed getting to see the show again.

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We went upstairs and tried to get some rest for our big walking day at Animal Kingdom. Here’s where the Electrical Water Parade barged into my dreams (sorry, couldn’t help the pun). It was so loud. If the kids had still been up, we would have gone out onto the terrace to watch, but it was an exhausting day.

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We were up early the next morning because there were extra Magic hours at the Animal Kingdom. We got down to the front of the Contemporary early, but we had just missed the bus. We waited about 20 minutes for the next bus to Animal Kingdom. We were able to get in right away and made a beeline for the Safari. We had a short wait and then got right on.

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We always love the Safari. Because it was early in the morning, they were all out. We saw so many animals. We walked around the area in front of the Safari where all of the animals were around and it was great to see all of the gorillas and other animals.

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We had a fast pass for Everest, so we headed in that direction after the animals. There were so many people!!! The wait time for Everest was already 55 minutes – luckily we had the fast pass. It was awesome!

We then headed back a bit and did the Kali River Rapids. We brought ponchos so no one got wet. There was about a 35-minute wait. Luckily it is mostly in the shade.

From there we headed quickly over to the Finding Nemo show – we had a fast pass. It was beautifully done, but the adults agreed that the Lion King show, which we had seen five years before was better. If you are only there for a short time and only have a choice of one of the two shows, choose the latter.

We were close by to the Dinosaur area and as there was a shorter wait time for it, we waited for Dinosaur. It said 30-minute wait, but we definitely didn’t wait more than 20 minutes. It’s a great ride!

We then ate lunch at the nearby restaurant where you get hamburgers and hotdogs. It’s so expensive, but hit the spot.

We also had a fast pass for Primeval Whirl. No wait, we just walked right on. You really get whipped around with that ride, but had fun!

We decided to head to Disney Springs at this point. The crowds were large and we were done. We walked over to Earl of Sandwich shop (huge wait, but reasonably priced). There were more people at Disney Springs than I had ever seen there before. We had a decent meal and then went into the Star Wars shop and others to get gifts. We found what we wanted and headed back to the hotel where the kids went into the pool again.

Overall, we had a great time. We’ve decided not to go back again anytime in the near future – can’t take the kids out of school and other times the wait times are just too long. However, the After Hours event was really the winner of the whole trip. That’s a must do again at some point!

Have any Disney questions? Comment here or send me an email at Samantha.kappalman@gmail.com

 

 

 

Magical Getaway

Taking a small magical break so I can bring a little bit of the “happiest place on earth” back to you! Stay tuned for amazing photos, a Disney World “how to” and more. I’ll be back to take your emails and calls on March 13th!

Which cruise line/ship is right for me?

There are so many factors that go into choosing the cruise vacation that is perfect just for you. Before you decide on your next voyage, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is my budget?
  • Do I want warm weather?
  • How long do I want to cruise for?
  • Do I want to drive or fly to my port of departure?
  • Do I want to relax or have constant activities?
  • Do I want a budget cruise so I can just go? Or do I want to live in luxury while I am gone and be waited on hand and foot?
  • If there are more than two people going, do we want to all be in one cabin? Or get two connecting cabins?
  • Do we sleep through anything? Or do we need to be aware of our cabin location for noise?
  • Is our mobility good? Or do we need to be near elevators and get accessible cabins?
  • Is it about the cruise ship? Or is the cruise ship more of a vehicle to get us to the itinerary?

With answers to these 10 questions, I can help you pick the perfect cruise for you. We are just days away from the end of WAVE season — which means the end to the biggest deals of the season. Email me today to learn how I can help you pick the perfect cruise for 2017, 2018 or beyond!

How do I get the best deal for airfare?

I am always asked how to get the best airfare. It IS true that you can find the best airline deals on Tuesdays, but you might not know these other pro tips for finding the best airfare.

  1. Check first on Google flights. Not only will you find a great comparison here, you can also track the trip to see if it will go up or down in price. Remember this doesn’t include airlines like Southwest or Allegiant Airlines.
  2. Sign up for Thrifty Traveler to find out about the best deals as they happen!
  3. Go to Momondo and make sure you got the best deal and then buy your tickets and have an amazing time!

Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance if you are taking a big trip! It’ll cover your air, bags and much, much more!

Travel Insurance: Get it? Or forget about it? My top 4 FAQs about travel insurance

Why should I get it?

In this day and age of uncertainty with politics and the chaos of daily life, travel insurance is a really good idea. If you purchase it just after your deposit, it covers almost anything.

How do I get it?

Ask me! I’ll do all of the research for your! That not good enough? There is a great site that you can visit that will show you all of the different offerings from different companies: www.insuremytrip.com If you don’t have the time, I’m happy to look up all of the possibilities for you. I’m a firm believer in travel insurance!

What company do you like best?

When I go on vacation, I use Allianz. Knock on wood, I’ve never had to call them, but I felt better having their phone number with me and knowing that they had my back!

When should I purchase travel insurance?

The best time to purchase travel insurance is right after you put down your deposit. The most problems will be covered, and if you have to cancel your trip before final payment, you can get your deposit back.

Didn’t answer all of your questions? E-mail me for more info!

NCL Getaway — The Haven — June 2016

Our family of five recently went on the Getaway for the second time the week of 6/12-6/19. We have one son 13 who was in entourage, one 11 who was in splash academy in the 10 to 12 and one son 7 who was in the 6 to 9 group.

 

Originally, we had planned on two connecting balconies toward the aft on deck 13, but 25 days out from sailing, we were able to upsell to an aft penthouse suite that connected to a regular balcony for the kids. Being a part of the Haven truly made this cruise for us.

 

About a week out, I called to cash in our rewards points for the Norwegian credit card to on board credit. That was easy enough. In addition, the person who answers the phone is also part of the pre-concierge for the Haven. So they welcomed us to the Haven and wanted to make sure we would have everything in our room that we needed. We asked that the fridge be emptied (because we were bringing water on board), asked for orange juice and creamer to be in the fridge, asked for hypoallergenic pillows and made sure they knew that I am lactose intolerant. We also double checked and were reassured that our children would have full Haven privileges. All went very smoothly and they were very nice.

 

We drove down from North Carolina for the cruise, but we weren’t driving the whole way the first day so we stayed overnight in Titusville at the Hampton Inn just off I-95. I mention this because it is not far from Port Canaveral. Although the room was clean, this was just not the place for us. The air conditioning unit in the room was a window-type unit and was so loud that it kept us all up all night. We were close to the elevator and also heard others in the hallway late into the night. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, I had to do gymnastics to get into the shower. It was a spa-type tub, but was at least three feet high, making it very hard to climb into it to take a shower. It had free breakfast and that seemed average for this type of hotel.

 

We were up and out very early so that we would make it to port of Miami by 11:30. We arrive at the port just a bit after 11 and then had to park and get our luggage checked and walked into the priority check in location just a bit after 11:30. Great timing on our part. One note on the parking garage at the port. There is a limited amount of oversized parking so if you have an SUV with a luggage holder on the top of your vehicle, you may need to take it off in order to park (my poor husband had to do this).

 

Back to check-in – once through security, it was super easy. The priority check-in was right there and there was only one other family in the area. We filled out our health form and received our key cards. One note here, I had read on these boards that I could limit my son’s spending while on board by placing a limit on his account. This was not the case. It had to either be a card that was open or closed. We had a talk with our eldest two sons to ensure they understood and we were done. They then sent us across the hall to a priority check-in lounge that had seats and snacks and drinks. We loved having a place to hang out until we were escorted onto the ship. We had a short wait and then we were escorted past the lines and right onto the ship. We went in a side entrance and were escorted right up the Haven lounge. We were in the lounge by 11:45. Virginia, the concierge gave a speech about everything available to us as waiters gave out drinks and snacks of sliders with onion rings. The restaurant opened at 12. They said our rooms were ready so we went down to check out our room and leave the bags that we had brought on board.

 

Just as we saw from pictures on here, the room was incredible. The balcony was ginormous, the bathroom amazing and just having all of the space was great. With having the connecting balcony room, it meant we had three bathrooms for the five of us, which we definitely needed. We enjoyed the room, took pictures and then headed back up to Haven to have lunch.

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We ate lunch outside by the pool so our little one could get in the pool. Like every meal we had at the Haven, it was delicious!

Photos from our aft-balcony Haven suite:

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We signed the kids up for splash academy and for entourage and then went back to the room for sailaway. I couldn’t wait to see it from our balcony. We all split up for sailaway, but it was fabulous from our balcony. Our luggage was delivered to the room by 4:30 p.m.

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We also were delivered beautiful flowers and some neat little snacks. We got snacks like this every day. There was also a chilled bottle of bubbly in the room for us.

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After sailaway, we all changed and made sure we had sneakers on. We ate at the buffet for dinner and then did the ropes course and the climbing wall.

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We took showers and then the kids went to splash academy and the teen went to entourage. My husband and I went to howl at the moon. I have to digress here and say we loved Howl at the Moon on our last cruise on the Getaway, but this time it was a huge disappointment. The stars of the show last time were personable and talented and did a great job getting the crowd involved. This time, all they cared about was their tips and they were not nearly as talented as the last time.

We made it an early night, got the kids from splash academy and headed to bed. Attached is the Day 1 daily. We had to put the clocks back one hour before going to bed this night. We didn’t have turn down service or a towel animal this first night. Overall, Day 1 was amazing. We were blown away by the service you get in the Haven and were already savoring our little slice of heaven.

 

Day 2

 

Day 2 we were at sea and didn’t do much of anything. We had breakfast in the Haven, which was amazing. Tahitian Cinnamon Vanilla Challah French Toast (I had it almost every morning!) and we hung around the Haven courtyard most of the day.

The second floor of the Haven courtyard is right next to the Vibe Beach Club. It is very quiet and secluded. There are waiters walking around with a water bottle to spritz you with and take drink orders. It was a bit windy up there so we didn’t spend too much time up there.

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We didn’t see much of the older kids. They were having fun with kids they met in entourage and splash academy.

 

We all got back together for dinner. Our first dinner reservation was with Moderno’s. Two of our kids got the dinner package free with their room and we paid for it for our room and for the third child. I checked on these amenities several times including after we did our upsell and it was confirmed to me each time that we had these amenities. I also printed out the confirmation I got for the purchase of the SDP. Unfortunately, when we got to Moderno’s, the SDPs that we paid for were not showing up. Much aggravation ensued including going to guest services and coming back and my husband ended up having to speak with management. Overall, it was a big dark mark on our trip. I felt like the customer service for this part was not good at all and I was disappointed. It was eventually all figured out and we had a delicious meal, but all relaxation was out the window because of this aggravation.

 

We did get turndown service this night and this cute little towel animal with a note saying to turn clocks back again another hour.

 

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Day 3 Roatan

 

I did extensive research as to what we should do in Roatan and decided that we’d go to Little French Key. You don’t have to, but we did email through the website in advance and reserve places. We decided to do the cheapest reservation, which was $55 for four of us and half price for our 7-year old. I was very worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the drivers, but it turned out to be very easy.

 

These photos were from our balcony as we were pulling in.

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When you get off the ship, you can take a tram down the long pier or just walk. We opted for the tram and then walked through the many shops until we saw walkway to the parking lot – there are tour information booths on either side of this outdoor hallway. Many people tried to get us to buy a tour, but we just kept telling them we were going to Little French Key and were looking for Larry or Dave. They are all very friendly and kept pointing us in the right direction. You have to walk through the parking lot and out then out the front gates and to the right. We then saw many guides in Frenchy’s 77 and Little French Key polos. Many of our fellow cruisers were there, but they had some sort of system and everyone was put in a line for transportation. We only waited maybe five minutes and then a car pulled up and they told us to get in and the five us were on our way to Little French Key.

 

The drive is about 25 minutes and we learned some history from our driver Arnie. He pointed out sights along the way and before we knew it, we were pulling up to where we would purchase our tickets and take the boat across. There was a bit of a line to pay, but it went very quickly. We pulled in to Roatan around 10 and were on Little French Key by 11:30. It was as gorgeous as I had seen from photos … possibly even prettier than I remembered.

 

This was where you walk up to pay:

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You can see Little French Key in the very near distance:

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The guide takes you around the island when you first get off the boat. We went through the zoo area and saw the birds, monkeys, the lion and a lemur.

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Then we walked through and saw the area that you can jump off of – this was a huge hit with our family.

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The water was so clear:

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There are many different areas where you can set your stuff down and use as home base.

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We chose not to get the package that included food because I read on here that each plate of food could feed a couple of people and boy they were right. This was what you get for $22.

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I also got a strawberry daiquiri, which was $8:

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Four of us picked from that one plate and then my oldest son also got a chicken and beef plate, which was $16 – items were a couple of dollars less if you went up to the food place and ordered it yourself rather than be served by a waiter or waitress.

 

We had a great day swimming and playing around. I walked around a bit to explore and found these other areas that had hardly any people. This is where the pizza place was that I had read about as well.

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Menu for pizza place:

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We never got to hold a monkey and take a picture, but that was because we were being impatient as there were two large groups in front of us. We said goodbye to Little French Key and headed back to the ship. It was very easy. We ate dinner in Haven restaurant and the waiters/waitresses already knew our names and made sure we had everything we needed to be comfortable. Our littlest kid was all tuckered out after playing and swimming all day so my husband took him to bed and I went to see Burn the Floor. The dancers were amazing, but it is a very strange show. There are some Latin numbers and then songs like Stairway to Heaven are weaved in to the mix. Also, it seems like the show is going to end three different times. Overall, dancers are entertaining, but not a great show. We had a towel animal this night, but somehow I forgot to take a picture. Horrors!

 

Day 4 Belize City

 

We decided after much research to not go ashore in Belize. I think if we were to do it, we would have gone cave tubing, but just felt that our youngest was too young for it. So, we stayed on the ship, enjoyed an empty Haven courtyard, a leisurely breakfast in the Haven restaurant and rode the slides as many times as we wanted with no lines. The kids swam, rode the ropes and had fro yo to their hearts content.

 

This is the kids area now that Spongebob is gone:

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My drink of choice this trip:

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We had a lot of peace and quiet and an overall great day.

 

We finished up a great day at Cagney’s. As always, it was amazing. Great food, great service – really enjoyable.

 

The towel animal joined all of the “stuffies” on my son’s bed:

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Day 5 Costa Maya

 

I was so worried about the weather once we got to Mexico, but it proved to be a beautiful day.

 

Our balcony was so amazing so each morning (I woke up ridiculously early each day, which I can only hope was because of the time changes)

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Pictures of port:

 

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One more photo of the port:

 

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We had decided to go to Blue Key. We walked through the shops area until we saw the palapa to the right where they were selling open air tram tickets. It was $3 pp. The tram quickly filled up and took us for a little tour. We got off at the first tram stop – which seemed quite a bit further away from Blue Key than I thought it would be – we had seen the signs for Blue Key before the stop. Right away someone was trying to get us to go with them at the stop, but we told them firmly we were going to Blue Key and they even directed us there. We opted for crossing the street and walking back to Blue Key along the beach. No boardwalk, but a nice sidewalk. Lots of different shops along the way. It was probably a quarter of a mile to a ½ mile back to Blue Key. We finally made it and were very happy with the location. We thought we would have to pay $5 and get a wrist band, but we never had to do that. We just got to enjoy the beach for free. Yay!

 

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It was really gorgeous at Blue Kay as I had seen in previous reviews and everyone had a great time. We did rent one kayak for $10 and I ordered chips and guacamole and a strawberry daiquiri. It was very cheap – I think $12 total.

My chips and guacamole:

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A couple of vendors did come buy and try to sell some things, but they were not intrusive. I did buy some plaintain chips and they were delicious. One bag for $1.

 

It was a fantastic day and when we were ready to go back to the ship, there was a taxi waiting in the parking lot. We confirmed it was $2 pp to get back and hopped in. We were back in less than 10 minutes.

 

Back at port, I had to take a photo of this store:

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This was from pier:

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Our beautiful ship:

 

 

We ate dinner at the Haven this night and I took a photo of my warm peach crumble dessert. It was so amazing:

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We were exhausted after an amazing day.

Our towel animal tonight:

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Day 6 Cozumel

The cruise went by so fast. After researching  for almost a year, I truly cannot believe how fast it went! I knew Cozumel was our last port and couldn’t believe it was almost over!

Once again, I was up early and took photos from our amazing balcony.

 

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The pier at Cozumel looks longer in photos than it was in person and we had no trouble walking to the end and finding where our excursion for the day would be leaving from just off the pier.

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In Cozumel, we decided to do the NCL excursion “Everyone loves Rays.” We had practiced snorkeling at home in a pool so the kids would feel comfortable and we bought a Watershot underwater housing for the Iphone so we could take pictures when we were snorkeling with the Rays.

 

It was definitely cloudy here so I was a bit worried about the weather, but it turned out fine in the end.

 

We first got to feed the Rays and touch and kiss them. Then we took our water shoes off (definitely bring your own for this excursion) and they even washed ours out for us and then we got our snorkel equipment and got to go in with the Rays. One of the employees periodically went down to the bottom and brought up Rays for us to see while we snorkeled. It started to rain while we snorkeled, but it was actually quite refreshing.

 

 

 

After we were done snorkeling, we looked at photos they took while we were feeding the Rays and the kids got to do a hermit crab race. They also had iguanas in cages that the kids liked.

 

 

 

From our balcony, we saw other ships and said goodbye to Cozumel.

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Funny enough, our towel animal tonight was a Ray!

 

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Day 7 At Sea

 

We once again decided to enjoy the Haven for breakfast and laze around the courtyard. It was busy, but still full of serenity for us. We were very happy to have gotten Haven for this trip. It really made it just the relaxation we needed.

 

Overall, Virginia was lovely, the restaurant staff included Kesher at the front were awesome and all of the people that worked in the Haven, really made our trip.

 

Our butler brought us some additional luggage tags as I had mentioned to Virginia that we needed a few more and that really put a damper on the rest of my day! Our older children enjoyed entourage and splash academy for much of the day, but the younger one spent it with us in the courtyard. He’s part fish and just wanted to swim.

 

That night we had dinner in Teppanyaki. It is a bit loud in there as the different chefs are putting on their shows, but we definitely enjoyed it. One comment here, the photographer in here was far more aggressive than in the other specialty restaurants. He went around taking photos and then would print them out and bring it framed to the table to try and get people to buy it. That just left a bad taste in my mouth. I saw him coming when it came our table’s turn and I just told him no thank you to a picture and that was that. The food was great as always here and we overall had a great time.

All the kids went into splash academy or entourage after dinner so we tried Howl at the Moon again, but again, it just wasn’t my thing this time, which left me disappointed. We enjoyed Jim Morris who played piano around the ship and listened to him a few times at Sugar Cane Bar. I think I neglected to mention the awesome mojitos from there. I had Raspberry Guava and the Pineapple Coconut and they were both fantastic. I

We had our bags packed and out by 11 and went to bed very sad that it was our last night!!

 

Disembarkation

 

As a Haven guest, this was the easiest we ever had it. We had breakfast in the buffet and then went back to the room to get our stuff and then went to the Haven. They escorted us down a back elevator (same as they did in each port) and we ended up right at the area where you put your card in to leave. Lots of friendly staff were waiting as you get off to sing and wave and say goodbye. Very festive. We went down to baggage and our baggage was in a priority area. We scooped up someone to help us, he put all of our bags on a trolley and went with us through customs. He even brought our luggage all the way to outside the parking garage.

 

Other than the one snafu I mentioned, overall service was really, really good this cruise. We did buy a cruise next certificate, and we were not sure where we would use it, but turns out we are going on the NCL Escape June 2017. This was an awesome cruise and we truly enjoyed the Getaway again! It will be hard to book a cruise not as Haven after experiencing this one!