We caught the 12:35 ferry on November 24 to Horseshoe Bay and headed for the airport. Larry dropped Maureen and the bags at the YVR Fairmont Hotel (our favourite) and went and parked in the Park n Fly. Maureen checked in and they brought the bags up to the room. The service is great at this hotel – foam pillows and close to the elevator as requested. We went to Hanami Japanese Restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t as good as it used to be. When we came back from dinner the hotel staff remembered our names! We went to bed early because we had an early flight. We were up at 4:30 am for our 7 am flight on the 25th. Air Canada was amazing. We always try to sit in first class (this time on points). The food was excellent on both flights. They brought either a golf cart or a wheelchair for Larry at every stretch so he didn't have to walk far at all. The flights were fairly smooth and we arrived in Fort Lauderdale about 6:30, via Toronto. There was a free shuttle to the Best Western Plus Airport South.
This cruise was a TravelOnly Seminar at Sea. The two sea days were training for Larry who is a travel agent with TravelOnly. www.lhamblin.travelonly.com We were on the Norwegian Getaway. At the time of its christening in February 2014, it was the world's ninth largest cruise ship with a passenger capacity of 3,969 and a crew of 1,640. Its overall length is over 1000 feet. It felt a little too big for us!
You can stroll The Waterfront, an industry-first open-air promenade designed to connect guests with the ocean with seating outside of some of the various restaurants and bars. There are more than 28 dining options, five water slides, and three levels of activities in the sports complex. For us, the thing that marred the beauty of the ship was the cigarette smoke. There was a huge casino on the 7th floor. With the open plan, levels 6 and 8 also got their fair share of this smoke so it was almost everywhere.
For the 26th Larry had arranged for a ride to Miami Cruise Terminal via JRS Transportation. Excellent service! The weather was sunny and warm. Check-in at the terminal wasn’t too bad although we were quite early. By the time we got on the ship, we were told our room wouldn’t be ready for about an hour. We met up with some other agents on board and went to O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub for a light lunch. By then our room was ready. It was huge as it was an accessible room! A scooter for Larry was finally delivered as well. There was lots of space in the room for it. Our steward’s name was Dilma. That night we had tickets to the Cirque Dreams and Steam show in the Illuminarium. Surprisingly it included an amazing three course dinner – start with a tomato/mozzarella/basil/prosciutto salad, beef tenderloin in a pepper sauce with three big shrimp, fingerling potatoes, and spicy broccoli, finished with a trio of desserts – crème caramel, red velvet cupcake, and a chocolate ganache cake. This was followed by the 45 minute Cirque show which was incredible. We had great seats!
The 27th was training day for Larry and Maureen spent the day reading and exploring. There aren’t many shops on board as there are on other ships. Most of them are high-end jewellery and duty free shops. Dinner was at Teppanyaki Japanese Restaurant, a speciality restaurant paid for by AMA Waterways. The meal was excellent and we were stuffed!
On the 28th we arrived in Roatan and docked in Coxen Hole. Apparently we were early arriving and were met by an ambulance. We never found out what happened. Before we left home Larry had arranged a shore excursion with Island Marketing. We scooted/walked off the ship to just outside the pier. The tour was in a small car with just us and the driver, Dennis. We were able to store the scooter just by the security booth. Dennis explained a lot about the Island including the fact that it was British up until 1850. There is still a lot of English spoken on the Island. The first stop on our tour was Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout. What fun to be handed a sloth to hold – she cuddled right in and never moved. Next were the Capuchin Monkeys. So adorable! We also held beautiful green parrots and some macaws. Mike our guide in the sanctuary used our camera to take some great photos. Next stop was for our tour to the Mangroves. The easternmost quarter of the island is separated by a channel through the mangroves that is 15 metres wide on average, but mostly much less than that. Roatan is located near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef). Alfredo was our Captain. His boat was long and a bit tippy. It had makeshift covers over the seats which was a good thing because it rained while we were out. The motor was very noisy so conversation was minimal. There were lots of houses huddled on the shore and clearly lobster fishing was a big thing. The mangroves were very interesting. There was lots of garbage floating – mostly plastic bottles. We had lunch back at the ship and went to La Cucina (Italian) for dinner. Pre-cruise Larry had purchased a specialty dining package for three restaurants. This was the first one of the package. The service wasn’t really great. There was no offer of pre-dinner drinks or wine. The lettuce in Larry’s Caesar salad was quite wilted. When Larry told the waiter he said “Thank you very much sir!” Obviously not listening for feedback! You also have to be careful when you get your bill anywhere – 18% gratuity is already added in (soon to go up to 20%).
On November 29 we sailed into Harvest Caye one hour late (we left an hour late to compensate). Harvest Caye is a private island just off Belize owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. We chose to just walk/scoot off the ship and wander around. It was a beautiful day. The Caye is a 75-acre oasis featuring a 15,000 square foot pool with a swim-up bar, salt-water lagoon for water sports, seven-acre beach, zip lining across the island and snorkelling. We walked/scooted the length of the beach area and came back and cooled off in the pool. Then we found the frozen daiquiri bar, where we had some samples earlier. Larry had a Flooded with Rum (combo of blue raspberry, mango and pina colada with lots of overproof rum) and Maureen had a Mango. Very nice sitting on a bench people-watching. We shared some shrimp and fries at the Landshark Bar & Grill. No food or drinks are included here even though it belongs to the cruise line. We had dinner at Savor on the ship – this was one of the included dining options.
November 30 we landed at Costa Maya, Mexico. It is located on a peninsula about 100 miles south of Playa del Carmen. It is a private island created from scratch expressly for cruisers. It was like a little town with lots of shops and kiosks, entertainers, a big pool and a nice path for wandering. We walked/scooted the length of it and had a beer. Not very authentic but fun anyway. Dinner tonight was in our package – Cagney’s Steakhouse. Larry had shrimp cocktail (huge shrimp), Caesar salad, 8 oz tenderloin with shrimp, mushrooms and onion rings. Maureen had a sliced beet/goat cheese mousse appy, wedge salad (huge), petit tenderloin with mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Very good meal. This night we watched the Million Dollar Quartet show from 10:15 – 11:45. A late night for us!
December 1 was our last port – Cozumel, Mexico an island opposite Playa del Carmen. Here we had pre-booked a ship tour to Jose Cuervo for tequila tasting at Discover Mexico Park. First we were taken to a beautiful glassed in area with high tables and stools. Already set out were three samples of tequila – Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo. Anejo was the best – aged and 100% Agave – it seems to be hard to find in BC. Our guide, Memo, explained the process for making tequila and the fact that it is only made in Tequila, Mexico. The rest of the Park was very interesting. There is a gift shop of course, then a Margarita sample just for our group – passionfruit with a chili salted rim – it was fantastic. Then a taco buffet – soft corn tacos, pork and chicken mixtures, refried beans and rice. There was also an opportunity to wander through miniature scale models of famous sites and places in Mexico. We were also treated to a performance by the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) which we had also seen in Costa Maya. The men spin around the pole completely by gravity. It is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony/ritual still performed today in isolated pockets in Mexico. The ritual consists of dance and the climbing of a 30-meter pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. The main dancer stands in the center and plays a flute, which represents the sound of birds singing. The four other "birdmen" (representing the four directions) spin around the pole to represent the recreation of the world (and the regeneration of life). Back to the ship dinner was the third in our package – LeBistro French Restaurant. It was excellent. The service was great and the meal was fabulous.
December 2 was the second training day and all the agents and guests met in the Tropicana Dining Room at 5:30 for dinner and bottomless wine. We then all got together again at the H20 nightclub for drinks, speeches and another group photo.
Our disembarkation time on December 3 was 9:15. We gathered in the place for wheelchair assistance. We were whisked off the ship, down the elevator, to our luggage, through the Immigration checkpoint and to a taxi to the car rental place. The taxi was the only real rip-off of the trip – a ten minute ride for $27 and Larry gave him $30 and he didn't even offer the $3 back and kept it as a tip. We rented a car at SixT car rental and drove to Fort Lauderdale, scouted the airport and had lunch at Red Lobster. We were able to bring back nine cheese biscuits with us! We met a friend at a casino for coffee for about an hour then it was time to check-in to the hotel – the same Best Western. We ordered Papa John's pizza for dinner and it was cold when it arrived.
December 4 was travel day. We had breakfast at the hotel, dropped off the car, got the shuttle to the airport. They weren’t allowed to drop anyone at the departure areas so we had to board a bus to take us there. With wheelchair assist, we breezed through to the gate by just after 10 for our 12:35 flight. Flights were via Montreal this time and again breezed through everything. One thing to note with our flights to and from – no longer have to pick up your luggage in Toronto/Montreal – it goes directly through to US destination. This step saves a lot of rushing around and anxiety. We stayed the night at the Abercorn Inn in Richmond.
December 5 we met our friend Valerie for lunch at White Spot at Richmond then to Costco in Surrey. Larry had made an appointment for a tire rotation for 1:00. By 12:50 the noon appointment had not gone in yet so we knew we wouldn’t get the ferry we wanted if we took our appointment. So it was cancelled, did a little shopping then off to the ferry.
When we arrived home, Kelly had put up all the Christmas lights and they looked great. We made plans with Aaron and Tonye to get a real Christmas tree. This happened on December 10. We got a beautiful Canaan Fir. It was quite expensive and three tree stands later we got it all up and decorated.
We wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. And HAPPY TRAVELS!!