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Shuttle launch/Miami/Caribbean cruise trip advice

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Pilot, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. Pilot

    Pilot Active Member

    So about a month ago I booked a seven-day Westerns Caribbean cruise with two friends through Carnival. We're leaving from Miami May 1, going to Grand Cayman, Belize City, Isla Roatan in Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico.

    First, none of us have ever spent any time in Miami and I was wondering what to do if you have one evening and most of the next day. (Flight gets in Saturday, April 30 at 4 p.m. Boat leaves Sunday, May 1 at 4 p.m., probably need to be there by, what? 2 p.m.?) We are staying at the La Quinta East Airport (or something like that) that supposedly has free shuttles to and from the airport, and to the cruise ship dock. We probably want to go out that Saturday night. I have this fear that drinking on South Beach is just like Vegas: painfully expensive, paying $60 to get in somewhere so you can pay $15 per drink. Am I right? If so, any ideas for places we can go that are still: A. Sweet and B. Miami-y that are more reasonable? We're not talking a no-cover situation, and it doesn't have to be a "club" at all, but just something reasonable and fun.

    One friend was kicking around the idea of zipping up to the Everglades Sunday morning for an airboat alligator tour. Looks online like we'd have time. Will we? What's with that? Is it cool, and worth the time? If you had one morning/afternoon in Miami, is there a really obvious, awesome must-do with a day in Miami that I'm missing? We'll have a full day there on the way home, as well.

    How about our cruise stops? Anyone have any must-do cruise ship excursions at those locations? The only one I've been to is Cozumel. We tried to go snorkeling. I didn't see a damn thing and lost a contact, so that was less than awesome. I know there are tons of ways to do what you want without doing the official Carnival excursion, but that that method can also be pretty sketchy. Anyone had much luck going with some dude standing on the dock?

    Finally, two weeks ago I booked my flights and whatnot. Last week, NASA announced it was pushing back the launch of the second to last shuttle to April 29, the day before I was scheduled to be in Miami. I was an avid space nut growing up — Space Camp when I was 12 remains one of the best weeks of my life. I've never seen the shuttle, and considering the timing and eminent demise of the program, this seems like too perfect on an opportunity to pass up. I haven't made the decision yet, but man am I thinking about it. It kind of seems like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm sure they'd just postpone the damn thing. Anyway, is watching a shuttle take off worth it? Anyone have any tips for such an adventure?

    Thanks for any help.
     
  2. Shuttle takeoffs are pretty cool, and you can be 100 miles away and still appreciate it. Getting on the causeway for a real up-close experience is tough -- likely bigger crowds as the program winds down -- but anywhere out on the East Coast beaches and you'll see it climb. We were in St. Augustine and watched the launch on NASA tv, then went on the balcony to see it in the sky -- could even see the booster rockets separate. Was a night launch, which probably made it easier to track.
     
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Re the cruise, I've been to a few of those ports. Grand Cayman, you have to do the Stingray excursion, it's a boat ride out to a sandbar where you jump in and play with stingerless stingrays. Terrifying and awesome. Cozumel, the beaches are good enough that you don't have to go anywhere. Belize City, every employee on the ship, from waiters to captains, said to stay on the ship unless you really like seeing ruins. Stayed on the ship.

    Sometimes you're lucky to get a cab driver to the beach who can tell you something special to do, but it's pretty much all routine to them. Do your homework before you go. I would not get involved with the random guy on the dock. Stay with the cruiseline excursions, they cost a little more but you know who you're with.

    As for Miami, even South Beach has a ton of places where you can drink and have a great dinner and hang out, without going to the hot hot hot clubs. Just take a cab to South Beach and walk around, you'll figure it out.

    You should get info from the cruiseline as to when you can check in, don't wait until the last minute, the lines can be long. I would board as soon as you can, the bars are always open, hang out at the pool, investigate the ship. Never been on Carnival, done a couple of Royal Caribbean cruises, but I imagine it's all pretty much the same when you're first arriving.
     
  4. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    Seeing the shuttle liftoff is something everyone ought to do once in their lifetime. Having said that, however, it's entirely possible you can make that three-hour drive and then they postpone the thing the moment you get there, and as we all know, that can happen for any one of a gazilliion reasons. No one needs to spend six hours on I-95 for no reason. So while I would wholeheartedly endorse the idea of seeing the liftoff, you're taking at least a little risk of spending a lot of time and getting nothing out of it.
     
  5. Layman

    Layman Active Member

    Pilot, we just came back (Sunday) fr/ a Carnival cruise, although we used Ft. Lauderdale as our port. From the looks of your ports, I think we're going back & doing the exact same cruise you're doing, over New Years. if you don't mind my asking (feel free to PM), are you taking the Liberty? I'd love to compare notes. Anyhoo....

    Only input I have, is (if it were me) to not cut things TOO close on Sunday. We got to the boat at noon (also a 4 PM sail time), that worked out well. It's a ton of bodies (& luggage) they are literally herding onboard. Plus, if you need to put in any requests (dinner seating, etc), the earlier, the better. Then again, I tend to be the kind that tries & pad time, to lower stress / urgency.

    We did a stop at Grand Cayman. Didn't do the Stingrays, but heard lots of good things from those that did. We just did the private beach there...also very nice.

    If you have any questions about Carnival, etc......feel free to fire away.
     
  6. MileHigh

    MileHigh Moderator Staff Member

    Agree with 21 regarding SoBe. Lots of places to go and see without taking a beating money-wise.

    I went to Roatan two years ago, but stayed at a resort for a week-long scuba diving trip. We mostly stayed at the resort and from what I saw, there wasn't much else to see/do on the island. And we were near where the cruise ships came in.
     
  7. Pilot

    Pilot Active Member

    Glad to hear the sting rays don't have stingers. I was a little worried about going the way of Steve Irwin.

    We're on the Valor.

    Glad to hear South Beach can be not-ridiculous. I got a little worried when I was looking for hotel rooms there and the Travelocity advice for the only one even remotely reasonable said the cable didn't work, there were dirty needles in the sink and people sleeping in the hall. I, for one, refuse to stay any place where the cable doesn't work.
     
  8. Layman

    Layman Active Member

    Cool. We were on the Freedom. Basically, the same boat / different decor.
     
  9. Pilot

    Pilot Active Member

    I just got tentative word that I got credentialed for the launch, even though I applied like three weeks after the deadline.

    I'm beyond excited.
     
  10. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    I've seen stories that Space Coast authorities expect the biggest crowd since Apollo 11 for the final shuttle launch -- maybe bigger.

    Never seen a launch and it'll be one of those things I never get to do. In the "new reality," out-of-town vacations are one of the things that have gone away forever.
     
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