Miami and the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean
We left a very snowy Heathrow airport Friday 2nd March and nine hours later were in a comfortable 22 degrees heat of Southern Florida. We hadn’t booked a transfer as taxis are plentiful outside the terminal and by far the cheapest option at $35.
Our hotel, The Room Mate Lord Balfour was a gem, great location on the fashionable Ocean Drive, just a quick walk to South Beach, excellent staff and quirky features. We stayed bed and breakfast which was an added bonus.
During our 36 hours in Miami we managed a trip on the hop on/hop off open top bus tour, relaxed on the bustling South Beach and ate at the very lively Oh! Mexico on Espanola Way. It was spring break and everywhere was super busy. Miami turned out to be a surprisingly great destination and I hope to return one day.
Sunday, our pre-booked transfer drove us 40 minutes north to Fort Lauderdale to board our home for the next seven days – Holland America’s Eurodam.
Check-in was quick and efficient and within no time at all we were onboard tucking into our first of many tasty meals.
Our stateroom, was well appointed with a spacious veranda, plenty of storage space, huge flat screen TV with free movies, good sized bathroom stocked up with complimentary Elemis toiletries.
Here’s some of main features that I particularly liked about this ship and cruise line…
The dining options offered were incredible and probably the best I have encountered on a cruise. As well as the traditional dining, you can select ‘as you wish’ flexible dining so that you are not ‘tied’ to a set dining time. There is the Dive In for burgers, New York Pizza and the buffet Lido Market – which served deliciously ‘cooked to order’ fresh meats and fish as well as my favourite; the ‘salad bar’ prepared with your preferred dressing and ‘tossed’ by your server. The Lido was quite busy at meal times but tables were cleared very promptly. Service fantastic here.
Speciality dining options; the high end Pinnacle Grill, the Italian Canaletto – at both the food was delicious with so much choice. However, my favourite, was the Tamarind, the Asian inspired restaurant, where the food and atmosphere was absolutely astounding. There is an extra charge to dine in these speciality restaurants but well worth a visit.
There are drinks packages available on the ship but worth checking out if beneficial to you. Packages started at $50 per person with a limit of 15 drinks per day. However, everyone in your stateroom has to select the package. I felt that the drinks were reasonable priced for this class of ship – wine and sparkling wine started at $7 a glass.
The Retreat is an outdoor area for guests looking for peace and quiet with a bit of luxury. The cabanas in this area are complete with sun beds, lounging chairs and bar service. Towel set up and robes included too. They can accommodate 2 guests or there are family cabanas for up to 4 guests; some overlook the sea whilst others the pool deck. Fruit basket and bottle of water are supplied as well as a glass of sparkling wine for each guest- lunch is also served to you in your cabana. These are extremely popular and pre-booking is strongly recommended. Prices start at $45 per day. There are cabanas on the Lido deck too if you wish to be near the pool and more lively scene.
Choose from the many bars and lounges to enjoy a pre or post dinner drink; Ocean Bar, Gallery Bar, Pinnacle Bar and of course the Crows Nest. For Broadway style performances there’s the MainStage Show Lounge which is also where Holland America’s exclusive ‘BBC Earth experiences’ concerts are performed – definitely a must-see show. The Lincoln Centre, is where you can enjoy classical music recitals – I didn’t have time to visit however the reviews are superb.
BB King’s Blues Club is where the blues band performs nightly with very talented musicians, followed by late night music.
My favorite however, was Billboard Onboard, this is where dueling pianists play hits from the decades. Always packed out venue with lots of singing and dancing. This venue is next to the ships casino which had lots going on and always busy.
OUR PORTS OF CALL
St Thomas was out first port of call. Here, we embarked on a catamaran trip to ‘Turtle Bay’ and ‘Shipwreck Bay’ where we managed to see turtles, stingrays, eels and even a small shark! The very informative crew snorkeled alongside us providing us with tips and information about the marine life in this area.
After the trip, we took the St Thomas SkyRide to capture the amazing views over Charlotte Amalie followed by some duty free shopping and of course a stop for a rum punch in a local bar.
St Maarten, The Port is open for tourists but there is still some hurricane damage evident. Hotels, restaurants, houses still missing roofs but they are busy rebuilding and happy to see tourists. We went on a ‘beach bash’ excursion which took us away from the port to a beach known as Aeroplane Beach. As the name suggests it’s next to the islands runway – great for plane spotters.
My highlight of the week was definitely our last stop at Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas. This privately owned island belonging to Holland America is just stunning – picture postcard, it absolutely took my breath away. The sand is as white as snow and so soft, the water so clear and warm. We took a tender ashore where there were plenty of sun loungers, stocked up bars and a BBQ prepared for all the guests. Watersports such as snorkeling, kayaking, hobbie cats were available and you could also horse-ride in the ocean, take a bike ride or interact with the stingrays. I decided to take it easy although I did join in a Yoga class on the beach.
On our final day, we disembarked the ship and made our way back to Miami. We had the use of a ‘day room’ at The Regency Miami Airport which was the perfect way to relax before our late flight back to the UK.
If you would like to find out more about booking a holiday to Miami or a cruise on board Holland America, please ring or email me at anytime and I’ll be happy to share my knowledge with you!