Our return to the main land was immediately followed by a trip down to Key West Florida down highway 1. Basically we enjoyed our island experiences enough to get one last island in…
Key West felt exactly like the other islands we visited this trip. The biggest difference is we had a hotel room to retreat to and our own vehicle (this part was particularly nice!!).
One cool thing we did down there was to visit the southern most tip of the continental United States. That’s right… way way down there… even below the Texas tip…
Oh, and I’m sad to report that Flipper is now missing one of his Fins… Diana ate it!!!!!! We found a great place for dinner on Sunday night, it was called Duffy’s Lobster and Steak. There’s a lot of those kinds of “lobster and steak” places down there… guess it’s something for everything idea… Anyways, They had dolphin on the menu… so the next time you see Diana, remember to give her a hard time. But not too much, it took her a while do decide… during which the Flipper theme song was playing in her head. We figured eating dolphin was a moral decision in the end…
Oh, after visiting a vegan cafe for lunch… we decided to clean that out of our skin… we needed a very large all beef hamburger. So we went straight to the Hard Rock Cafe in Key West… and yup I got that t-shirt.
Visit flickr for more pictures of Key West…
2009-03-01 Key West
There seems to be a huge myth going on that you are going to be tipping every person that comes into contact with you… The cruise experience is indeed a clever and very well constructed machine for separating you and your money… but it isn’t as bad as one might think.
Think of it this way… When you go to a fancy restaurant like Red Lobster or the Olive Garden, there is that little line on your receipt which allows you to provide a tip to your server. Similar to that, on every receipt you receive there is that little line for a tip. If you bought a drink, feel free to always put a big fat ZERO on that line. Yes put a ZERO because there is already a tip calculated into the price of your drink… just look up. The tip line here is their fancy “separating you and your money” part of the bill.
When on an excursion there is a tipping process but don’t be fooled. Not everyone will push for a tip. We took two excursions and did our “own thing” on the third island. During our “own thing” there was no tipping issues at all. We walked everywhere and enjoyed the shopping experiences. During our excursions, the main tour guide did invite tips but was not at all pushy about it. This may be a different experience depending on the type of excursion you take. Ours was mostly city tours and beach visits.
The moral here is tipping, although helpful in getting better service, it is not necessary. I’m a business man myself and when they calculated the prices of their services… they factored in all that would make them happy. Tipping anybody else other than food waiting staff is not at all necessary.
Lastly, there is one group of individuals that is very important to tip. This would be your cabin attendant, and your waiter/assistant waiter. These people are the ones you will directly feel their level of service from. Our cabin attendant always had a new animal made from starched towels waiting for us on the bed. It was a very cute thing and was that little “extra effort” that made our cruise a fantasy. Our waiter, well she was fantastic!!! On more than one occasion we came in later than our designated sitting time. She happily sat us down for a meal and provided us with the best service… even prompt. Due to our lateness and the fact that the second seating guests would be coming in soon our service was faster than normal which was indeed very enjoyable and just as wonderful.
Well overall we probably spent about $175 in tips for everyone involved. So on your next cruise vacation be sure to factor in at least that much. Bring $25 for the week of tipping and $150 on the last day for your cabin attendant, waiter and assistant waiter.
At home Diana and I drink both water and soda pop. We don’t drink a whole lot of alcohol, maybe one bottle of wine every one to two weeks when the mood hits us. On the cruise we wanted to enjoy ourselves with alcohol a little more often. The idea was to continue with what we do at home and embellish with alcohol where appropriate. To save you money they offer packages.
If your a big soda drinker like I am… be sure to sign up for a soda package! Oh, and on the first day of the cruise. This will save you a fortune… for about $48 for the entire week you can walk up to any bar on the ship, even any of the dining areas and flash the little sticker they put on your SeaPass (I talked about this in a previous post.). No receipt process is involved with this little sticker and saves you time and money. Just walkup and ask for a soda, flash the card and your golden.
If your a big water drinker like Diana is back home, be sure to signup for the water package. On the second day of the cruise they’ll bring you huge bottles of water straight to your cabin. Use the mini fridge to keep them cold and take with you on every excursion off the ship… even around the ship to save tones. This package only costs $42 for 12 20oz bottles… yes more expensive than home but much much cheaper than buying them individually around the ship.
Unfortunately there is no such thing as an alcohol package. Nope… don’t even bother asking, we did and were told they used to have that but due to underage drinking or something like that they were forced to get rid of that one…
The one package they do have as far as alcohol goes is a Wine & Dine package. For about $140 you will recieve 5 bottles of wine for the week which you can use at your choosing. More bottles are available. This package gives you a choice of a few dozen types of wine at any meal. We purchased the 5 bottle and during our main dining area meals we had them bring us one bottle on 5 different days. On one of those days we even ordered wine, and had them bring us a soda as well… and because of the soda package we had… that was “free”.
The main idea here, is there are ways to save money. Think ahead and bring about $300 for packages plus what you might order for mixed drinks… They run anywhere from $5-9 each. So be careful here, they are very happy to provide you with a mixed drink where ever you are… pool deck, dining hall, shopping promenade, shows, etc… We opted for only getting the drink-of-the-day which included a fancy souvenir glass. We collected 4 of one kind and two of another.
Yes, you heard me right… never buy jewelry at home. The discounts for name brand and high end jewelry is soooooo much higher in the Caribbean islands than at your home town jeweler.
The best tip I can give you is this… before your cruise, visit your local jewelers and get an idea of what your wanting to purchase. Take pictures, brochures, and get lots of details on the size, design and other things that distinguish the piece(s) of jewelry your wanting to buy. Also try to work them down to their best absolute bottom price. Act like your leaving for another jeweler right after this visit and your intent on buying today. This will get them to their lowest prices which usually involves a manager getting involved. Write that price down and go on your cruise. During the cruise they’re will be lots of seminars to remind you of the four C’s of diamonds, jewelry shopping and more. They will also give you all kinds of free coupons for jewels, jewelry, etc… Collect all the free stuff and while there look for the pieces you are really after. Use the same tactics they teach you in the seminars as well as what I mentioned above.
If you’ve done your research ahead of time, you’d know for sure if your getting a good deal. This is the exact same thing we’re going to be doing on our next cruise vacation. For this one we used the price lowering tactics and we’ll be visiting our home town jewelers when we get back to see what similar pieces would cost us.
The moral here is do your research before your cruise to ensure you get the best deals!!!
During our third island adventure, we docked in a port in St. Maarten (the Dutch side), then jumped onto a bus headed to St. Martin (the French side). Along the way we learned all kinds of information about the island like the war that separated the island into two halves and the rich history and culture of the area. In this picture we’re waiting for our tour to begin. We were to meet on the pier then be transported to the beach.
Although we visited the beach in St. Thomas, we liked the one on St. Martin much better. In this one we arrived at the beach with a lounge chair, cushion, and a beach umbrella (the umbrella was a $3 rental… but well worth it!!). Diana got to read her book, and I took pictures of the pretty girls “for the guys at work”. Here’s a picture for all those “guys at work”.
Our adventures in St. Thomas was near exhaustion. We went on the Ultimate Island Experience… and it sure was. First thing in the morning (10am, LOL) we jumped onto an open-air tour truck and headed into town. We passed by lots of cultural land marks and learned all kinds of history. We stopped by several scenic overlooks on our way to the beach.
Our beach visit was in Megan’s Bay. The bus stopped at an overlook where we got to take a wonderful photo of it before going down to the beach.
The beach was nice except for one problem… the people. There were way too many people at this beach. It was obvious that this was the most popular beach destination on the entire island. Not only was it crowded… but it was expensive. it would have cost us $40 for 2 hamburgers, fries and drinks. Luckily we were able to wait till we returned to the ship where the food was “free”.
Our final stop on the tour was a visit to Black Beards Castle. A wonderfully refurbished home, pools, and sanctuary for pirates… LOL.
This place also has the largest number of life sized pirate statues in the world.
Finally we got to go shopping… free stuff for sure. We used the “Port & Shopping” tips we received on the boat to get all kinds of wonderful jewelry and other gifts completely free. We also purchased one or two items to add to Diana’s jewelry collection. Jewelry was the one thing we’ve bought the most of on our cruise… Diana’s definitely loving that 😉
We’ll post more later… Love you all.
Here are several wonderful pictures of our ship.
I’m sure their website has lots more pictures than this… but these are several we personally took. I like the night time ones best…