|El Dorado Royal - Mexico|
If you haven’t noticed, Travel Shop Girl has been on the road quite a lot lately. After my fantastic family cruise on the Celebrity Summit, I was home only for one day. The remainder of that cruise information will be up shortly, but in the meantime, here’s what I did. I left for four days in Mexico to tour some great properties in Playa del Carmen, which that information will also be up soon enough. Above is a picture to whet your appetite until I am able to post those pics. But from Mexico I flew to Miami and met my friend, Anna, to start a brand new adventure.
I had flown on American Airlines from Cancun to Miami and after clearing customs and grabbing my bags, I followed the signs to ground transportation. However, be aware that hotel shuttles are not on the lower level, but on the arrivals level. I called my hotel, Springhill Suites Miami Airport South, and my shuttle was there in a relatively short amount of time. This particular hotel has a cruise package that includes free transportation from the airport to the hotel as well as to the cruise port, but their shuttle will also take you to some of the nearby stores such as Publix or CVS. We stopped to pick up a few people who had gone shopping at these stores before arriving at the hotel. I checked in and was in my room within only a few minutes.
My friend was arriving from Dayton after 11 pm so I thought I would utilize the few free hours I had to get some work done. Since she was flying into Fort Lauderdale and not Miami and it was late, we learned that the shuttles would have a surcharge and so she took a very expensive $85 cab ride from the airport to the hotel.
The next morning we were considering breakfast with her friend who was also going to be in Florida, but by the time we figured out that wouldn’t work, we realized we had made a mistake. Yes, we forgot to find out what time the shuttle to the port would be. Turns out I called at 10 am and the shuttle was leaving at 10 am. We hadn’t even packed so we knew that was out of the question. As we were leaving our room, Anna realized she had left her sneakers at home so we opted to take a cab to the port and then to stop along the way at Burlington Coat Factory to pick up a pair of sneakers. The cost of the cab to the port along with waiting time was $36 or the cost of three great drinks in the Molecular Bar onboard the Celebrity Reflection. Definitely need to stay more organized in the future.
The funny part of all of this is because I cruise often, I should know better about staying organized. I always check in online well in advance, print off my boarding information, and put it aside with my passport. Anna had done part of the check in process, but not all of it, including her credit card information, so we headed to the business center at the hotel and printed off the form. Because she hadn’t entered in her card information, she had to at the port, which took a little extra time, but wasn’t a total fail. Thankfully, since I am an Elite member of the Captain’s Club on Celebrity, we were able to check in rather quickly and head onto the ship.
|Looking toward Bistro on Five and the Martini Bar|
We were greeted in customary Celebrity style with our choice of a glass of champagne or mimosa. The ship was packed as everyone must have gotten my memo to arrive at the ship at the same time we did. Since I have been on other Celebrity ships and other Solstice-class ships, I felt like I knew my way around the ship almost immediately. You board the ship on deck five, which is adjacent to Café al Bacio and the gelateria on one side and the entry to all of the specialty restaurants on the other side. As we entered just before 12:30 pm, we were surprised to hear almost immediately that our cabins were ready. However, when we walked over to the hallway, the entry doors were closed. Shortly thereafter, there was an announcement that cabins would be ready around 1 pm, which is as expected.
|Oceanview Cabin 3121|
When our cabin was available, we walked down to it to check it out and to drop off our carry on bags. A nicely sized oceanview cabin on deck three, this cabin would be more than adequate for two females. As we hadn’t eaten breakfast, we were off to grab a quick bite wherever we could find it and that meant heading to deck 14 to the Oceanview Café, the ship’s buffet. Upon arrival, we realized this place was completely filled and finding a seat would be more than a little difficult. We grabbed something to eat and heading outside to find one of only a few tables apparently available on all of deck 14.
|Fitness Center deck 12|
After lunch we went exploring around the ship to see what was available, including the fitness center on deck 12. A large spa is on this deck as well as great fitness center with adjacent rooms for classes including spin classes and yes, TRX classes. We immediately signed up with Ellie, one of the fitness employees, for both TRX and boot camp. I’m sure I will regret this decision later.
We had tried after lunch to make reservations in the specialty restaurants, but unfortunately, people decided that they needed to cut us off continually. They are offering a few specialty packages including an unlimited dining package, a five-restaurant package, and a four-restaurant package. We opted for the four-restaurant package for $125 per person and it offers you one night each in Murano, Tuscan Grille, the Lawn Club Grill, and Qsine. By the time I was able to finally make reservations, most of the tables for two were gone. This is another reason to book early and to book online once you are registered because you will get the best dining options available.
Back in the cabin we found our luggage had arrived and we met our cabin attendant, Ozy from Goa. It was only then did I realize we had already begun sailaway. We ran up to the pool deck for sailaway and to make those last minute calls we needed to make and promptly disconnected ourselves from the outside world. I suggested we pay a visit to one of my favorite spots, the Martini Bar, and we both chose a Caipiritini, a lemony concoction that was far too easy to drink. Agus, our bartender, was a gem and we can't wait to get back to see him again. Our dinner reservations were for 8 pm and as such, we had just enough time to finish our drink and then head off to watch some of the ship’s entertainment, which tonight was a magician.
|Kristian suiting Anna up in her Lawn Club Grill apron|
Off to the Lawn Club Grill we went after the show and we were seated in Kristian’s section. We met Kristian earlier in the afternoon when we were trying to make dinner reservations. One of Larry Bird’s biggest fans, Kristian has an amazing talent for entertaining guests. The big draw in the Lawn Club Grill is that you get to cook your own food. Kristian suited Anna up in her very own Lawn Club Grill apron after she washed her hands and she was off.
For the starter we had a flatbread and Anna went up to flatten out the dough and add our toppings (half veggies, half pepperoni). They suggest that you only order one as it is quite huge, as you can see here. We then helped ourselves to the large salad bar and waited for the
pizza flatbread to arrive.
Then came the fun as Anna was invited back up, this time to the grill, to cook her steak and my vegetables. It is an exciting option that while not everyone might not want to participate, anyone who does will have a great time. Anna's filet mignon was cooked to perfection with the assistance of Rolando from Jamaica and the second chef from Guyana. Both chefs were charming and professional and with the assistance of Kristian table side, made our visit to the Lawn Club Grill an extremely special one.
Every meal is served with three sauces: Chimichurri, steak, and barbecue. The meal was delicious and it was an entertainingly fun meal that I would definitely try again.
After dinner we headed to the casino and it was swamped with people at every slot machine and table. First nights are always crowded, but this was really crowded. As we were exhausted from the day, we decided to call it a night and plan to have fun the rest of our trip. I’ll keep you updated!