La Habana, Cuba

Since I was a little girl, Havana had always been my dream destination to visit.  Don’t I have some stories to tell.  Big kudos to my traveling sister, Mira, who had made my trip a lot more pleasant and enjoyable.  She knows the town and speaks the language; she’s the best travel partner to have!!!! ☺️

Day 1:  Landed in Havana around 7:30PM on a Sunday night.  I had arranged for a taxi through my airBnB host to be safe.  An hour later, I arrived at the AirBnB house we rented and met up with Mira.  We went for late night dinner in a nearby restaurant and walked around by the capitol for some pictures.  We met a local person who took us to a club for some live music and drinks.  The place was small and HOT.  There was no AC.  After a few days in Havana, I realized that most place do not have AC inside.  So do dress light or with fabric that absorbs sweat s.a cotton.

 

St. Thomas

We entered the port at Crown Bay Marina, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas from 10AM to 7PM. Once we docked, we decided to head into the city to do some early shopping before we explored St. John, our primary destination. From the marina, we caught a taxi into downtown for $7 per person to check out some of their upscale jewelry stores. St. Thomas is known not only for its beautiful, turquoise color beaches, and water sports activities such as snorkeling and sport-fishing, it is also a mecca for high-end jewelry shopping scene in the entire Caribbean. Who doesn’t like duty free shopping and no sales tax? The shopping area in town is also the historic district. Some of the stores are worth visiting just for the old architecture. Also there are bars and restaurants to fill the void. The stores in Crown Bay are satellites of the stores in downtown. Sadly the bad economy hit St. Thomas and some of the more popular stores closed by the port so that’s why we opted for downtown shopping. This picture was taken at dusk as we were leaving for St. Maarten.

Crown Bay Marina
Crown Bay Marina

Nassau, Bahamas

View from our cruise ship at 7AM local. This is my 2nd time here at Nassau, Bahamas. If you prefer a clean beach and a quiet time then British Colonial hotel’s private beach is your best kept secret and it is only a short walking distance from the dock. They charge each person $48 USD for all day pass but you’ll get $40 USD credit to use toward food and drinks there so it is totally worth it. Basically you get to use their private pool and beach for $8 USD and avoid all the cruise crowds. I didn’t have time to go into town to the The Fish Fry’s restaurant for some real good conch salad so I settled for one at a random bar on the way back to the ship. I ended up having to gulp it down at the security checkpoint as it turned out we are not allowed to bring food back onto the ship. No ifs and buts. They will not make any exceptions!!! Trust me I tried.

Port Of Nassau, Bahamas
Port Of Nassau, Bahamas

Allure of the Seas – Pre-cruise Tips and Recommendations

We ubered to Port Everglades 2 hours prior to our official checkin time.  Cost of uber was $5 and we tipped the driver another $5 because he complained about sitting in port traffic and could have been out driving.  I am sure that was his tactic and we fell right into it.  Suckers!!!!

The security at the port is very tight.  It is like crossing into a U.S border.  There are cops and security guards everywhere.

Pre-Cruise tips and recommendations below:

  1. If you need to fly into Fort Lauderdale, fly in the night before.  There have been incidents where people’s flights were delayed and they ended up missing the cruise and had to find another way to catch up with the cruise at the next port.  Who wants to start a vacation with that kind of stress?
  2. Do go to the port early.  It is crowded and chaotic there.
  3. Do bring some small changes to tip the luggage people.  The included prepaid tip on the ship has nothing to do with these luggage crew.  Our luggages were brought on board very quickly after we had checked in.  Not sure why some online posts say it might take all day for the luggage to deliver to the room.  Maybe for another cruise but it wasn’t the case here for us.
  4. They are NOT as strict with checking liquor brought on board as they claim to be.  Each room is allowed 2 bottles of champagne or wine.  We bought 2 bottles of wine and a creamy expresso macchiato liquor bottle.  We were told that liquor isn’t allowed and could be confiscated.  Well, we decided to take our chances on the liquor bottle.  I hid it in my checked in luggage and guess what, it was still in my luggage when it was delivered.  Yay! No need to use Listerine bottle and food coloring to hide any liquor.  No one inspected how many bottles of wine we had carried with us either when we went through the security line boarding the ship.  I think we each could have brought on 2 bottle of wines and would still be okay.  In any case, I would not recommend to abuse this laid back system though.  We probably were just lucky.
  5. Do make reservations to shows and dinner ahead.  Ahead means as soon as you book your cruise, start picking out shows and make reservations to the 2 formal dinners as soon as possible.  It was quite a task to try to book/schedule all the shows around dinner time.  All shows were sold out quite quickly.
  6. We booked our excursions ahead as well.  People had said it’s cheaper to book excursions on the islands with the locals but we chose not to have to worry about that as our time on the island is limited.
Allure of the Seas
Allure of the Seas

Review – Embassy Suites by Hilton – Fort Lauderdale

We decided to travel to Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise to protect ourselves from any flight delays or cancelations.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites by Hilton not only because it is close to Port Everglades but also within walking distance to all the restaurants and shops.

Uber transferred us from airport to hotel at a reasonable $7. Taxi and airport shuttles were too costly options we didn’t consider.

Overall, the hotel was sufficient .  However, I would probably not return for various reasons below.

Cons:

  1. Steep price.  I honestly think $220/night is outrageous.  We did get a living room with a desk and a couch but that was a useless space for us.
  2. The front desk person was rude.  We had requested for an ocean facing room at the time of booking (which was about a month prior) and were told that we would get the room.  Showed up and got a pool facing view.  When we tried to explain to the front desk person about our request, she told us nothing else was available in a sarcastic voice.  Found out I would not be able to get the Hilton Honors points for this stay and would also have to pay for wifi since we booked via Expedia.  The point is that the front desk person made me feel like booking via Expedia was a mistake and I could sense her unwelcoming attitude.
  3. Noise.  I could hear my neighbors talking on the balcony and could feel the door slamming shut every few mins.

Pros:

  1. Close to Port Everglades for cruise departing.
  2. Walking distance to restaurants and shops.  We walked to the wine store and stocked up for the cruise.
  3. Happy hour with free drinks and light snacks.
  4. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton was at the hotel for a campaigning event.
  5. Free continental breakfast.