Monday, October 20, 2008

Bahamas Cruise (Bahamas & Miami Trip)

26th - 30th Sep 2008

This is one of the much anticipated & exciting trips. I had planned this trip with my friends, a month in advance. We booked flight tickets in AA website. After doing some research, we decided to take the Royal Caribbean (RC) cruise ship. We booked cruise tickets directly from the RC website. RC charged $300 for the first person, $300 for the second person & $200 for the third person. It cost me about $800 for my family. The round trip flight tickets from SJC -> MIA airport cost about $300 per person. (Also read: Places to see in USA)

Day in Miami

We took the AA flight from SJC -> Miami on Sep 25th. One of my friends have to drop-out in the last minute due to a family emergency. We reached Miami airport on Sep 26th at 7.30 am. We had a few hours to kill before boarding the RC cruise. We rented a vehicle from Alamo. There was a very long queue in the Alamo rental location. By the time we took the rental SUV, it was about 10.30 am. Miami was greenish everywhere. You could see large Banyan Trees along the sides of the streets. We went to the Fairchild Tropical Garden. It is such a beautiful place with lots of colorful flowers, ponds, and gardens. You can spend nearly 1/2 a day in the Fairchild Tropical Garden. The tickets were somewhat pricey ($20 per person). Weeekend visits are free and that explains why the garden was deserted on the weekday. This garden was mostly run by retired folks & volunteers. The garden was maintained very well. We took the narrated tram tour. We walked around for about an hour or so. We then drove back to Alamo rental facility to drop the rental vehicle. Alamo has a free pickup/drop off service from/to the Port & Airport (Note: The last pickup/dropoff service to the Port was 3 pm).

Bahamas Cruise

We reached the Port of Miami at around 3.30 pm. It took about an hour to complete the check-in process and to reach the stateroom. Our first impressions of the Cruise Ship was great. In fact, it didn't look like we weren't in a cruise ship. The ship looked like a five star hotel or a shopping mall - with elevators, restaurants/dining areas, bars, huge lobby, casino, swimming pool, theatre, play areas etc., The ship wasn't wobbling at all. It is hard to sense the ship's motion and so, you don't have to worry about sea sickness :)

We got ready and went to the dining room by 6 pm (We had requested for the 6 pm dining slot). We have to sit in pre-assigned dining tables. My friend & I got it changed, so that we can be in the same dining table. You can order food from the menu and also customize the order. The waiters were very professional and courteous. We had a heavy dinner. There was a stand-up comedy going on in the night. We watched it for about 30 minutes. We were too tired and went to sleep early.

We got up early on the second day of the cruise. The ship was docked in Cococay, a private island of Royal Carribean.We had our breakfast (which was a buffet). There was nearly 100+ items to choose from. Even for a vegeterian, there were lots of options. I had a heavy breakfast (as if, I'm eating for the whole day). A small ferry boat took us from the cruise ship to the Cococay island. Cococay is a very small island. There were some shops in the island (including restaurants). There were all kinds of water sports in CocoCay island. In fact, that is the only thing that you can do in CocoCay. I had a nice fun time with my kid in the beach. My kid was busy collecting shells & playing with the sand along the shore. Around noon, it started to drizzle a bit and we went back to the ship. The lunch was a buffet as well. We had a heavy lunch :) My friend had brought some card game and we played it until evening. We then got ready and had our dinner. We spent an hour or so chatting in the upper front deck sit-out area. We played again during the night.

The cruise ship was docked in Nassau, Bahamas on the third day. We had our breakfast early and left the ship by 8.30 am. However, we have to wait in the Nassau port until 9.45 am, for our Discover Atlantis tour. We used that time to take a few pictures in the Bahamas port & a few pictures in front of our cruise ship :) The Discover Atlantis was a narrated tour and it was nice. It costs a few $$s extra if you book the tour from RC website. Majority of the Bahamas population is of African origin. People sell water bottles & other things along the road side. We spent some more time in the Atlantis resort after the tour and returned back to the cruise ship. We had our lunch & took a nap. We spent about an hour or so wandering in the ship. We then went to the same sit-out area in the upper deck watching the sun set. We then had our dinner and started packing our 'stuff'. We left the suitcase along the side of the corridor (for checkout in the morning).

We got up early on the fourth day, got ready and had our breakfast. It was 9.30 am in the morning by the time we got off the cruise ship, collected our luggages and cleared the US immigration process. I realized that we should have kept our baggages with us (instead of handing over them to RC, the previous night). That delayed our checkout process by about an hour. If we had had our baggages with us, we could've got down from the ship early in the morning. Now that we had checked-in our baggages, we had to wait until our turn, to collect them. In the early morning, there was not many people in the checkout queue. You can just swift through the checkout process in minutes.

We didn't have much time to explore Bahamas during our trip. However, the cruise experience was very memorable. We felt that our time in the cruise ran very fast. The top two things that I liked in the cruise was Food & Service. I was amazed by the level of service provided by the RC crew. I wasn't expecting individual attention - but the RC crew did provide individual care to everyone. Even my little kid enjoyed the cruise experience. She had lots of places to explore in the ship. If I had to do take a cruise again, I would definitely choose Royal Caribbean.

2 Days in Miami

We had to wait for about 1/2 hour (some people have waited for an hour) for the Alamo rental shuttle to pick us up from the Miami Port. The same Alamo car rental shop services customers from both Port & Airport. We rented an SUV and drove to Key West. On the way, we stopped near the famous "7 miles bridge over the sea". There was a nice beach close to the bridge. The water in the beach was sparkling & crystal clear. My daughter had lots of fun in the beach. It took us about 3 hours to reach the Key West area. We stopped at a Starbucks to get our energy drinks (Lattes). We then visited Fort Zacher Taylor's park to see the sunset. We killed nearly 2 hours in that park by taking some pictures & by playing a card game. However, Mr. Sun disappointed us. We then headed back to Miami for our night stay in Metropole Hotel. Metropole Hotel is located in the downtown area. The outward appearance of the hotel was not that great (in fact, it was scary). However, the rooms very nice with brand new appliances - most of them, designer class.

The next day, we got up early and visited Vizkaya Museum & Gardens. We had our breakfast in Dunkin Donuts (I used to think that they just have Donuts. But, DD has lots of other items too. I liked their hash browns. It was yummy!). It was raining heavily when we visited Vizkaya Gardens. I thought we have to abandon our plans. However, the rain stopped in a few minutes. The garden was fresh & gorgeous (Thanks to the morning showers!). There are some nice photo spots in that garden. You could see a few newly wed couples busy with their photo shoot sessions. We spent nearly 2 hours in the Vizkaya Gardens. We had our lunch in a fine Thai Cuisine in the downtown. We then visited a few road side parks, took pictures of the Miami Skyline and then went to Miami South Beach. Miami Skyline was not all that great. South Beach had a long shore line and lots of parking space. It was almost deserted (we visited on a weekday). I personally felt that the Key West beaches are more beautiful than the Miami beaches. We left South Beach, returned our rental vehicle and reached Airport in the evening. We reached SFO at around 10 pm. We had parked our car in Anza Parking, San Francisco. We picked our car and reached home at around 12 pm.

Our Bahamas/Miami trip was very relaxing and memorable.

Miami Trip Planner 

[Update - Bahamas Tourist Visa]

If you are a US Citizen, you don't need a tourist visa to visit Bahamas. If you are residing in US on a work or a visitor or a dependent visa (H1B/H4/L1/L2/B1/B2 etc.,), you need a tourist visa to visit Bahamas.

I applied for my visa to the Bahamas consulate in NY.

http://www.un.int/bahamas/Consular_Travel_Information.htm

The following private website provides the details that you need for applying for a Bahamas visa.

http://bahamas.visahq.com/

Talk to the Bahamas consulate directly to find out more details.

I was able to get my visa in just one calendar week (5 days). I overnight couriered the application/passport on Monday and got the visa on Friday.

4 comments:

  1. Hi saro,

    Thank you for the detailed info.

    I have booked a cruise to Bahamas from Port Canaveral. I am a H1b holder do I stil need a tourist visa ? I have actually delayed getting the visa so was thinking of taking a risk and get to the port without the Bahamas visa , do you think it's a good idea. I am going on a 3 day cruise with just a couple of hours in Nassau.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes... You would still need a tourist visa.

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  3. iam visiting the US on a B1/B2 visa..for bahamas cruise can i get bahamas visa at NY or from country of origin /homecountry(india)

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  4. You have to send/mail your passport to get a Bahamas visa. It is not recommended to stay without your passport when you are in USA. You should consider applying for it in India.

    http://bahamas.visahq.com/embassy/India/

    ReplyDelete

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