Cruises, Overnight Trips

36 hours in Miami

Dates: 9 – 10 November 2015
Modes of Travel: British Airways
Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Hannah & Brett
Hotel: Pullman Miami (originally booked as the Sofitel Miami)

So we arrived in Miami after our cruise on the  Norwegian Escape and picked up our car. We headed tto the hotel to drop our stuff of and get our bearings. We spent a little bit of time at the hotel as Bruce needed to catch up on some work. This allowed me to figure out where the malls were and what our game plan was.

Our main shopping goals were: Old Navy, Target and the Converse Outlet (well at least for me) and any other place we could find.

The first mall we visited was Mall of the Americas, which I thought was the mall Hannah was talking about. This place did have an Old Navy but quite frankly it was a dump.

We needed to eat and decided to give Wendy’s a try as it had been many years since we last had it. Just have to say we could have given it a miss, was not as we remembered it.

We then headed over to the Dolphin Mall which is “the” mall in Miami. It had everything but Target and much much more. We got several pairs of Converse at the outlet for super cheap, clothes rom Nautica as they were having a massive sale and then taking even more off at the register. Once we filled our boot it was time to leave

Whilst we were driving around we saw the target and headed over. It did not disappoint and we came out with everything we were looking for and more.

We headed back to the hotel and packed our bags with our haul and made sure we were within the weight limits.

Now it was dinner time and we wanted real Mexican so we found the best place we could in Miami based on reviews and ease of getting there and in the end I chose a place called Mi Rincosito Mexicano. By far some of the best Mexican food I have ever had and I really can’t wait to go to next time I am in Miami.

It was time to call it a night as it was quite late. The next day we left our bags at the hotel and headed out to pick up Hannah and Brett who had just finished their cruise. We spent the day with them before their flight home (They were on the early and we were on the late)

First stop was IHOP for a real American breakfast complete with Bacon, Sausage, Pancakes, Hash Browns and Chicken Fried Steak! Once we had our fill.

Next stop was a random mall so Brett could pick something up at the Apple store. Whilst we were there I saw our flight was delayed and it meant we would miss our connection to Edinburgh, so I called BA and 10 min later it was all sorted and we were moved to a later with no charge or hassle.

As this was their only day in Miami, we visited Old Navy again and a few other shops and just saw the city whilst we did it. As we were out and about I felt like a slurpee so dragged us to a 7-11 which Hannah and Brett had never been to and we stocked up on our 7-11 goodies like Slurpee’s, big gulps, crisps and hostess products. Sadly they had not corn dogs but I really wasn’t hungry so that was ok.

Next stop was the Publix to get some food items we had not found like Velveta. Supermarkets are so different in the US and we were spoiled for choice on everything.

It was almost time for Hannah and Brett to head back to the airport so before we dropped them off we introduced them to Panda Express. It was good, but sadly not as good as I remembered…… Have I really been gone that long?

So we dropped Hannah and Brett off and had a few hours to kill so we headed to South Beach and it was by far our favorite area in Miami.

Sadly our time to Miami came to an end and we headed to the airport. We were delayed after dropping the car as there was some type of security incident which closed down the car rental centre and the D/E terminals. It wasn’t a long delay but annoying.

After that we got checked in and were headed home. The flights were uneventful and we made it home (albeit without one of our bags, don’t worry it showed up the next day and was only dirty clothes anyways) a few hours later than planned due to the delay, but overall it was a good trip!


An ESCAPE to Miami

Dates: 29 October to 9 November 2015
Modes of Travel: Norwegian Escape
Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, Hannah, Brett, Debbie and Laura

This was our trip of the year. We have both always wanted to be on an inaugural sailing and we booked this trip before they started building the ship. Hannah and Brett were do to join for the whole trip but due to a scheduling conflict for Hannah at work they had to forgo the cruise and just meet up with us in Miami. However, they kindly drove us to the port.

I was already in London for my last week at work and Bruce flew down from Scotland and we all met at Heathrow for the journey to Southampton.

We had a quick journey to the port and they left dropped us off and we made our way inside. After a few formalities we were through security and on board the Norwegian Escape.

This was a long time coming and first thing we did was head to our cabin so we could drop our stuff off before we started exploring. We had a balcony for this cruise and it was pretty cool as it was a “bump” balcony so it had a little bit of extra space. The weather was poor for most of the trip until about a day before we arrived in Miami so we did not use it as much as we hoped, but it was nice to have the door open when we could.


A View from our Balcony in Southampton


Now we were on board for 10 days so instead of a day by day, I am just going to share what we did.

But before I do that, I want to mention how we met Debbie and Laura. I am part of Cruise Critic and on some of our cruises we will go to the meet and greet. This was one of those trips and these two were at the same table with us. We all got to chatting and next thing you knew we were doing stuff together the whole cruise and they were really fun to hang out with. It was also because of them we did some of the stuff we did whilst on board, like Brat Pack and Howl at the Moon.


A few shots from the middle of the atlantic.IMG_3007

The Escape is the newest NCL ship with a lot of venues and restaurants to visits. Overall the ship was cool, but service at times was slow and the thing we heard most often was “I’m sorry we just ran out of that” even just after boarding. Would you believe the whole trip they did not have any Sauvignon Blanc by the glass and by the end of the 10 days most everything was out.

Escape Casino – Good size casino and smoke free, we possibly spent a few hours a day in here.

The Supper Club – We visited the supper club twice. The first was for a haunted house the ship put on for Haloween which was pretty cool even if they didn’t follow their own rules like don’t worry no one will touch you.

The second visit was for real when we saw For The Record™: The Brat Pack Live At The Supper Club, which is a musical mashup of all of the John Hughes Bratpack movies. Whilst the food left a bit to be desired, the show itself was great and one of the best I have seen at sea. I will say if you are going to see it, be sure to get one of the back rows as the show happens all around you and it can be difficult to see parts of it if you are seated near the stage.

The Garden Cafe – This is the buffet and it was pretty standard but had a really nice  layout and good selection of stuff. They even did it up for halloween.

Margaritaville at Sea – This is the first one at sea and it was included on our trip so we ate there a few times for lunch and once for Breakfast. The food was good but the service sucked.


Headliners Comedy Club – We spent a few nights in here watching Howl at the Moon. This is where dueling pianos and comedy meet and we really enjoyed each visit. They take requests and suggestions of what to play next. What is the difference between a request and suggestion… a request includes some cash or a shot.




This picture also includes the Tenors of Rock who joined the Howl at the Moon guys for a few sets.





Bars of The Waterfront located on Decks 678There were several places to visit including the 5 o’Clock somewhere bar, Tobacco Road, Sugarcane Mojito Bar and the District Brew house.. Quite frankly all of these (except 5 o’Clock Somewhere) were a bit of a disappointment because either the drinks were just eh or in the case of The Cellar Wine Bar and the Brewhouse, they were out of wines or beers we wanted to try.

IMG_2875FullSizeRender 2

Restaurants of The Waterfront located on Decks 678All of them were very good. Food Republic was probably the standout for us. Good service on every visit and something a little different to eat. Cagney’s is normally pretty good and it wasn’t too bad, other than service, but it was not as good as previous visits on other ships. The real standout for us was La Cucina, which is the Italian restaurant on board. There was a new menu for this trip and it did not disappoint. We went twice, once on our own and once with the Girls.

O’Sheehans – This is the 24 hour restaurant onboard that is similar to the Blue Lagoon on some of the ships. It was our first experience with O’Sheehans and it was ok. The service left a bit to be desired but the food always came quick and was good.

MDR’s (Taste & Savor) Overall the dining was good onboard and the service was ok. Only once did it wow us. We never had to wait for a table so that is a plus right.

Water Slides and Ropes Course – I did both of these whilst Bruce read his book. I am scared of heights but thought the ropes course could be fun. Whilst it was fun it scared the shit out of me and I did not spend too much time up there. The water slides however were pretty cool, I only went on the tube slide which had a clear bit that went over the side of the ship. As it was cold and wet it was only me up there, but I enjoyed it and was able to go for a few runs.

Spice H20 – was a nice area on Deck 17 AFT which is an adults only outdoor area which includes a massive screen and a bar. I think it would have been great if they would have shown a movie or something on the big screen. Instead it was just photos of different places around the world.

Escape Theatre – They had a few things on here, we played Bingo in here the most, but I also saw After Midnight which really did not do it for me. But Laura knew one of the managers in the theatre so we were able to get a pretty cool back stage tour. It was quite amazing! We also saw Tenors of Rock in here which was a special for the cruise. They are a all male group form the UK and they were pretty good.

Cabin Crawl – One of the Cruise Critic events that we attended was the cabin crawl which was pretty cool as we got to see every type of cabin on the ship from an Inside to a Two room suite in the Haven.

Between days 2 and 3, one of the other people on board had a medical emergency of some sort which required us to change course and head towards shore. The next thing we knew a Spanish Navy Helicopter was overhead and an at sea medevac took place. I have to say it was pretty damn cool to see, but I hope to never have to worry about it.


So that was the main parts of the trip. Overall we really enjoyed it and so happy we met the Girls as they really helped make the trip a lot of fun.

The cruise finished in Miami and what should have been an easy disembarkation was a total shambles. It took us almost two hours and the whole process was truly a cluster from actually getting off the ship to finding our bags and immigration.


Our view when we arrived in Miami…

The next post will be our 36 hours in Miami!






















NCL Spirit Cruise

Date: 13-24 March 2015

Modes of Travel: British Airways, Norwegian Spirit, and Gatwick Express

Cities/Ports Visited – Malaga, Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Arrecife (Lanzarote),

Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, and Cruise Mates

Hotel: ibis Gatwick Airport

So this will not be a day by day blog as it was a long trip, but I will cover all I can and share some pictures along the way.

We booked this trip in Jan 2014, you know we are planners, originally it was booked as an outside cabin, but after final payment date the prices dropped and the amazing Ricky at Vacations to Go scored us an upgrade at no charge to a Balcony on deck 9.

Our original flight was due to leave at 6am from Gatwick so we booked the ibis at Gatwick so we would not have to get up as early. Our flight was later changed (both ways thanks BA) to 7 but as we prepaid we said would still head down the night before.

I took Gatwick express and met Bruce. The journey was ok, but not really sure how express it was.

We headed to the hotel and about half way there Bruce felt that we had in his words been “f’ing Ryanair’ed” as the hotel was miles from Gatwick. After a short journey we arrived checked in and had an ok (for a budgetish hotel) dinner in the bar. As Accor Silver, I get a free drink and on check-in they gave us both one so it was a nice surprise.

So we had a decent night sleep and headed over to Gatwick. Check-in was very easy but even though we were directed to Fast Track Security, it hadn’t opened yet so we had to chill in a massive queue with people who did not fully understand how airport security works. We made it through after about 20 min and we were off to the lounge. The BA lounge at Gatwick is more like an outstation lounge and has no hot offerings. Our time in the lounge was ok, but I miss my bacon roll with my Jameson and Ginger at 6am.

Our flight to Malaga was uneventful. We did however have a Bus Gate, which brought Bruce great joy, as he loves the free bus tour provided from bus gates. We did however leave 10 min early, and arrived 25 min early and our bags took 45 min from the time we left the plane to arrive on the belt, I am pretty sure they were the last ones off.

We hopped in a taxi and headed to the pier and were on board within 20 minutes of arrival.

First Impressions of the NCL Spirit were good, we liked the layout and the ship seemed pretty nice. We enjoyed our glass of welcome aboard Prosecco and some food at the Blue Lagoon. The menu at the blue Lagoon is limited and we really did not like the location, but it is always good for a snack.

For this cruise, we purchased the Ultimate Beverage Package, which was $1200usd for the both of us. It covers all drinks under $11 except Red Bull, Speciality Coffees and Bottled Water. We made good use of the package, we kept track of all that we purchased and our total purchased under the plan was over $1900usd so we defo made out.

After the Prosecco we headed to our cabin and were very happy with it, the cabin was bigger than we are used to and the balcony was really nice. My only complaint(s) about the cabin were the shower pressure was not good as we are used too and the cabin door had a whistle if we left the balcony open and it was windy out. However it did not ruin our experience at all. It was really nice to leave our balcony door open as much as we could and was nice to wake up to the sound of the sea.

For the rest of the trip we did our normal cruise stuff, lots of drink, lots of eating and lots of chilling. On the Barcelona night, which was the first night for most people on the cruise we met up with the Friends of Dorothy group. Mark was the first we met and the rest of the nights we met the rest of the group that we spent most of our time with. So Mark is from Near Gatwick and was on his own (no one wanted to come with him on this one), Wouter and Harro from Amsterdam, and Peter and Joe from Scotland. We ended up meeting every night and had a great time!

If you want to see what was available to do on the NCL Spirit each day, click here.

I have decided to include some more pictures in this update, so each day in port I took a panoramic from our balcony.

Our first stop was Barcelona. We have been before and decided to keep it low key.


We took the local bus to Las Ramblas and just walked around. We did a little bit of shopping and a little bit of drinking.

Next up was Casablanca. We have been here before and were not impressed. I did get up early for the docking as it was supposed to be super rough as we came into port, but it really was not too bad.


We decided our goal for this port was to go to Starbucks and get the Morocco mug because we felt we had seen it all last time. We took the free shuttle to town as we did not realise how close the train station was to the port. The bus dropped us off in UN Square and other than the people trying to sell us stuff and harassing us it seemed better than last time.

We walked back to the train station, which was about a 5 min walk and went to the Starbucks (thanks Krusty for the final directions). We had a coffee and bought a few mugs and then it was time to hit up Mc Donalds so I could have my Moroccan double cheese burger (I cheated had a Big Mac) We were all ready to head back to the ship and it started chucking it down not just outside but also inside.

So we waited the rain out in he Mc Café as they gave us a free coffee with our purchase. After about 20 min it was all clear and we headed back to the ship.

We left Casablanca for our next port of Funchal. Not really sure why but the journey was NOT smooth and the boat was a rocking for 36 hours until we arrived at Funchal. It did not really affect me, but Bruce, Wouter and Mark were feeling it.


We have been to Funchal many times and whilst it was nice the firs few times, we are kinda over it. So for this trip we decided we would do a tasting and tour at Blandy’s. We invited Mark to join us and he accepted so the three of us headed to Blandy’s for a tour and a tasting which was very nice and then to a little bar for some beers. Since we were in Funchal last a Mc Donalds opened so again I needed a Double Cheese Burger to see if it was different. Other than Israel all have tasted the same.


Our next stop was Tenerife.


We had booked a wine tasting, but it was cancelled so we were on our own here. We waked off the ship and walked around and I found a shop that had some shirts in the window I liked and they had my size so I went home with a few.

We wanted some Tapas so stopped off for Tapas and Wifi. We chose very poorly (the place whilst nice looking the Tapas were disgusting). If you are in Tenerife I suggest you stay away from Lizarran.

After that we stopped off at a place by the port called Manhattan for some Sangria and then headed back to the ship.

After a night at sea we made it to Lanzarote where we had a wine tasting booked through NCL.


We stopped off at 3 places.

La Geria – Nice small winery. Provided a tasting of two wines that were typical of the area.

El Grifo – They have a great museum and did a full tutored tasting of four different wines.

Monumento al Campesino – Had a beer not quite sure why we stopped here.

Lanzarote marked our final port on this cruise and after this was a day at sea and then the end of the cruise in Malaga.

Lanzarote night we met up with all of the guys and Wouter brought his selfie stick so we could try to get a group shot. Now all of us are not the selfie stick types but as he had one (he got for free) we put it to good use:


A brief summary of our onboard experience:

Dining –

La Trattoria – Nice Italian food with a good menu to choose from.

Cagney’s – This is NCL’s steak house had some great steaks but the sides could be improved.

Shogun – We went for lunch. It’s a good value noodle bar at lunch

The Garden Room – We had dinner here all but two nights. Staff was hit or miss, but Nivea was a great server and Lilbeth                        always made sure we never waited for a table.

Raffles Buffet – Pretty good buffet with great omelettes in the morning and goof Chinese and Indian at lunch.

Blue Lagoon – Poor Location but same quality that we are used to. However, NCL could use a better hot wing sauce.

Bars –

Shanghai Bar – Nice Location and Jocelyn made sure our Prosecco was always cold and never empty!

Maharani’s – FOD was here a few of the nights. Great lounge and the bar staff took great care of us.

Champagne Charlie’s – My least favourite due to location, but enjoyed Ian who was the Pianist.

Casino Bar – Not too sure if anyone actually worked there as we always had to wait for drinks.

Casino –

Was not the best at sea, but the staff were friendly especially a guy called Danilo. We have the same surname and his son and I share the same first and last name.

Towel Animals of note…



So that was the cruise…..

Thanks to a schedule change on our flight home we had many hours to kill in Malaga. We got off the ship and headed to the train station and left our bags. We had planned to visit the Wine Museum. We made it there after about a 15 min walk to find it was not fully open. So we visited the ground floor and had a tasting of the local wines, which were pretty good.

The guys had said they may meet us in town if the weather was nice and it was so we had a text from Mark that he Wouter and Harro were chilling at a coffee shop near by. We headed their way and hung out the rest of the day stopping off for some tapas and sangria at a place called La Taberna Gallega, which was inexpensive and tasty.

It was time for us to head to the Airport, so we said our good byes and headed back to the train station with a lil detour a Taco Bell. It was just as I remembered it except they serve beer 🙂

We took the train back to the airport for an amazing €1.80 per person and the journey took roughly 10 minutes. We found the check in counter and found a massive queue waiting to check in. Luckily they opened a priority queue and as soon as check-in opened we were checked in and through security in under 10 min. We chilled in the lounge until boarding time and that was our hols over.

So over all we really enjoyed the cruise and are looking forward to our next one!