It’s true that this trip for me was more about the ship than the destinations and you can see why from the blog series up to now. But it’s hard to not appreciate the stunning beauty of the Caribbean. I’ve been visiting here since I was very young, and I really have a soft spot for it.
This adventure took us from Fort Lauderdale and Key West in Florida, to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico and finished off with a day in Grand Cayman. A western Caribbean experience such as this is the classic cruise and something I’d recommend to anyone wanting to go on a cruise.
I love this part of the world. It’s been a few years since I’d visited Fort Lauderdale and in honesty it was really refreshing revisiting everything it has to offer.
We flew on Norwegian Air direct to Fort Lauderdale. Given we were sailing from Fort Lauderdale it really made sense to do this for comfort and convenience. I am a big fan of Norwegian’s product and recommend them frequently. If you’re sailing from Fort Lauderdale, or even Miami, it’s a cost effective and comfortable way to start your holiday.
We stayed in the famous art deco hotel, Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina. The tower of Pier 66 is an icon of the Fort Lauderdale skyline and I’ve wanted to stay here for many years. Even better, you really cannot get a better location to access the port, as the hotel pretty-much overlooks it. This hotel provides great value for someone aiming to go on a cruise, with reasonable prices, good facilities and pools, huge rooms and easy access to the port. Alas the hotel is due to be redeveloped in the coming years, so it won’t be available for booking for quite some time. If you’re looking for something to eat, even if you’re not staying there, I recommend Pelican’s Landing. Situated within the Marina, this relaxed bar and restaurant has great views out over the rivers and canals and is great to watch all the yachts come and go. Take a look here for more info.
We started this holiday with a couple of days in Fort Lauderdale to explore everything it has to offer. Much like Miami, a must is a stroll along the beach waterfront exploring everything that’s taking place. We spent the morning doing just that, walking from our hotel up along the beach. I find that compared to Miami, Fort Lauderdale is a tranquil and relaxed place to find yourself in. A great start for a Caribbean cruise.
If shopping is your thing there is a multitude of places you can visit easily. The closest is the Galleria Mall, a short distance from the beach. This is a generous mall with a number of well-known shops. However, for even more choice head to Sawgrass Mills. This is one of the biggest malls in the USA and was designed in the shape of an alligator (…no really!). You will literally find everything you want here.
We fancied some brunch and on our stroll up the beach we came across Burlock Coast. This is located just below the Ritz Carlton hotel. It’s a chic restaurant space that overlooks the ocean serving brunch and other meals. I was sold as soon as I laid eyes on this place, and it really did not disappoint. It does bottomless brunch (for $25) where you get a choice of mimosas, bloody marys or rum punch. This is the first brunch place where I’ve ever seen rum punch on the menu and if you know me, you know I couldn’t resist. When I’ve had bottomless brunch before there is usually a time limit on when you can order this, not here. If you turn up at 11am you can stay enjoying this until 5pm. Three hours and three pitchers of rum punch later and I was a very happy (and merry) person. The food was also excellent, not surprising as the chef was a finalist in Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. If you’re out for brunch in Fort Lauderdale you have to make a beeline here! Head here to learn more.
In the evening we headed to Boatyard, situated not far from Pier Sixty-Six. I’ve been here a number of times and it is a fun and friendly restaurant. Make sure you book ahead as it can get very busy. If you like seafood or steak make sure you take a look here. The setting for the venue is gorgeous, nestled between the beautiful canals of the city within a Marina. Take a look here for more info.
On the morning of our departure on board Celebrity Edge, we decided to get an Uber around the corner to the port. This was very inexpensive, but on a busy port day be prepared for traffic delays in and out of the port, so my advice is to leave earlier than recommended ship/terminal arrival time.
Fort Lauderdale Top Tip
Watch the cruise ships leave! It’s a truly fun, up close experience. Head to the Fort Lauderdale Jetties, right at the tip of the port where you can watch each of the ships parade out of the city. People come out in droves to watch this spectacle every day – expect flags to be waved and horns to be honked from the condos nearby, saluting each of the ships. What’s better is that each of the ships salute back as they make their way out to sea – the highlight of which was watching Royal Princess play the Love Boat theme, something she is known for. Honestly not to be missed.
While I personally like to kick off a cruise with a sea day, a day in Key West was a great start to this trip. Key West has a truly bohemian atmosphere, with a laid-back approach to life. You can see why several famous writers have called this island home, including Ernest Hemingway. So why not delve into history and visit one of the historic residences of these writers? The Ernest Hemingway House and Museum is a great visit.
While in Key West you have to visit the Southernmost Point Buoy, an anchored concrete buoy marking the southernmost point in the continental United States (though technically there are lower points, depending on your definition). The focal point for activity on the island is Mallory Square, a waterfront square with restaurants & shops.
Key West Top Tip
Key West is known for its sunsets. As you sail out make sure you take time to watch the sun set at one of the most southern points of the USA.
Costa Maya, Mexico
After a day at sea we arrived in Costa Maya. This port is appearing more and more in Caribbean itineraries and the Mexican government are spending a lot of money to make this a port of choice for cruise lines. This is to help support investment in the area but to also reduce pressure on Cozumel – being the one of the busiest Caribbean cruise ports. So, expect to see more of Costa Maya on itineraries, and that’s no bad thing.
There’s a lot to see and do here, but for me the most interesting is its accessibility to the history of Mexico and the Mayans. We decided to take a trip to the ruins at Chacchoben. This is a roughly 4/5 roundtrip from the port, but it’s worth the wait.
Officially Chacchoben was reported to the Mexican Government in 1971 and work to unearth the buried site started in 1994. It first opened in 2002 and really is astounding. I first visited it in 2010 but couldn’t miss out on exploring this place more. The site is huge, with a number of pyramids and structures that date back to 700AD. But even now, only a 1/3 of the site has been uncovered, with many more pyramids or discoveries still waiting to be unearthed. To learn more about this site, head here.
Costa Maya Top Tip
If you want to visit the Mayan ruins and given the distance you have to cover to get there, I would always recommend going through the cruise line just in case you are held up for some reason. That way if you did somehow miss your ship the cruise line has responsibility to get you to the next port.
Like many people, I’ve been to Cozumel many times and through the years I’ve visited a number of places. Whether this be enjoying the bars, shops and hospitality of the main town. Or taking a ferry to the mainland to enjoy Playa del Carman. If going to the mainland you can go further and visit the ancient Mayan port city of Tulum.
On this visit we opted to go to the beach for the day. There are loads of day resorts in Cozumel to cater for just this. Having done our research, we saw one of the best was Mr Sanchos, just a ten-minute taxi ride away from the port. This all-inclusive resort is right on the water’s edge, with plenty of reserved sun loungers and seating, very attentive service, pools, water sports and all you can eat and drink. It’s such good value and was a lot of fun for the day. Take a look here for more info. If you’re interested I definitely recommend booking ahead to avoid any disappointment.
Cozumel Top Tip
If traveling to the mainland again go with the cruise line. We’ve found the ferry service to be a little hit and miss over the years and with windy weather can be subject to delays and cancellations. We’ve also had some very rough journeys heading over so if you get sea sick make sure you pack something to help.
On this visit to Grand Cayman we opted to mooch about George Town. I also wanted to fly our drone to show case Celebrity Edge (see below) so we didn’t get around to doing much this time. However, if I were to recommend something to visitors it would be to experience the gorgeous beaches of seven-mile beach, some of the most beautiful in the world.
Second to that, you have to visit Stingray City. One of the biggest attractions in the Caribbean, here you get to swim and interact with stingrays in this unique sandbar. During a typical tour, you can swim with, feed, and take memorable photos with these friendly rays. While the ship offers all these as part of their shore excursions package, you can easily do it all on your own through some research. Take a look here for more info about Stingray City – I’ll never forget the advice I was given about holding a stingray, make sure you hold them like a pizza!
Grand Cayman Top Tip
You need to tender when visiting Grand Cayman, which can be a lot of fun. But make sure you keep an eye out on board for when you’ll be able to get off the ship (and in some instances collect a ticket to know what time you’ll be able to get off from). Same goes for coming back, as tendering can take a while make sure you keep an eye on the ship time to ensure you don’t end up being left behind.
My final thoughts on Celebrity Edge
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series exploring everything to do with Celebrity Edge and our adventure around the Caribbean. In honesty, Edge has to be one of the best ships I’ve ever been on. From the chic design, to innovative cabins, to excellent food and really amazing service – I truly loved my time on board and I cannot wait to see her again (…more on that at a later date!).
Celebrity Edge will sail the Caribbean until April 2019, when she will transition to Europe for the summer offering a number of interesting itineraries. From November, she will return to the Caribbean. In April 2020 Celebrity Apex will also debut. The sister of Edge, she will spend the summer sailing Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Head here for more information.
To head back to the beginning of this blog series click below.
What are your impressions of Edge? Do you think you’d sail on her?
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