Tag: Sky Princess (Page 2 of 2)


We arrive in St John’s as the sun rises. Spectacular.

This is what having a balcony cabin stateroom is all about

Saint John followed by St. John’s – almost like the Canadians ran out of names for their cities. On the plus side, the ship docks right in the centre of town, so there’s no messing around when we decide to go ashore.

This time we decide to catch a bus to the outskirts of town. Why? So we can pick up some more soap at the ‘local’ Bath & Bodyworks store which is located in the Avalon Mall. The bus journey allows us to see some of the city – which looks remarkably like any other in North America.

We also stop at a Tim Horton’s to try the local fare. There is so much sugar I fear we will both have hypoglycaemic shock. I won’t be rushing to repeat the experience either. Later we learn that the Tim Horton’s restaurant closest to the dock ran out of coffee and could not meet demand from thirsty cruisers – so our trip out of town paid off.

Back into town and we stop into Broderick’s Pub – thankfully they have a beer from a brewery in town. Which is a good way to end the landside portion of the cruise.

Sky Princess is huge

As predicted, we can see Sky Princess from the window in room 505 – and it’s huge. It also looks quite close, which is exciting.

Less exciting is the melée in the hotel foyer. There are cruisers and suitcases everywhere, all waiting for taxis to take them to the port. It is total mayhem, a potentially stressful start to the day.

We pre-ordered our taxi for 10:45 – it turns up well after 11am. Fortunately it is a large van which means there is plenty of space for our luggage and the mobility scooter. Not so cool is the fee – £15 for a 0.9 mile trip. I now wish we had walked to the dock.

The Ocean Cruise Terminal is also mayhem with thousands of people and suitcases spreading in all directions. Even the ‘priority boarding’ queue for Platinum and Elite guests is crazy long. Thankfully the assisted boarding service allows us to escape the worst of it.

Once on board, we remember – Sky Princess is huge. Really huge. Longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall huge.

And that’s actually not a good thing.

Sky Princess is huge. And that’s not a good thing

The ship has the same number of lifts as Island Princess – but there is another 1000 passengers to transport on Sky. Worse still, the lifts at the aft section of the ship are actually smaller than those on the smaller ship. We have great difficulty getting into a lift with the mobility scooter because they are always too crowded. Linda is not happy.

Top tip: The lifts at the rear (aft) of the ship are slightly less crowded. Sometimes.

When we finally get to our ‘Premium Deluxe Balcony’ cabin stateroom we’re thrilled by the double-size balcony. Sky Princess is huge – in some aspects. The rest of the cabin stateroom feels a little small however. There are fewer drawers and shelves for storage than in other rooms we have had. The additional sofa is nice, but everything feels a little little. Once we get to the Caribbean I am sure we will appreciate our super-size balcony more.

Tomorrow will be a day at sea as we head towards the Azores. The crossing of the Bay of Biscay should be fun at this time of year 😀

Please note that although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

Ultimate guide: How to get free drinks on a Princess Cruise

Are you too cheap to buy a drinks package? Maybe cruising on a shoestring budget? Then you will be pleased to discover it is still possible to get a few free alcoholic drinks on a Princess Cruise.

Captain’s Champagne Waterfall

The first formal night of every Princess Cruise features the Captain’s Champagne Waterfall. Taking place in the piazza area, one of the senior officers will begin festivities by pouring a bottle of ‘champagne’ into the top of the waterfall. Guests are then invited to do the same whilst posing for photographs. Meanwhile, stewards circulate among the crowd dispensing free ‘champagne’, mimosas or alcohol-free punches.

Liquor Tasting Events

The Shops of Princess run at least one liquor promotion per voyage. These events will typically involve complimentary liquor tasting too. If you can resist the hard sell, you can sample a few drinks in the Shops of Princess for free. Check your Princess Patter or the Journey View Timeline in the Medallion Class app for details.

Achieve Elite Status

If you achieve Captain’s Circle platinum status or above, you will be invited to an elite loyalty party. There is a limited selection of free wines, beers and cocktails for attendees. And don’t forget to take your invitation along – you’ll be entered into the raffle to win a bottle of ‘champagne’.

To reach Captain’s Circle Platinum status you will need to complete at least 5 cruises or spend 50 days at sea.

Win A Quiz

Princess ships offer at least two trivia quizzes each day – and the prize is often a bottle of ‘champagne’. Some of the nightly game shows also give a bottle champagne to contestants whether they win or not.

Win Champagne Ring Toss

Throw a hoop over a bottle of fizzy wine to win. Simple. The champagne ring toss event takes place once each cruise in the Piazza.

Attend An Art Auction

Register for, and attend, one of the art auctions. You don’t have to buy anything, but you will get at least one glass of free ‘champagne’ if you can sit through the session. You also get to see people throwing thousands of dollars at some truly questionable artworks.

Go Shopping

Get up early for one of the Mimosa sessions in the onboard shops (usually at Effy jewellers) which take place around 9:30 am. Expect to face a hard sell though!

Check the daily Princess Patter newsletter for other drinks-led shopping promotions. There is typically one each sea day.

Lose A Lot Of Money

This one is really easy – lose a lot of money in the casino. Doing so may earn you an invitation to join the Gaming Circle. Members of the circle are often invited to attend a free cocktail party at the beginning of the cruise.

Make friends with a bartender

Very occasionally the bar teams make an order incorrectly or double-up by accident. If you’re sat at the bar (and very lucky!) they may give you the extra drink free. But if you’re not paying to drink, you’re not likely to be sitting at the bar making friends with the bar staff.

Celebrate a ship’s birthday

Definitely a niche one, but we were given free champagne and cocktails as part of the Island Princess‘ 21st birthday party. This was more luck than planning on our part though!

Why you should buy a drinks package anyway

Buying a drinks package does significantly increase the cost of a Princess Cruise, but we still reckon it provides good value for money.

  • You get up to 15 alcoholic drinks and unlimited soft drinks and mocktails each day
  • ALL gratuities are included, so no surprise surcharge at the end of your cruise.
  • Internet access for one device is included (and yes, you can switch devices on Princess)
  • No additional charges for room service or in-app food/drink orders

Whether you choose Princess Plus or Princess Premier is up to you. The wines in the Premier package are undoubtedly better and the two meals at the speciality dining restaurants are nice – but we can’t justify that particular uplift.

Please note that although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

Sick 360 Dude

At some point in the night, Sky Princess pulled a 180º and started heading back to the Azores. Apparently there was a medical emergency and now we need to evacuate the patient to a hospital on land.

The Captain tells us this at 7am over the cabin stateroom loudspeaker. Linda and I had been wondering why we finally had some sunshine on our balcony.

A few hours later we see a helicopter flying low towards the ship. The patient is winched from the top deck and the Sky Princess performs another 180º, resuming her journey west. Sick 360 Captain Fortezze!

Because the weather is so nice, we spend a few hours in the afternoon sat on deckchairs in the ‘secret’ area on Deck 7. Linda snoozes while I catch up on some work. It’s all very civilised and quite relaxing.

By 11pm we have made up the ‘ground’ lost by doubling back on ourselves. Which means that we have effectively wasted the day we lost on shore in Ponta Delgada. Unlike the moaners on the Sky Princess Facebook forums, we’ve had a good day though – and we hope whoever it was airlifted off ship makes a quick recovery.

Apparently we are still going to arrive in Antigua on schedule on Monday though…

Flying Fish at the Front of the Ship

This is our first time travelling at the front of the ship and it has been interesting. Since leaving the Azores, Sky Princess has been skirting the edge of a huge low pressure system that stretches from the US Eastern Seaboard all the way across the Atlantic back to Europe.

Ships creak. Who knew?

The storm has created a sizeable swell and Sky Princess rocked and rolled quite violently for two days. Personally, we quite enjoy the rough weather because it’s one of the few times you actually feel like you’re on a ship. Apparently we are in a minority however, judging by the bitching and carping taking place on the Facebook forums. Some people are horrified to discover that ships creak!

Top tip: Pick a point in the distance and walk in a straight line towards it as quickly as you can when the sea is rough – this will reduce swaying and staggering around the deck. You could also try drinking less too.

Although the wind has been strong and the water rough, the air temperature has been increasing steadily. Which means we were able to sit outside for a while this afternoon enjoying the sunshine.

Fun at the front of the ship

Later in the afternoon I take the opportunity to sit on our balcony for a while. And I see some tiny blue flying fish jumping out of our wake and gliding across the waves. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen flying fish which is quite exciting – and I’m sure it is to do with the location of our cabin at the front of the ship.

Top tip: Choosing a cabin at the front of the ship has advantages and disadvantages. You get a better view of the sea which has not been disturbed by the ship’s wake for instance – you would not see flying fish at the rear of the vessel.

However, as the ship cuts through larger waves, the water slams against the hull. This can be quite loud on lower decks.

I tried to take some photos of the flying fish but they were rubbish, so I advise going somewhere to see them in person for yourself. Enjoy a pic of the sunset instead:

Back on Dry Land. Briefly.

After nine days at sea, we’re back on dry land today. We wake early, just in time to watch Sky Princess pulling into the port of St John’s (yes another one), this time in Antigua.

We sail past a collection of very expensive homes and exclusive beach resorts before pulling into dock, right in the centre of the city. Alongside a large Aida ship and another from Oceania Cruises. It’s the first day we have had sunshine on our giant balcony but we can’t sit and enjoy breakfast out there because 2000 German tourists are staring into our stateroom.

Top tip: Use your net curtains – people in other ships really are looking in. Probably judging your cabin stateroom.

One of the local beachfront bars is blasting loud music and there are thousands of tourists everywhere. The sun is shining, there’s a slight breeze and sporadic clouds crossing the horizon.

Eventually we head down to Deck 4 which is almost level with the dock – perfect for the mobility scooter. Then it’s just a short walk to the town.

Past security, there is a small shopping village, reminiscent of Braintree Freeport (but with more sunshine). We have no idea if the duty free shops are stocking genuine Nike/Longines/Jimmy Choo etc etc – or if they are knock-offs aimed at the cruise market. There is also an army of locals offering taxis and hair braids – and some are more aggressive than others.

The town is heaving – there must be 6000 or 7000 cruisers in port today – and there are only 22,000 locals on the entire island.

We travel a few blocks past the cruise terminal and are forced to give up. The poorly maintained pavements and roads are too much for the mobility scooter. We’ve also got no specific destination in mind, we’re just wandering. Given that neither of us are particular fans of hot weather – or persistent, insistent street traders – we turn back to the ship.

Top tip: Why is camouflaged clothing illegal in Antigua? Two reasons. First, to ensure you are not mistaken for military. Second, camouflage is often associated with criminal gangs.

Is this for real? Absolutely. You could face a $2000 fine and up to one year in prison. And the ban applies to children too. So when your cruise line tells you not to wear camouflage clothing, don’t.

We’ve been back on dry land – but not for long. Linda is pleased to see a real Caribbean palm tree though.

Back on board, we take advantage of everyone else being ashore to snag some sunbeds on the main deck – which is nice.

Later in the evening I stumble across a cruise duck at the Elite Lounge event in the Vista Lounge. I used to think the ducks were an urban legend, but Linda was a true believer. As usual, she was right.

Thanks to P&P Geib of the Cruising Ducks Facebook group for proving me wrong. Again.

Cruise Ship City – Petersburg, Sint Maarten

We’re awake early again this morning, to discover that Sky Princess is the first cruise ship in a long line sailing into Petersburg, Sint Maarten. Eventually six ships dock, disgorging more than 10,000 passengers.

The cruise terminal itself is not unlike Antigua’s (albeit much, much larger and slightly shinier) with lots of duty free shops and bars trying to part travellers from their cash. There is jewellery, clothing, liquor and perfume – just like an airport duty free area, but with sunshine.

The walk into town is fairly straightforward and the pavements are generally well-maintained. I guess they have to be when you have 10,000 or more passengers making the trek each day.

Despite hearing that the local Hard Rock Café (HRC) may be closed, we can see its sign from our balcony. So we head along the “Boardwalk” just to make sure – we don’t have any specific destination in mind. The view is suitably tropical, with palm trees, turquoise waters and white sand stretching the length of the bay. Sadly the weather is a bit mixed so there are a few light showers as we walk. To be honest, the damp and the light breeze are a little bit of a relief from the heat and humidity in between.

The walk is punctuated by the smell of barbecued meat and bar-side entertainers who are singing and dancing. There’s also a man selling fresh coconut punches (of course). In the distance our cruise ship towers over the bay.

Eventually we reach the HRC and discover that yes, it is permanently closed. The downstairs floor is now occupied by some kind of clothing shop. The upstairs still looks like the restaurant could re-open tomorrow – sans memorabilia.

We have also heard that Front Street (Vorstraat) is worth a look, at least in terms of duty free shopping. We head one block back from the sea and immediately run into a problem. The pavements are narrow and really badly maintained this far west on the street and there are no drop curbs anywhere. Progress with the mobility scooter is impossible. Back to the Boardwalk.

Top tip: The pavements in Petersburg are fine(ish) – so long as you stay in the very busiest parts of town. The moment the quality of the shops decline, so too does the sidewalk. So if you’re travelling with a mobility scooter, don’t go too far west along Front Street. Also be prepared for a bumpy ride because of the block paving.
The Boardwalk is smooth cement for its entirety, so so long as you aren’t planning on shopping, it’s a better choice for scooters and wheelchairs.

After a few blocks we try Front Street again and find that although not perfect, the pavement has improved. The block paving is still quite uneven and Linda likens it to the toning plates found in gyms! We pass dozens of stores selling designer labels and jewellery, many of which have staff eagerly inviting us in. Thankfully they are far less pushy than their counterparts in Antigua which makes this stop more enjoyable.

Contender for weird moment of the trip: As we passed a beauty parlour, a lady said to Linda, ‘I like your hair. Is it a wig?’

At the old Guavaberry Rum distillery we do a very quick geocache (#GC3EEPY), then head back to the Boardwalk. We stop at the Lazy Lizard bar and Linda samples the guavaberry colada – it’s not too bad, sweet and slightly fruity. It’s also 2-for-1, so we get two for $10 USD. There are some picnic benches on the beach under the palm trees which are a great place to hang around for an hour or so – especially as there is a slightly heavier rain shower while we drink.

Top tip: St Maarten is a Dutch territory, so technically the local currency should be the Euro (€). However, the locals are determined to hold on to the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG) instead. Not that it matters because every bar and shop advertises prices and accepts payments in US dollars ($).
And if you have a Revolut card, it doesn’t matter at all.

Back on board, it is time to relax in the Wake Bar watching intermittent rain showers sweep over Petersburg. It’s still very warm – far too warm for our British sensibilities.

Our departure is somewhat delayed because there is a queue of ships waiting to leave port, and so we trail the other out. These ships are so brightly lit it looks like they are on fire…

Would we visit St Maarten and Petersburg again? Probably not. And certainly not until Linda is fully mobile again. If we were passing this way on a cruise ship in future we would definitely try out the local zipline (it’s massive!) and make a trip out to the world-famous Maho Beach to watch the jets landing at the airport.

Stuff to do in San Juan (with a scooter)

San Juan is the first US port of this cruise which means that everyone onboard Sky Princess must disembark and pass through immigration. Everyone. Even if they don’t want to go ashore.

All passengers have been issued with a disembarkation time – ours is 9:45am. Which gives us plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in our stateroom.

But there’s a problem. Both batteries for Linda’s scooter are flat and they failed to charge overnight – despite checking everything was connected properly last night. I plug the charger into another socket and shove a battery in the charger as soon as I realise. We have about three hours until we have to disembark – and the batteries take eight hours to fully charge…

It looks like our ‘Stuff to do in San Juan’ list just went out the window. Will the battery even hold up long enough to go through the immigration rigmarole and return immediately to the ship?

When our departure group is called, I plug the battery into the scooter and it shows as being 100% charged. We leave the ship, keeping a very close eye on the battery level. And then the day gets worse…

The Luton Airport of cruise terminals?

Immigration processing takes place on the upper floor of the cruise terminal – and the lift at the entrance is out of order. Thankfully, one of Sky‘s officers leads a group of mobility impaired guests to a lift at the other end of the terminal where he loads eight of us into a lift.

The lift goes up. The lift goes down. The lift door does not open. The lift is broken. And cramped. And hot.

Finally, the door opens – back on the ground floor. After a lot of messing around, Linda and I finally make it to the first floor – it seems that there were too many people in the lift.

Now we get to join a queue to have our passports and ESTAs processed. An eternity later we’re out on the street in front of the terminal – and the scooter battery seems to be holding up ok.

Starting gently

There’s a geocache (#GC2CZN8) a couple of hundred metres away, so we head to a nearby park, Plaza de Hostos, where there is a small market taking place. One of the stallholders quickly realises what we are up to and leads us straight to the cache, hidden in one of the flower beds. The battery is still showing a full charge, so we keep walking along the broad, palm tree-lined Paseo de la Princesa, following it until we reach a fountain at the end.

The battery is still showing a good charge, so we keep following the road, winding between the sea and the high walls of Old San Juan. As we pass a tree hanging over the path, a large green lizard climbs above us which is quite cool. The path continues curving gently until we reach a large, red gateway – the original entrance to Old San Juan, Puerta de San Juan. This was on our list of Stuff to do in San Juan.

Passing through the gateway, the road climbs steeply, and unevenly, towards the Cathedral Basilica of San Juan. The sidewalks are narrow and bumpy and the cobbled streets are even worse. It is not a comfortable journey for Linda. But the area is very pretty and photogenic.

Top tip: The steep, cobbled streets in Old San Juan are not hugely friendly for anyone using a scooter, wheelchair or who has difficulties walking. Keep an eye for the drop curbs – they are painted blue to make them easier to spot.

A picture of an Old San Juan street
Old San Juan is very photogenic

Halfway up the hill I log another geocache next to a super weird Cat/Dolphin/Giraffe statue (#GC2JWTD). Turning right at the Cathedral we encounter a large crowd at the Calle de la Fortaleza, taking photos of the famous umbrellas hung above the street.

Top tip: Entering the city via the old gate has a couple of benefits. First, you will avoid the rush of cruisers heading towards Calle de Fortaleza for a while. Second, you get the hill climbing out of the way sooner – the walk back to port is all downhill. Third, you can imagine what it would have been like arriving in the city ‘back in the day’, passing through the thick and imposing defensive walls.

Add this to your Stuff to do in San Juan list

Pushing our way through the throng, we get to the second item on our Stuff to do in San Juan list – the picturesque Chapel of the Holy Christ of Health. The chapel has a cool legend:

During the San Juan Bautista celebrations of 1753 a rider, Baltazar Montanez, lost control of his horse and plunged off a cliffs onto the rocks below. The Spanish Secretary of Government Don Mateo Pratts was watching the drama unfold from a nearby balcony, and allegedly cried out, “Christ of Good Health, save him!” Though the horse didn’t survive the fall, the young rider did. Montanez then built the chapel on the exact spot where he had gone over the cliff.

Annoyingly, the chapel is only open on Tuesdays – and today is Wednesday.

Astonishingly, the scooter battery is still showing full charge. But rather than push our luck, we go east along Calle de la Fortaleza towards the port.

We still have some things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Would we visit again? Maybe if we were passing this way again. Our Stuff to do in San Juan list included a visit to the old cemetery and the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, both of which we missed because of concerns about the scooter battery going flat. Linda would also like to visit the Hard Rock Café in Ponce, on the southern coast of Puerto Rico.

So far San Juan has been our favourite port on this cruise. And there’s only one more to go…

Turkey on Grand Turk Island

Today is Thanksgiving and the American travellers are in high spirits. We dock at the Grand Turk Island Cruise Terminal around 11:30am, sliding alongside the Mardi Gras, one of Carnival’s newest ships. Holding over 5000 passengers and 2000 crew, she’s enormous, completely blocking the light on our balcony. Despite having an on-deck rollercoaster, she’s also big, brash and a terrible advertisement for cruise holidays.

Having found nothing to look at within scooter distance of the terminal. The nearest geocache is nearly a mile away. The main town, Cockburn Town, is four. After yesterday’s battery panic, it’s not worth the risk. Instead, Linda and I decide to start the day gently with lunch in Alfredo’s Pizzeria on deck 7, then wander/roll ashore.

The dock pier leads directly into yet another duty free shopping village. There are a few stalls selling local handicrafts and also a Margaritaville resort. It appears to be little more than a (huge) poolside bar/club – and definitely not our scene.

The Grand Turk Island Cruise Terminal offers almost exactly the same shops and amenities as the ship itself – clothing, jewellery, booze, tobacco, ice cream, swimming, sunbeds. So it’s just like a ship on land which seems pointless.

Fun fact: Grand Turk was the splash landing site for John Glen after completing an orbit of the Earth in the Friendship 7 spacecraft. There is a small statue and display commemorating the event at the Cruise Terminal.

The beach and water look incredibly inviting so Linda makes the brave decision to stagger down for a paddle. She stands at the water’s edge and removes her sliders. I’ve come wearing sneakers and socks because I never expected to be going into the water. As I’m trying to remove my footwear, a larger wave rolls in – right over my feet. Linda nearly dies laughing.

The water is lovely and warm and Linda wishes she could swim in it. This is extremely unusual because we both hate the beach. She even talks about coming back to Grand Turk Island one day to do it.

Top tip: For the best views and sunbathing, head north to Governor’s Beach. However, you cannot simply walk along the shoreline because there is a government port blocking access. You will need to exit the Cruise Terminal complex and make the 1 mile walk by road.

After wandering along the beachfront area we return to the ship for a lazy afternoon. The Mardi Gras finally leaves, just in time for us to catch the sunset. Spectacular.

Fun fact: Residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands are not called ‘turkeys’ – they are ‘belongers’

For dinner Linda enjoys her first ever Thanksgiving Dinner which was novel. While she likes the roast turkey mains, I particularly enjoy the honey and macadamia nut pie for dessert. And the culinary team have gone all-out with their food decorations – great job.

And just to show I’m an idiot, I find another duck perched on top of a painting in the stairwell. Apparently this one is from Canada.

Florida Everglades Tour

Part of our cruise deal included some onboard credit – so we traded it in for a Florida Everglades tour. $79 (each) buys an airboat tour and a visit to Flamingo Gardens. Equally important is that the Everglades tour ends at Miami Airport – from where we will be flying home tomorrow night.

Unfortunately this means getting up at 5:45am to ensure we can finish packing and have some breakfast before meeting our tour group at 8am in the Princess Theatre. Leaving Sky Princess is relatively smooth and the Port Everglades terminal works well – until we walk out the door.

Outside is chaos, with people trying to board buses, hail cabs, call an Uber or collect their own cars. Even the process of finding and boarding our tour bus is a complete disaster. It is no small relief when we finally take our seats on the air conditioned coach and pull away from the port.

Top tip: You can pick up a transfer bus from the Port Everglades cruise terminal to Ft Lauderdale Hollywood Airport for $11.50 per person or Miami International Airport for $25pp. You don’t need to book in advance, but the queues are extremely long and chaotic.

Juan, our tour guide, provides a running commentary about Florida, majoring on the invasive and non-native flora and fauna that can be found in the state. Meanwhile Herman, our driver, does multiple loops and double-backs which is a little bit weird. I think Juan was supposed to be telling us about various Fort Lauderdale sights as we drove past – but he was in his flow talking about Florida generalities.

Juan does tell us that the Everglades are not a swamp – they are a river.

Best airboat tour?

After driving around for a while, our coach pulls into the Everglades Holiday Park. Juan instructs us to hang around the shop/cafe/toilet building until our group is called. The area is swarming with cruise guests – unsurprising as I counted five ships in port today.

After a long wait we are ushered onto an airboat by an enthusiastic ‘Captain Dillon’ who insists that the quality of his Everglades tour is directly proportional to the enthusiasm of his guests. I hope for his sake the boat doesn’t contain too many Brits.

Captain Dillon also claims that driving boats on the Everglades is dangerous, so he needs a co-captain just in case something happens to him. For some reason I am nominated Captain Ben, allowing Captain Dillon to pepper his talk with jokes about his co-captain.

Two enormous Cadillac engines power a pair of large propellers mounted at the back of the boat, pushing it along the surface of the water at great speed. Captain Dillon delivers a running commentary about the wildlife of the Everglades and how the canals came to be built. He punctuates each of his points with a loud rev of the engine.

We do two ridiculously fast runs along the canals and several slow pirouettes in between, hoping to see some ‘gators’. In the end, all we see is a buzzard and a heron. The fresh, cool breeze as we speed along is pleasant though.

Was this the best airboat tour in Florida? We didn’t see any alligators, so that was hugely disappointing. At least Captain Dillon was amusing. ‘If you enjoyed the tour, remember me, Captain Dillon,’ he ends, ‘And if you didn’t my name is Captain Ben.

Back on dock, Juan hurries us back to the bus. Apparently we are running behind schedule and two of our fellow guests have to be at the airport by 2pm.

Where is the Florida bear?

A short drive takes us to Flamingo Gardens, a not-for-profit mini-zoo. we have less than an hour before we have to leave, but the park is quite small and we have enough time to look at all of the animals twice.

At least we do get to see two alligators.

There are also several huge iguanas wandering around the park which is pretty cool too.

Then there’s a giant African spurred tortoise who lets us stroke his head.

And some otters that want to show off in their glass-fronted tank.

And a peacock who wants to follow us around the park.

And a talking crow that yells ‘hello’ until you try to video him.

The only disappointment is the Brown Bear who is sulking in his house so we don’t get to see him.

As we re-board the coach, two ladies are handing out ice cream sandwiches which is a really nice touch.

Miami Airport Transfer and a Shoddy Sheraton

At the end of our Florida Everglades tour, Juan and Herman drop us at Miami International Airport, pointing us in the direction of the local hotel shuttles. After a short wait, we spot the Sheraton shuttle and clamber aboard. The driver collects a few more passengers from the other airport terminal and then drives us over to the Sheraton Miami Airport.

Top tip: Many of the local hotels provide free shuttle buses – just wait at the bus stop outside your terminal until you see one for your hotel. You will of course be expected to tip your driver.

At ~£160 GBP per night, this hotel is not cheap, particularly as breakfast is not included. It’s also not particularly good value – I would say the quality is somewhere between a Travelodge and a Premier Inn. The room is big, but quite basic, bar the provision of USB charging points everywhere. The furniture feels a little dated and tired and the double-glazed window unit has blown, so we don’t have a good view out the window which is a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because the rolling green fields of the golf course at the rear of the property have been ripped up in the last few weeks so David Beckham can build a new stadium/hotel complex for Inter Miami FC. A curse because jumbo jets and A380s keep flying low above our room – and we can’t see them clearly.

There is one main reason I chose the Sheraton – it’s just across the road from the Miami Airport metro station. This means it should be easy to get into downtown Miami tomorrow when we go out to explore. We also have the option of catching the MIA Mover train to the airport tomorrow if there are any problems with the hotel shuttle.

Top tip: All public transport in central Miami is free of charge until December 31st 2023. Read more here.

Rather than try the Sheraton’s in-house restaurant, we take a gamble on GrubHub and order a KFC delivery. We end up with a sharing meal for two that includes four pieces of chicken, four dips, a pile of crispy fries, some chicken bits and four ‘biscuits’. Or as we Brits call them, scones. Despite my cynicism (deep fried chicken and scones?!) they are very tasty and I would definitely eat them again.

Tomorrow we will visit the local Hard Rock Café and probably try and find a Bath & Bodyworks while we’re at it.

Please note that although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

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