This is one of the hardest areas to book in a city that you are not familiar with. There are tons of hotels and picking one based just on price can be a big mistake. I always book our air to come in town the day before embarkation. Traveling from the midwest it takes most of a day to get to just about any port so coming in the night before solves two potential problems.
First, if the airline schedules get fouled up, you dont care as much as if you were coming in the day of the cruise and had to be at the port before the ship sails. Second, coming in a day early allows you to enjoy a great city and relax after traveling. You can take a little time to clear your mind of your real world concerns and responsibilities and get prepared to get the most out of your cruise.
When sailing out of Miami, for example, I have two recommendations for a prestay. The Intercontinental Hotel is located directly across from the port allowing great views of the ships coming and going. If price is not a consideration, this is the place to be as far as the high end of the hotel selections is concerned. Its across the street from Bayside Marketplace and right across from where all the ships dock, the Port of Miami
The Hyatt, downtown, is our favorite in Miami. After a 2 day pre-cruise stay before our March Carnival Legend cruise we're hooked on the hotel AND on priceline.com. We got this $250 per night hotel for $30+tax! It's a great hotel. We chose to take a cab to Bayside ($2.50) but we could have walked. Right across the street and down a ways is a good Walgreens drug store for those last minute things you might need. Also, in the hotel is a nice gift shop, cafe and bar. The lobby is spacious and comfortable, not as nice as the Intercontinental but nice nonetheless. Our room had a nice view of the Port of Miami as well as the Miami skyline. Room service was good and prompt. I think next time, if we can get that same good rate, we will probably book 2 rooms one for us and one for the kids. But we won't let them drink the water, its $4.00 a bottle, and that's for the cheap stuff!
Our Fabulous Suite At The Hyatt|
On our post cruise vacation after our 2004 Holiday sailing of the Caribbean Princess we stayed at the downtown Hyatt in Miami in two rooms we bought off priceline.com for $50 each. I think they would have sold for about $500 regularly. Quite a deal!
The view is great from the Intercontinental regardless of the view. Port view is great and city view is breathtaking. We were on the 30th floor and could see everything we wanted to...including a condo across from the port that I will live in some day! It's the same view you get from the Hyatt only closer to the action. The Intercontinental has a very nice pool and the spa/exercise area is world class. We enjoyed lunch by the pool one post-cruise day and found it so relaxing that we skipped our beach plans. The Cafe/Bar by poolside serves a great menu which you can enjoy by the pool or inside overlooking the port. Either way you are just steps away from a viewing area that lets you keep an eye on all the cruise ships in port. Of course we're looking for the Carnival trademark funnel, but the other ones are fun to look at too.
If you book a club level room on the weekend, when the club itself is closed, they give you coupons good for drinks at the bar and, best of all, admission to the breakfast buffet . You'll have to try pretty hard to beat this fine buffet. If you're an early riser (I mean REAL early) they put out a nice cart with coffee and danish in the lobby opposite this place. I think its for business people that have really early meetings because it's gone by 5:30 AM. But those are the best Danish of the day, fresh from the oven. I liked to have coffee and danish by the fountain in the lobby and recheck our plans for the day while the rest of the family is still in deep sleep and before the cruise ships come into port in the pre-dawn hours.
Another recommendation is the Best Western/Holiday Inn Marina Park Hotel. This place is about as far down the list, price-wise, as I want to go. Its a decent hotel and the location is great. Its a little farther from the port but you can book rooms with port view pretty easily. I suggest room 911. Its a corner room so you get city view and port view in one.
While it may be farther from the port it is literally right across the street from Bayside Marketplace. The first thing we do when we get into Miami is make our way to the hotel then go eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. ( http://www.bubbagump.com/ ) Ask for Roley to be your server, if you're lucky enough to get him you'll have the best of times. The other servers are good too but Roley is our favorite. Tip: Watch the movie Forrest Gump at least 5 times before dining there. In a fun way, they like to quiz the guests on Gump-trivia. Its all in good fun, not uncomfortably in-your-face stuff like some places.
| Hey what about Fort Lauderdale? |
We've had great luck and gotten great deals on both the Wyndham and Sheraton at the airport right down the street from Port Everglades.
But to tell you the truth, the beach properties are not all that far from the port either.
We've also stayed at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper, Sheraton Yankee Trader, and the Holiday Inn. All have their good points, some more than others. But hey, the way I look at is is I'm about to go on a cruise, how much hotel do I really need?
The above are all equipped with something to make your stay special. A nice view, nicely landscaped pool area, on the beach, close to shoppng, take your pick.
There is another, less expensive but nice hotel for a quick overnight pre-stay like the Comfort Inn, Amerisuites, etc. Many of them are actually newer than some of the favorites liste above.
The king daddy of pre-cruise hotels though for if you want to meet up with others going on a cruise is surely the Embassy Suites. The location is great, it's within walking distance of shopping and a short cab ride from a full service liquor store and just minutes away from the port.
But should I stay in Miami or Fort Lauderdale?
Here's are some scenarios that might work:
Stay In Miami, Play in Miami
If you've never been to either place I'd cancel your FLL hotel reservation, rent a car and drive to South Beach. Park around 10th and Ocean and hit the beach for a while then walk around in front of all those buildings you've seen on TV and will see again when you get home so you can say "Hey, we were there!".
After that take your car to a hotel you booked in downtown Miami (use http://www.priceline.com/ for a good deal, bid 3 star/downtown Miami/$40 to start or go to http://www.biddingfun.com/ for more info) where you'll check in then go across the street to Bayside Marketplace and take a Harbor Cruise before dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co then stroll around the shops, maybe linger at the live entertainment area before returning to your hotel. In the morning drive to your rental car office in Fort Lauderdale, drop your car, and let them shuttle you to the Port.
Second Choice .
Stay in Fort Lauderdale, play in Fort Lauderdale
Keep your Fort Lauderdale reservation at the Hyatt and stay in Fort Lauderdale. The beach will be your big attraction during the day and you can get a head start on a tan. At night a trip down Las Olas Blvd is fun with a stop at Mangos...a South Beach staple that's close to where you are. If you've rented a car a slow drive down A1A is people watchers heaven and you'll get a real feel for the area. I'd plan on dinner at any one of the many great restaurants that look out at the ocean, where you'll be soon on your ship! In the morning, same procedure if you rented a car or a quick cab ride to the Port
Stay in Fort Lauderdale, visit Miami. That's what we're doing on our Star Princess pre-cruise and we get in town about the same time of day that you do. We love Miami (especially our Miami Heat) but have been sailing a lot out of Port Everglades so we have not had the occasion to visit lately. We'll rent a car ($30 from Budget at FLL airport for a day), drive down there to play in much the same way as noted above, then drive back, spend the night at our elcheapo priceline hotel (the Wyndam at the airport) then drop the car at budget and get shuttled to the port, probably about 9AM.
Those are three possibilities, there are more and many will make specific recommendations but for this kid, flying in from the midwest, I want to cram as much in to the pre-stay but still have time for a restful nights sleep in anticipation of the long Embarkation day that lies ahead
Park, Sleep, Fly
You have a 7am flight tomorrow morning and your airline wants you at the airport at least 2 hours prior to departure time. Best of all, you have a 75 mile drive to the airport (better hope there's no snow in the forecast). You could set your alarm for 2am and then fake your way through that important meeting as you struggle to stay awake. Or, are you taking that long awaited cruise trip and want to avoid the pressure of driving to or flying in to your cruise port to catch a same day departure? Now you do have a choice...
Priceline.com is THE way to book a hotel room these days. Thre is simply no more cost-effective way to get a room. The one part about Priceline that I do NOT like is that you DON'T know what hotel you'll get until AFTER you bid. Here's a great site to help you successfully bid on rooms through priceline and come out a winner.
"Whether you're an experienced Priceline bidder who just wants the research done for you to establish a bidding strategy, a newcomer to Priceline who wants advice, help and assistance, or a busy traveler who wants someone to take care of all the details for you, we have an affordable program that fits your needs."
| Priceline Tip- How I do it |
One thing I do is go to www.Biddingfortravel.com
every day to the Miami Hotels message board section and look for someone who has bid and won the Sheraton during a time similar to when you're going to be there. When you see that, bid. Chances are really good that if one person bid today and won the Sheraton so will you. I think you have plenty of time to wait it out and get the Sheraton. There's no rush. In fact in the next month or so and then again a month or so before you need the room are the two best times to bid. Not that you won't get something in between, those are just the two best times.
You see there's two ways hotels look at priceline. They may open up a number of rooms far out just to get the ball rolling and have some bookings during a period where they don't think they'll have much...like summer, an off season for Miami. They may also open up rooms for bid 4, 3 or 2 weeks out because they get nervous about empty rooms and they're running out of time to fill them