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Unread 9 Apr 19, 03:23 PM  
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Young Pooh
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The "Coastin', Cruisin', Chillin' " pre trip report - July/Aug 2019 **FINAL UPDATE 21/7/19**

Here we go again!

We are Sue (me - age 49 and chief planner), Bill (age 55 - goes along with what I decide) and Evie (age 14, massive coaster fan and occasional wheelchair user).

Here's a picture of us from our last trip



You can read my last trip report from July/August 2017 here

That trip started in Miami, then down to the Keys, up to Naples and then finishing in a Dibb villa in Cape Coral before flying back from Miami. We really enjoyed the trip and didn't miss the parks at all.

So, after getting back it was time to start thinking about this year's trip - we tend to do a big holiday every other year. It is also a big birthday for me at the end of August so I wanted something a bit special/different. We then spent months (I'm not joking!) trying to decide where to go - for some reason I discounted Florida and was looking at various AI options in the Caribbean but nothing (that we could afford) really jumped out. I was really getting fed up when Bill suggested a cruise - we had looked at a Disney cruise for my 40th but it was too expensive and had never considered it since.

A lot of research followed and, in February 2018, we booked a 7 night cruise with Royal Caribbean on Allure of the Seas, calling at St Maarten, San Juan in Puerto Rico and Labadee (RCI's private resort in Haiti).

The planning could then begin in earnest

Edited at 08:57 PM. Reason: Title edited (again!)
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Unread 9 Apr 19, 03:46 PM  
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Flights/car hire

The cruise leaves Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday 28th July. Myself and Evie finish school on Friday 19th July so I knew we needed flights somewhere between Sunday 21st and Thursday 25th so that we arrived in good time for the cruise. My ideal was flying out on the Wednesday/Thursday into either Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

Once flights were released I spent hours searching for a good price. We got a great deal in 2017 with BA where we got a flydrive for the 3 of us for 1850 (including a 7 seater SUV for 17 days) so I was hoping to pay about 2000 for a similar flydrive. I was beginning to lose hope of even getting flights for 2000 (let alone a flydrive) when I saw on here that people were getting some good deals with Pillinger Travel. I assumed that our dates (peak school holidays) wouldn't be included but still sent a quick email to Gavin to see what he could offer. Anyway, a few emails later it seemed he could do something so I called him as soon as I got home from work. A short while later I had flights booked and paid for the total sum of 1054!

We have drive down to Heathrow (from Yorkshire) and fly VA to JFK, then Delta to Miami and then the same in reverse. We are flying out on the Tuesday, a bit earlier than I wanted but for that price I don't mind. We fly home on a Sunday so still have a full week after the cruise.

Next up is car hire. This is the only bit of the planning that Bill likes to be involved in - he is main driver over there and has got a thing for full size SUV's after having a Tahoe and then a Suburban on our last two trips. I contacted Andy at DFCH and was more than happy with his quotes - we have used him before and can't fault his service.

So we pick up a full size SUV from Alamo at MIA and return this to Port Everglades on the morning of the cruise. Then pick up another full size SUV from Fort Lauderdale airport after the cruise and return to MIA. Total cost for both hires is 767 which includes a full tank of petrol and additional drivers.

We decided to pick up from the airport after the cruise as I had heard a few bad stories about the Port Everglades location - there is no skip the counter facility and I think they go for a hard sell approach. Plus I think there will be a better selection of cars at the airport location. We intend to get a taxi van from the Port to the airport.
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Unread 9 Apr 19, 04:27 PM  
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Accomodation

1) We will drive down to Heathrow on the Monday so need overnight accommodation and car parking (for 3 weeks). I have ended up booking the PI at Terminal 4 for 31.50 and then parking through Good to Go for 81.



The plan is to set off from Yorkshire on Monday morning, stop off at Ed's Diner at the Peterborough services (we used to live in Peterborough) to get us in the holiday mood and then arrive at the PI early afternoon.



We will drop of the car at the car park and use the shuttle to take us to T3 (where we fly from). We will then use the free shuttle train to take us back to T4 and the PI. This is the reverse of the journey we will need to take the next morning so handy for seeing how long it will take. We will probably just have a room picnic and a few drinks in the bar before heading off to bed for an early night.

2) We arrive in MIA on the Tuesday evening and I have booked the Nuvo Suites nearby for 1 night and used Avios points to pay for it. It gets good reviews and the bonus for us is that it is a suite type room so Evie has her own space.



3) Now we have 4 nights before the cruise so weren't sure what to do. Originally we intended to stay in Fort Lauderdale but then I happened to see some reasonable packages to Busch Gardens for last summer. I kept an eye on the prices and they stayed pretty consistent so we decided that if we could get something similar for this year we would do that. When this year's prices were released they were still a good deal so we are staying for 3 nights at Busch. The package includes 3 nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites New Tampa, length of stay passes to Busch Gardens (these are actually 14 day tickets) and free parking at Busch. Total cost 422.



4) Next up is the night before the cruise. We will leave Busch and drive across to Fort Lauderdale. I was looking at the various cruise/airport hotels around 17th Street but then saw the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard. It is an old style hotel slap bang in the middle of the main shopping/eating district. I used some Tesco vouchers on Hotels.com towards the cost and got an executive room for 96.58.



5) The next 7 nights are in an oceanview balcony cabin on Allure of the Seas.



6) Finally, after the cruise we have 7 nights before coming home. We knew we wanted to go back to Cape Coral and wanted to stay in the same Dibb villa as in 2017. Unfortunately the villa was no longer available so we had to look elsewhere. I was a little apprehensive as we had only ever rented Dibb villas but eventually we found a villa that was perfect. It is on a German site (lots of villas in Cape Coral are German owned) and ticks all our boxes.







So that's it for accommodation - 6 beds over 20 nights - more plans to follow.
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Unread 14 Apr 19, 11:27 AM  
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Now for a little more detail and background information.

It took me ages to think of a title for the report. In the end I decided to go with something that reflected this was a trip of three parts so the "Coastin', Cruisin', Chillin'" PTR was born.

Part 1 is Busch Gardens/Tampa which will involve many roller coasters
Part 2 is the cruise
Part 3 is chilling and relaxing in Cape Coral

As you know, we are Sue, Bill and Evie. I am an Office Manager in a primary school so are restricted to school holidays, Bill is a Litigation Executive and Evie is in Year 9 at secondary school. Evie has an autism diagnosis and also has issues with her feet/ankles which makes walking distances or walking/standing for long periods of time a problem. She has a wheelchair for occasional use and this is particularly useful when on holiday.

A couple more photos of us from 2017:





It seems forever since we booked the first element of the trip - the cruise, back in February 2018 - but all of a sudden we are just over 3 months away. I think it is a 100 sleeps today

I am off school for the Easter break at the moment so am trying to get everything sorted that still needs to be done. The final cruise payment is due at the end of the month but I paid that yesterday. We used a US travel agent so pay them rather than RCI direct so I wanted to make sure that I gave us plenty of time for the payment to go through. The car hire is due at the end of May and the villa at the end of June.

I did our ESTA's last week and luckily they were authorised within an hour or so - there should be no reason for them not to be authorised but there is always that feeling of dread until they show as authorised.

We have an annual travel policy with our bank account but I still need to give them a call this week to include Evie's pre-existing medical conditions as that element expired recently.

Our flights were booked through Delta, although the transatlantic segments are on Virgin. I have been able to access the booking on both the Delta and Virgin websites and have selected seats for each leg. I was able to request wheelchair assistance on the Delta site but get an error every time I try on Virgin so it looks like I will have to give them a ring this week

I will hopefully get another update done later in the week for our plans for each part of the trip.
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Edited at 11:30 AM.
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Unread 14 Apr 19, 11:43 AM  
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Your plans look great 👍😃
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Unread 19 May 19, 03:54 PM  
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9 weeks to go!

Time seems to be flying by so I thought I would give a quick update.

Since my last post I have been in touch with the travel insurance - we have an annual policy with our Halifax bank account - and updated Evie's pre-existing conditions. I have no idea how this works as some years we have an additional premium to pay and some we don't. Luckily this year, there is nothing extra to pay

The cruise is all paid for, including gratuities. We have also paid for drink packages for us (alcoholic for myself and Bill, and non-alcoholic for Evie) and a 3 night speciality dining package. I have also relented and bought a 1 device wifi package. I had originally said no wifi for the cruise but I really don't think Evie would manage the week without her Ipad! It also means that I will be able to keep up with my trip report on board rather than trying to get it all done afterwards.

I have also been able to check in for the cruise and print our setsail passes, reserve shows on the cruise and also our dining times. I can't reserve the speciality restaurants until we get onboard.

I also had a bit of a sort out of holiday clothes yesterday. Bill bought a new suit and a couple of new formal shirts for the cruise last month. Evie and I have been buying various outfits for the cruise over the last few months, and when I checked yesterday, we now have enough We have loads of more casual stuff so probably don't need anymore - maybe a few more t shirts/tops to go with new shorts but that's about it.

I still need to call VA to sort out wheelchair assistance for Evie. It is half-term the week after next so I'm leaving that job until then. Another job for half-term week is sitting down and sorting out our itinerary and doing a proper update on here.

So that's it for now, but keep your eyes peeled for a proper update soon.
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Unread 19 May 19, 04:02 PM  
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Your plans sound fantastic. We loved our RC cruise, probably our favourite holiday. We also bought the 3 night speciality dining package. It was so worth it. Our meal in Wonderland was such an experience. Didnt completely know what I was eating but it was delicious !
Labadee was lovely but if you want lunch they only keep the barbecue buffet out for about an hour and they soon run out.

Enjoy your trip. It sounds fabulous.
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Unread 21 Jul 19, 08:56 PM  
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One sleep to go

The last couple of months have been manic at work so I haven't had the time to do an update on here. Everything has been paid, setsail passes printed for the cruise, Alamo online check in done, travel insurance sorted, dollars sorted, Premier Inn check in done special assistance sorted with both Virgin and Delta and all paperwork sorted and out in a nice folder for the trip!

Evie and I finished school on Friday and Bill finished work as well. It is unusual for us to go away this early in the school holidays. Usually we go later and I have a couple of weeks to get sorted and end up packing by myself whilst Bill is at work so it has been a bit of a strange weekend.

We were up early (as usual) yesterday as I had an appointment for my nails doing at 8.45am. We then went to the hairdressers for mine and Evie's holiday haircuts, had lunch out and then went to sort out Evie's school uniform. She goes to a special school about 40 minutes from home and the uniform is only available at a shop near the school. Luckily she doesn't have to have specific items so I had already got her trousers and polo shirts from George. We ended up getting some logo cardigans and polos shirts so she is all sorted now.

After that, we went to see my Mum and Dad. We hadn't seen them for a week as they had been away and only got back Friday evening. Plus they would be away again we get back so this was our only chance to see them. After that we went home and chilled, catching up with stuff we had recorded on Sky.

Today was packing day. We had already sorted out the clothes last week so they just needed packing. I did this on and off all day, in between getting the last bits of washing and ironing done and the house tidied up. Bill sorted out chargers etc and did a bit of cleaning.

We have had Dominoes pizza for tea and just watched Killing Eve from last night. I am quickly updating this and then heading off for an early night.

I am hoping to do a live report as if I leave it until we get home, it will never happen. So, hopefully see you tomorrow with our Pre-Travel Day
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