MITSUGIRLYS BACK TO BELLY SUN CRUISE review and pictorial
Day 1: Planning and flying to Florida
As always, be prepared for a VERY LONG and extensive/picture heavy review. I love taking pictures, I love cruising and I love having fun. I enjoy sharing our experiences (good and bad) with the community and those that like detailed information. Some may like these type of reviews, others may not, but I appreciate those that stick around until the end...even though I can get a little "wordy" sometimes with the details. But, that's what makes it fun.
Here's some info about NCL ships for comparison:
So, this cruise will be on the 2nd and 3rd oldest and smallest ships in the fleet. It should be an interesting comparision since we have been on the biggest ship in the fleet (Epic) and the newest (Breakaway). :D
About the Sun:
BUILDER: Llyodwerft (Germany)
COST: $400 million
LENGTH: 853 feet
BEAM: 105 feet
DRAFT: 26 feet
POWER PLANT: Diesel electric
PROPULSION: 2 propellor shafts
SPEED: 22 knots (maximum)
CAPACITY: 2,002 (double occupancy)
Every time we decide to cruise, my daughter and I make a "countdown" for her to hang on the refrigerator in order to help her understand how long she has (truth be known, I get tired of having to answer the question "how much longer? Is it tomorrow?").
We normally just do a "rings" counter (like the one you see people make for Christmas), but thanks to a neat little thread on this awesome forum, we decided it was time to switch things up a little. She was really excited about doing something new.
What we (I) came up with was a big sheet of construction paper, found a "ship" picture online, made copies, then made a picture out of it. She would rip off a ship each day until she made it to the "big" ship. She enjoyed it and I didn't have to answer any questions. (I only got a report on how many more we had to go).
I also decided that this would be the first time that we made a door sign for our cabin door. (Can you tell I have a lot more time on my hands now that I'm finished with 4 1/2 years of school???) LOL
Here's what we came up with....3 suns with our names on it. (Sakari really liked that daddy's name was rolling eyeballs that looked a little crazy at times).
We counted down the days...until this...
Then we knew we were almost there.
We were flying out of Ohio (which was pretty decent weather when we left) on a Saturday. For some reason, mommy decided to have everyone's appointments during the week of our departure. Doctors appointments, dentist and the hubby a ENT appointment. He has had problems with his hearing and his ears leaking since he was 16 years old and never had it checked out.
His ear appointment on Friday ran a little longer than expected when they decided to send him to an audiologist for a hearing test right after his ENT appointment and then on to some contrast scans after that. (They determined that he has a hole in each ear, causing the leaking and a pseudomonas infection and he has no ear drum according to the ENT and will need to be rebuilt). So...I guess he's actually excused all these years for "ignoring" me...or so I thought.
Since we had all these test this day I COMPLETELY forgot that at 11am I was to "check-in" on Southwest to get our boarding positions. I didn't remember until almost 3pm. YIKES! By then, we ended up with the "C" category at the VERY end. Sigh. I was completely bummed and knew what this meant...we were not sitting together and would be fighting over a spot. Thank goodness I had booked a straight flight to Tampa instead of a connecting one.
I did do some research on Southwest at that point (frantically searching for another solution) and found that they would allow you to pay for an upgrade (for $40 a person!!!!!!) to board during A1-A15. I guess this was an option if I wanted the day to be hassle free and would consider it.
I had been packing all week and was a lot more prepared for this cruise than last time around. I was also a lot more excited this time around as well.
I went to bed early and set my alarm for 7am and hoped for the best to get some rest.
Alarm set for 7am...but I'm wide awake at 6:30am. Ok, let's get this day started!!!
I had my sons girlfriend take us to the airport at 9am and checked our luggage in outside the terminal. So far so good.
We went inside to see about getting the upgrade for $40 a person so that we could sit together. I had decided that it was worth it because I had $100 to spend in points on my Amex Sky card, which meant I was only paying $20 for the upgrade and it was well worth it to me. We stopped at the desk an inquired. The rep told us that it was a sold out flight and every seat was taken. So, therefore we would not be able to upgrade. My heart sank! Ok, thank goodness it was only going to be a 2 hour flight of being separated and we would just have to deal with it.
Away we went to security and it was a breeze. While we were sitting at the gate waiting, I decided one last time to ask the attendant at the desk if an upgrade was possible. Her reply..."Absolutely!!" What?!? I'LL TAKE IT!!
We were able to get position A3, A4, & A5!!
Ok, so now I'm thinking.........(wheels are turning, can't you tell?)
You can buy "Business Select" seats (for this flight) for $453 EACH person. I purchased my regular seats for $130 pp. I upgraded to our current positions for $40pp. Hmmm...did I just catch on to a way to get priority seating for cheap?
$453 x 3 = $1359 total
$130 x 3 = $390 total plus add $40 x 3 = $120 for a grand total of $510 and you get on the plane first and the front row seats!!!! Think about this!
We watched our plane coming in and the excitement of being able to get on first was in the air...literally.
We watched our luggage being taken to the plane. I was going to have you all try to guess which one was mine, but decided to let the cat out of the bag...I can spot this bag anywhere! (Actually Sakari has a bright purple bag with hearts all over it and we could see it as well, but it didn't show too well in the picture).
We managed to get in the 2nd row and I felt like a movie star...but with a small seat still. LOL
It was selfie time!
The excitement was starting as we were pulling out.
Seconds later, we were flying over our downtown and man did it look small.
My husband occupied himself as he always does, making origami animals that he finds listed in the Sky books. This time around, it got the best of him and he got frustrated, but he did manage to get it finished before our 2 hour and 6 minute flight was up. It's a sheep or goat or something.
We arrived in Tampa and it was only 66 degrees (which was basically about what it was back home, but I knew that it was only going to get better from here).
This would be our first time at the Tampa airport and I thought it was pretty neat. Little did we know, we were about to get on a subway/monorail type contraption that took us over to where we would be picking up our luggage.
Sakari thought this was neat, but mommy found it a challenge to get a good picture while moving and trying to hold on at the same time for such a short distance.
After we located our luggage we headed outside to call the shuttle to our hotel. They informed us that we needed to walk over to the area were the cabs and hotel shuttles pick up passengers and then call them back with a number and a color telling them where we were standing.
I hung up the phone and little did I know we standing on the corner where they needed us to be. I just didn't bother to look around the corner...maybe about 3 steps away. LOL When I called them back, they said they would be there in about 15-20 minutes.
I figured I had enough time to run inside and get some soda to drink...little did I know that you had to go back upstairs to the boarding area to obtain it. But hey, I'm a popaholic and will do just about anything for my caffeine.
Up the red elevators I went in search of a drink. I loved the decor of the airport
By the time I returned, the shuttle was outside waiting on me to return and away we went to the hotel.
We were the only passengers they picked up at that time. On the way to the hotel, the driver told us that there was a grocery store just down the street, which was great to know because I would need to walk down and get some more caffeine for the cruise.
We had decided to stay at the Tahitian Inn. I had read mixed reviews on the place with most of the complaints being that they allowed people from the neighborhood in the pools along with the guest. I wasn't really sure if we would be using the pools, so I figured I would give the place a try. The pictures that I had seen online looked like a pretty neat place and I was really interested in their inside/outside dining area there with the koi pond. I figured Sakari would really enjoy that.
We booked this place using an online booking site that we had never used before in the past (I've used several in the past, just never this site...begins with book and ends with it). But (as everyone knows) I do a lot of research prior to booking anything and this seem to be the best deal I could find. I believe we only paid around $80 for the night.
We checked in and they took my cc for "incidentals" and I later noticed there was a $15 charge that I inquired about...but it fell off after we checked out. So, no problems. However, the problem did arrise that when we checked in, they had no record of our booking. I had to show them my confirmation and payment paper from the sight. They did say "Well, it's a good thing we still have a room available for you." Um....ok. So, now I wonder what would have happened if they didn't have a room available? Would we be forced to walk up and down the road until we found a place? Kinda a scary thought! So I don't know if this is a problem with the site or with the hotel.
We were informed that our room would be located on the 2nd floor with outside access and was directed to the elevators, told to go down the hall, down the steps and out the door.
Taking the elevator up to the second floor from the lobby and down the hallway.
I had not really anticipated "stairs" with luggage so I didn't know what to expect. We got to the end of the hall and seen that there were 6 steps that you would need to go down in order to go out the door onto the outside 2nd floor. We managed and it was fine (coming back up the stairs with our luggage when we checked out wouldn't be as fun as going down of course).
This would be the outside entry to the rooms in this area:
The room was a decent sized room with updated decor and a ceramic floor.
There was a small desk to work at or set your computer up at...you know, to check in back home and touch base again with your fellow cruisers on your roll call. The only problem is, there wasn't any available areas to plug the computer in at. There was only 1 plug there and it was being used by 1) the lamp on the desk and 2) the tv. I thought this was really weird.
The bathroom was a decent size and looked decent.
Now here I want to talk about the shower. To put it nicely...it SUCKED! I have no clue if all the rooms were like this or it was just ours. When you tried to turn the handle on to make the water run, you would turn it and turn it and ....yep turn it and it would click and move and sound like you were going to break it. I would work with it for a good 5 minutes (which really isn't that long, but if you think about turning a handle that long, then it really is) before I would get something to come on. It was like this each time...when Sakari and I took a shower that night, when the hubby took a shower and then again in the morning getting ready.
Notice how the picture says "Pull on"? Well, it didn't pull at all. It was almost like it was welded in that position and would only rotate.
Then once you got in the shower...I'm wondering....WHERE'S THE PRESSURE? Am I really supposed to wash 2 girls with super long hair in this trickling water??? Geesh.
See the 4 holes? That's all you got.
I would also later look for some cups to pour a glass of soda in only to find the following:
Do you notice that only 1 of the 3 cups in our room is still wrapped in the plastic? Are the other 2 used??? They just left them in our room? I'm not sure, but I didn't use any of them after seeing this.
Those were the only issues we had with the room. More to come with other issues with the hotel itself.
Random picture to fill in the space: Ashtrays attached to the walls on the outside of the rooms were located every few rooms.
So we were starving after not eating since before we left for the airport and decided it was the perfect time to head down to the restaurant and check out the outside portion with the fish. It was kind of cold and sprinkling off and on and we knew we didn't want to adventure out trying to find a place.
We headed down to the restaurant and ask for a seat outside. There was only 1 other couple out there and they had their dog with them. Weird (we would later see a lot of people with their dogs with them staying at the hotel as well). I guess it's an "animal friendly" place to stay. But, having the dog in the restaurant was kinda weird and you just don't see that where I'm from.
This is the inside of the restaurant:
Sakari squealed with excitement over the fish, as I knew she would.
It was such a peaceful setting and we really enjoyed our time spent there (as I knew we would). I pretty much forgot about how cold and dreary of a day it was.
As I look at this picture I think "man Sakari has really grown". They really grow up so fast and I cherish every minute I get to spend with her. I look back at the pictures when we first started cruising with her and think of how little she looked back then. She just looks extremely tall in this picture to me. My baby is growing up. Sob.
The waitress came over and took our drink order and told Sakari that the fish hadn't been fed yet today and ask her if she'd like to feed them. Of course we all know what her answer was!
They brought her out 2 plastic cups of fish food and she started feeding them.
I guess the other critters were interesting in seeing what food she was handing out because a squirrel came down out of the tree to investigate.
Feeding the Koi and loving every minute of it. They were very beautiful and really big.
Click for video
We ordered our food while Sakari continued to make those 2 cups of fish food last as long as she could. I ordered the Italian Sausage sandwich, the hubby ordered a Gyro and Sakari ordered the grilled cheese platter.
When the food came, the hubby and Sakari enjoyed their meal, but I had 1 REALLY hard piece of bread on the bottom of my sandwich. So hard that I couldn't even bite a piece off with my teeth! (Remember how I said we had just went to the dentist that week? I wasn't about to break off another tooth either). I told the waitress (and showed her my prized hockey puck in my possession) and she offered to have the sandwich made over. Like I said earlier, we were starving and I wasn't about to wait for another sandwich to be remade. I just told her to bring me out another bun and I would be fine...and I was. Everything else was good. They had homemade potato chips (I LOVE these and get them at work when they have them).
This restaurant did serve breakfast until 3pm, which I thought was really nice for us "late sleepers" (but of course I wouldn't get to take advantage of this since I didn't know about it). I guess the couple with the dog were locals because I over heard the waitress asking if they wanted the "normal". They were seated before 3pm, but at the time the waitress took their order, it was a little after. She informed them that breakfast was over with, but she went in to ask if they could get the cook to let them order it and he did allow it. I thought that was a nice gesture...and will probably keep those customers coming back.
Another thing I found odd that you won't find at home is they allowed smoking in here as well.
After we finished eating, we hung out a little more and Sakari informed the waitress that the fish had eaten all of their food and was still hungry! So, she went right back in and brought her another cup of food.
Once the fish were full and Sakari's fingers had reached the bottom of the cup, it was time to go.
It had stopped sprinkling and we figured it was time to head to the grocery store that the driver had told us about. I ran up to the room and grabbed our rolling small luggage that we use for the soda and off we went.
I snapped a few pictures of the pool area from our 2nd floor room hallway.
The pool looked like a really cool place to hang out at with a "Tiki" theme to it.
I snapped a picture with my phone to text to my daughter back home to let her know that it's beautiful here even with the icky weather and wishing you were here with me.
Can you tell we look cold?
We headed to the right and down the street. It wasn't too far of a walk, maybe a couple of blocks. When the hubby spotted the place, I didn't think it was the right place. The name kinda caught me off guard and I didn't think it sounded like a grocery store.
It was really strange that they had several people in the parking lot with cones and directing traffic. This place was really hopping with people.
Once we got inside, we walked all over only to find out they didn't even carry soda. It was some type of "health food" place, but yet every where you turned, they had bars of wine tasting set up. The place was packed. Out we went since the only thing I was interested in was getting soda for our cruise.
We headed back toward the hotel and decided to head the opposite way were we had seen a gas station. However, it started to rain again and we quickly headed back to the room to stay dry. Here we would sit until the rain stopped and try again.
I decided to take this opportunity to get some pictures of the inside of the hotel.
After a little while, the rain stopped and we decided to adventure back out toward the opposite direction...this time I had my handy dandy NCL windbreaker jacket in case it started to rain again I wouldn't get too wet.
We found a gas station not too far and stopped in...THEY HAD NO DIET SODA AT ALL!!! The cashier was struggling to make a sale and was frantically looking everywhere...like if I must have missed it or something. Then he started trying to find single cans to put together...um no, it has to be in a case but thanks.
Back out we went and heading to CVS. SCORE!! Soda 3 for $10. I win. We made our purchases and out we quickly went before the rain would hit again.
Once we returned to the room, it was starting to get a little dark. I headed out once the sun went down to get some night pictures of the place.
Our outside hallway lit up:
Then back to the room:
It was starting to rain again and we were getting hungry again. I did not want to go back to the hotel restaurant and remembered that there was a Chik-Fil-A right next door. We decided to walk (run) in the rain over there and grab a quick meal before heading back to the room for the night and getting some rest.
Of course Sakari discovered the indoor playground once we got there and set her goals on playing in there for awhile. She had seen the playground outside at Burger King next door earlier in the day when we had walked to the "grocery-with-no-soda" store and kept begging to play. Mommy gave her a "maybe later" response, which wasn't good enough for her of course.
Daddy is a big kid at heart and always has to play with her:
We ran back to the room and along the way I noticed they had pulled out a fire-pit right by the pool for the drunks at the bar.
Notice where the end of the pool is located? Right directly in front of that, maybe 2 feet IF that is the bar. Now people had been there since daylight drinking and carrying on. I was making fun of a lady who was laughing non-stop. Only her laugh wasn't an enjoyable laugh...it was the most annoying cackle laugh and it was LOUD!!! We could hear her when we were in our room, with the door shut, with the t.v. up loud! This was a Lucille Ball with a Dr Heckle laugh. I can't even begin to explain it because it was just so annoying.
Now when we had checked in, we were given the "rules" which included the pool was open until 11pm, but the bar at the pool closed at 10pm. I could not wait for 10pm to get here even though I just knew that once they closed the bar, the drunks (and particularly the hackling lady) would still stick around until it closed all together.
At one point we came outside because the noise sounded like it was right outside our door. The drunks were coming out of the pool bar and into the parking lot. Thank goodness they were leaving!
Now in this picture you can see our relationship to the pool from our room. You can also see the handicap parking spot. The hackling lady came out and was standing there for awhile. The parking lot was completely packed and a car pulled in, seen that there wasn't a place to park, then pulled into the handicapped spot to turn around (since there isn't really an area to turn around in the parking lot).
The lady started screaming obscenities at the driver telling him not to park there you dumb f***lark and so on. I could easily tell they weren't parking there and just turning around. So, what do you think the lady did next? Judging by her character that night....she got in her car and pulled into the parking spot and parked her car!!!
She didn't pull in the middle of the parking spot (not that she could have even figured out where the middle of the spot would have been since she was so drunk), but I guess that since she wasn't pulled all the way in the middle of it, she thought it was ok to park there. (Although the spot she WAS in wasn't a spot to begin with but the area to give the handicapped person room to get out of their vehicle).
As most of you know, I'm a very tolerant person, but sometimes "stupid" people can push me over the edge and I really wanted to say something to her or management...just because of her behavior to the guy that was turning around in the spot right before her. I was a good girl and kept my mouth shut...however, I did do some pretty good imitation cackle laughs mocking her loud enough for her to hear. Of course as drunk as she was, I'm sure she just thought there was someone upstairs having as good of a time as she was.
I headed inside to take a shower in the barely-running trickling water and figured we would head to bed so that we would have plenty of rest for our big day tomorrow.
So it's past 10pm and as I thought, the partying was still going on. I'm praying for 11pm to come soon. Then it's 11pm and we head to bed...still hearing the lady laugh even louder. It's 12 midnight...the partying is still going on. It's 1am and the party is still going on and at this point I'm pissed for not being able to sleep.
Finally I called down to the office and had a few choice words with the gentleman that answers the phone at the front desk informing him of these "rules" they told me about when I checked in. Then just in case his watch was broken, I continued to inform him of what time it actually was. He said "Yea I know. I'm about to call the pool guy and tell him about it and have them close up". He completely sounded as if he knew that they were being annoying and I'm wondering if there were other complaints.
Within 20 minutes I heard everyone getting in their cars and leaving and it was peaceful the rest of the night.
Now I understand that this place probably doesn't cater to a whole lot of cruisers and the business is probably out to make the most money they can...which is why they probably allow the neighborhood people to come there and use the pool and bar. But if you have set rules and others actually STAYING at your hotel, you need to abide by the set rules so that the people actually paying to stay there have a peaceful night!
This was the one thing that I had read about in the reviews that concerned me to a certain point. I'm sure had it been a warm, nice, sunny day, there probably would have been a lot of people in the pool crowding that as well. Although had the annoying lady with the loud laugh not been there, it may have been a peaceful night and wouldn't have bothered me. They need to put up signs "No annoying laughing hackling sounds allowed on the premises!"
It's also concerning that the bar, with the tall bar stools are only a foot or two away from the pool. I see this as an accident waiting to happen. Drunk getting off bar stool, stumbles, falls into pool, drowns because all the drunks friends don't notice. Sigh*