Debark / Tour

Finally sat down and wrote the last day from our cruise last month. Well, knowing we had an afternoon flight and didn’t want to spend most of the day sitting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport, we took advantage and booked one of the debark tours to the Everglades. However, once we knew we were going to be at least two hours late arriving back in Florida, we began thinking they would cancel our tour and we would just take the transfer to the airport. This was an incorrect assumption.

We spoke with the Excursions desk and they said the tour would continue, just two hours behind schedule, still getting us to the airport two hours prior to our flight. I emphasize our flight as it is important for each person to confirm that delays will not interfere with allowing enough time for airport check in, security etc.

Due to the later tour time, the driver rushed us to the Everglades National Park. The bus was comfortable, and had “facilities”. Another passenger learned from the guide that typically cruise debark excursions occur at the Everglades before it opens to the public. But because we were running late, it was already open to the public, hence the long lines.

I will say that the “public” were very understanding and polite. I’m not sure what they were told as they stood there waiting in lines, watching us parade right past them, but I didn’t hear a single unkind word.

Back to the tour. When we arrived, we had a few moments to (attempt) to go into the little gift shop or use the facilities while our guide got our tickets and positions set for us to skip the line to board the air boats. When they were ready for us, it was made as an announcement over the loud speaker to go down the pier towards the boat. They then filled up each boat one by one until we were all onboard. Each boat left the dock once it was full.

We did learn, once onboard the air boat, that our boat ride was going to be reduced from the typical 60 minute tour, down to a 30 minute tour. This was the only way we were going to be able to experience both pieces of the park.

When you head out on the boat, they turn down a canal, pause, then they rev it up and “go fast” down the canal. The driver will give a little history of the Everglades, talk about the wildlife that can be seen etc. The boat ride goes down one canal, turns and goes down another canal and so on. You will see other boats along the way.

If you get lucky, you’ll see a gator. Our guide (from the bus) told us about a group that came all the way from Thailand to the Everglades and they didn’t see a single gator. We saw one, so I guess we were lucky to at least see the one. It was actually very cooperative and just swam back and forth. When our driver spotted it, another boat was already stopped, looking and taking pictures. We were able to pull up and our driver turned the boat side to side so everyone could see. Unfortunately we couldn’t watch it for too long as there was another boat coming up behind us so we had to move along.

The driver continually looked for different birds, gators, or iguanas to show us. Then it was another fast drive down a canal and back to the dock.

From there, we were led over to a fenced area. There is a man, a gator catcher – which means, if you live in Florida and have a gator in your pool, he’s one of the guys you can call to come remove it – he has some that were not able to be returned to the wild so he keeps them here and he gives you a lot of information about them.

Once this demo was done, it was time to get back on the bus and head to the airport. Overall, even though it was a shorter boat ride than it should have been, and more crowded than we might have normally expected, it was an interesting experience and we were glad to not have to spend that time sitting in an airport terminal!

Cartagena, Colombia

After two days at sea, we docked in Cartagena, Colombia. We were required to bring a government issued photo ID and our vaccination cards, or photos of them, ashore with us, as well as being asked to wear masks at all times.

We had an excursion planned that was a horse and carriage tour of the old city and fortress. The sun was out and it was toasty and humid! Fortunately the excursions were mostly in the morning so we could get back to the ship before it hit the hottest of the day.

Our excursion was a short one at just 3 hours. We exited the ship and met our bus. Once everyone was there we were on our way with a drive through town to the old Fortress. We only had 10 minutes here, which was not enough time to explore. It was really only enough time to walk down past the ticket booth and back to the bus. It might not have taken so long, but the people selling their goods were everywhere. Selling hats, small leather purses, fans, jewelry, maracas, waters etc. Just know there are many and they can be quite pushy. There were also ladies dressed in colorful outfits trying to get you to take photos – for a price of course.

After the short view of the fortress, we were headed near the old city to meet our horse/carriage. They were lined along one of the narrow streets. The old city streets are too narrow for the buses which is why this tour uses the carriages. They load you four to a carriage so it’s full and off you go on the bumpy streets to the old city. They wound back and forth from street to street, a line of horse drawn carriages we went. All along the route we encountered more locals trying to sell you goods. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this really took away from the ability to enjoy the tour as they were even reaching over the carriages to try to get you to buy. However I think the part that bothered me the most were the ladies. I get it, they’re just trying to make money, but there were a couple of ladies that would approach you with a stool in hand, and begin trying to rub your arm or leg (not with lotion, just rub you).

Once the tour was over, the carriages stopped in the square and we were pointed in the direction of a jewelry store which was air conditioned and had a restroom. After that we had a few minutes to shop if we wanted before we followed our guide on a walk to the bus meeting area and it was back to the ship we went.

I can’t help but think it might have been nice to also see some of the newer side of Cartagena, pictured in the first couple of images as well to see how things have changed.

Back at the cruise port, they drop you on a different side than they picked us up. It caused us to walk through a zoo of sorts. There were lots of parrots, a few monkeys and other animals. We only walked straight through back to the ship and saw a few, rather than walking the whole place. There also appeared to be a restaurant and gift shop for those who wanted to stop.

Sea Day and a Specialty Restaurant

Our first sea day was also the first formal night on our cruise. When cruising with my husband, we tend to only do one formal night so we chose a different dining option for this first formal night. The Emerald Princess has a specialty restaurant on deck 7 forward, in between the Piazza and the Theatre, called The Salty Dog Gastropub. It shares space with the Wheelhouse Bar. This specialty restaurant has a cover charge of $18 per person. Here is a look at the current menu.

On the 3rd image, you can see the cover charge and under that, as it states, anyone dining chooses TWO gourmet plates. It continues stating the appetizer of Ernesto’s Dip Sticks are complimentary – again this is for each person. And under the desserts section, it shows Select one. This is a great way to taste multiple items.

The appetizer arrived and each plate had a small glass. Each glass contained two tall bread sticks. The bread was not too crispy, it had some tenderness to it. And each plate had a second small jar, containing the beer-cheddar fondue for dipping. I’m not a huge fan of beer, but the fondue had a good flavor. The texture was not my favorite, but melted real cheese is seldom smooth from my experience. And the flaked smoked salt on the bread sticks was nice.

Now for the main dish. We decided we would each choose our two items, and we would share them. That gave us the chance to try four separate mains! I chose the lobster mac & cheese for my first, and the beef short rib poutine for my second main dish. My husband went for The “Ernesto” burger, and the spicy stout beef short ribs.

I’ll start with mine first. The lobster mac & cheese was delightful. Lovely cheesiness, with chunks of lobster throughout. As one who is not usually a fan of mac ‘n cheese, I could eat this everyday! The beef short rib poutine was ok for flavor, but the pieces of meat were very small and there wasn’t much to share. The potato frites, however, were SO good – crisp and flavorful!

My husband’s serving of spicy stout beef short ribs were tasty, and bigger chunks of beef, as if it had been nicely sliced off the bone. Now, the Ernesto …. funny story … I had never read thoroughly the entire description, and my husband skimmed through it before ordering. Now this ended up being the last thing I tried. He ate his half up with no issues, but on about my third bite — my mouth was lit on fire! As I sat there, mouth on fire, eyes just dripping with tears, our waitress arrived and was very concerned for me. I explained about the heat, of which my husband said he had none (although he does like spicy foods and spicy isn’t often spicy to him), which is when the waitress explained there is KIMCHI and JALAPENO on the burger. The only thing we can figure is that I got a giant chunk of both ….and I am a spicy food whimp! Now naturally this was our own error in not paying closer attention to all of the ingredients, but I did suffer in silence for about 10 minutes before the tears subsided lol. So now that I’ve admitted my embarrassing moment, let’s move on 😉 .

One of my favorite subjects when on holiday is …. Dessert! We rarely eat dessert at home, so when we travel, yes indeed, we enjoy our desserts! Of the four choices, husband chose the Strawberries & Cream, and I chose the Coffee & Doughnuts. Unlike our main dishes, we ended up not sharing so I cannot attest to what his tasted like, but it was pretty. The doughnuts were little balls of dough coated in cinnamon/sugar. The coffee was the mousse log, then there were dabs of what tasted like lemon, whipped cream, caramel which added to the goodness.

Overall it was a nice adventure in food and we were glad we paid the surcharge to try it!