Last weekend we went for to Miami for a six day vacation that included a three day cruise on the Norwegian Sky and a few days hanging out in sunny, albeit windy, Miami, Florida. It was Martha’s Spring Break this week so we took advantage of it by going on a short cruise and extending our stay in Miami.
Flying Down on Continental
Our trip began with a slightly-more-than-two hour flight on Continental Airlines from Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Miami International Airport (MIA). We usually fly out of Baltimore Washington International (BWI) because it’s much closer to our house but we had to drop off our 8 year old Beagle, named Tobey, so flying out of Dulles was more convenient. We also saved about a hundred bucks flying out at Dulles and returning to BWI, so that was an added bonus.
We are used to flying Southwest Airlines, where there is open seating, so it kind of scared us when we were told we’d be given a seat assignment at the counter when we checked in. I checked seat availability online and saw there was only one open seat on the plane. This scared me because we were traveling as a pair and, well, I know airlines overbook their planes. We arrived at the airport early, checked in, and got two seats in the back of the plane (which still reclined!). As it turns out, the flight was “full” but we had an empty seat in our row of three seats and the entire row across the aisle was empty!
We flew out Thursday night in order to make it to Miami a day before the cruise started and, if you recall, there were plenty of flights delayed by the storms rolling through the Eastern shore. Our friends, who live in New York, had their initial flight delayed, forcing them to miss their connection, and then deal with a huge ordeal getting a flight to Miami. My summary doesn’t do the whole experience any justice whatsoever but they finally made it the next day, around noon (twelve hours later than their scheduled arrival), but made it on the ship.
Norwegian Sky Cruise to Bahamas
We’ll have a more detailed review of our time on the Norwegian Sky in the coming days but overall we both had fun and you’ll hear our thoughts on the trip individually (I think it’s more fun that way!). The itinerary of the cruise was very straightforward, two stops in the Bahamas and return home. There isn’t much you can fit into a three day cruise but this gave us two full days on the islands.
- Day 1 – Miami Departure at 5 PM
- Day 2 – Nassau at 8AM until 6PM
- Day 3 – Great Stirrup Cay at 8AM to 5PM
- Return to Miami at 7 AM
When you factor in the travel time, packing in two full days is good scheduling. Unfortunately we missed out on their private island, Great Stirrup Cay, because of high winds (you know they were bad because NCL makes a ton of money on excursions and they own Great Stirrup Cay!).
Once we disembarked, we checked into the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami for a few days of relaxing and enjoying the sights of Miami. Downtown Miami isn’t much to look at it, it’s mostly highrises of empty condos and big banks. I swear we counted about a dozen different bank buildings from big nationals such as Bank of America, SunTrust, and Chase to more regional banks like Regions and a few others I can even remember. Unfortunately, by staying in downtown Miami you subject yourself to a $25 taxi cab to South Beach and a $30 cab ride to Little Havana, which were the two places we were going. A positive was that we got a great room at a fantastic price, around $75 a night before taxes, and there was an Enterprise car rental in the lobby.
Everglades National Park
On Tuesday, we rented a car from Enterprise and drove to Everglades National Park. Martha and I are a fan of nature and though, after three days of excess and indulgence on a floating hotel, a little walking around would do us some good. A more detailed review, with pictures, of wanderings about the Everglades is forthcoming but we had a great time walking around the northern part of the Everglades. We saw a ton of birds, salamanders, and, of course, alligators!
South Beach is a trip. After we got back from the Everglades, we took quick showers and then hopped into a cab to see the wonders of South Beach. The night before we had dinner with a friend in the area and she told us that Lincoln Road was a fun place to walk around and people watch. Lincoln Road is an 11 block outdoor pedestrian mall, with shops and restaurants on both sides of a “street” that has long since been converted into a pedestrian walkway.
We had dinner at the inexplicably named World Resource Cafe and it was absolutely delicious. We didn’t have any sushi, we just weren’t in the mood for it (though we normally are!), and instead I went with the Fisherman’s Trap and Martha enjoyed a duck with noodles type of dish, the name of which escapes me. As an appetizer, we had one of their specials which were a sweet fried shrimp we could wrap with cabbage or scallion crepes, accompanied with a sweet and spicy red sauce. If you go and you’re a fan of both Thai curry and seafood, the Fisherman’s Trap is great. You get everything from green mussels to shrimp to scallops to kanikama (ok, so it’s imitation crab, it’s still good!) and you won’t be disappointed.
After dinner, we walked down to Ocean Ave and all the way down to about 5th street, walking through all the outdoor restaurants, people watching, and just having a nice after dinner stroll. Along the way we must have seen about half a dozen cars worth more than the house we live in from Lamborghinis to Bentleys to an Aston Martin Vantage (that would be James Bond’s ride) and a few Maseratis. I’m not a big car guy but man those are beautiful machines.
Little Havana and Bayside Market
Unfortunately it rained on our last day in Miami but we still made it out to Little Havana to try some authentic cuisine. Our restaurant of choice? Another inexplicably named one, this time Versailles, the once de facto capital of France (apparently it started as a French restaurant that bombed!). It was well reviewed on all the travel sites (Urban Spoon, Chowhound) and so we had to eat there, right? Well, once again we were not disappointed.
Martha thoroughly enjoyed her Tasajo beef, which is a Cuban style jerky with a distinct flavor that’s hard to describe. It was vinegary and a little sweet, drier than she imagined but still tasty. I think she would’ve liked it more if I didn’t get something so absolutely delicious.
You can’t really go wrong braising a lamb shank in traditional Cuban spices. Let’s be honest, with fall off the bone tenderness and a flavor that opens your eyes, you can’t really find anything to complain about. The portions were very large, the prices were affordable, and if you’re a fan of lamb you will love this dish.
We were going to walk around Calle Ocho but everyone we talked to said that with the rain it wasn’t going to be that interesting. We figured we would try to hit up the Bayside Market, something that was talked up by a few passengers on our shuttle to the cruise ships, so we took a cab ride there. We would soon find out that Bayside Market is really just a mall! 🙂 While that’s probably a fun touristy thing to do, see all the “I’m in Miami bitch!” t-shirts and walking turtles, it wasn’t really out thing. Fortunately the rain let up at that point and we wandered our way back to the hotel to catch our shuttle for the flight home.
We flew out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and our $21 a person Go Shuttle ride, which was in a shared towncar, got us through rush hour traffic with ease. When we arrived at the airport it was about dinner time and we ate at a Pasha’s healthy Mediterranean cuisine that meshes with all of the hot diet fats like the South Beach diet (duh!) and Atkins. It was good and a nice healthy alternative to all the eating out we’ve been doing.
The flight back was uneventful, thankfully and we were soooo glad to sleep in our own beds!
(Photo: Lincoln Road Theater)