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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Transportation Choices: to/from Orlando Airport (MCO), Cape Canaveral, Port Canaveral

February 2018

We flew into the Orlando airport for a cruise from Port Canaveral. We needed transportation three different times: from the airport to Cape Canaveral, from our hotel in Cape Canaveral to the port, and from the port back to the airport. Following are the options we found, and our experiences.

Transportation for three from Orlando Airport (MCO) to Cape Canaveral

  • If you are heading directly to the cruise port, the Carnival shared transfer service is $35.99 per person one-way. 
  • There is also a link for a private car service on the Carnival page, which looked to be around $66 before tip. This seems like the best choice, if you do not want to use Uber.
  • The online cab fare estimator said this trip would cost over $100 in a cab.
  • We chose Uber, and the fare was less than $50 before tip. We were happy with the end result of this trip; however, we had some difficulty at the start. The first Uber driver who showed up refused to take us. We are three small to average size adults, and we had three pieces of luggage; one large bag, and two medium to large size bags. He said he did not have room, which was untrue. The second driver who showed up was Murat, and he was great. He had a smaller vehicle than the first driver, and we all easily fit in his car with our luggage in the trunk. I think the first driver did not want to take us that far, and then have to drive all the way back, most likely without a fare (it is about 45 miles one-way). I wanted to report the first driver; however, his name disappeared from the app as soon as he left. I had received a text from him before he arrived, and his number is (407) 439-2406. I will make sure I never do business with that number again, and I will advise others to avoid it. After we waited 10 minutes for him, we had to request the trip again via the app, and then wait for another driver. The Uber app says you have to be ready when requesting the ride; however, at MCO I observed three other passengers also waiting over 10 minutes for Uber drivers.
Map of the area

Transportation from Cape Canaveral hotel to Port Canaveral (Carnival cruise port)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Carnival Magic Cruise ~ 7-day Western Caribbean [Cozumel Plus] from Port Canaveral

February 2018

Sunrise from Carnival Magic cabin 7455

This is a long post, which covers our experience on the Carnival Magic. You can find additional photos in the Carnival Magic album on my Facebook travel page. I will have separate posts for the ports of call, and information about John Heald's For Fun's Sake (FFS, formerly called bloggers cruise) activities. Being on this cruise to join the FFS group was an exciting coincidence for us, as we had this cruise booked long before it became designated as a FFS cruise.


We checked in online and printed our boarding passes, as usual. This was the first time we experienced "setting an appointment" for our arrival time. We have Platinum status, so I am not sure if we actually needed to schedule our arrival; I chose the first time slot available when I checked us in. 

We purchased the Cheers package, and one Carnival shore excursion beforehand. A better shore excursion price was offered through a different company, so we filled out Carnival's "Best Price Guarantee" form. You can find details for their price guarantee in one of my previous blog posts. There was not much price difference; we received an onboard credit of $5.49 per person. The Cheers package cost including the 15% gratuity was $57.44 per day. Carnival raised the daily price to $59.74 (with the 15% gratuity) at the end of 2017, and it is 10% higher, if you purchase it onboard.  

Arrival and check-in ~ Port Canaveral

Our appointment time was scheduled for 11:30 AM - 12:00 PM, and we arrived around 11:15 AM. Everything was well marked for Priority Boarding, and we were on board in less than 20 minutes. Priority guests had already boarded when we arrived, so we were ushered into the priority lounge, where we had no wait to check-in, and then we boarded the ship. Our son was not able to board with us this time, even though we had our reservations linked together, so were not able to get our boarding photo taken together.

View from Carnival Magic cabin 7455 at Port Canaveral

Balcony Cabin 7455, category 8B

I did not take as many photos of our cabin as I usually do. We had this same cabin on the Carnival Breeze, and the layout is exactly the same. The furnishings in the Breeze cabin were a bit more deluxe than this one. For example, the in-room chair on Carnival Magic was a straight-backed chair with cushioned back and seat only, rather than the soft cozy seat and footstool on the Breeze. You can find photos of the Breeze cabin in my Breeze blog post.

Carnival Magic cabin 7455; balcony door open, bathroom door on right

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cape Canaveral, Florida / Residence Inn by Marriott, local restaurants

February 2018, Weekend, 1-night, 2-bedroom 2-bath suite #407

I had some difficulty getting a room at this hotel. I started checking quite far in advance, and there was no availability for several months. I kept checking, and room availability kept going from zero to some rooms being available. I booked a 2-bedroom suite as soon as I saw one available. The AAA rate was $256, which I thought was pretty high. A few weeks before our trip, I decided to change it to the pre-pay, non-refundable rate, which saved us over $35.

Sunset from the walking trail across the road from Residence Inn

Gold perks and check-in

I did not receive any recognition or extra perks for being a Gold member. We could not receive a room upgrade, because we had already booked the most expensive room type. Although the cost was steep, we decided we did not want to take the chance with a possible upgrade. And, the hotel was pretty full. Premium Internet access is complimentary for Gold members.

Another view from the walking trail
Check-in time is 4:00 PM, and we arrived around 3:00 PM. I had contacted the hotel via Facebook to let them know we would be arriving early. I received a reply two days after I had sent the note, with an apology for the delayed response. I have the Marriott app on my phone, and I received a notification that the room was ready at 10:00 AM! Made us wish our flight had been arriving even earlier.

Suite #407

When we arrived in the guestroom, I saw that my profile preferences for extra pillows had been fulfilled! 😊 This guestroom is located on the top floor in the northeast corner. There is a view of the Exploration Tower, and a partial view of the cruise port. The room was comfortable, and it is in a quiet location.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Grand Rapids, Michigan / Holiday Inn - GRR Airport

February 2018, Weekday, 1-night, King suite #230

Platinum perks and check-in

I redeemed points for this stay, and received an upgrade to a suite before our stay. I called IHG to make the reservation, because the site was not functioning properly when I tried to make the reservation online. When I called, I found out it was because the only available room type with points for three guests, was a queen-bed handicap guestroom. The agent said he could reserve that for me, and he suggested I call the hotel directly to see if they would upgrade me to a king suite because of my status. King suites have a sofa bed, whereas, a standard king guestroom does not. I called the hotel, and the agent happily fulfilled my request. At check-in, I received 500 Platinum bonus points, which posted to my account right after we checked out.

King suite 230

There are three floors at this hotel, and the agent had told me the suite on the top floor was not ready yet. We had arrived about 15 minutes early of check-in time, and gladly accepted the one on the second floor.

The suite was comfortable, and we loved it. The only thing we did not like about it, is that the lighting over the table in the work/sitting room was extremely dim. I am not sure how anyone could hold a meeting at the table. A guest we chatted with in the bar that evening commented that he did not like that the door into the guestroom opens into the bedroom instead of the sitting room. This suite served our purposes well.

Wet bar area in the work/sitting room
The workroom contained a small fridge, sink, table with four or five chairs, TV, work desk, and sofa sleeper.  A K-cup coffee maker with supplies was on the sink. I am guessing there was supposed to be a trash liner in the large trash can in this room. The lid was not set on all of the way, as if housekeeping had not completely finished up before leaving the room.

Room with sofa sleeper and table

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Richmond, Virginia / Courtyard by Marriott Richmond Chester

January 2018, Weekdays, 2-nights, King guestroom 509 with balcony 

I had a difficult time choosing a hotel this trip. I really did not want to stay downtown and deal with the traffic driving in and out of the area when I only needed to visit the outskirts of town. Every hotel review I read for the hotels south of town had negative comments (Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Residence Inn, Marriott Courtyard--all of them). I scrutinize reviews quite a bit before deciding how much merit to give to the comments, and all of the unsatisfactory comments I read were similar: rude staff, mold, water did not work or get hot, had to change rooms, etc. I also read staff replies, which affects my perception, as well.

Gold perks and check-in

I arrived in the early evening after check-in time. I waited a couple of minutes behind one guest to check-in. The room I received was possibly an upgrade, although the agent did not say anything to me. In fact, he did not tell me anything about the guestroom until after I asked if it is on the top floor. He said yes, and then he told me the rooms had been recently renovated.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Grand Rapids, Michigan ~ Holiday Inn stay, Happy Hour and dining info

December 2017, Weekend, 2-nights

Covered Sky Walk between Amway parking garage and hotel.
Beautiful corridor covered wth snow and decorated with blue lights.
We did not get to all of the new locations we wanted to visit this trip, although we did make it to a few, and we went on a brewery tour at The Knickerbocker New Holland Brewing Company (details at the end of  this post). We love Grand Rapids!

Holiday Inn executive guestroom 711 and facility

I redeemed points for both nights of this stay. I like that I am able to redeem my points online for any room type at this hotel. We stayed in this hotel few times before this stay; in executive rooms 511 and 811, and in non-executive rooms prior to that. I did not take any hotel photos this stay. I am sharing some new hotel information, and you can find more info about the hotel and photos in blog posts from February 2017, and April 2014

I observed only a couple of changes in the guestroom since our last stay: The bed pillows are an improvement, and are much nicer quality than pillows usually found in Holiday Inn hotels. A recycling basket had been provided by the desk. The coffee items, which had changed before 2017, were the same as they had been last time: Keuring coffeemaker (yay!) with disposable cups, rather than glass glasses and ceramic coffee mugs. 😐 The Internet connection speed this visit was extremely slow, and we did not experience this during previous stays. Be aware that the hall noise outside the executive guestrooms can be bothersome, as the rooms are located directly across from the elevators. Another thing to be aware of, if you do not like to stay in hotels that accommodate pets; there were several dogs in this hotel during our stay, and I never encountered this on previous stays. One dog was left in the guestroom down the hall from us both evenings, and barked continually when the guests were gone. Fortunately for us, there were a couple of rooms between us, so the barking was not too loud when we went to bed. Unfortunate for the poor dog though! And, for any guests closer to the room.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Muskegon, Michigan / Shoreline Inn, Downtown, Boars Belly, Smash Wine Bar

December 2017, Weekday, 1-night

Shoreline Inn Penthouse Suite 1009

You can find more information about the Shoreline Inn and guestrooms in two of my previous blog posts: October 2017, and January 2016. We loved the Penthouse Suite that we had in October, so we booked a Penthouse Suite again. Last time we redeemed points, and this time we booked the AAA rate. When I made the reservation, I thought we had reserved a suite with a whirlpool tub and no balcony.

View from Shoreline Inn suite 1009
Penthouse suite 1009 has a balcony just like suite 1003. It does not, however, have a whirlpool tub. Other than not having a tub, the guestroom is very similar to 1003 with a fireplace, living and kitchen area, and separate bedroom.

Penthouse suite 1009