Wedding planning was such a process! Where to begin? Well, with the honeymoon of course! It might have been one of the first things we put a deposit on during the whole process. We have these crazy dreams to travel the world (who doesn’t, right?) and deciding where to go was so exciting.
We made a list of places we both wanted to see, figured out if we wanted to relax or go on a lot of adventures, and the list goes on. Then reality came knocking. After taking a week off to head up to Washington state for our wedding in October (we drove from San Diego!), there was no way we would be able to take off an additional week or more for our honeymoon. It would have to come later.
The top three reasons we chose our honeymoon: Try something new, see a new country, and go to a National Park area (because we got engaged in one). Easy enough, right?
Traveler’s Joy made it very easy to make a list of everything we could possibly need on our honeymoon down to the flights, the rental car, gas, shore excursions, champagne and more! We loved that our wedding guests could choose what they gave us as a gift and it felt very personalized and special knowing who helped fund our fun and activities!
Our honeymoon was on December 10-18, 2011. We flew into Miami, FL and we accomplished our checklist, and this is why we chose this particular destination. We drove down to the Florida Keys to explore, then took a five-day cruise on Carnival to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, and ended the trip on an airboat in the Everglades checking out alligators. Going on a cruise is something we had always wanted to do. We had the absolute time of our lives!
On the morning of December 10th, we woke up extremely excited, like small children on Christmas. We have gone on trips and taken a few vacations together already, but this was our first vacation in a long time where we had absolutely no expectations and no place we HAD to be, except of course on that ship at 4:00 PM Monday!
We got to the airport and sat down to have mimosas to kick things off! As we finished our first glass, we heard the boarding call already for our flight! The waitress brought the bill and it said $27.00. For TWO MIMOSAS! Our trip was off to an expensive start. The joke for the rest of the trip became, “For $27.00 I could have bought (fill in the blank)”. For example, I could have bought six-and-a-half Grande Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks. You get the point. We could have bought a lot of things for $27.00.
When we arrived in Miami, we learned another valuable lesson before you travel. Reserve the rental car before arriving otherwise they will only rent you a very expensive mini-van or SUV. Luckily we had our iPad and the lady at the counter let us log on real quick to make a reservation. We had been standing in line for half-an-hour to get a car, so we were very happy she allowed us to do this!
Once we got our car, we made our way towards the Miami Beach area. We stayed at Four Points Miami Beach. We booked our hotels based on our credit card points from American Express. While we were planning our wedding, we booked almost everything on this credit card to receive points, and our hotels ended up being free! We paid off the credit card immediately with our wedding savings. The hotel was right on the beach, and they gave us the honeymoon upgrade to an oceanfront room. We were so exhausted from traveling all day that we had dinner at the hotel and spent the evening going on a walk down the boardwalk.
We woke up early the next morning and headed down to the Florida Keys. We enjoy taking road trips and listening to music, so it was nice to have this kind of moment on the honeymoon. It started pouring rain as we got near Key West, and we kind of laughed. We were not dressed for rain, but we are from the state of Washington, so this was no big deal. We walked around the town, visited the Southernmost Point, went to Margaritaville, and got Key lime Pie. We headed back towards our hotel so we could get up bright and early the next morning to explore South Beach before we boarded our cruise.
The next morning, we grabbed breakfast in South Beach, walked around a bit, and then one of us asked, “You double-checked the time of the cruise right?” One of us had not, so we panicked and headed back to our vehicle. Luckily, we did not miss it, but that little scare caused us to jump in the car and head over anyway! We were not sure what to expect as first time cruisers, so we figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get there early. We, apparently along with everyone else, were all arriving at the same time. Next time, we will go SUPER early to get on first, or just wait until the very end, when the lines are non-existence. People in cruise lines are so friendly though! Everyone was having conversations with one another or saying nice things as they walk by.
We tried to do as much research as possible prior to boarding our cruise and I think we did pretty well. We each brought a bottle of alcohol to avoid the costs on the ship. We ended up spending quite a bit on some drinks anyway, but luckily those costs were fully covered from our honeymoon registry!
As the boat was taking off from Miami, it started pouring rain! It was a lot of fun, the music was blasting, and everyone was having a great time! We were so excited to be a part of all of this fun for the next five days. My favorite part of the boat was all the food! Probably not the best combination when a bikini is in the forecast for the next week. But hey, we’re already married. Who are we trying to impress? We ate our little hearts out. In fact, it became a habit to eat lunch, order room service, and then go to dinner almost every day. We wanted to get our money’s worth and we did!
Our boat was very rocky the first few days, and the store on board ran out of Dramamine (We should of brought our own!). The staff had mentioned this was a lot rockier than normal. It was a little bit humorous watching people try to keep their balance as they walked around, until of course, we both experienced a little bit of sea-sickness. One of us spent the first evening throwing up. That is love, when you are at your worst in front of the person you love and they take care of you!
Another highlight we had while on board was the group of people we sat with at dinner each night. They were some of the nicest people we have ever met! One couple was also on their honeymoon, another couple was from Washington State (where we both are from), and the last couple was a newly engaged couple! It was a lot of fun getting to know this great group.
Our first stop was Turks and Caicos. We were supposed to take a Catamaran Cruise but it got cancelled due to wind. We were so bummed out, but decided to make the best of the situation. We ran into the fellow honeymoon couple from our dinner table. We rented a jeep together and drove around the entire island! Afterwards, we grabbed lunch together and then sat on the beach to enjoy the beautiful views and water!
We got back on the ship and enjoyed an awesome comedy show that evening, another one of our favorite parts about being on the ship. The comedian was hilarious.
The next morning we arrived in Half Moon Cay. Carnival owns this island and we had to be tendered in on smaller boats. Meanwhile, today we were going parasailing! We had been before and loved it, so we were really looking forward to this. We got ashore but our excursion was cancelled -- AGAIN! We were so bummed! It was probably a blessing in disguise as this place was paradise and we now had the entire day to relax. We ended up tagging along with a biking group and cycling around for an hour. After that, we had a delicious lunch and spent the remainder of the day lying out on the beach. It was the most beautiful water we have ever seen!
It was a perfect day and we headed back to the ship for another fun evening. It’s always really enjoyable traveling during the holidays and Carnival definitely kept that in mind. They had Christmas music playing, decorations up, and a fake snow show in the lobby! It was very cool and the children on board loved it. Which brings me to another point. If you want peace and quiet on your honeymoon, then a cruise might not be for you. There are quite a bit of kids everywhere. But it didn’t seem to bother us much though.
The following morning, we docked in Nassau, Bahamas. We heard there would be six boats total in port that day. We estimated that to be about 15,000 people give or take! As we got off the ship in Nassau, we had a city tour scheduled. We did not book this through Carnival like we did the others, and it was immediately confusing. We could not find our tour guide. We walked around for a very long time, got a lot of wrong directions, and as our tour time passed, we still could not find an answer from one single person. This shore excursion thing was definitely not working out for us on this trip!
We walked up to a desk and asked if they could help us. Well, it turns out that was where we were supposed to be. The information on our ticket did not match the information at their desk, which caused the confusion. A man at the desk shook his head, introduced himself and welcomed us to the Bahamas. He ended up taking us on a really amazing tour and being very friendly. He was full of information and very entertaining. We saw forts, the queen’s staircase, and the Atlantis. He dropped us off at the Starbucks to end our tour! We are so American and Starbucks was full of Americans. We were all making fun of ourselves as we stood in there waiting for our drink. It was a funny moment.
After that we walked around the town, which was full of shops and restaurants. We are not big shoppers so we headed over to Senor Frogs to have a couple of drinks. It was a fun afternoon full of music, dancing, and laughter. We decided to beat the mob of people back on to the ship and headed back a little early. Nobody was back on the ship yet, so we grabbed lunch and went on the slide. It was so much fun! We felt like kids. We had such a fun day and were a little sad to be heading back into Miami the following morning.
Well, the time finally came and it was time to get off the ship. I recommend self-checkout to get off the ship. We decided not to, and we ended up sitting on the boat for quite some time. Since they were forcing us off, we were ready to get off and go see some alligators!
Well guess what? In all our excitement, we forgot to even reserve another car for our last two days in Miami. We laughed at ourselves. We got our shuttle back to the car rental place we originally went to and they were out of cars, and so was everyone else around them. We learned our lesson: Always reserve a car! We were finally able to get a hold of Avis, and they had plenty of cars available.
We headed off to Billie’s Swamp Safari – a place recommended to us by three different people! This was also a highlight! We were seeing alligators on the side of the road as we drove towards our destination. We arrived at the farm and wasted no time! We got on an airboat and took a tour around the swamp. After that, we took a Swamp Buggy tour and got to see a lot of wildlife and nature. It was such a fun place, and we learned they film a show called Swamp Men here. We definitely saw more wildlife on our honeymoon than anything, for instance alligators, turtles, donkeys, roosters, and so much more. We headed back to our hotel for the evening, had dinner at a Greek restaurant, and listened to a live band. It was a week we will remember for the rest of our lives!
We would definitely recommend taking a cruise on your honeymoon. The only downfall? There were a ton of honeymooning couples on the ship, so you can’t quite get as much special treatment for being on a honeymoon and pull the honeymoon card! It was a great opportunity to relax, go to comedy and night shows, soak up the sun, spend time together, meet new people, and see new places! We will remember this trip forever and are already planning our next one for this year because we had such a good experience!
The approximate cost of our honeymoon was $2,500. We opened a Southwest Airlines credit card and received two free round-trip tickets to Miami, FL from San Diego, CA. Our hotels were all free using points from our other credit card. All the other costs came from booking the cruise, renting a car, and costs of gas, all our meals and drinks, and shore excursions, plus $27.00 mimosas at the airport, and the Swamp Safari (although we got reimbursed for the cancelled shore excursions).