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NCL Dawn San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, Great Stirrup Cay South Beach

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2003 Date: 4/18/2003

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Email: greg@cruisingreview.com

TEL: 608-238-6001

Northwest - Madison to Memphis

Smith and Wollensky's

Given that Easter is one of the busiest travel times of the season, the airport wasn't nearly as crowded as during spring break in March. I got my E-tickets at the First Class counter in about a minute then proceeded to the security check. Security is always a hassle but the have the staff to make things run smoothly. I always get stopped for having metal suspender clips, which results in an extra five minute patdown. They usually scan the iBook computer as well, however I have suspicions that they just think it's cool, and want a better look at it. I have a plastic iguana fixed to my roll aboard which always brings some smiles and laughter at the security point, which is normally a pretty serious place. Always good to have the icebreakers. Even though we had a few days in the 70's a recent cold front brought chilly 39 degree temperatures to the predawn morning. I can't stress enough how fast and efficient it is not to have any luggage, other than a carry-on. It's amazing how I can breeze through airports. In this case, less is more. I've never been short any clothes for a seven day cruise, and that includes a full tuxedo. There are no WiFi networks which I could sense at the Madison airport. The RJ-85 had plenty of room in First Class, but the seats and associated hardware were in need of repair. The overhead bin was barely large enough for my Rollaboard, in fact it would only fit in sideways if at all.

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Memphis to Miami

Smith and Wollensky's

As soon as I stepped off my last flight, my next one was pre-boarding on an Airbus 319. The Airbus is a relatively new addition to the Northwest fleet, and the jet was in good working order, with loads of space in the overhead bins and seat areas. Routine and ontime flight to Miami. A snack and cereal was served onboard this segment.

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Miami Marriott at South Beach

Marriott South Beach

After a business meeting with an associate at the airport, I took a $24 cab fare to South Beach. They have set fares for cabs from the airport to certain regions of Miami. The cab from the airport is $18 to the cruise ship pier. The cruise lines will charge you $20 (per person) when you return if you take their tour buses to shuttle to the airport, however you can share a cab for $18 ! Plus a cab is faster and more comfortable. After a 30 minute ride (traffic backed up on the McArthur Causeway 395) I checked into the Marriott South Beach. My room was on the 10th floor, with a wonderful view of the ocean and beach. A cool breeze was blowing all day, so it did not get too hot. The service, staff and accommodations at the Marriott keep me coming back. The location is a definite plus, since it's only a short walk to Smith and Wollensky's.

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Marriott at South Beach

Marriott South Beach

I stayed at the Marriott at South Beach in March, and was so pleased with the location and amenities, that I booked there again for my pre-cruise stay. It's located at the south end of Ocean Drive, and a few blocks from the ship channel. The Marriott has comfortable rooms right on the beach, and is walking distance from most popular Ocean Drive sites.

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Sunset at Smith and Wollensky's

Crabcakes

A Apple Martini and Maryland crabcake brought in the sunset, followed by the most incredible mean to bring in the dusk. Patty, my date for the evening had the shellfish bouquet, which consisted of a wonderfully arranged chilled plate of one-half dozen oysters, jumbo crab claw, 2 clams, one lobster, six shrimp and a variety of scrumptious sauces. I had the recommended Cajun Ribeye and some whipped potatoes. The Ribeye was without a doubt, the best cut and prepared steak that I have ever had. It was a spicy dry rub, which must have been grilled over a wood fire, since the flavors touched every sense of the palette. I also tried the branded "Smith and Wollensky's" steak sauce, and was surprised to find it delicious. Our cordial host for the evening, manager Paul kept order in the very busy Friday night crowd, while our waitress Rachel and Juan tended to our every need. The meal was completed with strawberries and fresh whipped cream, along with a huge piece of layered chocolate cake. A large cigar capped the evening. Smith and Wollensky's is my all time favorite stop in South Florida (my second favorite is Little Palm Island).

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Smith & Wollensky

Evening

Internet Access at the Marriott

Back at the Marriott, I checked emails and wrote some travel logs with the use of the in-room broadband connection from STSN. They supply a Ethernet cable, and charge a $9.95 fee from noon-noon (24-hour period). I ran a speed test and found the following: ***Details: Your raw speed was 587361.93 bits per second which is the same as: Communications 587.4 kilobits per second How communication devices are rated. Kilo means 1,000 and mega means 1,000,000. Examples include 56k modem and 10Mbit Ethernet Storage 71.7 kilobytes per second. The way data is measured on your hard drive and how file sharing and FTP programs measure transfer speeds. Kilo is 1,024 and mega is 1,048,576. 1MB file download 14.3 seconds. The time it would take you to download a 1 megabyte file at this speed. Rating Compared to all connection types worldwide, yours is fantastic.***

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CONTACT TEL: 608-238-6001 Email: greg@cruisingreview.com