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Symphony of the Seas - an island is an island is an island? (Feb 22 - 29, 2020)

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Final thoughts and things I learned: Mr. SpeedNoodles has declared Symphony of the Seas as his favorite ship, and wants to book more Oasis-class cruises.  We don't have one booked until Allure

Since we’re officially 4 weeks away from our cruise I thought it was an appropriate time to start the blog? (No? Meh, I’m going with it anyway). I never expected to book a cruise like this with M

Friday - Miami Day!!! Today was a long day.  We booked a full 3-part tour that included a double-deck bus tour of Miami, a boat tour of the Miami harbor (with an emphasis on the islands between M

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1 minute ago, Ampurp85 said:


Are all the dogs clean but mad?

Pogo (the princess) is over it.  I still have to bathe both of the boys, who really don't even fit in my tub well, so it'll be interesting.  They're pretty easy going, though, as boy dogs tend to be, so forgiveness will be swift.

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Just now, Ampurp85 said:

@SpeedNoodles Thanks, unfortunately he passed last year. Its still too soon to have another baby but I already have Senator Meowkin's picked out for their name.

I'm so sorry.  I know how painful it is to lose those furred family members. I like that name, too, though!

My cat, Cloudy, is being "helpful" and being very "cat" and sitting in, and on, every suitcase or packing cube that I set out to attempt to pack.

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41 minutes ago, Ampurp85 said:

@SpeedNoodles Yeah dogs forget everything as soon as treats come, try that with a cat. Professor Atticus never let me forget when I gave him a bath, if looks could kill.

I have 2 Meow's that are terrible and 1 Big Boy named Troll that loves a good bath, every Friday in fact. Loves it! It is crazy.

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I was up at the crack of dawn, a.k.a. 8:30 (ok, you haters, that's EARLY for me! I'm still on night-shift time!) to get the rest of the house ready and to PACK!  We leave early tomorrow morning (yay!).  The dogs know something's up and the kiddo (#TheFezz) was heckin' clingy.  We had everything done, ready to go, bags by the door - Mr. SpeedNoodles was ready to head up to get some early shut eye, when halfway up the stairs he slowly turns, looks at me, and said "did I give you my underwear and socks?"  Ummmm, no? BWAHAHAHA - we NEARLY left without his underwear and socks !!!!!!! Good grief.

We'll be up at 0330 to get our butts to the airport.  Almost 19 Sun Country flights leave Mpls International Terminal between 6am-7:30am (and it's the small terminal).  Check in is usually a zoo so we need to give ourselves plenty of time.  


#TheFezz giving me the evil eye after I brought the bags up.


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We're here in Miami!!!!

We've been having a fabulous time in Miami. It's my third time here, and Mr Speednoodles' first time.  While I'm in charge of cruise planning, he's always in charge of pre-cruise planning (hotels, food, activities).  He did a fabulous job.

Our Sun Country flight left Mpls/St Paul  International an hour late (we really don't know why - they told us that we'd be leaving early and then sat at the gate for an extra hour with no explanation).  It was fine. Other than being wedged into a middle seat, it wasn't a big deal.  Mr SpeedNoodles was appropriately dosed with Xanex and deeply buried in a movie that he'd downloaded on Netflix.

We still hit Miami by about 11:30, and by some stroke of luck our luggage was the first onto the belt, so we hauled butt out to the rideshare area to secure our Lyft before the crowds descended.  Within 10 minutes we were off to the Kimpton Epic. (For pics of the Kimpton, refer to my Navigator blog - I was able to get many photos on that trip: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/boards/index.php?/topic/16871-navigator-911-hits-the-high-seas-dec-2-dec-6-2019/).

We arrived at the Kimpton by 12:30.  Our room wasn't ready, so we stowed our luggage, made a quick change from Minnesota layers to Miami shorts, and hailed another Lyft to make our first culinary visit -  We. Were. Hungry. !!!!!

Mr. SpeedNoodles had been drooling over this place for about 3 months now, so we Lyfted ourselves over to Little Havana to have lunch at La Camarona Seafood Market.  Recently it was just that, a seafood market, but not too long ago they'd taken a sledgehammer to a wall (that's literally how it still looks) and expanded into a dining section.

20200220_142410.thumb.jpg.15241f698dfacba41f847cf51201a9d3.jpg      20200220_135618.thumb.jpg.69377ad9a9f534ef7ea1823625372330.jpg

We were jonesing to get a fried snapper sandwich and we were NOT disappointed.  The service was speedy and friendly - the food was awesome.  It will now be a regular stop for us when in Miami.  We started with a shrimp empananda (which we ate so quickly that I neglected to get a photo #badblogger), followed with some A-MAZE-ING fried shrimp and we both had the snapper sandwich.

Fried Shrimp     Snapper Sandwich

After lunch we hailed another Lyft and weaved our way over to the Wynwood area to grab a beer, some alligator bites at Kush, and wander around looking at the urban graffiti.  My photography devotion was seriously lacking (beyond food and drink), so I didn't get a lot of photos of the artwork.  Some of it was absolutely spectacular.   More than once I tripped over one of the thousands of rental scooter parked absolutely everywhere while ogling the beautiful walls.

Being absolutely overstuffed, and deciding that one, or both, of us would surely kill or maim ourselves by trying to ride a scooter back to the hotel (and believe me, we seriously considered it after a few fairly strong beers at Kush) we called another Lyft to haul us back to the Kimpton to get ready for.....dinner.  (Is there a theme here? I'm sensing one.)

Anthony Bourdain wall art

Tripping obstacles / danger wheels

Triple IPA and Mango Wit


Alligator Bites



Kimpton Epic has a small wine bar available from 5pm-6pm, so we grabbed a glass and headed up for a much-needed shower.   Our plan was to go to Joe's Stone Crab on South Beach for dinner.  We decided on Thursday because we read (on their website) that it's very crowded on Friday and Saturday, and get there before 7pm or there will be quite a wait.  Well, our plan was to be there at 6pm.  Guess when we arrived?

At 7pm sharp we put my name on the waiting list - they do not take reservations or bribes (as if we could out-bribe anyone on South Beach!! BWWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!). The promised to seat us within (ready????) 2 hours.  Well, we came all this way, we've been planning on it for months, and we had plenty of lunch and snacks to tide us over.  We found a spot at a drink rail and prepared to wait "within 2 hours".  After 45 minutes I wandered off to the ladies room and came back to find Mr SpeedNoodles had given my chair to some woman!! THE NERVE!  I walk up and he says "hey, these folks are from Northfield, MN!" (guys, literally not 20 minutes from our house).  So 1700 miles away from home and we end up chatting with what are, for more or less, neighbors!  It was a mom and her two college-aged daughters spending some time in Miami together.  We had a lovely time, and wished they'd been booked on Symphony as well.


After 1:40 minutes my name was called (cheers all around - literally, the entire bar cheered every time someone's name was called) and we were seated.  I don't know how many people they put through there every night, but the dining room is enormous and they were still rotating people in regularly at 10pm.  It is an absolute machine.  Every single person, from host, to waiters, to bus folks, were working their a**es off.  They never rushed anyone through a meal, but the millisecond they vacated a table, it was cleaned to perfection and reset in less than a minute. It was amazing to watch.  Mr SpeedNoodles got the Joe's Classic Meal (Stone Crabs, sides, and Key Lime Pie) and I got the Cold Trio (Stone crabs, 1/2 lobster and King Crab).  This was the night that I learned that I wasn't a fan of cold seafood.  An expensive lesson, to be sure.  I found it annoyingly cold, without drawn butter, and without the flavor I'm used to on each species.  That being said, I simply didn't know that I didn't like cold seafood before this, so I'm taking it with a grain of salt.  Mr SpeedNoodles loved his (and the Key Lime Pie and unique cole slaw was pretty amazing) and I found the entire spectacle worth trying once.  I'd even go back again, arriving closer to the 6pm hour, and just ordering something else.  They have a great business philosophy.

Cold Trio             Joe's Classic

We caught or 5th (that's right, FIFTH) Lyft of the day to get back across to the Kimpton and passed out (neither of us were able to get any sleep the night before, so it'd been quite a while since either of us had slept).




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Glad you made it to Miami safely 🥳. I am one of those people who is a very picky eater, I don't like seafood....except fried shrimp. That being said I will try something once and I have learned that cold seafood is the worst🤮. Deep fry and blast with seasonings so I cannot taste please.

Alligator bites looks a lot like stretched out calamari....did it taste good...or did the beer really help?:35_thinking:

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Friday - Miami Day!!!

Today was a long day.  We booked a full 3-part tour that included a double-deck bus tour of Miami, a boat tour of the Miami harbor (with an emphasis on the islands between Miami and Miami Beach, where many celebrities live), and a short air-boat ride in the Everglades.  We booked it through Trip Advisor, and figured it'd be a convenient way to see a variety of things with little effort.  One of our traditions is to take some sort of harbor tour in each port we sail from at least once. It was touristy to a cliche, but we were ok with that. (https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g34439-d11451472-Miami_Combo_Tour_City_Sightseeing_Biscayne_Bay_Cruise_and_Everglades_Airboat_Ride-M.html)

We caught a Lyft around 7:50 am, as there was a lot of traffic/construction/road closures around the Kimpton and ride shares were taking a little longer to find us.  We arrived VERY early to the Miami Beach area from where the tour departed, and did a little walking and people watching.  We went to CVS (since I lost my hair tie in the hotel in a matter of about an hour, and I forgot to bring makeup remover wipes.  There was a pigeon in CVS. I seriously just wanted to catch it and rehome it outside with its pigeon friends, but I managed to quell the desire.


I'll be frank here. I didn't take a lot of photos.  While we sat on the top level of the bus, and we could see a lot of things, to get good photos I would have had to stand up, which would have put me at risk of (quite literally) losing my head to low branches.

We were taken through the lovely Art Deco regions of South Beach, then headed over to Little Havana, were we debussed and were told we could get some "free Cuban Coffee" at store right where the bus was parked.  I don't drink coffee, but Mr. SpeedNoodles does, and he was told by his Cuban coworker that he MUST get some Cuban Coffee.  We peeked into the store where people were getting their free coffee, and it was a paper cup about the size of a ketchup container at McDonalds, so we wandered across the street in search of a shop that he'd see on one of his many, obsessive, Google Street View "walks".  We just couldn't find it.  Until...... some very kind local recognized what we were looking for and pointed us to a coffee shop that opened at 10am (it was 10:15, and he simply shrugged and said "Island Time").  He wasn't wrong.  Within minutes they opened the door. And Mr SpeedNoodles was in heaven.  Communication was somewhat tricky since we don't speak Spanish, but with some pointing and back and forth he managed to get two very strong coffees before we had to get back on the bus.  It was a beautiful little shop and almost made me wish I drank coffee.




After only 35 minutes (too short!) in Little Havana, we headed back to the Biscayne Marketplace for lunch.  While they led us into a specific restaurant (with a promise of free appetizers), we chose to go a more economical route and we just hit Five Guys. The menu at the other place was not only overpriced, but the just didn't have any items on the menu that interested us.

After lunch we boarded the harbor tour boat, and had a lovely 90 minute tour into the "islands" area.  On the way we slipped right past Explorer of the Seas, who was in port exchanging passengers.  We had a fantastic, high-energy, tour guide for this part, and we really enjoyed him (great job, Ricky!). I've never heard anyone so seamlessly go back and forth from English to Spanish.  His jokes worked in both languages, judging by the laughter on the boat.  I got several pics, but really nothing worth sharing.  Little islands  hosting extremely expensive houses owned by people I'll never meet.  I'm not much of a celebrity person.  Frankly I was just as thrilled sailing past the big MSC cargo ship while it was offloading containers - I thought that was pretty cool.  PLUS we saw an actual, live, swimming, wild sea turtle come up twice on that side of the bay.  I'm all about the wildlife.  As anyone who's followed any of my previous blogs knows, I will be just as thrilled sitting around talking to local pigeons and sky rats (i.e. seagulls, for those not previously indoctrinated), as anything else that I do. #formerzookeeper #completenerd

We were told to meet a "double-decker, non-open-top bus" at 2:15 to go to the Everglades right there at the Biscayne Marketplace.  We did so.  We got on the bus, with about 15 other people (not many, but who are we to judge?).  Off we went!  We were really looking forward to this part, having never been there.  The bus took off....east ... across the bridge (full view of Navigator, Explorer, MSC Divina, Carnival Legend, Regent Seven Seas, and a Viking ship) .... but ....

Ok, I'm no geography genius.  But aren't the Everglades BACK THATA WAY???????  We're on the top deck, so we have no communication with the driver.  The driver isn't communicating with us. Other passengers are looking likewise baffled.  Others, not so much. We are all wearing the green "I'm on the 2:15 Everglades tour" sticker.

Traffic was nothing less than awful.  An hour after boarding, we arrive back at the tour company main office, where we are asked to debus and get on yet another bus.  Ummmm, sure! It seems it would have been more efficient to  bring THEM to US since we were already farther west, but again, I'm no geography/traffic genius. We get everyone on the bus. It's the first non-bilingual driver/guide we've had (it didn't bother US, but we the English speakers were definitely a minority on this one).  Harry was our driver and guide.  Harry was different.  Harry made up a lot of ecological "facts" (Harry, they are Turkey Vultures, not "American Vultures", and they didn't come to the Miami area to breed in the winter. I've raised TV babies in Minnesota in June.  They're just here to stay warm and eat.  And don't even get me started on his opinions on the South Florida "Indian Tribes" -lawd man, you don't know who your audience might be).  

We arrived at the Sawgrass Recreation Area shortly after 4pm.. The cold front had moved in, and it was 65 degrees and windy. Most people were not dressed for the weather. This was very good news for the gift shop, as probably half of the bus passengers went in and purchased sweatshirts. or jackets. I had brought a zip up hoodie with me (#becauseMinnesota), and MrSpeednoodles will go out and grill at 11pm in January at 10 degrees in shorts and flip flops, so he didn't care.  The problem?  Gators don't like wind. The crawl back up into the grass and hide so that they don't drift all over the place.  Frankly, I didn't care.  I'm all for Gators.  They're super tasty.  And fascinating, ancient, creatures.  And I would have been trilled to see one.  But I was happy to see the Cormorants drying their feathers as well. I would have loved to see some egrets, or otters, but the weather just wasn't right.  That's ok.  The airboat was pretty hecking cool, and I know I want to come back during warmer weather and maybe book a smaller, more private boat and ask to focus on birds and mammals.  Someday.


I had some time to have a short conversation with this female Boat-tailed Grackle (we have regular Grackles in Minnesota.  The females aren't nearly this pretty).  Unfortunately the camera didn't really correctly portray her beautiful brown color.  (I know - average birds.  I appreciate sh** like that).


The tour people seemed really super disorganized.  It was easily an hour between when we got to the Sawgrass Visitor's Center and when we actually got onto an airboat.  The airboat tour was 30 minutes, and we didn't see any alligators (and not much of anything else).  Nobody can control the weather, or the animals' behaviour in the weather, so we really didn't care.  The trip back took another 90 minutes in awful traffic.  The driver ended up just going back on city roads, through Hialeah (Big Havana).  Nothing he could do about the traffic either.

We'd been planning to go to Ceviche 105 for dinner, but by the time we got back to the Miami Tour Bus Company in Miami Beach and hailed another Lyft it was after 8pm. We'd been going all day, and hadn't had any food since 1pm.  We were tired and blood sugars were low.  By the time we'd get back to our hotel, shower, change, and get to the restaurant it would have been at least 9:30. Which is apparently when people in Miami leave their hotels and head out on the town.  But be real here. We're middle-aged-plus Minnesotans.  We arranged for the Lyft driver (a fascinating man from Nigeria! Thanks, Daniel!) to drop us off a block away from the Kimpton at Whole Foods.  We picked up some pizza and sushi (not to be mixed, we each wanted different things), and a bottle of wine (O. M G.  Wine at a grocery store??? This is UNHEARD OF in the land of 10,000 lakes! How incredibly convenient!).  We ate, drank some wine, and watched half of "Guardians of the Galaxy" (I challenge anyone to guess who my favorite character is.) and Mr Speednoodles is already asleep.  I'll be there right after I fix all of the typos in this blog (no guarantees, I will offer no compensation for emotional trauma caused by grammatical/typographical errors).  

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TOMORROW IS CRUISE DAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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52 minutes ago, Ampurp85 said:

Glad you made it to Miami safely 🥳. I am one of those people who is a very picky eater, I don't like seafood....except fried shrimp. That being said I will try something once and I have learned that cold seafood is the worst🤮. Deep fry and blast with seasonings so I cannot taste please.

Alligator bites looks a lot like stretched out calamari....did it taste good...or did the beer really help?:35_thinking:

I felt the problem with the cold seafood is that it tasted like absolutely nothing.  It was super Canadian (sorry, Sabrina, someday I'll tell you that inside joke - I've had lots of great food in Canada). Mr Speednoodles often gets King Crab legs for us, puts them on the grill, and serves with drawn butter, and they are SO sweet.  These had zero taste.

The alligator (at least in this presentation) was unlike calamari in that most calamari has a somewhat rubbery texture.   I don't know if this is a result of cooking or not.  Ika is one of my favorite types of raw sushi (when ordered at a quality restaurant it's not remotely tough or rubbery).  But cooked seems to do something to it.  The alligator wasn't tough, chewy, or rubbery.  At the risk of sounding like I know it's going to read, it's more similar to chicken than any seafood.  Does it taste LIKE chicken? Not so much, but you could probably fool a child. Or a drunk.  I liked them.  I'd order them again if I was already somewhere they were served.  They weren't special enough to go out of my way for in the future.

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