In November our family went on our first cruise. My husband and I have cruised before, but this was our first cruise with kids. And…we LOVED it! It was our first experience with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and one we’ll repeat again.
We had flown early into Orlando so I could take part in a RunDisney half marathon at Disney World (post about that coming soon!). In Orlando we rented a car and drove to Miami for the cruise. We rented with Hertz (via AAA travel) and were able to take advantage of complimentary pickup service at our hotel to the rental car location. AAA allows you to book a free car seat with your rental and a discounted rate on a GPS. We chose to reserve a car seat, but it only allowed me to choose infant or toddler. I chose a toddler seat with the plan of asking for a booster seat when we picked up the rental. However, a booster seat was not available when my husband picked up the car. The Hertz agent told him that our daughters did not require one by Florida law since they were above the age of 5. I wonder if because of the Florida law rental agencies might not carry a large number of boosters, and in a prime kid location like Orlando, they might be scarce.
Make sure you ask and understand how your rental car agency handles toll road charges if you are planning on driving a rental car in Florida. Confusion was rampant in our car during the drive. Knowing when to stop and when to pay was not something we easily understood or were prepared to deal with.
Upon arriving in Miami we filled the car up with gas and dropped it off at a Hertz rental car neighborhood location near the port. They provided a free shuttle to the port for our family. I had located this Hertz rental location on a map, but was unable to choose it as a drop off point through Hertz’s website. However, AAA did allow the option of choosing that location and a great price, so that was the main reason we booked with AAA.
Arriving at the port terminal via the Hertz shuttle was very straightforward. We were dropped off at the terminal next to piles of bags. An NCL employee greeted us and informed us he would be taking our suitcases, that they would be dropped off at our stateroom door, and that we could tip him there (honestly, he asked for a tip!). We had received baggage tags from NCL prior to our departure and we affixed them to our bags when we dropped off the rental car. We kept our carry-on bags with us and went into the terminal where we waited to pass through security. Once past security we were directed to line up for check-in and to fill out a health questionnaire. Our wait was very minimal (5 minutes), and I think part of this is due to arriving after the first rush of people – we arrived about 2 hours after boarding was allowed. When we checked in we were asked for our passports, a credit card to link to our keycards, and we all had our picture taken. Next stop, boarding the ship and our stateroom! See the other posts about our Family Caribbean Cruise: Part 2: Stateroom & Dining, Part 3: Ports of Call, Part 4: Activities Aboard.
TOP TAKEAWAY TIPS:
- AAA (Triple A) offers good rental car rates and a free carseat rental – however a booster seat was not an option
- If driving a rental car in Florida, ask about toll road charges when picking up your car
- Remember neighborhood rental car locations often offer a pick-up or shuttle service for free
- Remember to bring single $1 bills – they’re great for quick tipping shuttle drivers and bag handlers