My friend Sophie and I are avid followers of Holiday Pirates which usually means we get holiday FOMO on a regular basis. After my lovely solo holiday in Greece earlier in the year, I was getting a bit of longing for some more sun. So when Holiday Pirates posted a Caribbean cruise deal with MSC I went from “lol, excessive” to “let’s book” very quickly.
Day #1 – #3: Miami, USA
We flew from Heathrow into Miami with Virgin Atlantic in Classic Economy. We had a surprisingly smooth Heathrow experience and the flight was again pretty smooth. I watched Mary Poppins Returns (cute) and The Hate U Give (excellent adaptation of the book).
We landed into Miami around 3pm and headed straight to our hotel. We stayed in The Stiles Hotel which was part of our package but turned out to be perfectly located within the Art Deco district of South Beach. It was cute in size, with a small bar and some lovely swimming pools as well. The only slight downside was that breakfast was put on at their sister hotel, and it wasn’t the most amazing selection of food – but filled a hole in the morning anyway.
On our first night we ate in the hotel, and then headed for a bit of an explore to force ourselves to reset our body clocks. We ended up in Sugar Factory, where we split a slightly ridiculous ice-cream sundae before heading back to the hotel for a much needed sleep.
On the second day after bagels at breakfast we headed to see Miami Beach irl, the weather was pretty blustery on the beach so after getting our standard lifeguard photos we retreated back from the seafront, stumbling across a puppy brunch. We had one my favourite meals of the holiday this day, at Naked Taco which I would 100% recommend. In the evening we had drinks at Gianni’s, the bar inside the late Gianni Versace’s house. I understand that some people may find it a bit ghoulish, given that he was murdered on his doorstep, but the house is stunning and worth a nose even if the cocktails were very expensive.
We spent our final morning in Miami exploring some of the shops, and getting a sneaky iced coffee from Starbucks before getting on the boat in the early afternoon.
Day #5: Roatan, Honduras
After a day at sea, we arrived into Roatan Island off the coast of Honduras. We booked an excursion directly with Daniel Johnson’s Monkey & Sloth Hangout to visit both the hangout and the beach. This excursion was great, and I would really recommend booking with them and visiting the hangout if you ever travel to Roatan. Our guide at the hangout was really friendly, and they genuinely look after the animals well. Getting to hold a sloth was awesome, and they’re surprisingly heavy. Having a monkey on my head was less fun, but still one of those experiences that I know I won’t forget in a hurry.
My friend and I were the only two with a trip to the beach, so we essentially got a private driver who took us to the beach – in West Bay – and gave us a complete history of the island. I’d never been to the Caribbean before and it was really interesting to learn more about the history of these islands.
Day #6: Costa Maya, Mexico
I’m not going to say too much about Costa Maya as it was my least favourite part of the cruise. The portside town is essentially built for cruise ships and felt about as Mexican as I am. There is an actual town and beach called Mahahual which you can make your way too but after having an overpriced cocktail and a pushy waiter (if you have to ask for a tip…) by the pool we were ready to go. Plus seeing sad dolphins in captivity made me feel quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately, whilst Trump’s Cuban travel ban is in place it looks like a lot of Caribbean cruises have to stop here – but I wouldn’t bother getting off the boat to be honest.
Day #7: Cozumel, Mexico
On the flip side, Cozumel was one of my favourite stops of the cruise, in no small part due to our excursion, booked via MSC. We did a ‘save the turtles’ day, which saw us digging out turtle nests which was so, so great.
We also spent some time at museum on Mayan life, tried some traditional Mexican food and bought some expensive (but delicious) flavoured tequila.
Day #9: Key West, USA
After another day at sea, we arrived into Key West which looked like a postcard of Americana. We got the hop on-hop off trolley tour for the entirety of its route, which enabled us to see all of the island and the main sites whilst also getting a lot of information about the place. We had lunch at El Meson de Pepe where the food was very good (the service was…eh) and the mojitos were delicious. We then did some shopping, hit up the Hemingway Rum Distillery which was excellent and then got Key Lime Pie. Because obviously.
We cruised on MSC Armonia (‘famous’ for managing to crash into a couple of piers, we fortunately did not google this beforehand) and it was a really great floating home. We stayed in a standard outdoor (i.e. window) cabin which was the perfect size for the pair of us. The food was pretty universally great, the gelato was a highlight as was the omelette bar and morning waffles every day. We paid extra for a Drinks Package which was expensive, but worth it as we had pretty much unlimited drinks of all kinds – this was especially helpful for hoarding bottles of water for our off-boat days. There was a show every night (of varying quality) and I don’t think I’ve seen harder working people than the entertainment team on board.
I loved this trip, and the hot weather and clear seas feel like a long time ago now.