We live near Seattle, Washington, so it seemed like a good idea to arrive in Miami the night before. We flew there on Alaska Airlines (a favorite of mine), and the flight was good.
BUT, things started going bad when we reached the Miami Airport. My husband had wheel chair assistance, and we were escorted to the area for the hotel shuttle pick-up. The escort did not want to leave us there at 10:30 pm even though we insisted we'd be fine. When he did leave, however, he called our hotel first to find out when our shuttle would arrive.... which was in 45 minutes. OK. An hour later, still no hotel shuttle. I looked for a phone, but there was no public phone close. A shuttle driver called our hotel once more, and they said 15 minutes. An hour later, still no shuttle. TIP: Try to arrive in Miami before dark, and spend a little more for a reliable hotel. The shuttle area is dark and full of exhaust fumes, so it isn't a pleasant place to stand waiting for long.
I finally left my husband there, and had to go to another level for a phone (much of the airport is blocked off at night for cleaning). The hotel had no idea where their shuttle was, and we were told to take a cab at their expense. Fine, but we arrived at the hotel at 1:00 am. (A review of this hotel, the Rodeway Inn, will be included in this journal.) We struggled up to the taxi level of the airport with all our luggage, and immediately a man located a taxi. Yes, he knew where to go. While he was putting our luggage into the trunk I realized he had no idea where to go. He did not speak English. We took our luggage back, and said "No... we want another taxi." He picked it up and started putting it back into the trunk. My husband wrestled it away, and put it on the sidewalk. This went on for 5-10 minutes while I searched for the man who locates the taxis. When I found him, he DID find us another taxi. The first driver was very angry, and my husband twisted his knee trying to hold on to a suitcase that was going back into the trunk. (Taxis are expensive in Miami. This 7.8 mile trip from the airport would have cost us $25.00.) TIP: NO MATTER WHAT..... make sure the taxi DRIVER understands where you are going, and that YOU BOTH understand the cost. Do not go near the taxi until it that is settled. A good idea is to show them a written name and address (although that did not work in this case).
The next morning, the hotel shuttle left early so we did not get the complimentary breakfast. It deposited us at the cruise pier near our ship. Porters immediately grab your luggage and throw it on a cart. I found out later (when they ripped the wheels out of our luggage) that these baggage handlers work for the PORT, not the Cruise Lines. If you are allowed, take at least one carry-on sized bag with you! You will be allowed in your cabin about 2:00 pm, but some luggage may not arrive until that evening. TIP: Pack a few things for everyone in your party in the carry-on. A bathing suit is good to include if you like the pool or jacuzzi.
NCL has a nice waiting area after check-in if you arrive before the boarding time (usually noon). Check in is fast and efficient. When I finally arrive on board I breathe a sigh of relief, and then head for Deck 12 Aft (on the Pearl). You can enjoy a leisurely brunch there in a relaxing outdoor eating area. TIP: Look for the made-to-order Pasta Bar there. Your choice of pasta is cooked fresh, and then choose your sauce and what you'd like in it. YUMMY !! Another choice.... most people don't realize the Summer Palace (fancy Dining Room) is open for lunch when you board! It is usually uncrowded, has a great menu, and your suitcase is welcome to accompany you.