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Thursday, March 9, 2023

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - Post-Cruise Miami

 Sad day - departure day! On December 27, we arrived back in Miami.


There was a thick fog over Biscayne Bay.


We were once again docked next to the Scarlet Lady which was also sailing 5-night voyages.


So dreary! Our weather on the cruise was certainly a bummer, but that's always a risk with cruise vacations. There are still great times to be had on a ship, no matter the weather!


We packed up the rest of our belongings and headed to the Cosmopolitan Dining Room for our last meal on the ship. I didn't mess around this time and ordered an omelet and sausage -


On our way off the ship, I realized that I never took a photo of Luminae, the dining room exclusive to Retreat guests. I certainly wouldn't have minded more dining options on this cruise.


Departure was so easy! Our luggage tags were called when we were eating breakfast, so we were able to walk right off.


I was able to snap a cheesy last photo of Aaron with the ship -


When we got to luggage collection, there weren't many bags on the carousel. It looked like the porters were starting to pull them off and arrange them to the side. I understand why - this was the world's longest baggage carousel. I'm kidding, but we had to wait several minutes for our bags to finally appear.


Once we had our bags, Customs was a breeze. They used IDEMIA facial recognition for screening, so we didn't even need to show our passports.

After passing through Customs, I called an UberXL to take us to our post-cruise hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell. 


Since December 27th was a more expensive rate in Miami than pre-cruise December 21, this was a much better time to redeem my Free Night Award with Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card.

If you stay at a Marriott property once per year, this credit card pays for itself. The card has a $95 annual fee, but you receive a Free Night Award (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) every year after your card anniversary. I used our Free Night Award to book a Larger King Room with City View ($280 value). If you're interested in the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless, you can sign up using my referral link to receive 3 Free Night Awards after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.


Check-in at the Courtyard went very smoothly. I was excited to learn that our rooms were available (before 11AM - hooray!).

Our room was spacious and clean. The design theme is typical to Courtyards at the moment.


I appreciate the pull-out desk, but it would be nice if they had a mirror over it. Of course, you know by now that I bring my own, and I also wheel the desk portion out and face it toward the window for the best makeup lighting.


Something to note is that this hotel is on a busy corner, so there was a lot of traffic noise. It's not something that bothers me (I can sleep anywhere), but something to consider if you're a light sleeper. I'm sure a room on a higher floor would help as well.


Last year when we were in Miami, we hadn't planned anything and were making it up as we went (which can be difficult with six people). I knew I didn't want to leave things to chance this time, so I booked a Millionaire's Row Cruise with Island Queen Cruises.

I actually had done this tour back in 2012 when Clemson went to the Orange Bowl (yeah don't remind me of that score), but the sun set and then we couldn't really see anything. Even so, it was a fun tour and I thought it would fun for Aaron and his parents.

Advanced reservations are not required, but are encouraged if you want a specific time.

The tour leaves from Bayside Marketplace which was walking distance from our hotel.


Once we got to Bayside Marketplace, the instructions that I had printed out were a little unclear on where to go. There's a bunch of Island Queen kiosks throughout the mall, so we just kept asking for directions until we ended up at the ticket booth where we needed to be (if only I had watched the Getting to Island Queen Cruises Walkthrough Tour beforehand).

It's this booth -


We arrived 45 minutes prior to our scheduled departure because that's what it said on the instructions I received when I booked the reservation. However, when we exchanged our voucher for tickets, they suggested that we could go on the 12:30 tour instead of waiting for the 1PM tour. I figured that would be better than waiting around, so we went for it.


We boarded the Island Lady for the 12:30 tour. What I didn't consider when agreeing to go early is that many passengers had already boarded the 12:30 boat, so there were less seats available. We were still able to decent spot, but if we had waited for the 1PM boat, we could have had first selection.


Aaron pointed out that the Island Queen, which arrived beside us for the 1PM tour, was a newer-looking boat than the Island Lady.


Bayside Marketplace has a Hard Rock Cafe, Fat Tuesday, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and Landshark Bar & Grill. 


It's also home of the ferris wheel that you can see from your cruise ship, Skyviews Miami.


From the advertising, I was certain that there's a Topgolf here, but it looks like the closest Topgolf is in Miami Gardens, and the banners throughout Bayside Marketplace are heavy advertising to what could very well be their target audience (parents trying to entertain their energetic kids??).


As we left the marina on our sightseeing cruise, we got a close look at the Scarlet Lady.


Terminal V is positioned perfectly for advertisement. It's the north-most ship in the bay and oriented perpendicular to the other ships so that it's quite prominent within the bay.


We cruised out to where we did the big turnaround on Celebrity Summit when we departed Miami.


The tour is 90 minutes and fully narrated in both English and Spanish. I really enjoyed the narration, and that's where I learned a lot of the information that I provided about the Miami skyline in my Day 1 Embarkation Day post.

Adjacent to the Miami-Dade Arena (lol - when I wrote Day 1 it was still the FTX Arena... oh how things change!) is a yellow tower. That's the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College which has been an icon on the Downtown Miami skyline since 1925. From 1962 to 1974, it served as the Cuban Assistance Center to help the hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees.


Love the Santa hats!



We crossed under the MacArthur Causeway and turned before the Venetian Causeway.


The Venetian Causeway was built in 1925 to replace the original wooden Collins Bridge, consisting of 11 bridges which connect the man-made Venetian Islands to Downtown Miami and Miami Beach. The Venetian Causeway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, and it underwent a $29 million restoration project in 1999. However, it was recently determined that the existing bridges must be demolished. There is a new $148 million Miami-Dade County plan to replace the deteriorating bridges with higher spans designed to withstand rising seas and more potent storm surge due to climate change.


I mean.... it is really low to the water. Imagine driving across that bridge in a storm!


The Venetian Islands are a chain of six man-made islands in Biscayne Bay and home to ultra-luxury real estate.

For the majority of the tour, I thought the right-hand side of the boat had better views, but the left-hand side (where we were seated) had a better view of the Venetian islands. I don't recall all of the narration, but I am good at finding addresses on Google Maps and then cross-referencing on Zillow, so please enjoy my Miami Millionaire Zillow tour.

How is it that rich people often have the worst taste? I mean check out this Caesar's Palace monstrosity on San Marco Island with a $18K Zestimate -



We were told that this is Jackie Chan's summer home. It has a full photo gallery on Zillow, and the Japanese-inspired design is present throughout. I approve of the design intent behind this mansion.


On San Marino Island but not currently for sale, this $21K Zestimated home also has a full photo gallery on Zillow. (Also see the infinity lap pool on that house next door?)


I don't remember why I snapped a photo of this very plain-looking (comparatively, of course) home. I think there must have been a celebrity story around it. Also, it sold for $21,000,000 in 2021.


I also think this must have had a celebrity backstory that I don't recall, but I do know that it has a $50K Zestimate -



Sailing away from the Venetian Islands, Hibiscus Island and Palm Island are two man-made islands accessible from MacArthur Causeway. Hibiscus and Palm Island were owned by Lou Walters (father of Barbara Walters) and became the Latin Quarter in the 1940s and 50s. Now the island is home to many mansions.

I forget the narrative, but I guess Ricky Martin sold his mansion Ricky Martin's home. This house on Hibiscus Island with a geodesic dome is supposedly his current Miami vacation home, but the only evidence that I can find of this is from various boat tours. However, he gave Oprah a tour of his former Miami mansion, and he has given an AD Open Door tour of his Los Angeles home, so as the Gen Zers say, I'm calling cap -


Star Island is also accessible from MacArthur Freeway.

That mega mansion you see here is Phillip Frost's home -


I'm a fan of the butterfly roof on this $20 million Palm Island home. I do wonder how it fares in hurricanes and heavy rain, though...


Wow - full walkthrough and crazy listing of this $22 Million home.


There's a banner on the railing behind the boat that reads "This Was Never Shakira's House." Apparently, she shot a music video there once, and there was some confusion. It was actually owned by former race car driver Eddie Irvine. It sold in 2021, and I guess the new owners don't appreciate the gawking -



If I had a multi-million dollar home in Biscayne Bay, I'd want a view of the cruise terminal so I could watch the ships come in and out of port.



We crossed Government Cut, a man-made shipping channel completed in 1905 to allow for better access to the Port of Miami. Before the cut was created, a single peninsula of dry land stretched between Miami Beach and Fisher Island.


Government Cut created Fisher Island (which was formerly attached to the Miami Beach peninsula). Today the island is home to mansions, a hotel, luxury condominiums, an observatory, and private marina. It's also the home of Oprah Winfrey's $20 million condo.


We cruised through Fishermans Channel with a close view of the shipping and cargo side of Dodge Island (opposite of the cruise terminals).





We did get a peek at the Carnival Celebration -


And look - there's the Summit!



Before heading back to Bayside Marketplace, we went a little ways up the Miami River.


Great view of the many luxury condominiums -




The building with the weird cutout is Asia Brickell Key condos.


We turned around at Brickell Avenue bridge and headed back to the marina.

I suppose you could also get a decent view of the cruise terminal from a million dollar condo, as well.



Overall, this was a really fun tour. I always enjoy sightseeing by boat, and the narration was entertaining (even though I do question the accuracy of the celebrity homes that they point out). I'd recommend this tour, and I'd even do it again!


After our tour, Aaron suggested that we walk back towards the hotel and grab lunch from the Whole Foods that was across the street from the Courtyard.

The Miami-Dade Metromover provides free transportation throughout Downtown Miami and Brickell. There was a stop near our hotel, so we could have taken the Metromover to Bayside Marketplace, but I don't mind a walk!



There's a Metromover station at Bayfront Park which serves the Inner, Omni, and Brickell loops.



We got food from the hot bar at Whole Foods and took it back to the Courtyard to eat in the lobby dining area. Then we headed back to our rooms to rest and get ready for the next leg of our trip. 

I always get a little sad when vacation was over, so it was kind of fun knowing that one part of our vacation was over, but we weren't even halfway through our entire vacation yet!


It was during this time that Southwest really dropped the ball on holiday travel. I was watching our Disney Fantasy Cruise Facebook group, and there many of the families who were going to be on our cruise were affected. Some had even made the decision to not risk the flight and decided to drive instead (one family's drive was 16 hours!). I was so grateful that we were already in Florida before this chaos ensued because even though we rarely fly Southwest, I'm sure we would have been very nervous if we were flying cross-country the next day.

Meanwhile in the group chat....

Rachel and Landon had booked their flights on Southwest, and like always, Rachel was on top of it with backup plans. Their original Southwest flight was supposed to arrive in Orlando on Wednesday (that's tomorrow on this timeline), but since so many Southwest flights were being canceled, she and Landon booked a backup flight on Delta that would arrive Thursday (Delta has a great cancelation/change policy). However, she really didn't want to miss out on a day at Disney. So then she looked into having their bags shipped since Southwest was having major issues with checked bags. Landon thought that it was unnecessary to ship their bags because in theory if their flight wasn't canceled, their checked bags on their nonstop flight should arrive with them. Rachel suggested that if he was so confident their checked bags would arrive, they should repack their bags so that they only had one checked bag which would include most of Landon's clothes and two carry-ons which would include most of Rachel's clothes. So if their bag was lost, it would be Landon who had no clothes. Landon was confident in their bag making it, so they did a luggage shuffle.

Stove and Judy were driving down, therefore had nothing to worry about (except for the increased traffic on the road from all of the people who had to drive instead of fly).

Will Rachel and Landon make it to Orlando? Will Southwest cancel their flight? Will Landon have any clothes for the cruise??

Find out next time........


  1. Nice review: We've never done a POST Cruise because my espousa wants to get back home as soon as possible; However we are doing a pre cruise trip before our upcoming July trip

    1. Typically I prefer the city or theme park touring to come at the beginning of a trip, then end with a relaxing cruise. We've done it both ways, and it's a little tough to go from relaxing and having everything included to touring around and going back to having to pay per meal - haha!