Another key ingredient to attaining that stress-free cruise vacation, during winter months especially, is finding a hotel either near the airport or pier for a pre-cruise one-night or longer stay. On our Carnival Conquest cruise we opted for a Saturday night stay at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott near the airport. Note that there are two different locations, so be sure to know which one you've booked.
Arriving at MIA, Miami's bustling airport, we retrieved our luggage and looked for signs which guided us to hotel shuttles. To be on the safe side, we gave the hotel a call to find out if they were on their way to pick up passengers and found out that they would be there in about 10 minutes. We told them we were located near the Copa / Delta terminal and they told us to watch for a green van.
Recall that we mentioned two different locations. The first van that showed up was for their South location and when the driver asked which location we wanted, a quick email check confirmed that wasn't the van for us.
Shortly after that, our van arrived and the driver loaded our luggage and off we went. It was a short ride to the hotel and after checking in, we went up to our room and dropped off our luggage. The hotel has a restaurant / bar in the lobby so we decided to stay in for dinner. We picked two different meals and shared them: flat-bread pizza and Cuban sandwich.
For those that don't want to stay in for dinner, the hotel does offer a shuttle to Bayside Marketplace which is near the pier. We've eaten and shopped there on many other trips and would recommend it to anyone that still has energy to venture out after their flights. If you don't want to be tied to the shuttle's time schedule, you could get there by cab or Miami Metrorail.
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We inquired about transportation to the pier, and found out that the hotel provided shuttle service for $8 per person. We selected the 11 AM shuttle and went up to our room to relax.
In the morning we had a full complimentary breakfast and then inquired about an earlier shuttle to the pier. They were able to accommodate us. In our next article, you'll find out why that became a wise move.