Monday, February 13, 2012

Sea Legs

Sun setting over Florida from plane window
Even though it has been almost 24 hours since the ship docked, I still feel its sway back here in the cold north. Oh did I need some sun and warmth!
This was to be the MOM's cruise. We have been meeting for over 32 years having our little bobbleheads laying on our hand crocheted blankets in front of us  while we shared stories of their little triumphs. One by one our potential cruisers dropped out leaving just the two of us but that was enough for a party so we went. The cruise line we took was one of the few (if not the only one) which lets you bring your own wine to the room. I fretted a bit while packing. Did I want to risk wine breaking over all my 'nice' clothes? Solution: Boxed wine! Doesn't break, needs no corkscrew and the box is lighter than the glass.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale where the airport, the hotels, and the cruise port are all in a short distance from each other.Theoretically we could walk! On our last cruise chosen in part  for its price, we ended up a $100 taxi ride from port..not doing that again. We also flew in the night before so I wouldn't be worrying if we would be snowed in missing the cruise but no snow on the day we left or the day after.We chose a motel whose price was half that of the going, inflated rate. After we had paid for it, I started reading the reviews (wrong order of things I know). Lots of Worst place ever! Bugs! Avoid like the Plague! Dangerous Area! There were a few reviews addressing its charm and friendliness but maybe the owner threw those in.
 The plane itself was full of cruisers. I could not sit with my friend (must make reservations way earlier!) but I sat with two very excited sisters eager for their trip, one missing her first grandchild's birth (I booked this cruise back in March! I had no idea she would get pregnant!)Very chatty ladies and packing every kind of snack food imaginable which they shared with me.
Haitian Taxi Drivers: This seems to be their competitive niche. While we waited in the taxi line, a fight broke out between two drivers shouting loudly in French Creole. They were vigorously  punching each other: were weapons  coming next? The dispatcher broke it up. Soon it was our turn to hop in a 20 year old falling apart car driven by the surliest man ever. There was a fixed price presumably and the motel was close but he seemed real put out to have to be driving us there. He pointed to the trunk when we arrived for us to unload our bags ourselves. Our motel host told us that all the guests complain about the rudeness of the taxi drivers but he would arrange for 'nice ones' for the following day.
Our Charming Dive: This was a small stucco motor court built in the 1930s and not updated much since. An indie film director rented the whole place out a few weeks before for its shabby ambiance I guess. My friend took numerous photos of this place which I will share (she brought 2 cameras: a large fancy one with multiple lenses and a small one such as mine..she took ten photos if not more for every one I took)It had various flowering trees, a lit up palm tree, brightly painted Adirondack chairs in its court yard, and a swimming pool. The manager, a young, friendly British dude, offered us wine. We sat in the steamy Florida night eating our makeshift dinner of hummus, cheese, olives, crackers (I took the 'no food anywhere' review to heart) underneath the lit up palm tree. We stayed up until one in the morning with Chris the dude  sharing his views on the world and class struggles. In Britain, the divide between the Posh (as he calls and hates them) and the working class is great. We broke open one of the boxes once the motel's happy hour policy was exceeded. The area was a mix of car rental lots and fuel storage tanks. In the morning, we could see the tops of the cruise ships. In the room, I checked the sheets carefully for bedbugs (though no reviewer complained of this in this place but did in the other  hotels). I did not see any of the dreaded Palmetto Bugs (Floridian for extremely large cockroach)that some reviews referred to. We did see some little ants. The room was clean but small. It had a photo of Billy Idol on the wall. I got up early to read under the palm tree and eat the reasonable continental breakfast knowing that soon I would be in food heaven.We had time to kill before the ship would let us on. We dangled our toes in the pool. Already I was worrying about being sun burned. We investigated the various flowering trees which I could not identify beyond the hibiscus.But flowers! When I have I seen a flower bloom outside of my confused quince! Other cruisers started to surface and we compared notes with them.
From the Lido deck waiting for us to leave port. The ship to the left was a twin of the ship we were on and went to the same ports. At port we would ask Which Dam ship are you on?
After standing in several lines, we were finally on our floating home for a week! So excited. My friend had not been on a cruise before. Believe it or not, we were on the young side on this ship. No hip-hop: no kids running all over the place..very quiet.
 According to the cruise line, the ship had 2 million dollars of art work throughout the ship. The overall decor was art deco. On the left are the designs in the elevator doors. Our favorite elevators were the glass ones suspended over the sea and outfitted with color changing lights at night. Others avoided these elevators as being out in the open made them ill. We were on a budget and chose an inside room which was efficiently finished and had great mattresses. I think I will opt for a window at least the next time. But plenty of places to lie in the sun or in the shade (one of us preferred shade to sun). We easily made friends with other cruisers throughout the week. In short, we had a blast! I was afraid of becoming seasick but the seas were calm for the most part though others complained. The cruise director's favorite question: What religion are those people with the spots behind their ears?Answer: Equeasiasticals.
 Throughout the week, many saw porpoises and a few saw the migrating humpback whales. All I saw were the flying fish and firigate birds.
We were to have 4 ports of call and two whole days at sea but we were not able to do the last port, the one I looked most forward to, due to it being too dangerous to tender in the high waves. The ship needed to medically evacuate two people: one required that the ship turn around and backtrack 2.5 hours to land so we missed a chunk of time in our first port. The other evacuation required just an hour or so. The sister ship had someone helicoptered in a swinging box right off the ship itself.
At the cruise port, one mega ship had to come in 2 days early as the ship was infected with norovirus, my favorite. Other ships were delayed due to this. Fortunately this was not a problem on our ship. As a precaution, for 48 hours, no guest could reach for food or have skin to skin contact with the help. All surfaces were swabbed regularly.

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