Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And Away We Go

Which quote to use? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times? Or how about Getting there is half the fun? Or just Are we there yet? You choose.

Embarkation day started well enough. Our regular driver, Dominique, called to say he was sending someone with a van because he knew we had too much luggage to fit in his limo. That was an understatement. Once again, we looked like Commodore and Mrs. Vanderbilt with our seven pieces of luggage – five matching suitcases plus two carry-on bags. We were to pay the replacement driver $65 because his car was bigger. So far, so good. William showed up early and loaded his minivan while we closed up the house. Away we went.

As we were driving out of the community, William asked how we normally drove to the airport. We explained that we were taking a cruise from Port Everglades, not leaving from the local airport. This prompted a call to Dominique who said that the rate was $130 to the port. We had little choice at this point. Away we went.

When we pulled into Port Everglades and parked in front of the m.s. Prinsendam, William took the luggage out of the van. One. Two. Three. Four. He had left the fifth bag, the smallest in the set, in the garage. There were some angry words passed back and forth about how it was or wasn’t his fault; the bottom line was that all of D’s long-sleeved shirts were in West Palm Beach while we were in Fort Lauderdale. We paid William and away he went. It should be mentioned here, before William disappears forever from our lives, that on top of forgetting the small bag, he drove like a maniac. He maintained a steady 80 mph on Florida’s Turnpike and on I-595 which connects to the port. And he wove in and out of traffic, often wandering across lane markers even when he wasn’t changing lanes. So away he went at high speed.

As we pulled up, we saw Scott and Karen whom we had met on last Fall’s trip. They are joining us on most of our field trips and are part of our trivia team [or we are part of theirs]. They told us they had been able to get us assigned to their table for dinner while they were on the cruise just prior to this one [on the Prinsendam]. That was very considerate of them. Unfortunately, we prefer late dinner and they were eating at 5:30. We discovered later that we had been erroneously assigned to early seating, too. We thanked them but explained the problem and they were quite understanding.

We entered the shed where the Holland America staffers were checking passengers in and took our turn doing the embarkation dance. While we were doing this, we were carrying [well, D was carrying] both carry-on bags and dragging another small suitcase. Why didn’t he check that one at the curb, you ask? Because it was filled with 54 cans of Coke Zero, MA’s new fave. We didn’t want it thrown around for fear of leaking cans or, just as bad, carbonation bombs when we opened them. Talk about heavy, this was worse than carrying the nine liters of olive oil around Florence in 2001.

We had no trouble boarding, though. There were no lines to speak of; the hardest part was dragging that soda up the ramp to the ship. We were able to stow all three bags at the Front Desk for future pickup, so we weren’t saddled with them all day. Our first stop was the dining room to change our assigned time from 5:30 to 8:00. Since more of the geezers want to eat early, we will have no problem. Actually, we may have solved it ourselves. Another couple had been assigned to the late seating but needed to eat early for medical reasons. We simply switched tables and times with them tonight. They ate at Scott and Karen’s table and we had a table for two by the rear window. We will probably get a new assignment tomorrow.

MA told D he should just buy new shirts for the trip, but D thought that would be outrageously expensive to do on board the ship. So we went back on shore and caught a cab to the airport so we could rent a car to drive home to get the bag. Away we went.

The cabbie was pleasant and we thought he was joking when he charged $18 to go the two miles to the airport. Anyone who has been to both places knows how close they are. Again, what choice did we have? We ended up at Thrifty Car Rental because theirs was the shortest line. Paperwork signed, D asked about a shuttle to the port when we returned. There is none from FLL [the airport], but another location not far away did provide shuttle service to the port. Good. Away we went.

Even though it was a tiny Ford Focus, we still were charged $60 for our three-hour tour [Sounds like Gilligan’s Island, doesn’t it?]. We raced up I-95 to West Palm Beach; drove to the house; got the bag from the garage; and sped back to Ft. Lauderdale. Away we went.

Once back in Ft. Lauderdale, we had trouble finding the Thrifty agency. The counter agent had given D the wrong intersection and we finally asked for help. There was no listing in the yellow pages at the first store, but D found someone in another store who Googled it and got a phone number. We got directions and hustled to return the car. There was, indeed, a shuttle because the agency was adjacent to the port property, albeit on the opposite end; they were literally by an entrance. All together now: Away we went.

We finally were back on board, tired and hungry, a little past 3:30. Remember, we had arrived originally at 11:30. The welcome-aboard buffet was being taken down at 3:45 when we arrived so we foraged on fruit and cheese. We finished in barely enough time to attend the mandatory lifeboat drill at 4:15.

Things settled down after that. We were able to unpack most of our clothes, including the shirts[!], but the hanging bag hadn’t been delivered by the time we went for a drink before dinner. We enjoyed a quiet meal [MA had her usual vegetarian entrĂ©e and D had the fish] highlighted by apple strudel for dessert; no one does apples like Holland America. After dinner, we went on deck to see if we could spot the space shuttle launch but weren’t sure of the launch time or which direction to look in. We saw nothing but a beautiful night. From there, it was back to the room to unpack the hanging bag. MA did some crossword puzzles while D went to write the journal. He admits he was enticed to play a few hands of blackjack, but he left with the same amount he had at the outset.

Tomorrow, we have our Cruise Critic meet-and-greet and the first day of team trivia. Stay tuned for the excitement.