Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30 - travel day

Disembarkation is always an interesting affair. Nobody wants to get off the ship. Everybody wants to stay. So people are tired and crabby and not looking forward to the travel day. Princess has a wonderful disembarkation process, however. They divide everyone into groups based on how and when you are scheduled to leave the port city of Fort Lauderdale. Each group is assigned to a different part of the ship and when it is your turn to go, a crew member simply tells you that you can go. This REALLY beats the old system of people scattered randomly throughout the entire ship and the intercom being used to make announcements about who can now leave the ship. That was chaotic.

I had purchased bus transfers to the Fort Lauderdale airport, so we were in one of the earlier groups, scheduled to disembark at 8:10 a.m. So I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m. The alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. Unfortunately, my attempt to hit the snooze button actually turned the alarm off. Fortunately, I woke up on my own at 7:40 a.m. After scurrying around like crazy people, we actually arrived at our appointed waiting area a minute or two prior to them telling us we could go.

Sam had purchased a small knife in Mexico and the ship had confiscated it. He was told that when he checked himself off the ship that a little alarm bell would ring and that the crew member could quickly look in the computer and see that the alarm signified that they were holding something. Since they knew the time and place of our departure in advance, they had his purchase waiting at that location and presto! We would be done. So, when the little alarm sounded, we were not startled. And he stepped to the side to collect his purchase. But when I checked out, the little alarm sounded again. A crew member stepped forward and asked me for my name. I told her. She explained that she had been asked to escort me to the United States Customs agents. My heart skipped a beat. The Princess crew member escorted me (and Sam) all the way down the exit to the area where you collect your suitcases, then on into the Customs area. The Customs agent asked me for my passport, my customs declaration and any proof of purchases. Luckily I had all of that ready! It seems that the cost of my little bauble had put me into the "must pay duty" category, but since my purchase was duty free, it was much ado about nothing! And we were allowed to go out the side exit, ahead of the 100 suckers who had been ahead of us in line. Yay!!!!!

It was at that moment that I realized that I had accidentally thrown our airport bus transfer tickets away the night before. So, we got in the taxi line and rode to the airport! Then the fun REALLY began! Our ship held about 3500 people. But there were several other ships that arrived that morning. So several thousand people converged upon the Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports simultaneously. Can you say MADHOUSE? I warned Sam in advance, but you have to see it to believe it.

The Fort Lauderdale airport has solved the problem by only allowing folks to check in two hours in advance of their departure time. The rest of us found floor space and got ready to WAIT. Sam and I were soon joined by the young couple we had met at the wine tasting, then climbed Dunn's River Falls with. They are such a fun, interesting, SMART couple. We sat together for a while. Then Sam was able to check in and go through to the gates for his 12:30 p.m. flight. A little while later, the couple was able to check in and go through to the gate for their 1:30 p.m. flight. Left to my own devices, I quickly made friends with a young man on my left from Philadelphia and two girlfriends on my right who were from Memphis and would be on my flight. We all enjoyed conversation so much that the time flew by. Then it was time to go through for our 4:30 p.m. flight. Yay!

I stopped to eat some chicken fingers and the two girlfriends from Memphis joined me. We talked and laughed until it was time to board our flight. We all agreed that we wished we had met two years ago when I first arrived in Memphis! They were so much fun.

Two sad notes today: A passenger died on the girlfriends' cruise ship. (I can't remember which ship they were on - not mine.) They had none of the details. And a crew member committed suicide by jumping overboard during the Oasis of the Seas voyage this week. He was a 45 year-old assistant waiter from St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Royal Caribbean declined to give his name, but they apparently have security footage showing him taking the leap. The ship apparently missed one of their ports of call because they were searching for him with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bahamian authorities. Very, very sad!!!

The flight was uneventful. I found my car, got in and received an immediate reminder that I was almost out of gas. I asked the attendant at the exit where the nearest gas station was and she told me. I then drove in that direction, found a gas station and attracted quite a bit of attention because I really stood out! I got 5 gallons and moved on!!!

At home, I found an incredibly affectionate cat, a pile of mail and NO FOOD. So now I am on my way out to get something to eat.

Thanks for joining me on my travels!!!

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