Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Caribbean Cruise - Embark - 12/17/2012

We flew to Fort Lauderdale via Houston on 12/16/2012 for our cruise that embarked the next day.  It was a tough day for travel not due to winter weather, but because of strong thunderstorms in the Houston area.  IAH was shutdown for about an hour as the storms passed though.  We sat in KC waiting to take off.  After dealing with the delays and gate changes that got us all too familiar with the Houston airport, we finally arrived in Fort Lauderdale a couple of hours late....no big deal.  That's why we traveled a day early.  If I had it to do over, I think we would go two days early since we were just one extra delay away from being in trouble getting to the ship on time.  If there is one thing you don't want to do, its missing the sailing of your ship.

We had a little trouble getting the shuttle bus from the airport to the Holiday Inn Express due to inadequate instructions from the hotel and poorly marked buses.  We did arrive at the hotel about 8:00 pm after getting up a 4:00 am to get ready to leave that morning....we were tired and hungry.

Having scouted the area surrounding the hotel on Google Earth, we knew that there was a German restaurant about three block from the hotel.  Old Heidelberg turned out to be a really nice place.  Sigrid and I both had Jaeger Schnitzel and enjoyed the live music.  We were just worried that the place would be open that late on a Sunday evening so the music was a real treat.  Most of the staff in the restaurant spoke German so everything was authentic.  It was a very relaxing way to end a long day.

We took 5 Guys Transportation limo service to an from the airport for this trip.  It cost $65 each way without tip for both Sigrid and me.  For a 22 day trip, it is just about a break-even compared to Economy Parking at MCI.  It sure is nice to have someone waiting for you with a sign when you get back exhausted from a long trip.  You don't have to worry about parking lot dings and whether the car will start after sitting in the December/January cold for three weeks.

We took a shuttle bus from the hotel to the ship the next morning.  Check in with Holland America was fairly easy and quick even with the number of people being processed.  Being experienced cruisers, we were able to find our room on the ship rather quickly and began enjoying the day.

Home sweet home for the next three weeks.  Our cabin is a veranda model.  We look at the cabin as a master bedroom and the rest of the ship is our house.  I got in trouble with Sigrid because the cabin I selected is just one deck up from the life boats so we can see all the hardware for the boats as we sit on the veranda.....something to think about on the next cruise.  It didn't bother me.  I was intrigued by all the cables, pulleys, hydraulic cylinders, and other hardware for lowering the boats into the water.  I tried to figure it all out in case I had to get a boat in the water all by myself.  That is just the engineer in me.

  There were several other cruise boats in port the day we left.

The is the "Liberty of the Seas" cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean Lines.  It is about twice the size of our ship with a capacity for 3,600 passengers.  It is a beautiful ship so I had to take photos.  They departed from port right after we did.

Lots of food and other supplies being loaded for our cruise.

I can see one of our suitcases in the container.  It's the black one with the red strap around the middle.

There is always a drug sniffing dog on hand to check the cargo.

The stern sundeck on the Noordam.

The Lido pool.  The ship has two large pools and at least four whirlpools.

Ocean going chess set.

There is always a party as you embark.  Note the Christmas decorations.  This is a holiday cruise for Christmas and New Years.

The Pilot Boat getting ready to lead us out of the harbor.

Nothing but high rises all the way down to Miami from here.

The inter-coastal water way runs along the eastern shore of Florida.

Already in the Christmas spirit.

Sigrid has her first Pina Colada of the cruise....way too sweet but refreshing.

Nice steel drum music for the sail off.

Next up is Half Moon Cay.

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