Published: April 4th 2006April 3rd 2006
Bodyguard service begins today. We are in Ft. Lauderdale where we are boarding Regent (used to be Radisson) Seven Seas Mariner for a cruise through the Panama Canal. This time, we’ll be viewing cruise travel through the eyes of an 88-year old. We are escorting Alan’s mother, Kathryn, (we call ourselves “the bodyguards”) on a trip she could not take alone.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, yesterday, severely sleep deprived from the change to Daylight Savings and switching time zones. Waking up at 3:30am on Sunday to drive to LAX didn’t help any.
At the airport, we took advantage of sidewalk check-in. A wheelchair was ordered for Kathryn and I assumed bodyguard duty through airport security while Alan returned our rental car. The wheelchair meant an escort for us through security and to the gate, the smartest way to travel with an elderly person. So far, our only faux pas was not having enough dollar bills for tipping (we forgot!). In Ft. Lauderdale, a wheelchair and attendant were waiting for us at the gate to take us to baggage pick-up and then guide us to the shuttle bus waiting area.
When we arrived at the Hampton Inn on
Stirling Rd. on their complementary shuttle bus, our rooms weren’t ready which turned out to be a good thing. Kathryn’s handicapped room became a handicapped suite as a reward for our wait. Once the luggage was deposited in our rooms, we were ready for a nap.
Hampton Inn provided a list of restaurants within walking distance. The walk turned out to be a long one and Kathryn, walking slowly with a cane, struggled to make it to the Moonlight Café. Our dinner was a pleasant surprise. The extensive menu provided tasty down home cooking. The half price sundaes were a bonus that we all enjoyed. Now we needed the hike back to the hotel to walk off calories.
This morning, after a typical “free” hotel breakfast of bagels, muffins and cereal, we bring our bags to the lobby to wait for the free shuttle to take us to Port Everglades and Seven Seas Mariner. We are dropped off at Terminal 21 around noon where Regent representatives (still using Radisson nametags) guide us to a seating area. One row at a time, passengers are allowed through security and to the processing area. A small, dark-haired Regent representative is particularly adept at facilitating the process, making sure that everyone waits his or her turn, no sneaking in line allowed!
Once through security, we stand in a short line to present our tickets and passports. With dark blue Regent wallet in hand, we step on the escalator, stop to have our picture taken by the ship’s photographer and walk up the gangplank to our home for the next two weeks.
“Welcome to Regent and Seven Seas Mariner,” a hostess says as she hands us a glass of champagne. We find a place to sit down because Kathryn needs to rest before we take the elevator to La Veranda for lunch.
While we are enjoying our glass of champagne, Cruise Director, Barry Hopkins, walks by. “Hello Barry,” Alan says, “Do you remember us.? We sailed to South America with you in 2004.”
“Well, of course I do,” Barry says. He makes us feel like his long lost friends although we’re sure that he barely remembers us. “I’ve just arrived myself. I’m not even in uniform yet,” he says. After introducing us to his Assistant Cruise Director, Sam Perry, we say goodbye and proceed to lunch.
By the time we finish lunch, Barry announces over the loudspeaker that the cabins are ready. Our cabin, 1030, is just down the hall from Kathryn’s handicapped access cabin, 1012. Her cabin, which is larger than ours, is outfitted with a walk-in shower and has many built-in cupboards rather than a walk-in closet. We are jealous but relieved to see that her accommodations will be a safe place for her. Her cabin stewardess, Karolina from Poland, stops by to introduce herself.
Back in our cabin, we meet our stewardess, Silvia from Austria. Her bubbly enthusiasm is contagious. Soon, we are back at our favorite place at sea, the balcony, sipping a soft drink and taking in the view. High-rise condominiums and an industrial zone are not that scenic but it looks good to us from this vantage point.
After the muster drill, Alan, Kathryn and I go to the pool deck for a sail away party. Glasses of Yellow Birds (rum, Galliano and orange juice) are served and we raise them high when Barry toasts the beginning of our voyage. Waiters offer canopies of salmon and egg salad sandwiches while a cook grills small skewers of steak, shrimp and chicken. Another table holds a large bowl of guacamole and chips. The Mariner Five, a Russian band from the Ukraine, pleases the crowd with lively music.
It’s time to go back to our cabins where we hope to find our luggage delivered so that unpacking can be completed before dinner. Alan and I step onto the deck to watch Mariner leave port. Storm damage from last October’s hurricane is evident. We pass houses with blue tarped roofs and some of the homes still have boarded windows.
Dinner tonight is in Compass Rose. After our wine is poured, we toast again to the beginning of a new cruise and then enjoy our first meal at sea.
Evening entertainment includes the NCAA Final Four game shown on a big screen in Constellation Theatre and an “introduce staff and entertainers” show in Horizon Lounge. We still feel the jet lag and missed sleep, so it’s off to bed for us. The ship sails so smoothly for Key West that we have to look outside to see if we are really moving before settling down for a good night’s rest.