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Published: September 6th 2017
Geo: 37.6945, -122.086
It's 6:17am and the alarm is telling me to "get up". Our driver and her assistant will be here at 9am to ferry us and our luggage to OAK. I instruct Karen to begin our last minute preparations while I snooze for 10 more minutes. Our bags are packed, cameras, iPad and phones charged and ready to go. Boarding passes, passports, wallet, credit cards, medications? Check. Cats have food? Who cares. Heat off? Light timers on? I think we're ready. We are going to the Caribbean for two weeks, however, we will not be alone.
Last August I booked a Holland America cruise for a week. Those additional 7 days will put us into the 4 star category with some nice perks offered on our future cruises. To make the long flight to Florida worthwhile, I considered adding a second cruise. Karen wanted to try a big ship so I checked out the Royal Caribbean "Allure of the Seas", the biggest cruise ship afloat with a 5500 passenger capacity. Unlike ships we normally travel on, this behemoth carries a shopping mall, sports activities including rock climbing and surfing, lots of restaurants and bars and an ice skating rink. While we're
still considering this second cruise, Mom blabs her mouth and the word is out. Queenie tells us that her son, Jonathan, is off school that week and that they would like to go. In addition, she's inviting Nickole. With some trepidation, I manage to get two adjacent staterooms, one that will accommodate 3 guests both with ocean views, booked for all of us. Several weeks after booking, Nickole decides she can't join us. While the staterooms are locked in, the game plan changes. The new course of action would be that while we take our first cruise, Scarlett and Jonathan will visit Nickole at her home in Jacksonville. Then, on February 19, Karen and I disembark the Holland America Koningsdam in Fort Lauderdale and board the Allure of the Seas, somehow connecting with Queenie who should be in the area, having left Jacksonville the day prior. It all sounds good but we'll see. I feel that it's a good story in the making.
L & L Limousine Service arrives promptly at 9am. Operated by my brother, Larry, and his wife, Louanne, their services are offered to us when necessary. We've used them before as they are quite reliable and handle
all the details for us. While the driver loads our luggage, Mom says goodbye to the cats and the assistant seats us for the ride to OAK airport. Within 20 minutes, we're curbside at the Southwest terminal. Although the ride is free, we tip generously, arrange for our pickup in two weeks and say goodbye.
The Skycap handles our check in and baggage and we roll through security with ease, making our way to Gate 29, one half hour before boarding. Mom buys us a Subway sandwich and two bottles of water for the 3 1/2 hour flight to New Orleans. We won't make it on peanuts alone. I purchased the "Earlybird" boarding pass for $12 which eliminates the printed boarding pass and gets us a priority position, A26/27. We board at 10:30am, Mom finds a good window seat and promptly at 11:15am, our flight takes off for MSY New Orleans. As usual, the flight is full, not one empty seat.
Our first leg is an uneventful flight. No screaming kids, no fighting, Mom sleeping. Nothing to report here. It's a literary drought for writers like myself. I play some solitaire and look out the window now and then. I'm refuse
to pay for their WiFi. I'm stuck in the middle seat as Karen always insists on the window, not so she can see outside but where she is more comfortable napping. The old lady in the aisle seat seals my fate and I remain locked in place just as I had envisioned. Arriving in New Orleans, we deplane and wait 45 minutes to board. We arrive at Gate 8 and our plane to FLL will board at Gate 9. No mystery here. At 6:00pm we promptly board and lift off at 6:30. Same seating situation but a different old lady. I'm not complaining. It could be a football player or even a wrestler!. Maybe I am complaining. It also could have been a super model. Anyway, we're scheduled to land at FLL about 9pm EST.
It's just after 9pm in Ft. Lauderdale where we find the baggage carousel, grab our bags and make our way to the hotel van pickup area. Ramada says it will be about a half hour. We wait. Time's up and I call to check. The gal says, "The driver had to stop for gas. He'll be there shortly". We find out from the driver later
that she forgot to tell him and he only found out on my second call. It's a free 15 minute ride with $5 tip.
Arriving at the Ramada, we check in. The room is nice. The place is nothing fancy but it's clean, adequate and no bugs. Besides, we're here for just the night and the price was right, although inflated because of the number of cruise ships in port tomorrow. People who arrived earlier, cruisers I'm sure, are sitting around the pool tonight in their Hawaiian shirts and shorts, enjoying the tiki bar but we're done and head straight to our room. While Mom putters around in the room, I work a little on the blog, shower, eat a couple of small candies and call it quits. We'll make up for it tomorrow with the free breakfast. It's midnight here in Florida but for us, we still feel like 9pm Pacific time.
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