Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale
|Tuesday, October 10, 2023: With all of the excitement and anticipation for today, we were up by 7:00 AM. Tom took the rental car out to fill the tank and to pick up one last breakfast at McDonald's.
|The rental car needed to be turned back in by 10:00 AM, so we left the hotel at 9:40 AM, ...
|... said goodbye to Dania Beach, ...
|... and had the rental car returned to Enterprise by 9:45 AM.
|We had four hours to go before we could check in for our cruise, so we found a nice spot at the rental car center where we could sit and pass the time. Around noon, Tom walked over to Terminal 1 and got bagel sandwiches and Diet Cokes for us to eat for lunch.
|What do you think is in this LEGO tote bag?
|Hmm. No LEGO in there, no sir. Clever Debbie. All of the LEGO goodness is hidden in and under the paper bags.
|It was the perfect spot to wait. We had it almost entirely to ourselves, with only a handful of other people using the chairs the entire time that we were there.
|We used the Marine Traffic app to check on the location of our ship, the MS Zuiderdam. Last night, it had been in Port Canaveral, but now it was at Terminal 26 in Fort Lauderdale, just like it was supposed to be.
|At 1:30 PM, we couldn't wait any longer. We grabbed our stuff and headed toward the rideshare area between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to request an Uber to take us to the terminal. When we stepped outside however, the taxi queue was right there with a line of taxis and no waiting, so we decided to take a taxi to the port instead.
|The driver loaded our bags in the trunk and we got in the back for the short ride ...
|... to Port Everglades. We had to show our passports at the entrance to get through security, ...
|... but only ten minutes after leaving the airport we were at the ship. We dropped our luggage off with the porters outside the terminal building, ...
|... and headed inside to a surprisingly empty building. We breezed through security, ...
|... and after a brief delay to verify that they had Tom's correct passport information, we were checked in and headed to the boarding ramp.
|Thirty minutes after leaving the airport, we were on board and walking down the long hallway of deck eight, ...
|... to cabin 8147. Our room keys were in the mail slot by the door, along with some other "Welcome Aboard" mail.
|We had upgraded to a Neptune Suite and it took our breath away when we got inside. Here's the main room, ...
|... and here's the view looking back toward the door.
|Directly opposite the door was a dressing area with a vanity and three narrow closets, and then the bathroom was beyond that.
|The bathroom had a countertop with two sinks, ...
|... a bathtub, ...
|... and a separate shower.
|Here's a different view of the dressing area just outside the bathroom.
|Here are the closets in the dressing area.
|Back in the main area, here's the view from the entry way, ...
|... and again from the near left corner of the room at the end of the couch.
|This is the view from the desk area. The big wooden doors in the far corner open to another closet.
|It had four shelves, a safe, and a short hanging bar.
|Our cabin attendent, Josmen, stopped in briefly to introduce himself, to learn our names, and to ask about the luggage that we had checked with the porters. Both suitcases and both duffel bags that we had shipped ahead with Luggage Forward had already been waiting for us in our cabin when we arrived, so we just needed to get the two suitcases and the duffel bag that we had left with the porters.
|Since the COVID pandemic, cruise ships have changed the mandatory muster process to one that we very much like. Instead of the entire ship's passengers and crew gathering in a crowded common area and listening to the emergency procedures, you get to watch the briefing on the TV in your cabin, ...
|... and then go to your muster station and have your badge scanned to show that you completed the process. We love this!
|We stopped at the Neptune Lounge on deck seven on the way back to our cabin. This area is exclusive to Neptune and Pinnacle suite guests, and there were quite a few people in the lounge, with a line of people waiting to speak to the concierge. We grabbed something to drink and each took a sandwich, ...
|... and sat at the end of the long table and chilled for a minute. There was a beautiful replica of the Zuiderdam at the end of the room. We'll have to come back here to look around again in a few days when hopefully there are fewer people.
|Around 4:30 PM, Josmen knocked on the door and delivered the last suitcase. He had been bringing them one at a time as he located them, which was very nice. This poor suitcase though had taken a beating. The left corner near handle had been dented and there was a huge crack from the corner to near the handle. More battle scars. This luggage has seen some things!
|Debbie got out the LEGO daily calendar that she'd made for this trip and set it up on the table on our balcony. The plan was to change the display every day to reflect what day it was, what special events are happening onboard, and/or what we were going to be doing that day. Obviously, our minifigs were dressed for embarkation day, carrying our luggage and passports. There was even a bottle of champagne in the display to match the two bottles that had been waiting for us in our cabin.
|Here's the view of the port from our balcony. What's that coming out?
|Oh, yeah. Maersk right there. Almost close enough to touch.
|Wow. The channel was narrow, and we could look right down onto the cargo deck.
|This was the closest we'd ever been to a Maersk ship, and we couldn't stop looking at it.
|The Maersk star logo is so beautiful.
|Buh, bye, Maersk Venezia.
|We had been scheduled to leave port at 4:00 PM, but they were still loading supplies and delayed our departure until 7:00 PM. We took advantage of the delay and FaceTimed with Jill, Jared, Liam, and Bennett so that we could give them a tour of our cabin. A little while later, Tom called his mom and repeated the tour, and then Debbie did the same with her Aunt Carol. For dinner, we ordered room service and took it out onto our balcony. Debbie had a club sandwich and Tom had a roast beef panini.
|For dessert, Tom had a slice of cheesecake and Debbie had chocolate cake.
|It was magical, just sitting at our table on our balcony enjoying the view, waiting for the ship to depart.
|Around 7:00 PM, we felt the ship's engines come alive as we watched an MSC container ship head out to sea.
|The crew of the MSC Shirley was out on deck to look at us just like we were looking at them. We exchanged friendly waves as they went by, ...
|... and then it was our turn to depart. No tugboats for us though. We fired up our bow and aft thrusters and gently slid away from the dock, ...
|... and then the ship's engines engaged and we left the pier behind.
|As we turned toward the ocean channel, we got a glimpse of a Viking Ocean Cruises ship all lit up.
|A harbor pilot boat dashed about all around us we turned into the narrow channel leading out to sea.
|There are some spectacular houses right on the waterfront.
|Check out all of the glass on this one. Beautiful!
|It was an amazing sail out, right at sunset, with the lights of Fort Lauderdale shining in the background.
|And just like that, we were well offshore. Goodbye, America! We'll see you again in December.
|We watched as the harbor pilots brought their boat alongside and two people climbed down the side of our ship and transferred to theirs. They waved up to all of the people watching as their boat turned and sped back to shore.
|Our cabin steward, Josmen, came in while we were out on the balcony and got our cabin all cleaned up for bedtime, leaving two chocolates and tomorrow's daily program.
|As we settled into bed, we ate the cheese plate that had come with our room service. There were crackers, cheese wedges, dried fruit, grapes, and apricot spread. It was a very nice bedtime snack. It had been a long day, full of adrenaline and excitement, and by 9:00 PM we were sound asleep.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy