Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cruise 2011: Pre-cruise

Ever since our last cruise, November 2008, we have wanted to go on another.  Rob has wanted to go on the newest ship, the Oasis of the Seas, but the thought of being on a ship with 6100 other guests (plus over 2000 crew) was a bit much for me.  I really wanted to go on a southern Caribbean cruise, but Rob didn't want the hassle/expense of flying to San Juan, or the smaller ship.  The past few years have been really busy and stressful for us (the move and his new job), but every once in awhile we'd check out cruise prices and then sigh and postpone for later. 

This past summer one of my friends went on the Oasis of the Seas.  She gave a very good review of her trip, stressing that the ship never felt crowded as there are more venues, places to eat, and open space than on the smaller ships (ie--it has two FlowRiders, but not twice as many passengers as the ships we had been on).  Rob's parents were open to looking after the kids for a week (since we now live close, and all three are in school full time!).  We looked at the prices, and the itineraries, and on Sept 6 booked the Western Caribbean cruise for Oct 23-30 on Allure of the Seas.  We booked as an "guaranteed inside cabin", which meant that it could take up to the day of sailing to find out our stateroom number/location.  We feared being down in the bottom of the ship again, but would take our chances.
 Our WestJet 737 for the trip down
Isn't that spectacular?  Just want to reach out and touch that fluff!

We got lucky with awesome direct flights, at good times and good prices.  We flew WestJet from Toronto to Ft. Lauderdale on Sat. Oct 22 at 4pm aprox.  We were nervous about timing, having to drive through Toronto on a Saturday afternoon, but it was nice not to have to get up in the middle of the night!  We actually got there a bit before the WestJet counter opened, but when it did, we were immediately pleased with their staff.  Actually, before we left, I got a call from someone at WestJet to make sure we had found out about our change in our return flight time!  Going through security and customs was quick and painless, although paying for an early dinner in the airport wasn't so painless, LOL.

 I was terribly excited to see the live GPS images, however, once the plane showed up on the screen, I had to laugh.  Look at how big the plane is!  It was handy to take a picture out the window, then one of the screen to show where we were.  I'm sure the old snowbird next to me thought I was odd!
 These two pictures are between Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia.  The river formations/deltas were amazing!  I'm going to be visiting Google Maps to check them out some more!

They called pre-boarding, and we were surprised at how many adults in wheelchairs there were.  Apparently the migration of the snowbirds had started!  Pre-boarding (silly word) took longer than expected, and we boarded near the end since we were in row 6.  We took off a few minutes late. 

 I think this one below, is Daytona Beach.  I liked how the shadows of the buildings projected onto the ocean, but you couldn't see the buildings themselves.

Crew was pleasant, and although the take off was as lousy as I remember (it was fine, really, I just hate that part), the flight was smooth.  We got in a few minutes early in fact.  Our bags came quickly, we found our shuttle to the hotel and got checked in, then went to Chipotle's for a late dinner.
 I love how the cities go right up to the Everglades and then Stop!
However, it appears that we were further south than what the GPS showed.
 A little bit of the sunset.  It was hard to photograph, as it either blinded the camera (and me), or the camera would focus on the dirt on the window.

I had heard about Chipotle's on Oprah, and I think we have one in Toronto, but neither of us had been.  Rob thought we were just going to another form of Taco Bell, but he was extremely pleased with the taste and value of his meal.  He kept talking about going back to get another one!  Mine seemed to get spicier as I got closer to the end, but it was very good.  I would have liked a little dessert/sweet bit after as the spice stayed with me for awhile.
 The views from our hotel room...yeah, that's the I95.  Not the greatest view, but hey, we were there for the bed, free shuttles, and free breakfast.
SpringHill Suites (Marriott), Dania Beach
 Weird double-headed shower thing.
 It was technically a suite (with a king size bed!).  We kept our free water cold in the mini fridge, but didn't use the coffee maker.  I did however, enjoy sitting at the big desk while writing out a knitting chart!

We were going to go to the pool, but opted to keep our suits dry till on the ship.  It wasn't really an early night, but better than the last trip when we didn't get to the hotel till 11pm.
We got up bright and early for the free breakfast, then gathered our things for the free shuttle to the ship.

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