Thursday, February 6, 2014

Travelling to Travel: Cruise 2014

Many things about this cruise are different than our first two cruises.  Our first cruise, we also took an early morning flight, but did it on the actual day of cruise departure.  It was October, so we weren't worried about weather delays.  It was still a little unsettling until we were headed to the actual ship.  The next two cruises had us travelling down the day before, both times were afternoon flights and we got in to the hotel at around 10:30pm.  No matter how you slice it, it's going to be a long day, probably about 7 hours before getting to the hotel.  The way back is probably longer in some ways, since you have to clear customs twice, but at least you don't have the drive to the airport.

We arranged for the shuttle to pick up Rob's parents (here in known as Mum and Dad) first, and then us at 4:15am.  The kids were great, and got up just after 3am.  It's hard to eat breakfast that early, so I also packed some snacks.  Amazingly, we were all ready to go!  There was a light snow which was worrisome though.  When the van arrived, Rob headed out first to help.  Dad got out of the van, but kept his hood up.  The kids got into the back of the van.  Mum had her hood up but said hello.  I was standing on the porch, waiting to hear squeals of surprise!  Nothing!  I got in the van last and we took off.

This time Mum turned right around and said good morning.  The kids started laughing!  One of the girls said they had thought the woman was "another friendly English lady like grandma"  LOL!  But yet, they didn't seem too surprised, or excited!

The drive was a little slow in spots, there was one accident involving a transport truck, but some lanes were still open.  We got to the airport by 5:15, I think.  Rob and Dad got out to help with the suitcases, and then us and Grandma got out.  The kids still didn't clue in, until they saw suitcases that weren't ours!  Someone said they though they were coming to the airport to say good bye to us!  They still didn't seem to get it that they were actually coming WITH us (Mum and Dad have talked about a cruise they're going on later in the spring, so the kids were confused).  Then someone asked if they would be in our room too, but they had their own room, so the kids were happy LOL!!

Checking in 7 people at once.  Wow.  The agent was doing fine, but another one stepped in to try to help, but made the original guy a little confused.  We were concerned about our carry on, since it was 21" and the website said 20".  They weren't even weighed.  I don't think all the bigs ones were weighed either!  It was a nuisance having to take suitcases through security.  My big one kept falling over, plus I had the pull along carry-on, my purse, and a small shopping bag with snacks. 

Security went smooth, the girls didn't have to take off their shoes, my purse was barely looked at this time.   The agent seemed happy that I had taken the lids off the water bottles.  Immigration was set up different now though.  First you go to an automated machine.  We had a few difficulties with that, as did Mum and Dad.  But still not bad, lines kept moving.  Then you go up to the old booths for another check, then the large bags go off for loading (I think we kept the suitcases till's all a blur now!). 

We headed off in what seemed to be the only logical way, following others down the main concourse. The kids got to try the moving sidewalks, and see if it made it faster.  We got down to the gates and found our gate, B12 (?) wasn't there.  It seemed to be over on the other side of the glass wall.  Back we went, this time of course, you can't use the moving sidewalks.  Over to the other side, and there's no B12.  Apparently, it should have been C12. 

Our plane was there already, even though it was only sometime between 6:30 and 6:45 by this time.  Our flight wasn't until 8:45! 

We easily found seats in the row looking out onto the tarmac, and the kids settled in, and we got connected to wi-fi.  There were many trips to the water fountain, the washroom, and Rob even found me a Starbuck's (though I didn't really need it yet, I did appreciate it!!).  Lucy got started on some of her homework:
 We didn't get to see the sunrise, but we did get to watch the ground crew trying to have a snowball fight with the fluffy snow. 
 The kids thought both, that the plane was big, and that it was small.  It was neat for them to be able to see it get loaded up. 
There seemed to be a delay in pre-boarding, and finally they announced that they were waiting for a replacement attendant to arrive from Montreal because one of the scheduled attendants was sick.  Finally we loaded, I think the flight was 45-60 minutes late.

I was sitting beside Megan, who had the window seat.  Next to me on the aisle was a lady in her late 50s, and her mom was across the aisle.   In front of us was a Japanese looking couple (with a Chinese name--they had been paged on the intercom), with Grandma beside them, others in their group on the other side of the aisle, and a 14 month old girl on their laps.  Behind me was Rob, Hugh and Lucy (aisle, middle, window).  Behind them were Mum and Dad, they had the three seats to themselves.  There were also some more empty seats towards the back!

As usual, boarding and preparing seemed to take forever.  There was snow on the wings so they said we had to go for de-icing, which seemed forever to get there.  The kids thought this was neat and got some photos.

 We've been speculating what the red wands were for, guess we should look it up.

The plane was older, with the old, two prong headphone jacks and TV screens that flipped down from above.  Still, although the kids knew about the seatback screens, they didn't mind.  It's their first time, afterall!  But man, NO leg room, and very little width room.
Icky stuff getting the snow off the wings!
 I haven't flown in winter in over 20 years!

Take off was good.  This time it was a long, gradual, straight ascent.  I can't watch the very start of take off, LOL, and usually there's some steep banking in the first few minutes that unnerves me.  This time, there wasn't, and by the time I was ready to look out the window, we were in clouds! 
The kids got to have their free pop, but we were disappointed there were no free snacks.  Not even a 2 pack of Premium Plus crackers.  The hot food did smell good though.  They checked out the bathroom.  A few times.  Meg watched the movie in French because she didn't know there was an English channel.  It wasn't a kid movie though, and she doesn't know any French, so that was a good thing.
 Lucy got annoyed when the window started to thaw!

The flight was pretty smooth, the baby in front of us was absolutely wonderful.  Eventually the clouds cleared and the kids could see down below.  They were excited to see the ocean! 

I got a little nauseous, I think from chewing gum.  The descent was LONG and a lot of ear popping. It really bothered Meg's ears, even for several hours after.  She was nearly crying by the time we landed.  I was disappointed we came in from the east and the kids didn't get to see the Everglades.  When we arrived, they did their talk, and said to smoke only in designated areas.  What a difference from Canada, where the gov't pays for healthcare, and there's no smoking in public (gov't) buildings, or within 9m of the doors!  LOL!

We took our time getting off the plane; as usual, there were some at the back who felt that they should get off first since they got on first.  It's pretty easy to get to the luggage carousel, and we found all our bags quickly.  Mine was still toppling over.

Then, we had to find the hotel shuttle.  I was sure it was outside to the left (though I kinda thought to the right, LOL).  I remembering trying to phone the hotel at the free info board, but it didn't work.  We tried that again, and it didn't work.  Dad tried his cell phone, but it didn't work.  Mum was talking to a woman, and they headed off down a long hall, so we slowly followed.  They found a free courtesy phone and we called the hotel.  They said we had to go to some spot (whoever called couldn't understand them well) and the van would be there in 20-30 minutes.  So we headed back, and outside, and to the left, exactly to where we got it last time.  And, it was actually just arriving, and knew he was picking up 7 people (plus others).

Fun drive to the hotel. It really feels like you're going in a big circle around the airport, on and off the interstate.  On the map, it's like, right across the road, LOL!

The hotel, Springwater Suites, has been doing renovations, and was almost done.  Our room was ready, but not Mum and Dad's, so we headed up to ours.  They're nice rooms there, this time we looked out onto the parking area.
If you look closely, you can see the roller coaster from Boomer's.
Last time we looked out onto the Interstate:
 Wasn't noisy though.
 And you could see a corner of the pool from the hall elevator lobby.
It was about 2:40.  The kids wanted to swim and eat.  The big dilemma was that Mum and Dad and Rob wanted to eat out only once.  We were starving, since we had eaten our snacks by 7:30.  I knew the kids needed lunch, but would also need something later on.  We decided to head out to Chipolte's as Burger King was absolutely a no-go and Taco Bell and McD's were also very low on the list.  We've recently been having quasadilla's, so they were keen to try those.  It's a great place for fast, fresh, GOOD, Mexican food, but man, the music was too loud!  We had a hard time hearing the workers, and since we weren't familiar with some ingredients or what went on the items, it was interesting.  I don't remember if I got medium or mild salsa, but it was pretty hot!

We walked back, and in the parking lot, Mum says she wants to go over to the plaza across the street to get wine to take on board.   We headed to the intersection (SW 18th Ave, on the north side, and Oakwood Blvd on the south, going through the plazas), and had to cross back to where we started from since the sign said to cross ONLY in the crosswalks!  Then cross back once on the other side.  We started through the parking lot of a big plaza.  We saw a K-Mart and something else that looked like a grocery store and headed there.  As we were approaching, there was a friendly looking man loading groceries into his SUV, so Mum stopped to ask him where we could buy some wine.

The back of his SUV was filled with boxes of wine!  LOL!!

Apparently, he was at a friend's house and had some great wine.  The friend said he bought it as a clear out at a dollarstore, so he had bought some last weekend to try.  It was actually quite good, so he had just gone back to stock up.  Four bottles for $10.  We had a great conversation, and it turns out the dollar store was right across the street (the same one we had already crossed twice). 

We headed back across the street.  Even though we were a large group, crossing at a 4-way stop, the cars still kept coming!  Really now.  We're in the middle of the street, and you just head towards us?  Where are we going to go?  You're just worried that the cross traffic might go before it's properly YOUR turn!

We found the dollar store.  What fun for the kids, to shop in an American store!  A little overwhelming, since all three were hands on.  I left Rob and his parents to the wine section, while I searched for sunscreen.  We picked up a few goodies (which turned into dinner, LOL) and 5 bottles of wine between us.  We headed back, crossing that street at the main crosswalk.  Which was still kinda scary.  Pedestrians don't seem to have the right of way, even with a green light/walk signal!

Back at the hotel, the bucket of suckers on the check in desk had turned into chocolate chip cookies.  Great dinner!  The kids decided they MUST swim.  I headed down with them, planning to sit on the patio and Facebook.  However, the wifi didn't work outside.  The kids said the pool was warm.  I didn't believe them, so I tried it.  Indeed, it WAS warm.  Warm enough for this cold Canadian!  I went back upstairs and got in my suit and brought down the waterproof camera for a test run.

 Selfies are hard underwater, especially without goggles.
 Posing by the waterfall.
 Hard to believe we saw people in Chipotle's with jeans, heavy sweaters, and even toques on!
 Look at the detail of the bubble on her face!  LOL!

 We even used the self-timer for a family shot, though Hugh wasn't co-operating (you can see him behind Meg's arm), and I was afraid the camera was going to fall over.

And you've got to love this shot below, where Hugh is trying to lick Lucy.  Don't ask questions.  Just enjoy the picture.

The battery was getting pretty low, and we finally headed in.  The kids got in their jammies.  We were pretty tired, and it seemed really, really odd that it was only 6:30pm LOL.  We got more cookies from the lobby and ate the candy from the dollar store and visited with Mum and Dad and tried the first bottle of wine.  It wasn't very good, LOL.  Somehow, once we got on the ship, they ended up with a second bottle of that wine, we were supposed to have one.  Ooops.  In the end, they didn't get to sleep all that early, but I think they were out by 8:30!  Not bad!

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