Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Family Cruise 2014: Trip Home

Ugh.  What can be said about flights home?  Well, this time again, lots. And not a lot of good things.

The day started fairly early, earlier than it needed too, just like every other cruise when I tell Rob we don't need to get up so early LOL.

We reminded the kids what the cabin had looked like when we arrived, LOL.  It sure didn't look like this when we left.  They weren't pleased that we couldn't go back to the cabin after leaving it in the morning, so we had to make use of our time before our luggage call.  We went to the Windjammer for breakfast, though we weren't too hungry (pizza at 11pm, means no hunger at 6:30am LOL).  I wish they could give you a lunch to go, or at least let you take a few cookies.  We noticed the sun was rising so we headed out to the jogging track for a last walk around the ship, and watch the sunrise.  Where we live, we don't get a good view of it, so the kids actually did think it was neat.

 Lucy's zoom isn't as good as mine; I think I packed my camera in my suitcase for some odd reason!  D'oh!

 After a cool walk around we were back inside near the kids' area, and the kids got friendly with Flipper.  The ship is really quiet on the last morning, despite most people still being on it, and even up and about.  They're congregating in their designated spots, or the Windjammer, so it's a neat time to explore a bit more.

Hugh got a little TOO friendly we Flipper and we moved on.
 Our designated spot was the theater.  Fine with me.  We found Mum and Dad M, and tried to rest for a bit.  Soon, it was our time to go off.  I forgot my water bottle and it's wonderful holder, one of the first I made using recycled wool :(  Quite ticked off about that.

Getting your luggage in the terminal is a pain in the butt.  Although I don't like the walk off option because it's too early, it might be worth it next time.  They should offer walk off all morning though.

Trying to find a cab/van for all 7 of us.  Ugh.  We got shuffled around, misinformed, and finally got split up into two taxis.  Got to the Ft Lauderdale airport.  I am really tempted to never fly out of there again.  Miami wasn't great either, but that was mainly because of the people.  Ft. Lauderdale was just a nightmare.  I don't remember it being like that before, though I remember it pretty clearly! A long line for the ticket counter.  In fact, out the door.  We got up there, and didn't have assigned seats--that's extra.  The agent gave my inlaws the last row on the plane and when Mum complained, he said "Well, you should have paid the extra for assigned seats".  They did get moved up, and were lucky to actually have an empty seat beside them.  What grumpy agents though.  We should be the grumpy ones, waiting in line and going home to snow!

Then, it's time for security.  OMG.  The line snaked it's way down the hall, out the doors, and down the length of the building.  People were stunned as they walked along the line, looking for the end.  At one point they called for everyone going on a flight to Columbia to come to the front because they wouldn't have made their flight if they stayed in line.  We watched people cause a raucous because the rest of their party was already in line and halfway up, some other lady came flying past saying her flight boards in 3 minutes and she has to be let through.  The agents were strict though.  Even with Mum striking up a conversation with people in line, it still took a LONG time to get through.  There were signs they were under construction, so maybe it will be better--it certainly wasn't like that before.  Going through the actual security part was also a pain with the kids, we got split up.  Finally, we were through and headed to our terminal.

OMG.  The place was packed.  Absolutely packed.  People everywhere.  There were several international flights to central and South America waiting to board, so I guess those were big planes.  We looked on the board and noticed that our gate was not what was on our tickets.  Mmmm.  We walked around, said "no" to the kids a lot, tried to find an outlet for chargers (Rob moved a pop machine LOL).  I took Meg to the washroom...the Lady's one in that area had a long line, but there was a sign for another one.  So we followed it....out an emergency exit, down some cold stairs, through a cordoned off area at the side of a parking lot/airport vehicle road, to a little tiny washroom.  No line up though!

We got back, and the crowd thinned.  They announced a different gate for us. We checked the board, and the gate was different.  Mmmm.  We found seats at that gate.  Then someone walked by and said it was at a different gate.  Moved.  Got a snack.  MIL got the life story of several passengers.  I connected to Facebook and found out we had missed terribly cold weather and they just had a big snowstorm and many flight cancellations the day before!.  And were going to get another storm that night!  Would we make it home?!  The gate changed again!  We decided to not move seats again though LOL.  Also found out that another Royal Caribbean ship had 300+ sick from Norwalk, and they had been at some of the same ports as us!  I was messenging with my Dad, trying to figure out if my brother should bring our dog down with him from Bancroft...how long would he be home alone then...

And our flight got delayed 45 minutes.  Apparently a flight attendant got sick and they had to wait for one to fly in from Montreal.  Ugh.  We had bought some duty free liquor  and were getting worried that it wasn't going to end up at the right gate LOL.  The kids were getting bored and silly.  And hungry.

And then they announced that the water pipes on the plane had froze and there'd be no (free) hot coffee or tea on the flight!  Are you kidding me?  As Lucy would say.  I had packets of instant French Vanilla coffee, I just had to find some hot water before boarding.  However, Rob and Lucy went and bought some coffee.  Not very good coffee, but at least it was something.

Finally, we boarded.  The flight was pretty average, though Meg watched much of the movie in French because she didn't know there was an English station.  That was fine because it wasn't a kid friendly movie.

We landed.  We clapped.  We noticed it was snowing, pretty fiercely.  Headed in to customs.  Some technical issues with the do-it-yourself machines, but we were tired and hungry.  Even with the machines, there's a long wait to go through customs.  Actually, I don't remember if we use the machines on the way back.  I just remember the long, long wait, snaking back and forth, suitcases falling over.

Then, we had to find the place to call for our shuttle.  Meg and I pretty much got left behind because she was having so much trouble with her suitcase.  Then we had to walk part way back again.  At least the wait wasn't too bad because the driver had been there waiting for us (our flight was almost an hour late).

The drive home.  OMG.  Late on a Sunday night should not have been busy...but it was a freaking snowstorm!!  I was texting my SIL as they were on their way down from Bancroft with our dog.  Accidents left and right on the 401.  A little scary!!  The worst was the streets leading up to our house--they hadn't been plowed yet, and the van driver nearly lost it coming around our corner!!

Home.  We were starving, having had no real lunch or dinner.  And this is what greeted us in the fridge:

Not much real food.  And those grapes were pretty shrivelled.   I think Rob went to get pizza (crazy man going out in the snow), which the kids took for left over for their lunch on Monday.

What a trip home, for the kids' first travel experience!  At least our flight wasn't cancelled, though so many were that month.  They had even shut down the airport because it was just too cold!!  The entire next week at school/work, we had indoor lunch because it was too cold!  Welcome home!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Family Cruise 2014: Day 8, At Sea

On cruises, come the last day, people seem to fall into two groups:  those that vacationed hard at the start and are now sleeping away in their cabins, or those that took it easy at the start and are now running around trying to get to everything they thought they'd have time for later.  We're kind of in the middle.  We're pretty good at pacing ourselves, but four days in a row of going ashore (somewhat early), and we were not keen on starting day 8 too early.  The days are pretty long, if you go to any of the evening shows.  Many mornings on the cruise started off cool (especially the first couple while at sea from Florida), and this morning felt cooler too.  We were on our way home :(

First up was another attempt by the girls on the rock wall.  I think Nya made it to the top this time, but Meg didn't.  She got confused at one spot and just came down.
This is Lucy, above.  She did a great job!  I don't have a picture of Nya.
Megan tried a different route, but it was hard!

After lunch was a Q and A in the theater with performers from different shows, including a guy from Barrie, Ontario, in the ice show.  One thing that was brought up was that this ship (or, this class of ship--there's three, I'm not sure if it was that one ship or all three) has the largest live orchestra at sea.  There is 8, I think, on that ship, and other ships (including the larger Oasis class) have only 7, and only 5 on the smaller ships.  Several cruise lines do not even use live music in their shows...including Disney!!  How can you go to a theater show and hear recorded music?!

Royal Caribbean prides itself on its art collections on the ships.  Just walking down the cabin corridors, you'll find interesting art, with information plates.  In the elevator area, there is larger scale art, like this:

I tried to take the picture at the scale that you see it at while on the elevator.  A typical sort of still life, but what is the medium?

Mmmm....seems kind of stripey.
Super zoom to the rescue:

It's a mosaic made from spools of sewing thread!!!  How creative!!  There's a well known "knitting picture" that it reminds me of, Debbie New's "Granny Squares" afghan.  Mmmm.  Can't find a good picture on Google :(

Meg and I went for another skate at some point.  We kind of lost track of what everyone was doing, where they were, for most of the day.  LOL.  We had walkie talkies, but either people didn't take them, couldn't hear them, the batteries were dead, or someone else was on the channel.

We did miss the fruit and vegetable carving and the towel folding, and the Hip Hop dance class, LOL.

 The afternoon was spent on the pool deck, except Mum and Lou went to play bingo.  The kids had a great time with the two girls from Ohio that they had met earlier in the week.

I like this picture of Lucy underwater.  I'm glad all my kids like being in the pool.  They don't like swimming lessons anymore, but they're quite fine in the ocean or pool.


 There were some great dessert choices as usual.

 Hugh and Lucy really started acting more like siblings on the trip.  It was nice to see them start liking each other!

There was a Farewell show at 9:00....don't ask me anything about it :)

Hugh and Lucy were going to go to the Teen Room for the evening activities, with the Ohio girls, but Hugh wasn't feeling well, so they didn't.  That was fine, since we had to pack and get our suitcases out in the hall by 11pm, I think.  Earlier in the week, Guest Services told us that Megan's suitcase couldnt' be fixed, but they had a new one for us.  It was much larger, and seemed better at first (four wheels!), but then we found the inner pocket on the lid was torn.  And it had a terrible plastic smell!  Like my pink suitcase, it was hard to balance, and kept tipping over.

Someone suggested getting a picture of the suitcases in the hall, just in case something happened to them overnight.  Good idea!  People seem pretty honest though. Actually, this isn't all the suitcases--Meg's isn't here.  And there might have been another carry on size suitcase.

Despite needing to get to bed early, we didn't.  We had to say good bye to Lou and Nya!  As usual, the week (we even had an extra day!) went too fast.