As promised, I’m going to intersperse reviews of our cruise throughout the next couple of weeks to give some insight into the details of our beautiful spring 2016 vacation!
Well, we were SCHEDULED to fly out at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was chilly here in northern NH, but it’s been very mild with snow. We had arranged parking with Global Airport Parking at the Best Western in Manchester, and were very pleased with how seamless and simple that was. It was much cheaper than paying to park at the airport. The van was timely and the ride to the airport relaxed. The driver was a bit inquisitive which I’m sure was to fill the silence, but it’s a little nerve-wracking telling someone who knows you are leaving your car at his business how long you are going to be gone and where you’re going.
Our flight actually left at 3:40. We knew this before we even arrived to park and it was a bit daunting considering we had a connecting flight in Baltimore with only a 1 hour, 15 minute layover. When we asked at the Southwest check-in whether we should schedule another flight out of Baltimore, we were told that our flight had 22 other people on it going to the same connecting plane. I stressed a little over our luggage going with us, but figured okay, well they can’t mess up 22 other people’s luggage…
The flight to Baltimore was fairly short and quiet. We sat together over the wing and enjoyed the flight. However, arriving in Baltimore only 10 minutes before our flight was supposed to leave and finding out that the terminal was on the OTHER side of the airport, not so fun. Wasn’t there a reality show way back when about this kind of thing and especially Southwest?? We barely made it! Thankfully there were two seats across the aisle from each other at the back of the plane so we were sort of together.
Being at the back of the plan, however, we got to hear the complaining of the flight attendants. To the point that they were complaining the flight was being held for OUR flight. Ummm, excuse me? Sitting right here! Not to mention the complaining about other passengers as well as scheduling. Totally get that everyone complains about their job at one point or another (hello, I work in HR), but you do NOT do it where customers can hear you! The crew was very obviously miserable. I have yet to let Southwest know that they need to do some re-training of these attendants on respect of their customers.
We were each seated next to young (I mean, YOUNG) couples that were all over each other and blocking any ability to see out the windows. The guy in the window in my row went so far as to press his face to the glass almost the entire flight. Thank God for the free on-board television access and headphones! Needless to say, that flight was 2.5 hours of misery. At least I had seen our luggage loaded onto the plane. Note: Bright yellow straps on turquoise suitcases are nice and easy to spot!
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at about 8:30. I had booked our hotel (Best Western Plus Airport South) through Travelocity trying to find a good price. Let me tell you, finding a decent hotel room for less than $300 was a chore! Dealing with Travelocity was wonderful. I would do it again in a heart beat. I had called and asked for the airport shuttle number to call ahead of time and apparently didn’t have the right hotel, so it took a little bit of extra effort to deal with that, but thankfully, I had printed the reservation. I do have to say that when I called, though, the receptionist was abrupt and rude. Turns out that you have to walk out of the baggage terminal and down a ways to find all of the hotel/airport shuttles. That was a fiasco, but within 15 minutes, our shuttle had arrived. The other ladies in our shuttle were from Alberta and so kind! The driver was also super polite and kind though spoke very little English.
The hotel: not so wonderful. I am going to go on and make sure I give reviews ASAP on that one. I hate shoes, especially in 70 degree beautiful Florida, so I love taking my shoes off. The carpet was sticky in spots and the room felt really dirty in general. I didn’t even really want to take pants and my sweatshirt off to get into the bed…it felt that gross!
We ordered pizza (yes, at 9 at night) from a local pizzeria down the road that delivered to the hotel. We found the menu in our room. I do have to say that the pizza was delicious…when it finally arrive 45 minutes later. I guess we’re a little used to small town living, so the idea of pizza taking 45 minutes is a little obscene when it’s literally less than 2 miles away from the hotel. We’ve ordered Dominos in Portsmouth that arrived quicker!
We both slept pretty well (despite the gross room) after a full day of travel and woke up pretty early the next morning. Full continental breakfast was available downstairs, but it was so crowded it felt like it took an hour just to get a bowl of cereal (really, it probably took me 15 minutes, and we were in no rush…).
I had read reviews on Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic about a car service, FG Car Services, and decided that I would call before we left. We were a bit concerned about getting from Miami Cruise Port to Fort Lauderdale Airport for an 11:00 AM flight home, so we knew we needed something more than the cruise line shuttle when we left. When I called, I spoke to the owner directly (Francisco) who asked me a series of questions to determine how he could assist. He asked how we planned to get to the cruise and how much the cruise transportation cost. He was definitely trying to make me a deal and DID! The ultimate price ended up being barely more than if we had used NCL’s transportation. And let me tell you, it was relaxing!
The driver picked us up at our hotel after Francisco called us and asked if earlier was okay. Though again, I had had the wrong address of the hotel (apparently there are like 5 Best Westerns in the general vicinity). UGH! Thankfully the driver was very nice about that! The driver was kind and chatty which we didn’t mind. He was probably about 23, but he got us to our cruise safe and sound! The car was clean and comfortable. I would HIGHLY recommend FG Car Services again. Francisco was consistently in touch with me via phone/text messages and the deal is one I don’t know that I could beat anywhere else.
We arrived at the cruise terminal quite early (10:00 AM) and it took us barely any time to get through check in. I do have to say that with the check in booths so close, people weren’t very kind about ensuring that you could even get up to the counter. The people next to us felt like they had their entire family right at the counter leaving us barely any room to stand at our terminal. But alas, we made it and got our room keys and headed upstairs. I do have to say that our check-in buddy neglected to give us a map showing us where our room was, so I was looking up information on my phone in the terminal instead, but small potatoes in the grand scheme. We forego the pictures in front of the screens (we get a picture in front of the ship when in port). We were boarding group 9 and I was READY to go, but we had to wait about a half hour before they started loading us on. It got us on the ship about 11:00 AM though which was nice! We were able to head right to the spa to book our treatments!
I will leave the rest of the review for another post, but here are a couple of pictures for you of our arrival!