A Travellerspoint blog

Day Forty Five - Homeward Bound

Friday, 9 October 2015

Started the day with a 06:00 breakfast which was an interesting event. The choice of food was typical of a large chain hotel and everything is disposable. A selection of sweet rolls, still chilled from the refrigerator, likewise the croissants and the bagels. Two toasters working overtime, butter, jam and peanut butter. Range of cereals and two choices of milk. Coffee in abundance, some yogurt and containers of 'canned' fruit. A waffle making machine and a huge dispenser of syrup. Slices of ham rolled up with a slice of cheese, warmed but not hot. Scrambled eggs made I suspect from a powdered product and some diced baked potatoes. With over 50 determined diners milling about and waitresses attempting to restock it was quite a circus.

The 09:00 shuttle took us to the airport where we found that only one piece of luggage per person was carried free, the third piece cost me US $ 100.00. I had wrongly assumed as our flight was part of an overseas journey we'd have that extra allowance. It was all part of a day full of 'interesting' experiences flying with 'United' for the first time. The airport concourse was bright and provided plenty of seating. No problems passing through 'security' except that innocent looking Jenny was subjected to a test for drugs, again.

Our boarding pass was endorsed with the letters TSA PRE. Discovered later that this was granted to select passengers and reduced the level of scrutiny by 'security'. No idea why we were so blessed. Another unusual entry on the pass was a 'Boarding Group' number, we had a 4, it appears that United actually looks at these when you board. At one of the gates we found that the scanner alarms if you try to jump the queue. While we waited for the boarding time there were frequent announcements requesting they offer their carry-on for placement in the baggage hold for FREE. The offer was made because the aircraft was fully booked and overhead locker space would quickly fill up.

One policy, although announced was not enforced. One piece plus some personal items. We observed numerous passengers walking on with four and five separate roll-ons strapped together. This resulted in 'hand luggage' being stored 8 to 10 seat rows away from the allocated seats. We were lucky and managed to keep our single pieces fairly close.

We boarded at 11:20 for an 11:50 departure. Our first leg was aboard an A319 from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Houston (IAH). As predicted there were no spare seats and the hand luggage problems caused some significant delays. Even without this delay there was little time between our Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) and the Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) at IAH. Once aboard the aircraft we found that all forms of in-flight entertainment is through your Mobile Electronic Device (MED) and additional to that you have to have the correct App installed. Next surprise, there are complimentary beverages aboard but you need to buy any snacks or more substantial foods. Arrival was a little late and we made our first Time Zone Change.

The change-over time was mere minutes and fortunately our departure gate was right next to our arrival gate The B737 that flew us from IAH to Los Angeles (LAX) was also fully booked, there was an announcement that 'Stand By' passengers could not be accommodated. No surprise that the offer for free check-through was again announced. Boarding by group number was once again strictly enforced with one individual sent back to join the correct queue. This aircraft had the old style screens in the back of the seat in front but you needed to swipe your credit card to get that to work. Complementary beverage and purchased meals/snacks as previously mentioned. Boarding time for the next leg was before our scheduled ETA and we were running late. There were a number of other passengers with the same connection problems. In a surprising show of courtesy a number of people ahead of us stood aside to let us off.

Again good fortune had our departure gate only two removed from our arrival gate. Boarding for our Group had already started when we arrived so we made it, but it put paid to our plans to buy some food to take with us onto the next flight. The flight from LAX to Honolulu (HNL) was aboard a B757, not an aircraft we've previously flown. The flight was scheduled for five and a half hours, the captain's announcement reduced that to five hours fifteen. There were a number of spare seats and considerable shuffling of seats as people swapped to be near friends or family. Like the A319 the only means of viewing the on-board entertainment was though your MED. Complementary beverages and when the opportunity presented we both ordered a meal. At US$ 9.95 each it worked out somewhat more expensive than Wendy's 8-) The flight was smooth and uneventful touching down ahead of time. Local time is 19:15 with another time zone adjustment.

Luggage collection was painless and we connected with the guys from Speedi Shuttle. With a full bus we set off to deliver four other couples to their hotels before dropping us off last at the Holiday Surf Hotel. We were surprised at the amount of traffic on the road and the hordes of pedestrians walking around. May have been due to a Public Holiday on Monday. The very 'nice' chap at the desk helped us carry our bags to the room and took great pride in showing us all the 'upgraded' features of the studio. Once he left we stripped off a bit and changed to go to the supermarket for some provisions. One of the best buys was a 2.5 Kg pineapple

That ended a very full day and I've selected an image of a Ft Lauderdale sunrise at the start of it for today's image. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 11:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Forty Four - Fort Lauderdale

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Coral Princess berthed alongside well ahead of schedule. Being the only cruise ship in port the disembarkation proceeded more quickly than anticipated. Found or luggage although with the hundreds of articles lined up it was difficult to pick out ours. Immigration was painless and the only problem we had was finding the taxi rank. Walked back and forth a bit but finally found the right place.

The taxi ride to the hotel was quite quick. Amazing how fast they drive and with five lines in each direction it seems even faster. Checked in at the Best Western and although well before the published 'check in' we were given our room keys. We are on the sixth floor and can see the freeway from the window. See it but fortunately can't hear it. The free WiFi was very fast and in hardly no time the lap-top was busy downloading emails, updates and then it started to install Windows 10. I have checked that Win 10 pro will allow me to control the updates. Will cost a few $$$s but should be OK.

Braved the heat and went out looking for lunch. First we had to cross a number of multilane roads in an area that isn't very pedestrian friendly. The carpark for the this 'mall' would cover a reasonable sized town. We asked directions and some helpful people pointed and mentioned some unfamiliar landmarks. I doubt they'd ever encountered pedestrians.

We walked for well over an hour and finally dropped into a Wendy's where we had a 'combo'. Bottomless sodas and when Jenny went to buy some ice-creams she came back with two buckets - one medium and one large. It took the best part of half an hour to get through them.

On the way back we called into a Kmart - I needed a restroom after drinking too much soda and then overloading that with a bucket of ice-cream. Kmart was a huge store and we walked around like some county cousins looking totally lost. There was just so much stuff, it was a relief to be in the air-conditioned store. Made our way back to the hotel and even braved one of the roads without specific pedestrian lights. Not something Jenny would normally contemplate but the next set of lights were a long way off and it was HOT.

Back in the hotel and Windows 10 was going through the setup. I was greatly relieved when it finally showed signs of life. I was even happier when some of my legacy software continued to work. One program in particular still works despite being built for Windows XP and has no updates available.

We spent a bit of time looking at the traffic on the freeway, just can't get over it. We'd eaten enough for lunch so weren't interested in going out again for dinner. Planning an early night in preparation for tomorrow's marathon set of flights from here to Honolulu.

A slightly blurred image of Port Everglades is my pick for today. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 16:59 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Forty Three - Last Sea Day

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Walked some laps on Deck 15 this morning. Not that it was going to offset the extra inches on the waistline but I was trying to find the best vantage point for the sunrise. The humidity created a soft haze which made the focus very difficult.

We enjoyed a late breakfast and took the Kindles to the Universal Lounge to wait for the Culinary Demonstration. When the Executive Chef and the Maitre d'Hotel appeared we were treated to a fairly straight laces cooking demonstration. There was little of the slapstick comedy that the previous Chef had indulged in. The new guy certainly demonstrated his skills and created three very attractive dishes.

We had arranged lunch with Bill and Ruth in the Provence Dining Room. They were one of the couples from our Alaska land tour. We exchanged contact details and accepted their invitation to visit if we're ever in the Eastern USA. The company and conversation were very pleasant but the food and service did little to enhance the occasion.

We returned to the cabin and started the task of culling unnecessary paperwork and started packing our luggage. We took a break to watch a movie in the Theatre. The title was simply "Max" and the actors 'Robbie Amell' and 'Lauren Graham' were both unknown to us. The real hero of the movie is Max a German Shepherd War Dog traumatised by the death of his handler during an action in Afghanistan. The story line was an almost predictable 'feel good' with a victory by good over evil.

Returned to the cabin and continued the packing of our luggage before heading up to the Horizon Court for dinner. We were surprised when Max, the Food and Beverage Director, pulled up a chair and joined us for a long chat. Max is from the Netherlands and for some reason we had encountered each other at various times. We even made a joke about the lack of Vegemite in the larder, it is on the shopping list but hasn't been in stock for over 12 months. Given the ship's itinerary that isn't surprising.

After dinner we completed the packing and went along to the Theatre for this evening's show with Comedian 'Carl Strong'. He's a huge black man who managed to pull off some raucous songs and then switched to stand up comedy. A lot of his material was aimed squarely at the American audience.

This is the last posting from aboard the ship, I may slip one in from the hotel tomorrow but can't guarantee it. Today's image is from the sunrise this morning. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 17:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Forty Two - At Sea on the Caribbean

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Only two days to go and today has a few activities that we want to attend. First thing is to try and make something from the sunrise. Not totally successful but was pretty to watch. There was a Veteran's Get-Together in the Wheelhouse Bar at 09:45, about a dozen turned up. I left early to attend Bruce Vancil's talk about the use of the Ocean Liners during and after World War II. The Queen Mary holding the record for the most people aboard a single ship. It was a bit overcrowded with over 16,000 on board.

A quick lunch and then an intriguing lecture by Bill Keene explaining the life cycles of the mosquitoes that were responsible for Malaria and also Yellow Fever in the area of the Panama Canal. Yellow Fever was the first to be eradicated as the host mosquito was totally reliant on humans for its reproduction. The species that's responsible for the spread of Malaria was more difficult to deal with.

Next we were treated to a screening of the ship's video of the transit of the Canal. We'd already placed an order and are very impressed with the content and quality.

Stayed in the Theatre for the Afternoon Movie. We had no idea what it was about but were happy to stay through to the end. The movie "A Little Chaos" starred Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. It was a period piece with the construction of some famous French Royal garden whose name escapes me 8-)

Back in the cabin Jenny wrote a few 'Consummate Host' cards for the crew who have made a significant impact on our cruise this time. We also made up some envelopes with money to say that extra thanks to these people. Never an easy thing to do as there are so many who have been particularly attentive.

Formal night tonight but elected to just change into long trousers and shirt and enjoy the evening meal on the Horizon Court. Neither of this evening's shows have any appeal so returned to the cabin and watched some TV.

A last minute sunset capture is today's image. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 17:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Forty One - Aruba

Monday, 5 October 2015

Eased into the morning as we are not due to arrive until 13:00 this afternoon. Got up to try and capture the sunrise but the cloud covering allowed only brief glimpses of colour. After breakfast we returned to the cabin and I'm ashamed to admit that I briefly closed my eyes, two hours later I woke up. Guess I needed to catch up on that hour lost overnight due to the time-zone change.

The ship arrived in Aruba as scheduled and was cleared for passengers to go ashore. We have a ship's shore excursion and after assembling in the dinning room we are escorted down the gangplank. We met our driver/guide and boarded a comfortable bus for an interesting drive through the 'down-town' of Oranjestad.

Out in the countryside the arid nature of the island becomes obvious with significant areas covered in tall cactus. We arrived at the first 'attraction' (I use the term loosely). We've arrived at the Casibari Rock, noteworthy because it sticks out from the surrounding landscape. The climb to the top was not easy with uneven steps and metal handrails that were almost too hot to touch. Next stop is the location where the Natural Bridge once stood. It collapsed in 2005 and a new section of the cliff is being gouged out by the ocean forming 'Baby Natural Bridge', pretty desperate marketing.

Back on the bus to visit the Ostrich Attraction. There is a guided tour around a number of pens holding about 15 birds in total, about five of those birds were Australian Emus. The headlight was the feeding the ostriches. Visitors are invited to hold a dish of food pallets and while facing the local photographer walk backwards to the rail. Here three of these birds jostle with each other to reach over the "victim's" shoulder to reach the food. Jenny bravely volunteered to be the first. She started off looking apprehensive but managed a smile. The photographs were available for purchase at the gift shop.

Next on the list of stops was the California Lighthouse. The structure was receiving a belated refurbishment and was closed. There was a local vendor selling smoothies of various flavours. We decided to have a go of a coconut smoothie which was both tasty and refreshing. After that we headed back to the ship driving past the high-rise hotels and resorts lining the spectacular beech.

The country is totally dependant on tourism for income. Everything, including the fuel to operate the desalination plant has to be imported. There are just three genuine attractions, lots of sun, amazing beaches and abundant water-sports. The available high profile branded clothing, footwear and jewelry at duty-free prices could be considered another. The final draw-card could be the casinos. Nothing here that would entice me back here.

The tour guide/driver was great and the suburbs were colourful. The extreme heat and limited photo opportunities left me feeling a little let down.
After dinner we collected our dirty laundry for our final load to be processed before we have to pack and depart the ship. We have two more sea days before arriving in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday morning.

I managed a snap of Jenny with three ostriches and that will be today's image. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 17:09 Archived in Aruba Comments (0)

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