We were awake quite early to finalise packing and to have last coffee overlooking the blue waters of the Keys. We set off towards Port Lauderdale, at about 815 with the journey estimating about 2.5 hours. We wanted breakfast so we went to ihop. Not a patch on Denny’s or maybe it was just that branch.
The Planning is Almost Finished – Travels with Allie.
It was a nice easy run up to the top of the Keys and then we had to deal with the highways around Miami and up to fort Lauderdale. Very very busy, narrow lanes and absolutely zero lane discipline. A bit stressful and we’re used to it, having passed this way many times.
We had booked parking with an operator called Parking at the Port which was in fact about 10 minutes from the cruise terminal. But it cost $85 for 2 weeks parking which was less than half the price of the cruise port parking. Very slick operation and they ran us to the ship in a minibus.
Check in was so easy and quick. Of course they are sailing with vastly reduced numbers but even so….. We are Elite Passengers with Princess so we had a priority checkin anyway. They wanted to see our vaccination and test results of course but everything else was done with the contactless medallion we’d been issued with. It acts as a room key, navigator, ordering device, tracker, id etc and it pairs with a phone or computer app. You can make dinner reservations, book excursions, message, find your friends, be guided around the ship. It knows where you are so you can order drinks to your lounger without getting up. Seems very good. We shall see.
We had a quick lunch in the buffet. It’s of course all re-arranged for covid reasons. The buffet counters are all behind glass and you are served what you want, rather than helping yourself. There wasn’t a queue and it felt fine. The selection of food was excellent.
We were pleased with our cabin. We are Inside and high deck as usual. It feels very light and spacious and the Princess bed is famously uber comfy. Our 2 suitcases arrived very quickly and we unpacked – plenty of hanging space and hangers and also drawers. Elite status gives us a fully loaded minibar which is nice and also a 2 hour food and beverage invitation between 5 and 7 every evening. Not sure we need more food…… and as we are all inclusive on this cruise, we definitely don’t need more booze….
Having unpacked we made our way up to the Lido deck at around 345 to meet Stuart and Fi for the sailaway at 4. There was already a bit of a party going on around the pool with the dancers giving a little show. Fi and Stuart were already there, deeply into strawberry daiquiris so I quickly joined them. The drinks ordering to the chair works brilliantly I can confirm!!!!
We cast off about 430 and followed a Celebrity ship out through the narrow passage into the open sea. A lot of small boats trailed us and people were waving from the beach, from their balconies and from their houses. I guess they are happy to see the cruise ships going again and normal life resuming around here.
Procedures on board seem pretty tight. I’ve mentioned that the ship is only about half full. Masks must be worn indoors other than when eating or drinking, and people are observing that. Outdoors you don’t have to wear one unless you are in a situation where social distancing is impossible.
We are so happy to be at sea again and look forward to the next two weeks very much. We’re visiting a host of islands plus the Mexican Caribbean coast, doing some diving…. it should be amazing.
Tonight we met in the theatre for a very good show from a male singer who is a regular Nashville performer. Mike Mentz. He had a fantastic voice. After the show we went to dinner in one of the three main dining rooms. All dining on this ship is “freedom” ie restaurant style, no set seating. As the ship is at half capacity, we walked right into one of them and we were immediately seated. The room is divided up into small areas and it really felt intimate, not like a main dining room at all. Dinner was nice but the portions are minute. Now that I know I will adjust my ordering to get all the first savory courses, so that I can skip the desserts and cheese without feeling hungry. Normally i would order a starter and a main and that would be it. I can see i shall have to order a starter, a salad and a main, or 2 starters and a main….. really. the portins were unbelievably tiny. Is this a way of forcing us into the pay extra speciality restaurants i wonder….
After dinner we went up to one of the bars and sat around listening to music and looking at old photos from the mid 80s…..
A very nice embarkation day and a great start to our two weeks at sea.