On Wednesday we took the day off in order to get ready to go. We were packing and running errands and puttering around and at 4:00 it suddenly just popped into my head that our passports were in the safe deposit box at the bank which closed at 5:00. I really felt like there was someone out there watching out for us. If it had taken me another hour to remember, we wouldn’t have been able to get our passports before our plane left Thursday morning and there would have been no way to get to Miami in time for the cruise.

I also almost forgot to pack my cheap sparkly blouse I bought at Sears to wear on formal night. We’ve always avoided formal night before, but Mary wants to give it a shot. She has a lovely cheap sparkly dress from Sears and I think she looks better in it than me in my outfit – I’m not sure my stuff is dressy enough. So I probably almost forgot the blouse on purpose. It’s so cheap that it sheds sparkles all over everything. I figure once I wear it once or twice it will have no longer have any sparkles. I could have bought something I actually liked a little, but that would have involved shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I’d basically rather kill myself.

(Note from Mary: We are a little nervous about Formal night on Crystal, because we have read that Crystal cruises tend to be more formal in general than other cruises – that you’ll see people in evening wear even on non-formal nights, and that on formal nights you’ll see spectacular ensembles worthy of Hollywood awards shows. So we’re afraid that we might feel like (and, worse, perhaps be treated like) riff-raff in our Sears finery. We’ll keep you posted.)

We fly on Southwest a lot, and, since we can’t afford first or business class, we like Southwest. For what it is, it’s pretty good. Unfortunately, in addition to forgetting our passports, I also forgot to do online checkin for our flights until 12 hours in advance, so we ended up in the B group instead of the A group. Because of this, I insisted that we get to the airport earlier than usual – I was shooting for 5 am, which we didn’t quite make – and sit on the floor in the B line. We were very near the front, so we did fine in snaring seats. One time we flew (on Continental which has assigned seating unlike Southwest) when I had both a bad cold and pinkeye and I was wearing a mask so as not to infect other passengers. People looked at me very warily and I later realized I could turn this to my advantage on Southwest.

Southwest generally has three seats next to each other and Mary insists on having the aisle and I insist on sitting next to her, which leads to an open window seat. The best strategy is to loook for a skinny woman (she also can’t be wearing a lot of perfume and she can’t look like someone who’s lonely and needs to talk) in the window seat and then take the other two seats. But that hasn’t worked for us lately. On a flight in October, I tried coughing dramatically and waving a bottle of Airborne whenever anyone who didn’t fit my criteria eyed the seat. It worked until the very end but then we ended up a with a leg-spreader guy anyway. I NEVER want to sit next to a guy because they always sit down, spread their legs wide into my area and take up the entire arm rest also. It is a rare guy who is not a leg-spreader.

On yesterday’s flight we were very successful in the first leg of our 8 hour trip with 2 stops prior to Ft. Lauderdale. We had the row all to ourselves. For the second leg, I didn’t try the coughing/airborne trick (mainly because I couldn’t find my Airborne) and instead tried avoiding eye contact with everyone and loudly chomping carrots. (If you are ever boarding a Southwest flight looking for a seat and see someone being fairly disgusting, it’s probably me, trying to repel you unless I have marked you as a good seatmate and then I’m trying to quickly stop being disgusting and make eye contact so you’ll sit next to me. You can imagine how well that goes over. I just haven’t perfected this yet.) Anyway, I ended up with a leg-spreader who was otherwise fine, but I did have to battle his legs quite a bit. On the third leg, we moved to the only row on the plane with only 2 seats. That was quite lovely, except that since it was the last leg and we’d been traveling for hours, it seemed an interminable flight, even though it was only 45 minutes.

Southwest’s seats are fairly comfortable – certainly better than Continental and also a bit wider. But how does one entertain oneself on such a long journey? We pack our own lunch and we bring lots of DVDs and a laptop with two batteries. We watched 4.5 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

When we finally arrived in Ft. Lauderdale we rented a car from Dollar, which was one of only two agencies that would shuttle us to the Cruise terminal in Miami once we returned the car in Miami. We were very pleasantly surprised to see that the cheap 29.99 a day car we reserved turned out to be a red PT Cruiser. I’ve always thought it would be fun to have a PT Cruiser. Now that I’ve sat in one, I find the seats too narrow and the seatbelt has some safety thing that held me prisoner so I couldn’t move forward, so gone is that tiny little PT Cruiser craving. That’s a good thing.

Just like on our last cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale, we stayed at The Sleep Inn in Dania. It seems to have gone downhill since we were here 2 years ago, but it was still quiet and comfortable and the Chinese restaurant across the street delivered food very quickly to our room. We’ve had a very lazy morning – just came back from Walgreen’s where, among other things, we bought waterproof cameras and 2 different kinds of aloe vera sunburn relief stuff. I am definitely NOT PLANNING on getting a sunburn – I have a sunblock shirt and some dermatologist recommended sunblock, but since I have never in my life swum in the ocean without getting sunburned, I might as well have some relief if it happens.

(Another note from Mary – with advance apologies to our friends from great state of Florida: I am a delicate flower when it comes to humidity. I grew up in Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho, where it is often hot but almost always dry. Then I moved to Portland, which, as you may know, is often not dry. To me, Portland is humid – however, whenever I complain about a warm humid day (because I have been known, on occasion, to whine when it’s warm and muggy), there is always someone who has experienced the South who will scoff and say “This isn’t humid – you don’t know from humid.”

Which is apparently true – I’ve now been in Ft Lauderdale on three separate days (the beginning and end of our March 2005 Regent Seven Seas cruise, and the beginning of this cruise), and on each day I’ve found the mugginess basically unbearable. And I’m not even here during peak humidity times. I probably still don’t know from humid, and yet I can’t wait to get out of here (last time it was much better once we got out on the open ocean. Update 12/16: when we got to the ship we found out that the temp was 75+ and the humidity was 89% – so maybe I do know from humid now). It definitely impedes my ability to fully appreciate the obviously cool stuff in the area. I’m hoping that I muster some fortitude when we do the little excursion to the Everglades we have planned for our return trip from Miami…)

Now we must make ourselves presentable and drive to Miami and board our luxury ship. On Wednesday I was working out and my trainer said, “You’re not going to wear those pants on the ship are you?” Those pants, being my old grey sweats with a big old patch on the butt. Mary says I was supposed to put the patch on the inside, not on the outside. Well, with that the fashion mavens get ready to board the Crystal Serenity and find out if we’re as classy as the rest of the passengers. :)