12-22-06 

The roughest night at sea is always the night after we get off the ship. At least that has been our experience both times we’ve sailed for seven days out of Florida. Yesterday we got off the ship at about 10 am. It was a very civilized disembarkation. Two nights before, they had given us our luggage tags and disembarkation times and we were not required to vacate our staterooms until it was time for us to vacate the ship. That allowed us to have a fairly relaxed morning. We showered and had breakfast in the dining room and then made our way to the Galaxy Lounge where we waited a few minutes and then left the ship.

Immediately we were surrounded by swarming porters trying to grab our bags for a tip. As I was telling Mary, “We don’t need a porter; just say no to any porters,” an attractive female porter came to ask us if we needed help and I said, “Sure, thank you very much!” Mary completely understood my change of heart and didn’t even question me. We had reserved a Hertz rental car and it seemed like it was actually quite good that we had a porter because she led us to where we should wait for the Hertz shuttle. There was one other man waiting also.

Now I say “seemed” because it took a very long time for the shuttle to come and when it did, it came across the street. We had to run across the street with our bags and then the driver tried to tell us that the shuttle was too full. These are the times I summon up my loud, offended personality and I said, “We were here before these other people and we were told to wait across the street.” He said, “Well this is for people with reservations only.” I said, “We have a reservation.” He said, “At the downtown office?” I didn’t know where my reservation was, only that it included pickup at the cruise terminal. I showed him my reservation and he jammed all our luggage into the van and the poor guy who had been waiting with us across the street had to hold some of our luggage in his lap. It was a long drive – probably over 20 minutes to the downtown Hertz Local Edition office where we all piled in and waited at least another 30 minutes in line.

When we finally received our car, a guy brought it out up front and parked it in heavy traffic and yelled at us to hurry and get our luggage in the car – he didn’t help, he did not provide a map or help us with directions. We got in the car, which stunk of cigarette smoke even though we had reserved non-smoking, and drove off, depending on Mary’s instincts to get us to Ft. Lauderdale. We left behind us one of the couples that had ridden over in the shuttle with us. They had reserved a mid-sized car and were given a Mustang convertible. They were very unhappy with this and asked to speak with the manager. The obviously bored, couldn’t care less man they were dealing with said he was the manager and shrugged his shoulders. Now, we, on the other hand, had reserved an economy car and they gave us an SUV. The obvious solution would have been to switch the two cars, but customer service was not on the agenda at the downtown Miami Hertz agency. We didn’t even know we had an SUV until they brought it to us outside. We chose Hertz because they generally have the best selection of cars and they were also one of only a few agencies that has cruise port pickup. We usually use Budget, which does not charge extra for a domestic partner to be an additional driver. Hertz would have charged us $10 so Mary was the sole driver.

We managed to get to our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale by Mary finding the freeway and then me pulling up my MapPoint software on my laptop and navigating. We are staying at The Pillars which is a lovely luxury haven within the craziness that is Ft. Lauderdale 2 days before Christmas. Even though we arrived early, they had a room ready for us and we got settled and then drove to our favorite restaurant from our last time in Ft. Lauderdale, Galanga Thai. It was not as good as last time we were there and the waitress was completely indifferent. Mary ordered panang curry and asked if it came with bell peppers. The waitress said, “Whatever it says on the menu,” and Mary said, “Well if it comes with peppers, I don’t want any.” Her curry came loaded with bell peppers to the point where she couldn’t eat it.

We then stopped at Walgreen’s to return the sunburn solutions that I never had to use on the cruise. Yay! I wanted to exchange them for a birthday card and some other items for Mary. I went to a cash register, where there was a “Code Six to the Front!” in progress. When it was my turn, I told the woman I wanted to do an exchange. She rolled her eyes at me and then yelled, “Code Five to the Front!” She then directed me to go away and someone would come somewhere eventually to help me. As I waited, whatever the next customer said was responded to with a “Code Six to the Front!” Apparently they have been watching too much ER at this particular Walgreens.

Next we stopped at Whole Foods to get some food for the plane today. This was horribly crowded and we were definitely ready to get back to the hotel, especially with the friendly South Florida driving that includes speeding up whenever you see anyone attempting to move into your lane.

At the hotel, Mary slept and I repacked my suitcases which I had basically just thrown everything into on Thursday night. I actually really enjoyed repacking – it was a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle – and I gained a great deal of space. Next we ventured out to find an ATM. The closest ATM was at a Marriott hotel and shopping center next door. We saw a booth with a sign that said “Information” and foolishly stopped. When we asked where an ATM was the guy said, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe in the back near the restrooms. Are you visiting here for the weekend?” I said, “We’re on our way home. Where are the restrooms?” He said, “Are you spending the night tonight?” I’m a little faster than Mary at noticing a sales pitch so I said, “No,” at the same time she said, “Yes.” This led him to launch into a sales pitch for something Marriott and we walked away still without any clue where to find an ATM. We finally found one and went back to our hotel where they kindly lent us a plate and some silverwear so we could have our dinner – mine was my leftovers from lunch, Mary’s a salad from Whole Foods. Then we walked outside our door to the pier and hailed the Water Taxi to take a nighttime cruise through the canals of Ft. Lauderdale. There were not nearly as many xmas lights as I had expected, but it was still lovely. We got back to the hotel about 8 and were asleep soon after. I don’t know if the water taxi, which we have done both times we were in Ft. Lauderdale, has contributed to the sea legs, but it was definitely a rough swaying night here in our room at the Pillars and even as I type right now I am experiencing very rough seas.

Well, we have to leave here in 45 minutes to get to the airport for what I anticipate will not be a pleasant day, so I will post this and get into the shower. Later I will cover the last two days of our cruise.