Southern Caribbean: Disembarkation & Traveling Home

Sunday, December 12, 2021

I woke up way too early this morning. Travel nerves again, I guess. I read until my alarm went off. We did get to move our clocks back one hour last night so I felt like I got enough sleep.

We were able to go to the Explorations Café for our final Americano and Latte. I am going to miss those wonderful baristas. While drinking our coffees, we watched the final docking maneuvers into Port Everglades from the balcony.

We received paperwork from the Casino – an offer of free-play money for me and an offer of a free inside room and free-play money for Chuck. Of course, only good for a newly booked cruise. I think our calendars are already full, but the gesture was nice.

We did not get our final bill. HAL, like other cruise lines, is trying to save paper so they want you to access your bill electronically. I tried again to bring it up on the app but kept getting the same error message as yesterday. I also could not access it on the room television. Chuck finally called Guest Services and they told him what the amount was. It was actually less than what he had calculated. Probably a refund of some port taxes. HAL really needs to work on their app and website. Carnival has an excellent app and website.

We also did not get a card that told us how many miles we traveled, how much food was consumed, etc. I always liked that information. What we received was a little paper book called “Journeys” and a piece of paper with our sailing itinerary, name of the ship, and number of crew. You peel off the back of the paper and stick it on a page in your Journeys book. I will probably lose the book or forget to take it with me on the next cruise.

We had breakfast in the Lido. More people than usual but that is to be expected. We had the option to eat in the main dining room, but I didn’t want to take the chance that the service would be slow today. If we were continuing on for the next cruise, I definitely would have opted for the dining room.

HAL allows you to stay in your stateroom until your section is called to get off the ship. Or you can wait in one of the public areas. The cruise director started announcing groups about 7:30. The paperwork said it would start at 7:00 but they always put a disclaimer because ships don’t disembark until the port officials say they do.

The first group to be called was all of those people who do self-disembarkation – you have to be able to take all of your luggage off the ship by yourself. If you are driving or you took a chance and booked a very early flight and can handle all your stuff, self-disembarkation is a good way to go. We have done it on a couple of occasions.

Once that group was cleared, the suite guests were called, and then our group – 5 & 4 star mariners. According to the paperwork, I think we could have waited and left later (9:30 being the last group) but I know the room stewards were anxious to start cleaning for the next set of guests so we might as well wait at the airport.

Inside the terminal, we finally found our luggage in the sea of luggage and got in the Customs line. Once we were past Customs and exited the building, we found ourselves in the parking garage. We were not sure where to catch a taxi to the airport. One of the HAL agents pointed to the sidewalk that led out of the parking garage. We found the taxi line and were soon on our way to the airport. Ride only took about 10 to 15 minutes.

I had heard the Ft. Lauderdale airport could be a madhouse. Our experience was just the opposite. We checked our bags outside of the airport terminal. We found the CLEAR line and were at the front of the security queue quickly. They have the full-body scanners, so you have to remember to take everything out of your pockets. You won’t get through with change in your pocket at this airport. Chuck got the added bonus of also getting a personal wand scan once he exited the body scanner. 🤷‍♂️

Our gate was just a short walk from security. We were way early – our flight was not until 1:45 and it was now only 9:30. I passed the time by working on my photos and talking with a gentleman who was coming off a Princess cruise. He was going to be on the 11:00 flight to Boston which was the flight right before ours. Chuck read. We took turns walking laps around the gate area to stretch our legs.

There were earlier flights home than 1:45 but the cruise lines warn against scheduling a flight earlier than noon. We have been on several cruises that didn’t disembark until late – weather problems, mechanical problems, surprise Customs inspections of the ship, etc. People were frantically trying to reschedule missed flights. So, I booked 1:45 as it was the closest one to after the noon recommendation.

For lunch, Chuck got us some hot dogs and fries from one of the few vendors in the gate area. The longest line of people – ordering Starbucks, of course. In addition to the hamburger/hotdog place, there was a pizza place and a stand that sold pre-packaged sandwiches and salads. There were signs around the area advertising new vendors coming but there was no definite date. Maybe the next time we fly in and out of Ft. Lauderdale there will be more choices.

The 1 1/2-hour flight was uneventful. Little bumpy but not bad. Watched three more Simpsons episodes and we got to the gate about 15 minutes early. It took a while before we could get off the plane just because the plane was packed, and everyone had carryon luggage they had to get from the overhead bins. I was glad we were early because by the time we got our checked bags, we had 10 minutes to get to the shuttle pick-up location before the shuttle was scheduled to arrive.

Our shuttle was right on time so we might have missed it if the plane had even been on time, much less if it had been late. I don’t think I am going to schedule that close again.

I dozed on the way back. Everyone was quiet so it wasn’t hard to get a few winks. Once we arrived, we packed up the truck, and took off for home. Nice to see all the Christmas lights. Since we knew there would be little food in the house, we stopped to get some Krystals to take home. Mistake. The wait time was long, but they did give us extra Krystals to make up for the wait.

Pumpkin greeted us at the door with disapproving yowls. Our neighbor’s son took great care of him, but Pumpkin definitely does not like being left in the house. But we have to keep him safe so inside he must stay.

Once we ate the Krystals and waded through the stack of mail, we called it a night. The unpacking and laundry can wait until tomorrow. It was a great trip. Just what we needed. Now, time to finish up my Christmas shopping.

Final Thoughts

I thought the Rotterdam was a very nice ship. I heard some people complaining about some aspects of it, but I liked it.

I thought people adhered to the mask rules pretty good. The only time it seemed people should wear masks but didn’t were when they were dancing either at BB King or Rolling Stone. Lots of people in a close area – no masks.

Just because I didn’t participate in a lot of ship activities doesn’t mean they weren’t offered. I just usually prefer to relax by the pool. But if you are so inclined, you could participate in sports tournaments – ping pong, basketball, shuffleboard, etc. You could attend lectures. You could play Bridge or Mahjong. You could do crafts – animal towel folding, origami, flower arranging, etc. You could always go to the game/puzzle room and pick out your favorite. There is no reason to be bored on the ship.

We overpacked again. Brought back clothes that we never wore. The laundry perk is great. We just have to do a better job packing. Lighter luggage would be better for our backs too. Fewer clothes is my goal for next time!

I am also going to replace one of my carry-on suitcases with one that has four-wheels. The one I took kept tipping over whenever I let go of it. When we were moving, I found myself dragging it. It is also very beat-up looking. Time to go.

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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