In early 2021, Carnival offered Chuck a 10-day free casino cruise that ultimately got cancelled. However, we were given future cruise credit (FCC) for the booking amount plus generous onboard credit (OBC) because of the cancellation.
The deadline to use the FCC or lose it was the end of 2022. Even though we have been to the ports several times before: two back-to-back (B2B) 5-day cruises leaving out of Tampa worked in our schedule, so we booked them as the replacement.
This cruise was a different one for us as we made the decision not to get off the ship at the ports unless absolutely necessary and just treat the ship as a floating resort. For my blogs, I typically discuss each day and its activities – some days are busier than others. Because each day of these two cruises were planned as eat, drink, and be merry, I am going to organize this blog more by topic rather than by date.
Left the house at a little before 7:00 a.m. to catch our 8:00 shuttle to the airport. Our flight was not until 2:00 but since it is the Sunday after Thanksgiving (the busiest travel day of the year according to some reports), the shuttle service said we had to go this early to ensure we made the flight in case the traffic was slow. Okay.
We typically drive to Tampa but the last time we drove home from there, it took 11 hours because the traffic in Tampa and Atlanta was so heavy. Flying can be a hassle, but I was hoping we could get to Florida without being so stressed and achy in case the drive down was again 11 hours instead of the 9 it is supposed to be.
We left right on time and did not have to make any of the auxiliary stops that the shuttle company sometimes has to do. The traffic was heavy, but the shuttle driver was able to take all the HOV and Express lanes and got us to the airport a little before 10:00. The traffic did slow to a crawl as we neared the drop off point at the airport.
Again, from all the news reports, I expected to see long lines of aggravated people waiting to get through security. The CLEAR line was long, but it moved quickly. We were through security by 10:20 and at the gate by 10:30. Way earlier than I expected and easier than some other airport experiences we’ve had.
We had a McDonald’s breakfast at the food court and then settled in with our books until the flight started boarding at 1:15.
Was a bumpy take off but a smooth quick flight. I could not finish the movie before we landed. 75 degrees and sunny in Tampa.
The Tampa airport was easy to navigate and once we got our luggage, we called the hotel for a pickup. I had a digital key, so we were in our room by 4:15. It was nice not to be exhausted upon arrival.
I like this Hyatt Place. Not only is it near the airport, it is near Olive Garden, Longhorn, and Ruth Chris restaurants. The shuttle will also take you to the nearby International Plaza mall. It also has a small bar and does offer some sandwiches and salads for sale. Today, it is somewhat decorated for Christmas.
We had intended to walk down the street to see if we could find the sports bar we’ve visited before. But before we got started, we heard thunder, and the sky looked threatening. We decided to stay close and walk to Longhorn’s.
When we got near it, we spotted a small Mexican restaurant called Lolis and decided to try it instead. The food was fine and filling but nothing exceptional. I had the vegetarian quesadilla which was mostly cheese and Chuck had the carne asada quesadilla. Washed down with Dos XX beer. They didn’t have very many eat-in customers but seemed to do a brisk take-out business.
I was glad we stayed close as the skies opened up and it poured while we ate. But, as Florida does, it soon became just a drizzle allowing us to get back to the hotel relatively dry. We were in for the evening. Looking forward to embarkation.
Florida – The Sunshine State
Various Native American groups have inhabited Florida for at least 14,000 years. In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León became the first known European to make landfall, calling the region La Florida ([la floˈɾiða] for its lush greenery and the Easter season (Pascua Florida in Spanish).
Florida became the first area in the continental U.S. to be permanently settled by Europeans, with the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, founded in 1565, being the oldest continuously inhabited city.
On March 3, 1845, only one day before the end of President John Tyler’s term in office, Florida became the 27th state.
About two-thirds of Florida occupies a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, spanning approximately 1,350 miles (2,170 km), not including its many barrier islands.
Florida’s is the only state besides Hawaii to have a tropical climate and is the only continental state with both a tropical climate (at the lower tip of the peninsula) and a coral reef.
Florida has several unique ecosystems, most notably Everglades National Park, the largest tropical wilderness in the U.S. and among the largest in the Americas. Unique wildlife includes the American alligator, American crocodile, American flamingo, Roseate spoonbill, Florida panther, bottlenose dolphin, and manatee.
Central Florida is the lightning capital of the USA.
Florida’s Venice Beach is the shark tooth capital of the world.
The Walt Disney World Resort is in Florida. It is the planet’s most visited and biggest recreational resort. It was established in 1971 and is about the same size as San Francisco, California.
The U.S. state of Florida is also home to the world’s most dangerous tree – the Manchineel tree. All parts of the tree contain strong toxins. Mere contact with the sap from this tree can cause blisters on the skin. The tree is also known as “the beach apple” and “little apple of death.
Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in Florida. It is also the third largest freshwater lake (after Lake Michigan and Alaska’s Iliamna Lake) located completely within the United States.
Trivia provided by Wikipedia and Florida tourist information.