The next 5 days passed quickly and the next letters we received were our disembarkation instructions. ☹
We chose the option for the cruise line to take our big luggage pieces and have them available for pick-up in the port area. We could have managed to take them off ourselves, but we didn’t need to leave as early as 7:00.
Once we finished the Sea Day brunch, our room steward had our room cleaned up. We could then start the packing process. Once we picked out what we were going to wear the next day, the packing really didn’t take long. Much of it just involved smooshing the dirty clothes bags into the suitcases. We were free to then enjoy the last day’s activities.
We called it an evening about 10:00. We put last minute items into the suitcases, took the embarkation tags off, tagged them with the provided luggage tags, and rolled them into the hallway. At some point during the night, they were whisked away.
If you do choose to let the cruise line take your suitcases, it is important to remember to keep out anything that you will need for the next morning – pills, toothbrush, hairbrush, clothes, etc. I have heard tales of people who had to disembark in their pajamas, or worse – a ship’s robe (au naturel sleepers), because they packed and sent out the luggage without remembering that they would not have access to their clothes until they actually disembarked the ship.
We were up at 6:00 a.m. and had a quick continental breakfast in the Lido. Once we were back in the room, we emptied the safe (very important step) and threw what remaining items we had into our backpacks. At a little before 8:00, we made our way to the Normandie Lounge (the main showroom) to wait for our number to be called. We were group 2.
When our group was called at 8:15 a.m., we were escorted to the gangway where the Cruise Director and other staff were saying good-bye and wishing us safe travels. They scanned our cards for the last time, and we made our way to the port area.
The first stop was the luggage area. They had it neatly organized into areas that matched your group number. We found our two pieces pretty quickly and got in line for Customs. If you needed help with your luggage, there were plenty of porters willing to help.
While you are in line waiting your turn at Customs, the officials are constantly reminding you to have your passport out, open to your picture page, and ready to show. I wish people would listen. Really bogs down the line when people are fumbling for their paperwork when they get to the official.
The Customs official gave our passports a perfunctory glance and said welcome back. We went through a set of doors and were outside the port. We followed the signs to the taxi area. I never did see a rideshare area.
The taxi ride to the airport was $35. It was very heavy traffic since we were caught up in morning rush hour on a Thursday morning, so I was a little apprehensive about the time. I was glad it was not raining which snarls traffic everywhere. However, we kept moving and he soon dropped us off at the Delta arrival area.
Delta does not have an outside bag check area at the Tampa airport. Delta and other airlines partner with a private company to check bags outside. We get free checked bags with Delta, but the company charged $3 a bag for their service. Fine. I did not want to deal with the crowds inside.
Instead of the security checkpoint being the gateway to all the gates, at the Tampa airport, we didn’t arrive at a security checkpoint until we entered the Gate area. Our Gate was E. But, you could not get to your assigned Gate number section until you went through security. I assume that design is meant to keep the main area from being so crowded.
Tampa also does not use CLEAR for expedited security, so I was glad that the regular line for security was not too long. However, just as we had placed our bags on the conveyor belt and were ready to go through the scanner, security brought a man in a wheelchair to go in front of us. The man had a brace on his leg.
Typically, I am certainly okay with anyone needing assistance to go in front. However, we recognized this particular person from the ship. He had worn his brace all week – walking everywhere and standing at the craps table. Now he needs a wheelchair? Hmmm.
So our backpacks had gone through the scanner, but we were still standing there waiting to go through the body scanner. The man had not emptied his pockets like instructed so they had to wand him also. I was hoping that all my belongings would still be at the end of the conveyor belt. I was relieved to find everything okay when we were allowed to go through the scanner and retrieve our backpacks.
When we got to the gate, I was surprised to see that it was only 9:30 a.m. It felt like it should have been later, but I guess everything went smoother than I fully realized. We bought a breakfast sandwich as the 6:00 a.m. fruit and pastry was long gone, and then we waited and read our books.
Our flight left Tampa at 12:23 p.m. and we were picking up our luggage in Atlanta at 2:20. Our shuttle was due to arrive at 3:15 but at 3:30 we got a text that said due to heavy traffic our shuttle was delayed. Sigh. Luckily, it arrived at 3:45.
I was happy that the traffic flowed smoothly all the way back, so we arrived at almost 6:00. We made it back home by 7:00. All was well.
As usual, Pumpkin gave us an earful. He looked healthy and well taken care of by the sitter as always. He was just mad that we hadn’t been here at his beck and call 24/7 as is his due as ruling household feline. 🙄
Time now to finish up Christmas shopping and count down to our next cruise. Happy Holidays to all!