Saturday, March 18, 2023
We decided to eat in the Lido tonight and we each had the strip loin. Very good meal. After the meal, we played blackjack for a long time before calling it a night.
When we got back to the cabin there was a note letting us know that the ship balconies would be washed while in port and they may have to have access to our room. No problem. We’ll be on a tour.
We were up at 6:00 and ate breakfast in the Lido at 6:30. It wasn’t as busy as I expected. From the Lido, I counted 4 other ships in dock with us including the HAL Volendam that had arrived today from its 2 month roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale – Grand South America and Antarctica cruise. If we ever get to go back to Antarctica, this cruise is the one I want to do.
We disembarked the ship at 7:30. We had our passport, ship card, and in-transit card that was supposed to allow us to bypass some lines when we come back.
We had to go through Customs. We were able to use the facial recognition system so were approved to bypass the officials. We came out of the terminal at the taxi area. We had to go around the corner to find our tour operator.
Our HAL tour today was called “Everglades Airboat Ride” and the tour description: “The Florida Everglades is an expanse of swampland known for natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Your tour includes a half-hour airboat ride into this vast wilderness. Birds, fish and other animals inhabit this curious corner of the country.
After the airboat ride, take a tour of the reptile exhibit. You will see the notorious Everglades alligator and other creatures that call Florida home. At the endangered-species exhibit — you may even be lucky enough to see the rare Florida panther.
Notes: This tour is available only to guests who are returning to the ship.”
I’ve been confused about this tour because the Navigator app said that we would be going to the Ft. Lauderdale and Miami airport after the tour. I told Chuck that we had to be sure that the tour was coming back to the port.
In reality, the tour operator had three different busses for the tours – one bus for people on the tour and then going to the Miami airport; one bus for people going on the tour and then going to the Ft. Lauderdale airport; and then one bus for people coming back to the port (us). I was happy that we would not have to do any airport runs before coming back.
We were supposed to leave at 8:30 but we didn’t leave until 8:45.
The bus was air conditioned and comfortable. However, the mic didn’t work so it was a little hard to hear the guide. She did her best to talk loud enough about the Ft. Lauderdale area, but we could only catch a few words every now and then.
It didn’t take very long to reach the Everglades Holiday Park. Unfortunately, all the HAL busses seemed to arrive together plus busses from other tour companies and independent travelers. Restroom lines were very long and the park was crowded.
We got in line for the airboat ride. There were a lot of airboats, and we were quickly ushered into one. I wasn’t sure if anyone else from our group was even on the same airboat, but I finally recognized another person. The captain was knowledgeable about the area and was good about spotting the alligators. The ride was very loud when he went fast. I was glad I had brought us some ear plugs. The ride was about an hour.
Once we exited the airboat, we found our tour operator and she directed us to the Gator demonstration. It was a demonstration by an original “Gator Boy” of the same series. He gave us a lot of good jokes and information. I didn’t remember the series, but Chuck said he did. The guy has a You Tube channel now.
Once we exited the demonstration, we were in line for a photo of us holding a baby gator. The cost of the photo was included in the tour package. We saw some rescued tortoises, raccoons, snakes, and foxes – no panthers.
We arrived back to the ship at noon. There was no dedicated security line for in-transit people. We were in line with all the new embarking guests which was moving very slowly – frustrating. Once we cleared security, the only direction we were given was “go around.” We took that direction to mean don’t stop at the check-in desks. When we finally made it to the escalator up to the ship, it wasn’t working. Our choices were to either take the elevator or walk up the steps. Since we weren’t carrying luggage, we chose the steps.
The Lido was crowded so we went to the Dive-In to order a hamburger. They are very good burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, and chicken sandwiches. They have “Beyond Meat” available also.
We were supposed to leave the port at 3:00. However, three of the other ships set said before us and we didn’t leave until after 5:00.
Time for the first evening of the second leg of this 21-day cruise.