I was surprised to find that I couldn’t find any direct flights from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Fort Lauderdale on United for our cruise. Perhaps since I had booked the cruise about 3 weeks prior to sailing, they were all filled. Nevertheless, we found flights that would take us from IAD to Tampa. Another choice was going to Newark but my rule in the winter is to never fly north for a connection – they may be having weather that we would not get. Flight was easy, nothing remarkable. Apparently we arrived in a small terminal in Tampa and if we wanted to go to the main terminal, we would have to go outside to get a shuttle and then we came back from the main terminal, we would have to go through security again. One of the reasons that people go to the main terminal is for the restaurants. It was lunch time and we decided to stay where we were. The Green Iguana was fine – real dishes but plastic utensils, styrofoam cups for soup but it was better than Pizza Hut or Quiznos for us.
Our connecting flight was with Silver Wings that we booked through the United website. These are prop planes that go to various different cities in Florida as well as to some of the Bahamaian islands. We were a little delay getting on the plane and when I inquired why to the gate agent she said that they were waiting for “catering”. Believe it or not, “catering” consisted of a small bottle of water or juice!
After we grabbed our bags, we headed outside to use Uber. This was Blogger Friend’s first time using it. Within 4 minutes we were picked up and taken to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. Uber cost us $13.40 to go to our hotel, less expensive than what it would cost us if we used a taxi. It is easy to use. Just download the Uber app, associate a credit card to your Uber account. When you open your app, it knows where you are and it tells you how close an Uber driver is to you. After I push the black bar to call a driver, it then sends me a photo of the driver, his license plate and what his car looks like. He then called me and I told him that we were standing under the sign so he could readily find us.
One quick point about Hyatt. The night before we checked in, they sent me a text asking if they could do anything to make my stay more enjoyable. I had asked them to have for us extra shampoo, conditioner (hey, two ladies cannot share one small tube of shampoo), extra bath towels and to have one bed with feather free pillows. Upon checking it, I reconfirmed and showed them my text message. We were pleasantly surprised that we were upgraded to one of the Junior Executive Suites in the Tower because of my newly gained Diamond status. TIP: There are 2 junior executive suites on each floor in the Tower. If the room ends in “60” that is the first room from the elevator and you get a view of the grounds, the canals and Inter Coastal Waterway and partial view of the ocean. If the room ends in “70” or “71” then those rooms are next to the room that has the ice machine and the service elevator which makes constant noise – almost like a gear rolling noise. You get a view of the ocean and Port Everglades which is really interesting when ships are leaving port. Neither of the locations, in my mind, are great locations for suites. The hotel has no airport shuttles and that is why we used Uber though they do have a port shuttle for about $7 per person but we took a cab for $10.50 split between the two of us for $5.25 each and we didn’t need to wait for more people to join the shuttle or to drop them off at other ships.
When I checked in I was offered an amenity gift, mainly food but I chose the 1,000 points instead. I also reminded them of my text asking for extra shampoo, conditioner, towels and feather free pillows. They told me that they would remind housekeeping.
We walked around the resort and as nice as it was, I wondered why anyone would stay here if they weren’t associated with a conference at the hotel or going to the port or returning from the port. There is the Tower where there are about 12 rooms per floor and a restaurant at the top. You access the elevator for the tower rooms in the lobby where there is a nice bar, business office and a shop with shirts, hats, and various sundries. The lanai rooms are accessed by going outside of the lobby. They are in two story buildings around the pool and grounds. If it is rainy or bad weather, you do have to do outside while you do not if you are in the Tower rooms.
We were the on a Thursday and from 4:00 to 5:00 they have free wine and cheese sampling in the bar area. They also on one ofd the weekend mornings have Bloody Marys for their guests. This was where we sat when waiting for our room to be ready.
There are restaurants at the Hyatt Pier 66 but after reading reviews on Trip Advisor, we decided to eat elsewhere. We took a cab that was in front of our hotel to Carrabas for dinner. Since we knew that we would need a cab to go back, we asked for and received our cab drivers telephone number. After eating we walked to the next little shopping center , Harbor Shops, where they had a Publix for some last minute items to bring on our cruise (wine, sunscreen, etc). After finishing, we called our cab driver and he was there in about one minute.
Bed time came early for us as we had been up and at the airport early. However, there still were no feather free pillows or extra shampoo and conditioner. I was the first to shower the next morning and while I was in the shower my roommate when back downstairs to ask for shampoo and conditioner so she could use them for her shower. Guess what – they never came. As we were leaving to go to breakfast, I texted back to the hotel expressing my disappointment with their lack of follow through, particularly when they initiated the discussion. Soon a phone call came asking if we had received all that we asked for. Of course my response was “no” and they offered us breakfast menu tickets of which I already had since I was a Diamond Member. Then they asked me to stop by the desk after breakfast.
I had the ticket to order off the menu but felt that there was no need to since it was quite an extensive buffet. After breakfast, I stopped by the desk and was awarded 5,000 points for their failing to give us the items that we requested. I’m sure that I received this due to the Diamond status that I have. SCORE!!!
With excitement mounting, we took a cab ($10.50) to the port. There was very little traffic as we were the only ship in port. With more ships, it would most likely be more expensive because of the increased traffic). This was less expensive than taking the shuttle ($7 each) and it would take us directly to our ship.
We went right in to the terminal building, went through the scanner, filled out the Public Health form that we were not sick and then went upstairs to check in. We were handed card #3 for boarding, had our photo taken for our Ship and Shore card, received our deck plan of the ship and then sat and waited. I always look around the room seeing if there is anyone that I know, anyone familiar. I really get so excited wondering who among this group will I get to know, will sit with us at dinner, be on my Team Trivia team. I really enjoy cruising and the social aspect of it. I’m generally the one introducing myself asking where you are from, if you have cruised before and what is your favorite cruise.
I gave my family the link to the webcam so they could watch us depart and listen to the ship’s horn “toot” as we left the port. If you are interested, here is the link to the Port Everglades webcam.
We sat down next to a really nice couple, and actually they became our “cruise best friends” as well as members of my Team Trivia. As soon as we were allowed onto the ship, around 11:30, my roommate and I split up. Since we had booked it last minute we had the Anytime You Wish dining. I had remembered that you could make reservations so my roommate went to find where you make the reservations for dinner (5:15 and 5:30 or 8:00 and 8:15). We were hoping this would be easier than just showing up to get seated.
On the first day is the time for us to begin planning what we wanted to do on the ship. We made appointments for the Spa and if you are going to the spa the best deals are offered on the first day though you do not have to do them on the first day. Also they have daily combination specials which are very good as well. I booked a cooking lessons with one of the chefs in a group of 12 passengers. Our luggage was delivered and it was time to unpack and get settled into our upgraded room. I love the location of being on Deck 8 since we are one deck below the Spa, Lido Buffet and the Lido pool and the Seaview pool. Our room happened to be below the changing rooms in the spa so we had no noise at night.
We found out that on our ship was a group of about 375 people with JazzSea. There were those who were musicians and brought their instruments, two bands were there to perform for their group during private functions. Many people cringe when they find out that there is a group on board. Did it impact us – yes, but very little. They had the Crows Nest every night for their music, the Piano Bar during the day, function rooms for jam sessions, etc. However, they also brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the ship.
After going to the show lounge, meeting the staff and playing the penh slots for a little bit, we went to bed. The next morning was our beach day at Half Moon Cay. We were both looking forward to getting into the water as well as some time in the sun and for taking our tour of the island, the only Holland American excursion that I booked.