Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jan 16 - 19 Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale

January 16 and we are waking up to the sounds of the ship's thrusters moving us sideways along the pier in Fort Lauderdale. We are back at the normal pier 2 and there are quite a few ships around once again. Off in the distance we can see the Oasis of the Seas, here is a shot of the Aft of her.

She is sure big, and with 6,000 people it does cause an issue with a lot more people flooding into Fort Lauderdale. Not to mention there are about five other ships in port today too.

Since we don't have to rush off, we have a leisurely breakfast with Larry and Amy and say our goodbyes until we meet again, hopefully on another cruise.

We park ourselves in the Vista Lounge, which is the Platinum/Elite Lounge and run into Anita and Richard who are also in no rush to get off because they are boarding the Oasis for another cruise. I decide to wander around Promenade deck and enjoy the nice weather.

We got off the ship around 9:45 and went over to catch the car rental shuttle that will take us to the airport where we will pick up our rental car. While waiting I recognize a face in the crowd, low and behold there is Pete Massey and his family and someone we have sailed with prior. They had just gotten off a different ship and were also heading to the airport for a car. What a small world.

We rented a car thru National for three days for $120 total. Big tip when it comes to rental cars.... join their rewards club and book the rental car as soon as possible as the price only goes up the closer to the date you come. You can always cancel if you don't need it but you at least have your price locked in.

We booked Hyatt Place Fort Lauderdale/Airport North thru Priceline for $70 per night. Here is the link to the hotel's website: http://www.hyatt.com/hyatt/place/index.jsp?icamp=hyattplace
The hotel is in a great location, they offer free parking, where many hotels charge a fee to park anywhere from $20-$30 a day. They also offer continental breakfast which was a nice perk, and free Internet. The rooms are huge, almost the size of a suite, with a large L shape couch that fold out to a bed, a large desk, small kitchen area with sink, refrigerator and coffee machine. A large flat screen tv can be watched from the bed or from the living area. I do have to say that the major downfall of this hotel is their air conditioning unit... it is mounted about a foot from one side of the bed and the sound coming from it sounds like a jet taking off. We had to wear ear plugs in order to get a good sleep.

My one wish for our stay in Florida was I wanted to do an Air boat ride. So the next day we head out to a recommended tour. It was only about a 20 min drive away and when we left the weather was not too bad, a little cooler than normal but nothing we couldn't handle.

We parked, went in to buy our tickets and came out to this! The skies had opened up and I swear you couldn't see much. We looked at each other and laughed, oh well it should pass we thought. You know it was really raining because the one thing I never said I would EVER do is buy one of those plastic rain ponchos, well guess what, I did - and note there is no picture here of me in it. The lady at the tour desk said that there would be no problem if we wanted to come back on another day so we decided to come back tomorrow when hopefully the weather was better.

While waiting a tour boat came back and a group of about 20 came running for cover. They were soaked, and I am sure they were soaked right thru to their underwear. We chatted with a few and they said they were disappointed because they couldn't see too much while out on the Everglades, and unfortunately they had just gotten off a Princess ship and purchased this shore excursion from the ship before they were taken to the airport for the flight home. And they the poor lady told me they also didn't have access to their suitcase as it had been shipped right to the airport and they would have to wear their wet clothes until they got home. So good tip, be aware of the weather forecast when booking this excursion. Also we paid $20 per person, the ship's excursion was $45 per person (but did include transportation there and to the airport afterwards).

We head off on the road heading South because that is where the bright skies are. We figure why not head to Miami, and after consulting Tom Tom we decide on the Miami Aquarium.
Price to get in was $38 per person, which we felt was a little high, but we remember San Diego Zoo was high so maybe this would be just as good and worth the cost. (Not to mention the $8 to park there too.) It is not too crowded even for a Saturday, but that may be because of the weather, it is still cool and the skies are overcast.

The rains start again off and on and a few exhibits (especially the tropical birds) have to be closed because it is just too cold for them especially with the rain. Who would of thought in Florida the tropical birds would have to go undercover because of cold temps.
The turtles were a lot of fun to watch, it was a huge pool, probably about 2,000 square feet.

We take in the Killer Whale show - and it is busy because it is undercover and the rains have started again. The show was fun to see, but it really wasn't something I am into and would rather not see such a orchestrated trained show with wild animals. Note: we saw this show about two weeks prior to the horrible accident where a trainer was killed in a similar show in Florida.

The aquarium is older, probably built in the 60s and it shows. It almost feels a little Art Deco, but not kept up. Lots of areas need painting, lots of areas that just don't seem complete. The food on site was minimal and very high priced, certainly difficult for any family to afford. We had spent about three hours here and decided to head out and explore South Beach.

We shockingly got a parking spot on the street in South Beach. Some of the roads are closed, looks like some kind of event and as we get closer we see that South Beach is having their Art Deco Car show. About 10 blocks along the beach are closed to traffic and vintage cars line the street. Vendors of all types line one side of the street with items for sale like art, clothing, antiques, and lots of different food options. Entertainers walk along the street providing a good laugh.

We decide to stop at one of the many, and I mean there are a lot, bars/restaurants that line the street, each competing for your business by hostesses handing out flyers/coupons and trying to get you in. Music blares from the open air restaurants and the sidewalks have tables crammed into the small area. We pick a spot and enjoy a drink and a few appetizers to tie us over.

Here are some of the different types of entertainers. These two guys had blow up tacky tourist costumes, they constantly posed with people asking "can you take our picture".

Here are some shots of the buildings and their renovated Art Deco Architecture.

We head back to Fort Lauderdale via the beach road and are amazed by the huge condo complexes along the way, hate to think what those cost.
The next day turns out to be a beautiful day, and just happens to be Bernie's Birthday! We enjoy a nice breakfast and head back to the Florida Everglades and another shot at the Air boat Ride. As you can see the weather is much better than yesterday.

The scenery was amazing, and learning about the Everglades was very informative. We got to see many different types of birds, and even an alligator.

This is what our boat looked like.

Here is the Alligator that we saw, thank goodness for a zoom lens

Vickie living her goal of taking an Air boat ride.

After the ride we check out the Alligator display where we find out that they are a rescue centre that takes in stray alligators that show up in people's yards/pools. Rules say that those alligators have to be killed unless they are taken in by a rescue centre.

Yup that is me hold a REAL alligator, note the tape around his mouth, so I feel safe. Very strange texture, their underbelly is very cushy and soft, the top part of their body feels very bony and shell like. He weighed about 15lbs.
Bernie's birthday wish was to go see the Florida Panthers Hockey team and thankfully they are scheduled tonight. They are playing the Altanta Thrashers. We bought tickets thru a broker and went to one of our favorite restaurants in Fort Lauderdale on Sunrise Boulevard called Il Mulino Italian Restaurant http://ilmulinofl.com/ . We show up for the game, first time I've been to a hockey game in shorts and flip flops. We even got on the Jumbo Tron while we were dancing in our seats!
Earlier in the day we went out to stock up on our wine and champagne and a few necessities for the next cruise.
Bernie loved his day, and Happy Birthday my dear.
Back to the hotel - we are all set for tomorrow and boarding the Ruby.

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