Monday, November 28, 2011

Nov 24 - 28 Pre Cruise - Seattle for One Night then Three Nights in Fort Lauderdale

We arrived at the Renaissance Seattle Airport hotel around 3 pm.  Got a room on the third floor near the end of the hallway.  The room was very nice and the bed was very comfortable.  Since it was Thanksgiving we headed downstairs for a meal of turkey which was nice but man that chef likes salt, everything on the plate was overly salty or maybe I am just use to less salty food at home. 

We went to bed early as we had a 3 am wake up call, but were woken up at 10:30 pm by the smell of cigarette smoke, hmmm this is a non smoking hotel?  We call the front desk, their comment was “would you like to change rooms”.  I never can understand that?  It is 10:30 we are in bed and you want us to pack up and move when we are not the problem.  My suggestion to them was maybe you might want to contact security to find out who is smoking.  As soon as I hung up I went to the hotel room door and checked and sure enough a door had just been closed near us (didn’t notice which one) and it became quite clear that someone had smoked in the stairwell that was right beside our room.  I called back to the front desk to explain what had just occurred.  We didn’t have a problem with smoke smell the rest of the evening. 

But I wish it was all quiet after that, because it wasn’t.  Around 1 am people in the hallway shouting to each other and going from room to room.  We became aware of them wanting to order room service and found out exactly what each person was wanting.  Frustrating, but we did manage to get back to sleep only to have alarm go off way too early at 3 am. 

We have never stayed at this hotel before, it was booked thru Priceline for a very good price, even though the issues were not the hotels fault, and could happen anywhere we probably would not choose this location again.  Sadly people seem to be getting less considerate of others. I will point out that they do have a free shuttle to the airport and they were prompt and efficient when it came to this.

We had a 6 am flight with Continental via Houston to Fort Lauderdale, both flights were on time and the bags arrived and that is the main thing.  The neat thing was when we were heading to get out bags in Fort Lauderdale we passed the line for those waiting to go thru security and Bernie pointed out Jen and Bill Arnold from the show Little Couple, I went over and said hi and told them how much I love their show and wished them luck with the family they are planning.  They were very nice and thanked me.

We caught a taxi from the airport to our hotel (cost $17) Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel.  I had sent a message to the hotel prior requesting a king bed on the beach side.  They gave us room 311 in the Main Building which is in the shape of a V.  The rooms face into a courtyard that has a nice seating area and pool.  There are four different sections, Beach Building – closest to the beach but a walk away, South Tower – between main building and beach building, then the Marina Tower that you access thru a skywalk across the street. 

The room was standard, very nice bed/bedding, dresser, credenza, flat screen t.v., desk, small coffee table and chair.  I did notice there was no in room safe (again a minus – but front desk has free safe, however lines up at the front desk were constant).  The bathroom was rather small, with a pocket door but it looks like the room has been updated recently.  The air conditioner was rather noisy, but just a quick turn down of the fan helped.  Our room faced the road but the noise was minimal except during the day when there was heavy traffic. 

We checked out the hotel and the grounds and saw some nice little areas throughout, an Internet section where you can get free wifi, (note the rooms don’t have free wifi it was at a cost of $9.95 per day – personally it is sad when a hotel charges for this).  There is a restaurant called Dos Caminos (Mexican) that we looked into and were interested in eating at; however it was way too noisy so we passed, across from the restaurant was a bar called the Wreck Bar, and just past that is a coffee shop with some snack items.  A short walk to the Beach Building and to the Beach Pool where there is a lovely pool with lounge chairs.  There are also chairs on the beach that you can use too, and towels were provided.

We are now hungry and so we start walking towards Las Olas and there are numerous restaurants but both of us are craving our favorite Mexican restaurant in town so we head to Carlos and Pepes which is on 17th street and it doesn’t disappoint us.   We aren’t tired and we are so full we decided to walk back to the hotel which was about a half hour walk but felt great.  We had a wonderful peaceful sleep.

Saturday we awaken at around 7 am and smile, we are in Florida  We head out to our favorite diner for breakfast – Joe’s diner at the Harbour Street Stores, Bernie loves it here, it is nothing special but he can get his big bowl of oatmeal and it is quick, inexpensive and the staff are great.  Then a short walk over to Starbucks for our coffee and we relax and sip them while we people watch.

We head down to the Water taxi stop at the foot of 17th street.  We had prebooked our tickets through Groupon when they had a two for one deal this fall.  I have been wanting to take the water taxi every time we have been here but we never seem to do it, so I am enjoying being on the water.  We catch the outbound boat up towards the Galleria and enjoy learning all about the homes on the water. 

Disgustingly opulent but still nice to look at.  We then stay on for the inbound route too and head towards the Riverfront stop where we get off and low and behold Thomas the Tug is there.  Thomas is from Nova Scotia and there is a banner advertising Nova Scotia and Bernie gets his pic in front of the tug (Bernie is originally from Cape Breton Nova Scotia).  We walk down Las Olas Boulevard and check out some of the shops and grab a nice lunch and then head to Kilwans for an ice cream.  Ahhh life is good.  We head back to the hotel as I really want to see the ships leaving the port from the point. 

It is a bit of a hike along the beach (about 30 minutes) and it is so windy – we sit on some of the rocks and watch the Grand Princess, Crown Princess, a Carnival Miracle then the Oasis leave.  There were still more to head out but we are getting cold and we are tired and need a little nap before dinner.

huge jelly fish that washed up on shore
Now the dinner location was up to me tonight so we caught the water taxi to the 15th Street Restaurant (Water Taxi Captain highly recommended it).  We shared some Conch Fritters and then Bernie had grouper and I had shrimp and we shared a piece of key lime pie for dessert.  Again we are full and want to walk to help the meal settle.  We walk over to Total Wines where we stock up on our wine/champagne for the trip.  Three bottles of champagne and 5 bbottles of wine, we will see how long those last.  We also stop at the Publix for a few toiletries, some water and some small cans of Ginger ale.  We get a cab back to the hotel and tuck into bed, hard to believe it is already 11 pm. 

The hotel was hosting a wedding Saturday and many of the guests were staying at the hotel.  Now remember I commented how our room’s door faced an open courtyard, well about 20 guests gathered here and decided to socialize and drink.  Obviously they didn’t realize that their voices carried or that it was not the place to party.  I did call down to the front desk at midnight to comment and they said they would send security, but I don’t think they did as they were out there until 1 am.  I was able to sleep thru it as I had earplugs, but Bernie didn’t and he was awake until they all went to their rooms.  Again the hotel should have had security going around and told them to disperse or go to one of the many bars in the hotel. 

It is now Sunday and we decide that we need to change rooms to somewhere quiet, we do not want a repeat of last night.  The front desk apologizes and they move us in the afternoon to the Marina tower to room 1092 which faces North East, with a beautiful view and now I realize this was where we should of requested a room in the first place.  It is much quieter, no open walk way or courtyard that we can hear everything.  The room is very similar, all the same furniture, and a larger bathroom, but still no safe.

We head out for our breakfast again at Joe’s diner and then over to Starbucks, but this has got to be the busiest Starbucks.  It isn’t big and it is packed with people that are heading out on a cruise today, those coming back from a cruise and a lot of crew that want to connect with family online.  We ended up grabbing our drinks and heading over to the Renaissance hotel where we enjoyed our coffees in their lobby. 

We hop on the Trolley Shuttle ($.50 per person per ride) and take it up to Las Olas and walk back to our hotel for a nice walk. 

Monday:  embarkation day

Breakfast is at the hotel’s restaurant Dos Caminos and it is very good.  We then head off to the ship around 11 am and drop our bags with the porter.  Taxi ride was $10 from our hotel.  We get thru security rather quickly and we are then directed to the preferred seating area where we wait for about 15 minutes.  At 11:30 we are taken to the check in counter and receive our cruise cards and then back to the waiting area where we wait for a short while and they start boarding passengers at noon exactly.  One thing that is different is they now have hand held machines where they take your security photo when you board.
One other thing I noticed that was new is the lounger chairs along one of the pools is newer and the table and chairs near the pizzeria and burger bar are new and very nice.

We don’t get our bags until 3:30.  Muster drill was at 3:30 so just as we were heading out the cabin steward knocks of the door with our champagne, strange time since the muster drill is just starting.  We declined, don’t think it would look right.

We did ask at the coffee bar about the new coffee cards.  We have two brand new cards still from a previous sailing.  They stated that the cards are still good for espresso drinks, but not good for brewed coffee/tea.  When you  buy a new card you can get free brewed coffee or tea while you are on the current sailing…. Cards are marked with ship/date. 

Saw our friend Dierdre Doyle, the Customer Services Director and it was nice to see her again.  We hope to see here later on in the voyage to catch up.

Sailaway was fun, did not win anything in the scavenger hunt, first time we have done it – yup I dragged Bernie around to all the spots for stamps.  Had our usual sailaway drinks and danced a few songs.  Did notice that Tim Donnovan, the cruise director, was not there, mind you he did just board the ship today so I am sure he is getting settled.  At 5 pm we headed to Skywalkers to the Platinum Elite lounge where tonight’s drink is the margarita for $3.99.

Back to the room to unpack and get dressed for dinner.  We wanted to eat in the Da Vinci dining room tonight so we could say hi to Francesco the head waiter, who I believe is now the Matre D for this dining room.  He remembered us and it was nice to catch up with him.  We had a lovely meal, tonight’s theme is sailaway and I had the spring rolls, mushroom soup, and the barramundi, and finished it with carrot cake.  Oh and we brought a lovely bottle of Chianti which I must say went down rather quickly.

We then went to the boutiques to check out some watches, for the first two days there is an extra 10% off so we both bought a new watch, something we rarely do but a nice treat.

We popped our head into the Princess Theatre to see how the Welcome Aboard show was going and caught the act of Dan Riley, he was quite funny and laughed so we will be sure to check him out later on this sailing.

No comments:

Post a Comment