Tag Archives: Fort Lauderdale

Life on the Ocean Waves

Ahoy there!
Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum, shiver me timbers and hoist the mainsail me hearties…it’s a sailors life for me!

Our 18 month adventure is coming to an end (boo hoo..) as of tomorrow we arrive back in England. For the past two weeks First Mate Sarah and Cabin Boy Mr E have been guests on the 4000 nautical mile transatlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale USA to Southampton UK on the Royal Caribbean cruise liner The Independence of The Seas.

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Rather than flying home, we thought this would be a fun way to end our trip and try out a new holiday experience. The decision was an easy one as the cruise cost was the same as 2 single economy seats on a plane. The reason for the lower cost, is that it’s a one way repositioning cruise. Having completed the winter Caribbean cruises, the ship now moves over to the UK to start the run of Mediterranean summer cruises.

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We’re a bit of an odd couple as we like our own company. We definitely avoid package holidays and forced entertainment, preferring to make our own plans and we generally stay away from other holiday makers, weird hey?! So we were a little unsure if cruising would suit us. But I can happily report it’s been wonderfully relaxing and a great value way to return home.
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Our first impressions were that the ship was huge and that there were a lot of people from all different nationalities. So it was a bit of a shock to be with 3500 people and to hear a variety of UK accents again, especially after being in Spanish speaking countries for so long. But our fears were quickly surpressed, as we found we could do loads of activities if we wanted to and that we could find quiet spots if that suited us too.

So if you’ve never been on a cruise, here the rundown of what’s on offer –

Food and Beverages
Everyone told us you can eat 24/7 if you wanted on a cruise! This is certainly true for some, as the amount of food available is immense and varied, we witnessed people piling their plates really high in the buffet, you can eat pizza any time up to 3am (we didn’t!) You can fuel your heart attack by eating badly or you can eat a balanced healthy menu, which we aimed to do but…those oatmeal raisin cookies just kept appearing with our afternoon cuppa!
For breakfast there is a buffet in the Windjammer self-service restaurant, it’s horribly busy, you struggle to find a table and for me was the worst thing about the cruise – jostling shoulders to get food. We found the seated service in the Romeo & Juliet restaurant was much more refined but then it was a bit stuffy for first thing in the morning.
As soon as breakfast was over, within half an hour lunch was served – too much food!
The Promenade Cafe served smaller filled rolls and this was perfect for us.
Dinner was in the Macbeth restaurant, food quality was very good and there were loads of choices on the menu. If you didn’t want the seated or formal dinners you could eat in the Windjammer from the evening buffet.

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Our waiters Malachi from Vincent & The Grenadines and Rosario from India were fabulous and took excellent care of us during dinner service. These guys work super hard and really made a difference to our cruise experience.

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Our Select Cruise Package included all meals, beers, wines to the value of $8 and soft drinks. This week I’ll mostly be drinking champagne..Thank you Simon for bringing us bubbles!

Entertainment and Sports
OK there is something for everyone on ship all coordinated by Entertainment Director Bobby. Right here we go, we’ve got – iceskating, dancing, quizzes, musical shows, comedians, bars, pool olympics, card games and bridge sessions.

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There’s a library, pub, casino, hot tubs, swimming pools, H2O splash zone for kids, movies, enrichment lectures and there is a fabulous gym. There’s an art gallery and you can bid for fine art in the auctions – who knew they did this kind of thing on board?

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On the upper deck there is crazy golf, flo – rider surfing, golf simulator, rock climbing wall and ball court.
Then there is also ‘The Hard Sell’ – crikey no wonder Royal Caribbean are so successful.
You can book your Next Cruise on board before you leave, deals are to be had!
In the promenade marketplace you can buy duty free, jewellery, handbags and gifts. Got cash to splash? Why not pay for spa treatments, teeth whitening, non surgical facelifts, shoe implants, acupuncture and wine tasting. It’s full on, sales pitch.

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My motto for the cruise was ‘not to go home fatter than I left’ so with Jawbone trackers on our wrists to monitor our 10,000 step target and record set daily calorie intakes, we got sweaty in the mornings. Even in the gusty wind topside on the latter few days as we got nearer to the UK, we did our laps on the running track and I took my big old bum to the gym. It was good to share the gym with all ages and abilities.

Getting Around and Facilities
For our first few days we got a bit confused finding our state room – were we Port or Starboard side? But then we found the carpet colour guided us back to our rooms, pink for starboard and blue for port. The artworks on all the stairs also guide you back to where you needed to be, Starry, starry night for us on level 2! There are handy maps everywhere detailing if the location you need is forward or aft. If you forget what day it is, don’t worry-  you’ll be reminded in the elevators!

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We chose a stateroom with a window rather than balcony based on cost and we were pleasantly surprised. Showers are hot and roomy, beds are big and super comfy, all cases fit underneath of them, so they are out of the way. Carlington our stateroom attendent was lovely, kept our room super tidy and provided quirky towel animals to amuse us! Last night’s Monkey was the winner!
Going two weeks without Internet was going to be a killer for The Evans…Mr E would have the shakes without the sports news! But thank goodness, as Royal Caribbean changed their Internet system on May 1st. So instead of $25 per day per device, the new rates were $13 per day for 2 devices. So as we knew we wouldn’t be spending any other money for 2 weeks, we signed up. In the middle of the Atlantic it worked just ticketyboo!

Shore Excursions
As this was a repositioning cruise there were just 3 stops; Nassau in The Bahamas, San Juan in Puerto Rico and Philipsburg in St Maarten. 3 different Caribbean Islands in 3 days.

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Although time on shore was limited it gave us a nice feel for the Caribbean and reminded us how lucky we’ve been to take time out to travel. We got some final snorkeling in, did a little nail varnish shopping (you can never have too many!) and wandered around these historic ports imagining pirates landing in these safe harbours.

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Crew and Staff
All and I mean all the staff are just super friendly. They work ridiculously hard and are away from family for many months at a time. Totally professional, these guys really want to make sure you have a great vacation. All our gratuities were included in our cruise rate but for those staff that make the wow factor, we had some dollars left over to leave a little extra. If you go on a cruise – tip these guys they really deserve it.

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As the sun sets on our last day, our bags are packed, we’re slowly passing the south coast to dock in Southampton Port in the early hours ready for disembarking in the morning. Our lovely little old parents will be at my sister’s house ready to meet us and of course I’ll try hard not to cry when I see them…but as I’ve already had the waterworks at dinner knowing this is the last night of our adventure, I think the chances are pretty slim!

Thank you Independence of The Seas, it’s been a fun trip!

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Life is like a box of chocolates…

Utility is when you have one telephone,
luxury is when you have two, opulence is when you have three
….and paradise is when you have none.
Doug Larson

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Got a few millions to spare? Then why not buy a super yacht and waterfront mansion to park it next to! Unfortunately we don’t, but it’s always fun to sit on the Water Taxis that transport tourists up and down the Intracoastal Waterways in between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. It’s a great way to travel around the area where you can hop on & hop off, but the Captain also gives you snippets of information on who lives in the properties and own these luxury yachts. We saw Amphitrite the $22 million yacht previously owned by Johnny Depp and recently purchased by JK Rowling, Harry Potter definitely is a girl’s best friend for JK. Sleek and luxurious the Azteca is owned by the Mexican Salinas Piego family, we know the department store Elektra well from our time in Mexico and this $83 million super yacht certainly sparkles in the water.

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One of the fun stories is about US business man Wayne Huizenga a multi – billionaire. He was having trouble with his neighbours complaining about his helicopter landing, so he bought their house, knocked it down and built a designated landing pad – problem solved! Then there is the story of the house now owned by 2 former High School teachers who decided to open a chicken wing restaurant. Their well endowed waitresses in tight vests and short shorts proved to be a big hit, Hooters restaurant chain has ensured the teachers now live that luxe lifestyle we all dream of. Back in the heyday Sonny & Cher, Lucille Ball and Jonny Weismuller all owned properties in this stretch of prime island lands.

After a day on the water it was time to wave Liz and Derek off from our two weeks in Florida together. They were driving upwards to visit St Augustine and Savannah before flying home. It was a fun time and even nicer to be able to say to them “We’ll see you in two weeks!”

For the last part of our Florida trip, we were staying in Fort Lauderdale in preparation to board The Independence of The Seas. After 18 months away our travels were coming to an end and it was time to head home to the UK.
Now I’ve mentioned a few times in my blog posts what a genius Mr E is at finding travel bargains and once more he surpassed himself! . When he knew last year we’d be travelling home in May, he booked a two week repositioning cruise with Royal Caribbean, get this – It was the same cost as 2 economy seats with British Airways. From the window of the Courtyard Marriott we could see the ship in Port Everglades ready for 3500 people who would all be travelling to Southampton.

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But before we tried out cruising, we had a couple of days to make the most of the Florida sunshine.We rode the water taxi down to Hollywood Beach from Fort Lauderdale. Along the way we passed Port Everglades home to south Florida’s thriving cruise ship industry and port of call to thousands of merchant ships from around the world.

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It’s a busy port and provides thousands of jobs for the region. We disembarked at the mammoth hotel resort of Margaritaville and wandered along the Hollywood Broadwalk.

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There are 2.5 miles of pristine white sandy beach, restaurants and nightlife, old style beach front motels and it’s a popular destination for sunbathing. Back at the  Margaritaville water taxi stop we hummed the lines ‘Wasted away again in Margaritaville’ and was glad I hadn’t ‘blew out my flip flop’

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For some old time charm we took the free trolly north to Lauderdale-by-the Sea. This cute beachside town is located on a barrier island just north east of Fort Lauderdale. We had stayed in a motel here back in 2002 it’s now been replaced by a large swanky condo building, the fishing pier remains and of course we had an ice cream sat on the beach for old times sake.

For our last night in America, we didn’t go far and ate dinner in Bubba Gump’s next to the hotel.
Forrest Gump “My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get”

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In all our 18 months away we certainly didn’t know what we were going to get, but I can honestly say it’s been far sweeter than we ever would have hoped for!

And now it was time to cross the pond…home was calling.