It's about four hours from our hotel in Saint Petersburg to the Port of Miami.
Leaving town, we climb over the impressive Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It's a fairly easy drive, with a couple of sightings of alligators in the freeway median. A stop for gas to fill up our rental before turning it in, and then straight to the port.
We arrive at 11:30am. We also have a reservation at 12:30pm to check in for a three night cruise to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas.
Dropping Letty and Tim at the curb and assigning our luggage to a porter, I head over to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami where I'm supposed to drop off our rental car at the Enterprise counter there.
Sounds easy, doesn't it?
Nothing's easy in Miami...once I get off the port bridge into downtown, the traffic is at a standstill and there's construction everywhere. My phone's GPS is lecturing me to go straight but the road is closed with a huge hole in the middle. Horns, like in midtown Manhattan, blare constantly.
I'm turning down a street at random, hoping my GPS will adjust accordingly. I have to look at the map at the next stop.
Finally, I see the hotel ahead but the driveway to the lobby is stuffed with construction vehicles, taxis, and the occasional passenger car. It's a dead stop, I'm not going to get in there. I see a parking structure labeled "Hyatt self parking." I turn in there.
I find a spot, lock the car, and walk over to the hotel. I see the Enterprise counter and walk up with my keys, "I'm dropping off my car."
"Where is it?" the agent asks.
"In the parking structure."
"No, you have to bring it up to the lobby."
I point outside..."look, there is no way I'm going to get a car up there."
"You have to take it there anyway, give the keys to the valet when you get there."
Hike back to the parking lot, whose main, hotel adjacent exit is closed. I have to exit out via another street, that's one-way...the wrong way, coincidentally...and navigate a jammed up four blocks back to the hotel entrance.
A half hour later, with my phone buzzing because my wife's calling wondering where I disappeared to...I make it back to the hotel driveway. Somehow, I find an opening and jam myself in. Eventually, I see a spot open in front of the door. I pull in and hand my keys to the valet.
"Checking in, sir? he asks.
"No, I'm dropping off my rental for Enterprise," I reply.
"You cannot do that."
I point over to the counter, which is visible from here..."that guy says I can"...and I walk off to the counter.
"Did you drop off the car?" the Enterprise agent asks.
"Yes but the valet says I can't do it."
The agent walks over with me, explains something to the valet, and it's good. I ask if I can get a ride back to the port and the agent, working for a company who's tagline explains how they'll give you a ride, says no.
Finally, I get him to hail me a taxi and a $25 dollar ride later, I'm back at the port. At 1:15pm. Yes, that is 45 minutes later than our appointment and almost two hours after I left Letty and Tim in front of the checkin building. They are still there.
Royal Caribbean would not let them into the air-conditioned building until I got back so they basically had to find a scrap of shade somewhere in the blazingly hot and humid front porch of the building until I got back.
All together again at last, we head in to get scanned and search through security. Upstairs, we get our cabin assignment and room cards...which also act as ID and charge cards on the ship...and a nice gentleman escorts us to the boarding ramp of the ship.
Inside, a narrow passage way is clogged with passengers who are just standing there. A photographer is blocking the way, taking everybody's picture to sell as souvenirs later. We finally get there and my wife is not having a good hair day anymore, is pissed about waiting in the heat, and doesn't like her picture taken in general.
"I'd rather not have a picture, thank you," she tells the photographer.
"You have to have a picture to remember your cruise!"
"No!" she says a little more emphatically.
"Everybody gets one," the photographer says.
"We're not taking any pictures," I tell him.
Finally, they let us by and now we're on our own in the crowded atrium with no idea what to do or where to go, still carrying our smaller bags.
It takes awhile to flag down a crew member who must scuffle off to find an English speaker.
"Where is our cabin?" we ask when they come back.
"Take the elevator down two decks."
The elevator. Where there are about two hundred people waiting on six cabs that can hold maybe ten people. About ten minutes later, we're finally able to force our way onto one and squeeze in.
We find our cabin easily enough. This is an older ship and the cabin smells a bit musty but we can live with it. It's just large enough and has a roll-in shower in the bathroom, where an airplane style toilet is also located. Our room steward tells us another bed is lowered from the ceiling, like a navy bunk, and the now king sized bed can be split in two for two twin beds.
We go with that option because I'll never get Tim up into that bunk so I'll sleep up there and the other two will have their own twin sized beds.
While we wait for our luggage to be delivered, we're going to go to our lifeboat drill.
Every cabin is given a location of a lifeboat to go to. As we head...up the crowded elevators again..to deck 5 and over to our station, a crew member intercepts us and herds us into a bar midship. This is where the mobility challenged passengers will muster to in a drill and then be helped into lifeboats in an emergency.
Afterward, we make our way up to the upper deck where we have a cocktail as we watch the ship cast off. Soon, we see the last condos on South Beach glide by as we head out to the Atlantic.
It's been a hectic afternoon so far, will it get any better? For now, we'll head back to our cabin to get ready for dinner. We'll let you know how the rest of the day goes in our next post.
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved