Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID 19 - Note to Our Readers

Although we here at The World on Wheels exist to promote travel, especially travel for special needs, we realize that this is NOT the time to go out and travel this fascinating world. We will still be running new posts and rotating previous posts and encourage you to enjoy vicarious travel from your armchair.

We are confident that all will be well and this will pass but, for now, please stay home and make plans for your trips after this has passed. In the meantime, please enjoy our travel posts (which have all taken place before this blew up) and stay well.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Back on Dry Land in Miami, Florida

We're back from our less than stellar Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas. Now, it's on to the longest segment of this trip, five nights in Miami before returning home. If you've been following along, you might remember way back at the beginning that we're paying for this trip mostly with points and rewards accumulated over the last few years. Hilton Hhonors members can get an extra free night if they cash in four nights so that's what we've done...cashed in four nights so we can stay five nights here at the Homewood Suites in the Brickell neighborhood of downtown Miami.

It seems like so long ago that we were landing in Atlanta to start this grand tour...either tied for the longest trip we've ever taken (according to Letty) or the second longest trip at one day shorter (according to me) five nights in one location seems like a luxury at this point.

So it's been four nights in Atlanta, four in St. Petersburg, three nights cruising in the Bahamas, and now five here in Miami for a total of 16. I think we we did 17 on our East Coast Adventure a few years ago but my wife thinks I'm off by a day. Either way, it's a long time...especially if you dealing with caring for someone in a wheelchair.

At the port, we've packed up. Actually, we packed last night because we had to have our luggage ready for the porter by 11pm. We're told to vacate our room by 8:30 and also pick up our duty free purchases (I'd purchased two bottles of rum) by the same time. 

We wait in a cocktail lounge at the front of the ship with my duty free box and carry on luggage until we're called to leave the ship. After processing through customs and immigration, we collect our bags at the carousel...actually just a big storeroom...and then we're outside.

Officially done with Royal Caribbean, as they are with us, a porter helps us with our luggage and let's the taxi stand manager know we need a wheelchair accessible vehicle. She's in a mood for some reason and takes it out on our poor porter but she does call an accessible cab and then promptly leaves as her replacement comes on duty.

A few minutes later, the ramped taxi van pulls up...and another group of passengers promptly cuts in front of us trying to steal it.  A few tense words and they back off. We're in and on our way...thankfully we didn't have to pay for that weekend or I would have been sorely disappointed. As it was, it was OK but not great in the way cruises used to be.

Our driver pulls into our hotel a few minutes later. The staff at Homewood Suites is very welcoming and our room is excellent.

Ah...let's just let the stress of the day melt away for awhile before we go out and try to find something to eat. 

We do find a very good pizza place, Mister 01 Pizza, where we have this star-shaped pizza while the rains poured outside. 

As we finish, the weather clears and we have a hot and humid walk back to the hotel where we will rest and recover from the weekend.  

It's time for Miami! Stay tuned for that, it'll be a blast.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Travel In The Age of Coronavirus - Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In a word, don't.

But this will pass, and when it does, you can be ready by taking advantage of deals and bargains being offered now. Travel companies like airlines, hotels, and cruise ships, are feeling great economic pain right now. To help keep a cash flow going during these lean times, many are offering great discounts that also come with the perk of being able to cancel with no penalty or (in the case of airlines) being able to change your low fare ticket for no charge.

If you think this might all pass by fall, go ahead and start making plans and bookings (always confirm the ability to cancel or change with no charge, though) and if this virus is still making travel ill advised when the time for your trip comes, go ahead and cancel or reschedule.

As long as you're not paying a penalty for it, you're out nothing but a little time that you spent researching and making the booking.

Again, we are strongly advising you do not all!...during the next few months but there is no harm in making plans for later.

Here are some examples for you...(these may changed, be extended, or cut off as time goes by. Click on the links for current information)

British Airways - All bookings made through March 31, 2020...and already booked flights through the end of May, 2020...will have the ability to change the date, destination, or both, at no charge.

Delta Airlines - All bookings made in March, 2020, can be changed as many times as you like for free for one year.

American Airlines - Bookings made through the end of March, 2020 can be changed for free until February 28, 2021

Hilton Hotels - Reservations made through the end of April, 2020 - including no change/non refundable (Advance Purchase) rates - will be able to be cancelled at no charge and refunded, if applicable, with at least a 24 hour notice.

Marriott Hotels - Reservations made through the end of April, 2020 - including no change/non refundable (Advance Purchase) rates - will be able to be cancelled at no charge and refunded, if applicable, with at least a 24 hour notice.

Many, if not most, major travel companies are offering similar policies right now that you can take advantage of. A little Googling will reveal more.

In short...don't travel now but do know this is a good time to save some money and plan for a trip later.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2020 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 23, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen!...Start Your Engines!...Visiting the NHRA Motorsports Museum

Before we decided to sell our house and move out of the L.A. area one of the last places that we wanted to go visit before we left was the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. Since we had never been there before this would be the first and only time that we would go to see the museum. Until then, we had only gone to see the drag races there just once before that but we had to leave early because the sound of the cars was way too loud for my very sensitive ears.

The museum is located on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona, California. All of the cars and other exhibits in the museum can be seen within a couple hours of time in a single day.

The collection of cars and other items inside the museum is definitely worth your time for both racing and non racing fans alike. The museum's collection includes cars from the beginning years of drag racing all the way to the more modern cars that are used today.

The first section of the museum that we took a look at once we were inside housed some of the older cars and artifacts that are on display including the first dragster that was ever built called "The Bug" and a Bill Bailey mobile embroidery uniform station. 

The next section of the museum that we saw was home to some more modern looking vehicles and artifacts including timing clock from the 1950's, a 900cc speed record bike and the world famous snake and mongoose funny cars that became a popular racing rivalry from the 1960's to the 1970's. These two cars were driven by Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen.

The part of the museum that I liked the most was our next step on the self guided tour where Don Garlits' "Swamp Rat" top fuel dragster and John Force's iconic Castrol GTX funny car were on display. The "Swamp Rat" race car is famous for being the first drag racing vehicle of its kind to have the car's engine be positioned behind the driver's seat and cockpit area instead of in front of it. 

As for the John Force race car, it was interesting to see that the driver's side door frame area had been removed so that visitors can sit in the driver's seat and experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of a very fast race car. 

This is exactly what my dad Darryl did when we were there on our visit. Seeing Mr. Force's car there reminded me of the time many years ago when we went to a meet and greet event before the big Winternationals race and he took off the Castrol GTX sponsorship hat that he was wearing, signed and gave it to me to have as a souvenir!

Looking back on our visit to the museum, I can tell you that it was definitely nicer for me to not have to hear the loud rumble of car engines racing down the drag strip this time around. Before we left we also took a stroll through the gift shop but I don't think we ended up buying anything.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2020
All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: A Bahamian Pub Crawl in Nassau

Well, we landed in Nassau with little to do and really nothing planned. The one, good wheelchair accessible shore excursion...a glass bottom boat tour...was cancelled due to lack of interest. We were offered a tour of Atlantis, the giant resort and waterpark nearby, but that would have cost us almost $500.

But, when the world gives us lemons, we make lemonade. Nassau is a wonderful place for a pub crawl.

Watch the Video!

Our first stop was a hot, uphill hike to John Watling's Rum Distillery.

This old plantation sits on parklike grounds up above the town. A great house commands the land, with the distillery in a barn out back.

We take a little self-guided tour before going into the bar to sip the very tasty and expensive rums.

The rum is good and gives us the inspiration to hike back down the hill to the water where we find the Bamboo Beach Bar and Tiki Bikini Hut.

We're hot and hungry from the long walk so we split an order of fries. Tim has a lemonade, a local Kalik Radler beer for Letty, and a Kalik Gold for me. I'm not one for the super sweet tasting radlers (like a lemon shandy in the States) but the cold Gold really hit the spot on that hot day.

Next, we walked down to a better part of the beach and had delicious Bahama mamas at Gloria's on the Beach, a little bar shack on the sand that had a wooden deck I could get Tim's chair on.

They also had a drink called the bitch slap, which was advertised as the "strongest drink on the beach." Letty strongly suggested I should skip that one.

Our last stop was the Pirate Republic Brewery and pub back by the cruise ship dock. Here, we had a very good mug of cold kolsch beer, brewed on premises.

The server, seeing that my wife wasn't really having a great day, treated us to several shots of John Watling's rum on the house.

Nicely liquored up from our day in Nassau, we wobbled back on the ship to rest off the buzz before our nighttime activities.


Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 20, 2020

Mayday! Stuck on a Bahamian Island: Nassau

Last night, Tim and I went to the excursion counter on board Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas to see if we could find a wheelchair excursion for today's port visit in Nassau. We were waiting to talk to our new friend from Chile but he was stuck trying to explain to a woman why her 16 and 14 year old kids could not be turned loose on an excursion in a foreign country without an adult chaperone.

She was having none of it and the conversation was growing more heated...on her the minute. Another crew member came out to help us.

Watch the Video!

Four Days of Cruise in Ten Minutes

As we'd suspected, out of the dozens of excursions available, none were wheelchair accessible. Except...! Yes, a tour of Atlantis and it's waterpark could be arranged at $45 per person. We were about to go ahead and sign on the dotted line when he added "we just have to arrange for a wheelchair accessible van. That will be an extra $199."

We'll just have to see what kind of trouble we can get to by ourselves.

After yesterday's pandemonium at the breakfast buffet, we decide to take our morning meal in the main dining room. There's also a buffet here, a much quieter one, plus you can order from the menu.

It's good, not outstanding, but will get us a good start to the day...whatever shape that will take. We don't know, yet, what we'll be doing in the Bahamian capital of Nassau.

Nassau is a docking port so the tender issue is not an issue here. We roll off the boat and are soon walking out of the terminal into the heart of Nassau. There's a park nearby, across from the legislature building, where we find a shady bench to check out our map of the are.

There are a lot of shops, restaurants, and bars here. I see an ad for an historic rum distillery so we strike out in that direction, which at least gives us a destination to reach, while seeing what lies along the way. The answer to that question is not much. We do browse a couple of shops but quickly lose interest in that.

It's Sunday morning May 13th, though, and the distillery is about a half mile away, up a hill. The Bahamians are a friendly bunch, I'll give 'em that...many cars would go by, see us walking up the hill, and yell out a hearty "Happy Mother's Day" to my wife.

The first time, she didn't understand what was being said through the thick Bahamian accent and you could see the look on her face that she was about to take offense. I explained to her what the gentleman said and she quickly corrected to give him a sincere thanks.

As we walk up the hill, a couple of churches have just finished their Sunday services and the parishioners are heading down the hill. Choruses of "Happy Mother's Day" are showered on my wife as they walk by.

The streets are narrowing, the heat oppressing, the hill steepening, and...just when my family is thinking I've completely lost my mind...the sign to the John Watling Rum Distillery.

We walk into this old plantation with it's great house fronting the distillery barn. There's a 75 foot deep well, dug by slaves hundreds of years ago, that provided the company with fresh water.

A staff member comes out and gives us a little shot of frozen pina colada which really helps to cool us down. We head into the bar to do some tasting but the rum itself is way too expensive to take home.  You can read and watch all that in our Nassau Pub Crawl post and video (coming this Sunday).

One of the staffers told us of a quieter street to go down since the one coming up was getting pretty busy. We file out of the distillery just in time...four large tour buses are now disgorging their passengers as we leave.

As we head back downhill towards the water, we come across an old cemetery.

We wander around, it's seen better days, and take in some of the tombstones while a lone gardener takes on the unruly vegetation with a weed whacker.

Some potholes, a few stray dogs, and some piles of rubbish later, my wife is getting that look on her face, "this place is not what I expected." True. Central Nassau has a pretty run down quality about it like some of the border towns in Baja.

We have a light lunch on the beach and I'm hoping our little pub crawl will brighten her spirits. She soldiers on but is not really enjoying this port of call.

Later, back on the ship, she dives into packing the bags to get off this boat..we've taken to jokingly calling it the 'rust bucket' because of maintenance issues this ship does have...and won't consider the evening's entertainment.

Tim and I let her be and we head to the ship's atrium where, on this final night of the cruise, the crew has a parade of flags honoring the many, many countries the staff here hail from.

It's quite a sight and you can tell the crew really puts their heart into it and are proud of their homelands. A real celebration of the human diversity that we all share.

It was a wonderful way to end what would really end up being a fairly mediocre cruise.

As we wait the next morning with our duty free rum box (an order the duty free store screwed up, causing me to work to get a refund with the line when I got home) in the forward lounge for our call to disembark, Tim is eager to exit his first and probably last cruise.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Castaways of Coco Cay - A Private Island Day in the Bahamas

Thankfully, after the hassles and fiascoes of the first day of this trip, we got a good night's sleep. Morning found us still at sea. Soon, an island came into view along our side of the ship. This must be Coco Cay, one of the Bahamas' Berry Islands, Royal Caribbean's private island. We are to spend the day here.

First, we must eat breakfast and the buffet is at the bow of the ship. We're eating there because the dress code is more relaxed. Tim and I are dressed in swim trunks (I want to change his clothes as few times as possible) so we're skipping the main dining room for today and hitting the buffet instead.

The buffet is a zoo, with everybody cutting in line, butting their way in to grab some bacon, being wide to scoop up some scrambled eggs. There's no rhyme or reason to how people should line up or what direction to go in.

I finally grab some food for Tim and I...Letty's on her own for this one.

The announcement comes over the PA that the boats to the island are now in operation and to make our way down to the bottom deck to go to the island.

This is the great unknown for us. Coco Cay is a tender port, meaning that there is no pier for the ship to dock at. Smaller boats...tenders...shuttle passengers back and forth to shore all day long.  Tenders mean that there is no guarantee that wheelchairs will be able to disembark, it's strictly at the crew's discretion.

I had tried to ascertain with Royal Caribbean before we left on if a wheelchair would be able to go on the tender. All I could get was "we can't guarantee it," but browsing through people's reviews and trip reports online before we left suggested that it could be done so this will be a gamble for us.

(NOTE: Royal Caribbean is in the middle of a massive construction project on the island. A new pier has opened for the ships to dock at, making the tender transfer obsolete. There is also now a large water park on the island)

No need to worry, though, there's a ramp to the tender (after going through security to get off the boat) and a flat area up front where wheelchairs are allowed to sit during the short journey. The crew graciously lets me stand there with Tim, although Letty is told she must sit in the seats inside with the rest of the passengers.

A shore excursion specialist is standing next to me for the trip. He tells me he's from Chile and we talk about all the things to see and do there, also telling me what destinations I should see, where to fly to, and more. A font of information for a future trip...I'm putting his suggestions into the memory bank for that distant vacation.

We talk about shore excursions and I tell him that in Nassau, we plan to take the glass bottom boat because that's the only one that was listed as accessible.

"Oh, that excursion's been cancelled to to lack of bookings," he tells me, "but we have one on the island today."

Once on the island, I follow him to the excursion office to sign us up, "be back here at 1:15 this afternoon."

I should also mention that when we left the tender, Tim's power wheelchair was traded for a beach wheelchair with fat tires for the sand. We'll exchange them back when we leave (NOTE: although special needs passengers are advised to get on the island early because beach wheelchairs are first-come, first-served, we noticed that there were a lot of beach wheelchairs, much more than the demand for them).

With that taken care of, the three of us head to the sand where we have an easy time finding some lounge chairs to relax on.

The Bahamas, while usually uttered with the word "Caribbean," are not part of that tropical sea. Rather, it lies just outside of the warm Caribbean east of Florida. This is readily apparent when I go for a swim and there is a definite chill in the water.

It's clear. I can see the coral, some fish swimming around, and not a trace of cloudiness. It's just not warm. I do my best to get used to it but a half hour in that chilly ocean water is really all I need. It actually feels warmer when I get out and back into the air.

I go to get some snacks. I went healthy for Tim and I, mostly because the more 'junk' food stands at the Island buffet were overrun just like the breakfast buffet. The salad and cold cut bars were mostly untouched.

Letty went to get a bucket 'o pina colada from one of the bars. I had a beer and filled up two of our soda glasses. Then is was time to go on our glass bottom boat ride.

Arriving at the counter, we're given the bad news...the weather's not good enough to go out so it's been cancelled.  We've pretty much done all we wanted to do so we trade back for our power chair, go through security, and get back on the tender to the ship.

About halfway back, cool drops of rain fall on Tim and on the bow of the tender...while we wait to get back on the ship.

Since Tim won't go in the ocean, I take him up to the pool deck. There are a couple of lifts for handicapped people. He usually floats around in an inner tube we bring along, The ship also has a variety of swim vests, intended for children but some of the larger sizes looked like they'd fit. We ask the lifeguard...who's Russian...what we should do for Tim.  He says to go with our inner tube.

After we get it inflated, the lifeguard along with a pool attendant comes over to operate the lift. We get Tim in the chair and I jump in to get him out and ease him into the inner tube. That's when I found out that the ship's pool is not heated.

Tim is eased down and is also a bit shocked at how cold the water is but he's still game and in he goes.  I figure we'll get used to it...which we do for the most part...and float around for an hour before moving on to something else.

About 20 minutes later, the lifeguard comes back up..."you done with swim?"

"Well, no, I figured we'd stay in for awhile longer to make it worthwhile," I tell him.

"That okay but you know rain coming. Lightning."

"Oh, I understand, let's get out then."

We get out, drops start falling so we move under shelter near the side of the ship. Then, a deluge hits. Lightning, thunder, and buckets of water. We're fine under the roof but many out in the pool and lounge chairs are caught out. I also think of the hundreds of passengers that are still on the island and have to make their way back.

I see that we're next to the Windjammer buffet's side door, which I can get to without getting too wet so I go in to grab some hot dogs, fries, and fruit for Tim and I.  I also take our soda cups to their machines...which are out of everything except Diet Fanta.

That's when I find the only other soda machine onboard is in the middle atrium, on the 6th deck. So, get cups good for unlimited soda on the ship. There are only three machines...two in the buffet and one in the center...for 2,400 passengers.  You can see where the math gets dicey. You can also get soda from the bars and main dining room, but the cups are specifically for the three machines on board. To fill 'at your leisure.'

Well, the food's still good so we relax here until the storm passes then we go to our cabin until dinnertime.

Dinnertime comes and, true to their word, we have a more accessible and appropriately-sized table assigned.  The food is good, the waiter is very good if a bit on the talkative side, and it all goes off without a hitch.

We do a little shopping in the duty-free mall onboard but Letty and Tim aren't onboard on with seeing any of the ship's entertainment that night.

All in all, this was a much better day than the first day. Still a few issues here and there but even Tim said he had fun today. After a couple of cocktails in the quiet mid-ship bar, we call it a night and head back to our cabin to relax until bedtime.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 15, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Seafizz Cocktail

An easy, fizzy drink to welcome summer.

Watch the Video!

1 1/2 oz. tequila
juice of 1/2 lime
2 oz. cranberry cocktail
1 oz Diet Squirt or Diet Mt. Dew

Mix all ingredients in an ice filled tumbler and stir.



Friday, March 13, 2020

Shipping Out To The Bahamas From Miami

It's been a frustrating day getting into Miami, returning the rental car, and getting on board our ship. Now, two out of three checked bags have arrived in our state room. I also notice that we have been given two soda cups...

(Here is where I need to take a little side trip to explain that on Royal Caribbean, if you want more than juice, generic coffee, tea, or tap water, you have to pay for it. Now, the thing is to buy drink packages...all inclusive bar tab is $55 per day, per passenger. I don't see the three of us racking up $165 in drinks, especially since the first and last days are very short. We choose the all you can drink soda package where the ship gives you special souvenir glasses that work in the soda machines at a more reasonable $8.50 per day. If we want a cocktail, we'll just purchase them one at a time.

Now, back to your story...)

...where there are three of us that should have them. I tell the room steward, he says it's not his responsibility, we have to go to guest services but he'll try to remember to tell someone.

Next, Letty has changed her mind and wants to stay connected while we're on the ship this does I buy a package so the three of us can connect our devices but only one will connect at a time.

It's almost time for our dinner seating so we first head over to guest services where there is a long line of people waiting to complain. It seems that most of them are here to try to wrangle an upgraded cabin.

Finally, one of the staff works the line to see if there are easier problems to solve to get people through faster.  When he gets to me, I tell them about our missing soda glass, suitcase, and our internet problem. He says we must wait until 8pm to see if the bag arrives before we complain about that. He'll check into the glass. We must go up to the deck above to see the IT guy but hurry, he's only there for another hour (for a total of two hours a day of IT help).

We stand in line upstairs with our devices, finally get to the front, and the IT guy changes our account so that all are able to connect now.

We get to the dining room, a waiter has us follow him in. He takes us to the center of the room, and says to follow him...our table is right over here.  "Here" is a table where we'd have to navigate a path of about twenty inches wide, and that's with no people sitting at the tables between us and the one assigned to us.

Tim's wheelchair is a bit wider than twenty inches. We bring this to his attention that we can't fit.

"No worries, we'll move stuff around to get you in."

"What about when we're done and people are sitting in these other seats? There will be even less room," my wife tells him.

"You don't want to sit here?" he asks.

"It's not accessible," I tell him. "We need to sit somewhere else."

"OK, come with me and we'll take to the head waiter."

I follow him to the podium. There is a man in a tuxedo there and a line of about 40 people waiting to talk to him.

"Just stand in that line and he'll take care of it."

Just to recap...Letty and Tim had to stand in the sun for almost two hours before they let us go into preboarding security. We had to navigate a crowded line to find someone to tell us where our cabin was. We had to wait in an even longer line to get an elevator to our room and, a little later, again to go up to the deck for lifeboat drills. We just had to wait in another line to complain about our missing luggage and soda glass then another to get our devices connected right. Now...when we're assigned an inaccessible table (when we were explicit during the whole booking and checkin process that we have a wheelchair)...I'm told I have to wait in yet another long line.

That, my friends, is where my rope ended.

"I've been standing in lines all damn day ever since I boarded this damn ship. I will not stand in another line, either get us a decent table or I'm leaving!" I exclaimed, a bit more forcefully than reading these words suggest (that quote may have been sanitized a bit for our reader's protection-Ed).

"Please, it's ok...we'll work something else out," the waiter said.

He went off to get someone. In a little while, another man in a tuxedo showed up and took us to a table that would hold a dozen people and said to sit here and tomorrow there will be a better table that we'd be assigned to for the rest of the cruise.

Seated, our order was taken. A minute later, a family of about twelve showed up.  Guess what? This was THEIR assigned table. Of course, they complained and we were moved yet again to a four seat table across the aisle. Why not this table in the first place?'re thinking too logical, at least more logical than the dining crew of the Enchantment of the Seas.

Finally, fed.  We leave after dinner, have a couple of cocktails in the uppermost bar before calling it a night where Letty and Tim snoozed in their comfy beds and me on my little bunk at the ceiling where it seemed like I was a larger than life elf on a shelf.

Tim said one thing before turning in..."If I could, I'd get off right now. I never want to go on a cruise again."

I really could think of no argument against that after this long day so I just said goodnight and went to sleep. Here's hoping tomorrow will go a bit better.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 9, 2020

Casting Off: A Questionable Start to Another Caribbean Adventure

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 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.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved