Sunday, May 17, 2015

Panama Canal Cruise – Pacific Princess – Fort Lauderdale FL to Los Angeles CA – April 28- May 15, 2015

April 27, 2015 – Travel Day

It is a beautiful but chilly day (40s) in the Chicagoland Area this morning.  There is no rush this morning since our taxi is not due to pick us up until Noon for our 1:45 PM flight to Fort Lauderdale.  I scheduled the cab via their app so about 20 minutes before pickup time, I could check on the cab number, location, and ETA to our place.  Very cool.

The cab was right on time and 25 minutes later we were at Terminal 1 – we checked our bags at the kiosk and headed for the TSA prechek line.  This is our second consecutive trip with prechek since I went on line at and applied for status.  The line was longer than usual but it moved fast and not having to take off your shoes or open your laptop is worth any small wait.  We went through the mystical tunnel of lights connecting the concourses and arrived at our Gate – C11 – about 30 minutes before boarding.

Our plane, UA1076 (a B737-900) was waiting at the gate

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UA1076 Gassing and Loading Up

Boarding was on time – we were in 20C and 20D (exit row Economy Plus seats).  The legroom with these seats was the most I think we’ve every experienced (including lots of other exit rows).  By the time the doors closed, no one was sitting in Ellen’s row so I moved over to the window – three by three so no one was in the center seat.

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The view from 20A (flaps and slats deployed)

The plane pushed a little early and soon we were on our way.

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Take off

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Climb Out

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Chicago Skyline

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Midway Airport

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The Lake

The plane reached its somewhat low cruising altitude of 25,000 feet and I knew what that would mean.  Flying though the “turbosphere” and bumps all the way.  As soon as the seat belt light went off, I headed to the washroom.  After 30 seconds in the washroom, the bumps started and I had to retreat to my seat where I remained for the next two hours.  Now strapped in, I do look comfortable in that leggy window seat.

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The flight was relatively short – less than three hours, and the plane started its initial approach into FLL (I tracked the entire flight on the United app on my Kindle).  Although the pilot said that the local weather in FLL was partly cloudy skies and 94F, what I saw outside suggested thunderstorms and rain.  The pilot did a nice job of weaving between the storms.

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Skirting the Storms

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Final Approach FLL

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Our bags made the trip with us and they arrived on the carousel very quickly.  I called our hotel – Quality Inn Hotel and Cruiseport South (on Stirling Rd) – and they said they would send a shuttle to meet us at the Hotel and Shuttle Parking area (just a few hundred feet from the baggage claim exit. 

By the time we arrived at the shuttle rendezvous point, it started to rain (along with thunder and lightning).  I guess we landed just in time.  The shuttle got there in about a half hour.  The ride to the hotel was very short – when we got off the bus, Ellen went in to register and sign us up for tomorrow’s shuttle to Port Everglades while I waited for the bags.

We decided on Room 320 because we only had one neighbor – as it turned out, it was also the furthest room away from the elevators.   The room had been refurbished since we stayed at this hotel last so it seemed fresh and comfortable.  Considering that the price was $71 a night (including breakfast and shuttles), I would say we got a good deal.

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View from Balcony near Room 320

Although it was getting late, we looked at our options for dinner.  I was actually on the phone with Papa John’s ordering a pizza when we lost the connection.  A combination of dodgy cell service and laziness to call back changed our plans – we decided instead to walk and find a place to eat near the hotel.

The hotel is very close to two malls and we expected to find something in one of those malls.  We didn’t walk very far until we came upon a restaurant called “Yum Berry’s” a few stores into the closest strip mall.  The signs said they had a variety of items including the pizza we looked for earlier.  There was also a sign that said the establishment was Kosher.  We had to check it out.  We ordered one tuna pita, a Greek Salad, and a bowl of vegetable soup.  While it wasn’t world class tuna (not really a tuna salad), the meal turned out to be good and huge (I only finished half of the salad which had about $10 worth of feta cheese on it).  Stuffed.  Next time, we will ordered different items and be more aware of the size of the servings.

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Yum Berry’s Restaurant – Hollywood FL

It was late when we got back to the hotel so we read a bit and rested for tomorrow’s embarkation.

We scheduled our shuttle for 11:30 AM so we had plenty of time to get ready in the morning.

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