Monday, April 6, 2020

Celebrity Reflection – Back to Back – Caribbean / Mardi Gras / Mexico Cruises – February 10 – March 2, 2020 – Roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale

February 9, 2020 – Travel Day

The forecast for Chicagoland today is heavy snow starting at around 10:00 AM – it is already snowing lightly when our taxi arrived at 7:15 AM.  We are hoping to beat the snow for our flight this morning.  The cab that picked us up was atypical – it must have been one of those American Taxi Black cabs, the more fancy ones.  This one was a brand new black car that had ATD on its door instead of sporting the red, white, and blue livery.  The driver, however, looked just liked the standard driver instead of the two fancy women we have seen in previous Black Cabs.  I could tell it was a special car because the posted fare was $12 more than the standard fare of $32 (we still paid the $32 since I did not specifically request this car).  There was no credit card slider in this car and, like I said, it still had that new car smell.

We got to the United Terminal by 7:45 AM and went straight to TSA Pre-Check using our printed boarding passes.  We are not checking bags because United wanted to charge for our bags since the fares were not ticketed using my United Credit Card.  This time out, we had to spend a little more time organizing our liquids and gels.  I did not take out the zip lock bags for separate screening and did not encounter any issues with TSA.  We went through quickly and headed for our gate in the C Concourse, C9.

Boarding for UA2335 was at 8:15 AM for an 8:55 AM departure.  

By this time, the snow had tapered off a bit but the big storm was still on its way.  We boarded our B737-900 right on time with Priority Group 2 (I did use my card for some charges). Our carryon bags (which in the past have weighed between 30 and 40 pounds) don’t have side handles so it was a little more difficult to get them into the bins but the flight attendant gave me a hand and they were both tucked away.  We are in the exit row – 20C and 20D aisle across – and my little computer bag wouldn’t go under the seat (the aisles have very narrow under seat spaces) so I just popped it into an overhead.  

The plane was not totally full – I was the only one in my exit row.  I moved over to the window and Ellen moved to the aisle – bonus.  I have started to really like the window seat (only if there is no one in the middle seat and Ellen is on the aisle) - I like watching the takeoff and landing.  Even before departure, I was able to get some nice views and shots of the gates and planes.

The plane showed some wear and tear, especially in the washrooms.  The washroom near the bulkhead, however, looked like it was a new one (blue lighting and better wash basis) but it also looked a little beat up. 

We had an on time departure and the chop the captain warned us about on takeoff never happened.  

It took about a half hour to emerge from the gloomy gray high clouds and into the blue sky.  The flight took us straight down over Georgia and the Florida Gulf Coast.  The plane tend turned East toward South Florida, passed over the Everglades and into FLL.  The flight was smooth, the flight attendants were great, and having a window was another bonus.

We landed in FLL about 20 minutes early – the captain told us that the plane would need to brake a little harder (maybe to get off the active runway fast).  That was no big deal.  I got my bags down with no problem and no help.

I called our hotel – Ramada by Wyndham Ft Lauderdale Airport and Cruise Port – and was told that the shuttle would be at the Hotel Pickup Point in about 15 minutes.  That turned out to be accurate and we were at the hotel in 10 minutes. 

The hotel, this is our first time in this place – is similar to the one we stayed at several time on Sterling Avenue:  Outdoor locks, rooms circling the pool, a small bar by the pool.  

It is also pretty pricey and run down (mostly the exterior – lots of deferred maintenance).  Our room – 266 – became available in a few minutes and we dropped our stuff.  The room looked freshly painted but the mirror needed to be replaced and some other stuff needed fixing.  It is a big room with a huge king sized bed and nice vanity.  There is also a tub shower combo.  As I said, this all came at a big price, a large chunk of which were mysterious taxes and charges.  When I was comparing prices, the charges were not shown – that has got to change as it is deceptive.  I probably should have continued looking but all the hotels in the area were much more expensive, even the ones we have stayed at in the past.  This must be high season and pre-Spring Break.  This hotel was the bargain and it was no bargain.

The check in area was essentially a table set up with computers and I wouldn’t call the check in agent friendly. 

We need some things from the store so we took the free hotel shuttle to the Southland Shopping Center (there are no stores in walking distance) at 3:30 PM.  We checked out the restaurants (a Thai place, a falafel place, a pizza place, a bar and grille) in the hopes of getting an early dinner. Instead, we bought cokes at the Winn-Dixie and a tuna sub at Subway and for dessert, some hamentaschen (yes) at Winn-D.  Instead of waiting for the shuttle to take us back (another 90 minutes), I called an Uber to take us back to the hotel ($6.29 including tip).  We ate our feast in the seating area near the hotel restaurant (no one hassled us). 

After dinner, we sat out by the pool – the weather turned weird with a strong wind that made it feel cold.  Eventually, the wind got to be too much and we retreated to our room.  The room was noisy as people in the Tiki Bar drank and talked.  We watched the entire Academy Awards (commercials and all – muted those) on our fancy TV (which also had the streaming channels). 

The folks in the Tiki Bar finally went to their rooms and the place was relatively quiet. Earplugs did the final silencing.

Lights out at 11 PM.

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