A little about myself first. I'm a 27 year-old man from Philadelphia. (I'm still holding on to 27... I turn 28 in 10 days.) I actually took this cruise solo. I was in serious need of a vacation, couldn't find anyone to go with me on short notice (I booked 3 weeks before the cruise), and decided to just do it alone. I'll say one thing about cruising solo-- JUST DO IT! I had the time of my life! However, I am an extremely social person and found friends on the ship pretty quickly.
OK. Now on to embarkation. This was my 8th cruise-- my 2nd with Carnival. However, this was my first time ever flying in the day of the cruise. Usually I fly in a day before, but I couldn't swing that this time around. I took the first flight out of Philadelphia and landed in Fort Lauderdale around 9am. It was POURING outside! Seriously, it looked like a monsoon. I gathered my luggage and hung around the airport for a little bit. I was in no rush to get to the ship since it was raining so hard. I figured I'd wait to see if conditions improved. They didn't.
Around 10am I took a cab to the cruise terminal. I know this question comes up a lot-- the cab cost about $20, including tip. Most of the cabs have credit card machines, but I paid cash. However, some DO NOT have them! If you need to pay with a card, you need to tell the taxi dispatcher outside the airport. ALSO-- be aware that people will try to trick you into using a shared-ride van. I knew about this from Cruise Critic. Just keep walking to the actual taxis. And also be aware that the cabs will use a meter. It's illegal for the driver to tell you a flat rate.
I got to the terminal around 10:30am. It was an absolute mess! It was, by far, the most disorganized embarkation I have ever seen, which I attribute to what must have been the most disorganized debarkation ever. The ship pulled into port late because of the rain, and it was just a madhouse at the terminal. No one could direct me where to go. Porters seemed confused about whether luggage was coming in or going out. And EVERYONE was soaking wet!
Finally, I made it into the terminal and got checked in. I was given a Zone 5 card and told to have a seat. Usually, I've found ships starting to load new passengers around 11 or 11:30. At 11:30, they were still off-loading the last cruise! Finally, around 12:30, they called Zone 5, and I was able to walk up the gangway and onto Carnival Freedom.
More to come...