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xitappers2bx

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About xitappers2bx

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

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    philly-ish
  • Interests
    travel, reading, crossfit
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Carnival, Royal, HAL
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Naples Italy

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  1. For reasons I don't understand VIFP offers change depending on how you booked etc... I have found if you have a TA with a good relationship with someone at Carnival you can get things done--usually. I was trying to upgrade my sister from an OV to a balcony before they cancelled the Bermuda cruises, and because of the fare she booked, certain rooms weren't available, and the cost to upgrade into the available categories for that fare was double what the website showed. It was weird. Very weird. Our cruise for Aug. 1 on the Magic is more than $1500 more than it was when we booked in April. It's all supply and demand. It's an interesting economics game for sure; with bookings up the way they are, CCL can ask for whatever they want, and get it.
  2. I've never booked a CCL cruise that far out, but I have booked cruises on other lines that far out, and there were VERY few excursions (like less than 10) until about a year in advance and then they all populated for booking. I'm guessing because 11/21 is so far away that's why.
  3. It was totally my fault... it myself in the face doing a thruster and then rebounded off the wall behind me. It really was a wild experience; the next day I went to work thinking I was fine, I just felt a little off. But even this weekend I was with family and my eyes were going wild. I hope it doesn't take a full year for this post concussive syndrome stuff to resolve. We have big things happening this year (Japan this summer for 3 weeks!!), and I really would love to go back to feeling like "me" again. You're probably one of the few people I have spoken with who even understands when I say that--so few adults seem to have gone through this. I am really glad that you're doing better, and at least you have a story to tell about literally knocking yourself into retirement! I really wanted to stay at the Renaissance--they're our favorite hotel brand in Europe (the one in Paris at the Trocadero is my favorite hotel ❤️) but the reviews were so bad when it came to the service and people complaining about bugs it scared me. We haven't stayed in a Renaissance in the US, and for the price (about 80$ more than the Hilton) I was worried that I would be unhappy.
  4. I'm having some technical difficulties with our new printer and figuring out how to get the scanned images to my laptop. I'll end up taking them to work with me and scanning them there. So we've unpacked, talked about power strips, let's talk about Carnival Hub before moving onwards to dinner. Carnival Hub. $5. Text messaging and digital version of the Fun Times. You can select what you would like to do each day by tapping on the little heart, and then you'll even get an alert 15 minutes before hand that your event is coming up. This was really the only way I would have ever made it to a single bingo game. For $5 you also get the luxury of harassing your offspring. We've done a lot of cruises, and maybe it's foolish but I don't keep count I just count my lucky stars that we are able to vacation the way that we do. This is the first cruise where my kiddo has really been old enough to go out on her own for more than an hour or two. As she's aged through each of the age groups (Camp Carnival--now called Camp Ocean, Circle C, and now O2), there have been cruises she has LOVED to do the kids stuff, and cruises where she is my best friend, and she sticks with me, usually playing on her phone. Knowing that I wasn't going to be doing a whole lot on the Lido with all the people and the noise (not to mention the light, which my eyes still don't love), I really wanted her to find people her own age and make some friends. I managed to get her to go to O2, I made her promise to stick it out for "one entire hour" and if she hated it, she didn't have to go back. I don't think she was even there 15 minutes before she found a few girls and a boy to hang out with (yes, the first time my little girl has hung out with a boy and my heart did break a little bit). This is where it gets fun. Being the neurotic Jewish mother that I am, with the added in concussion anxiety, I imagine every terrible thing that could possibly happen. It's my superpower, or maybe, this is just my origin story. So, you spend that $5 for the Hub App, and you make your kid spend that $5 for the Hub app, and then YOU GET TO STALK THEM THE ENTIRE CRUISE. No joke. There seemed to be some confusion with the app. It's simple. Here's a few ways to use it (and when not to): When you embark, if you want to still be able to talk to people land-side, don't use it yet and make sure you turn off Wi-Fi. Wait until you are sailed away, then put your phone in airplane mode, turn on Wi-Fi, open the app, and buy. When you embark, if you immediately go into vacation mode, then put your phone in airplane mode, turn on Wi-Fi, open the app, and buy. When you are in port, if you want to be able to use your phone and connect to the local cellular service, you have to actually turn off the Wi-Fi (ridiculous I know, but you can't have cellular and be on the Magic_WiFi), and then go through your settings and connect to whatever local service there is. Then, when you leave, put airplane mode back on and turn on the Wi-Fi. Two main steps: Turn on airplane mode, Turn on Wi-Fi to use the Hub App. To use cellular/data: Turn off airplane mode, Turn off Wi-Fi to disconnect from the ship's Wi-Fi. Alright. So, you've bought the app, and you've set your kid(s) loose on the Carnivallians. It's no longer just good riddance. And no longer do you have to use the annoying walkie-talkies. Now, you just open the app, and text your child. It even tells you when they have seen it--with a timestamp. The rule with my kiddo was, when you leave one location (ie: O2) and go to another location (ie: lido/pizza/cafe) you text me; and then, when you leave that location and go elsewhere, you tell me where you're off to. And when you ignore my texts, I make hilarious threats to show up at O2 dressed in my favorite ratty sweat pants and comfy "oy to the world" ugly sweater to make sure you're alive. It's so much fun. It's just like being at home, except they're never more than 1000 feet or so away from you. #technologyisfun So. Now you've got the Hub App squared away. The app will also tell you what's for dinner (although, it never actually told me the main dishes, just the appetizers, the desserts, and then the local dish specialties). You can see what food spots are open, and what their menus are. I'm not a huge seafood eater, as in, I don't eat seafood, and I don't eat wings with bones, and I'm not a huge beer drinker, so I didn't really hang out in Red Frog, but the menu was cheap (nothing more than $6) and people seemed to love that food. I also didn't stop for BBQ. Maybe I'm a failure. Blame it on the brain. We headed to dinner, and were relieved that everyone was dressed super casual, so we fit right in. We were about to have an experience that would probably piss some people off. But, like I said, I really was just grateful we were on vacation, I was ALSO super grateful that we were able to have our late seating moved to early seating, soooooo yeah. I wasn't going to blow a gasket. Dining. We have done Anytime Dining in the past (on the Magic) and it was great, we were with my parents, and one of my sisters, her husband, and their then like 18-month old (they now have triplets and are never going on vacation ever again hahahahaha--just kidding. We all went to the OBX this summer). We were able to eat at the same time, same table, with the same wait team every night. It was awesome. Now, you have the added benefit of being able to select in the app that you'd like to dine, and then usually by the time you're at the Northern Lights Dining Room your table was ready. Well. We didn't get anytime dining. When I booked, super late in the middle of the night back in May, only late dining (8:15) was available. Well, back then my brain wasn't broken, and I didn't really care because I knew the ship was close to full and it's vacation. Once before on another line we had late dining, and we were just fine, just didn't stay up super late after dinner. Well. After I conked myself in the head and broke my poor brain it was weeks before I was even able to keep my eyes open until 9 (and really, only until this week that I've been able to make it up 11pm--even on the cruise I was in bed by 10:30, and dead to the world by 10:31, kiddo would bring pizza and ice cream and I'd wake up to eat it and pass right back out). So, there was a huge amount of anxiety about dining so late. Having a suite and FTTF should have ensured my dining choice, BUT I knew it was Christmas, and packed (and eventually sold out) so I also knew that I may be out of luck. I contacted John Heald, and the maite'd onboard and when we boarded and got our S&S cards saw that we had been moved to early dining. So, we were in the Southern Lights Dining room, table 639, table for two. I hate tables for two, but I know other people love them. But, this is where our experience became quite un-Carnival like. Never have we felt anything less than loved by our waitstaff. We are thoughtful diners, we know they are busy so we don't bother them with the nonsensical chit chat that slows them down when they are trying to give service to many tables all at once. We also are polite and kind, and have lots of experience doing the whole fine dining thing, so really, I think we're pretty close to the perfect patron to serve. We totally don't care if you forget about us, just make sure we have water and bread and life is good. Being just myself and the kiddo, and being absurdly tired and fighting a ridiculous head cold (along with half the ship), the dinner conversation wasn't all that exciting, particularly because my ears were clogged and I could barely hear. Kiddo has also made friends and was desperate to get back to them. So we ate pretty quick and were done by 7:05. The service also was very cold; one of our servers, whose name I don't remember, but was from Nigeria, almost seemed bothered by us. I was understanding though, they had two tables of ten--that were a single family, and then several four tops, and growing up in the food industry I know that is a lot. Like I said, you can forget about us so long as we have water (which we did) and bread (which we did), but he was quite cold. I made a mental note to speak with the maite'd the next day after dinner if the service was so brusque. Turns out, the next night he didn't even acknowledge us, and the other server, who was slightly more warm and personable, served us largely with a smile for the next seven nights, seeing the gentleman from Nigeria no more than once a night when he delivered our bread. It was very not Carnival-like. So we finished around 7:05, and as we were leaving were asked by several wait staff if we were okay, and then the assistant maite'd accosted us to make sure that we were okay. She was a very nice young lady who was so genuinely upset about our early departure I almost went back and sat down; she asked us about our food, about our service, and was just like, "no one ever leaves so early," so moral of the story? Talk to your kid more. Eat slower. Savor your wine. OH! I forget. I bought the 3 wine package; which was 100% cheaper to have bought the 3 bottles I drank on their own and not as part of the package. As you can see, I'm winning with these packages. The rose is the kathy lee gifford version, and I'm probably too spoiled by my time in Paris to enjoy anything but decent rose. The Barefoot Sparkling was good and something that is much more palatable. I don't enjoy reds, so I didn't get a bottle, and I know, that's a shame when it comes to the steakhouse. Alright. So we ate, we offended the assistant maite'd leaving dinner too early, and then the kiddo went off to find her friends (that Hub app made that so easy), and I went to bed. I was a little disappointed that our room steward hadn't done up our room yet, but I also was way too tired to really give a darn about it. He came rushing to me though, and was so apologetic, he offered to do the room right then, but I told him it was fine. He introduced himself for real this time, and I asked him to hold on one second so I could grab something for him. To add another tangent to my tangent-filled story telling here, a story. One of my closest friends on this earth I met while on a HAL cruise to Alaska. He was our assistant room steward, and him and our steward were two of the most amazing humans. I had an issue with the sofa bed--it was terrible and we were in their Neptune Suite, and paid a lot of money to be there and I was not handling it well (as in, I was being mean and I am not mean). They moved heaven and earth to make the bed comfortable, getting some plywood to put under the mattress because I could feel the frame under it (it was like your old school pullout sofa), and then a bunch of egg crates above and below the mattress, and then extra linens. This was admittedly not my finest hour, but it certainly was theirs. About two months after the cruise the assistant steward would find me on social media, and we struck up a friendship. And we have been super close ever since. That was in 2013. Alright... so, something I have always done is give the room stewards a little extra cash to start, and then more at the end. I know that their work is very hard, I know that their way, while adequate, is probably not enough, and I know that they are likely sending most of that money home to their families so they can send their kids to school or make sure their families have a roof over their head. This also has likely been some of the reason why the service we get is so absurdly wonderful. So yeah, I had two Christmas cards for our room steward team, and stuck some extra cash in there and a little note thanking them for their hard work and letting them know we appreciate them and the work they do to make sure our vacation is great. So I give Marut the envelopes, and ask him to please just forget our room for the evening, that I wasn't feeling so hot, and I was going to bed. I took an insanely hot and wonderful bath with a book (a huge deal considering reading was not that long ago impossible) and was dead to the world by 8:30pm. Kiddo has a midnight curfew. She arrived at 12:15 with pizza and ice cream. We ate, I went back to sleep, and in the morning, we had a conversation that while the pizza and ice cream was great, midnight means 12:00 and not quarter past. And with that. Day 1 was survived. And I didn't quite die in the twin bed. Not yet at least.
  5. AHHHHHHH.... that makes so much sense. and makes me love it even more.
  6. You'll have luggage tags for group 2 because you're in a suite. We just got off the ship in FLL, and they did a good job controlling how many people got off at once so there was no logjam.
  7. Yes that is normal. Not all TAs have access to extra perks like OBC for every cruise... more often than not my TA gets me OBC, but not every time. The difference is, with a TA they work for you, so if there's an issue, they're more inclined to solve it because they want you to return. The PVP works for the person who cuts their checks--the cruise line, so they are more inclined to err on the side of their paycheck. I've booked cruises 3 ways, local travel agent, major travel company, and Carnival and the only experience I would ever want twice is with my local travel agent. I will never, ever book with the major travel company ever again, and my experience with a PVP was so horrid that I cancelled the cruise before final payment because everything was a fight--even getting a price adjustment, which my TA does without question.
  8. Oh, I guess one more thought. The newish/newer ships all make you put in a card of some type to have the electricity. We see this a lot in Europe, but not in most American hotels... it seems to trip up people... I just stuck my monthly train pass in there, and just remembered not to waste electricity and turned off my own lights.
  9. I'm working on scanning in the Fun Times. I want to attach them as I go through the days. Tomorrow there will be more! I'm happy so many people are enjoying this. I imagine that I'm an okay story teller, I just wish I had taken more photos. With that said, here are a few more that I did actually take ! This was a message waiting for us for when we got into our stateroom! The kiddo and I are Jewish, but we (as in me) love Christmas. My sister was awesome enough to let me borrow some Christmas decorations. There was a lot of confusion and debate about what you can and cannot bring onto the ship. Carnival's rules are pretty clear, but then again, there did not seem to be any real following of the rules pertaining to decorations. I saw tons of doors decorated held up by tape directly onto the door (supposed to be a big no no), lots of battery operated fairy lights on doors (also a no no, we also had two small strings of them), etc. etc. etc. You can kind of get an idea of what the suite looks like too, just look into the mirror. The four water bottles were actually ours, and should not have had the price tag on them--each person in the suite gets one, and then you get one for being gold VIFP. They were dusty, I also bought a ton of smaller bottles, so we didn't need them. As you can see, I got stuck with twin beds. This was a nightmare. Carnival has done a great job forcing you to book rooms only of your occupancy... so I was completely not able to get a room that held 3 people, instead I was stuck with rooms that did not have a sleeper sofa. Which I totally get--because Carnival is a business out to make money. But, when you're the parent, and you've paid for your vacation, the last thing you want to do is sleep in a twin sized bed. This bed was really the worst part of the entire trip (and let's be real, is that really all that bad? No. But still, later on I'll give all you a few good laughs at my expense because of that bed). We have been cruising NCL more recently (and have two cruises booked on them for this upcoming year) and this is really something that puts NCL slightly ahead of Carnival--they allow you to reserve a room for two people in rooms meant for three. I should also note, if you book with a travel agent, as I typically do (totally all about supporting women-owned small, local businesses!), they usually can book you in a room for three. I booked this cruise literally in the middle of the night on a major travel agency website that's a triple vowel, and while I entirely regretted the experience and will never use them again, it was my own fault, and no one elses, that I ended up in a twin bed for 8 nights. Outlets. In the third photo you get a good shot of exactly one half of all the plugs--in the entire room. This is something that took Carnival a really long time to catch up on. Their more recent ships have USB and outlets by the beds... but on the dear ole' Magic in a non-suite stateroom, you get exactly two plugs, in a suite you get four, two as seen in the photo, and two in the dressing room. I ended up using my Mac to charge my phone overnight so the kiddo could charge her devices in the plugs (and it kept her off her phone before bed... mom win!). Seriously though. Get a power strip. I had a crazy weekend before leaving, and didn't do the best job packing (thanks concussion and my crazy life), and left our power strip at home (I love ours because it came with a ton of international adaptors and has a bunch of USB ports as well). It was annoying not to have it, but really, we survived just fine. So... we've gotten into our room... we've unpacked... we've done muster... tomorrow I will scan in the Fun Times... and then we'll be that much closer to The Best Day Ever. And there are photos. Lots of them. Until then, it was about this time that housekeeping/room service (not sure which, but I think housekeeping) brought us the three dozen bottles of water I pre-bought. I bought a soda card as well for myself and the kiddo, and drank all but 4 bottles of water and exactly 8 sodas---all in the last 2 days, because yeah. I realized I totally wasted a ton of money.
  10. I'm pretty pale, and do my best to stay out of direct sun because skin cancer. There was some sun on our balcony, but without sunscreen I did not get any color, but we also were getting ready for dinner/at dinner during the sunset and slept through sunrise, so really weren't ever out on the balcony when the sun had a direct path to my skin. I sat outside for hours at a time, it was so nice and hot, but still somewhat shady. This was also weak winter sun (which was still pretty strong). From the other social media page for our sail page, people on decks 10/11/12 said they noticed smells and a few people on deck 2 said they noticed smells. For full honestly, I never went in the room hallways that high, and was only down on deck 2 once, and noticed nothing then.
  11. Getting onboard. Time to get on this ship. They called Diamond, Platinum, and then Suites, and it was time for us to get onto our ship for the next eight nights. As we walked around the upper level towards the walkway on, there was a table set up selling inexpensive lanyards (I think they were $2) but we don't use them, so we didn't get one. Although, I think next time, I will insist the child wear one instead of putting her S&S into her phone case. She didn't lose it, but she did leave it in the stateroom more than once. Alright, so you look around, passing the table with the lanyards, and then you are a short walk to the gangway. This was probably the most difficult part of the morning for my brain; the walkway is very steep. This is something I don't think I have ever thought about, but for a person with a mobility issue (or a concussion) this could be a very difficult, if not entirely limiting thing. The kiddo went ahead of me, and the people behind me had a toddler and a baby in a stroller, so no one was rushing me, but my eyes really struggled with the steepness of the walkway, and it took about twice as long as usual to get up onto the ship. But we made it. And it was crazy for the ship to be so quiet. Even though we cruise in suites often on Carnival, we have never been on the ship so "early" and getting on, we were probably the 50th or so person, which was insane. We were able to hop right from deck 3 to deck 7 to drop our bags (we also had faster to the fun). Remember how I said nothing really bothered me? Well, here's something that didn't bother me, but might really piss someone else off. We had FTTF, so in theory our stateroom (ocean suite, 7335 mid/aft-ish, close to the elevators, great location) should have been ready. It wasn't. Everything was clean, but the beds were still pushed together and not made. For the two people who don't know what FTTF is, basically, you pay $99 for the privilege to board after the suites do, and your stateroom is ready for you when you get on, and you get quicker luggage delivery. Our room wasn't ready, but whatever, we're on vacation. I was able to put our backpacks and snack bag into a closet and our steward closed the door so no one but him could get in. We also were able to grab our keys, which were in a sealed envelop in the mailbox. If you don't have FTTF and follow the rules, you just use your boarding pass which has the information that they need to charge you for purchases. We took our keys, and went up to Lido to find food. It was about noon, and the ship was still incredibly empty. I went right to the Mongolian Wok, my favorite, and there was no line (this would be the only time this is true). The kiddo wasn't hungry, and we didn't go crazy on the junk food like we typically do during our first meal on board. By this point it was about 12:30, and we went back to the room, which was completely done and ready for us at this point. I know there has been a lot of talk everywhere about the smells on board the Magic. I did not experience this at all, any of the times that we have been on the Magic, but, at this point, I did think we had encountered our first experience with the dreaded smell. The bathroom had a weird, not quite sewage-y, rank to it. Almost like dirty cleaner, which was a gross thought, but everything was clean. I was really worried, but it wasn't overwhelming, and I figured that was possibly an issue for later on. In reality, by dinnertime, the smell was completely gone, and I had totally forgotten about it until I read comments above about it. Our luggage arrived around 1:30/2:00, until that came I sat outside on the balcony with my eyes closed, just enjoying the weather. It did look like it was a bit rainy, but the balcony was protected enough where it wasn't raining on me. The kiddo managed to drag the bags into the room, and the unpacking began. By this point, we had been living in suitcases for three nights, and I was 100% over it, and ready to not see a suitcase for days. So we unpacked, and I realized that I did not have any dryer sheets and a plastic trash bag for our dirty clothes (basically, I put the trash bag into the carry on size suitcase, with a bunch of lavender dryer sheets, and then the dirty clothes don't rank up the suitcase, and I can be a little less dramatic when I finally do the laundry once at home). Oh well. I put a suitcase half open to act as our hamper next to the sofa behind the end table there, out of the way. It was great to be totally unpacked, with lunch, and having taken a little rest before the muster drill, which started a bit late. Muster was pretty much the same as it always is, we were in the Northern Lights Dining Room, Deck 3, getting there was a little chaotic, but I think there were a huge amount of first time cruisers, so understandable. We found a table with a kind gentleman. It's great we don't have to bring life jackets. So much easier to not have to line up on deck wearing them. After muster I went up to the Lido Deck, got a drink from Blue Iguana (that was amazing), and then kiddo and I headed back to the room to chill a bit (ie: talk to my parents, say goodbye, she could text her friends) before leaving. I had assumed that because we all had to be onboard by 3, we would be the first of the six or seven ships in port to leave. We were the second, if you're into the blowing of the horns, I caught the end of the Princess ship's horn which was fun. The video is attached below. Something that was pretty cool during the muster drill was the fact they now have a "special needs" section. I don't know if this was the official name, but after muster, I was going through all the papers in the cabin, and there was information about how the Magic is now a sensory certified ship. Inclusion is something that is really meaningful to me, my little brother is developmentally disabled, and seeing the extra length that cruise company's are willing to go to be more inclusive is really great. There were a few kiddos in wheelchairs, and lots of differently abled kiddos and adults, and it was really good to see Carnival going the extra distance to make sure that everyone has a similar experience. It was also great to see the sign language interpreters at the shows and during the Muster. 888a3774cdc242c492714ee3036a65cf.MOV
  12. I was really, really lucky to have a medical team that got me into the right specialists right away. 3x a week of vestibular therapy and then once a week with a vision specialists to force my eyes and ears to work together appropriately. I also didn't buy insurance for this cruise, so we really were going no matter what. But, I think I probably had a better time than I ever thought possible just because it was so up in the air for so many weeks. We were in 7335, and I LOVED the room, the location, and the fact that it wasn't too close to the hot tubs on deck 5, which was a big concern (when we have cruised on the Magic previously, we have been on deck 8, but closer to the hot tubs which would get loud and made reading on the balcony less than fun). There were only two balcony's left that held two people, the cove and the OS, so I went with the OS. It was still a pretty expensive trip... we're doing a cruise around Japan next summer, and this cruise was only about $1000 less... Christmas is not cheap.
  13. I noticed no smells the entire time other than some funk in our bathroom. I also never smelled anything the other times we have been on the Magic. I do know a lot of people complain about it on the lower decks, we have only ever stayed on decks 7 and 8. I will say this time, on the first day, the bathroom had a weird smell, like heavy cleaner that wasn't exactly clean, but by the end of the evening, the smell was gone, and it didn't bother me. I took a deviation to the second deck accidentally and noticed nothing. In the page on that other social network people were complaining about terrible smells, I just never experienced it myself.
  14. Checking In. We arrived at the terminal around 10:30 for our check in time of 12-12:30 (priority/suite guest/FTTF) This isn't the first time we've cruised out of FLL, but it's been a handful of years, and a lot has changed since. The Magic was in Terminal 4, there's construction going on right there, and the chaos was strong, but if you have a shuttle driver, they know where they are going. If you're driving, just be careful and take your time. Also, be thoughtful about where you park, apparently there were many cars damaged by flooding waters while we were gone (although I do not know all the details, I only know this from reading comments about it on that other social network's cruise page). We were dropped off towards the end of the drop off area, but there were loads of porters ready, so we were able to immediately drop our luggage. Then it's maybe a three minute walk around the building to the entrance. "Regular" boarding was the longer line to the right, and priority/suite/FTTF was to the left. My biggest gripe was that in this line, there were more folks receiving assistance than actually with priority boarding. My brother is ID, so I understand needing extra assistance, but if you haven't "earned" the priority boarding, then you shouldn't be afforded that luxury (this would also be my major debarkation gripe, but that's to come later). I heard tons of people complaining about this, and while it annoyed me, definitely don't let that ruin your mojo. The doors opened at about 10:45-ish, and the let in the line to the left. It was really a quick process, from stepping into the doorway to sitting upstairs in the priority waiting area was about five minutes. The kiddo and I showed our boarding passes, put our backpacks through the scanners, walked through the metal detectors, showed our boarding pass to a very kindly woman, who directed us immediately to one of the little check in desk stands (almost like a podium a speaker would speak at--and that small). When I checked in online I put in all my credit card information, and they didn't need it during the check in. The gentleman scanned our passports on his tablet, and sent us on our way--no photo's needed, it uses the passport photo. At this point, our paths diverged from non-priority check in... it looked like if you're doing normal check in you just went towards the right after the check in area, and I think they were broken down by boarding group (but I only heard this second hand, I don't know for fact). We looped around to the left towards the escalators, and up to the left was the area where Faster to the Fun passengers sat, while up the escalator were the sitting areas for priority (suites and closest to the escalator), then platinum, and then diamond closest to the walkway. We did not sit for very long, maybe 15-20 minutes before boarding. The process was absurdly smooth, and all of the anxiety I had about having to wait in long lines with a lot of people to get to that long check in desk was totally for naught. We have done a lot of cruises from many different ports. It has never been as easy as it was in FLL. I don't know if this is the process in all ports, this was our first cruise in about 18 months (did a bunch of land based traveling), but it's really great and I hope that all ports are either doing it like this, or starting to roll out a quicker process like this. Not having that long loopy line just to get to check in was amazing, having someone at the doors controlling how many people got in was also probably helpful. I could see, though, in the heat of the Florida summer this might be a nightmare if you have to wait in super long lines, so I would assume it's really a good idea to just follow your check in times. And if you have crazy anxiety like I currently do (thanks brain) I just felt better being there, and was fully prepared to hang out in line outside of need be (the weather was a really comfortable 75).
  15. Fort Lauderdale... Train debark to hotel stay So, before continuing on. Some info for full disclosure. Nine weeks before our trip, I was hit in the head in my gym, and rebounded off a cement wall, giving myself a pretty serious concussion that put the entire trip in jeopardy. I am insanely lucky, and happened to go to the urgent care the day after the blow to the head that tends to see a lot of these injuries in kids, and was immediately referred to a specialist (Rothman Concussion Network for anyone in the Philly area that might ever need it) who was amazing. This sports doc was able to pinpoint the worst symptoms, and connect me to the health care providers to treat it. The snark in me is still strong, so if anything I say sounds mean, it isn't intended to. I also still am having inappropriate emotional and physical responses to stimuli, so when we boarded, the anxiety of the process had me looking like I had just run a marathon, although all I had done was sit in a room and then walk up a ramp. So there won't really be any photos of me, but this also will taint the entire review. I was just so happy to be ABLE to go on vacation, that the small annoying things we encountered were not big deal. Immediately following the injury I couldn't walk 10 feet in a straight line and not be violently motion sick... getting onto a cruise ship was a miracle. Alright. So I didn't die on the train, the concussion caused anxiety didn't have me jumping off the train and jumping onto a plane, and I generally held it all together. We got off the train, and all hell broke loose in my brain. We debark the train at Fort Lauderdale... and it was almost dusk, and hot, and incredibly overwhelming. The signage is not all that great. There was a ton of confusion regarding the process to obtain your checked bags, and figuring out where one was supposed to go to either obtain a cab or an uber/lyft was hard because there was no signage or anything that made sense. Coming from train stations in the Northeast I was expecting something closer to NYC/Philly/DC and this was more suburban train stop, outdoors, no one inside working the desks, and a mass of people. We ended up with an Uber Lux, which I guess is the Uber Black equivalent in the NE. The driver was great, he was there in a few minutes, and he was able to find us with no drama. Quite possibly the best Uber driver we have ever had. He's also a realtor, and had me super sold on living in South Florida. There are an insane number of hotels available in the Port Everglades area. One of my best friends strongly suggested the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, she stays there once a year when her family cruises, and the price with the shuttle was fine knowing that it was a holiday weekend. It seems like hotels there are very hit or miss, I had wanted to book the Renaissance, which is one of our favorite brands, but the reviews were terrible, and at a similar price point to the Hilton, I went with what I knew would be good. My friend's reviews did not disappoint. The Hilton was great, and the serve was phenomenal. We arrived around 6:15 and the hustle of the hotel was in full swing. The bell hop immediately had our bags out of the Uber and on a cart, followed us to check in, and then immediately brought our bags up to the room. The desk staff were also great, I had a few questions, and with my slower than normal brain that had also been overly exhausted after the few hours of sleep on the train, she was so patient with me and it was busy enough that it would not have been shocking had she been rude. We ordered room service for dinner, and the food had no business being as good as it was. Dinner was stupid expensive, but the front desk woman had added complementary breakfast to our reservation, so I used our budgeted breakfast funds and it was all good, and just as hot and fresh as if we had gone downstairs to the restaurant. But we got to eat dinner in bed, in jammies, watching Legally Blonde. The next morning we somehow ended up eating breakfast with the basketball players there for the tournament that weekend. And while I felt incredibly OLD and short, they were really nice, and my kiddo had a great time with kids about her own age (well, closer to her in age than she is to my age). The breakfast was buffet style, and was good. I loved how they were constantly replenishing the food, and keeping the entire area insanely clean (my two biggest pet peeves when it comes to buffets). After breakfast, I repacked some of our stuff, added our luggage tags, and then we checked out. Our rate included a shuttle, and I was kind of annoyed that there was space in the shuttle that was sitting outside when we got there, but the shuttles are so quick, we only waited a few minutes for the next one to arrive. The port is less than 8 minutes from the hotel, and the driver was great and got us there safely, and quickly. The anxiety that is now part of who I am following this concussion had us leaving earlier than we needed to, but after a good hour of imagining every impossible thing that could happen that would prevent us from getting to the port, we decided it was just better to get there and wait around to end the doomsday scenarios running through my mind (sharknado anyone?). Next up... checking in...
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