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WindyCity

Westerdam 12/12/04 Review Part 1 (very long)

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Background: Ed & I are both in our early 50’s and this was our second cruise ever. Our first cruise was on HAL’s Zaandam Alaskan Inside Passage in May, 2003.

 

Our CC Roll Call board was extremely active and we had about 40 CCers and friends that we got to know. One of our posters, 777Steve, sent out a questionnaire back in July which a number of us filled out and sent back to him. He, in turn, prepared a “Funbook” filled with information about our fellow cruisers and emailed it back to us, so we all knew something about our fellow passengers. It was great for getting to know people and was a wonderful ice-breaker.

 

Flight: We booked our own airfare with ATA and got roundtrip tickets for $304.50 total for the two of us from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale. Only negative about this was that our flight times were changed 3 times before our actual flight. Original time was 10:00 a.m. arriving at Ft. Lauderdale at 1:56 p.m. Unfortunately, with the time change we ended up on a 6:15 a.m. flight out of Chicago, arriving at 10:34 a.m. Flight home was changed also. Seats on this plane were terribly uncomfortable. Only consolation was that 1 seat was empty, so we were able to spread out.

 

Pre-Cruise Hotel: We booked a hotel for December 11 through Priceline. Bid $100 for a 4 star (I overbid) and got the Renaissance on 17th. I must say, that this hotel is quiet, clean and the staff is wonderful. We took a cab from the airport (cost approx $12) and thought we would drop off our luggage, since check in time was not until 3 p.m., but were pleasantly surprised when they let us have our room early. There was no prejudice against us that we booked through Priceline and paid a lower rate – they called it a prepaid booking, but we never felt less than any other guest who paid full rate.

 

About a block from the Hotel is a nice little café called Bonjour. They had made-to-order sandwiches, quiche and delicious pastries. Tables were located inside and outside. Bread and bakery were made on the premises.

 

2-3 blocks away was a small shopping mall that had a Publix, where we went to buy crackers & pepperoni for our CC sailaway get-together. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and checked out Einstein Brother’s Bagels which was located 2 blocks away from the hotel and we had breakfast there the next morning. Great Bagels, great coffee, breakfast sandwiches on bagels. We got there around 8:30 and there was a small line. By the time we left, the line was almost to the door.

 

Ft. Lauderdale: We had previously made arrangements with Ron & Karen, roll call members, from California, to meet up for dinner the night before the cruise. We found the water taxi stop near the Marriott and, while waiting for the next taxi, Karen says “Isn’t that Steve?” So I look over and say, pretty loudly, “Steve???” He responded “Yes!” and that was the first of many meetings with Steve and Philip. We all took the water taxi to Las Olas Blvd. with the “conducter” giving all of us a brief description of some of the beautiful houses we were passing.

 

When we got to our stop, Steve & Philip and their group turned left and went to the Cheesecake Factory while Karen & Ron & Ed & I turned right and started looking for a place for dinner. We found an open air Italian restaurant where we decided to eat dinner outside. Food was excellent as was the service!

 

After taking the water taxi back to the Marriott stop, we decided to walk around the Marriott and view the yachts berthed there. We then continued around the Marriott and saw many smaller ships berthed before we headed back to our hotel. After stopping for a drink in the bar, we headed to our rooms and hoped we could sleep in anticipation of embarkation.

 

After breakfasting at Epstein Brothers Bagels, it was time to set off for Port Everglades.

 

To Be Continued...

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