Cruising the Eastern Caribbean: The Adventure of Getting There

With the daunting prospect of another midwestern winter before us, a friend and I decided to book a trip somewhere warm during the depth of winter. Boy were we prescient. Unless you have been living in a cave in the southern hemisphere, you know this winter was brutal in North America.

The only criteria I had in planning the get away was that it be warm and all inclusive.  All inclusive isn't usually y sort of thing. Heck I landed at Heathrow in 2012 with no idea how to get to my hotel. My friend had the perfect idea: a cruise. We would be warm, well fed, and able to relax.

We decided on a seven night cruise on the eastern Caribbean aboard the Celebrity Reflection.  I had never been on a cruise before so I didn't know what to expect.  I was promised wonders, with the Reflection being the newest and grandest of the Celebrity fleet.

The Adventure of getting there


Whenever something goes wrong or the unexpected happens to mess up my plans, I refer to it as having an adventure. It makes setbacks in life much more manageable. The bus breaks down while commuting to work: an adventure. Get lost on a way to an event: an adventure.

So the adventure of my cruise began the morning before our flight. I live about a three hours drive from the airport.  I planned on driving up to see my parents and then onward to my friends house to stay the night for a 4:30 am wake up for the 6:30 flight.

I was in the midst of doing the last few things I needed to do before I could load up the car when my phone dinged. I checked and my weather app had put up one of its big read warning signs.  I clicked  it knowing that the forecast had called for the possibility of a small amount of snow. It was a  weather statement warning that an inch of snow would fall in about an hour.  It also said the snow would be lighter further north, the direction I would be heading. Given the mountains of snow we had already dealt with during the winter, I didn't worry. 

Within minutes a light snow started to fall.  I didn't worry. I took a shower. When I came out of the bathroom, I looked out the window. SNOWMAGGEDON had come. A blizzard raged outside with giant flakes causing a white out.  I worried, a little.

Over the next hour an inch of snow fell.  I quickly formed a new plan. Since I had plenty of time I would push back my leave a couple of hours to let the snow plows do their job. After I packed I headed out to get lunch and see what the roads were like.  I slipped and slid some but the roads weren't impassible. The snow tapered and stopped.  My plan seemed to be coming together.

I headed out and drove to the highway.  The snow began again. Slow at first, it soon grew to white out blizzard conditions. I crept along the with a bunch of other drivers. There is no convenient way to get from where I live to where I needed to go. Most of the drive is on a two lane state road cutting through midwestern farm land. I finally made it to the exit onto the two lane road.  Here it was even worse. The road was just a packed inch of snow and ice.  I considered turning around but was determined to get through.  No way was I missing this cruise.

The road was crowded with vehicles and we inched along trying not to end up in a ditch. Going around one banked curve I tried to move over to give an  oncoming semi some extra room. My wheel slipped off the edge of the road I corrected my little fiesta back on the road and then the back end started to come loose. I saw the slowly oncoming semi and  my brain did a very quick calculation. How bad would be this crash?  We were both going under thirty so I would probably be ok.  Just then my wheels caught and with my heart pounding in my chest, I drove on.

As far as I had come, there was no point in turning around so I kept slowly going north.  I passed a few cars in ditches.  The next hour of my life stressed my patience as I kept waiting for the snow to end.  Finally, near my destination the road became clear of snow and ice. Next winter I am moving somewhere warm :)

The next morning began with me waking up on a frigid Chicago morning at 4:30 am. The cold crept in through the window urging me to snuggle deeper into the comforter.  But the lure of warmth and sea proved too strong and I shambled out of bed.  After a taxi ride that seemed to take forever, we arrived at O'hare airport and breezed through security.  Wonders of wonders I actually fell asleep on the plane.  Never before have I managed to sleep on an airplane.  I stayed awake, unintentionally, for the entire overnight flight to London.

The plane landed in a humid and balmy Florida that blew my frigid midwestern mind. Then we began the adventure of finding the bus to the ship. After collecting my bag we were at a loss as to where to go.  Eventually we found an old guy holding a sign that said "Celebrity Cruises".  He directed us to the lost baggage claim area to find a Sheila.  There wasn't really anybody at the lost baggage claim but on the way we passed an older lady with a name tag. I checked and it said Sheila, so I came up with the very original opening of asking, "Are you Sheila?"

Sheila gave me a tag for my luggage and us some tickets to make sure we could get on the right bus.  She informed us we'd have to wait for the next bus. Within minutes she rushed back and told us we were in luck. The bus hadn't left yet.  We grabbed our bags and ran outside into bedlam. There were four buses not quite parked properly,and lots of people just milled about looking confused. No one seemed to be in charge.  For some reason, I was reminded of my life. I am not sure how long we waited there, perhaps an half hour. I didn't care. It was warm and the sun was out.

Finally, the right bus arrived and we clambered into the crowded bus and, with my two carry ons clutched to my chest, waited for the luggage to be loaded. The bus started to pull away and an outcry erupted. "Our bags aren't on the bus!", an old lady screamed.  The bus paused and then started to move again. " OUR BAGS ARE NOT ON THE BUS!"  The bus stopped again. The guy "in charge" said that all the luggage wouldn't fit and that another bus would be bringing the left luggage. The other people seemed very concerned.  I couldn't see if my bag was one of the ones that were left. But I didn't really care about anything in that luggage.  Did I really need my five year old Men's Wearhouse suit I bought for $199.

After a short drive we entered an industrial port area. Railroad tracks crisscrossed the road while trucks lumbered between large oil tanks. It didn't seem like the kind of place to get on a cruise ship but we could see them in the distance.  We rolled deeper into the maze of streets and oil tanks. I checked the GPS on my phone and noticed that yes we were near a port, Fort Lauderdale port to be exact. The problem: we were supposed to get on the ship at Miami port about an hour down the road.  We thought there might be some sort of connecting road to speed transferring cargo etc between the ports.  Apparently not, because the bus driver performed a rather awkward three point turn and we started back out of the industrial park. He finally found the expressway and drove us rather recklessly to Miami port.

At first sight of the ships I realized how huge they are. I knew that they were big but I had no idea just how large.  We got on the ship without any troubles and waited for our stateroom to be ready and for departure.

Enjoy this picture of us sailing away from Miami. 




My luggage did eventually show up.

Next up: A Review of the Celebrity Reflection



Comments

Liene said…
Wow. Glad you made it. Hard to believe the cruise connection was so unorganized - especially when advertised as all inclusive!
Tim Dudek said…
Liene, I assumed it would all be taken care of by the cruise. We'd get off the plane and someone would be there to handle everything.

But the cruise hires this out to mostly retires on a part time basis. But it all worked out.
Tim Dudek said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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