A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Boarding the Ruby Princess

Saturday, 31 January 2015

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A rather restless night and loud noises out in the carpark. May have been just as noisy yesterday but we didn't hear it. Got up and grabbed a muffin and fruit for breakfast then packed the bags for an 1100 checkout.

On the advice of one of the hotel staff at about 0915 we walked about 250 metres to the top of the bridge that crosses the coastal canal. From there we had a great view of the Ruby Princess and no less than six other cruise ships in port that morning. Even at that early hour the traffic into and out of the port was almost in gridlock.

Back to the hotel and we check out and board the shuttle at 1100 along with passengers for two other ships. One couple who were on their first cruise had packed four large suitcases for a seven-day cruise. They were aghast that we were sailing for seven weeks with just one case each. I hope they found somewhere to store all that luggage.

Back to the shuttle. Despite the best efforts of our driver it took just short of 30 minutes to get to the first drop-off. The next one was relatively close and didn't take very long. It was just short of 1215 when she finally made it to the pier for the Ruby.

The check-in process was slow but moved along relatively well. There were frequent delays caused partly by the complexity of the passport requirements and the lack of preparation on the part of many first-time cruisers. There was also some lack of prior notice as to the documentation required. I was unaware that the entry permit for Argentina would be required at check-in. I had it with me, but had to dig through my folder to extract the pages. One lady next to us only had an electronic copy on her iPad.

Once checked in there were no further delays and we were pleasantly surprised that the cabin was ready for us. We also met our steward, Alfredo from Mexico. While waiting for our main luggage we found the Horizon Court and had a pleasant lunch. It was great to taste 'breaded scallops' again. 8-)

The emergency muster drill was delayed for 30 minutes and the ship was also late leaving the port. I suspect that the gridlock was partly to blame. The luggage arrived and we had almost all of it stored away before heading down to the Da Vinci dining room for the 1730 seating. There we met Mary and Donald who had asked us to share a table with them. We were assigned a pleasant table for four which was fine as both of them suffer from hearing loss. A pleasant dinner and an attentive waiter and assistant, coincidentally, also from Mexico.

The cabin is a different configuration to what we've previously experienced. There is adequate storage but no drawers for paperwork at the desk. The shower recess is the smallest we've had, barely bigger than the one in our last caravan. Still it is all adequate and the location is convenient to the outside decks and the forward stairwell.

There's been little opportunity for photographs but with two sea-days ahead that should be rectified.

Next update will be from South of Florida.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 18:30 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Recovery Day in Fort Lauderdale

Friday, 30 January 2015

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Eased into the day making no attempt to rendezvous with the sunrise. Ducked down to the foyer to partake of their 'Grab and Go' breakfasts. Hot beverages, muffins, fruit and chewy bars. Not a bad start to the day.

Just to backtrack quickly. Last night we arrived at the hotel at about 2130 and were quickly made welcome. Much of what was said went straight over our heads as we were both desperate to find the bed. Jenny said she could have slept on a barbed-wire fence. Personally I doubt that but she certainly took no time to fall asleep. I took a little longer.

We are staying at the Extended Stay America Hotel on SE 17th Street, Causeway. It is located conveniently close to both the airport and the cruise-port. The room has a modest sized kitchen, hotplate, sink, microwave oven and full sized refrigerator. Somewhat of an overkill for our two-day stay. Room appointments are adequate and there is an air conditioning unit, although very noisy it didn't keep us awake.

After breakfast we braved the eight lane road to crossover and buy stamps to send some cards home. We then had to cross it again to find a supermarket. The intention was to stock up on some Pepsi, Jenny's favourite beverage. There was a great deal for some 6-packs, so we picked up a total of three dozen small bottles for just $12. Now we'll have to work out a way to pack them so that we can get them aboard tomorrow. We carried our goods back to the hotel and then went back out to have a lunch.

We'd noticed a place called "Firehouse Subs" and figured we could get a good value meal there. We were not disappointed !! We stood there and spent a good 15 minutes deciding what to order from the extensive menu and options. We decided to combine the sub with the soft-drink option. Jenny's was 9 inches, I ordered the 12 inch one. We won't need any dinner tonight. As luck would have it there was a huge fire-truck parked in the car-park. I managed to snap a photo with the Android phone.

Poked our heads into a number of stores, including "ROSS dress for less" where we found some irresistible bargains. Still more gear to pack and get aboard. Picked up some small items at Dollar Tree Stores, an unbelievable range of items for just $1 each.

Back at the hotel we arranged for tomorrow's shuttle to the cruise ship. We will be checking out of the hotel at 1100 and will leave for the ship soon afterwards. Spent the afternoon catching up on some sleep and sorting out the luggage.

Next update will be from aboard the Ruby Princess.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 14:31 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Moruya to Fort Lauderdale

Thursday, 29 January 2015

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This blog entry is being written from the Hotel on the morning after our arrival. It is still dark outside but as I've been tossing and turning in bed for some time now I felt I needed to record yesterday before the relevant details faded.

Act 1 - Moruya to Canberra Airport.
A totally uneventful drive up the Clyde Mountain along the Kings Highway. Lots of roadworks but no serious delays. Jenny commented that there must be an election in the offing, local and State authorities demonstrating their determination to honour their promises. I'm of a more charitable mind and figure it is the first chance they've had to recover from the rains and holiday traffic of the past month. Either way, it is just another expensive band-aide on this glorified bullock trail.

Act 2 - Canberra Airport.
Natalie dropped us off at the recently opened 'new' Airport Terminal. All shining and looking very new. We haven't been there since I stopped flying for work back at the turn of the century. Domestic passengers are provided with a totally self-service check-in. Scan your e-ticket, print your luggage tags, deposit your luggage and proceed to 'Security'. There's even a facility to have your boarding pass recorded on you smart phone and then presenting your phone at the boarding gate. How things have progressed from the hordes that queued to be served by too few clerks during the early morning rush.

We were processed by a very relaxed young lady who even had time for a chat, we were very early and not rushed. There was no drama making our way through 'Security' and out to the departure lounge. There was a time when Canberra had only six to choose from, now there are 14 !! Quite an improvement. Everything was bright and shining but Jenny noticed there were no water fountains. An oversight or design flaw??

Right on schedule the Dash-8 arrived and we proceeded down the stairs to the tarmac where we surrendered our carry-on as it was considered to be over-size. Quite understandable when you see the size of the overhead lockers. She's only a small aircraft, two seats either side of the central isle and if you're over average height, you need to duck your head to walk to your seat.

Act 3 - Flight to Sydney. It would be nice to say 'short and sweet'. Well short it was. So short in fact that hostess didn't have time to make her way more than half way along the seats before the 'fasten seatbelt' sign was on. We were handed a small bottle of juice as she flashed past. The plane rocked, pitched and bounced for almost a third of the way into Sydney Airport. I suspect the turbulence was a combination of a strong wind, what looked like a developing storm and the small size of the aircraft. Despite early indications to the contrary we landed safely and were linked up to the air-bridge. There was some congestion as we crowded around a door at the side of the air-bridge to retrieve out 'carry-on'. One unfortunate received his in many parts as the zips appeared to have given way, his demeanour didn't improve a lot when he was offered a large plastic bag.

Our next flight was departing from the International Terminal and we were directed to Gate 15 where we joined a small group of anxious passengers - the time remaining to make a number of connections was running out fast.. The staff at the gate placed a green sticker on our boarding passed and hurried us down the stairs where the bus was waiting to take us to the other side of the airport.

Act 4 - Boarding Flight QF7. With our 'magic' green dot as an authority, we were ushered through immigration and 'Security'. From there it was a hurried walk through the maze of 'Duty Free' stores to Gate 8 with barely time to relieve ourselves along the way. The Airbus A380 was patiently waiting for us and despite being 'late' there was no-one boarding yet. Staff informed us that they were waiting for the interior of the plane to cool down !! We may have been rushed but there was no drama. One reason for that became apparent when we found our way to our seats. There were fewer than one in four seats occupied in the economy section at least. Something like 80 instead of over 300. We sat there for quite a while because the plane was still being refuelled for the long flight ahead. Finally we took off on our 15 hour flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.

As we flew North-Easterly across the Pacific into the night we were served dinner by a crew who had time to chat. All very relaxed. With all that spare space it was possible to find a set of three vacant seats but I just couldn't settle. I did manage to doze but was well short of 'rested' by the time we were roused for breakfast. Shortly afterwards we commenced our decent into DFW.

Over-all the flight, whilst long, was tolerable, but 15 hours is just too long to sit in one place. We also found the 'Entertainment' programs to be at a lower standard to what we'd experienced on Cathay. We arrived at this massive airport at about 13:45 Texas Time.

Act 5 - DFW and On to Fort Lauderdale. Arrival at DFW was very efficient although still rather tedious. First stop - Border Protection. With self-serves terminals many of us managed to quickly find our way through. My processing worked as designed and I was passed through in minutes. Scan your passport, take your photo, scan your fingers and answer a few questions after which the machine spits out a docket with all your information. Mine was acceptable, Jenny's was rejected. She has lost a lot of weight and her face has changed significantly over the 10 years since the passport was issued. I waited anxiously for some time as she was re-directed for manual vetting.

Next on to Baggage Collection. Although it had been 'booked through' there was something about possible unaccompanied baggage getting onto the aircraft.

On to another Border Protection station where our 'entry dockets' were matched to boarding passes and we were directed to the most intense 'Security' screening we've encountered. Hats off, belt off, shoes off, jacket off. All electronic items, laptop, smart phone, camera and Kindle in a separate tray. Nothing in any pockets and through a full-body scanner.

Another daunting challenge - how to find Departure Gate A11 in an airport with four active terminals and two more under construction. Each terminal with something like 40 departure gates. Not really a problem with the wonderful Sky-Link train that whisks you around from one terminal to the next or all the way around. Quite marvellous. We alighted in Terminal A and followed the signs to Gate A11 through scenes reminiscent of Dubai, more people than seats and crowded food outlets.

The previous flight to Las Vegas was still waiting to board. First time today we've had time to observe the passing parade. There is a noticeably nonchalant atmosphere at this domestic terminal. Frequent unintelligible announcements go completely unheeded, unheard or just not understood. People went about their personal pursuits oblivious to what or who was around them.

Most noticeable of this behaviour was when the Gate was opened for boarding. The staff tried to graduate the flow by requesting the infirm, the First Class, frequent traveller status holders and any military to proceed. Groups 2 to 4 were asked to refrain from boarding until called forward. No way !! After one or two wheelchairs fought their way through the waiting crowd they just stampeded. No one was turned back or told to step aside further demonstrating that the staff had no control.

Observing the size and number of 'carry-on' items I suspect these hardened and seasoned air travellers knew it was the only way to ensure room in the overhead lockers for their gear. Some of them unloading theirs up to four rows either side of their assigned seats.

The 737 was fully loaded and mercifully the flight was smooth and short, just on two hours. Complementary beverages were offered but snacks or food were only available for purchase. We landed at Fort Lauderdale at about 2045, retrieved our luggage - all had arrived thankfully - found a taxi and were dropped off at the hotel within 30 minutes. More about the hotel tomorrow.

So ended this longest day for us.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 06:26 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Last Minute Update

Monday, 26 January 2015

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I know I said that last Friday's was going to be the last one before we set off to Fort Lauderdale but thought I'd sneak in one more.

The selection of clothing is now almost complete but may still change on reflection. Fitting it all into the case may require a further re-think. Just checked the Fort Lauderdale forecast and with lows in the teens and highs just over 20 °C, the recently discarded jacket may yet get a run.

What started this off was a thought of my postings to the 365 Project. Thursday 29 January will happen twice as a result of the crossing of the International Date Line just the other side of Samoa. This caused me to examine in some detail of what's in store for Thursday.

We will leave Moruya some time between 07:00 and 07:30 to drive the 2 hours to Queanbeyan to meet up with Natalie who will drop us off at the Canberra Airport by about 10:30.

Our flight leaves Canberra at 13:05 for a 55minute dash to Sydney where we will transfer to the International Terminal to board the flight to Dallas/Ft Worth at 15:25.

After a flight of 15 hours 20 minutes we arrive 13:45, some two hours, by the clock, before we left. The next leg departs DFW for Fort Lauderdale at 17:05 for the 2 hour 39 minute flight, arriving at 20:44. We should be at the hotel before 21:30. Total elapsed time for us, home to hotel, will be about 28 hours.

Sorry to be boring you with all these times and numbers but many people are not aware of what's involved. Having documented that I can now focus on other things.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 15:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Not Long to Wait

Friday, 23 January 2015

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I'm planning for this to be the last entry until we're in Fort Lauderdale. Final preparations have gone so smoothly that I'm now worried that I've missed something. I've also found it difficult to build up enthusiasm for anything much. I can't even indulge in cooking or baking when the whole of the food focus is to reduce the content of the fridge so that it can be switched off.

We've downloaded adequate reading material to our Kindles so we'll have plenty to fill in some idle time waiting at airports. We will be driving to Queanbeyan on Thursday - 29 January and leaving our car with Natalie. The next leg of the journey will be flying from Canberra to Sydney, it will be the first time we've flown from Canberra in many years. Next step is Sydney to Dallas/Fort Worth where we transfer for the flight to Fort Lauderdale. It will be a very long day.

Tomorrow we'll dust off the cases and start packing the basic items that get packed regardless of our destination. The selection of clothing for the duration will be a bit more difficult. Most of the time we'll be in tropical waters and light gear is all that's needed. However when we visit the Falkland Islands and we round Cape Horn we will be closer to Antarctica than we've ever been and will no doubt be very cold. The classic advice is 'lots of layers'.

I'll be sending out an email to a number of our contacts asking them to restrict their emails while we're away. I'll also need to un-subscribe from a number of routine lists to ensure we can cope with the limited Internet facilities aboard the Ruby. I'll continue my regular practice of posting a daily blog and uploading the 'Photo of the Day'.

That's it for now, next update will be from Fort Lauderdale.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my recent photos at Image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 15:18 Archived in Australia Tagged preparation 2015-01_ruby Comments (0)

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