You could call this my last day and first day. Why, because this post is about transitioning between consecutive (or back to back) cruises. Frankly, I have no idea what time we arrived in Fort Lauderdale other than pre-dawn. MrsMJonTravel and I had elected the evening before to just get our butts out of bed and pack the next morning. All we needed to do was empty the storage drawers, safe, and bathroom. Cruise line personnel would move our hanging clothes to our new stateroom (14325) on Allure’s Boardwalk. We wanted to sample both neighborhoods so we started with a Central Park balcony for the first week, and moved to the Boardwalk balcony for week two. However, MrsMJonTravel and I are in agreement that this is our last back to back that will involve a stateroom change if at all possible. The hassle of packing up our belongings only to unpack again on the same ship just isn’t worth it. Frankly, if we were on any other ship, we wouldn’t, but the uniqueness of Allure’s neighborhood concept proved to “alluring” to pass up. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)
We were instructed to leave our belongings in our original stateroom, so that’s what we did. And with that, we headed down to the lounge where we were told all back to back cruisers should meet at 9:45am. There were are large number of B2B cruisers…I’d imagine around 150, if not more, and I’m certain more challenging to manage than the 6 B2B cruisers participating in my last experience with this. That said, (and with full recognition that local customs policies may require a different process) this is the only wrinkle with Royal Caribbean in an otherwise impressive 8 days of managing large groups of people. My previous experience was that our room keys for the next cruise were delivered the evening prior to “transition day.” We were told to meet at a certain point, walked off the ship, presented our passports to customs, and walked back on the ship.
In this case, we were gathered, marched off the ship and seated together in a large holding area where our room keys were presented for the next cruise. Trouble was, they were in envelopes marked by stateroom number, and the room was so large, it was hard to hear the gentleman calling out numbers. Not to mention, I can’t fathom that 100 percent of our fellow cruisers had any idea what their next stateroom number even was. Then, one person received an envelope with someone else’s keys and it went down from there.
Call me lucky…I can hear pretty well, and there was no mix up with our keys, but to just watch someone go from sedate to irate in 3 seconds over a stupid plastic card that can easily be fixed boggles my mind. We finally got almost everyone’s keys passed out and were then marched to customs for presentation of our passports and “in transit” cards that were in the envelopes with our keys. Then we queued back up to get on the ship. There were 2 groups, one with room keys, and one without. Thankfully, they let the folks (including us) that had our keys proceed back on board. Ship personnel took our pictures as we entered and we were free. Thank goodness, because I don’t think I could’ve taken another minute of high key card drama. We were back on just before 11am. The whole thing from when we were finally led off the ship to getting back on was about 50 minutes….and that’s at least 35 minutes too long considering how easy getting through customs was. Note to RCL: Get the right keys in the right hands before you leave the ship, preferably, the night before. I know you can do it right, because you have before.
With that behind us, we could begin our next cruise. For that, we proceeded directly to Solarium Bistro for lunch, which started serving at 11:30am. We had about 30 minutes to spare so I used the time to get caught up on emails with my Verizon Mi-Fi instead of the ship’s pricey wi-fi service. For this cruise, we were expecting company, my in-laws as well as my best friend and his wife from North Carolina. Both arrived within minutes of each other and both reported only a 20 minute curb to cocktail process. Seriously, I think that’s phenomenal! My father in law did have his good cigar lighter confiscated by port security. He reported that they said only a “Bic” style lighter was allowed as his was a “torch.” Nice. I don’t think he would’ve minded had he not taken it on every other cruise he’s sailed on….so be warned if you have a fancy lighter. They will return it after the cruise.
After lunch, we toured around the ship a bit. The pool area, where we made fast friends with the bartenders, the Central Park and the Boardwalk. By then, it was 1pm, and our staterooms were available. We made our way down one deck and found our luggage along with a personal note of thanks from our previous stateroom attendant, Evelyn. After unpacking, we made our way back up top for sail away.
The weather in Fort Lauderdale was not exactly fabulous for sail away, but we watched with interest as our big ship backed away from the pier, spun around and sailed out to sea. It was interesting to see people on shore waving as we departed Port Everglades for some fairly choppy seas. Our 220,000 ton ship was rockin’ a little bit as we headed out to open ocean….noticeably so.
Our dinner plans for the evening included something called “Rita’s Fiesta” at the ship’s Mexican style restaurant, Rita’s Cantina on the Boardwalk. Sail away day just happened to coincide with MrsMJonTravel’s birthday so we invited our guests to join us for the Fiesta. Offered on certain nights, for a price of $20 dollars, you get 3 cocktails and a multi-course Mexican dinner. It turned out to be an ideal spot to celebrate a birthday. The staff and the crowd were a lot of fun, and we had a really good time. I won’t talk about the dancing!
We had originally booked the aqua show, Oceanaria, for 9pm. But the lousy weather resulted in postponement of the show until Day 4 of our cruise. Seriously, with all the acrobatics involved, not to mention the fact that the show is outside in the Aqua Theater, you need seriously smooth seas and a stable ship. That simply wasn’t going to happen with the weather we had. Oh well….soon.
We wrapped our evening up with cocktails in The Rising Tide and exploration of the ship’s “Entertainment Place” which houses the casino, comedy club, jazz club, and dance club called Blaze. It was a great night and a great start to our cruise!