Well, that was a quick 10 days! It never ceases to amaze me how much time is spent leading up to a trip and planning it, when it’s over so quickly. Luckily, planning is part of the fun.
We were on the February 19 sailing of the Ruby Princess out of Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale). After a bunch of research, I settled on this cruise because it was more reasonably priced and the ports were the most appealing. Princess isn’t the hippest line (Royal Caribbean) or the most luxurious line (Crystal, Oceania) but we were very pleased with our experience, the ship and the line in general.
Coming from anywhere except southern states, it is recommended that you fly in a day early to account for bad weather, flight delays, etc. We flew in on a mid-day flight on Saturday, and stayed in a hotel Saturday night. This proved to be one of the smartest decisions of the trip. I looked for a place that had shuttles both from the airport and to the cruiseport in order to cut down on expenses. The best hotel turned out to be the Extended Stay America Fort Lauderdale Airport-Cruiseport. As soon as got our bags, I called the hotel and they sent the shuttle. We only had to wait about 15 minutes, which we then saw was the amount of time it took to get from the hotel to the airport. We didn’t pick anyone else up and went straight to the hotel.
Needless to say, the hotel wasn’t great, but it served it’s purpose. It was also in a very convenient location. We were able to walk to a Publix to get soda and an underwater camera, and Total Wines, a store I read about constantly on Cruise Critic, to stock up on our wine stash. After an easy walk back to the hotel we had time to repack the bags now that we had more stuff and get ready for dinner.
There were numerous restaurants by the hotel, but we decided that we were on vacation, damnit! and we wanted to go to a fun, hip area, not a local strip mall restaurant. After a debacle with the local trolley system (last trolley is at 6:30 p.m., though the posted signs said 9 p.m.) and waiting for 45 minutes for a bus that never came, we decided to walk. Las Olas Blvd., where there are lots of restaurants and shops, was 3 miles away. But we eventually got there and had a nice dinner and drinks. Of course, we decided to walk back (why not?!) and were very tired the next morning.
Upon waking up, I utilized the free light breakfast provided by the hotel while Luke got Starbucks on the way back from his run. We signed up for the 10:30 shuttle to the cruiseport which unfortunately turned into 11:00 after 2 rude couples were late. We were dropped off first and quickly checked our luggage with a porter and proceeded to the security line with our carry on bags. Security went quickly and we received boarding group number 2 cards. We waited in airport-style seating for about an hour and were then called to check-in. Next thing we new, we were on the gangway and walking on the ship!
– Fly in a day early. Not only does it give you a buffer for travel delays, it starts your vacation early and helps you feel relaxed the morning of departure.
– Spend time researching everything. I knew that we had shuttles both from the airport and to the cruiseport, but was pleasantly surprised by the commercial areas surrounding the hotel. We could have been in a remote area where doing last-minute shopping would have been difficult.
– Show up to the cruiseport as early as possible. Princess recommended people not arrive until the last hour of checkin in order to “avoid long lines.” We may have had to sit in the terminal and wait for a bit, but it was worth it when we were sitting on our balcony with our carry on bags unpacked watching people come on board.
– Use resources and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I sent Tweets to strangers who had “Cruise” in their Twitter handle, asked family friends who are frequent cruisers and posted/researched on Cruise Critic practically everyday. I felt prepared and knowledgeable before we even left the port, which made the vacation that much more relaxing.
– Plan your outfits ahead of time. A tip nearly everyone gave me was to not overpack. That means something different to everyone, but I took it to mean that I should take the time to plan clothing for each day so that I took everything I wanted, but no more. I carefully laid out 8 bathing suits, 8 dinner dresses and a few daytime casual outfits. By a lot of people’s standards I probably overpacked, but I can honestly say that I wore every single thing I brought.
Okay, so it looks like I overpacked. But in fairness two are Luke’s. And this was post wine and soda haul, so a lot of stuff was displaced. 🙂