AN ADVENTURE AWAITS – pt 2: The Embarkation
Monday – Fort Lauderdale is still raining, temps in the 80, humid. Had a restful sleep here at the tropical Embassy Suites. Fantastic two room suite with a 5th floor view of the Winn-Dixie and Bank of America. Most appreciative of the “birthday basket” presented to my brother Harvey last night in anticipation of his birthday on Thursday. Complimentary breakfast buffet superb with three egg chefs preparing made to order omelets, pancakes and my fav “sunny” style- medium over. Great morning meal and I am raring to go. At 10:30am, luggage in hand, I make my way to the hotel desk and turn in my plastic room key. The front desk informs me I have three ways to get to Port Everglades, where the Equinox awaits- by my already paid bus voucher, but this route may take the longest since it stops at multiple hotels for pickups; taxi-the most expensive; or the Embassy Suites own shuttle-$8 per person. I decide to take the shuttle. Please note the Embassy Suites is a great choice if also thinking of doing a pre-stay – it is central to an Outback Steakhouse, CVS pharmacy and a grocery store. The trip from the hotel to the pier- 15 minutes – nice!!
When is help too much help? Buses, shuttles, taxis, vans are quickly unloading well and un seasoned passengers at the Port Everglades pier. A porter takes my one, stateroom tagged, oversized bag which will find its way to my cabin later in the day. I squeeze three dollar bills into his hand. An overhang sign reads “passengers”, I enter with my hand-held luggage in tow. A dapper gentleman greets me and asks to see my documentation, I show my docs-not a problem, he collects my papers and walks me over to security where he then hands me back my docs. A nice young security guard asks for the same docs, scribbles a notation on them and returns them to me. My hand held bag, turned off phone and iPad, jacket, wallet and other items go thru the security screening conveyor belt- not a problem. The Security guard wishes me a pleasant cruise and I make my way to a larger inner terminal chamber of the pier. Another well-coifed gentleman greets me and again asks for my docs, not a problem, I hand them to him and he escorts me to a check-in agent who amazingly reminds me of “Aunt Clara” on the old “Bewitched” television program. I quickly say to myself “Houston I think we have a problem”. A bit discombobulated, she asks for my already signed Xpress Pass, passports from my brother and I, credit card for online purchases and for us to sign health certificates. Done, done and done. First problem, she can’t get our passports to scan, over and over and over she tries to rescan, she finally calls another agent, he gives me a “what are ya gonna do smile”-and cures the scan problem. He is not a foot away before she calls him back- she can’t get my credit card to scan- I see his mouth twitch and additionally takes care of that scan as well. (this credit card scan issue will come back to haunt me two days later when Equinox’s Guest Relations contacts me regarding that they have no credit card info for me and the card needs to be rescanned again- arggggg!) Fifteen minutes have passed. Fellow passengers , who were behind me, have already finished this process and are making their way to the ships pre boarding area. I still remain. “Aunt Clara” now takes up our signed Xpress pass, she stares and stares and stares at it and then states she only sees one name on it and not of that of my brothers. I try to point out his name, but she walks away and begins an extended confab with another female agent. They both return. This 2nd agent, who I affectionately call Samantha redoes the entire boarding process, telling Clara to retrieve our SeaPass, which once onboard will serve as my ID, stateroom key, and expense card for onboard purchases. Clara returns with the plastic SeaPass boarding cards and states “oh my stars- let me finish”- I beg Sam, my hands now clasped in prayer, not to leave me but she allows Clara to take our photos which will be added to the SeaPass ID and finish the check-in process. So finally done done and done-? Nah!!!- more to come-! I overhear Sam say to Clara, “I can’t stay with you all day, I want to sit in my own chair”- oh my stars indeed.
My brother and I head over to several large murals of the Equinox and take each other’s picture- (see photos) – very photogenic we both are I might add. Finally we prepare to go through our first check-point where we show are newly minted SeaPass. GUESS WHAT? There are no photos inscribed onto the ID cards- security has to redo our photos again- CLARAAAAA!!!!! Yea I know – too funny to be true—! Onward to a larger holding area. Before leaving home, I had received several emails, text messages and phone calls relaying that the US Coast Guard and Customs Border Protection was conducting an inspection of the ship, crew, and guests and that there would be a delay in boarding. Ok, I sit, relax and wait. For those in need of refreshment – a large urn of ice water is provided for waiting guests- but no cookies or ice tea? 12:35pm- a message alerts us that we now may officially board the Celebrity Equinox. Be it one small hitch here at the terminal, my travel from Connecticut has been exceptionally planned and executed. I show my SeaPass once again and enter the Equinox- the ship is exquisite- I knew it would be! I am offered a chilled flute of champagne and cordially welcomed aboard by a group of staff and officers. Please note that only a very few cruise ships offer this nicety- thank you Celebrity!
THE STATEROOM– after a quick meal in the Oceanview Cafe buffet on deck 14, I make my way to Deck 11, and enter suite 1609, “The Royal Suite”- OMG- simply breathtaking, what luxury, and my home for the next 11 days- what sweet surrender! The suite, 590 square feet, has a master bedroom, separate living room, dining room for six, bar area with full size bar and wine refrigerator, two bathrooms including a marble master bath with double sinks, whirlpool tub and separate glass enclosed shower, generous walk in closet, two large 52″ screen flat panel televisions and an outside 153 square foot veranda with a whirlpool tub and lounge seating. The Royal Suite amenities includes: European-style personal butler service, providing in suite breakfast, lunch and dinner, afternoon tea, evening hors d’oeurves, espresso and cappuccino; complimentary dinners in the Equinox’s three specialty restaurants- Murano, Tuscany and Silk Harvest; Reserved theater seating on formal nights; Bulgari luxury bath amenities and ultra plush bathrobes. Starting in April 2015, Celebrity Cruise Lines will premiere a dedicated private restaurant reserved exclusively for all suite class guests, unlimited complimentary specialty restaurants; access to the private lounge- Michael’s Club, complimentary premium beverage package and a host of new amenities. Now this is “living”- may the good times last forever or at least for the 11 days of my sea cruise!!
Next– A BIRTHDAY, THE CAPTAIN and an uninvited visitor..