Ft. Lauderdale, Florida at a gross 24 degrees celcius (read: Great temperature in January to a Canadian). We arrived on Friday January 14th late at night in our winter coats dead tired.
On Saturday morning I left my sleeping bride in bed and joined my father, brother, sister and friends in the hunt for some Florida Gators. A group of 8 of us arrived at Everglades Holiday Park prior to 9 A.M. to purchase tickets for an air boat tour of the Florida Eveglades. We were told no tickets would be sold prior to 9 A.M. We returned at 9 A.M. and were told the lady that sells the tickets was still preparing. We waited until 9:15 before we were told tour buses had priority and that they couldn't take us for another hour. Then we were told it might not be until 11 A.M. until we could even possibly get on a tour. With us needing to get back to the cruiseboat for a departure, we left without a tour and deep dissapointment. If you are going to sell tickets to cruise passengers that need to leave later that day at least have tickets and facilities ready to accomodate. Otherwise don't lead us astray as our time is precious!
We returned to the hotel to pick up our suitecases and headed for the Port Everglades Port (home of the Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Ship docking area). We were quickly processed and boarded onto Holland America's Eurodam (luggage delivery to the rooms included!). In no time we were sitting on Deck 9 (Lido Deck) on the back patio sipping some beers, waters and assorted sodas.
A quick note: Holland America charges for Soda and alcoholic beverages. There are cards for each (soda and alcohol) that provide discounts. A Coke is $2.50ish including service charge and a $50.00 Soda card is available for only $25.00. Alcoholic beverage cards I believe are valued at $100.00 and cost only $90.00. An important note is if at the end of your trip you have over $25.00 left on your card you will be refunded the difference left over $25.00. So if you have $30.00 left you will be refunded $5.00 (i.e. the $5.00 you originally paid). If there is less than $25.00 you get nothing back.
Savings: If you don't drink alchohol, you can skip the Soda card by enjoying iced tea, lemonade, ice water, coffee, tea and other drinks at the Ledo restaurant and other facilities on board. Thus, it pays to do your research on what's available to drink before you purchase your drink cards.
We toured the boat that afternoon to great excitement of what was to come. One of our favourite places was on Deck 11 (Observation Deck) and the Observations Cafe where we could borrow books for free. As long as they are returned by the posted time of the check out, there are no fines. Just like having a library on board.
Another great area is on Deck 3 (Promenade Deck) on the outside walking track. In this area you can either complete laps of the boat during your morning walking routine. The best part are the padded deck chairs on this deck that provide a great shady spot to curl up with a book as the waves rumble by below. My wife and I spent lots of time on this deck with our noses implanted between pages while at sea.
The food and service on the Eurodam are excellent. We had great food service at anytime we wanted food. Everything from Asian, to steak, to italian, to hamburgers and fries to pizza were available. The only complaint I ever had was when I was trying to get breakfast at the Lido Restaurant (a buffet style restauarant) where a little old lady "stalled" herself between the waffles and myself. If there is one spot you don't want to do this it is between myself and food!
The ports of call were very picturesque for us to visit. The light blues of the water, the sandy coral beaches and bright blue sky were awesome. I have at least a thousand photos I still have to work my way through organizing and uploading (watch my website for updates of the ports of call as I work through uploading them). I also took several panoramic videos with my digital camera and have begun uploading them to my YouTube channel.
Returning to Ft. Lauderdale and flying home was an adventure though. We got to Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shortly after 10 A.M. to find the place crawling in people. We quickly checked in with WestJet and headed to the security line up. The security line up was less than half an hour. The fun began on the otherside of security where there was one set of washrooms and not a lot of seating for the increasing crowds. It took about two planes to fill at the two gates we were at for us to find a seat. Otherwise we spent up to an hour and half finding unoccupied areas to sit on the carpet and pass the time. The place was packed.
We looked for food and drink and came up empty. The best this airport could do is a couple of portable refigerators set up, there didn't seem to be anything permanent on the secure side of the airport. However, in the check in area there are lots of restaurants and gift shops. But with the line for check in (for American airlines like Delta, American, etc.) and security being a little lengthy at times, passengars tend to want to get through these lines as fast as possible before chancing getting a beverage in hopes of not missing their flight. Overall this airport needs a good renovation as the cruise industry into Ft. Lauderdale only seems to be growing.
Overall I had a great time with Holland America and the Eurodam. I returned home relaxed, well fed and two suitcases full of dirty laundry. A great time for sure.
The only downfall, after being fed so well on the Eurodam, my stomach on it's first full day at home is now gurgling to inquire "where's the food?" Aw the great pains of hunger after a vacation of satisfied fullness.
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