Sunday, December 17, 2017

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Coast to Coast

Tuesday, October 17
Granada Hills, CA

We are flying to Fort Lauderdale from LAX in Los Angeles so my brother Doug and his wife Janis graciously offered to let us leave our car at their house while we are gone and drive us to catch our shuttle to the airport.  It’s only a four hour drive to my brother’s home in Granada Hills so we spent the morning doing some last-minute packing and making sure everything was taken care of around the house before we left.  It’s a bit scary leaving the house unattended for almost two months, but Simone, the young girl who lives across the street, will be getting our mail and keeping an eye on things so hopefully everything will be just as we left them when we return.  Her dad, Josh, will also keep an eye on things so we feel that we have left everything in good hands and are thankful to have such good neighbors.

We left just after lunch, but due to a series of accidents causing long traffic delays, the normal four-hour drive turned  into a five and a half hour drive.  We drive this route often and this was by far the worst traffic we have encountered, but there were no deadlines today do it didn’t matter.

We arrived at Doug’s around 5:30 and after catching up for a bit, we went out to a very good Mexican dinner.  After dinner we came back and talked and watched the baseball playoffs, but called it an early night as we have to get up at 5:00 tomorrow morning.  I don’t know whether Doug and Janis thought this out when they offered to take us to the shuttle.

Wednesday, October 18 – We fly to Fort Lauderdale

We were up bright and early (well, maybe not so bright) as we had to leave at 6:00 to get to the shuttle.  Our flight isn’t until 9:00, but it takes an hour to get to the airport and we wanted to get there two hours early hence the early departure.

It turned out Doug stayed in bed and Janis took us to the Flyaway bus terminal in Van Nuys, which is the shuttle service that will get us to LAX.  We were there early enough to catch the 6:15 shuttle and we were on our way.  Thanks so much Janis for getting us there despite the early hour.

The shuttle took almost exactly an hour to get us to the airport through the morning Los Angeles commute traffic, but we still had plenty of time.  I am always worried about having enough time, but this morning my worries were completely unfounded.  We were flying Virgin America for the first time and when we went to check our bags and check in, we found a very short line and we were quickly on our way to security.

Earlier this summer, Val and I signed up for the Global Entry pass which includes the TSA Pre-Check so we were through security in a very short time and found we had an hour and a half to kill before our flight boarded.  We spent some time eating a pretty good, but very expensive breakfast, and spent the remaining time reading and browsing the web on our phones.

Time passed quickly and we were soon boarding the plane and finding our seats.  We had upgraded to Economy Select which gave us some extra leg room and it was worth it.  We don’t fly very much and this was our first time on Virgin America.  It seemed that not only did we have more leg room, but the seats were just a little bit wider.  I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but it just seemed that way compared to our flight to Hawaii on United last spring.

Everything seemed to be going well, but we ended up sitting on the tarmac for just over an hour before we took off.  That wasn’t a good start, but we finally did get in the air and were on our way.  There are video screens on the back of each seat and you can order food, watch movies or TV and a few other things which helped pass the time.  One of the other advantages of Select Seating is you get free movies and food so we were able to eat whatever we wanted and watch movies to help the time pass.  The food wasn’t great, but was good enough so we did enjoy our snacks and meal.

We got into Fort Lauderdale just after 6:30 PM so despite the hour delay taking off we ended up getting in only half an hour late.  We gathered our bags, found a taxi and were at the hotel just after 7:00.  Val and I were both exhausted; I’m not sure why, maybe it was getting up at 5:00 AM and all the hassle of getting around, or maybe it was just because we’re getting old, but we were ready for some rest and sleep.

We opted to eat dinner at the hotel which doesn’t have much of a restaurant, but it was enough for us and after dinner we called it a night.  We thought we might do some sightseeing around Fort Lauderdale tomorrow, but our plan now is to sleep in and just hang around the area adjacent to the hotel.

Thursday, October 19, 2017 - Fort Lauderdale

I guess our internal clocks are still on West Coast time as we really slept in this morning and didn’t get up until after ten.  After showering and fussing around we were finally ready to be out and about and decided to look for a place to eat breakfast / lunch.  We walked to a nearby shopping center and found a lot of choices for eating and decided on a cafĂ© that was serving both lunch and dinner.

After we ate, we checked on getting a shuttle to the ship tomorrow morning and then spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around the hotel reading and catching up on the blog.

We saw a gourmet hamburger place in the shopping center earlier in the day and decided to return there for a last hamburger before heading to Europe.  The burgers were good, but the delicious cookies they made were even better for dessert. 

While we were eating it started pouring rain outside so we ate slowly and waited it out and sure enough by the time we left, it had stopped.  After dinner we wanted to go to a nearby market and pick up some water to take with us on the ship so we headed over there.  When we came out of the market with our purchases it had started raining again and it was really pouring.  We stood under the market cover and tried to wait it out, but finally we started dashing from awning to awning in the shopping center to avoid the rain, but we were only partially successful. 

When we got back, we packed away our water and shifted some things around in our luggage, but that was about it.  The rest of our evening we spent relaxing.  The cruise port is very close so we don’t have to leave the hotel until around 10:30 AM so we will have plenty of time to get ready in the morning.  The big day is almost here, we thought it would never arrive.  The next time I write we’ll be on the ship and hopefully out to sea.

Note:  As I said in the first blog post of this cruise, it may take a while to get this blog fully posted, but circumstances have occurred since we got home may delay it even longer.  First off, the cold I came home with turned into bronchitis so that put me out of commission for a few days.  Next Christmas is rapidly approaching and we have a lot to do so there is not much time to work on the blog.

The third and worst thing that happened is my home computer that I use for all my photo and video editing, failed a day after I got home.  I did what I could to get it going again, but my efforts failed so I swallowed my pride and took it to a shop to (hopefully) get fixed.  If there is a serious problem and I have to rebuild and reinstall my software, there may be a lengthy delay before I publish the rest of the blog.

I do have my laptop which I have used to publish the first two blog posts since they don't have any video or pictures, but I can't easily do my photo and video editing on it so it may be a week or two or it may be a month or more before I publish anything else.  If you are interested in the blog for our trip, be patient and it will eventually get done.  My apologies for the delay.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Almost Time to Go

October 15, 2017

Val and I are off on another adventure, this time it’s the Atlantic Adventurer Cruise, our longest yet.  The cruise starts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and crosses the Atlantic to the Mediterranean where we will visit ports in the Azores, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Malta, Morocco, Gibraltar and Madeira before returning to Fort Lauderdale 49 days later.  There will be long periods at sea coming and going with a very intensive port schedule in between.

Val has spent months researching each port and booking various tours and activities for each one.  It will be a mix of ship excursions, tours with Cruise Critic Role Call members as well as some private tours for just Val and I.  This is our first time in this area so we are very excited about the trip and hope to see and do everything we can and hopefully not get too exhausted doing it.  Below is a map of the cruise.

Here is a spreadsheet Val made with our itinerary and the various tours we have scheduled for the cruise.  She did a great job putting it together and it will be our daily guide throughout the cruise. 
Page 1 - Day 1 through 11

Page 2 - Day 12 through 24

Page 3 - Day 25 through 31

Page 4 - Day 32 through 41

Page 5 - Day 42 through 50

As is now my habit, I will not be posting any of this until we return home.  As I have said before, as much as I would like to post this as it is happening, it is just not possible due to a very slow internet and the limitations of my time during the cruise.  I really enjoy putting these blog posts together, but I also like to enjoy my vacation time and like to spend some of my free time just relaxing.  I do write the blog every day so what you read is done live, but I wait until we get home to process the pictures and post the blog.  The fact that we won’t be home until two weeks before Christmas means that some or most of this won’t be published until after New Year’s.

It's almost time to leave, and like last year we have shipped our main luggage, which left last week and we won’t see again until we are on the ship.  That means we only have to pack our carry-ons and a bag with a few days of clothes and we are ready to go.  We leave tomorrow for my brother’s house in the Los Angeles area where our journey will begin.