SATURDAY 11 March – Arrival in Miami and Disembarkation
[ This post consists of some narrative and 18 photos with captions. ]
As our cruise was slowly drawing to a close, it would be an understatement to say that we had a great time. We were grateful that Nancy and Paul invited us along on this adventure, as it was not even on our event horizon. Had we decided at some point in the future to do this on our own, it would still have been a great trip, but getting to do it with close friends in one of the two “owner’s suites” of the NCL Joy HAVEN, was a unique (and probably once-in-a lifetime) experience for us. And it was a very special experience, indeed. Now where’s that lottery ticket?
We were up early to get ready to disembark and watch the ship come into the Port-of-Miami. The Haven staff had laid out a breakfast buffet in the Haven’s Horizon Lounge, so we made use of that first. The Lounge was mostly devoid of guests at this early hour, so following are photos of areas of the HAVEN that I have not previously posted.
We arrived at the Port of Miami around 7 AM. Our departure from Los Angeles was in late afternoon light under heavy mist and rain, so we didn’t really see any of the California coast. With our approach to Miami, however, it was still dark and the sky was clear. From our first sighting of lights along the shore, it took several hours to actually get to the cruise ship terminal. While we might prefer national parks as places to visit and explore, there was no denying that the Miami skyline, lit up in the dark, is an impressive, urban sight.
As soon as we began disembarkation things got busy and we did not take any more photos until we reached the Orlando area. The Norwegian Cruise Line terminal is a large, modern facility designed to make embarkation and disembarkation smooth and relatively easy. We elected to take our own luggage with us and had priority disembarkation as a result. (We each had an individual carry-on size rolling suitcase and each couple had a larger rolling suitcase that we checked when flying.) We cleared in through US Customs quickly and found our way to the taxi / ride-share area where we booked a larger Uber to get the four of us and our six suitcases to the car rental area at Miami International Airport where we had reserved a car with Enterprise Car Rental for the next leg of our journey.
The rental car area was a new/large terminal in itself, and picking up our rental car was a relatively smooth, painless process. We upgraded the size of vehicle at the counter for a small extra charge. We also verified that we could use the toll roads. The toll road system uses “toll-by-plate” and the tolls would be billed to Enterprise and passed along to us. We were on our way by 9 AM and headed north on the Florida’s Turnpike towards Orland. Our first destination was the boarding facility near Walt Disney World to retrieve Nancy and Paul’s mini-Goldendoodle, Bella, who was boarded there for the duration of the cruise. (It was an amazingly nice boarding facility with a great staff, so Bella was in good hands while her servants were away on holiday. She even had her own private “suite” with access to an outside area. Sometimes “a dog’s life” is a pretty good life. )
With Bella in hand, we headed southwest on I-4 towards Lakeland, a route with which we were all too familiar. Traffic on I-4 was as bad as usual, but eventually loosened up. Soon enough, we were exiting for Polk City. We arrived at Mount Olive Shores North (MOSN), where Paul and Nancy have a lot with a pad for their Class A American Eagle motorhome, a short time later.
Even through I wasn’t feeling well, we decided to go to Ford’s Garage in Lakeland for dinner. Bella was with us, so needed their outside seating as dogs are allowed there. We abandoned that idea shortly we arrived as the wait was going to be at least an hour. We considered other dinner options, but ultimately decided to return to MOSN and pickup some pizzas in Polk City on the way. We had a flight booked for the next morning from Tampa International Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), and spent the night in Paul and Nancy’s motorhome.
SUNDAY 12 March – Closing the Loop
We were up early in order to be ready to go and skipped breakfast. We said our “farewells until next time,” and “thanks yous,” “and left MOSN around 8 AM for the approximately 1-hour drive to Tampa International Airport. This early on a Sunday morning the traffic wasn’t too bad, and returning the rental care was quick and easy. Our flight home on DELTA Airlines was schedule to depart at noon, so we found some seats near our gate, got some coffee and bagels/muffins, and doodled on our iPads will we waited.
Our incoming flight was delayed so we waited a bit longer, but it was no big deal for us. A couple sitting nearby was a bit anxious, however, and we struck up a conversation. They were headed to Amsterdam (Netherlands) via a connecting flight out of Detroit Metro Airport. Their window to get off of our flight onto their next one was already uncomfortably small, but I think we made it out of Tampa International Airport in time for them to make the connection in Detroit.
Our daughter was tracking our flight, and drove to DTW to pick us up and take us back to her house, where we left our F-150 while we were gone. Back at her house, we transferred all of our luggage into our truck, ready to return to our house. The truck started just fine, but displayed a warning message about the charging system, and the battery light stayed on. Linda Googled the message and found that it was likely that our battery was not charging and our range might be limited a 20- to 30-minute drive. Knowing that, we thought we might make it home, and started on our way. We didn’t get very far, however, before deciding that this was not a good idea, especially later on a Sunday afternoon, whereupon we turned around and returned to our daughter’s house. She was happy to let us borrow her car to get home and we promised to return it in a day or so. It was not the conclusion to our epic adventure that we envisioned, and the problem was resolved over the next few days, but that’s another story for another post.