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Ft. Lauderdale to Canada

April 3, 2020 – returning home to Canada from Fort Lauderdale

2020 South America cruise

Fort Lauderdale

By mid-morning, we are called to leave the Rotterdam, so we put on our face masks and gloves before leaving the ship. US customs and immigration wave us through, as does US Health, since ship’s staff pre-processed the required paperwork the previous day. As we board our buses, many of the staff in the terminal wish us well, and one woman is waving a Canadian flag – very touching and much appreciated! We wait in the buses for about an hour, and then the Broward County Sheriff officers take us on a half-hour motorcade to a private area of the Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood airport (FLL). I must say, it’s a very impressive ride!

We are then checked in by US officials and airline staff, and walk aboard the aircraft to find our seats and get settled. We wait for over two hours while the rest of the passengers board the aircraft. The Eastern cabin attendants are fully-suited up (see banner image above) and only offer basic services. The 1978-era Boeing 767-200 aircraft is a wide-body cabin with 2-3-2 seats across two isles, and has a capacity of 375 passengers. Every seat is taken. Once we take off for Toronto, we have several hours to get into the bagged meal given to us as we boarded.

Canada

After our arrival in Toronto, we are processed by Canadian Border Services and Public Health Canada, given a kit describing the quarantine conditions we will be operating under for the next two weeks, a digital oral thermometer and a new mask. They take my temperature, ask me some health questions, and get me to dispose of the mask and gloves I’ve been wearing all day on the aircraft. I’m on my way to Terminal 1 and my local flights from Toronto to Vancouver, and then Victoria. I barely make it aboard the Toronto-Vancouver flight, since the shuttle driver doesn’t know where she is supposed to take us, and once we arrive, the Air Canada staff are confused about how to get us to the gate!

The flight to Vancouver is otherwise uneventful. Once we make the short hop from Vancouver to Victoria, my travel buddy and I drive (independently) to our respective homes respecting the Canadian quarantine rules we are now bound by for the next two weeks. Air Canada manages to lose my checked bag, but the baggage claim clerk takes a description of my bag and assures me they will deliver it tomorrow afternoon (which they do).

Flight path from FLL - Toronto - YVR - YYJ
Flight path from FLL – Toronto – YVR – YYJ
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Fort Lauderdale, Florida

March 31 – April 1, 2020 – Sailing from the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale

2020 South America cruise

Ship’s route – sailing from Panama Canal to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

I make no journal entries and take no photographs for the two days it takes to sail from the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, since by that time I am pretty well shut down mentally. I concentrate on surviving the ordeal of being confined to our cabin for nine days, so I am able to ultimately return home to Canada. As can be seen by the ship’s route map, both ships proceed at full speed on a northerly course across the Caribbean Sea, rounding Cuba to the west by Havana.

April 2, 2020 – arriving in Fort Lauderdale

9:15am – We are 22 miles offshore from Fort Lauderdale, and still awaiting permission to land, so we can start the pre-clearance process today. We put our main checked bags out this morning, which are taken to a holding area on board the ship, ultimately to be transferred ashore for us.

1:50pm – Both Zaandam and Rotterdam are approved to come alongside and dock at the cruise port terminal within the next hour. We sail up the shipping channel to the cruise terminal, with lots of friendly waves coming from people on shore, however under the watchful eye of the US Coast Guard (see banner image above). We are designated to disembark the ship tomorrow morning – the first wave of Canadians leaving the ship to return to Canada!

People ashore waving to us as Rotterdam sails up the channel to the dock.
People ashore waving to us as Rotterdam sails up the channel to the dock (Shot through a dirty cabin window!)

Once docked, the pre-clearance process aboard the ship involves yet another health questionnaire and submitting to a health screening. We are then given the treasured “Approved to Disembark” card, walk off the ship into the terminal where we are waved through by US Immigration and Customs officers. We then walk back on board the ship, where we will stay overnight until tomorrow’s actual disembarkation. What a procedure!