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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!

Once we make the short hop from Vancouver to Victoria, my travel buddy and I drive 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 made no journal entries and took no photographs for the two days it took to sail from the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, since by that time I was pretty well shut down mentally. I was concentrating on surviving the ordeal of being confined to our cabin for nine days, so I could ultimately return home to Canada. As can be seen by the ship’s route map, the Zaandam proceeded 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!

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Boarding the Rotterdam in Ft. Lauderdale

Monday, November 21, 2011 – Day 1 – Boarding the Rotterdam in  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Although I had a good night’s sleep, I awake early at the Alhambra Beach Resort. I need coffee, which won’t be ready until the continental breakfast is available at 9AM, so I walk the half block to the beach to have a look around. It is quite a spectacular beach – straight and long, and lots of white sand. Ernesto, the guy who runs the Alhambra tells us the sea temperature is 82°F right now, and it goes up to about 85°F in mid-summer. There is the usual collection of joggers and walkers on the beach and along the walkway at this early morning hour.

Ft. Lauderdale beach
Ft. Lauderdale beach

After returning from the beach, I get myself some coffee, which perks me up. As I go back to help myself to some of the continental breakfast goodies, my friends open their door, so we have breakfast together on the patio. We all enjoy the warm breeze, remarking what a contrast it is to when we left home (-5°C). We are anxious to get aboard the Rotterdam as early as possible today, so after we finish breakfast and repack it is 11AM (check-out time). Ernesto calls us a taxi to take us to the cruise terminal. We are early for our 1PM check-in time, but they are processing passengers slowly, so we step aboard by 2PM.

JoeTourist: Ft. Lauderdale &emdash; ms Noordam & Liberty of the Seas alongside pier

Our cabins are not ready because the debarking passengers were late leaving the ship this morning. Housekeeping staff needs a bit more time, so we go to the Lido and have a late lunch, taking some time to explore the ship. It appears to have the same layout as the Volendam, the ship we cruised on last year at this time. The décor is different, but it will be nice to already be familiar with where everything is located.

There is a mandatory safety drill with everyone going to his or her lifeboat stations before our departure. Our bags finally arrive later in the afternoon, so I unpack before heading to the main dining room for dinner. The ship is late leaving at 6:30PM, so my friends and I get to see the ship’s departure from our window seats in La Fontaine, the main dining room. I remember the shipping channel from when my mother and I traveled on the Oriana way back in 1968, although obviously Ft. Lauderdale is built up a great deal since then. At the end of our meal, we are served a glass of champagne as a way to thank us for our patience with the late cabin availability and late luggage delivery – a nice touch from the housekeeping manager.

Ft. Lauderdale to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - route map
Ft. Lauderdale to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas – route map

Once the ship is in open water, she proceeds at just over 20 knots, which is pretty fast for a cruise ship. The captain obviously wants to make up time for our late departure, so our beach time on Half Moon Cay won’t be shortened. He also announces that our departure time tomorrow will be pushed an hour later, since he doesn’t expect to arrive on time.

I sign up for 100 minutes of Internet time this evening at a cost of US$55.00, with a bonus of 10 minutes extra. This satellite service is available on most cruise ships, and is obviously very expensive. It is slow and unreliable, but I’m amazed it is available at all. It’s nice to keep in touch while sailing the oceans, and I can do it from the comfort of my cabin if I wish, since the wifi service is available from most areas of the ship.

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Victoria to Ft. Lauderdale flights

Sunday, November 20, 2011 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA

United Express/Skywest flight 6315 from Victoria to San Francisco is the first leg of my journey to Ft. Lauderdale today. I’m up at 3:30AM, arriving at Victoria airport by 4:30AM to check in. The aircraft has to be de-iced since it is -5°C outside and there is frost on the aircraft, so we are 10 minutes late departing at 6:35AM. A female pilot is in the left seat, and does a great job with takeoff. We cruise at 31,000’ as we head south, on a beautiful clear morning. I can only imagine what the view is like from the cockpit, but from my seat facing west as the Sun rises, the horizon is lit up over the Pacific Ocean in the distance as we fly down the coasts of Oregon and California. The pilot nails the landing in San Francisco, and then we taxi for what seems like forever until she slams on the brakes and we were at the gate!

Victoria-San Francisco-Houston-Ft. Lauderdale - flight map
Victoria-San Francisco-Houston-Ft. Lauderdale – flight map

United flight 43 operated by Continental from San Francisco to Houston – I had to retrieve my checked bag and then go through the United States’ Immigration. At least I didn’t have to be fingerprinted or photographed, and the immigration officer feigned interest in my upcoming cruise. Going through security again was a hassle – shoes and belt off and my first full body scan. Then I walked several kilometers and took two moving sidewalks to find my gate. It is 9:30AM and my flight doesn’t leave until 12:05PM. This is the first time I have traveled through San Francisco airport. I had heard it was nice, but I would say “not so much”. It certainly is better configured than the Los Angeles airport (LAX). There are a huge number of shops (like most American airports), and it is a study in humanity with massive crowds of people everywhere I look.

There are 23 passengers on standby for this flight to Houston, so I assume it is full. If it is anything like the other flights I’ve watched while waiting the three hours for mine to leave, it is chaos at the gate. We pull away from the terminal about three quarters of an hour late, but we make up all but 10 minutes by the time we arrive in Houston. During the flight, I purchase a Thai Chicken Wrap for lunch, which is quite good. After clearing the gate, much to my relief the gate for my flight to Ft. Lauderdale is in the same terminal and is only a 10 minute walk.

JoeTourist: Texas &emdash; Sunset over Texas

Continental flight 1192 from Houston to Ft. Lauderdale – George W. Bush International airport isn’t terribly impressive. I actually had a half hour at the gate to observe lots of people and the semi-controlled chaos at the multitude of gates in the area. This is certainly a hub, with flights coming and going to many destinations within the US (since I’m in one of the domestic terminals).

After boarding and take-off, I find the in-flight meal offerings are not impressive. Basically they can sell you snack packs…there are no dinner entrees or even sandwiches available, despite having them listed on the menu. I guess it is such a short flight, they don’t expect passengers to want to eat, but I do! Oh well, I’ll soon be spoiled with all the choices of food aboard the cruise ship. Being a bit hungry today won’t hurt. I didn’t think the Thai Chicken Wrap I had for lunch would be my main meal today! I have a glass of Coke and pull out one of my breakfast bars which I always have handy when travelling. As with the last flight, this flight is full. Both aircraft are operated by Continental, but have United on the outside of the aircraft and also inside the airport with signage. They merged awhile ago, but I guess I wasn’t paying much attention at the time.

After my arrival at Ft. Lauderdale airport, my friends and I find each other (thank goodness for cellphones), and we catch a taxi to our hotel, the Alhambra Beach Resort (no longer in business). The driver doesn’t know where our hotel is, so I end up turning on the data services on my iPhone so we can use Google Maps to navigate there. The Alhambra is a funky, small property, but the rooms are spotlessly clean, and it is only a half block to the beach. Time for bed after this 18 hour marathon session with the airlines.