Being flexible and packing lots of patience is the key!
Our three-week 50th anniversary celebration cruise would take us to Fort Lauderdale FL, West End Bermuda, Liverpool England, Holyhead Wales, Hamburg Germany, Le Havre/Paris and ending in South Hampton/London.
Elated and excited, our hopes and expectations are very high, as we maneuver through embarkation on the Caribbean Princess on April 17, 2016. Coincidentally, the Caribbean Princess is also celebrating its 50th anniversary!
It was 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Our good friend Tom dropped us off at the Bayport Cruise Terminal, since paying to park for three weeks was not an option for us. We checked our bags; checked in with passports; got our Cruise Cards, and boarded the ship.
As usual, they require that you stop for your first onboard photo, before you take off on your own to discover the ship. We had three weeks ahead of us on this gorgeous vessel, where we planned to relax, be entertained and served gourmet meals every day. We also knew that we had several excursions already booked (online) and we were very excited for each one!
Little did we know that our ship would not set sail until more than 24 hours later! More about that saga in due time…
Our bags arrived in our balcony cabin in no time at all. A Happy Anniversary poster on our door, along with balloons, greeted our arrival! “Princess Patter, your daily guide to life at sea” awaited us as well. In this newspaper, you can find any and all information you need for each hour of the day or night. Such as how to dress, where to eat, movies and times, stage shows, how to connect to the ships Wi-Fi, the names of your captain and other VIP crew members. This wealth of information made life onboard a little easier.
We decided to get lunch in the Horizon Court Buffet before doing our self-guided tour of the ship. One thing we found out quickly is that it’s a huge ship! It’s sad to think that this would be the very last time the Caribbean Princess would depart from the Bayport Cruise Terminal, as the terminal is set to close in the very near future. It seems that the Houston Ship Channel is extremely busy, and the possibility of problems arising any minute that would interfere with cruise ships’ schedules is enough to deter them.
After lunch we started our tour and discovered that on deck 15 Midship, Movies under the Stars was showing a Billy Joel concert, followed by a Bon Jovi Concert and an Elton Jon Concert. The cruise staff was preparing for the bon voyage party.
Our departure time from port was scheduled for 4 p.m. The entire east Texas coast and vicinity was under a severe weather watch and we learned from Captain Bommarco that 65 passengers had missed their flights from Dallas, and we would wait until 8 p.m. for them to arrive and board. (Later, he adjusted that timeline to 1 a.m. due to the weather, high winds and rough seas.)
At 5:15 p.m. that day, which is our scheduled dinner time, we met up with our friends Don and Margie and two other dining couples who would be regulars at our table each evening in the Coral Dining Room. Surprise! We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration surprise – cake, song and a glass of wine! The wait staff at our table was always attentive and friendly, making us feel very special.
My husband bought a Wi-Fi package. Yay!
Since the weather was bad, we decided to watch a movie in our cabin and await our 1:00 a.m. departure time, according to the captain. The waves lulled me to sleep that night.
We couldn’t believe we were still docked at the Bayport Cruise Terminal when we awoke the next morning. The delay was due to tremendous storms over the entire Houston/Galveston area, with high winds, flooding and tornado warnings, forcing the ship channel to close. Thankfully, we were safe onboard our ship at port during the tremendous storms.
Finally, about 2:30 on Monday afternoon, April 18, the Houston Port Authority reopened the ship channel, and we’re finally on our way across the Gulf of Mexico toward our first port, Fort Lauderdale. Now we understand why the cruise lines are not happy with the Houston Ship Channel.
The Amazing Spiderman movie was scheduled for the outside Movie under the Stars that afternoon, but I’m pretty sure that the weather prevented folks from enjoying it. There are plenty of other things to do inside where it’s dry. With so many activities going on at any given hour, there’s something for everyone!
After breakfast at the buffet, we explored the ship further, had lunch, explored some more, then dinner and the day was almost gone. After dinner we made our first visit to the Grand Casino, which could not open until the ship was in international waters. In fact, none of the onboard shops could open until then either! The Gulf of Mexico is very rough now and the ship has picked up speed, causing it to rock and roll along.
My husband bought a coffee card! Yay!
We are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, so you won’t find us going to the clubs and bars at night often. There are usually very good movies showing on the ship or on TV in our room, and we generally chose this option, after going to catch a stage show in the Princess Theater. The point is that you make your own schedule at your own pace. That’s the best thing about cruises!
By Tuesday morning we had sailed out of the storm, and we awoke to a beautiful sunrise! Pink skies and calmer waters! This day would be laid back, enjoying the meals, the entertainment and the casino.
That night we cozied up for Theater under the Stars and watched the movie “Concussion.” We decided to skip our dinner group and opted for burgers and fries with beer, while watching the movie. It’s a great way to spend the evening, watching the sunset and the first star of the night. I made a wish, of course!
Due to the nearly 24-hour departure delay out of the Houston Ship Channel, our schedule was really off. We arrived in Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday in the afternoon, not that morning as was previously planned. All shore excursions had been cancelled and could not be rescheduled, however, refunds were issued. Therefore, we did not go ashore at Port Everglades, but we did get a good look at the port area and surroundings from deck. There were lots of yachts and sailing vessels of all sizes and enormous, elaborate homes by the water. Our plans to tour South Beach, Miami, would have to wait until another time.
Fort Lauderdale is known as the Yachting Capital of the World. The fort was constructed in 1838 and the city was incorporated in 1911. There was a population of more than 165,000 in 2010. The area has been occupied by natives as far back as 4,000 years! It’s famous for its weather, beaches (7 miles), the Everglades, the inter-coastal waterway and cuisine, and it’s located only 20 miles from Miami’s South Beach.
We had made dinner reservations in the Crown Grill for Wednesday evening, where we met up with Don and Margie. The filet mignon was perfect! Sometime during the morning hours, after 2:00 a.m., we left Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, and headed for West End (Bermuda).
I’ll pick up my story here in my next blog, as I write about our adventures from port to port in the spring of 2016 during a three-week 50th anniversary cruise. Until then…