Sickness, Salvation, and Splendor – Part 11, Miami

Parting is such un-sweet sorrow.

Though I was still on the ship, my vacation was over when my body’s internal clock had me up at 6am. It was trying to tell my brain that the next day I’d be back to early mornings for work. Not resisting, I stepped out onto the balcony to find we had arrived in Miami and were headed to the turning basin before docking. Norwegian Epic and  Disney Wonder were there already. In the distance, I could see Carnival Conquest arriving behind us. Throwing some clothes on, I made my way up to deck 9 and then the outside deck over the bridge. I wanted to see the ship’s u-turn from this point. As we begun, I noticed that there was some area of the basin that appeared to have work taking place. It made the turn a little tighter, but the ship cleared with room to spare. As we continued our turn, a boater had passed Splendor too closely. It was enough to make the port police stop them as they tried to get to the other side of the basin. Splendor finished it’s 180° spin, passed Disney Wonder, and arrived at the cruise terminal.

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Forgetting the night before to leave out a slip for room service, it was breakfast in the lido cafe. It’s surreal being there. Everyone had enjoyed carefree dining there the days prior and now they were looking sad, carrying around luggage. I can’t deny sharing the same feelings. I was facing a challenge of finding a table though as the cafe was packed. I bumped into a few of the Facebook people looking for their last meal on the ship as well. After finding a table, breakfast was inhaled as time was running a little thin. My excursion had me meeting at a point off the ship at 8am. After making goodbyes, I ran to the cabin to get my stuff then headed to the meeting point in the theater.

I hate meeting in the theater and it turned out to be a mistake. Everyone there was eager to get off the ship. Suitcases lined the isles and people had nasty attitudes. The staff had a little bit of an idea of what was going on but it being the first time in Miami for most of them, they seemed a little unsure of the debarkation process. Looking through the doors to the theater, I noticed that some had started debarking. Pointing out that I had purchased Faster to the Fun, I made my intention to the staff working the theater who without little argument let me go. I joined the line to debark and within minutes was off the ship. I never really think to look back when actually heading through the walkways on/off ships. This time was no different. The party had ended, I paid my tabs, and said my goodbyes. I looked forward to the temporary distraction of clearing customs and then getting it together in my head for a few hours in Miami.

After breezing through customs, I found I was the first person waiting for the Miami tour. There was an area to the far side of the terminal for those doing tours, where I sat. I called a few people back home and peered through the chain link fence at the stern of Carnival Splendor. My tour guide who would accompany us on the bus arrived and we had some small talk. She had moved to Florida from New York after retiring, as many do. She was very nice, but spoke and changed subjects very quickly. As other guests arrived she told us to wait as the bus for our tour was coming from Carnival Conquest. In the meantime, clouds had started gathering and I was taken back to the last time I was in Miami and the disappointment of it. A missed opportunity of sorts to have a great time with some friends. In this case though, the opportunity had already come and gone. Had I taken advantage of it? Surely, I did the best I could, but I stopped myself before dwelling on it. The bus had arrived at what was probably 9am and it was time to leave the port.

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Stepping onto the bus was much like stepping onto a freezer. Part of me wonders if they ever turn the AC off in Florida. Had I not packed my hoodie in my suitcase, I would have used it for the bus. It was an older one with seat cushions that made me think of early 90’s jump suits. My typical luck, I grabbed a seat where the lever to close the AC vents was broken. It began to lightly rain and we had to head back to Carnival Conquest to pick up an older couple that were (understandably) a little later debarking. Leaving the ships again, we crossed the bridge and our guide started talking. The microphone was not really necessary as we could hear her fine. The speakers took it to a level of unnecessarily loud but bearable. She pointed out the restaurant that was Bongos at American Airlines area, saying “this restaurant is owned by Gloria Estefan.” I bit my tongue as I knew the Estefans had given up the lease in June and it sat there shuttered with the signs removed. We briefly passed through downtown Miami before crossing the causeway parallel to Dodge Island where the cruise ships were moored. The odd feeling of passing the cruise ship you called home for 8 days, in the rain. Once in Miami Beach, we drove through a few neighborhoods, past a holocaust memorial, and then eventually into South Beach. As we passed some of the popular local places, our guide told us we’d have a while to step of the bus and enjoy the city for a while. The sun was nice enough to come back out for a little while. The bus parked at the intersection of 5th and Ocean, right next to a TGI Fridays (go figure). We all stepped off the bus for a while. Unsurprisingly, nobody went to Fridays.

I started off my time in Miami by visiting the beach itself. Seeing the sand and sea one more time before heading home. The area of beach was not too far from the Marriott where friends and I had stayed in 2012. It was recognizable. Because of the weather that day, there were few people at the beach. A couple of foreign tourists wanted their photo taken with one of the lifeguard huts. I obliged so long as they took one of me. They seemed a little curious of my newer iPhone when I handed it to them for a picture. The conversation had no legs to stand on though as they didn’t speak a good amount of English and I didn’t speak much (of what seemed to be) Japanese. We exchanged smiles and nods before heading different ways. I walked just a little further down the shore before returning to the sidewalks. Despite the rain from earlier, many street-side cafes were serving their Sunday brunch under awnings (often over the sidewalks). I knew that a waitress or maitre d would temp me with “excuse me sir, would you like to try our brunch?” I also knew that I would cave. I had no intent of continuing far into the day on what I had thrown together on the ship. Sure enough, after walking past 4 cafes, the 5th one a server asked me to join them. “Sure.”

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Brunch was excellent. I was given a table by myself at The Colony and chose a seat looking over the street and further, onto the park and beach. It was great people watching. The table was also close to those arriving and leaving at The Colony Hotel. Suitcases were often placed right next to me, but I didn’t mind at all. While enjoying some good coffee, I was too caught-up enjoying the moment and thoughts of reflection from the days past. I took my time with the brunch I ordered. Yuevos Rancheros with a side of bacon and guacamole. It came with some really good potatoes and peppers. I very much enjoyed it all. After paying the bill, I got up and decided to make my way over to the art deco museum and shop. As I did, the rain arrived once again. It seemed to follow me as I made my way down the sidewalk, under the awnings of other cafes. Not paying attention, I stepped into the gift shop instead of the actual museum. It was still pretty cool though and I picked up a magnet since I had never bought one with all the times I had been in Miami. Time began to run a little short and instead of pressing it, I decided to visit the actual museum another day. I made my way back to 5th and Ocean, trudging through puddles in and out of rain. Back at the bus some had already taken their seats in our motorized freezer. Once all were on board, it was roughly 1:30 and time to start heading to the airports.

And so began the heavy downpours. Just after making our way past the ships for the last time, the rate of rain began to increase. The first stop was Miami international Airport (MIA). Between the three stops we made at MIA, the bus just about emptied. Only myself and one other couple remained since we were going to Ft. Lauderdale Airport (FLL). We had been told, we’d meet with the other bus at the bus terminal, and then transfer as it was going to be the one heading to FLL. No biggie. Just after we parked at MIA’s bus terminal the skies let loose. There was just barely a dry spot to stand under the awning and still keep our luggage dry. Though it seemed to take a long time, the other bus arrived in a good amount of time. We hurriedly threw our bags into the compartments under the bus and ran inside it. This one was not as frigid as the previous, but was leaking a little water over a couple of the seats (thankfully not mine). Our drive over to FLL was made longer than usual due to the massive amounts of rain. Several times we had come to near-stops because the traffic just couldn’t see past their windshields. Once we had reached the proximity of the airport, the rain subsided enough to see the ships moored at Port Everglades. I could easily see Allure of the Seas, Carnival Freedom, and several others. It was relieving that the rain was not as bad at FLL as MIA, and that hopefully flights wouldn’t be affected. At the second airport stop, I got off the bus and into the terminal. I checked in with JetBlue, made my way through security and planted myself in a seat. My flight wouldn’t board for a little more than two hours.

The terminal JetBlue uses at FLL seems to be under constant construction.  Every time I go, something is different or torn up. It can also be said that the AC is always cranked too. Today was no different. Fortunately, I had been smart enough to remove my hoodie from my suitcase before checking it. I wound up needing it. Functioning electrical outlets were sparse in the section of terminal I had found a seat. When I first sat down next to one, there were few people around me. More started sitting around me and were hoping to use the outlet as well. As my phone was still charging, I decided to plug-in my mini-surge protector so they could use it as well. This worked wonderfully and kept those around me from any kind of desire to kick me out. About an hour before the flight, I got up for a beer and slice of pizza. The bar was packed with a college game and I encountered some nastiness from a lady while ordering my beer. I was blocking her view of the TV while paying for my beer. “I’ll be out of your way in 15 seconds.” before moving to the back of the bar area. I enjoyed my Blue Moon and watched (and enjoyed) as her team lost before grabbing a big slice of hawaiian pizza.

Boarding the plane was nice. The plane was there early as its other flight had been cancelled. We were able to board sooner which meant there was good time to find seats and struggle with carry-ons/overhead bins. I had a nice seat next to the window before the wing. For a while, I didn’t think anyone would sit next to me. I was slightly disappointed a short while later though when the seat was taken. The girl was nice at first, but was obviously sick. After we had taken off and were in the air, her mannerisms seemed more and more strange. Constantly switching back and forth between 2 cell phones in her backpack. It seemed like over twenty times she kept putting on, then taking off her headphones. She also kept tapping the shoulder of the guy sitting in front of her. He had an open seat next to him, and I couldn’t understand why they had not seated together. Perhaps he was as annoyed by her as I was beginning to be. Thankfully, I slept some of the less than two-hour flight back home.

Arriving home was a trip and fall back into reality. It was COLD. Thirty-something degrees. We deplaned after it took the jet bridge a few minutes to connect. I was happy though to be away from my neighbor. I made my way off the plane and collected my luggage. I headed back upstairs to meet my brother and his girlfriend as they happened to be flying in from Boston at the same time. Meeting and exchanging hugs, we all made our way over to the Metro before finding our own ways home.

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