I didn’t get a lot of sleep on that last night. I never do on last nights on cruises. It’s not because I want to savor every last moment or delay the inevitable return to normalcy. It’s because…my spidey senses start tingling somewhere between 2:30 and 4:30 in the morning. Almost every time.
And by spidey senses, I mean a feeling that we’re back in domestic waters and my cellular services have been restored. My name is Nicole, and I’m addicted to my iPhone (or, rather, the connection with the world that my phone represents).
((And for what it’s worth, I was up on the hour starting at 3:00 am, I was dreaming of my phone lighting up with the text messages and emails that would start pouring in when I wasn’t awake, and my service actually turned back on around 6:00 am))
It was still storming pretty badly when I’d wake from my REM zen to check my phone, and I was mildly shocked that the safety lock wasn’t put on our balcony door (in heavy storms or high tides, there’s a special safety lock that Carnival will use to lock the balcony doors of cove balconies).
The storms finally began to subside when we began pulling into port around 6:00 am. The gangway connected to the ship just above our room, and it was mildly disturbing to wake up and see a stranger staring into your room. Pro-tip: cove balcony? Leave the curtains over your windows on debarkation day.
We got dressed and headed upstairs for breakfast up on Lido and for the first time all week, it was impossible to find a table. Go figure. We ended up dining al fresco on a morning where the city of Miami was experiencing seasonal lows (which we’d been hearing about all.week.long because the local stations on the TV were Miami-based network feeds And if they were cold…apparently Chicago got snow on Halloween #checkyourselfMiami). And for inquiring minds wondering if the Blue Iguana is open for breakfast on debarkation day, the answer is yes they are, and the arepas never tasted better.
We had a bottle of champagne we never got around to drinking during the week waiting in the room and I certainly wasn’t going to let that bottle stay corked (because I don’t care what the circumstances are – you never waste champs. It’s basically sacrilegious). Cheers to…going home? Work tomorrow? The impending Chicago winter? Cheers to champagne.
When the bottle was polished off and there was nothing left to see or do, we grabbed our bags and left our home for the previous eight days. It was just past eight in the morning and our flight wasn’t until a quarter to five in the afternoon, so we weren’t in any rush to get off the ship and we headed to the Ovation, which served as the VIFP debarkation lounge.
Every few minutes, Wee Jimmy would come over the PA in the theater to tell some jokes and update us on the debarkation process. By 8:45 am, we just couldn’t make ourselves linger anymore so we headed out to the lobby, fed our Sail and Sign cards into the people counter machine and dinged out for the last time.
Where in most homeports, luggage is lined up in rows by debarkation “zone” number, the Port of Miami has a luggage conveyor belt, a la airport arrivals. Probably a measure to save on the operational costs of having people line luggage up, but entirely inefficient.
We grabbed a porter who grabbed our luggage and navigated us through the crowds lining up for customs. The customs agent couldn’t even pretend to take a real look at our declaration form and we were on our way and in a taxi to the airport, the Breeze disappearing behind the palm trees as we drove off. We debarked the ship at 8:45 am. We were at Miami International by 9:15 am.
A couple of years ago, Mom found herself with TSA Pre-Check. Stephanie and I don’t, but we figured we’d sail through the weekend lines since we had priority access with our first class tickets. No go on that one – a grumpy agent placed us in the regular line.
We had over seven hours until our flight and Miami International wasn’t the worst place to pass the time. We had a morning snack, some coffee. We Netflixed. We shopped and grabbed lunch. We walked around. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t awful. We made it work.
They boarded our flight early and before you could get out the first verse to Glamorous, we were getting comfortable in our seats, being served orange juice and playing with the chair controls like kids in front of a big red button.
I like flying first class. I really like it. I love it. But not for obvious reasons. I’m a better flyer now than I was five years ago, when seeing a boarding pass on my phone would give me a panic attack (have I told the story of the time I boarded a flight to Orlando and I was so obviously terrified that the woman in the window seat pulled out her bible and said she’d pray for me? That was a fun one.). It’s taken me a long time (and a lot of good flights after a long string of really awful ones) to learn to rationalize the parts of flying that scare me and neutralize my own anxiety. Flying in first class is a flight-long distraction. There’s drinks, there’s room to move around. There’s panels with buttons and food and enough booze for me to forget my name and embarrass my mother (which is another level of entertainment in and of itself). I won’t do it for short flights, but on longer flights, I’ve found the gap in price between a first class ticket and a base ticket + luggage + an aisle seat in the front of the economy cabin to be small comparative to the enhanced experience. So once we leveled off in the sky and the state of Florida disappeared beneath a bed of clouds, I ordered a glass of pinot grig and played with the seat controls.
As part of the US Airways/American Airlines merger, American had recently changed it’s caterer. It’s a good thing we weren’t flying for the meal service because our meals were barely edible. My beef was fatty, salty and had the texture of a microwaved TV dinner. Stephanie and Mom both had ravioli that looked like a pile of gross. And both Stephanie and I had a couple of rotten tomatoes in our three-bite salads. On the plus, “dinner” came with another glass of wine.
After dinner, I ordered a drink that never came and put my seat into lay flat until we started our descent.
Before I knew it, the sky was lighting up below us, a sure sign we were approaching our home. It was too dark to play my favorite game of Spot-My-Apartment-Building-in-the-Skyline, but we could see the river area lit up from the tightrope walk going on.
And then…that was it. There was no more. We went home. We went back to work with awesome tans and plenty of stories to tell. And we started planning the next one.
Thank you for reading along and allowing me to re-live another fantastic week on the seas. What’s next? Blog redesign. A trip journal of a long weekend in New York. And in eight weeks, we leave on our biggest adventure yet: two and a half weeks in Europe. Stay tuned, friends.