Day Four – First day of cruise

Filed Under (Vacation) by Jason L. on 24-05-2008

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This morning we work up and headed to Walgreens to pick up a few last minute items. Afterwards we walked to the library across the street so we could use their internet access and a printer. We checked at the front desk for information and realized that we didn’t bring our ID which we needed to sign up for a library card. A card we would use once for about 3 minutes. Oh well, so we headed back to our hotel which we must now explain isn’t just across the street, but rather it is across a grassy park which is a block in distance. Seriously our legs were going to fall off before we got back. With only about 30 minutes before we were to check out of our hotel, we proceeded to figure out their computer setup and print the fastpass for our cruise. I can’t believe how difficult it was to get a dumb piece of paper (which by the way, we never needed!).

Back at our hotel we looked up the bus route once again to ensure we were headed the right way to get to the port or Miami. Checking out took a while as there were several people waiting and only one clerk working the counter. Thinking about it now, I don’t think I ever saw more than one person working up front.

The bus stop is only about a half block from our hotel, so not a big deal to walk even in the heat. We sat and made conversation with a nice guy who happened to work at the library. Lucky for us we mentioned that we were venturing to the port to take a cruise. Turns out there are no buses that run to the port of Miami on the weekends. Uh, excuse me? Isn’t this when all the cruises depart? That was just fantastic. He advised that we actually take a cab to the port, but maybe take the bus as close to the port as possible. Mandy was getting hot and hungry; I could tell she was done. She was ready to take a cab right from out location which would have been about $32.00.

Within a few minutes the bus we needed arrived and was jam packed with riders. We pressed our sweaty bodies into the front of the bus and paid our $1.50 each. Now remember we both have backpacks on and large suitcases with us. The other riders on this bus were definitely not happy to see us. With the bus driver yelling for us to get behind the line ‘or else’ we inched further and pressed up against at least 6 other passengers. I turned to the rest of the crowed and proudly announced ‘this is what happens when gas is $4 a gallon’. No one even cracked a smile or acknowledged I was breathing; they were definitely thrilled to be alive. I had completely forgotten that most of them didn’t speak English, or at least pretended not to.

Once the bus started to empty out, we took our seats and I removed my butt from the faces of two frail looking old ladies. I could tell by their faces, they seemed quite bitter with the whole ordeal. Just be grateful I hadn’t eaten anything offensive recently. The bus driver was very nice and helped us to exit at the correct stop, right across from the bridge to the port. We stepped out of the bus with our luggage and continued on our quest for the cruise ship.

Mandy and I crossed the street to get to the correct side where a taxi could more easily pick us up. Then the rain began to fall. I am grateful that Mandy looks so cute standing on the corner with her suitcase in the rain, as within about 20 seconds a cab stopped and offered us a ride. By now it was starting to downpour, what perfect timing. I asked him if we got a deal since we were smashed in the cab like sardines, and he said just $3 each would do it. Well worth the price for the 5 minute ride across the bridge in the pouring rain.

The port of Miami is nothing like I remember it. I remember everything being so dirty and run down, just like an old shipping yard. Carnival had just built a new building and the unloading area was all new and very clean looking (by comparison). We filed into line inside the building, ready to have our passports examined and our bags scanned. The line seemed like it took forever but was probably only a 30 minute wait total until we were on the ship. Ah, the relief.

We arrived to our stateroom at about 1pm, so about an hour after we left our hotel in South Beach. Nessa and Korban were already on the ship and relaxing in their room. Mandy and I were starving and with free food just feet away, we hurried to the dining areas on the Lido Deck. Apparently everyone else was hungry too; the line for hamburgers and fries was huge. As we stood in line, the rain came down even harder. Looking out the windows you couldn’t see across the waterway (about 500 feet). Exhausted from yet another day of public transportation, we napped until dinner time. In the dining room we enjoyed New York strip steak, the infamous chocolate-melty-cake, fresh fruit and chocolate milk.

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Day One – Headed to SoBe Florida!

Filed Under (Vacation) by Jason L. on 21-05-2008

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Day One – SLC to MIA

And oh what a day it was! First let me just say that I didn’t sleep more than 4 minutes at Chris’ house. Between the excitement of going on vacation, the fear of missing our flight and the howling winds, it just wasn’t happening. We woke up a bit later than we had hoped and had to hurry and repack everything we had dispersed the night before. We double checked we had the essentials such as passports, money, reservation receipts and the bus route.

Chris was nice enough to offer to take us to the airport, so we let her sleep as late as we could. Once awakened, she sprung into action and had no troubles driving us to Salt Lake. We later learned this was a facade, she told us she almost died 17 times falling asleep on her way home. Jk (0:

We arrived to the airport with only 40 minutes before our flight was to leave. New security requirements recommend you arrive 75 minutes before you leave and for good reason too. We ran to the self check in kiosks and hurried to check in our bags. Unfortunately the large suitcase Mandy packed weighed in at a whopping 72 lbs!!!! So for the next 10 minutes we fumbled through our suitcases right there on the floor in front of the check in counter. I’m pretty sure at least 9 old men walked by and started oogling over Mandy’s underwear; or was it over mine?

Finally after dumping out all of our food from the boxes directly into our backpacks and putting as much heavy stuff as we could into the smaller suitcase and our backpacks (including one shoe — don’t ask, don’t ask), they let us avoid the hefty $50 overweight fee. We ran away thanking them.

Oh and lets not forget now that with less than 20 minutes remaining we had to file into the switchback of seat belts and short poles, also known as the security checkpoint. With our IDs and tickets in hand we anxiously awaited the scrutiny of the Dept. of Homeland Security officer. Next we proceeded to the conveyor belt and removed our wallets, shoes, belts, keys, change, cell phones — basically everything that wasn’t needed to cover our underwear — which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since everyone just saw it all on the floor in front of the check-in counter.

Oh well. No wait, we aren’t done yet. I’m standing there with my socks on, looking at my watch. We have 12 minutes before our flight leaves and the security person in front of us (who was obviously in no hurry) was criticizing the man in front of us for not having all of his liquids in a single plastic baggie. Are you kidding me!?! The conversation lasted at least 2 minutes. I was about to jump the line and grab one of the free baggies they had for us to use that was bigger. I figured that would bring attention to me and then my thought of everyone once again seeing my underwear would come true. Only this time with my face pressed against the cold dirty floor as well. And yeah, they did make me take off my plastic watch and stick it in one of the bins as well. Whatever, lets just get this over with please……

We start running and realize that neither of us can remember which gate we are supposed to go to. I remember A something and Mandy not much more. We stopped by the monitors with about a hundred flights on it and scoured for anything that said Minneapolis; then took off running again. I figure we made it past security, so there is a pretty good chance we won’t get tackled now.

We made it to our gate while they were boarding the last 20 or so people. I think we had about 6 minutes left at that point. Note to self: I don’t ever want to cut it this close again.

So we made it on the plane. So did 100 other people apparently. Both flights today were completely packed, the second one they were even running out of storage in the overhead compartments.

I had read beforehand that Northwest Airlines would try to charge me $5 for a snack pack of sorts. Mandy and I came prepared with snacks and even a water bottle we filled up after the security checkpoint. Apparently though there are free drinks on the flight, just not food. I had no idea they offered Mountain Dew until it was too late. On the second flight I did get one though. It really amazes me how canned pop tastes so much different in different parts of the country just from the water they use. I looked at the can on this one and it was from Minnesota.

I should mention too that these flights were two of the bumpiest flights I have ever been on. It wasn’t that we flew through any storms or anything, it was just windy or something. Several times they turned the seatbelt sign on, including when Mandy and I went to the bathroom. It is funny there is a light in there that says to return to your seat and put your seatbelt on. I came out saying ‘hey, there isn’t a seatbelt on the toilet’. At all the airports we managed to stay away from overpriced food and souvenirs. There really wasn’t much time for that with our 1 hour layover which was more like 30 minutes.

We arrived in Miami around 3pm and headed to the restrooms. We knew that for the next 2 hours we would be on a city bus with no place to go (er, you know what I mean). We headed to the luggage carousel and grabbed our 53 and 35 pound suitcases (yes I still remember how much they weigh), then headed out the doors to the bus stop. Luckily there were signs so we pretty much knew right where to go.

Day One – Takin’ the Bus (no, not through the drive thru)

Before I go on, you must understand why we have chosen to take the city bus to our hotel. First, gasoline is $4 a gallon here for regular unleaded. Second a taxi one way to South Beach is about $40. We don’t really have money for either. Taking the city bus is only going to cost us $3 per person, total. Remember, with us this savings is compared to 80 junior bacon cheeseburgers!

While we waited at the dirty, crowded, smelly bus stop, I watched a truck and an SUV almost hit each other across the way in the parking garage. They both insisted they had the right-away. Once the SUV started honking, I knew it was all over. The guy in the truck threw up his finger and then leaped from his truck and proceeded to scream at the guy (who continued to lay on the horn). The yelling guy then got back in his truck and started rummaging around for something, I was sure it was going to be a gun. He probably did it just to scare us as he then drove out from blocking the road.

Our bus arrived and we walked down a few feet to get on since this time a bus decided to block all lanes and again cars were laying on the horn. It was quite amusing. On bus 42 there was only a couple other people with us. This definitely wasn’t as popular as the other buses we had seen pull up. Bus 42 took us through some pretty rough areas, but nothing I would be afraid to walk the streets during the day. Mandy on the other hand probably wouldn’t. I justified all the houses having bars on the windows is just for when they evacuate for hurricanes to keep the looters out. One house even had security cameras pointed at their new Cadillac.

After about 30 minutes we arrived to our stop which was the Amtrak station. I wasn’t sure it was still in operation as the sign on the side of the building was gone and the parking lot had full trees that had grown up in the middle of it. I don’t believe it had been repaved since I was born. Sure enough it was open though, just no trains coming or going. We stepped inside to escape the 95′ temperatures (plus humidity). Mandy went over and took at look at some of the signage as I stood watch for our next bus.

The second of two buses we were to take was supposed to arrive 3 minutes after we arrived. Because of all the honking at the airport, we were a few minutes late and apparently missed the “L” bus. After about 15 minutes we walked back to the bus stop and took a look at the schedule. Amazingly enough it showed that the L was to arrive throughout the day every 10-60 minutes. Well that narrows it down! So we sat in the hot sun and enjoyed the breeze which took care of any moisture forming from our foreheads.

Another bus 42 came and went, and we waited. After about 30 minutes we finally saw the L. Then it stopped across the parking lot where nobody and nothing was. I guess it got here too soon? We boarded shortly thereafter and were only two of four passengers. This was short lived though. For the next hour we stopped every single block and picked up at least a few people. (it amazed me how close the stops were together) Soon enough people were standing. It was fairly awkward with us having our ginormous suitcases in the isle. Luckily no one complained or suffered serious injury, though they would have had they been pummeled with 85 lbs of underwear.

After watching more and more people load the bus I realized that this was pretty awesome. So many people ride the bus from all walks of life. I did see many people that were less off than I was, but some that I knew took the bus by choice. It amazed me how quite everyone was. Not once during our two hour ride was there a conversation made by anyone, ever.

We arrived to our hotel around 5:30pm today. The bus stop was right on the corner of Collins Ave and 21st Street. I remember the Google street view and how I couldn’t really see where the hotel was. Turns out it was about 50 feet west, down 21st Street (which wasn’t available on the street view). We turned the corner and saw the front, even Mandy was like “wow!” Its a pretty nice looking place. Very retro but clean looking. I’ll get some pictures online soon.

The guy at the front desk was very nice. After I explained it was our first time to South Beach, he was very generous to make some recommendations. Most people come here for the beaches or the clubs. There are some other things to do, but he recommended those two for starters. Mandy and I headed to our room and immediately crashed. She was asleep within minutes. I let her sleep for a while and watched TV, then tried to wake her but it was no use. I guess using public transportation for 2 hours and sitting still for 13 hours was too much for her. We didn’t venture out again today, though at 3am I was wide awake again. Hopefully tomorrow is more exciting and less stressful.

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