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Miami

Day One: All Aboard!

Breakfast in Miami

The “Hotel” offered complimentary “continental” breakfast. Which was served with lavish aplomb from gallon-and-a-half jugs. You could choose Vitamin D Milk (4%) or Pulpy Orange Juice from Concentrate. And Bagels. And a bunch of fake hostess doughnuts. And they had some kind of cookie that had peanut butter in it, like a Twix. For breakfast. It wasn’t that bad, actually. For free anyway. “Continental” is code for “No protein.”

Then we hit the town.

I have to tell you, the area around the hotel wasn’t much less sketchy during the day. Jeni put it: “You see this scene in front of us. Urban City in Warm Climate. USA.” And that’s what it is.

Bahama Cruise 2012

I have discovered that it is nearly impossible to blend in to the local surroundings when walking around with Jenifer and Gaia. Jeni shines like the finest, pinkest dainty peach in the sunlight, and Gaia walks around in dumbfounded awe at buildings taller than two stories.

It’s not entirely the girl’s fault though. Its like the guy at the $.99 store said when I told him I was local. “You can’t be local. I know all the locals! The locals are Cuban.”

I can pass for many things, but I will never fool anyone into believing I am Cuban.

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Bonus Pro-tip: Don’t forget to turn off the bluetooth on your iPad, or at least turn off Byword when you’re traveling, because otherwise the random keyboard bumps will write beautiful poetry all over your document.

Anyway, we did make our way to a french cafe in the greater downtown area. We never would have found it, nor it’s fantastic artisanal bread, had it not been for Miami’s “Downtown Ambassador” who was a guy in a white shirt that helps people, I guess. Or at least a friendly guy who is confused as to why all these people are asking him fairly basic and simple questions.

Bahama Cruise 2012

Bahama Cruise 2012Bahama Cruise 2012

Aboard the Norwegian Sea

Anyway, we made it to the cruise ship nice and early and managed to get on board the ship in the second wave of people. The Sea is a small ship. According to one of the bajillion bits of paper they hand you when you board, the Sea has a double occupancy of 2,004 people. It did seem quite a bit smaller than the other ships we’ve been on. On other ships, though, we’ve traveled a lot faster and a lot further.

Note: After doing a bit of research after the fact, turns out the ship was recently rechristened the Sea. Because it was, up until recently, the “Pride of Aloha.” But it doesn’t really matter. It was a nice ship.

Jeni had read that the smart money for people who get onboard early is to keep your swimsuit in your carryon, so you can jump into the pool, because pretty much the pool’s about the only thing going at that point.

Bahama Cruise 2012

Gaia swam and swam and swam and swam. And in-between she ate ice cream. How many ice creams? Five. And Counting.

Buffet blues

We grabbed lunch on the buffet, because that is about all that is open for the first lunch. And it is madness. Madness! The buffet is always madness. I’m not sure why someone would eat buffet when there are such great restaurants on board. I mean, really nice people will bring you food at really nice restaurants. It’s amazing. The buffet is just lame. I mean, a lady sprays your hands with disinfectant when you approach the buffet. That should tell you all you need to know.

Bahama Cruise 2012

We watched the ship pull out and then went into our state room and unpacked.

Dinner

Everything was delicious – it always is. It’s supposed to be. We had a really great waitress named Christen who took very kindly to Gaia. Gaia was exhausted, so she was in need of some special attention, and Christen did her very best.

It occurs to me that many of the workers on the cruise ship have families of their own back in the Philippines or Ireland or India or wherever. It must be very hard to be away from your family while serving a tour on a cruise ship. I don’t know how they do it.

A walk among the stars

There is a lot of light pollution on a cruise ship, so it can be hard to see the stars. But there was even more light pollution coming from the city of Miami. I have no idea how far off Miami we were (not that far, less than 60 miles) but you could see it via the glow in the sky. It was very weird.

After dinner we went out to 12 forward and looked at the stars. But the real star was little G, who took the opportunity to quietly dance in the little stages made by the cleared spaces on the decks.

A dancing, swimming, eating vacation so far. Couldn’t be happier.

Day Zero: We made it to Miami

I didn’t expect to at a few points.

It wasn’t that there were any specific things that warned me, but there were a few moments. You never want to see the pilot of the plane you’re about to board heading back up the gangway with his luggage. That’s never a good sign.

The Flights

To his credit, when he got on the loud speaker he didn’t mince words. “I’m always the last one to know,” he said. Then he went off. Eventually they canceled the flight.

As I was walking over to the phones where you rebook, I passed by him coming back from somewhere else and he saw me and said, “Oh good! Did they announce a new gate?”

“No. It’s canceled,” I said.

“Canceled?” he said. And made the “What the…?” Face. “I told you I’m always the last one to know!”

With that, what should have been a relatively easy direct flight from Chicago to Miami became a dizzying miasma of hopeful connections and safe wishes for checked baggage.

The short version: Plane was canceled due to mechanical questions; perhaps it was the check engine light. We were shoveled off to Tampa instead. From Tampa we connected to Miami. The luggage caught a direct flight later. Lucky luggage.

And only about four hours late, we arrived at our hotel. Everything pretty much worked out the way it was expected, mostly through being nice, patient, and as proactive as possible.

I am amazed that the number of people who think they can bully or whine their way with airline workers. I have found that if you look them in the eyes and appeal to their human nature, most of them are pretty amenable. It’s the look them in the eyes part. It reminds them that they are human.

Hotel de Riverland of Fourth Street or whatever.

Anyway. We made it to Miami. We made it to our hotel filled with mostly europeans. And very strange artwork. Like sculpture of a naked fat lady laying on her belly smoking a cigar. I hope I am brave enough to take a picture of it tomorrow.

Bahama Cruise 2012

I am crazy, so when we went out for dinner, I put a Starbucks swizzler in the door to make sure that nobody was in our room while we were gowne. I was pleasantly surprised that it was still there when we retuned.

Dinner

I have never eaten Columbian food, specifically, before. Unless you count Taco Bell. Which you shouldn’t. But since everywhere else was closed (it was Easter, after all) we went to the Columbian place called “El Cartel” that specialized in Columbian.

Bahama Cruise 2012

The waitress spoke very functional English, so we quickly worked it out that it didn’t matter what we ordered, she would bring us what she wanted. She did it in a very charming way. We didn’t even realized that’s what had happened until after we were back at the hotel.

Corn Fries and CheeseFried Meats.

As near as I can tell, we ate a plate of deep fried pig skin, sausages, blood and head sausages, plantains and very small potatoes. It was delicious of course, but I’m not sure it was supposed to be quite so dry. Gaia had some kind of corn/cheese/delicious plate of goodness and potato chip sticks. And empanadas. The empanadas were great. They brought more because they thought we wouldn’t like the first ones– but we did. We ate and ate and ate and it was like, $35.

This is a good sign.

Tomorrow, Day One. All aboard.