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Allure of the Seas – Day 0, part 1, getting to Fort Lauderdale

December 30th, 2011

As usual, I took a ton of notes on our cruise vacation. Thank goodness, or there’s no way that I would be able to remember the details. I like remembering the details and writing up our trip reports (and creating the photobook).

We started packing for this trip about a week before our departure. Since we were headed for warm weather, we didn’t have to worry about whether we were going to need to wear the clothes we wanted to pack. We also had to make sure we had enough clothing for the kids as they have both outgrown some of their summer clothes. Maddie seemed to enjoy putting on a fashion show, but Cullen was less than thrilled. Cullen had barely enough clothes for the trip.

We wanted to have only 3 checked bags both from a standpoint of being able to manage the kids and our luggage and to help out Jason and Melissa. We flew JetBlue, so each of us had a “free” checked bag. We shuffled around our clothes several times. I ended up going to Kohl’s late on Thursday night to buy a new suitcase. I bought a giant suitcase, but we took it back on Friday as we determined that we wouldn’t even be able to take full advantage of its size without hitting the 50 pound weight limit. We ended up taking it back and buying two 25″ suitcases which ended up getting close to the weight limit as it was. It didn’t look like *that* much when we loaded it in the car.

Melissa and Jason were on the same flight as us, so we arranged to meet them at the park and ride. Shockingly, we were on time. I was impressed that we could get everyone ready and out the door. Thank goodness that Melissa and Jason were with us as they were a huge help in getting our bags from one place to another, getting checked in, and getting the kids on the plane.

We had a little time to get breakfast and Starbucks coffee (mmmmm, Gingerbread Latte!). We grabbed a giant muffin for the kids and breakfast biscuits for everyone else. This was our first strike of the day for our meals. Of course, one shouldn’t expect all that much from airport food, so we weren’t surprised. Our plane boarded pretty much on time, and we were able to board early in the process since we had small children.

This is one of Maddie’s faces that I get when I ask Maddie to smile these days.

We were nervous about how the flight might go, especially since this was Cullen’s first flight. This was also the first time that we have flown without car seats. I was worried about whether either kid would stay seated without their car seat restraints. Cullen brushed up on the safety protocols.

Each seat back on JetBlue has a TV screen, but the kids didn’t like having on headphones for more than a second. The shows didn’t hold their attention without sound.

The seats were four across, so we took up a row. It was nice not to have anybody else next to us. Melissa and Jason were sitting in the row behind us. I was concerned that they were going to regret it, but the kids were great on the flight. Cullen got upset in the last 15 minutes. I think that his ears were hurting him, so I can’t really blame him. Gabe had been sitting next to him, and we switched for the last 10-15 minutes so that I could distract him and read him Mister Men and Little Miss stories.

Maddie and I worked on crafts for the majority of the flight. She made things for everyone to hang on their doors on the cruise ship. They turned out cute!

Cullen was distracted by dinosaur figures, complimentary iced animal crackers, the iPhone in his new Apptivity case, and books. Snack time on the plane distracted Maddie for a little while, too. She also opted for the iced animal crackers.

We were happy to land safely in Fort Lauderdale where we were greeted by the Fort Lauderdale Barbershop Harmony Chorus singing Christmas carols. I thought that the kids would get excited about hearing familiar tunes, the same tunes they have both been running around the house singing. They just stared blankly at the men. I thought it was great, and it really made me feel like Christmas was just around the corner. Considering that we have had mild temperatures at home and Fort Lauderdale was even warmer, it didn’t feel like Christmas in general.

The car service gave us a call, and we let them know that we were waiting for our luggage. We found out that Gabe’s parents had just landed as well, so we asked if they had enough space for two more. We had plenty of space in the shuttle.

Unfortunately, despite having reiterated several times on the phone that we need TWO 5-point harness regular car seats, they only had one car seat and a booster. I was a little annoyed that the driver insisted that everything will be fine because it was a short trip and he would drive carefully. They assured us that we would have two regular car seats for the rest of the legs (we had prearranged the same transportation to take us between the airport, hotel, and port so that we didn’t have to bring the bulky car seats). We put Maddie in the booster in one of the middle rows in the van. It was fine, but she’s definitely much safer in a regular car seat given her little size. I know that some of the shuttles without seat belts are more questionable than a booster that doesn’t quite fit…but when I have a choice, I choose the safest option.

We got to the hotel, the Courtyard Marriot Fort Lauderdale Beach, and everyone but us checked into their rooms. We dumped our luggage and went for a walk in search of somewhere along the beach to eat. We settled on Cafe Del Mar, an open air restaurant/bar with a beach view and a live guitar doing a crazy mix of cover songs.

The only notable thing about Cafe Del Mar was the giant margaritas which were 2-for-1. Melissa and Jason gave them a try, and Gabe and his parents shared a couple buckets of beer.

Our view wasn’t too shabby. The food was pretty bad. Strike two for our meals for the day.

While we were dining, my parents arrived at the hotel. We headed back to the hotel to see if we could check into our room, but it still wasn’t ready. We spent a few minutes in my parents’ room to give them a little more time. The kids think that playing in hotel beds is great fun. They went crazy, and we took some incredibly bad, blurry photos.

We all had nice views, though Melissa and Jason’s room was a king suite on a lower floor. From my parents’ room, they could see the intracoastal waterway where the boat parade would be held later that night. From our room, we could see the beach, cruise ships, and a little bit of the intracoastal waterway. Mick wanted a beach view.

We finally were able to check into our room. We had a nice King Suite with a pack-n-play for Cullen and a sleeper sofa for Maddie. The sleeper sofa has been working out pretty well for Maddie. I like that it is lower to the ground and fairly wide. She seems to stay in the middle pretty well.

After we checked into the hotel, we decided to head to the beach so that we could watch the cruise ships depart.

Stay tuned for the rest of Day 0…

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