Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Caribbean Vacation - Day 1 - Travel Day

Before I start, here is a quick post I wrote about "getting Ready" for this huge vacation:
Planning and packing

Also,  HERE is my tour of the Carnival Victory

DAY 1 - TRAVEL DAY - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013

This awesome day started when I woke up around 7:30AM. Everything was packed and ready to go. My documents had been double and triple checked to make sure I had everything we needed. The house was spotless; laundry done, every dish and cup was clean and put away, the dogs were clean and brushed.......

I was totally ready. It was finally time to go!! After all the planning, it felt unreal that it was finally here.

My son Chris had spent the night on our couch, and we were meeting Cody at the airport at 11:00AM.

I sent Chris to get McDonalds breakfast, and he brought it back for us to eat while we were getting ready. We ate, showered, and zipped our suitcases so Timmy could load the car. 

At 10:30, we were OFF!!! 

We made it to the airport at 11:05 and Cody was already there waiting for us. We said goodbye to Timmy and I was sad about that part, it was going to be a long 16 days without my sweetie :(

The kids and I shuffled our 6 bags over to a bench so we could regroup. I handed them their passports and their plane tickets. I had a smoke.......the last one I would have for 8 hours. 

A kind man offered to take our pic for us.
Our first picture of the vacation!! I was really excited that it was FINALLY time to go.
Chris, Me, and Cody sitting outside of Kansas City International airport:

We went in and found our gate. We made it through the airport security and took a seat to watch for our plane. After a few minutes we walked over to the Starbucks counter and got bottles of water to take on the plane with us.

Our plane arrived!

When we boarded the plane we were able to find 3 seats together, and at 12:55PM our plane took off for Chicago's Midway airport. It was a short flight, only about an hour and 15 minutes.

At the same time our plane was leaving Kansas City, my sister Lisa's plane was also taking off and heading for Chicago. 

Our planes were scheduled to land in Chicago at roughly the same time. Lisa's plane ended up taking about 20 minutes longer than ours did so the kids and I stopped to get a snack; french fries and drinks at McDonalds while we waited for her plane to land. Hopefully we wouldn't be eating McDonalds for every single meal on this trip, but for now it was convenient.

Lisa's plane finally landed and we met in the Southwest terminal. After hugs and greetings, we all went to check the screen for our departure info.
We had about an hour before our plane would leave, so we went to a food court and ate lunch. I don't remember what everyone else ate, but I had a hot dog. 

After we ate we took some seats near our gate to wait for boarding.

Lisa and Cody were catching up........they hadn't seen each other in a while

Our departure gate was changed at the last minute, but our flight was on time leaving Chicago.

We boarded our plane and the kids and I found 3 seats together again, with a seat across the aisle for Lisa. It was a long flight to Ft Lauderdale, 2 and a half hours.

When the plane finally landed at 8:20PM (eastern time), we headed down to the baggage area to look for our bags. 
I called John from John's Car Service and let him know we were at the baggage claim area. I had set up several of our rides with John before the trip. He must have been waiting nearby because he showed up within 5 minutes of my call to him.

Our ride is here!!

With our late arrival to Ft Lauderdale, we finally had our bags around 9PM.
Transportation was something I had spent a lot of time on during the planning of this trip.
I couldn't find any shuttles running that late to take the 4 of us to Miami, so our choices were to use a car service or a taxi.
I chose a car service because for only a few extra dollars, John kept track of the dates/times and addresses we were going to throughout our entire trip. We didn't have to give an address to a cab driver and hope he was taking us on the shortest route to our destination. We didn't have to wait for a shuttle van to load up, and make many stops.  John was there for us for every ride, and we were also able to pre-pay for his services, making it easier on us during the trip.

Loading bags into the limo:

John took this photo of the four if us just before we left the airport. I don't know where my sons head is, it seems to be gone entirely and replaced with the taillights of the car behind us.
We got a good laugh over this one when we saw it on my camera

It was a 40 minute ride from Ft Lauderdale airport to our hotel at the port of Miami. John got us there in record time.

Our hotel was fabulous!! We stayed at the Intercontinental.

I discovered this hotel in 2011 when I was researching places for Tim and I to stay before our last cruise. It's a great hotel, 5 star all the way, and I happened to get a great price both times I have stayed there.

One of the first things we noticed was the lady dancing on the side of the building. It was some sort of light show, and she moved and danced across the entire side of the building. The colors changed as she danced. 

The next few pics are the entry way of the hotel. I actually took these pics the next day, but I'm adding them in here so you can see (kind of) what we saw as we pulled in. 
We arrived around 9:45PM and several men (bellmen?) were there to help John get our bags out of the limo and loaded onto a cart. Cody got this great shot of the limo just after we arrived at the hotel.

Inside the lobby area, we found the check-in desk on the left

Rodrigo checked us in, and gave Lisa an upgrade to a "bayview" room like the kids and I had. We asked for a high floor, and he gave us floor 20. With the bayview rooms, we would face the cruise port and the ocean.

 We got our keys to our rooms and headed for the elevators:

The Intercontinental had made some big changes since I was there in 2011.
They added a lot of high tech lights and screens inside and outside of the building. One thing they added was this giant video screen near the elevators in the lobby.
The screen showed different videos from around Miami. Our favorite was this beach video with life sized waves rolling in. It looked like we were standing right on the beach while we were waiting for the elevator

Upstairs on the 20th floor

And here is our room!!

We loved our room! It was comfy looking and very nice.
AND THE VIEW!!!! WOW, the view from our window was amazing.
Within a few minutes our bags arrived and sometime after that I remembered to take pictures of the room:

The kids and I settled in quickly.

We sat in the window and soaked in the view. Miami is such a beautiful city! I loved the giant window sill that was big enough for us all to sit on.
Unfortunately, pictures of the view at night don't work out so well from the window.
Our view was so much better than this pic looks.

Looking straight down from our window, there was a giant yacht parked outside of the hotel. It wasn't as big as a cruise ship but it was the biggest boat I had ever seen.

We were finally able to tear ourselves away from the window to check out the bathroom, which was very nice too.
On the right was a shelf with extra towels and a closet with extra blankets and an ironing board

Straight ahead from the door was the sink area (pics were taken after we had settled into our room)

To the left of the sink was the toilet and shower

I loved this shower head!! It was one of my favorite things!

After we looked over our rooms and rummaged through our luggage, we all went down to the lobby to look around a bit and figure out what to do for dinner.

This giant marble sculpture is in the center of the lobby. It's really huge. I read up about it and found out it's built from huge marble slabs and was imported from Italy. The whole thing weighs 70 tons, and there is a waterfall made of glass around the bottom.
Interesting fact: The sculpture was put in place first and the lobby and hotel building were built around it.

The glass water fountain at the base of the sculpture:

We knew as late as it was, we had limited choices for dinner. None of us wanted to change into nice clothes and go out somewhere. We talked to the hotel concierge, who unbelievably was still working at 11:00  on a Saturday night. We discussed our choices and decided on pizza, which we could have delivered to the hotel.
We sat down in the lobby and looked over the menu the concierge gave us.
(we caught Cody in mid-blink, or she was REALLY bored)

We called in our pizza and we looked around the hotel while we waited.

 Another pic of the beautiful giant sculpture, this one taken in daylight.

One of the bars in the hotel:

Part of one of the restaurants:

A business center with private computer cubicles:

A gift shop, where we stopped in to get Cokes and Sprites to have with our pizza.

Back out in the lobby, there were seating areas separated by these cool lit up screens. The screen backgrounds changed colors from soft red to soft greens, blues, yellows, was very cool.

 Built into the tables at the different seating areas in the lobby were these touch screen computers. You could press on a circle to get info about the weather, things to do in Miami, hotel info, etc........
In this pic, we were looking at the menu from one of the restaurants in the hotel.

Our pizza arrived in about 20 minutes and we took it up to our room to eat. We were starving, and also running out of energy from our long traveling day.

We ate the pizza and I think we all got a little energy back. We decided to take a walk outside for a few minutes, so we went back downstairs and out the front doors.

The outside entry way was glowing with soft changing colors. 

We walked down to the water, near the giant yacht we saw from our window.

It really was HUGE! We read the signs and found it was parked there in front of the Intercontinental for advertising purposes. The signs and brochures basically said "rent me for your next wedding or graduation event". 

We didn't walk far from the hotel entrance, it was pretty late at night.

Standing near the water, looking toward South Beach.

Looking back up at the hotel, it was still changing colors

And the lady was still dancing.

We stayed outside for about 15-20 minutes, and then we headed back inside. 
I had a chance to snap one more pic of downtown Miami before we went in

We went back up to our rooms and settled in for the night. The kids and I spent more time sitting in the window sill with all of the lights off looking at Miami. There was so much to see!

We were so tired, I think we were in bed before 1AM. We knew we had a full day ahead of us tomorrow. 

I snapped this pic of Chris just before we went to sleep.

Day 2 is HERE!!


  1. You did a very nice job doing this story.i like it a lot wish I could of been there to. if I would of had the money me and Daymean when have been there,.

  2. I wish you and Daymean had been there with us! We would have had a great time. One of these times we need to cruise together