November 30, 2016

To Miami for 14 Days on the Eclipse

I have a 14 day cruise booked on the Celebrity Eclipse sailing out of Miami. Parking is expensive, and its too far to ask one of my children to make two round trips, so I am going to try a new approach. I have booked a round trip shuttle bus with Cruse Connection by ESCOT. With a few extra stops, it should only take a few hours longer than if I drove myself, and cost much less. I am told the bus is scheduled to be at the pier in Miami by 12:30

I packed yesterday, set my alarm for 6:00, and leave the house at 7:00 to drive to a Burger King in Orlando where the bus is schedule to pick me up about 8:00. I have been asked to be 15 to 20 minutes early, and arrive with plenty of time to spare. Alyssa is going to take my car back home, and come back to meet my bus in two weeks.

After a few minutes an ESCOT bus arrives, I gather my luggage and walk to the bus. A habit I learned many many years ago is to ask the driver if the bus is going where I expect before I get on. He tells me he is not going to Miami, but that my bus will be along in a few minutes.

Since Alyssa is meeting a friend for breakfast I wave her on and she is on her way. About 10 minutes later, not one but four other ESCOT buses arrive. I ask the driver of the closest bus...she not only is not going to Miami, she doesn't know where she is going. The next driver is going to Port Canaveral, and adds the comment that he has never seen so many buses at this pickup spot. After another 10 minutes or so, one of the drivers indicates that he in fact is going to Miami. Many passengers and lots of luggage are shuffled between buses.

The driver has a list of every passenger that is supposed to be on his bus, and he writes down every piece of luggage and which ship it is going to. Despite more confusion than the drivers expected, we are all boarded and could leave only a few minutes later than our scheduled time. We could, but it doesn't work that way. We all sit in the Burger King parking lot for another 30 minutes. Why? No guess, no other passengers or buses arrive. Oh, maybe it is because the drivers all want a long coffee break.

The bus is comfortable, there are only about 15 passengers headed to Miami, some for the Navigator of The Seas, some for a Carnival ship, and other like myself for the Eclipse.

Our next scheduled stop is Fort Pierce. So as not to play favorites with a particular fast food burger business, this time it is a McDonald's parking lot. On line information about the trip says we will have a 30 minute stop somewhere for lunch. This is it, but we are almost already an hour late so I ask the driver how long we will be stopped. 15 minutes I am told. That makes sense to me. I am about the second or third person off the bus, and head straight to McDonald's entrance. I can do this in 15 minutes. When I open the door there are at least 40 people waiting in line for one order taker, regular customers and passengers from the two buses already parked when we arrived. I use the restroom and decide to forgo lunch.

I make it back on board within my 15 minutes. A few new passengers are on board, and I take a different seat near the back of the bus. Then again we sit, and sit. Finally after 50 minutes the driver counts his passengers and we are on our way again. The ship isn't scheduled to leave until 4:30 so I am not worried.

Traffic gets heavier as we get close to Miami. An accident delays us for a few minutes just before one of the toll booths. Northbound traffic is at a crawl, but fortunately Southbound traffic in the express lanes is moving smoothly. The port is in sight, there are at least 7 ships. We head into the tunnel and arrive at the port. Our first stop is for the Navigator. It is early afternoon and thousands of passengers are standing outside, with the line to security not even moving. I have never seen such congestion waiting to board a ship.

We make stops at several other ships, then finally the Eclipse is the last stop. I should say there is a line headed towards the entrance, but a better description is that there is just a mass of people between the piles of luggage stacked on the walkways. Slowly the mass of humanity inches towards the security entrance. A cruise line representative tells us that the majority of passengers are already on the ship, and once we get thru security the lines are moving quickly. I'll assume you are already laughing.

I finally make it thru the process and I am aboard the ship by about 3:30. There are hundreds of passengers still on the dock at the bus unloading area. The muster drill is at 3:45. I leave my carry on in my cabin, send a message to my kids, and head to the muster drill. Just as I get on the elevator it is announced that the drill is being postponed until 4:15. So far all I have heard was that all ships coming into port were delayed, the Eclipse by about 2 hours. At our scheduled departure time of 4:30 there are still truckloads of provisions sitting on the dock along with hundreds of suitcases. Our departure is delayed until after 6:00.

Historically Celebrity has always done a good job in the dining room, and since it is the first night, I head to my table for early seating at 6:00. I am promptly greeted by my waiter, and his assistant. I tell him I will wait for the others that have been assigned to the same table.

After 20 minutes, no one has arrived so I order, then as expected another couple arrives. I ask George if he will hold my dinner and serve us all together. He probably would have done that anyway, as he has many years of experience. Unlike most other ships I have been on lately, George has at the most 16 guests to serve, tonight he has only 11. The food is good, and everything is served hot or cold as appropriate. The wine steward comes by several times to ask if anyone would like anything, and the assistant keeps the water glasses full and the dirty dishes removed. For the first night anyway, Celebrity is providing top notch service.

After dinner I have one drink, attend the 9:00 show, and head to the cabin for the night. The show was good, a female trio from Toronto that will be getting off the ship in a few days. When I get back to the cabin I find I am unable to turn the TV off. Neither the remote nor the buttons on the TV work. I try changing the remote batteries to no avail. (No, I don't carry spare batteries for TV remotes, but do carry them for my mouse.) Eventually I manage to get the power cord disconnected. I'll deal with this tomorrow, a day at sea.

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