Friday, January 3, 2014

Report # 6 Shopping Day & Party Time January 3, 2014 Friday

Our room at the Renaissance Plantation
Our morning started off with a hearty breakfast in the Bin 595 restaurant in the hotel. Since it was Friday, it was much busier than the last two days. They offer a buffet breakfast for around $17. a person, and it appeared they had many takers today.

We did some emailing, then went outside to take a short walk. What a surprise when we walked out the lobby doors to the 60 degree weather with a strong, cool breeze. Now 60 degrees is comfortable in the San Francisco Bay Area this time of year, but certainly not in southern Florida. Obviously, the storm that has descended upon the northeastern part of the US, has dropped the temperatures down this way. That's another story with delayed and cancelled flights caused by the inclement weather. Many people, including our head host, Tom, have been held up in New York and surrounding states. Sure hope they make it in time for the party this evening. Or for that matter, make it on time to the ship. In hindsite, we are SO glad that we left on January 1st, leaving ourselves a lot of wiggle room if things went wrong.

Trolley ride to shopping, compliments of Cruise Specialists
Every year, our travel agency kindly supplies a bus, or in this case, a trolley, to take those who wish to a grocery store, a pharmacy, and a shopping mall of some kind in Ft. Lauderdale. This trolley service began at 1pm, and we were among the first of the customers. The last pickup time was 3:30pm, so we would have to move quickly to accomplish anything.

The Broward Mall
The first stop was at the Broward Mall, about a 15 minute ride from the hotel. There are four major clothing stores that anchor the indoor mall, which is filled with all the usual smaller shops and eateries. We expected something much older, but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived there. Even though we not specifically clothes shopping, we did run into a few basic bargains we could not pass on. Where we live, you can never own enough tank tops or swimsuits.

The trolley driver was right on time to pick us up, just as he had promised. Then we were off to the grocery/pharmacy stop a few blocks away. Again, we picked up some more suntan lotion, pretzels, chips, and drinks. The healthy purchase was a bag of limes for our room beverages. Can never get enough vitamin C.

Waiting outside the grocery store was downright chilly in the wind. So we turned the corner, and actually got a bit of a suntan while waiting for the trolley. This time he was running late, and the other guests were getting worried. One lady came over to us and asked if we knew where he was. She was worried about getting stranded. We could have walked back actually, although packing the food would have slowed one of us down. It was then that the trolley rounded the corner and we were all happy campers as we rode the 10 minutes back to the hotel.

Even though we did not feel like doing anything else, we knew we had to have our bags packed and ready to be picked up at 8:30am tomorrow morning. So we re-arranged everything, stashed all the goodies, and left room for our dress clothes for after the party tonight. We relaxed by watching a movie, even though it sure would have been nice to spend some time at the pool. Not was simply too cold.

The cocktail hour
Six fifteen came around quickly, and we were on our way to the Cornerstone Foyer for a reception with our group of hosts, some agents, and over 100 fellow guests. We found friends Margaret and Keith, as well as our new tablemates, Marianne and Bill, who were recommended to us by former tablemates Carol and Van. We love their names, since they will be easy to remember. Yeah, the spellling is different, but our names are the same. We could tell within 5 minutes that we will all get along just fine. The cocktail party lasted about 45 minutes, which flew by as we greeted old friends from past cruises. It really is nice to realize how many nice folks we have met in the 10 years we have been with this agency.

Dinner began sharply at 7pm in the adjoining Cornerstone Ballroom. Deep in conversation, our group was among the last to enter the room. So we headed for a table with enough chairs for at least four of us. By chance, we happened to pick seats next to Gerald, HAL's Mariner head honcho, and a friend of ours. We have had the pleasure of sharing his table for many parties over the years, so we added tonight's evening to the list. The new vice president of our travel agency was also at the table, so the conversation was very informative and entertaining. Wendy and Steve, our hosts on our last Hawaii/Tahiti cruise were also sitting there. They will be hosting the Prinsendam's South America/Antarctica Cruise and the Grand Mediterranean. Lucky ducks.

The dinner

Some of the guests
Cucumber-lined salad
The menu included a long cucumber slice surrounding a tiny green salad, a warm sourdough roll, and our choice of white or red wine. We barely finished the last little green leaf of lettuce, when the plates were pulled and a hot tomato bisque soup was in its place. Delicious. The entree was a chicken breast, covered with spicy stewed tomatoes on a bed of saffron rice. To add color, crisp green beans filled the rest of the plate. We must have been really hungry, because we ate every morsel. Guess we skipped lunch again today, but that was a good thing.

Entree of chicken, veggies & rice

The party ended at 8:40pm, and we were back to the room by 9pm. Perfect. We need to turn in early, because tomorrow will be a marathon day......not always a favorite day of ours. It can be a very long one with the transfer to the ship, which may or may not be ready for us to board. Just about everyone gets priority boarding according to their Mariner status, so it really is not a perk on a Grand Voyage. We can hope for the best, and maybe all will go smoothly. We'll let you know..........

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