We flew in to Ft. Lauderdale a day early, to avoid last minute storms and to have a little relaxation time before the cruise.
We had pre-booked the Rodeway Inn and Suites Airport, and their shuttle met us at the airport and took us to the hotel. We booked it online ourselves, as the Princess hotel/cruise package was way too expensive.
The Rodeway Inn was very nice, clean, and had an excellent pub style restaurant where we had dinner.
The following morning, a wonderful free Continental Breakfast was available in their dining room, or out on the patio in the sunshine by the pool.
We had the best waffle ever - chocolate, strawberry and whipped cream!
The proprietor of the hotel was a funny guy, on the P.A. system telling jokes like a radio show morning host. He had a great ability to organize and put at ease, hundreds of cruise ship passengers, lining them up in groups in the lobby, and escorting everyone onto the correct shuttle van, destined for different cruise ships at the port.
Well organized, and put everyone in a great mood for Embarkation Day!
Embarkation Day, Saturday Feb. 28/09
Our hotel shuttle arrived at Port Everglades around noon, and after very efficient boarding process, we were on board around 1 p.m.
Our point of entry was directly into the Piazza area, known as the atrium on most ships.
It's defining characteristics were its mosaic tiled floor, and its spectacular emerald lighted ceiling. A very striking first impression.
We proceeded straight to our cabin, Dolphin deck 402, a lovely mini-suite with large bed, roomy sitting area, large bathroom with tub, and a balcony with enough room for 4 chairs and a table. We knew we would be very comfortable here for next 10 days!
Next on the agenda was lunch, so we made a beeline to the Horizon Court Buffet, where the selections were limitless and the food was very good.
It was a busy place the first afternoon, with line-ups, but during the week, we never found it too crowded, and could always find a seat.
Tummies full, we decided to walk off our lunch by touring the ship from the outside.
We visited the pool areas, from the aft Terrace Pool, through to the Neptune Reef and Calypso Pool midship, all the way forward, where we went indoors to visit the Lotus Spa and Gym.
At the Spa, a group of passengers was given a full tour of the facilities, including the Thermal Suite with heated stone loungers, rainforest showers, saunas, and a full beauty salon.
The Spa itself was beautiful, but the prices for all services were exorbitant.
We checked out the gym for equipment; lots of treadmills, stationary bikes, and weight lifting machines, as well as a fully equipped Yoga and Pilates studio, which I used later in the cruise.
Just outside of the Lotus Spa, on Deck 16 forward, we discovered The Sanctuary.
The kind of place you want to escape to when the crowds and the noise of the public pool areas are just too much. A place where serenity reigns, comfort is absolute, privacy discreet, and attentive service is rendered.
Of course, all this and more, is available for an extra charge, $10 per person for a half-day pass, $20 per person for a full day.
Although it was beautiful and tempting, we did not take advantage of The Sanctuary simply because it felt like just another ploy to make extra money for the cruise line.
By this time, our luggage had arrived in our cabin, along with a few surprises my dear husband had ordered for me; wine, champagne, and my favourite chocolate-covered strawberries.
It was time to celebrate our arrival on the beautiful Emerald Princess!