Last Friday evening, we drove to Billings, and stayed at a hotel, so that we could sleep a few hours longer and still catch our Saturday morning flight. The hotel let us park the car there all week for free, so in the morning, we took their shuttle to the airport, and got underway. The flight to Denver went fine, but the airline had made changes to the schedule after we booked the flight, giving us an extraordinarily short layover in Denver. Naturally this meant the connection would be at the other end of the airport. Sure enough, that is exactly how it played out. We made the connection, though with only a minute or two to spare, and the flight to Fort Lauderdale went without incident. It was a bumpy flight, but otherwise not noteworthy.
Anyway, we went to the hotel, got checked in and settled in as best we could with what we had packed in our carry on items, and started to catch up with friends and family arriving in the area. We checked the status of our luggage periodically on the computer, and sure enough, it was on its way to us, although a bit slower than we might have liked! We got some dinner, and walked around Fort Lauderdale a little in the evening. It is not exactly a scenic town, it is mostly urban sprawl, and is actually rather ugly. But the weather was warm, so we did not mind too much what the scenery looked like! We met a few more people at the hotel later, who had later arrivals, and then our luggage finally arrived just after midnight.
We were the first in the group to arrive in Port Everglades. We met our wedding coordinator there, who explained how we would board as a group, and then certain rooms would be available for everyone to change in. She was in contact with the hotel staff on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and kept us up to date on the status of the rooms. We waited in the main lobby as everyone in our group arrived at the port, so that they would be able to find people they recognized. Once everyone had arrived, we proceeded through the security checkpoint, and on to the check in area. There was a little computer glitch as we got to check in, so that took longer than usual, but we still made it onto the ship with plenty of time to spare.
Once on the Nieuw Amsterdam, we found the rooms for changing, and got into our wedding clothes. Sarah had a dress, so big around no one could walk nearer than a few feet from her, and I had a tuxedo, complete with a tailcoat. When we were dressed and ready to go, we headed up to the Observation Deck, to the Crows Nest lounge, where we would all meet before going up to the outdoor area above the lounge, for the wedding ceremony. It was rather entertaining as we made our way to the lounge, because everyone involved was more dressed up than anyone else on the ship, and so comments from other cruise guests were common. I went to the lounge with Steven, Michael, and Tim, and Sarah came along with her bridesmaids later, but even just four guys in suits made a little bit of a stir. Apparently Sarah caused quite the scene as she walked through the ship, in her wedding dress!
After the wedding ceremony, we had a short break for photos, followed by the reception. As we were taking pictures, Sarah and I found it entertaining that we had complete strangers taking pictures of us, in addition to the ship's photographer. We took some photos outside, and we took more in the lounge, and in the atrium. The atrium is a three deck high lobby in the middle of the ship. As we made our way down there, quite a few people came to see what was going on, and as we were standing at the bottom of the stairs, to have our picture taken, our photographer had to motion to the people on the two balconies above to move, so they would not be in the pictures! We just laughed, because we had become celebrities on the ship without even trying to!
The cruise was very nice. At about 5:00pm on Sunday, the mooring lines were cast off, and the Nieuw Amsterdam eased away from her berth in Port Everglades. This process was almost unnoticeable, until the blast on the ships horn let everyone know that she was making her way towards the Atlantic Ocean. The first stop would be Grant Turk, Turks and Caicos, in the British West Indies.
|Cruise Itinerary. Image by Holland America Line.|
Princess Juliana International Airport, which is a well known spot for aviation enthusiasts, because of its extremely close proximity to a public beach. I would have liked to get out to the airport, but there was not time. Instead, Sarah and I did a sailing excursion. They have a few retired America's Cup Regatta boats in St. Maarten, and we went on one, the Canada II, and had a race against a few of the other yachts. Sarah was appointed to be the captain, and she led us to a victory in the race. It was a lot of fun. Everyone in the excursion had a job to do on the boat, and the actual crew of the boat spent time teaching everyone what to do and why they were doing it. It was quite interesting, and it was a beautiful day for sailing. We had a great time on that excursion, and decided afterwards that we need to get a sailboat! That was our favorite excursion of the trip. After the excursion, we had a little time before the ship departed, so we walked around Philipsburg a little, and then made our way back to the Nieuw Amsterdam. In the middle of the afternoon, we departed, and began heading west.
On Sunday morning, we awoke in Fort Lauderdale, wondering how the week could have possibly passed so quickly! It was time to disembark, and catch the plane back to Billings. Our trip back to Billings went just fine. We had a fairly quick layover in Salt Lake City, but our luggage managed to make the connection, and we only had to wait a couple of minutes for it to arrive on the carousel. Once in Billings, we got some dinner, and headed home to Glendive. Now we are planning our next cruise, which will happen in March 2013, but more on that later.