Airfare to Miami or Fort Lauderdale to arrive day before the cruise has skyrocketed the past couple of years. I jumped on a JetBlue $181 San Diego to Fort Lauderdale fare months ago. The catch? It was a red-eye so instead of flying all day Friday across country, I arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 4:20 am.
What I didn’t know when preparing for the cruise is the that it would be the last sailing of Empress of the Seas for months. The first email I received from Royal Caribbean about COVID-19 was on February 26th. It announced that guests who had traveled to countries with the outbreak at the time would be denied boarding or have extra health screening (depending on severity of outbreak).
We got 2-3 more emails with the same message but then the day before I left home, we got an email regarding temperature checks.
I had been traveling a lot recently for work (5 trips since January 14th) including just returning from Westchester County in New York on March 4th. I was already nervous about traveling as the virus started to spread in the US but since none of the cruise lines had offered the option to cancel without penalty, we forged ahead with vacation plans.
More about this later in the post.
Travel to Florida
A few days before the flight I decided to upgrade to an “even more space” seat for more comfort. This gave me a better boarding group. The airport was packed when I got there about 1 1/2 hours before my flight. I didn’t know JetBlue had so many red-eye flights from our airport.
The flight was as good as a red eye could be without a lie flat seat. I was lucky to have an empty middle seat next to me. Once up in the air the flight crew passed out ear buds to those that needed them. They came through next with snooze kits consisting of a sleep mask and earplugs.
Then we had the one and only passthrough with drinks and snacks. This was understandable due to the late hour. I appreciated the friendly, generous service. (No one told me I can only have one snack or denying a full can of soda like United. In fact, they automatically gave passengers a full can.
We landed in Fort Lauderdale early and even with getting off at the front of the plane (row 4) by the time I got to the baggage carousel after a brief restroom stop my bag was there. Signage was great for ride sharing and more organized when I last used it here. Stations were lettered (A, B, etc.) to spread out the passengers and let the drivers know where to find the rider.
I was in my Lyft at 5 am and dropped off at the Hilton Garden Inn Miami Airport West 32 minutes later. Fortunately, I was able to be assigned a room right away and promptly napped for a couple of hours. (My gold elite status might have helped here.)
Miami Hotel Day
I woke after 8 and decided to find coffee and food. I had forgotten the restaurant hours the clerk told me earlier so headed down after getting ready. It wasn’t too busy when I got there although that changed within 30 minutes. They had wonderful coffee, which I don’t always find consistently at Hilton Garden Inn (Seattle yes, Detroit no).
The buffet had a full assortment of breakfast items plus eggs cooked to order. It’s $12.95 plus tax and an automatic gratuity which was unusual.
Afterwards it was back to my room to relax and rest. My grand plans to visit the pool or go to a mall were thrown out due to the weather (cloudy) and lack of energy.
Around 3 pm I ordered lunch/dinner about 3 pm via DoorDash. I was in the mood for Cuban food (Miami, right?) and ordered from La Carreta which had good reviews. My appetizer was croquettas which was tasty.
The entree was Ropa Vieja and I picked moro rice and maduro plantains for my sides.
I bought a bottle of grapefruit ICE at the hotel pantry area to wash it down.
It was delicious and a bargain at $17.74 including a $3 tip for the Dasher.
My sisters weren’t arriving in the Miami area until later in the evening (they flew to alternate Florida airports due to airfare costs). I spent the rest of the evening was spent relaxing while reading and watching TV.
NOTE: Today the cruise lines all offered free cancellation if it’s done within 48 hours of your cruise. We weren’t able to take advantage of the offer as it came 24 hours before our sailing.