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Florida Hotel That Doesn't Live Up To Its Name

Okay, maybe it is better to arrive in your port of departure the DAY before your ship leaves. That's our mantra, but sometimes we deviate from it — all for good reason — as we did this month en route to boarding the Allure of the Seas.

We paid for our deviation, big-time.

Flying from the west, and facing excessive air fares, we took the old red-eye and landed in Fort Lauderdale just after 5 a.m. With the time change, that's 2 a.m. body time, and we had decided to give our bods the endurance test of surviving until we boarded the ship about 12 hours later.

However, after landing and feeling the way we were, a better option seemed to find a bed reasonably close to both the airport and the cruise terminal. In Fort Lauderdale, that's relatively easy to do because they're almost in the same neighborhood.

We found a hotel called Sleep Inn that had shuttles to both. The room price was good: $70 plus tax — hey, we only needed the room for six hours. The shuttle was late, the hotel wasn't exactly close to either the airport or the cruise terminal, and by the time we peeled back the covers  it was 7 a.m.

Okay, five hours' sleep.

At 8:30, the maid was banging on the door, wanting in to clean the room. We told her, approximately, to go away. At 9:15, we were awakened by the key rapping sharply against the door. We decided to call the front desk to complain, or at least interrupt her routine, which would be infinitely better than having her interrupt ours. Oh, did we mention that the room phone was dead?

Back to sleep. Again.

Until 10:25, when the return of the maid was greeted with an even angrier response from within. Then again, at 11:55…since it was almost time to get up and dressed, this time we did.

You may have noticed the name of the hotel: Sleep Inn.

Bad name, because "sleeping in" isn't allowed.

Next time, we'll book a room in advance, without "maid service." 

Or arrive a day early.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Space-Ships picture more Scenic than ever

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
September 7, 2014
Long Beach (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $67

Why Cruise Travel Agents Are A Good Idea

Our colleague at Ports and Bows, Phil Reimer, probably posts more cruise deals on line than any unbiased cruise writer in the business. And every time he does, accompanying the listing is his sage advice:

Check with a travel agent who specializes in cruises.

The reason is twofold. 

One is that the travel agent can do all the work for you, once you provide a couple of preferences…such as where you want to go, what kind of ship you like and how much you want to spend. In most cases, this spadework is usually done at no cost to you, as travel agents earn commissions from cruise lines.

Two is that cruise lines discount cruises for travel agents and agree to some perks. They will certainly be different from perks the cruise lines themselves promote in selling cruises, and sometimes they're better. Sometimes, too, travel agents include perks of their own.

So don't take our word for it…take Phil's. He is expert at such things.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Two Holland America ships on the move

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
August 21, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $103

Signs Of The Apocalypse…They're Everywhere!

Every week, the nation's best sports magazine, Sports Illustrated, prints what it calls "A Sign of the Apocalypse."

Here's a couple of recent ones…

Team Canada had a Molson beer refrigerator at its Olympic House that could only be opened by scanning a Canadian passport.

In a promotional deal, Tonga's first Winter Olympian, luger Fuahea Semi, legally changed his name to that of a German underwear company, Bruno Banani.

A Kansas City woman traded her wedding ring for six Chiefs tickets on Craigslist.

A group of Bosnian fans intending to see their country's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania went to Latvia by mistake.

Okay, here's a "sign of the Apocalypse" for cruising…

The famous soccer player David Beckham wants to build a new stadium in Miami, near the cruise port, for his new Major League Soccer franchise. According to the Daily Mail, one cruise line (Royal Caribbean) plans to file an official objection because it may have to re-locate its parking garage, employee gym and daycare center.

Today at portsandbows.com: Crimea becoming off limits for cruise ships

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
June 5, 2014
Long Beach (return): Ensenada
Inside: $314
Cost per day: $104

Concerts and Cruises a Match

Last weekend, our soon-to-be nine-year-old granddaughter celebrated her birthday 10 days early when her parents treated her to a One Direction concert. This is not to be confused with Fifth Dimension, a band from her grandparents' era.

In this age of inflated everything, tickets to One Direction — or 1D — are right up there with weekly mortgage payments — even when the seats are up there where nosesbleed. So when you put famous bands on big cruise ships, the price understandably goes up.

For the "concert" and the cruise.

The latest such example is the Matchbox Twenty cruise on the Carnival Imagination. This is a rock band that, oddly enough, is the same age as the ship (1995). Unlike the Imagination, Matchbox Twenty has not been performing non-stop for the last 18 years but when you've been nominated for Grammy Awards and known around the world, the occasional hiatus is allowed.

But we digress.

Concert-goers on the Imagination the weekend of December 6-9 will pay $600 each to rub elbows with Matchbox Twenty and, as announced yesterday, the group's special guests. That would be the Goo Goo Dolls, who aren't dolls at all but another well-known boy band (or man band). So that's $200 a night — plus taxes and gratuities — but it includes more than musical performances, autograph sessions, photo-ops and deck parties.

It also includes three nights in a "floating hotel" and three days of meals and a trip to the Bahamas. They can squeeze 2,634 people onto the Imagination, and this to see bands that once filled arenas many times that size. Will Matchbox Twenty and the Goo Goo Dolls fill it?

It's hard to "imagine" otherwise.

Holland America Statendam
7 nights
September 15, 2013
AnchorageGlacier Bay, Haines, JuneauKetchikanVancouver
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Cruising: a dictionary of its own

Sometimes, those of us with any kind of connection to cruising can be rather one-dimensional. We think the word "cruise" can only mean one thing.

Then we'll hear aboiut the latest Tom Cruise movie…or girlfriend.

Yesterday, we experienced another reality check. We were in the car with two of our grandchildren and one of them had her iPod (or other musical device) playing one of her favorite songs…

Baby you a song
You make me want to roll my windows down and cruise
Come on girl
Get those windows down and cruise

The song is a hit for the country group called Florida Georgia Line (right) and, yes, it is great when you have grandchildren who like country music. The name of the song is Cruise and as you can tell by the lyrical excerpt, it has nothing to do with sailing on the ocean with 2,500 of our closest friends.

Some of us just have trouble believing that "cruise" could mean anything else.

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
December 1, 2013
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $39

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