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Boy Does the Adventure Begin....

Travel is like a Christmas gift just waiting to be opened. The excitement and anticipation of what your adventure might bring is infectious. I find that one of the most exciting times in travel besides your last day of work and knowing you are truly on vacation, is that first day of travel. There is nothing like the anticipation of what the coming week might bring. What new adventures and experiences await you and your loved ones. What lasting memories will be created. Most of the time when going on vacation you are traveling with others looking for some relaxation. And coming from Minnesota we are of course always looking for warmth and sun in the winter. I especially enjoy the opportunity to speak with others traveling the same direction to find out what new things await them.

Our first official day of vacation started like they always do, we woke up. But today it started a little earlier then normal. That 3:45 alarm is a little bit much especially when you go to bed at 11:00 pm, oh well. So after checking out of the hotel and catching the shuttle to the airport, we are off. It will be smooth sailing from this point forward of course. We arrived at MSP to find the Sun Country check in line that rivals any Disney World attraction on a Saturday. Lucky for us, like any wise traveler we had already checked in on-line so we only needed to drop our luggage and then off to the departure gate. We were greeted at security by a line that well, put us in the parking lot. Well not quite but it was darn close. Apparently, everyone had the same idea, time to fly south for the winter. While the line was extremely long, it only took about a half an hour to get through security and on to the gate. I feel this is a good time for a public service announcement. When they tell you to arrive two hours early for your flight, arrive two hours early for your flight. We arrived at our gate, grabbed a few snacks and watched as happy travelers loaded onto planes bound for Cancun and Puerta Vallarta. Only in Minnesota will you find folks wearing shorts in the dead of winter. I must say, I was guilty of this as well. Shortly after arriving at the gate, we boarded the plane and were ready to go.

I have found flying Sun Country is always an adventure. The staff is super friendly, most of the time, and always helpful. But it doesn’t come without a few challenges. After sitting on the plane for awhile past our scheduled departure time, the pilot got on the intercom and informed all of us that we would be delayed as they loaded the last of the luggage. What was most troubling was how she said it. They had to “find the luggage.” If you have to find the luggage, that means you lost the luggage. Well hopefully it was the guys in 12D and not mine. After a brief 45 minute delay the pilot informed us they “found the luggage” and we were off. Literally we took off. The good news was that it gave us time to talk to the lady sitting next to us who was on her way to Port Canaveral to catch a Norwegian Cruise. Now that that the baggage issue is behind us, it will be smooth sailing. Except for the turbulence and lack of WiFi on the plane. So, come to find out that if you fly Sun Country, in the words of the flight attendant, the wifi rarely ever works. Well that is good to know, especially since we have a return flight and I have two more flights coming up with them. I guess Redbox it is. Now I am not complaining, Madison and I are on vacation and going to have a great time, just some simple observations during the flight.

Stop the presses…..I wrote the first half of this report while in the air and before crossing into Florida air space. Let me tell you big mistake. So, as we start our decent into Orlando, our wonderful pilot gets on the intercom and informs us that due to weather in Orlando we have been put into a holding pattern. Awesome, before we took off, I told Madison that I really wanted to fly around in circles today. Okay, that was not exactly what I was saying but I did have a wonderful conversation with our seat mate next to Madison. Her name was Sheree (Might have spelled that wrong sorry). We discussed our plans for our time in Florida and I found out that she is sailing on the Norwegian Breakaway out of Port Canaveral at 4:00 pm today. It was now around 11:30 or so and it was only supposed to be only 30 minutes of circling or was it. So after flying in circles for over 30 minutes we finally had some movement. The pilot would soon get on the intercom and inform us that we would be landing soon in Jacksonville. Yep Jacksonville. It was at this moment that a full-on panic attack was starting to come over people. Sheree was worried as we discussed options for getting her to her boat on time. We would soon learn that there were 20 people on our flight on the same cruise. Shortly after landing in Jacksonville at around 12:30 pm it was time to go to work. They parked us on some random ramp so we could not exit the plane. Our fate was sealed, we were now at the mercy of Sun Country and the powers that be. After calling Alamo and confirming they were not going to give away my rental car, I quickly turned my attention to Sheree and her dilemma. Her friends had arrived and were waiting for her so they could catch the shuttle. I soon told Sheree to have her friends head to the port, so they did not miss the cruise. I worked what magic I could to stop a 4,500-passenger cruise ship from leaving without one of its passengers. Okay, I just called the cruise line to discuss options and the last possible time she could be at the port to get on the ship. I was told she needed to be to the port no later then 3:30 pm but that we should call if we were on our way and delayed in traffic. I was trying to figure out if sitting on an airport ramp constituted traffic or not. Unfortunately, we were stuck. We started doing the math and checked flight times to Orlando. I told Sheree that I would drive her to the port if we made it to Orlando in time. I also told her she needed to pay the speeding tickets on the way. She was game for that. All we knew was that if we were not on the road by 3:00 pm it was all over.

So, now what? Your sitting in an airplane on a ramp with 130 plus people and not where to go. What do you do now? I decided this was the perfect opportunity to speak with the flight crew and let them know what I thought, in as polite and sarcastic of a way as I could. I made mention to the crew that it would have be great to access the internet and look up different options if only their Airfi/Wifi system was working. As passengers we discussed how this flight was starting to feel like Gilligan went through except, we were on a plane lost in Jacksonville verses an uncharted Desert Isle, although I think Jacksonville is close to that. I then started to wonder, is this what happen to those folks on Manifest. There flight was really diverted to Jacksonville for 5 years. So, we waited and waited as the seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to more minutes. Soon a fuel truck arrived, and we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon the Flight Attendants advised everyone to take their seats and we would on our way back to Orlando shortly. To which I replied only to be diverted to Tampa upon getting to Orlando. Oddly enough, that did not go over so well. I thought it was funny. Dad jokes, I guess. I asked the Flight attendants if we got another safety briefing since it was now almost 6 hours on the plane. I asked if they could do it with a little more pizazz. No go. I even told them they could serve beverages wearing the life vest. No dice. Apparently, they remove your sense of humor when, well, when you get delayed by three hours and were covering someone’s shift.

So, by 1:30 we were in the air and hoping to make it to Orlando in time. We crafted our plan; I would get the car and Madison and Sheree would get the luggage. It was going to be a Fast and Furious type drive to the port. No we just needed to get to Orlando with no more issues. As we approached Orlando, we went straight in and landed. We were on the ground by 2:15 pm. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Like the famous quote from that classic movie, “So you’re sayin there’s a chance.” The benefit of being in the front row of the plane. We were off to the races and to baggage claim only to have to stand and wait. We would soon learn there were 4 flights that just landed and only two baggage handlers on. Could it get any worse? Nope, as we got to baggage claim we ran into Norwegian Cruise Line reps who were still running shuttles due to the late planes. Turns out a Delta flight was also diverted to Jacksonville with 11 passengers on it for the Breakaway. So, we said our goodbyes to Sheree and left her in the capable hands of the NCL transfer crew. We headed off and picked up out ride for the evening. I later confirmed with Sheree that she made it. She advised 25 people were on the shuttle and they were told they were holding the ship for them. Phew, crisis averted. Now this… Public Service announcement two and shameless plug- Lesson #1-When you decide to travel, always go through a travel agent, like me. Having an agent would have allowed the agent to trouble shoot for the client rather then some random dude sitting next to them on the plane. I will add Sheree had an agent. Lesson #2- Always get travel insurance. Without travel insurance, you would be on the hook for hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get you to your ship at the next port. Lesson #3- Never, ever, ever fly in the same day for your cruise. Start your vacation off right, any delays or issues will be absorbed by this travel day and not your vacation day. Madison and I lost a day in rainy Florida with the delay and could do what I could to keep the mood light. Sheree could have lost three full days of vacations had she missed the ship and was stressed to the max. In the end it all worked out and Madison and I got a hug out of the deal, and I am not a hugger. We even made it to the port in time to see them off. Bonus material- Not sure how this happens, but the Sun Country flight that left after us arrived in Orlando shortly after we were diverted. Hmmm.

So, since that took up most of the day, the evening was pretty uneventful. We proceeded to check into our hotel, The Radisson Port Canaveral. I booked us in a 2-queen suite which offered a separate living space. The front desk staff was fantastic, and Anthony provided us with great intel on where to have supper. I told him the front desk recommended the McDonalds across the street and he almost jump out of his skin. After some discussion, he recommended an Italian restaurant a block up the street. The hotel was nice and clean. It is super close to the port and is conveniently located next to several restaurants and other services. If you are sailing out of Port Canaveral, this is definitely a great hotel to stay at. They also offer a shuttle to the port, an on-site restaurant and bar, and a really nice pool area. After dropping our luggage, it was off to dinner.

We took Anthony’s advice and ate at Zarrella’s Italian and Wood Fried Pizza. We were seated quickly, and the service was top notch and fun. We ordered a couple of appetizers, fried cheese- which was excellent and about a 4-inch flat circle and breadsticks. We also order two wood fired pizzas. All of the food was good quality and tasty. It also came out fast. They also have an open kitchen concept which is kind of neat.

After dinner it was off to some cutthroat mini golf and dessert at The Fat Donkey. After 36 holes on gator infested, trash talking, cutthroat mini golf, everyone could use a Fat Donkey Ice Cream. Mini Golf is Mini Golf. The ice cream was reasonably priced and delicious. I can feel the 50 lbs I lost coming back already. If you ever stay in Cocoa Beach and you like ice cream, you have to try this place. It is delightful. After finishing our ice cream, it was back to the hotel for some R & R and to watch the Patriots lose. Tomorrow is embarkation day and our first chance to see the Harmony. Stay tuned for more. Hopefully not quite as much as day 1 though.

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