Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Rich and Famous in Fort Lauderdale

We woke up in Fort Lauderdale having quietly docked. Our flight home wasn’t until 7:00 pm. There must have been a big price difference to make that a good idea. We had to find some way to fill the day so we decided to take a ship's excursion in the morning with a transfer to the airport.

Looking to our left from our balcony, we could see the 17th Street Causeway, which has a drawbridge in the middle.

Fort Lauderdale is the largest cruise terminal in the world. We could already see three other cruise ships in port. Immigration turned into a nightmare. They can process up to 55,000 passengers in a day, and it felt like this was that day. The ship had been in Europe for several months, and this was its first trip back to the US, so it was undergoing a more rigorous inspection.

Finally we were on the bus crossing the New River, which supposedly sprang up out of nowhere. Natives say one day they woke up and water was there and it has flowed ever since.

Look at the pretty pavement. Fort Lauderdale is interesting in that it is built in an area where there is very little land. Waterways were dredged and the fill was put on land to build houses. They are totally out of land for new buildings, so they are building them higher.

We were on the tour boat now. This is Stranahan House, built in 1901. The lower floor was a trading post and the upper floor was a community hall. Frank Stranahan moved to Fort Lauderdale from Ohio in 1893 and became known by the Seminole Indians as a fair businessman. It is now a museum.

This is the Riverside Hotel, the first hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and the only one on trendy Las Olas Boulevard. It was built more than 75 years ago by two brothers from Chicago.

The plan for the day was to cruise the New River and see the expensive houses and yachts, followed by a drive down Las Olas Boulevard. This was the first boat we saw, which we thought was pretty nice...we had no idea what was to come.

I see how this works now. You have a yacht for those days that you might like to go to sea, and a smaller boat for visiting the neighbours.

It was like a city on the water with neighbourhoods and streets. These are the dredged canals and the fill was put on shore to provide land on which to build houses.

We saw these kayakers enjoying the day. Boats must adhere to the low speed limit to keep the noise level and wake down.

This vacant lot was once the site of the home of Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man. When I looked it up on-line, the house that was there as recently as 2012 looked quite nice to me, but it has since been demolished.

Another yacht...they kept getting bigger and bigger...

So this looked like the Coast Guard to me, but no, it's just people's yachts. They are so big you can't see the houses behind them. There are about 50,000 yachts in Fort Lauderdale.

Look at the size of the little boat in the centre compared to the yachts!

Here was a huge yacht and a large sailing ship...

This beach in the background didn’t exist until Hurricane Wilma blasted through in 2005. It was one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit this area and over 6 million people were without power.

We motored out into the open waters, past the Emerald Princess. In the background you can see the 17th Street Causeway.

These guys were having fun in their “little” boat. The huge yacht behind looks more like a ferry!

This house was for sale...price $12.5 million with taxes of $97,000/year. Another house that was for sale took up five lots. Its taxes were $1,000 a day and the electricity bill was $4,000 a month. Bah...chump change!

It was a Saturday morning so lots of people were out enjoying their boats...

Looking pretty laid back...

This is the home of Wesley Hutchings, known locally as "La Maison Blanche." The 20,000 sq. ft. house is listed with a realtor for $28.5 million. Wesley's father, Jack, made hundreds of millions in the automotive industry manufacturing air conditioning units for cars.

Heck, they were all beautiful homes...


I bet there is a lot of "keeping up with the Joneses" going on here.

This house was used in several episodes of Miami Vice.

By now I was on house and yacht overload...



This house was built with global warming or extreme climate change in mind. It was built several feet higher to hedge against flooding.

You can see that house on the right, compared to the neighbour's on the left.

Say what? This house looked normal and somewhat mundane compared to all the others. I wonder how they manage to keep their heads up in the neighbourhood.

The people seemed really friendly. They must see tourists boats 10 times a day, but he was still sitting in his lawn chair and happily waving.

Beautiful landscaping on this corner lot...

Complete with an alligator...

By now we had moved downstairs on the boat and we couldn’t really hear the guide. I'm not sure what the story on this house is, but it appears to have been abandoned.

Well, that was fun and an eye opener. Back on the bus, we saw this cop near the bus zone. His job is to shoo the buses along as the condo owners across the street have complained about the bus noise. They can now only drop passengers off and come back for them later.

Next on the tour, Las Olas Boulevard...

This is the place to be seen with lots of restaurants and high end stores...

Roar...a Ferrari...

Maybe a jacaranda tree? A very beautiful area...

It looked like a place that would be fun to visit, not that we could afford to buy anything!

With a last look at the yachts and the rich lifestyle of Fort Lauderdale, we headed to the airport.

The Sheraton Hotel was built in the shape of a ship...

And that was it for warm weather and our wonderful cruise. We landed in Toronto and headed home and into snow flurries. They already had 15 cm of snow at home by now.

And that is the end of our lovely cruise, the highlight being the trip to France to find my grandfather's grave. Great memories! Here endeth this blog...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Relaxing Day in Bermuda

We enjoyed several sea days en route to Bermuda from the Azores with wonderful sunrises and sunsets. A God sky...

One day the ocean was incredibly calm. We had never seen it like this before...not a wave.

A spectacular sunset...

Here we are, in the early morning hours, coming into Bermuda around the north end of the island.

Around Fort St. Catherine...

Isn't Bermuda a skinny little island?

We docked at the port of West End. I'm sure I have an identical photo last year. In the background there is a completely fortified area, which was once Britain's largest naval base outside of the United Kingdom.

On the right is the former Commissioner's house built in 1827 for the Commissioner of the Dockyard. It's now a national museum with displays of local history and culture.

We had no plans for the day. We had an extensive tour when we were here last year, and Barb and Ed had been to Bermuda a couple of times. We decided to just walk about the shops in the dockyard and also find a Wi-Fi area. We saw this boat being lowered into the water with a very neat piece of equipment.

Many of the former naval buildings are now shops and restaurants. We could see damage on the roof of this building from two very recent hurricanes that had swept through Bermuda.


Our mission was accomplished...stores investigated, Wi-Fi found so we decided to head back to the ship. Look at how crystal clear the water is. This pirate ship, Calico Jack's, would soon be the source of some entertainment for those on the port side of our ship.

The Emerald Princess...I'm sure I probably took an identical photo last year as well. 

Back on board, we headed to the hot tub to enjoy a bottle of wine. We bought a wine package for the first time and we realized we had some serious wine-drinking to do in the next few days. The ship just seems to blend in with the beauty of the port.

We were getting close to sailing time and we stood on our balcony and watched the latecomers. It's quite a long walk to the ship. And then we saw these couples staggering along. They had been on the Calico Jack's ship having a few too many rum punches. The girl in the front on the right is an employee of Calico Jack's. She was holding up the lady in yellow whose legs were like rubber. The lady's husband is behind her, still clutching his drink. He dropped his glasses and then he lost his hat, but he still had his drink! It was quite funny to watch.


video

And then it was time to go...

These guys on jet skis were having a blast...

Doing donuts...

And flying across the waves...

We had two more sea days before the cruise would end in Fort Lauderdale. The full moon as the sun set...


And the next day, a spectacular sunrise. It looked like the sky was on fire.

The sun starting to come up...

Here are a few photos taken around the ship. We went up to the Elite lounge once or twice. There are now so many "elite" people that it was difficult to find a table. Barb and Ed with Jim...

Our cabins were close to the back of the ship. This was always a nice quiet area, if you were lucky enough to snag a chair.

Formal night...we keep saying we are going to save a lot of weight in our luggage by ditching formal nights, but it hasn't happened yet.

We normally had the same table and waiters each night. Our waiter Roland was going home the same day we were after almost 10 months on board. We were really happy for him. They work so hard on the ship. Barb and Ed; Roland and me; Josie, Larry and Jim.

Roland and his second-in-command, Pastor. Sometimes some of the staff will change their names to make them easier to pronounce. I asked Pastor if that was his real name and he said "Yes, ma'am. Just like the preacher." They were wonderful and the reason we went back to that table most nights.

For some reason, we ended up with free vouchers to Sabatini's, one of the specialty restaurants. That night after dinner we all had dessert, except for Ed who said he would pass. So this was our yummy dessert...

And this was Ed's...we got quite a laugh out of their sense of humour.

Next stop, the end of our cruise in Fort Lauderdale...