Wow, what a week! Our first cruise was awesome in so many ways. Lots of music and friends to share it with! The ms Westerdam of the Holland America fleet is a gorgeous ship and the staff is wonderfully friendly. It is a bit unusual to see the Gaither artists that we admire so much wandering around the ship just like normal people, but I got used to it!
On the day of departure, we stayed at the Rodeway Inn near the Fort Lauderdale airport, mostly because they have a free shuttle. They definitely cater to the cruise crowd because the lobby was a lot like a gift shop. (LOTS of hotels cater to the cruise crowd, so check out all the choices.)
There were literally dozens of us that needed to be shuttled to different piers to meet our respective cruise ships, so the hotel was set up with a loud speaker to call out the cruise line names. It was kind of a carnival-barker atmosphere. They squished us and our luggage into 15-passenger vans and off we went! We were finally aboard the ship and headed out on our very first cruise!
After a short ride to the port, the van driver set out our bags and a pier employee loaded them up into the appropriate containers. We had placed special cruise tags on our luggage with the cruise line name, our names, and our cabin number. (Even though all this happens just minutes after unloading from the van, be prepared to tip again. ;-0)
Once we were free of our larger bags, we entered the port building and were given a short health survey to fill out to determine our wellness. Holland America takes health and cleanliness very seriously, so we would encounter Purell hand-sanitizing stations frequently from here on in.
At some point our bags and persons were scanned, much like they are done at the airport. They don’t monitor liquid size like on airlines, because we had at least a dozen bottled sodas in our carry-on bags. (Can you say, “addict?”)
While it looks like this would take forever, the check-in process actually went very quickly. We stepped up to the counter, provided our passport and ID, had our photo taken, and were issued stateroom keys.
Our keys were scanned as we entered the gangway. Numerous staff members greeted us warmly, squirted hand sanitizer in our palms, and up the gangway we went! I could hardly believe the day had finally arrived!