Click here to read about day 5 of our Very Merrytime Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic.
It was the day that we dreaded: disembarkation. Boo! The night before we had received disembarkation instructions and luggage tags, should we decide to have Disney Cruise Line take our luggage off the ship and into customs at the Port of Miami. We were going to walk off the ship (since our rental car was parked at the port’s parking garage). I didn’t feel like completely rearranging our suitcases just so that Disney could take them away from us for the night and the following morning. So, we had everything with us and we somehow how managed to lug everything off (it was quite the struggle).
First things first, we needed to have breakfast. So, I did my usual Cabanas run and also got my yummy café latte from the Concierge Lounge. We ate in our stateroom. Then, after about an hour, we were ready to roll (I think it was about 8:00am).
One of the best things about sailing Concierge level is that you have your choice of when to disembark, which basically means that you can hang in the Concierge Lounge until about 8:30am. We needed to get to the Concierge Lounge to pick up the thumb drive we purchased from Shutters, containing all of our cruise photos. Yet another perk of sailing Concierge is that if you notify both Shutters and the Concierge staff that you purchased a photo package, a member of the Concierge staff will pick up your photos directly from Shutters on disembarkation morning and will have it waiting for you in the Concierge Lounge. This service is in lieu of queuing interminably in the chaos of Shutters on disembarkation morning with 1,000+ other cruise guests. OK, I exaggerate. Maybe not 1,000, but if you’ve ever disembarked any cruise ship, you know that all the elevators and stairways are packed full of people and everyone else is trying to go the same place as you.
Since we had oodles of luggage, we took the elevator up to the Concierge Lounge but actually held the elevator. My husband and son remained in the elevator with our luggage, and I ran into the lounge to get our photo thumb drive. And, then the real beauty of the Concierge benefits began: Yuki, a member of the Concierge staff, came to help us. She got on the elevator with us, turned some special key in the elevator panel, and we jetted down straight to Deck 4 to disembark! The elevator made no stops along the way, as her key was the express ticket to where we wanted to go (maybe that’s why no one ever can get an elevator on disembarkation day – Concierge is too busy sending people down with an escort!). Then, Yuki opened a special door to let us off the ship: we got to cut in front of the long line of people waiting to get off. Did I feel bad about cutting the line? No way! This was one of the many perks that we paid for.
Now what I REALLY wish we had were luggage carts! I have no idea why cruise terminal ports cannot offer luggage carts the same way that airports do. Even if I had to pay for it, I would use it. Despite being crazy pack mules, we somehow managed to make our way quickly through customs.
I learned my lesson from embarkation day and decided to have my husband and son wait with all our luggage at the curb while I retrieved the rental car from the parking garage. Well, that curb was utter chaos! I’ve done lots of cruises before, but I’ve never seen so much commotion and craziness. Taxis, shuttles, hordes of people, luggage porters (where were you guys inside of the terminal????) – it was endless noise and insanity. Did I just land at JFK International Airport, or was I in the Port of Miami? Port Canaveral was nothing like this when we sailed the Disney Dream.
I quickly retrieved the car and somehow managed to find my boys in the throngs of people. Cars and vans were double/tripled parked everywhere, and I had to use my very aggressive driving skills to get remotely close to our luggage. We eventually got everything loaded, cursed a few taxi/Uber drivers, and then headed out.
Where to, you may ask? Our flight back home was scheduled for mid-afternoon (and we to drive to Ft. Lauderdale to return the rental car and get to the airport). I wanted to do something quick but fun. I am a photographer, too, so it had to be someplace worth photographing. I did a lot of research prior to the trip and decided that the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens fit the bill. It was only a 10-minute drive from the cruise terminal (pretty close to downtown and the Four Seasons Miami, where we stayed). It opened at 9:30am, so we would arrive just prior to opening.
I’m very glad that we arrived early. There was plenty of parking when we arrived at 9:15am. That quickly changed: the lot literally filled up within ten minutes! There is an overflow parking lot, but that lot is located well-away from the museum and gardens.
We had to queue very briefly while we waited for the ticket office to open. But, once it opened, we got our tickets and walked right into the museum.
The inside of the museum was gorgeous, and the gardens were even better. To read more about Vizcaya and see photos of this amazing place, click here.
We loved our time at Vizcaya – my son did not want to leave! But, alas, we had to fly back home. So, we left after staying for at least an hour and a half (it doesn’t take too long to tour the entire estate, but it’s the type of place where you can spend all-day lingering).
Traffic back up I-95 north was a bear (once again). It took us about 45 minutes to drive back to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Again, I learned my lesson from when we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale, so I decided to drop off my husband, son, and all our luggage at the JetBlue terminal, and then I returned our rental car on my own. After returning the car, I took the shuttle back to the terminal. Chaos (again)! Everyone seemed to be checking in at the same time. JetBlue pretty much forces everyone to check themselves in at their own kiosks. You even have to print your own luggage tags and put them on your suitcases. Then, you wait in line to weigh the luggage and send them off on the conveyor belt.
After we got through that mess, we went through security (hooray for TSA Pre-Check!) and then found our gate. It was around 1:00pm or so, and we needed lunch. Our gate had a fantastic Food Network Kitchen restaurant and take-out area, so that was our go-to place. After chowing down, we were dismayed to learn that our flight was delayed – ugh! What was going on? We had a direct flight back to Richmond, and the weather in both places was fine and dandy. Apparently, our plane was coming from Nassau, Bahamas, and it was originally delayed from Jacksonville, Florida, where there was fog in the morning. Oh lovely! So, we ended up spending a few extra hours in the FLL airport.
In the end, we made it home exhausted (waiting around in airports and air travel does that to you), but our heads were bursting with all the incredible memories of one of our best family vacations ever! Disney Cruise Line, we will “sea ya real soon!”
This post also may be viewed on the Disney Cruise Mom Blog.