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An Epic Night and Journey to the Epic

Following the subway ride, I ended up on good old St. Andrew Station in Downtown Toronto on a Just above freezing evening. I was a bit hungry so as I wandered Downtown I was looking for somewhere no but ended up going to Hooters on John St.. The meal was good I had the Steak Spice Quesadilla and it was really good. There was a hockey game on so, I enjoyed the meal and a beer, game, and people watching until about 1am. After that I left and continued to wonder down John to Queen West and then stopped at the McDonald’s at Spidina.

Since I had time to kill, I stayed at the McDonald’s for just over an hour to charge my phone and people watch with a coffee and a muffin. This area in the daytime is high class, in the evening it is just high. I sat up on the second floor and there was a guy at the end of the booths that kept being woken up by security, it looked he was very impaired. Then going in and out of the washroom was an uncomfortable assortment of people. Prior to leaving I needed the washroom and there was a guy on the toilet shooting needles. I went to get out of the place but at the top of the stairs there was another gentleman smoking his meth pipe indoors.

I was so relieved to get out of that place and catch the streetcar to connect with the airport night bus. However, that would not be the end. As I was waiting for the streetcar, wouldn’t you know what happened next? There were paramedics called to pull someone out of the McDonald’s and I highly doubt it was an allergy or choking.

Pearson Airport
Pearson Airport

Upon reaching the airport, I picked up my bag from storage and checked in for my flight and quite easily cleared security and the US Border clearance went very quickly, although there were a lot of people panicked for catching a much earlier flight than mine. There is something that, tend to consider Toronto Pearson as the baseline of a good airports. Terminal 1 is an excellent and totally makes sense layout, and the D-E-F layout of the gates it just works for me.

Due to my medical situation, over the past two years, I have gained a lot of weight and now need to ask for the extender belt when on a plane. I find it hilarious that in an effort to be “respectful” the Air Canada staff try to secretly hand off the belt. Everyone on the plane knows, the belt doesn’t fit me, it is not a secret.

I found it surprising how short the flight was from Toronto (YYZ) to Orlando (MCO), it was just a tad longer than Saint John (YSJ) to Toronto (YYZ).

Many airports focus a lot more on the departure passengers over the arrivals. Orlando International is by far a huge exception. The airport consists of 4 terminals linked by automated light rail to the hub. The first thing that happens as you leave the plane is the announcements to where to go and what belt the luggage will be on. Usually you are left to following signs and screens.

Once on the main terminal it has everything you possibly would need and is not as unreasonable as other airports. From the luggage area it is filled with handlers to get people started on their vacation experience so that it starts as soon as you arrive. Disney parks, Disney Cruise, and other cruise lines have the logistics down to a science and make it perfectly effortless,

It is a really beautiful drive to Port Canaveral, there is something about Florida that makes it very unique like you are on safari, and the approaching winter light gives a different world experience.

When we arrived at the cruise port we received the “tip the driver and port people” speech and alighted the bus to wait in a 15 minute long line to get inside to check into the ship. The process was pretty effortless and was much like any other cruise.

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My Day on the Anthem of the Seas

This tale begins about a month ago. I received a marketing email from my favourite travel company Maritime Travel. It offered a talk about the offerings by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, lunch, and a tour of the Anthem of the Seas when it was in port on September 13th. I had never received one of these invitations before but was in envy of those who did. I was kind of in an when I showed it to a colleague, her eyes lit up and said: “I’m your plus one right?”

So, I replied back that I was interested and quickly go a reply back that I was on the list.

About a week before the trip, I received an email with the details that basically confirmed the times.

Meet at the “Port of Saint John” by 9:30 am. There were no specifics. Let’s face it, if I can find a ship in San Juan, Saint John would be a walk in the park. I mean how could you miss it on a beautiful sunny day.

When we got to the terminal the commissioner let us into the terminal and gave us directions to go to the furthest door. We passed through the “Fundy Cruise Market”, which carried all the typical local wares. (Including Maple Syrup). Once in the terminal, it was a flutter of activity with people being directed to their excursions or tours to see the city. Once at the far gate as directed we were then pointed to the group of people sitting at the near door. I then proceeded to the guy checking off names from the list.

We waited there for about a half hour before proceeding up to the ship. This was an incredible people-watching opportunity to see the different types of tourist from the ship and to judge them. Especially the “I’m wearing the T-shirt from my last port” guy.

We were then led up in the group to the security gate, after checking ID they gave us a ship pass and then we were directed to the security gate. The first sign this was not an NCL ship was the lack of “Washie Washie Happy Happy” although there were hand sanitizer stations everywhere. The metal detector part went really fast. I am really good at that even at airports.

The ship itself is like I giant beautiful mall and hotel at sea. There are so many things to do and things to see. It is also well suited for winter in New York(ish) as most of the pools have the ability to be glassed in and there are incredible pools on the front solarium where you can get incredible views.

There are also tons of exercise options from basketball, running, soccer, free falling, wall climbing, roller skating dance hall, and gym.

There are also enough bars that you probably never have to use the same one twice. Although there is even a self-serve bar that has a robot make the drinks for you.

After the tour, we were seated for dinner and there was a mini menu of some of the best dishes on the ship. I ordered the Swordfish which I never knew I would love.

The main discount was pretty much just access to the on-ship Next Cruise desk what had some deals. After we wandered the ship a bit more and took some more photos.

If the economics worked out I would like to travel on this ship or another RCL ship sometime. This ship is incredible. The elevators even have a floor pattern that tells you what day of the week it is. The ship speaker music in common areas was really pleasant and diverse.

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Voyage to the Caribbean Part 2 (Fatty should lose some weight)

While we left off on the last post I had arrived to San Juan but had no luggage as at this point it was still in Toronto. I got up later about 8am showered and went to the free continental breakfast buffet at the San Juan Airport Hotel. It was not the greatest of breakfasts but it was typical of other hotels I have previously stayed at. Before leaving the hotel I made a call to American Airlines to see if my bag was on its way on the flight I was explained last night. I was assured it was scanned and was in the air on its way to Miami. Since the bag was going to be delivered to the ship there was no point in waiting around the airport on a beautiful sunny winter’s day.

I decided to go catch the bus but when I got to the bus stop I seen some people walking so I decided to as well. I was not sure which way I was headed from the airport as many of the signs were in a language I would later learn was Spanish. I had a map on a brochure that had only 7 roads and 2 dots to go off of but I know if I could find the coast that I could follow it to the cruise port. Since the sun was behind me I knew that had to be east and since tall hotels are usually built along a coastline I figured the tall buildings on the other side of the airport had to be north. With that in mind I followed the side-walk around the airport until it ended then to the dirt trail along the fence until that ended too. I ran across the exit ramp and under the over pass then I ran out of places to walk. In hindsight that could have been the reason all the cabs had honked and gesture if I needed a cab. From there I climbed a grassy knoll and jumped a concrete barrier and ran across a busy off-ramp.

As I emerged beyond the highway to Pueblo Supermarket in the very Spanish town of Carolina neighbouring San Juan. I decided to go to the supermarket because I decided that I needed water in the heat. While walking across the parking lot some random guy started to yell at me in Spanish. I said that I did not understand Spanish and only spoke English. Then he said “I’m sorry. I said that Fatty should lose some weight.” That caught me first by surprise that someone would say that and secondly, what neighbour hood did I get myself into? I then sold him about my recent weight loss, and he gave me some more tips before we pith went on our way. When I entered the grocery store I was grateful for the air conditioning and then picket up a fresh local tangerine then noticed how processed and fake most of the other food actually was compared to what I am used to then I also picked up a litre bottle of water and proceeded to walk along the was westward bound to the cruise terminal.

As I proceeded along Avenida Isla Verde and found impressive the resorts and hotels on one side and the bars and restaurants on the other side. When I got to the end of this street I came across a stretch of  gated neighbourhoods keeping me from the coast until I came across Barbosa Park that was the 1st time I got to see Caribbean waters even though it was technically still the Atlantic Ocean. It was here that I received the first automated call from American Airlines that my suitcase had made it to Miami. I then proceeded to walk further until after drinking the entire litre of water I needed to find a toilet. I then came across a restaurant but it looked busy so I kept walking then on McLeary I found the Yogen Früz. I decided to stop there and get a frozen yogurt and then hit the toilet. I stayed there enjoying the frozen yogurt and air conditioning. I got some Wi-Fi access here and decided to load a map to determine if I was actually going the right way.

When I left here I shortly ended up in another hotel district. I was walking past a large group of people loading into a van to head to the cruise terminal and I could tell by the tags that they were going to the same ship as me. I got a little nervous as I knew I had another hours walk at least to get to San Juan. I eventually made it across the bridge to San Juan and then decided to walk to the coast again to check out the fort that ended up being gated off. At this point my feet were very sore since my walking sneakers were in my suitcase that was just departing Miami. I then by this point was getting tired and dehydrated. I walked down Ave Juan Ponce De León and came to enjoy the shaded benches along Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera. I found a store but it was locked and the guy inside did not open up so I kept walking. I eventually got to the cruise port and then found the CVS where I got water, juice, and Aloe Vera Aftersun. As I was waiting in line I started to feel like I was going to pass out. I left the store just in time to find a bench with some shade and drink all the juice and water before I passed not in the sun.

While on the bench I called American Airlines the final time to see if my luggage was scanned on the flight to San Juan and it was so I decided to go board the ship, the Carnival Valor. The first thing I did when I got on the ship was found my room and it was bigger than I expected for an inside cabin. I then decided that I needed lunch considering I had a late dinner reservation and I found the Burrito Bar, and it was amazing. I then explored the ship and received the call the my suitcase was in San Juan and would be delivered to the ship at 6pm. I then went to the welcome event at the Ivan Hoe theatre and then to dinner where I met a diverse group of people. I then had a few drinks and went to bed.