Get Away With Fran

January 22, 2010

Pre-cruise in Fort Lauderdale

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 4:16 pm

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Sitting on my deck at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, watching yachts navigate the Intracoastal Waterway, I am reminded why it makes a lot of sense, if you are cruising from Fort Lauderdale, to come in a day or two early.

For one thing, you can enjoy what this week (and typically, though with exceptions) is spectacular, warm weather, a big bonus for those coming from winter climates of the cold variety. For another, you can start your vacation unwinding early. And there’s also not having to worry about missing the ship due to weather back home – you’re already here.

I am off tomorrow on a weeklong voyage on the MSC Poesia. But right now I’m getting in the mood.

The new Hilton benefits from location, location, location. Formerly the Fort Lauderdale Grande, the hotel – which recently underwent a $70 million, top to bottom redo – is on 17th Street, all of 5 minutes from Port Everglades, the busiest cruise port in America (and only 9 minutes from the airport, and less than that to the beach).

FLLGRHH_Fort_Lauderdale_Marina_Hotel_accom_standard The façade may be a 1960s-ish tower, but don’t let that throw you. The restyled hotel is very much a chic waterfront retreat.

Factors of note:

Price: The hotel has pre- and post-cruise packages starting at $149 per night (through August), and even throws in a couple of drinks and water taxi tickets so you can explore the surrounds (Fort Lauderdale, with the beach and “Venice of America” status).

Service: From the moment I arrived at the 589-room Hilton yesterday every staff person I have encountered has gone out of their way to be friendly and accommodating and even, well, smiley. The hotel feels like an intimate boutique property, at least service-wise. So kudos to the staff.

Features: You gotta love a resort with its own marina, which adds to the views – you can take a walk and get close with the yachts. And the pool area and surrounding deck are downright lovely. There’s also a state-of-the-art fitness center.

FLLGRHH_Fort_Lauderdale_Marina_Hotel_dining_theg Food: While the pizza I ordered from room service was tiny and overpriced (though tasted good), the other dining venues I’ve tried have been impressive. Antea is a lobby spot, and social gathering place and the vegetarian egg white breakfast sandwich I had today was delicious (much better than it sounds) and only $10 with coffee, plus free newspapers. Lunch outdoors near the pool at The G, was also a nice respite – big Greek salad and ice tea hit the spot. For fancier tastes, the China Grill offers Asian fusion and has a sushi bar.

Guestrooms: I am working on a real desk and have high-speed Internet access (reasonably priced). OK, I know typical vacationers may not care about those features, but I do. The furniture is all contemporary, the colors nicely muted and soothing, there’s a big mosaic-tiled stall shower, the sheets are 300-thread count, the flatscreen is 32”, and there’s a Keurig coffeemaker. I’m a happy gal.

Views: As mentioned at the top, there are views. Every guestroom has them from a balcony or patio and out floor-to-ceiling windows. The Intracoastal Waterway is the focus, and it’s a pretty focus too.

November 20, 2009

The giant awaits – first look at Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 9:03 am

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My pal Michele and I got up real early to catch a JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale at 6 a.m.. But that’s the kind of sacrifice you make to be among the first to get on the newest world’s larges cruise ship.

Oasis of the Seas is five times the size of the Titanic, a whopping three football fields in length. And the Royal Caribbean ship will carry more than 6,200 passengers (when you include families with kids, which will no doubt be attracted by features that include an onboard amusement park).

Heck, I’m really looking forward to trying the onboard merry-go-round myself and maybe the zipline across the top deck too (if I can get up the courage).

The ship has a Central Park with grass and trees, and I expect my credit cards to start buzzing in the Royal Promenade, outfitted with a bunch of shops.

We’ll be boarding with other invitees on the pre-inagural, two-day sailing to nowhere this afternoon. So stay tuned for reports.

November 18, 2009

Godmothers are a WOW for World’s biggest Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:29 pm

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OK, I know my draw will drop on Friday when I’m one of the first to see the world’s largest ship, the 5,400-passenger, 225,282-ton Oasis of the Seas on a pre-inaugural cruise from Fort Lauderdale. And it’s in fact it’s dropping already over Royal Caribbean’s just-announced list of the ship’s godmothers – yes, godmothers, as in seven, representing the seven “neighborhoods” on this mammoth, aircraft carrier-sized cruise ship. And what a seven they are!

We’re talking Gloria Estefan – the Miami-based diva herself (who was also godmother of Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas years ago); Olympic skating medalist, figure skater Michelle Kwan; Emmy-winning actress Jane Seymour (who I have actually met before at a wedding of an actor relative, but that’s another story); Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres; Shawn Johnson, four-time Olympic gymnastics medalist; Aaa Knight Pullman (Rudy on “The Cosby Show”); and TV personality Daisy Fuentes.

The ladies will take their posts to smash the champagne bottle (or maybe it will be bottles) during a one-night inaugural celebration/fundraiser to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, I’ll be onboard this weekend checking out the Central Park with real grass and trees, the Boardwalk with the first merry-go-round at sea, the super big interior Royal Promenade, the high-diving acrobatics at the deep-water pool and all the other WOW features of this ship. So stay tuned for reports.

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