After all of the COVID travel restrictions over the last couple years, Steve DOS and I are finally going on a cruise! Hooray! We will be sailing on a 10 night inaugural cruise of the Enchanted Princess departing Ft. Lauderdale on November 10th. As virtually all cruise lines have been shut down worldwide for the last year and a half until due to the COVID epidemic, this is a huge milestone for the cruise lines, employees, hospitality workers, and of course fellow cruisers such as ourselves.
We drove down to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, November 6th, and are staying at the Lago Mar Resort here for four nights. Ft. Lauderdale is a 3 1/2 hour drive from our home in Orlando, so it’s a quick trip, and we don’t need to fly saving us a lot of time, not to mention baggage hassles.
We checked in the Lago Mar on Saturday afternoon around 4pm, and immediately fell in love with the oceanfront location, and the charm of the resort. The historic charm of a bygone era with the exquisite chandeliers, floor tiles, paintings, landscaping, and overall ambiance of the resort was wonderful.
We have a one bedroom, two bath suite with a huge living and dining area, and best of all a walk out first floor terrace which is literally beach front! The rattan furniture and the sprawling resort in general remind me of old time Hawaii, which is a good thing.
The resort sits on a huge expanse of oceanfront property with a wide and long private beach area. Actually the resort and several high and low rise condos adjacent to the resort are on accessed via a private road and parking and have their own section of private beach. The beach area was wide open and empty and really had an exclusive feeling to it as it was part of the private resort.
The resort offers a membership for local residents, which makes it feel like a private beachfront “country-club” instead of a bustling beachfront resort, without overcrowding the facilities. Hotel guests and members alike simply sign all charges to your room or account number as you would in a country club. From the pool bar drink and dining area, to the Hawaiian-like main lounge with piano, the resort offers an understated and causal elegance not found with the modern and chic resorts.
On weekends it was busier with families, but not overcrowded, and there is an adult pool as well as large family pool, huge outdoor bar and seating area for drinks and/or meals.
There are lots of activities such as tennis, shuffleboard, a putting green course, a giant outdoor chess board, hammocks, and even a fooze-ball game a couple of the younger teens and kids enjoyed. During the weekdays, if felt like we had the place to ourselves, although this was off-season from the winter.
On Saturday, our first day at Lago Mer, we saw a “parade of ships”, i.e. cruise ships depart from the nearby Port of Everglades. The cruise ship viewing was just a 10 minute beachfront walk from the hotel, along the private beaches of our hotel and the neighboring condos. The wide open expanse of nearly deserted oceanfront property was awesome; no feeling of a crowded Ft. Lauderdale resort whatsoever.
The ships actually departed individually between 5 and 6pm, but as they went out to sea they followed the shipping channel for a while all in a row. Ft. Lauderdale has some heavy mega-ships that’s for sure, and we could see them up close from the shoreline just a few minutes walk from our hotel.
We’ve sailed by these tall condos out of Ft. Lauderdale lots of time, and normally see some of the residents having a happy hour on their condo balconies, with the more spirited ones holding up the respective ship’s logo, or making a squeaking sound for attention; now we were seeing these condos from a different perspective – ground level! Will have to compare these photos when we sail out of Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday, and sail past these condos from the ship.
We stood on the rocks for a better view with a handful of other on lookers doing the same close by.
One man brought his lawn chair and was apparently a Princess fan as he held up the banner any time one of the two Princess ships sailed by that night.
Of the four days we stayed at Lago Mar, Saturday had the most (and largest) ships departing from Port Everglades. From the looks of the ship’s decks, none of the ships looked full, considering even the smallest ship held probably 3,000 passengers, while the largest one (Harmony of the Seas) could hold well over 5,000 passengers – all are literally floating cities! Many people are still afraid to travel in this COVID world, but as the COVID situation is starting to improve with many people vaccinated (and the ships requirements that you be vaccinated and get a negative COVID test), people are once again starting to cruise. Here are some of the photos of the mega-ships as they sailed past us on their way to sea on Saturday night.
After seeing these mega-cruise ships off and wishing them a Bon Voyage, we walked back to the hotel where it was slowly getting dark. Saturday night in fact, was the last night of daylight savings time, so each night would now be darker earlier until Spring.
At night, the resort outside was lit up with lively orange colored lights!
We had all of our dinners and breakfasts at the Lago Mar resort, (and a couple lunches) not only for convenience, but also price and quality. Lago Mar has been owned by the Banks family for years, and they really run a first class operation, without being pretentious or charging exorbitant prices like many oceanfront resorts. We had breakfast and dinner daily in the main restaurant, and lunch either by the pool or a couple days off property. The food quality and service were very good and quite reasonable in price (even the extensive wine list), and little things like the breakfast fresh squeezed orange juice, or our dinner wine which was chilled at a proper red wine cellar temperature, showed their attention to detail.
Quite honestly, there was no reason to leave the resort as it was that nice, although we did venture out a couple times for our COVID tests, and to meet friends for lunch.
Yesterday (Monday) we had to have our COVID tests done per Princess Cruise Line’s boarding requirements. Steve (DOS) and I both had “drive thru” reservations at 11am and 11:15 respectively at the nearby Walgreens drug store. We arrive 20 minutes early and had to wait for the 11am appointment time, but the Pharmacist let us do our tests at the same time since we were in the car together. We both have had COVID tests previously at the hospital, however at Walgreens we were given a swab (in paper wrap so it wasn’t contaminated) and had to do a nose swab ourselves, while the Pharmacist watched from the drive thru window. Ouch! DOS and I both hated those COVID tests, but if it means going on the cruise, its’s a small thing to do, and actually we’re glad everyone else (passengers and crew) have to do the same.
After our nose swab, we placed it back in the paper sleeve and handed it back to the Walgreens pharmacist with our preprinted form identifying us and our contact information. We were told we’d get an email back within 24 hours, but it’s usually quicker than that. We will see further down below!
Our hotel was close to the Walgreens as well as the cruise port, so after our COVID test, we parked near the cruise port to view our cruise ship up close, as it was already docked there two days before our inaugural cruise we are taking on Wednesday. We parked in a pay lot directly under a draw bridge, and walked around the convention center construction zone next to the cruise port.
It looks like they are massively expanding the convention center there, and our ship The Enchanted Princess, was docked directly next to the construction site.
As there was a construction fence, we decided to walk across the draw bridge for a better view of the ship, which we did. We have an Aft Suite booked on the Enchanted Princess, so we took several rear-view photos to see our cabin. We are on the starboard suite, on Caribe Deck on the far right. The Caribe deck is the second deck up from the rear passenger decks (above the Registered in Hamilton sign).
While we were on the bridge, we both got automated phone calls from Walgreens about our COVID tests, but it just said they had received our order, not the results. I then checked my email, and I received my NEGATIVE results at 11:41, not even an hour after the test. Unfortunately poor DOS did not have the same luck. While he didn’t get a POSITIVE result, he didn’t get ANY results until the next day! It was a bit unnerving for both of us as while we are both fully vaccinated and have even gotten our boosters, you cannot board without a NEGATIVE Covid test. DOS called Walgreens several times wondering about the results, but they send them out to a lab and said sometimes it can take a day. It was quite strange since we had the tests done at the same time and I had gotten mine back so quickly; we were concerned his was either lost, POSITIVE, or inconclusive. The results would keep us waiting until the next day, however we weren’t going to take any chances on that; stay tuned below.
We walked a bit more on the bridge and I took a couple more photos, including this one of the former round Pier 66 Hotel, which is being completely gutted and remodeled inside, and closed for the foreseeable future. We almost stayed there once a few years back when it was a Hyatt Hotel, but even then the reviews were not good as it was in need of repairs. It’s a cool looking building with the rooftop observation bar, and hopefully that is kept and the renovations go well.
We had lunch at 15 Street Fisheries, which was located along the water canal, just down from the port. We’ve both been eating a lot more fish (and less steak) since my heart surgery, and this was no exception. I had a huge portion of AHI tuna prepared rare, while DOS had the fresh swordfish.
It was a very enjoyable and relaxing meal with a view. We overlooked the dock area which had a huge “Pirate” ship, similar to the Jolly Roger party boat we had been on previously in one of the Caribbean islands. Our waiter said it was being shipped to Europe (via a cargo ship) and will be used for excursions there. Happy Sailing and a bottle of rum, mateys!
Today (Tuesday) DOS got up early, and went to have another COVID test at 7:45am at an instant (well 20 minute) lab where you get the results right away for $49. Walgreens was free, or at least was billed to our insurance, but we couldn’t rely on their slow turn-around time for DOS. Fortunately DOS was NEGATIVE, and that was a huge relief for both of us. He ultimately did get a NEGATIVE result from Walgreen’s but not until nearly 10am, almost 24 hours after our test, and we couldn’t take any chances being denied entry to the ship. Huge relief – we’re going on a cruise!
For lunch we met Alby and Denise, a happy and energetic couple we had met years ago on the Celebrity Constellation. We have stayed in touch via Facebook, and had lunch with them in nearby Pompano Beach where they live. We had lunch at the Oceanic Restaurant, and had a wonderful lunch with views overlooking the ocean. We had not seen them in years, but it was if time had not stopped – we picked up our conversation as if it was yesterday. True cruise friends for life! Thanks for meeting us today for lunch Alby and Denise! We will see you soon next time we’re down in Pompano/Ft. Lauderdale area for another cruise!
After lunch we walked around the newly rebuilt fishing pier next adjacent to the restaurant, before heading back to our hotel.
It’s now Tuesday night, and we just got back from dinner at the Lago Mar restaurant. We’re now packing up our things after our wonderful four night stay here as we will be checking out in the morning for our cruise. I was checking Facebook earlier, and the Cruise Director of our ship has been posting a bit in anticipation of this inaugural cruise. He said our sailing will only have about a thousand passengers, on a ship that holds over 3,700 passengers! People are still a bit leery of causing, but that is changing quickly as more ships are rapidly re-entering service. We are so excited to be cruising again – I hope we can get a good night’s sleep tonight.
Anyway, Buenos Noches for now. Tomorrow we set sail on the Enchanted Princess for a 10 night Easter Caribbean Inaugural Cruise!