Here is our update from Florida.
April 20, 21 - Flight at 10:35 p.m. to Toronto from Vancouver was on a Boeing 777, a beautiful plane with individual sleeping "pods" in Executive Class. We missed the flight to Fort Lauderdale at 7:15amEDT because we only had an hour to retrieve our luggage, take it through customs and security, find the gate. We caught the 10:10am flight instead. The man from Princess Cruises was still waiting for us when we arrived and believe it or not, our luggage also arrived no problem. He put us in a cab to the Embassy Suites. It's a very nice hotel. A bonus includes a free happy hour every day from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Anything you could want to drink.
April 22 - We indulged in the free breakfast at the hotel this morning. Everything from cereal to muffins to toast, pancakes, fresh biscuits to eggs, bacon and sausage. Free every morning!
We were picked up at the hotel at about 9:30 for our Everglades tour. It was about a 1/2 hour drive to the Everglades Holiday Park where we boarded a rather large airboat. The guide took us out for about an hour. Along the way we saw some interesting trees and a big iguana. There were lots of birds. We saw many water lily-like plants called Spatterdock which have yellow flowers. The guide told us that one in five of these flowers contain a Black Widow Spider. While Maureen could not find this type of information on line to confirm, no one was going to reach out and find out! - which was the whole point.
The first gator we spotted was a younger one, perhaps 3-4 years old. It was swimming in the middle of a clear part of the waterway. After a while we saw another, about 15 years old and a female, named Grumpy. She was so-named because she doesn't really like the airboats. She is curious (probably hungry!) and comes right up to the boat. The guide fed pieces of bread to the many birds and that draws the gator to the boat of course. It is illegal to feed the alligators so they don't become dependent on humans for food. That's when the trouble starts!
There are miles of cattails and sawgrass in the Everglades. Sometimes there are fires fueled by the dead grass.
The Everglades cover approximately 4000 square miles. There used to be over 4 million alligators in the swamp but now, due to poaching, there are "only" a million. The males are cannibalistic so of the 35-50 eggs hatched by a female, only a handful survive and most don't make it to adulthood. Alligators are cold-blooded so are mostly out at night when it is cooler instead of during the heat of the day. We were lucky to see what we did.
We picked up our rental Mustang convertible and drove a short way north of Fort Lauderdale which is very beautiful. Thursday we will do more exploring in this area and go as far north as Palm Beach. This part of A1A goes right along the Atlantic Ocean. There is also the Intracoastal Waterway which was created to alleviate flooding. There are amazing huge homes with equally huge boats moored in front of them.
April 23 - Today we chose to go south down the A1A. This goes along the coast (but not within sight of the water) as far as below Miami Beach. Amazingly large hotels and condo complexes take up the distance from the highway to the water - so you never see the beach! We went a short way down Highway 1 and then took the causeway over to Key Biscayne. From the National Park you can see Stiltsville. Before Hurricane Andrew in 1993 there were at least 20 homes built out here. They were built during prohibition when the law was that gambling could take place a mile off shore. Since then the law has been changed to 3 miles and also that houses damaged by hurricanes could not be repaired, so there are very few houses left.
April 24 - Today we went north as far as Palm Beach. A beautiful drive, more along the water. At one point a big black cloud went over and before we were able to pull over and put the top up on the car, there were puddles in the back seat! The sun came back out and dried us off. We met Bill and Jackie for dinner tonight. They are the parents of a really good friend of Aaron's and are living in Weston FL. It was great to see them!
We can't be sure how often we will be able to update while on the cruise, if at all. We're off to a good start!
Maureen and Larry