January 27, 2015: We arrive in Fort Lauderdale where we will embark on our Panama cruise.
A Holland America representative met us at the luggage claim area and escorted us to the transport service for our hotel. This was part of the package deal which we greatly appreciated after our transcontinental flight. It was now close to midnight, Florida time, and we felt like midnight although it was supposedly only 9 p.m. by our body time. It didn’t help that we had left our packed lunch behind, had no time during transfers to buy food, and subsisted primarily on Southwest’s peanuts and pretzels for the day.
We had been told we’d have a ten-minute ride to the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort, but the ride was more like 20, but when the driver stopped the sign on the building was Westin, not Marriott. I questioned the driver. He showed us the computer print-out with his instructions, unloaded our luggage on the hotel cart, and left. We thought perhaps the cruise company had made a last-minute change, and didn’t care where we slept, but the Westin had no reservation for us.
The front desk person tried calling Holland America and discovered their offices were closed for the night. Fortunately I not only had an emergency number, but was able to dig it out of my tightly-packed carry-on. The staff at the Westin talked to both Holland America and The Marriott which did have our reservation. They thoughtfully asked if we had money for the taxi fare, which Holland America would reimburse once we were aboard ship. That took some digging because most of our cash was hidden deep in our carry-ons, but we did have it. The Westin staff called a taxi and their bellman not only loaded it on the cart but stayed beside us and watched while the driver loaded it.
The up side of all this was the taxi driver who gave us a running commentary on Fort Lauderdale layout and history. We enjoyed that, but forgot most of it overnight. It seems that 3000 air miles and midnight time don’t work well with one’s memory.
Bells sounded, crossing gates lowered in front of us, and we waited for a train. No whistle, no motor, no headlight. The driver explained that we had topped for a draw bridge over the inland waterway that runs about 25 miles along the coast.
When we checked in with the Holland American representative in the lobby the next morning, he greeted us with “So you have a story to tell!” and reassured us that we would be compensated for the taxi fare and Holland America was investigating to find out how the mix-up happened. I’m sure they did, although we didn’t receive a report on it.
But we would not have learned about the canal and its effect on Fort Lauderdale geography if it hadn’t been for that mistake, and it reminds us of Cousin Mabel’s lost luggage of 1907. Such mix-ups happen in every century.