We were up early before 5:30am and ready for Dawn when she arrived at 6:15am to take us to the airport. It was a misty, damp, cold morning with the ground still covered from the recent snowfall. I believe today makes 180 continuous days of snow on the ground in Edmonton this winter. We trust that spring, if not summer, will have arrived by the time we return.
We had an uneventful drive to the airport and we unloaded the luggage, said good-bye to Dawn, and checked in with WestJet. The attendant seemed to have a series of difficulties with us, but after several false starts, some confusion over birth dates and a few misprinted boarding passes we were on our way through security and the departure lounge in plenty time for our 8:45am flight. While we waited we were advised that snow on the ground in Grande Prairie had delayed our incoming flight, and further announcements by other airlines advised that snow was falling in Calgary. The resulting apprehension was unfounded as our plane left 20 minutes late and landed without incident in Calgary late by about the same time. We deplaned and set off in pursuit of our luggage which was delivered to the US departure gate. On the way we encountered several people bound for Ft Lauderdale; some for the same ship - the Volendam - as ourselves and some for a sister ship with a similar itinerary. One couple from Lloydminster, in particular, seemed to cross our path frequently for the rest of the day. We passed through US customs without incident and settled down in the departure lounge with decidedly indifferent sandwiches from the only eating establishment available in that quarter. We looked out on a landscape even more snowy than we had left in Edmonton, while snowploughs cleared the runways regularly and bobcats removed the snow collecting round the parked planes.
The plane for Ft Lauderdale was on schedule and we boarded it and readied ourselves for the 5 hour flight. The crew were most attentive, though one did a parody of the Nicoderm advert when someone was trying to get their hand luggage into the overhead bin causing some laughter. Otherwise, WestJet seems to have dropped their trademark jokes. We arrived in Ft.. Lauderdale a few minutes late through cloudy skies, though the flight over must of the USA was clear. We collected our baggage. Predictably, one of our cases was about last off, for a change, Christine's, not Iain's. A quick call indicated a shuttle to the hotel would soon be with us, and it was. Again, faces that became familiar over the next few hours appeared n the bus. By the time we were out of the airport it was dark, but mild. At least 25oC warmer than we had left in Alberta.
We were soon installed in our room and headed for dinner which proved very tasty. We had closed our cases using cable ties as we had heard of problems with locks going through US airports. I retrieved my nail clippers from an outside, unsecured pocket in one of the cases and proceeded to cut the ties on the first case. On the second, the lever on the nail clippers snapped! What to do now? The front desk was unable to find anything in the hotel at that hour to cut them, but one of the staff had an adjustable wrench in his car which did the trick. We unpacked as little as possible, but as much as we needed and settled down to decide what to do the next day before going to bed.
We are happy to be here and have the most nerve-wracking (we hope) part of our trip behind us.