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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

I can’t believe we’re staying the night at a zoo!

We are finally 1 day away from boarding the Viking Neptune ship for our World Cruise!!! We still cannot believe that we are actually doing this big trip. It feels so surreal to have booked this cruise in November 2020, at the height of Covid, and here we are all packed and ready to go!

Our ship, the Viking Neptune is a sister ship to the Viking Sun and will be almost identical in every way. I don’t have a photo of the Neptune yet…but I’m sure there will be many more photos soon!

Speaking of packing…oh my goodness. What a nightmare! Here is the back story for you on packing….

Both Richard and me are very experienced travellers. With Richard spending his entire career in the travel industry, and me working as an executive in the financial services industry, we have done our fair share of travelling for business and for pleasure. The typical trip for me would be 2 nights and 3 days and that was easy enough to pack for in a rollerboard/carry on bag. I’ve done quite a few bigger trips to Korea, Europe and Australia, but they were not that difficult to pack for given it was business attire, with some casual stuff thrown in for good measure, and I could always check the weather right before I was packing to know if I needed to pack in layers, etc. Richard still travels for work, but he usually wears his ‘uniform’ as he calls it. Black slacks, white shirts, or golf shirts which his client provides him with. Pretty simple to pack for. Add underwear and socks for the number of days away, a toiletry kit and close that suitcase!

This trip though had me in fits knowing that whatever I packed for both of us, we would be stuck with wearing it for the next 138 days, regardless of what the weather was like, or how cold the dining room and enclosed areas on the Neptune were. So I did what anyone else would do, which was to look at packing lists from other travellers who had been on last year’s Viking World Cruise, as well as reference the World Cruise packing list that Viking sent us. The problem is that we are restricted to 50 lbs in each of our large suitcases because our suitcases were to be picked up by a luggage forwarding company, which Viking paid for on our behalf.

I spent quite a bit of time in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, over the summer, while Richard was away working, on laying out clothes on beds in one of our spare bedrooms. I thought I had done a marvellous job of paring back the amount of clothing to pack, until I had to try and get it all into the 2 large suitcases, and found out that I had about 65 pounds in each suitcase and I still hadn’t added any shoes or toiletries!

Richard drove to Florida at the end of October and he was driving the packed suitcases down with him, so I had an end date when I had to have our suitcases all packed, and I managed to pare back the suitcases enough to get them down to 50 pounds in each suitcase.

Simple right? Don’t open those suitcases again until the cruise?! Right…I started looking in Florida at all of the lovely cruise wear attire, which is a lot more popular than the stores I shop at in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, and you guessed it…those suitcases were both unpacked once more with clothes all over 2 spare bedrooms in Florida!

My next tactic was denial…

For about 2 weeks after I arrived in Florida I didn’t enter the spare bedroom to try and do any packing. I merrily played golf, went shopping, entertained my best friend Miss H who came to visit me while Richard was away, and basically did nothing with the packing situation….but I knew that was going to catch up with me because we were leaving for St. Lucia for Miss H’s daughter’s wedding on December 3rd. The St. Lucia trip added a further complication, because we could not pack anything to go to St. Lucia in our World Cruise luggage or vice versa, and I just added more stress and aggravation, forcing me to pack for 2 trips at the same time!

Luckily, I buckled down, with our St Lucia departure looming, and finally got the 2 large suitcases packed for the cruise and we left them for our good neighbour Ray to put out for us on December 6th at 1pm, while we were away in St. Lucia.

Our suitcases were packed and ready for pick up on December 6th, 2022 and we have not seen them since. We are definitely hoping they arrive in cabin 4082 tomorrow on the Viking Neptune.

After getting the big 50 pound suitcases out of the way, you think my packing nightmares were over right? Nope!….not at all! For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been trying to determine how we could pack the roller board suitcases as well as one golf travel bag, with 2 sets of golf clubs in ‘Sunday’ bags’ as we intend on taking the opportunity while we are cruising around the world, to also golf around the world! Finally only last night we got everything packed, and I had to sit on the roller board suitcases to get them both closed! We each also have a knapsack, and I have a camera bag knapsack too.

We had a very early start this morning as we had a 9am flight from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest airlines.

We had a very early start this morning leaving our home in Plant City, Florida at 6:30am for our 9am flight from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale. Thank goodness for Mr. Ray Page our fantastic neighbour who drove with us and drove our van home after dropping us off at the red terminal at TPA. Flying at Christmas is not a lot of fun! The check in was busy at Southwest and we were 1.5 pounds over our 50 pound limit in our golf bag and I thought the Southwest agent would let it go, but she would not. I had to take a pair of shoes out of the golf bag and we found a home for them in Richard’s knapsack thankfully. Our flight was fairly short at 30 minutes, and pretty uneventful but the plane was packed and so was Ft. Lauderdale airport baggage area when we arrived!

Ft. Lauderdale airport baggage claim area. At one point I think there were 4 flights all waiting for luggage at the same carousel until they switched our Tampa flight to carousel 4.

A very busy day to be travelling to catch a cruise! And that is why we arrived one day early into Ft. Lauderdale to avoid the stress and aggravation tomorrow on the day of embarkation!

Richard being the very experienced traveller that he is, and the guy who is usually in charge of transportation at airports, arranged for us to have a private large SUV pick up today at the airport, with a private driver to assist us.

What a great feeling knowing we wouldn’t have to wait in the chaos outside the doors of the airport for a LYFT or an UBER. Richard has worked at Ft. Lauderdale airport before and he knew how bad it would be. Thank goodness for planning ahead on a busy travel day!

Thankfully the luggage came quite quickly off the luggage carousel today in Ft. Lauderdale.

A very nice 2022 Cadillac Escalade was our ride today from Ft. Lauderdale airport.

I had booked us an Air B’nB for one night at a boutique hotel within walking distance of shops and restaurants, knowing that we would not have a car to get around Ft. Lauderdale. As our limo drove us through the very busy traffic area leaving Ft. Lauderdale airport, we suddenly turned into an area that was so quaint and reminiscent of ’Old Florida’ with luxury estates and traditional 1930’s homes. This upscale neighbourhood in Ft. Lauderdale is called “Victoria park” and is also the location of our hotel for the night.

Victoria Park graffiti on the street where our hotel is located

A small 32 room hotel which was built in 1936.

The sign for our hotel

A pano of the courtyard of our hotel. We are the second door to the right of the stairs on the 2nd level. (Yes. All that luggage you saw on the luggage cart had to be dragged up

the stairs and will have to be dragged down tomorrow morning too!).

What a beautiful spot we found in Fort Lauderdale!! Our room in the hotel is actually an efficiency too, so we are enjoying this little piece of paradise before our departure to the cruise tomorrow.

After getting all of the luggage up the stairs into our room, we decided it was time to go exploring on foot. Richard needed a hair cut as he hadn’t had time to get one before we left Plant City, Florida. We asked at the front desk of the hotel and were told if we headed towards the main drag we would go right past a hair salon.

Walk ins were welcome and we arrived just as the Dave the hair dresser was setting up his chair for the day.

Looking good Richard! At least we know he should be good for at least 8 weeks before we have to find him another hair cut!

A decent price at $25 for a hair cut.

While Richard was getting his hair cut I found a smoothie joint.

The $9 plus tax smoothie! I had the Aloha. It was good.

Richard enjoying the remains of my smoothie. And look what is in the background! CVS!!!

We had always planned to buy all of our toiletries for the World Cruise once we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, so knowing that there was a CVS within walking distance of our hotel, made Victoria Park Hotel an easy place to stay. So I’m sure you’re wondering what the connection with staying in a zoo is to the Victoria Park Hotel?

The Victoria Park Hotel site has a storied history, beginning with a 1936 opening of the McKillop-Hutton Lion Farm, a breeding facility for zoos and circuses. In 1939, famed circus performer Clyde Beatty purchased the site and transformed it into a winter home for his circus, quickly achieving success as a major Florida roadside attraction. I wonder if we will hear ghosts tonight saying “Ladies and gentlemen under the big top tonight we have Clyde Beatty and his famous lions!”

Clyde Beatty board in 1903 in Ohio was a big game hunter who was the first lion tamer to be featured in a circus and later had his own show. He because famous for his fighting act in which he entered the cage with wild animals armed with only a bull whip and a pistol strapped to his hip. The act was designed to showcase the 5 foot 5 inch tall Beatty’s courage and mastery of the wild beasts, which included lions, tigers, pumas and hyenas. Sometimes he brought together 40 snarling, roaring and caterwauling lions and tigers of both sexes. The Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus is still in existence today and rivaled only by Ringling Brothers - Barnum & Bailey Circus in North America. The circus dropped Clyde Beatty from its name in 2004 after it terminated its elephant act. Clyde Beatty died in Ventura California in 1965.

Tonight we have made reservations at a highly recommended (by the hair dresser and hotel front desk check in clerk) Italian trattoria called Serafina where we stopped in at lunch time to check it out, and reserve a beautiful table overlooking the island water way.

The entrance to Serafinas is down a little alley towards the water way.

If you look closely behind the yellow house the tables for Serafina restaurant are set up on the water way. We are really looking forward to some nice homemade Italian food for dinner this evening…but first….

We stopped at our local Publix and picked up 2 mini bottles of our favorite Italian Prosecco! We have to celebrate tonight our amazing, upcoming 138 day World Cruise with a quick Facetime call with our good friends Ron & Lenore before we head to dinner a block away from our hotel.

Tomorrow will be here before we know it and we will be boarding the Viking Neptune. We missed doing the early Comfort Check in (my fault). I had taken both of our head shot photos using my Fuji Xt-4 for the online check in, but I didn’t get the photos transferred over to my ipad within 48 hours of embarkation. We probably will have some delay tomorrow at embarkation, but we cannot access our cabin until 2pm, and since we have so much stuff with us, I think we will probably check out of the Victoria Park Hotel at 11am, then call a large SUV Lyft and make our way through the embarkation process and hope that our suitcases made it to our cabin!

Stay tuned! This trip is going to be checking off our bucket list quite a few places around the world and we are very happy you are going to be following us along the way! Please feel free to share the blog with friends, and family who wish to explore the world with us too!

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