I had decided by the end of 2006 to do a end-of-the-year Christmas cruise. At that time I had chosen Celebrity Cruises, on the Zenith. Zenith – this was an older ship and has been retired since – and Horizon were the first ships introduced to the Celebrity fleet
[ http://cruiseline.com/ship/zenith-retired-62-11 ].
The cruise was around 5 nights, embarking from Tampa, FL, ports of call including Nassau – Bahamas, Philipsburg – St. Maarten, San Juan – Puerto Rico, Key West, FL, past Miami and ending in port Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Both my flight to Tampa and from the disembarkation at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, were from Vancouver, BC.
As far as the ship itself goes, what I observed and experienced was not what I would call a nice, exciting and interesting Christmas cruise. The food had been standard as far as I recall. The cabin – being this was an older ship – started to take water soon after departure, such that I had to call a steward to pump it out. At night after dark, on the upper decks, unfortunately one could see the roaches running up the walls. Who knows, maybe my cabin on a low interior deck was close to the kitchen as well ? Effort had been put into preparing a real fancy Christmas dinner and Buffet including large fanciful ice sculptures decorating the tables. The towns of the ports of call were pretty much empty around this time of year. Maybe not a good idea to expect a shore excursion during that season to be worthwhile.

The “from hell” comment does not really refer only to the cruise and ship portion, but what followed after disembarkation once arrived at Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The ‘Flight from Hell’. (Dates: Approx. between 21 and 23 December 2006.)
The flight back to Vancouver was to take off from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Dallas, Fort Worth Airport, TX, then on to Vancouver, BC, which should have gotten me safely in one day back to Vancouver. Instead, we had gotten into the middle of a hurricane. All regular planes wanting to touch down at Dallas Fort Worth Airport [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas-Fort_Worth ] could not do so and had to be re-routed to Shreveport, LA. [ https://www.google.ca/maps/@32.454546,-93.828496,469m/data=!3m1!1e3 ].
Prior to landing the pilot had to wait for approval by the control towers and circle the air plane for quite some time (with advice that we are running low on fuel). Terrible feeling. Lots of families on board with smaller children.
Upon touch down and due to extreme airport security, we could not leave the air plane for five (5) hours. Even more terrible situation, as there was no water left on board, toilets could not be used and were all clocked up, children were crying.
Shreveport is a smaller airport, with a few landing strips only (most re-routed larger planes that night had to find a place to set down somewhere). When eventually leaving the plane, all passengers had to walk in those hurricane winds and heavy rain to the Airport building across a length of tarmac.

Then waiting in endlessly long lines for a solution. Where to go and spend the night. The airline American Airlines company eventually gave each passenger US$20 to spend the night in a motel. Twenty dollars for one night ? you must be kidding. It cost much more. I spend a terrible noisy night in there in that sleazy place. Next morning up early, some breakfast, then to the Terminal Hall and check out when to leave.

By noon finally we were allowed to leave (after re-fuelling the plane) and go on to Dallas Fort Worth Airport. There a situation like during a war. Passengers in all halls on the floor in sleeping bags (some had spend already days at that airport). Waiting for planes. To go home. Vancouver announced late that afternoon.
Amazing to observe passengers’ reactions. The first to crack were usually men, also presumably people who never experienced a war. I myself found the entire experience during those days and nights rather amusing. I went through an entire war, WWII, from start to end as a very young child. This here was nothing to me !

Lucky I had met earlier some nice people on board the ship, we shared some chocolate (the only food for a day and a night for us) while waiting in lines at that airport.
Anyways, finally got my return flight to Vancouver, landing at midnight. Another night at a hotel at Vancouver Airport. Next morning finally caught the ferry back home to Victoria, Vancouver Island.
Thanks for that trip !

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