I can't believe we've already been home two weeks from our long-planned Caribbean cruise.  We love cruising.  This was our fourth. 

We live much closer to O'Hare, but we decided to save on baggage fees and fly Southwest Airlines from Midway Airport to Tampa.  It's amazing that I can travel to Europe for 8 days with my sister and pack everything in one carry-on suitcase.  For this 7-day cruise we had two large suitcases, one suit bag and one carry-on bag full of toiletry items.  Well, they do have two formal dinners on a 7-day cruise, plus there's swimsuits, casual dinner clothes, so several suitcases were necessary...for my husband.

Oops!  I put all the toiletry items in several Ziploc bags in the carry-on bag.  Thankfully the TSA guy just told me how I was supposed to pack liquids in the carry-on instead of confiscating them.

My husband works near Midway airport so we parked our car in the parking lot of his job.  A friend drove us to the airport.  Below is our plane:

It was worth the extra fee so we could board early.  Remember no assigned seats on Southwest.  We got close to the front!
We flew down to Tampa the day before the cruise left.  I love staying at Hampton Inn hotels.  They're reasonably priced and you get free breakfast.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn near the airport.

What a convenience.  Hotel courtesy shuttle from the airport and to the port: NO EXTRA CHARGE!  Plus the shuttle would drive you anywhere within a 3-mile radius of the hotel.  Carl, the shuttle driver, was so nice!  That's him on the right.

We were starving but we never should have eaten at the Cheesecake Factory.  What is it with these huge portions? Three people could have split that cheeseburger!  Who has room for cheesecake after eating this?

And we have reservations at Ruth's Chris for dinner tonight!  I know you're supposed to eat on vacation, but...

I know now I'm not in cold, rainy Chicago anymore.  Palm trees in the mall.

Hey, we're on vacation.  Let's sit down in the middle of the afternoon and have a beer.  Now that's a cool set of draft beer pulls in Bar Louie!

Someplace we've always wanted to eat was at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  The Ruth's Chris in Tampa is right next to our hotel.  OMG!  $126.16 for dinner!  Thank goodness for that $100 gift card I got by cashing in those debit card points.  The food was good...but not worth $126.16.  That's a only-once-in-a-lifetime experience.

That was our day in Tampa.  Tomorrow we finally board our cruise ship.  Stay tuned!

Our Hotel:
Hampton Inn Tampa-International Airport/Westshore
4817 W. Laurel Street
Tampa, Florida, USA 33607
Tel:  813.287.0778
Fax:  813.287.0882

We visited:
International Plaza Mall, an upscale mall two miles from the hotel.

We ate at:
Ruth's Chris Steak House
1700 N. Westshore Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33607
Phone: 813.282.1118
Fax: 813.281.0982
Email: tampa@ruthschris.com

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