Thursday July 12th Seeing as we had oodles of luggage, I had managed to get a good deal with AA to fly first class from MCO to JFK which avoided any extra charges for our bags. Knowing how long the lines for the security check at MCO can be at times, we arrived early at the airport to drop off the rental car, and a porter was immediately at hand to escort us to the check in desk. I was surprised to find that AA did not have a lounge at the airport but we only had a couple of hours to kill so what the heck! Actually the line for the security check wasn`t too bad although my DW was carrying a “suspect” item [a jar of sea salt, bought at Premium Outlets], which involved a thorough search of her carry on bag, and a further check on the jar which subsequently passed the check ok. Whenever we pass through security we always keep a look out for a lady called Cindy who works there. She is a friend of Ricardo and his DW and we have enjoyed having dinners with them all on some of our previous trips. Hovering around the area, a security guard asked me to move on, but when I told her that I was just checking to see if Cindy was on duty, she pointed out a lady in uniform and asked me if that was her. My heart sank at that moment though because Cindy was sat in a wheelchair and was being pushed through an x-ray machine. She looked up, saw us and then dashed over to us, saying that they were just testing a wheelchair to make sure that it fitted the scanners…what a relief, I thought that she had been involved in an accident. It somehow felt strange being hugged and kissed by a security guard at MCO and we got a few strange looks from some of the passengers! A smooth flight to JFK followed and our bags were almost the first to arrive on the carousel. The plan was to meet up with our friends from LA [Doug, Michelle & their daughter Dani] who were due to arrive at JFK a couple of hours after we had landed, so that we could all travel together to our hotel where we would spend a few nights before and after our cruise. We had landed at Terminal 8 and according to the info we had been given, our friends were due to arrive at Terminal 3. Fortunately JFK has an excellent “Air Train”, which is a monorail link that travels in a loop to serve all of the terminals, and it is ok to board with luggage carts. Taking care to board the correct train [a second one exits the airport and links up with the subway], we finally arrived at Terminal 3, only to find out that we should have been at Terminal 2 for their flight! Fortunately these terminals are fairly close together so was walked over to Terminal 2 in the blazing heat of New York. Upon receiving a text from Michelle, saying that they had landed, I wrote their names down on a piece of card and hid around the corner in order to surprise them as though I was from a taxi company sent to collect them! Doug in particular is a guy that you couldn`t really miss. He used to enter the Mr Universe contest, and has actually pumped iron with Arnie Schwarzenegger. He also had the role of Gaston, Tarzan and Conan at several locations a few years ago. Doug is what you would call a “gentle giant”, although I wouldn`t like to be there if he got angry as he still keeps himself in good shape, and works out in the gym at every opportunity! After loads of hugs and kisses to and from all of us, we all piled into a minivan that Doug had arranged and the driver set off to the city. Now I thought that London could get busy, but New York was something else! As we had hit rush hour, the journey to the hotel near to Central Park took almost 2 hours! Michelle had managed to secure a corporate rate at Le Parker Meriden hotel on 56th & 6th as her boss [an executive at Warner Bros.] and others from WB stay there when in town. Our friends were assigned accommodation on the 7th floor and my DW and I were in the 20th , which involved taking an escalator that made our ears pop as it seemed to travel at warp speed! It was great being in New York with our friends, especially as Doug had spent several weeks working in the city and knew the place very well. We went for dinner at a steakhouse called Donahue`s located on 64th and Lexington which had an Irish pub bar feel to it and it was Doug`s regular place for dinner when he worked there and he mentioned that their steaks took some beating. In fact everyone was well catered for from the comprehensive menu, all washed down with copious amounts of wine. Inexpensive and highly recommended. As our friends were now feeling a bit jet lagged from their 5 hour flight, we walked back to the hotel for a good nights rest at around 10.00pm.