Originally posted on TheWoodlandsTamarac.com
Tamarac residents Robert and Sondra thought retirement would be the greatest time of their lives. Sondra had retired from working at American Express after 23 years and Robert retired from the building business where he spent the past 20 traveling all over Florida, Central and South America.
Retirement started out nicely, but soon grew into monotony. When the biggest decisions became such mundane choices whether to get chickens from Costco and Cornflakes from Publix, Robert had an epiphany.
“Is this what retirement is all about? Chickens and Cornflakes?”
That’s when Robert decided to called his friend who was a Senior Architect at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and asked him to help them find some sort of part-time work. It was an unusual request where both husband and wife applied to work together.
After going to a job fair, Sondra and Robert were hired as check-in agents at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale where they spend a few days a week assisting passengers checking in. Robert works for Royal Caribbean and Sondra works for Royal Caribbean’s other company, Celebrity Cruise Lines.
Both Sandra and Robert, who have been Woodlands in Tamarac residents since 1980, are both from the New York area. Robert is from Brooklyn and Sondra from the Bronx. Both worked in the Catskills when they were in their teens where Robert was a waiter and Sondra was a singer who sang Yiddish songs with a band. After meeting Robert on a blind date when she was 17 and he was 18, she knew immediately that she had met “the one.”
After Robert graduated college with an associate degree in construction, they married and settled in Flushing, Queens where their first daughter Randee was born. In 1958, Robert was working for a major construction company when they found a Levitt home in Wantagh, Long Island. They paid the owner a $10 deposit for a $13,200 two bedroom, one bathroom home. In 1962, daughter Joy joined the family and continued to live in Wantagh for 20 more years. They eventually remodeled the home adding two bedrooms, a bath, and an in-ground swimming pool.
Robert knew far back in the 1950’s that after visiting Miami on business, he would someday be back. It took many years, but in 1977 they moved to Plantation in a development called “Eldorado Estates”. At this time, Robert and his partner built furniture facilities buildings in Plantation, Kendall, and Boca Raton. for Drexel Heritage. The Plantation location eventually became the Eldorado Furniture building now seen on University Drive. They also built the community of Coco Plum in Jacaranda Country Club from 1977-1980 as well as shopping centers, showrooms, temples, churches and country clubs.
They loved their home in Eldorado Estates in Plantation but Sondra was disappointed with the views. Here she was living in Florida, yet her home had no view that made her feel like they were living somewhere tropical. In 1980 after taking a drive, they turned into the Woodlands to look at the homes and Sondra knew she wanted to live here.
Thirty years ago, you had to be wealthy to live in the Woodlands. The homes were expensive and they were visibly upscale. They found a beautiful “Holly” model where they could look out of their windows and see a lake and the golf course. Their home was expanded by the prior owners giving them an additional large master bathroom suite including a jacuzzi tub, a sauna and tons of additional closet space. They like the house because it is set back, giving them privacy.
Things were different in the Woodlands back in 1980. Back then, the Woodlands didn’t allow residents to have children under 16. Their youngest daughter Joy was 15 1/2 at the time, but they told everyone she was 16. Robert still feels a little uneasy about having lied, but is now convinced no one will mind now. Joy continued to attend South Plantation High School, where Sondra drove her everyday until she graduated.
Typically, when you bought or sold a home in the Woodlands back at this time, it usually came with a Country Club membership fee that was included. When they purchased their home, they didn’t need the golf course membership that came with the home because they preferred to spend their time at the Marriott Beach Club where they went with their children. Also, Sondra is allergic to grass, so a golf membership didn’t make any sense to them. Their real estate agent arranged for someone to buy this membership as there was a waiting list of people who wanted to join the club. These memberships typically went for $30,000 back then and did not include annual dues or food and beverage minimums.
They have enjoyed living in the Woodlands over 30 years and Robert has been an involved neighbor serving as a board member, vice president and president of Section Five. He was involved in the Architectural committee and with the beautification of Woodlands Boulevard overseeing the landscaping and fountains for five years.
Several days a week, they both work from 10 am – 3pm at Port Everglades where they get to meet “very happy and excited cruise passengers.” Robert now works at the new Pier 18 where 6,000 passengers come through on a typical day waiting to board the “Oasis of the Seas” or the “Allure of the Seas.”
While Sondra does mostly check-in for Celebrity Cruises, Robert performs a variety of tasks over at the Royal Caribbean terminal including greeting passengers, crowd control, ADA assistance, and checking documents.
Even though they see so many people, they always must keep their spirits high and cater to the guests that come through. Sondra says she loves working now, “It keeps me young, keeps our minds active, and it’s wonderful getting up in the morning and being needed by a wonderful organization.”
The best part of the job? The cruises! They receive three weeks off each year and they love to spend their time on different ships. Besides Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, they can also sail on the Azamara line.
Just last August they took a 15 day cruise on Celebrity’s Constellation where they flew to Amsterdam, when to St Petersburg where they took a plane to see Moscow, then sailed to Finland, Sweden and Estonia.
Robert really enjoyed Estonia and found it quaint with a lot of history and “the loveliest people.” The busiest times for check-in agents are November to May where most passengers are cruising the Caribbean so they have to take their cruises outside of this time.
One of their favorite cruises was before they worked for the cruise lines. It was when Sondra was with American Express and her boss, who was one of the Vice Presidents, offered her a cruise on Crystal Harmony that went through the Panama Canal. It was one of their favorites because the ship was smaller and more intimate with fantastic service.
One of their passions while cruising is dancing to Latin music. They learned to dance in the Catskills years back where there were many Latin American bands playing there.
One of the best cruises was on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas where they went around Cape Horn in South America and they fell in love with the beauty of Rio De Janeiro. Their dream cruise? One day they want to take a cruise to Australia.
Hey Robert and Sondra, that’s my dream too…..