At the time, I had a great aunt living in the Tampa area. I decided to drive down and visit her, before flying to Miami. My thinking at the time, was that I didn't want to pay for parking at the port of Miami. The flight from Tampa didn't actually add much more than what I would have paid for both gas and parking anyway, and I wanted to arrive at Miami early.
I took a shuttle van from my Aunt's to Tampa International Airport. I was the last of 6 people to be picked up by the taxi/van, which was likely for the best. The driver wasted no time getting us to the airport. I might well have gotten to Miami faster than by plane if he had just kept driving. We might well have broken the land speed record on the way across the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
I requested an early departure to Miami, as to arrive and be able to board the Sovereign as soon as possible. The 9:00 a.m. flight was on a DeHaviland Dash 8, a twin engine turbo-prop aircraft coyly referred to as a Jet-prop by U.S. Air. People it seems don't like turboprops, and with good reason. Some of these planes sound like giant blenders inside. The trip was not overly taxing, and only lasted an hour.
I flew into Miami at 10 a.m. the day of the cruise. The arrival at Miami was uneventful. I was actually able to see the Sovereign of the Seas from the plan. We had to have been 10,000 feet up, but the ship was clearly visible at dock. A pair of neatly dressed RCI personnel were waiting at the gate as I walked into the terminal. I proceeded down to the baggage claim area, and to a non-descript "Cruise Information Desk." There I was able to check in, take care of the preliminary on-board charge and check-in paperwork. I was given a colored ticket for boarding the bus, and had an hour to relax and people watch until we departed. Here you can see the old Cruise Passenger Information desk at the Miami International Airport.
Now, since the old days back in 1999, the cruise desk is basically obsolete. Nearly all of your pre-boarding paperwork is done at home, on a computer, before you arrive at the port. To my knowledge, none is presently done at the airport itself.