Saturday, February 9, 2008

Why We Cruise: Day One

On your mark...get set...wait.

The first day of our trip down south, was mostly taken up with just getting there, and getting going...

We left for Bradley International, in the wee hours of Monday morning. Getting there on time, we checked our bags in, did the whole no-coat-barefoot-x-ray-thing, and still had time left over to munch on some McDonalds breakfasts, and grab some reading material for the flight. So far so good.

A new thing they do now, is not only group boarding passengers into three A-B-C groups, but they also number your position within the letter group. Like A-34, A-35, B-05, B-06, ect. New pylons mark where you're to stand as you wait to board. I guess there was too much cutting-in among the adults, and they had to put a stop to it. Another watermark for our culture.

Transfering planes in Baltimore, we were above the south Florida coast by late morning. We could see the cumulus dotting a fair sky, this time, from above.

Then the uber-rich homes of Ft. Lauderdale's suburbs came into view as we slowly decended.

We could feel sweet warm humid air fill the airplane as we taxied to the jetway, and anxiously waited while the people in front of us bumbled with their carry on luggage and carry on kids.

The ship we were boarding was leaving from Miami, about 45 minutes to the south. We jumped onto a shuttle, and were on our way. As soon as we left the airport, the landscape was awash in the color green. Kelly chatted amiably with the other anxious travelers on the shuttle as I scanned the enviroment, full of palm trees and sun. There was a couple going on a different ship that was having celebrities on board, with some country singers I think I'd heard of. Another lady was meeting a large group of friends and former co-workers, for their yearly cruise. She was a cruising veteran, the first of many we'd meet this week.

We got to the docks of Miami and unloaded the shuttle. We could see the tops of our vessel above the canvas roof of the check-in/loading area.

Unfortunately we noticed there was a pretty large crowd outside, and it didn't seem to be exactly lurching foward.

We got our stuff together, got in line, and we waited.

Made it to the first checkpoint. Shuffled foward to another section...

And waited.


And waited.

We were about to get to the final check in area where we show our passports and such. With just about four people in front of us, they announced over the intercom that the computers had gone down, and there'd be a 'short' delay. AAARRRGH. Kelly tried to exhibit some frustration and anger at the delays, but in the end found it almost impossible.

This still beat dealing with temps in the 30's, and dead trees.

They finally got everything back online. We proved to them we were Americans with no evil intent, passed yet one more final customs checkpoint, and were allowed across the gangway; to begin our voyage on the high seas. Kelly's attitude was showing signs of wear by this point, but I was feeling pretty good, relieved it was almost over.

Actually....not yet.

There was just one little detail remaining. There was a simple task of getting all 2500 new passengers to their staterooms (which they'd never seen before), find their life preservers, don them and find their way to certain assigned sections of the giant ship (which they'd also never seen before), to be counted, and drill for an emergency. Every single person had to do it. A pretty simple operation really, and welcome after a 6 hour journey. Oh and they gave us all of twenty minutes from our late boarding to do this.

We were hustled along and bumped our way among the masses, bouncing off each other in our giant orange vests, guided and prodded by gesturing shiphands. Small children were getting bumped into walls and separated from their parents. Old folks were getting passed by and left behind. Obese people sweated profusely as they lumbered up crowded stairways in the humid heat, everyone fumbled with the life preserver straps as they accidently elbowed their neighbors. The whole time the loudspeakers blared at us in three languages, from all corners of the ship, pleading with us to get to our mysterious stations and form neat rows as quickly as possible. If this were a real emergency, it would have been a madhouse.

Still, everyone seemed reasonably upbeat. For us, it was still better than shoveling and shivering.

Finally that was the last of the rigamarole, and at last they released us to our own devices.

Set Sail.
The hard part was over. We could now relax and truly begin our trip. The coast of Miami slipped by as the sun began to set. We departed with two other cruise ships, one ahead and one behind. Hour by hour, each glided off a little further towards a different horizon. The music started, drinkers began popping open drinks, relaxers began laying out and relaxing, explorers began exploring the ship, chatters were chatting each other up, and daydreamers were hanging over the rails, daydreaming. Bloggers began taking pictures.

The ocean opened up wide in front of us, under the pink, darkening sky. The lights came on all over the ship. Somewhere in the distance were warm-breezed, sun-soaked, white-beached, palm-treed islands and keys, awaiting our arrival.

We went back to the cabin, organized our stuff, and then went out to explore the huge ship, our home for the next four days.
More coming up....


Mary E.Carey said...

Spectacular cloud and golden sunset pics!

Tony said...

Stay tuned, there's more where that came from..!