Jan 5 – Ft. Lauderdale
It seems that almost every year, we take the “cruise of a lifetime.” We said that when we sailed from Sydney to Osaka in 2006; from Seattle to Singapore in 2008; from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale by way of the Mediterranean in 2009 and 2011; and even from London to London by way of the polar ice cap in 2010. This time, we are again sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale by way of everywhere. We will visit 27 countries, including 14 we have never seen before, over the next 114 days. Wow!
We were up early this morning to attend to last minute chores and were ready to go when the driver arrived at 10. Loading the car was easy – the driver did it – and we were at Port Everglades close to 11 o’clock. There were 2 lines inside the terminal for passengers to check in. One was for the 4- and 5-Star Mariners, the Holland America frequent flyers, and the other line was for everyone else. Because the passenger load on the World Cruise tilts heavily toward repeat customers, their line was actually longer and slower than the “newbie” line. This is exactly the opposite of what HAL intends by having the 2 lines; in theory, the 4- and 5-Stars would be in the shorter and faster line. Eventually, staff members stated moving folks from the long line to the short.
Once we were checked in and photographed [for security purposes], we were issued a boarding number. We were in group 14. Boarding actually began around 11:30, so our wait was not too great. We passed the time talking to old friends [Ken and Lois, Arthur and Linda] until it was our turn. Once on board, we went straight to our cabin and literally dropped the carry-on bags.
Over the weekend, D had received an email from our friend Roxanne who disembarked the Amsterdam earlier this morning. She said that she had left a blue and white bag for us at the Front Desk because the staff would not deliver it to our cabin. While MA rested a bit, D went to the Front Desk where he delivered invitations to the first Cruise Critic meeting but forgot completely about the bag. When he went to inquire after lunch, no one could find the bag which was, eventually and ironically, delivered to our cabin. So, our thanks to you, Roxanne, for the great bag in which to carry “stuff” to Trivia and for all of the goodies it contained. And thanks also to Ted and Janice [and Virtuoso Travel] for the on-board credit. It won’t cover our bar bill, but it will be a big help.
Since there was no lunch being served in the main dining room [hereinafter called simply the MDR], we left the comforts of Deck 3, our new home, and went to the Lido Deck for lunch. In deference to Jon, lunch will not be cataloged today. We carried our plates outside and ate overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway and, beyond, the ocean.
By the time we returned to the cabin, most of our luggage had arrived so we spent the next hour opening suitcases and figuring out where to put everything. There was a lot to put away; people who saw pictures of the baggage thought we were the Vanderbilts. By 3:30 or so, every bag had been delivered and all of our possessions were stowed. There will, no doubt, be fine tuning over the next few weeks as we decide what we really need and what can be hidden away until later..
Packing for this cruise was a difficult task for 2 reasons. First, the sheer length of the voyage dictates that we take a variety of clothes so we don’t look like we are wearing the same clothes every third day [even if we are]. Second, we will have 2 distinct climates to prepare for, the tropical weather of the Pacific, Southeast Asia and the Mid-East and then the cooler temperatures of the Mediterranean. Early on, we expect temps in the 80s, rising to the 90s and high humidity in Singapore and then the dry heat of Dubai and the desert countries. Once we pass through the Suez Canal, things will be decidedly cooler.
Of course, the cabin was littered with empty suitcases which D could not wedge under the bed, so they were nested when they could be and piled on the bed. With them was a laundry bag filled with dress shirts. Since we get our laundry done for free as frequent cruisers, it was easier to bring the wrinkled shirts aboard and let HAL wash and press them.
As we left the room for the mandatory safety drill at 4:15, we asked the cabin steward to stow the luggage under the bed and to pick up the laundry. Of course, the things were still on the bed when we left for the Ocean Bar at 7 pm but were taken care of by the time we returned from dinner at 9:30.
At supper in the MDR we had a table for 2, just as we had requested. The service was smooth for a first night and we enjoyed ourselves. [shrimp cocktail for both, salads and then prime rib for him, vegetarian for her. Sorry, Jon]. The 4-top next to us was empty, not an unusual event on the first night as people may be too tired to come to dinner; some eat in the Lido buffet; others go to alternative venues; and others get room service. We inquired and were able to switch tables so that, while we will still be a party of 2, we now have space to invite people to join us. Stay tuned to see if we really do.
Dinner ended by 9:30 and we returned to the cabin where MA read before turning off the lights and D, as usual, went elsewhere to write this journal. There were difficulties connecting to the blog site, so this entry will be posted later than expected. The ship left port after 10 pm and there is just the slightest motion to the ship as this is being written.
TOMORROW: The Cruise Critic Meet-and-Greet and other excitement.