Thursday, August 3, 2017

Escaping Insanity: A Cruising Trip Report. Embarkation Day!!!! (Part 2)

Part 1 of this day can be found HERE.

We continued our way forward, noting that the pool one deck below was essentially empty.  We found the ping pong tables as we made our way inside to the forward elevators.  We then took the elevator down to deck 5 to head to Splash Academy to get Eric registered.  I’ll say upfront that Sheri and I were both a little concerned about the “fit” that Eric would have with Splash.  Though he jokes around about everything, he is a mature age of 12, and we thought that much of the activities wouldn’t interest him.  I knew that we couldn’t request him to move up to Entourage; we showed Eric an earlier copy of the activities, and he seemed interested in a few of them, so we took the chance and registered him.  He received a yellow wrist band that let the crew members know what level he was (he could check himself out after 2 hours of being in the Academy) as well as other pertinent information.

Once he was registered, we stuck our heads into the Guppies room of Splash, and I grabbed a little video of it.  After that, we headed up to deck 6 to the atrium.  I wanted to stop by guest services to A) try getting the anniversary cake moved from La Cucina over to Cagney’s on the 21st; and B) to break a $20 so I would have tipping money.  While waiting in line, the Director of Guest Services, Odie, was greeting guests and seeing if he could take care of any issues without having to speak to a guest services member.  Seeing him there impressed me.

I received a card to give to the server for the cake, and I hid it in my pocket…I wanted to surprise Sheri with it on our anniversary.  While I was getting this taken care of, Sheri and the boys grabbed a seat in the atrium.  The timing was good, because a server came around and got drink orders from them.  She got a mojito.

Not that I was keeping score, but she was +1 on me on drinks.

From the time we got onboard, we heard an announcement that the staterooms were not yet ready every 15-20 minutes.  It sounded like a lot of people were trying to get into the rooms early.  I wanted to scream to let the cabin stewards do their thing, but I instead took my anger out by gnawing on the straw of my ‘fish.  Once we had our drinks done, we started heading around to get a feel for the ship.  We worked our way aft and walked through some of the art gallery before finding ourselves in the chandelier atrium (“Atrium #2”, as we called it).  I stopped by Headliners to cancel our La Cucina reservation (I saw her typing something about “anniversary” in the Cagney’s reservation, so they knew :)).  Since I wanted us to see the variety show, I inquired about trying to move our reservation at the Manhattan Room up to 5:30, and she said that just showing up at 5:15 would be enough.  I thanked her and rejoined the Mushfam, who was still staring straight up at the chandelier.

We walked a little farther aft, past the Mixx Bar and Taste/Savor restaurants.  Just as we got to the aft elevators, they announced that staterooms were available.  Good timing!  We hailed a ‘vator and made our way up to Deck 12.  Our room was REALLY close to the aft elevators on the port side…12272.  The Mushfam all commented on how close the room was, and I basked in the glory of being a good travel consultant and picking a good room for them.  I got my card out…

…and failed miserably at getting the door open.  Being the typical teen, Aaron grabbed my card and tried, with the same unsuccessful result.

Eric then tried….nope.

I started getting a bit nervous, until Aaron threw his card in and quickly removed it, giving us a green light on the lock.  We all piled in, and I immediately noticed that the bed was near the balcony.

WOOHOO!!!!  All my information led me to believe that it was by the closet.

We headed out to the balcony/verandah, and I again basked in the glory of a successful stateroom selection.  All of us just stood there for a moment, and then Sheri broke the silence: “I see my boats!”, as she pointed to the red lifeboats below us.  I noticed that we had three chairs on the verandah, which was awesome.  We then heard a “Hi, Neighbor!” to our right.  We met the couple in the stateroom next us – a younger couple from Ontario – and talked to them for a couple of minutes.  Eric took a panoramic shot, with"interesting" result:

Sheri started lobbying that we could do sail away on our balcony, which led to a quick exchange between us (I like the excitement of sail away from the upper decks).  Aaron then claimed that he was confident that he could spit all the way to the water from our balcony.  I contemplated climbing over the railing to stay with the couple from Canada for the duration of the cruise.

We headed back in to look around the room a little, and I noticed that some of our in-room requests had already arrived.  The first thing I saw was another card with “Happy Anniversary” on the front and instructions to give the card to our server when we wanted to use it.

Oops – I didn’t realize that this was how they did it.  I tried to keep it away from Sheri’s sight, but it didn’t work, and I let her in on the plans.  This is a big reason why I wanted to take the cruise – to get a feel for how they do things :).  We also got the bottled water that I pre-ordered, as well as the tickets for our shore excursion to Virgin Gorda & the Baths.  I noticed that the distilled water that was pre-ordered for my cpap machine had not yet arrived.  It was still early, though, and I wasn’t concerned at all.

As if on cue, we heard a knock on the door.  It wasn’t the distilled water, but it was a delivery of chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of Brut sparkling wine – a perk that Norwegian gives to travel partners sailing with them.  The berries were inhaled by all within 12.6 seconds, and the Brut was put into the fridge to start chilling.

I got the cpap machine set up and, though I brought an extension cord, I was happy to see that I wouldn’t need it, as the cord could reach across the room to an outlet.  While the boys explored the events on the Freestyle Daily, I opened up my newest toy that went with the GoPro: a Joby suction cup with Gorillapod arm.  I went out to the balcony and looked around for the best place to set it up.  I decided to place it on the divider on the left and stuck it on.  After I dismounted my GoPro from my handle and swapped out the MicroSD card for a larger capacity one, I heard someone above me shout out, “That’s a really cool idea!!!” as I mounted the GoPro to the Joby.  Some guests on their balcony on deck 14 saw what I was doing and loved it.  I told them my plan of getting a time lapse of the sail away (see video from previous post).  I used my iPad to check the orientation of the GoPro (I love technology sometimes!) and, happy with what I saw, I shut it all down to save the battery.  I then grabbed our DSLR camera and started taking some pictures from our view – vacation and anniversary aside, I was still “working”.

Fueling us up!

The boys were starting to drive Sheri crazy (crazier), so I offered to take them with me while I got some ship pictures.  Eric agreed, and, since separating the boys is often the best plan of attack when they are in “let’s-drive-our-parents-crazy” mode, she gave us our blessing.

We immediately headed up to Deck 16 to get a feel for the pool area.  It was definitely getting a little more crowded, but it was still manageable.

The live music had started, and Eric and I stopped to listen for a moment.

I noticed that both levels of the Wave bar were definitely a lot busier than when we got our drink.  My Disney/Universal strategy of “go-where-they-ain’t” is still paying dividends on the ship.  I turned around, and we got our first glimpse of the water slides (then closed, as the Muster drill was about an hour away).

Eric and I headed forward.  I had two objectives here: 1) first, I wanted Eric to see the view from the front of the ship; and 2) I wanted to see the crowd levels on the sundecks up there.  Aside from us, there may have been only 3-4 couples up on the forward sundecks, and I immediately made a mental note of that in case we wanted to do some laying out the next day.  I also thought that this area might be a good spot for sail away.  I really liked the small walkway on Deck 19 that overlooked the pool area and gave you a view of both sides of the ship.  The pictures below show the view from that location:

We then headed aft to look at the arcade, and I could see Eric making a mental note of all that was in there.  I had a feeling that we’d be checking the onboard accounts a lot on this cruise to make sure they weren’t spending hundreds of dollars a day in there.

Eric and I arrived back to the stateroom around 3:00, and the other two were chilling a bit after getting the carry-ons taken care of.  We had the Muster drill coming up soon, and we hoped that, if we got there early, we might have a chance to be one of the early ones out.  Our assigned station was E4, which was Taste/Savor.  The setup then (keep in mind that this could change) was that odd numbers were in Taste, with evens in Savor.  The crew got set up, and we followed the member with the green “E4” sign, got our cards scanned (yes, they scan to make sure you attend), and grabbed a seat.  This was definitely much more comfortable than Disney’s muster station, where you assemble on the promenade near the lifeboats, but Sheri also commented that her lifeboat just for her was more than three steps away.  I made a joke that, perhaps they would have a band playing for us while they got the Haven guests to their boats first, like in Titanic.  Though I got a death glare from her, I think she preferred this setup for the drill.

Peter was our station’s crew member, and he maintained an excellent combination of humor (to keep things from being too boring) and professionalism (he knew when to stop the jokes).  Our Cruise Director, Tyler Gray, was doing the spiel, and I noticed that his voice was a bit more gravelly than I recalled hearing from the videos I had seen before.  Soon after, we were released from the drill, and, while much of the masses went to the elevator bank, we squeezed past them to the stairs.  I warned them that it was going to be a climb up to Deck 17, but they seemed like they were okay with it.  I then told them that I was stopping at Deck 12 to get the GoPro started.

I don’t know why, but they didn’t seem too happy about it around Deck 12.

I peeled off at Deck 12 and immediately saw that two of our checked bags had already arrived.  I opened the door and got the bags inside.  I then started the GoPro and contemplated sitting down for a second, ordering room service, taking a nap, etc.  Then reality set in, and I knew I’d be fish food if I actually did that, so I bounded up the stairs to Deck 17.  Sheri texted me their location – port side, under the Aqua Racer (SHADE).  I found them a minute later, and we grabbed some railing.  I looked over and saw the water eddying from the bow thruster.  That meant only one thing…we were going to be the first ship out (you can see it in the video).



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