Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Escaping Insanity: A Cruising Trip Report. Embarkation Day!!!! (Part 1)

Need to see the previous day?  Start HERE.

I was the first one up (I’m like the kids in an old Walt Disney World commercial…can’t sleep…too excited!).  I looked out the window and did a quick count…1…2…3…4…5…yep 5 ships (insert a laugh from “the Count” from Sesame Street… “5!  5 Ships ah-ah-ah…crash/boom”).

In the foreground was the luxury yacht, Seafair.

Behind it was Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator, with four large ships on the other side of Port Miami’s Dodge Island.

There’s MSC Divina, two whale tails, which were Carnival Glory and Carnival Vista, and then…there she was…Norwegian Escape.

Soon afterward, the other three were awake and wondering what I was doing looking out the window for ten minutes straight.  I told the boys to look and see what was out there.

They couldn’t get past the yacht docked next to the hotel.  Once I got them to focus over at Port Miami, their eyes got a little wider.

We all did the bathroom shuffle to get 4 people ready in one bathroom.  I started packing up the electronics, while the others made sure nothing was left in the room.  We then headed down to the Starbucks in the lobby for a quick bite.  We didn’t want to fill up on a large breakfast – why pay for that when you could have free food on the ship in just a few hours???

The boys enjoyed their café mochas at Starbucks (which, I should probably add, was their first taste of Starbucks and mochas).  I was fully expecting them to start emulating Beavis and Butthead when they had coffee (“I am the great Cornholio!”).  Luckily, they seemed rather subdued.  It could have been the cute girls in the store that kept them calm.  Aaron has this running joke where he’d claim to introduce himself to a cute girl with this falsetto “heellLLOOOOOOOoooo!”  I brought that up and told him to try it out with them.

Yeah…he didn’t listen to me.

We headed back up to pack, and I made an executive decision to download my videos to have as much storage space as possible on the GoPro, since I was planning on using and abusing that piece of equipment that day.  As I was downloading, it started raining outside.  I immediately went into planning mode for how to handle this; luckily, I didn’t have to fret for long, because the rain stopped about ten minutes later.  Despite my pleas for her to try Bonine this time, Wifey opted for scopolamine, and I helped her get the patch on.

I did the texting checkout, and we were out!  I have to say again that the Intercontinental Miami really impressed me and that I would definitely recommend it; just make sure that you’re aware of any concerts nearby.

I set up our Uber ride to the terminal, and Carlos was there in less than five minutes.  We were on Dodge Island within three minutes, but the tunnel traffic was thick!  With five ships embarking that day, it wasn’t a major surprise.  It took just over 15 minutes to load the car, ride to terminal C, and unload the car.  There was a momentary panic as we realized that the laptop was still on the car after we shut the door; luckily, we were able to flag Carlos down before he took off.  Counting the number of bags came in handy there!

We immediately grabbed a porter and dropped off 5 bags, leaving us with 5 smaller tote bags to haul around (definitely doable).  After tipping the porter, we headed up to the door for Terminal C, not exactly knowing how busy it would be.  The line for security screening was moving quickly, and we were through it in about 4 minutes.  Up next was the medical form.  I was a bit concerned, because of allergies that I had been dealing with for nearly a week.  My eyes were a bit red, and there was a definite cough bugging the heck out of me.  Knowing that it was allergies (I forgot to take an allergy pill that morning), I felt confident filling out the form – I wasn’t going to give someone my case of allergies.  As we were filling out the form, a security guard walked by, which got everyone’s attention – he stood around 6’8” and was solid muscle.  How he was not in the NFL, I’ll never know.  The boys noticed the automatic firearm he was carrying.  My wife noticed the guns located above his elbow in his arms.

(no pic of the security guy...sorry, ladies)

The line for checking in moved quickly, and we had our cards in our hand within ten minutes.  We made our way to the holding lobby and were handing our boarding number…group 5.  Well, I guess we weren’t getting Vibe passes for the cruise – good thing we weren’t trying to get them, right?  The lobby was filling up, but we were still easily able to find several spots to sit.  While waiting, I headed to the part of the lobby as close to the ship as possible and was able to connect to the ship’s wifi.  I wasn’t able to access our account via Norwegian’s iConcierge app yet, as it appeared that they were still closing out the last cruise’s guests.  After a few tries, though, I was able to log in, and I immediately made a dining reservation on the app for Cagney’s on our anniversary (Wednesday).  After more research and talking to friends, we decided to do Cagney’s instead of La Cucina.  I wasn’t able to cancel the La Cucina reservation on the app, but I knew that I was able to do it at Headliners after we boarded.  I also wanted to modify the anniversary cake over to Cagney’s for that night, as it was initially set up for La Cucina.

We waited for probably around 15-20 minutes before we started seeing some of the pre-boarding groups getting on.  There were a couple of choruses of “Happy Birthday” sung by a few hundred friends while waiting.  Finally, the P.A. announcer told us fellow Norwegians that they were about to start boarding.  One of the NCL terminal employees got the crowd excited as she gave the instructions on what all we needed to get past her.  Groups 1 and 2 boarded at the same time.  As they did that, groups 3 and 4 started lining up.  We started making our way towards the loading area.  As groups 3 and 4 were announced, we were ready.  A thunderous cheer was heard every time they announced a new boarding group allowed.  When 5 and 6 were announced, we joined in and let out a quick holler.  We gave our boarding group card and were granted access past her.

The line moved quickly, but we still had a minute or two to look at just how big the Escape was.  After a couple of minutes, we scanned our cards, and we were on the gangway heading up to board on Deck 7.  There were a lot of smiles and a lot of joking around by everyone as we made our way up.  As we stepped foot aboard, there were several members of the crew welcoming us and dancing.

We were on the ship a total of about 5 seconds, and I was already starting to relax.

We got washy-washyed as we made our way aft.  A member of the kids’ clubs (Entourage and Splash Academy) sized up Aaron and decided that he probably had the adult beverage package; he gave Eric a quick piece of paper that reminded guests of when enrollment for the clubs were.  Sheri took special notice of the life boats and picked one just for her.

We entered a crew hallway (not the biggest fan of that) as we made our way into the guest area.  There was a stairwell that had Sheri commenting on “where we definitely DON’T want to be”, harkening to Rose and Jack from Titanic.  A few steps later, we were inside on Deck 7, in the casino.  We immediately saw the impressive chandelier ahead of us, and, along with everyone else around us, we stopped for pictures and jaw-drops.  Everyone else was heading to the right all the way around the chandelier.  Being an economist, I sought the most efficient route, and, as you can see in the video (link below), we went left and beat nearly everyone around.  We made our way through the casino past the Skyline Bar (the other one…the location with the same name on the Disney Dream will always be “our” Skyline Bar).  We made it to the aft elevators, and a crew member informed us that the buffet was open.  Seeing that very few were getting on the elevators, we agreed to grab lunch while it was quiet.  We rode up to Deck 16 with a couple that were already on drink #2.  When the elevator opened, I guided us farther aft, while the few others near the bank of elevators headed forward.  That’s a piece of advice to give you there…the aft stations of Garden Café are typically not as crowded as the ones more forward.  We found a table right in the corner of the starboard aft section.  I told the rest I’d hold the table while they got food.  While they were gone, I grabbed a few pictures of downtown Miami and of Carnival Vista, parked just behind us.  The boys returned I expected, they had their plates full and were already plotting what to put on plate #2.  I went up and grabbed my own plate.  As we ate, one of the officers came around, welcomed us aboard, and asked if we needed anything.

Every 2-3 minutes, a crew member would stop by to clear out plates, restock table settings, asking if we needed anything.  After a couple of rounds of main courses, the boys sought out dessert…or, rather, round 1 of desserts.  When they returned, Sheri and I headed up together to get dessert, and we saw a crew member handing out that day’s Freestyle Daily, which is the information sheet of all that is going on.

Freestyle Daily!

We asked for one and took it back with us to the table, along with dessert.  Garden Café was definitely getting busier, but there were still a lot of open tables around us.  We all got set up on the iConcierge app and paid for the text/voice access.  Eric, always the jokester, started texting us from three feet away, which led to an emoji war involving Sheri and the boys.  EVENTUALLY, we gathered our bags (counted…5…good to go) and headed out.  Since we were only one deck below Entourage, we decided to get Aaron registered up there.  A few minutes later, we headed out of Entourage and started to make our way forward.  We walked by the upper level of the Waves bar and noticed that there was only one other guest there.  Sheri and I immediately changed paths and headed right into Waves to grab a table.  The boys watched our bags while we went up to the bar to order our first drink.  We both decided on the drink of the day…the “Daydreamer’s Daiquiri” (Silver rum, lime juice, and agave nectar).

I went to tip the bartender and realized that all I had were $20s.  I knew that there was already an 18% gratuity paid for with the drink package, but I wanted to give some more.  I secretly kicked myself for not having singles yet, and I sheepishly said, “Thanks!” for the drinks.



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