Monday, 14 August 2006:
We had arranged for a late checkout the night before, so no one was particularly concerned about waking up early. Thus when I woke up at 9:00, it wasn't to an alarm or the nagging voice of someone saying "it's time to go", which made me happy.
Chad and CJ had already eaten, but the rest of the group met down in the hotel's restaurant for breakfast - I gladly dove into the breakfast buffet of eggs and meats and pancakes and other tasty such foods.
Because Matthew was a priority club member (or some such), our room had a luxuriously late 1:00 pm checkout time, so everyone else threw their bags into our room before we all went across the street to check out the shopping at the mall.
An hour and a half of that and we were all pretty much done, so it was back to the room to grab the bags, and then we waited in the lobby for the taxi van to come fetch us.
Our ride to the cruise ship was short, maybe 5 minutes, and upon arrival we said goodbye to our checked luggage and went inside with our carry-ons to check in. Security looked the same as at the airport, except we didn't have to do the shoe thing this time. And then we were sent into a line to check-in at a long row of desks., again, similar to the airport.
Checkin went smoothly - we had already done most of the work through the online stuff - and then we were off on our adventure... which started by going up an escalator and down a long glass hallway toward the gangway. After a quick stop for the mandatory 'welcome on board' touristy-picture op (taken by a helpful Royal Caribbean photographer), we crossed through the similarly glassed in gangway onto the boat, the "Majesty of the Seas", and then, for me at least, the awe struck - immediately inside the entrance was a large, glassy, rather fancy looking atrium, complete with all the service desks needed to sign up for the many extras on the cruise. From here, we navigated our way downstairs to our stateroom (on deck 2), which, in contrast to the grandeur of the welcoming hall, is quite tiny. We set down our carry-ons and then went to meet the others for lunch in the Windjammer café on deck 11.
An all you can eat, serve yourself buffet of salads, noodles, meats, fish, soups, and more, topped a the end by several tables of beautifully crafted desserts in all shapes and sizes. My favorite was the key lime pie. And it's all included with the price of the ticket - finally this trip is starting to pay off. But of course I was still mostly full from breakfast, so by the time we finished lunch, I was stuffed! By the time we arrived back at our staterooms after lunch, our luggage had been delivered, so we unpacked a little and then I took a nap. I know, what a waste, but I needed the rest.
Then there was the muster drill - the aquatic version of a fire drill. Starting at 4:00, when I was still asleep, the announcer came over the PA system to remind everyone that at 4:30, after everyone had boarded the boat, we would be having a "muster drill". And he did this in 4 different languages, very loudly, and thus very disruptively to those of us who wanted those extra 15 minutes of sleep. Another announcement followed at 4:15, and then at 4:30 the actual drill began (though we had already started up a few minutes early). We put on our life jackets (kindly waiting on our beds) and followed to herds of people to our "muster stations" (determined by residence deck), the areas on deck 7 right below the life boats where said crafts would be lowered to in the event of a real emergency. Finally, when all had arrived, the announcers said some things, and then at 5:00 we were dismissed. Fun fun.
In the lapse of excitement between the muster drill and dinner, I made one last call home (just to leave a message saying "we made it okay"), then stood out on one of the decks to watch us cast off. About one hour later, we were clear of the port and out on open sea. I knew it was a big ship, but I underestimated the amount of time it would take to cast off, turn around, and move out of the no wake zone.
In the evening, before dinner, the group went to the onboard theatre (this is a big ship, mind you!) to watch a comedian - he lived up to his title, having a very amusing act. I was actually a might bit surprised he could get away with a lot of the jokes, since most of them poked fun at the cruiseline itself, but I guess it was all allowed in the name of comedy.
After the comedian it was time for dinner, so we made our way into the upper dining room and were seated at our own table for the group. The menu had many options, but I chose some variety of fish (salmon and cod, I think) for both the appetizer and meal proper. The food, again, was good, and the service excellent. And the dessert was the highlight: a white chocolate fondue in a cup with a variety of fruits intermixed.
Because we are signed up for the later dinner slot (8:30 pm, which is actually good considering how long it takes to be hungry again after a very full breakfast and lunch), it was about 10:30 when we finished, and I pretty much went straight to bed. I'd made the mistake of taking a single dose of Walgreen's-brand dramamine right before dinner, purely as a precautionary measure now that we were moving out on the open sea. And I felt safe doing this because I've never been affected by medicines that say "may cause drowsiness". Except this time. This pill had me feeling drowsy and lightheaded all through dinner, so by the time we finished, I was ready for sleep. And I slept quite soundly, too.