Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cruise Round Up: January 1- Embarkation Day

(Okay, I warned you these were going to be long...likely full of typos as well, I'm fixing them if I catch them, but not really proofing- this is what I wrote on the cruise)

YAY! Embarkation day!

The reason we booked the Hampton Inn is they included free airport shuttle and cruise port shuttle. The previous day we signed up for an 11:00 shuttle, and we left with a loaded van (they had a trailer for luggage) at 11:00. The people in the shuttle were very friendly, and we were all excited about the cruise. The drive to the port was short, maybe 20 minutes. Getting into the port was no problem, and we were dropped off and the driver unloaded our luggage to the porters. Then we tipped the driver for the ride, and tipped the porters for moving our bags 2 inches from where the driver left them into the luggage carts. What a racket! Of course, since the driver unloaded the whole thing, we probably could have gotten away with not tipping because the porters don’t know which luggage belongs to tippers and which doesn’t – LOL. But convention it is, so our money we parted with.

Then we entered the port warehouse and went through a pretty easy process of lots of lines. Line #1- passport check and line #2 metal dectors. The lines had waits, but they weren’t too bad. A few people were complaining about friends who were denied boarding because they did not have proof of citizenship- just US drivers licenses (the girl insisted you have to be a citizen to get one, but she wad wrong. I understand her stress, as it was her wedding and her friends were going to be missing it- but seriously, how do you not look this stuff up ahead of time? Especially if you are planning a wedding!)

So then, we went upstairs to line #3- which was to get sign and sail cards. This one took a bit longer. And then line #4 which was pictures for the cards- this one was a breeze for 3 of us, but the 4th ended up behind a toddler who refused to have her picture taken, until finally her mom and dad held her down while she screamed, picture was taken and our friend was no longer trapped in the queue.

Then we walked up the gangway and were on board. I would say we got onboard around 12:15-12:30. See- I told you it was pretty painless, just lots of lines.

When we go ton board a crew member was greeting people and handing out papers to children, so I assume camp carnival. There was no champagne being handed out, and I didn’t see any DOD either- but I don’t really drink, so no loss for me.

We headed up to Lido to eat lunch. I really wanted to try the tandoor, but knew the shortest lines would be at Fish and Chips so we went right up there, and just like cruise critic said, there was no line (none- not a single person) and plenty of tables (there were long lines and no tables downstairs.)

At fish and chips, I had some sort of calamari zucchini fried dough ball thing and chips (thin fries, not thick ones) and my husband had the fish and chips, plus tuna and watermelon (which was really watermelon with a thin slice of tuna, not tuna with some watermelon) having had no wait at all for the
food, we were thrilled to eat whatever. We also all got lemonade, which was really fantastic, better than I remembered from Spirit (this makes up for no fruit punch!). The food was great (well the fries were, I tried the calamari but only ate a bit, I don't really even like fish...), and the tables had ketchup and malt vingegar out on them- so we were able to dress them as we wished. We also got some ice cream and frozen yogurt. The FY was said to be excellent ,but my ice cream wasn’t really frozen, and was disappointing, but still tasted good.

After a bit of a wait the rooms were ready, and we got to our room at about 2:00. We had 1248, an Ocean View on the Riveria deck. The room was spacious, and the window a good size. Not long after we had our first bag delivered and got unpacked.

Then we went an explored the ship- our initial impression was that it was very difficult to get around and there wouldn’t be too many areas to “hang out” in that would be relatively smoke free.

At somepoint here, we had our first slices of pizza, exscellent as we remembered.

Then the boys did the martini tasting at Bar Nouveau and we sat nearby- not too bad of a sitting spot, but a smoky smell permeated, even though smoking was not allowed at these tables (outside of the disco). That martini’s were all very good, and it seemed to be a reasonable deal- $15 for 5 small glasses. I believe they were pomegranate, mango, blue curacou, cosmopolitan, and something else. My husband pointed out that there was no martini at all, just a vodka drinks tasting, but that’[s what we expected. They were all poured WAY too strong for me to even get past a small sip- yuck. DH really enjoyed the pomigrante, but also thought they were poured too strong (I believe he said they were all
quite good.)

During this time I grabbed sushi- and unlike spirit which had random things rolled in rice (yes, technically sushi) this had more “normal” sushi. I don’t like fish, so I had a shrimp nigri, and then took the tuna out of a spicy tuna roll and just ate the roll. There was also something with asparagus, and I didn’t know what the other thing was, and when I was about to pick it out, my BIL grabbed it and ate the whole thing. (DH ate the discarded tuna). Everything was quite yummy, but the pickled ginger was spicy (that’s not quite the wrong word) and not to my liking- usually it’s my favorite part of the sushi experience.

We were now getting nervous about our other piece luggage, but after returning to the stateroom and watching cartoons for awhile, it appeared- whew! Kevin also played with the mirror to try some photo tricks- it turned out really cool.

We had late seating dinner and were rewally diappaointed when we saw that most of the evening events we were interested in (trivias and such) conflicted with our seating time. What an odd schedule!

At 8:15 we went to the Posh lower dining room for dinner. This was both excellent, and very
disappointing. The Posh dining room vibrates like mad! It sounds like the ship will be falling apart at any moment, and never stops. It really ruins the dining experience, The other problem was that the service was just SLOW. It took us 2 hours to finish the meal, with LONG waits between the courses. Our waters were occasionally refilled, but after sitting empty for a long time. The biggest service problem was dessert- I was given a chocolate melting cake, and had to tell the waiter I ordered a crème brulee. The cheese plate didn’t get set out until all four of us had just about finished our desserts (I figured they forgot, and didn’t really care enough to remind them after already correcting once.) A tablemate’s hot tea never arrived.

But the highlight of dinner was the food- everything we ate was excellent, I didn’t hear any complaints from anyone. I had the Vegetarian Indian Dinner and I believe it will be a highlight of my cruise. It was kind of like ordering a Thali plate- I got a pile of rice, a chickpea type thing, something with peas/cottage cheese cube, something red, and some white sauce/yogurt. Also a rati (chip) and a piece of bread that wasn’t naan, but very similar with onions. The only thing I couldn’t eat was the red thing- it was horribly bitter, but I imagine that it was just no to my tastes, not that it was bad. The onion bread was divine, and while I didn’t eat the cottage cheese cube, the curry? It was in was amazing! I didn’t finish all the chickpea stuff just because I was so full- this was a huge amount of food. (Forgot to take the picture before I started to eat... oops)

For my entrée I had the iceberg lettuce salad, and it was fine, nothing to write home about.

For my dessert, I had crème brulee and the flavor was excellent, but the actual dessert wasn’t well made- it’s like they forgot to toast the sugar- there was no layer to crack into, and when I scooped up some of the custard, the sugar topping slid like a liquid into the hole left behind. But the flavor was amazing.

After dinner we went to the welcome aboard show which was entertaining. Just before we got there there was bingo and one woman won the $750- she of course was thrilled, there was also a proposal on stage.

We sat on the side balcony which was a poor choice, due to the staging of the dancing, but we could see most things fine. The dancing wasn’t too impressive- very very simple high school drill team type moves, but it was cute and the theme of “fun” was hammered in. (Kevin tried out a new lense and it takes great pictures in a very dark room. Here is one of fun ship Freddy, not the most in shape dancer- but I still wish I looked like that... you can also see the risque boob baring top if you look at the corner of the picture- a bit random, really, as everything else was very family friendly and that was like "here are the boobs!")

The dancers should also probably be reminded of the theatre mantra “if you can see them, they can see you” as we saw one dancer in the wings adjusting her costume out of her backside… LOL. The man singing was very good, but the backup dancers singing was prerecordered and a bit silly sounding (very electronic). The “orchestra” was very good- I've heard they decreased the size, and I didn't count, but it looked the same as I remembered from the Spirit. They then brought up 4 guests and did a bit of a back and forth with them, that was quite humorous and made them dance- and it was very entertaining. I would see 2 of these guests over and over throughout the week, but didn't remember the other two well enough to see them again.

Afterwards we had plans to go to the late night comedy show (11:45 p.m.), but the lounge in the back of the ship was absolutely packed, so I headed off to bed. My husband stayed and said “it had it’s moments” but that it wasn’t that great. He didn’t end up finding a seat, so he stood with his brother in the back.

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