On the Ship (February 18 – 19, 2012)
Just as we were finishing up our crackers and watered-down lemonade, Group 6 was called to board the Jewel. I glanced at the clock. It was exactly 6pm – two hours later than we were originally scheduled to set sail. We wearily trudged behind our group leader, obediently stopping to get hand sanitizer before we boarded the ship. We found our rooms on the second level with only one minor detour. Our cabin steward, Roland, was waiting for us and immediately got to work settling us in. Roland was from the Philippines, spoke broken English, and was shorter than my 10 year old. Communication was a bit touch and go, but it didn’t really matter. The kids liked him instantly – he already knew them by name and he had such a cool accent. Buddy spent the rest of the cruise imitating everything he said.
We’d been informed as soon as we boarded that dinner was ready and being served in the main dining room and the Windjammer Cafe (buffet). Because we were tired and hungry we decided to skip the formality and the dress code of the dining room and head to the buffet. We were met at the entrance with a friendly smile and more hand sanitizer. The cafe, which is quite a misnomer because it is a huge space, was quiet and relatively empty. This was a pleasant surprise. Having been around people in very close quarters for the majority of the day, I was happy not to be now. The buffet was large and very well stocked with a wide variety of offerings. I was especially happy with the fresh fruit, the salad fixings, and the assortment of desserts. The kids quickly made friends with the ice cream machine. The food wasn’t fantastic but certainly better than average. We lingered for a long time at our table. It felt good to be sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned space and there was no pressure to move once we were finished eating.
We spoke for some time with a waiter from Norway. He was very sympathetic to our afternoon ordeal and shared some of the issues the crew faced while the ship was denied access to the port. Many of the passengers on the previous cruise had missed their homebound flights because of the late docking. Staff that normally enjoys a brief break off the ship between cruises stayed on board to help with turn-over. Listening to him talk helped me put into perspective the real impact the port closure had on literally thousands of people. I realized that the boarding passengers (a.k.a. us) were probably the least inconvenienced and I was even more impressed with the warmth and pleasant attitude of the staff we had encountered after considering what they had just been through.
After dinner, we made our way back to our rooms. Roland had retrieved our suitcases and prepared the kids’ beds for them. We spent some time in our room reading the activity offerings for the next day and just hanging out. Exhaustion and happiness were making us silly. Even though we were tired, we attended the muster drill at 9:15pm. This would have been a dry and boring affair except for the very cute, dark-haired male staff member with an Aussie accent to boot – just Lovey’s type. I took a quick glance at her and knew right away that I had guessed right. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him the rest of the trip because he tended bar in one of the clubs. After fulfilling our duty at the muster drill, we took a leisurely tour of the ship, ending on a secluded deck overlooking the heli-pad. From this spot, we watched as the ship sailed silently out of the Port of Tampa and into the Gulf of Mexico – six hours later than scheduled. It was cool and windy on deck so we made a hasty retreat to ours rooms, serenaded by happy Caribbean tunes wafting from the pool area. We all dropped into bed and slept well into the next morning.
I woke up to a small amount of rocking motion. Being concerned about motion sickness, I got out of bed and took another Bonine tablet. It was 9:30am! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept that late and it felt wonderful. We took our time getting ready for the day and then headed back to the Windjammer for breakfast. More friendly greetings, more hand sanitizer, and more people at the buffet. Breakfast was good and I probably overindulged in the sweet rolls and danish offerings. This was a cruising day and we filled it by spending time together. We played an energetic ping pong game called “Around the World”. We skipped lunch and opted for snacking on french fries, soda, and more ice cream while we played Bull (a bluffing card game). I won. The kids played shuffleboard and mini-golf while Jay and I napped (the Bonine was having its way with me) and read really good books. We didn’t make it to the pool. It was crowded and cramped and there were no lounge chairs available. No one in the family seemed to mind this. The idea of trying to swim in a small pool with tons of other people wasn’t appealing to any of us. Instead, we helped the boys figure how to use their Sea Passes in the arcade and just lounged around. It was a very laid back day – the kind we all needed.
It was Formal Night in the main dining room. Because we weren’t participating, we ate supper once again at the Windjammer. Why weren’t we participating in Formal Night? Because we were doing more traveling after the cruise and didn’t want to drag all those extra clothes around with us. Even though we chose not to join the festivities, it was fun seeing everyone else in their finest. When we returned to our rooms, Roland had tidied up, lowered the lights, and turned all the beds down. Much to our pleasure, we found towel animals in both rooms – a swan for the parents and a monkey for the monkeys. The kids hung out with us for a little while before they climbed into bed. We followed their example and were dozing in no time. It didn’t taken long for me to warm up to the comfortable bed and the very subtle rocking of the ship. I slept like a baby.