Day Three: Ships Ahoy!

We spent the night at the Mercury which was restful. R. had to go to a meeting, my camera had decided to crap out and provisions needed to be obtained. We took a quicky
trip to Walgreens to buy 3 mbrellas, a cheapie Kodak digital “point ‘n’ shoot”, toothpaste and the like. On the 5 block walk back, we were caught in a phenomenal downpour—flooding the streets, pouring down buckets—and nipped into the Big Pink (also on Collins Avenue) for a lengthly, late breakfast to watch ports on t.v. and the local color.
We then plowed across the street (stepping into puddles that came up to my knees!) to finish our packing, open the packages and get ready to board the boat.

Now. In the world of cruising, there is a lot of information that just isn’t there. I looked for specifics…dug in…and its just not there. Like when to board. On the printed information, they said 2:00 p.m. but, once we checked in, we found we could have started earlier (at 11 a.m.)—to dovetail hotel check-out and boat check-in. We got to the Port of Miami around 1:00—and saw the boat towering in the harbor. It was very brisk and friendly getting on the boat with relatively short waiting in lines and folks doing the check in were very informative, nice and low key. There was a security check-in just like the airport—and the issuance of the key from whence “all blessings flow”—and from whence everything is charged. Essentially, the key is key.

It was impressive to see the boat dead on from the gang plank. Impressively big and truly inconceivable. We loved it. When entering the boat, there are vases of fresh flowers, in our case, perfect pink roses and lilies that greet you with a line-up of attractive men in cream colored suits who, if they could have, would have sung “Be our Guest”. They guided the dazed and bewildered me, and the charmed and engaged K. and A. to our rooms where we rearranged all of our stuff while watching the safety film about how to behave on board, what to do/not to do—featuring some very ordinary actors who make it conceiveable as they look like 90% of the people on board. The minute you get your bearings, the food announcements commence—“shipboard buffet”, “help yourself” etc.
Is the mantra. Above on the “Entertainment Deck” –all the newly arrived guests were indeed doing that. Helping themselves. Another group of very cheery men with trays were offering up fruity punches and asking for the key . The key is key. There were big plates of spaghetti being consumed with many fruity drinks…the vacation had commenced for many of our fellow travelers. Alcohol was being consumed in huge quantities even before the boat set sail. I guess this is what “one” does…but it is a little appalling the enormity of the consumption. Feels like the last debauchery before the end of the empire. But this is puritanical me speaking. I am sure for some—this is the centerpiece of their vacation. Their idea of relaxation.

And, the presentation of food is endless. There were the carved watermelons. I have shot everyone I have seen. There were these signs made of gelatin with letters carved out the peelings of carrots and watermelon rinds that said “Welcome!” surrounded by flourishes of vegetables and food colored gelatin insets etc. There are bouquets of flowers made from peeled rutabagas, carrots and potatoes on sticks poking into hollowed halves of pineapples. There are tumbling arrangements of fruits. Piles of every shape and size of bread. And, instead of enticing me—it has me running for a single boiled egg. Although I am taking pictures of this stuff like a crazy person with the new Kodak point and shoot. This food decoration insanity combined with the swirly carpets and excess brass and glass has one reeling from the visual overload…not sea sickness but the visual whirlies.

Our rooms are snuggy and nice. Very European, german to be specific. Very much everything has a place and everything in its place. It is outfitted in the IKEA beech color with doors with raised handles and not much hardware. The closets are outfitted with drawers, shelves and hanging areas. The floor is carpeted with big (11”) stripes in a rosy, rusty orange and beige. The bathroom is tiled—and though I was warned it was small, it is very pleasant and quite pretty and to me, big enough. The beds are single European mattresses with cotton sheets and simple bedspreads with just channel quilting. Each room has a flat screen television and a nice desk in the slanted wall. There is a minibar with more opportunities for one to use their key. It is very quiet and in the night, dark—which is lovely. There is always a thermos of cold water and a container of ice left for you—which is always just what the doctor ordered. They left us wonderful quilty beach towels to use on shore with an embroidered boat and a very retro “Celebrity” on the other side.

Around four, we had our safety drill which included everyone putting their life jackets on, going to their appropriate stations and then being lined up by theboats and taking directions. That took about an hour—and then we had dinner.

The focus on food is a little alarming. There is lots of talk of it, it is delivered on—and it keeps coming. Again, not my gig—but for some, another reason to do this sort of thing. I was not psyched about “The Grand Dining Room” and all that it promised and was, surprised by the experience. You are assigned your table…so—its us (4) and our friends Steve and Judy (2). Upon entering the dining room—a line-up of more men in tuxedos or faux white cut-aways are militarily arranged around the door. One is seated in an art deco, maroon tones(?),glass and brass fantasy on two floors with a “grand” staircase cut up the center of the space with tables on the second floor. It is surrounded by windows which is lovely. If only they felt the need to decorate was not so important. One is given all sorts of choices—and the food is presented beautifully, small portions and very timely. It was delicious and transcended my “ho hum” expectations. We had fun at our table despite all the descriptions of what one was going to eat, what one was being presented to eat later that day—and the rollout of what was presented for breakfast, lunch and dinner the following day in minute detail. Minute…granular descriptions from the fruit one can have on the waffles to the hours the sushi was offered in this space to the pomp and glamour around the Formal dining experience. My head was spinning.

The “Teens” went in search of other teens which they found. They had virgin margaritas and had the disco until about 11 along with Guitar Hero, dips in the hot tubs and general mixing it up. Our teens were beyond delighted. This trip is right up there with sliced bread.

We toured the shops and the high jinx around liquor tastings (see! More alcohol!), cigarette sales, “yard o’ gold”, dyed rabbit fur jackets and , perfume and cosmetics, iwatches and more jewels and jewelry. They have an Italian coffee bar that well played, “best hits” classical music was being presented live to the crowd’s delight in the sophisticated. All of this is within a 3 story area of glass and brass that is reminiscent of middle level malls—Colored marble, silk flower arrangements, little occasional tables in brass and glass. Cutting through this open space is a “grand staircase” with brass railings, maroon and gold carpeting, mirrors for days, marble. This is one of the props for the endless pictures you can have taken of you and your beloved in formal clothing. You get the idea. Most would call it classy. I am afraid of this stuff. I am def not of this tribe. But the crowd adores it.

We saw the folks lining up at the theatre to play bingo with an enormous light-up number on the stage. There was a lot of excitement among all ages around this tremendous fun opportunity. Again, not my tribe.

The four grown ups had a glass of wine at the Martini Bar which was the spot the twenty and thirty somethings were hanging out in their party clothes. It is all white with vinyl bucket chairs covered with a fun fur type of fabric on the outside. It has a lighting system on the ceiling that looks kind of like flowers in bloom that change color and transition from red to purple to blue to green to yellow. And the white room goes with it. Simple idea but for this sort of ship, hip to the enth degree.

We were exhausted. Got a hold of the teens via walkie talkies. Said good night.

More later>>