We did it, we went on our first cruise and made it back without any mishaps or capsizing or the ship running aground on a sand bar! But, we did find a bar and I’m sure that is a surprise to y’all. I hope I don’t bore you so I‘ll try to keep it a fun and interesting read.
We started out at a time that is somewhat foreign to us – 8:00AM! The group that was going from here at the Plantation had to be at the club house by 8:30 for the bus ride to New Orleans to board the cruise ship. Waiting for us at the club house were bagels and coffee – apparently served every Sunday – wow, who knew? Anyway on the bus now and heading off to the boat – oh, excuse me, the ship. We turn into the rest area as we cross the Alabama – Mississippi state line so many could get off to deposit the coffees consumed. I guess it’s an age thing and we’re back on the road again but again, we pull off at the rest area as we cross the Mississippi – Louisiana state line, what’s with that? We’re finally at the ship and we think it’s great, we don’t have to touch our luggage, it gets taken off the bus and delivered through boarding to the ship and will eventually end up at our stateroom – we hope. Now, before I go to much further, try to imagine the line ups to go through security. There are 2 boats to be loaded with approx. 3500 people each. Our first reaction was that this was only a small inconvenience and once on board, all will be good. Barb goes through the scanner and sets off all the bells and whistles. As she explains about her knees, they escort her off to the side to be ‘wanded’. Wow, she got the full treatment with a pat down! She gets all the luck ;) At registration, we get our cards which is like a credit card – wait a minute, it is a credit card because whatever we spend on the ship with that ‘card’, ends up on our credit card! Be patient with me, this is our first ever cruise and it is all new to us so imagine us all wide eyed and a little bit scared.
All in all, the boarding went very smoothly and before we knew it, we were standing in our stateroom and our luggage was waiting for us, that was a relief. We had a quick look around then headed on up to the Lido deck to the lunch buffet – it has been a long time since the bagels this morning and we didn’t want to miss any of our ‘free’ meals! We managed to find our way from deck 7 – our stateroom to deck 9 where the buffet is and what did we see? Another line up from both sides of the ship. So, this is to be our future for the next 7 days, line after line but hey, it’s a holiday right? We gather our meals and meet up with Jerry & Dianne from the bus. The food was good and we had some laughs about our experiences so far. After, the 4 of us toured the ship to see where things are and what is available. Nothing is open – bars, shops etc until we have passed the 12 mile limit when under way. But, endless coffee, lemonade and ice cream – yes John, endless! So we walked the deck, mowing down on ice cream and watching all the action dock side – a crew painting the side of the ship, crew loading luggage and lots of trucks buzzing about delivering their stuff to feed the lot.
We leave port at 4PM and head out the mighty Mississippi River toward the Gulf. We were informed by other experienced cruisers that it will be midnight before we exit the mouth of the river and enter the gulf. Who’d have thought that New Orleans was that far up river from the Gulf of Mexico? After a little wandering to get our bearings, we went back to the stateroom to unpack and ‘move in’. The rooms were bigger than we expected and quite comfortable. We decided on an inside cabin since we were only on the boat for 7 days and not likely to be in the room that much. With no window, when the lights went out, it was dark – great for sleeping. We agreed to meet in the lobby bar for happy hour at 5Pm before dinner then onto the dinning room.
We have the early seating for dinner which will be good to get to the shows on time. So, at 6, we all headed on down to the dining room and met up with another line trying to get into dinner. Lesson here, go a little later to avoid that mad rush. We entered to find the tables covered with starched white linens, napkins folded just so and a table staff poised and eager to serve. We are with 6 other Escapee cruisers and they have all cruised before so we were able to gain some experience. Our table was perfect, our table mates were very enjoyable to dine with and we were at the very back of the boat with a large window overlooking the stern and the water below – unfortunately, it was always dark at 6 but we could still see the water turbulence below from the props. Oil rigs could be seen all lit up along with other freighter traffic going and coming from the Port of New Orleans. Our dinning companions suggested that whatever is on the menu, one can order as much of it as you want. Hello shrimp cocktails and crab cakes, ok, so I will gain a few pounds.
The cruise ship publishes an activity calendar everyday as to what’s available for activities, shows, events and stuff to keep the cruiser busy. We went to the first show to watch a variety review of the Motor City. It was great, live music and acting, this is covering off all the things that we have missed the last few years! After the show, we met a bunch up on the Lido deck for midnight pizza and more laughs and good times. Can it get any better? Good friends, smooth seas and warm temps, it was great. Finally, we break up the party and head back to our staterooms but not before Barb & I grab an ice cream cone and take a twirl around deck 8, looking out at the blackness and down at the swirling seas as the huge ship pushed us toward Jamaca – mon. As we finally arrive back at our stateroom, a little around 1AM – holy – we were greeted by a seal. Yes, a seal. The stateroom staff left an animal folded from towels on the bed to greet us as we came in. That was neat.
But I think this is enough for now so stay tuned for more, after all, this is just the 1st day with 6 more to come. Wishing you well out there and send Jim some good karma to help him on his journey.