Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cruise Vacation Blog Part One

I'm finally getting around to these entries, although most family and friends know the majority of this by now! At the end of this series, I do plan on an entry on dispelling the stereotypes of people who cruise.
Mrs. B

19 May 2010 – Norfolk, Virginia

We had an easy drive up from Durham and left about four hours earlier than we’d planned. The only snag; the peach blouse I’d wanted to take was not ready when we stopped by the dry cleaners on our way out. If that is the only “bad” thing that occurs on this trip, I’ll be okay with it!

The Freemason Inn, the B&B here in Norfolk that we are staying at, is ok. It is certainly convenient enough.The reception when we arrived was not all that great, though. Victor, the manager said, “Oh, you are early”, showed us our room (which is very pretty and spacious) but no mention of the promised wine reception.He just wasn’t very friendly. Plus, there is an icky ice maker; ice looks “years old”, according to Mr. B. Also, something else funny about this place; there is an empty crystal decanter on the mantle of the fireplace. Empty! At other places we’ve stayed (such as The Vendue Inn in Charleston or the B&B in Edenton), these decanters were filled with complimentary cream sherry or port or something. But, empty? And, get this; propped up next to the decanter is a gratuity envelop! Quipped Mr. B, “That is going to stay as empty as the decanter”. I also found it rather strange that there were all of these instructions in the packet of information in the room regarding things such as “no red wine allowed in the rooms” and, “ladies are to use the black washcloths to remove their makeup or else a charge might be made if the white ones won’t come clean”. Excuse me? BTW, there were only white washcloths in our bathroom. Hopefully, the gourmet three course breakfast will make up for what we’ve experienced thus far.

We took a walk around downtown Norfolk in order to ascertain where the pier was and figure out the best place to park tomorrow. We had a few pints at an Irish Pub (once again, two out of three of the Entertainment coupons I’d printed (for BYGOF) were for restaurants that had gone belly-up). The beer was fine and I had an amusing time in the Ladies reading some of the graffiti on the walls (of which there was quite a lot).

At the Irish Pub

Also, there are a lot of mermaids around Norfolk; statues, paintings, art work, emblems, weathervanes. This makes me wonder if the mermaid is the city’s mascot. Some of them were really lovely. We also discovered that the Freemason Inn has its own parking lot; something Victor did not tell us about even when we asked where we should park (we ended up parking in front of the inn on a somewhat busy street with tons of construction going on). The parking lot was completely empty, too.

Since we’d both been up before the crack of dawn, neither of us felt like going to another restaurant to eat out, so, we went into a local grocery (sort of like a Whole Foods) and picked up salads, wine and some chocolate. We settled back into our room at the B&B to eat and ended up watching “Big” on HBO. I hadn’t see that movie in ages and it was quite enjoyable to see it again!

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

20 May 2010 – Enchantment of the Seas Day One: SAIL AWAY DAY!

What an absolutely lovely ship! Truly beautiful! So far, all has been well, no complaints!

We left the B&B around 9:30 am. We did not get the promised three course gourmet breakfast (unless you consider OJ course one, coffee course two and pancakes with some strawberries and bananas on top of the course three). It turns out that the owner of the B&B died unexpectedly a few weeks ago, which explains a lot. See my review of The Freemason Inn on Trip Advisor here.

We got to the port/terminal around 9:45 am. WAY too early, as it turned out, it was extremely crowded with people getting off the ship (they’d just pulled in from Bermuda). Mr. B dropped me and our luggage off and went to park the car in the garage we’d noted the day before. Unfortunately on sail away days, the parking rate for all public garages goes up to $15 per day, which had to be paid in advance. Mr. B had left his wallet with me so he had to leave the key with the attendant, walk back over to where I was sitting with our luggage, get his wallet, and go back over and pay. As I said, since we were there so early, it didn’t really matter other than being a bit frustrating. I sat there and watched the people coming and going, the cars trying to get in and out of the passenger drop off loop (many of them completely ignoring the traffic cops), all of the porters going to and fro, and, in general, really getting a kick out of the chaos. I found a porter heading back towards the ship, gave him a tip, and off he went with our checked luggage.

After a bit, we headed up to the place where we’d go through security, check in, etc. We had to wait outside for about ½ hour, which wasn’t too bad. The weather was near perfect! All told, we got through the usual routine, including having the obligatory “Welcome Aboard” picture taken of us, relatively quickly and were on the ship a bit after 11:00 am.

Welcome Aboard, Mr. and Mrs. B!

We were #3 and #4 on board. We could have been #1 and #2, but that would have entailed shoving aside a guy in a wheelchair and his companion, something that didn’t seem overly polite.

It was nice to be able to wander around the ship taking pictures and videos before the remainder of the hoard got on. It was apparent that the ship, having just come out of dry dock about three weeks earlier, was in “ship shape”; clean, glowing; everything sparkled (all that glass and chrome; I can’t imagine how much Windex they must go through!)

We headed up to Deck 9 to hang out near the Windjammer Café. We were not hungry yet (although obviously some of the passengers were already starting the “food festival”) but had a few drinks (my first drink of the cruise was a Diet Coke and Rum,

First drink. Notice how empty is is behind me!

Mr. B had a beer), played some cards, and chatted with a nice elderly couple for a while (and, after two rounds of drinks, realized there was no need to tip the attendants as 15% gratuity was already included in the price). This couple told us about someone they met on a Holland America cruise that actually LIVES on the ship. Cheaper than an assisted living place and they always have plenty of food, entertainment, and company.Hmmmm…only problem is; no pets allowed!

Around 1:00 pm, they started letting people go to their staterooms. Ours, Junior Suite 8562, is very, very nice (even with an infamous “pole”); a bit larger than the balcony stateroom we had on QMII; with tons of storage space, a large balcony and a good-sized bathroom (including a tub).And, the Champagne we’d pre-ordered was on ice waiting for us to help us unpack. Although,Mr. B did most of the unpacking so I’m not sure I know where everything is. We did end up bringing several extra hangars from home; a good idea.

It turns out the people next to us (to the left if looking towards the ocean) are also from Durham. I’m a bit concerned about the people on the right, though.We heard them out on their balcony, the woman has a very loud obnoxious voice and her companion almost shouted, “I can’t wait to f$$K you on this balcony, honey!” Oh, joy.

The rest of the afternoon before sail away at 4:00 pm (turned out to be closer to 5:00 pm) was spent exploring the ship, having a light lunch in the Windjammer Café, checking out our assigned table in My Fair Lady dining room and getting that changed (they had us at a table for 12 in the middle of the dining room; ugh.; Mr. B was able to get us switched, thankfully, to a nice quiet table next to a window towards the back of the dining room) and attending the mandatory muster drill at 3:30 pm.They’ve changed this procedure since we were on the QMII five years ago; you are no longer required to come to the drill wearing your oh so fashionably orange life jackets and the entire process took less than 15 minutes.

After, we headed up to Deck 10 for the sail away. Had a “yummy yummy” drink (pina colada) from The Medicine Man/Dr. Yummy (who in this case turned out to be Placid, who turned up later in the dining room as our go to drink man). The sail away was uneventful; we stood for quite a long time watching the scenery go by and talking to a few fellow passengers.

We roamed around a bit more before dinner; mostly to get acquainted with the ship and where everything was located. We went up to the Viking Crown Lounge (Royal Caribbean’s signature top deck lounge pretty much all glass windows with a killer view and the only place where cigar smoking is allowed on ship (save your own balcony)). We chatted with one of the bartenders awhile (so far, every employee we've met has been from a different country) before heading down to dinner.

Dinner time!

Happy after a few Yummy Yummies!

The food in the main dining room is ok; not as good as on the QMII but certainly passable +++. The service is good, if a bit fast. We’ll have to make sure we let Edmond, our waiter, know we like to take our time with dinner!

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