My first mission after getting on the ship and getting settled into my stateroom was to find the cruise activity director. S/he was going to tell me my schedule. I was more than half expecting to find some sort of welcome package on my stateroom desk or on my television.
I headed to the guest relations where I met somebody whose name I couldn’t pronounce.
“Oh, you need Jamie. Let me call him for you.”
“Hello, Jamie. I have Mr. Belew here. He is one of your speakers. Oh? Oh? Um. Oh? Okay. Okay.”
“Jamie, says he’ll get in touch with you first chance. Enjoy your cruise.”
8 hours later back in my stateroom. The message light is blinking.
“Hmm… I don’t know anybody on the ship. Jamie!”
“Your first presentation will be on Day 3 in the On Air lounge at 1 pm. Please be there by 12:45 to set up. One of my staff members will meet you there. We will only need you for 3 presentations instead of the 4. The others will be on Day 6 at 4 and Day 7 at 2.”
“Works for me, Jamie. I can do less than you asked. I also brought a couple of extra presentations just in case you need more than you had planned on, too. I am here to serve you and the ship’s passengers.”
“That’s great, Bill. That’s really great. Thanks. Let’s meet when we get a chance.”
And that’s that.
I scouted out the On Air Lounge to get a feel of the place. It’s a lounge. With 4 chairs to a table and a bar on one side, disco lights and quotes from Elvis, Stevie Wonder, Cher and other artists on the wall written in silver on a dark blue background. Lots of LCD screens for when they do karaoke in the evenings.
Point – Be ready for anything. I am ready.
It wasn’t till I got to the hospitality desk at the cruise ship port check-in that I felt remotely important.
Out of the shuttle, after stopping at a 7-11 to buy gas and waiting for a couple of Disney Cruisers to finish their shopping sprees at the food court at the airport AND at 7-11. What could they possibly need? Mickey and the gang were waiting for them!
I followed the people until I got to someone who looked like he knew something. He didn’t. Then another. She didn’t know either. Then another. Still getting blanks looks, but definitely getting closer to the ship.
“Can I see your booking ticket?”
“Um, all I have is this assignment letter.”
“You’d better go to the hospitality desk.”
“Hello, Mr. Belew. We’re glad to have you here. Please fill out these forms and we’ll have you on the ship shortly.”
” … ”
“Just enjoying the moment. Thanks for your help.”
I think I was one of the first 20 people to get on the ship. Partly because I got here so early. I left the night before to get here. But mostly because the hospitality desk was waiting for me. And I know this because they take your picture right before you board, then post them in the lounge by time of boarding so you can find them. Yup, top 20.
Lunch on the ship was being served at 11 and my stateroom was going to be ready at 1. What to do but head for the food.
Point – cruise ship speakers are taken care of. Next it is my turn to give back. After all, that is why I am here.
Last evening all the cruisers gathered in the theater for a show and to meet the cruise director.
“By show of applause, where is everyone from? East coast?”
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP …. !!!
I think it was me and three other people.
There were more people from the UK than from California.
I didn’t know it at the time, but unless I wanted to add another day to my trip, I couldn’t get from the West Coast to the cruise ship on the same day as the ship sails.
Get out your calculator and your calendar.
Ship sails at 4:30 pm. Must be on the ship no later than 3. It takes about an hour to get thru the lines. Gotta be in line by 2. Cape Canaveral is one hour away from Orlando. But the shuttle does not sit there and wait for me. I stand around and wait for it. So … aim for noon to be on the shuttle. My shuttle bus driver had to stop and buy gasoline on the way. No kidding. Noon was good. I needed about 45 minutes to gather my bags at the baggage claim in Orlando after landing and get to the shuttle bus pick up. Meaning, I needed to be in Orlando by 11, to catch the noon shuttle to get to the port by two and on the boat by 3.
Head to Expedia and Cheapoair. No direct flights from San Jose or San Francisco to Orlando. Best I could do is about 7.5 hours through Phoenix.
11 am in Orlando minus 7.5 hours equals leave the west coast by 3:30 am! Oh, and there is a 3 hour time difference between east and west coast meaning 12:30 am! No flights. The closest I could find was 7:30 pm the night before that got me in to Orlando in plenty of time to make the connections. Can you say 5:13 am?!
I am smarter now. At least a little.
Point – Taking an east coast cruise from the west coast means adding a day to your itinerary or sleeping on a plane the night before.