I always laugh at people who rush to get to the pier as early as possible in the morning. Not me. If I am spending a night pre-cruise in the embarkation pier city, I stay at the hotel until the last possible moment – until they are ready to kick me out of my room. Only then do I head over to the pier to embark.
After my “adventures” at LAX on Friday, I didn’t want any problems embarking, and that included no waits of any kind. I was in luck. I called for the bellman at the Pan Pacific at around 11:15 and gave him a very generous tip with the admonishment to please, please, pretty please make sure this bag gets on the right ship. He assured me that it would. Finally, I headed over with my carry-ons at about 12:15. Down to the lobby of the Pan Pacific, over to the parking level elevator, down to the cruise ship level, and then through security … all in a matter of about 15 minutes (I walk slow). Then I got in “line” for a “red coat” agent … in other words, I stepped into the queue and was immediately directed to a window where there was an available agent. Since I filled out the paperwork online and printed my priority boarding pass, she didn’t even need to see my credit card or even my documents. All she needed was my “have you been ill in the last 24 hours?” form, and then she just got my key card and took my boarding photo. Then it was onward to the ship! Even with the stop for the embarkation photo (I’m still waiting to get an embarkation photo where I don’t look like death warmed over. We’ll have to see how this one turns out), it was less than five minutes to get onboard. Now we just will have to pray the luggage appears as well.
Of course, cabins were still not ready, so we were directed to the Lido for lunch. No sooner did I sit down with my cup of java than I struck up my first conversation with people I’ve never met. That’s what I love about cruising. Doing that sort of thing is acceptable on a boat … in my hometown of Philadelphia, people would get up and move if you tried that.
Well, soon cabins were ready and before long my wonderful cabin steward appeared with the suitcase. What a relief! Now I can get unpacked and start enjoying this cruise! When he had a few moments, my cabin steward, Mohammad, knocked on the door and introduced himself. He also came bearing gifts … a brand new ashtray to replace the one I was originally given. This one has a lid and when you finish a smoke, you just push down on the center knob, and the butt disappears inside. This way the cabin doesn’t start smelling like an ashtray after you’ve smoked a few.
Once lifeboat drill was over (I actually considered trying to skip it, but I figured that probably wouldn’t be a good idea … especially after seeing others the next day being made to do a make-up one), it was onward to the Crow’s Nest for Sailaway. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any CruiseMates on this sailing, but we did have a pretty large group from that “other board,” of which I’ve been corresponding with online over the past ten months . It was so wonderful putting faces to screen names, and screen names to real names as well.
On this 35-day voyage, which is actually two voyages threaded together (a five day coastal from Vancouver to San Diego and a 30-day Hawaii/South Pacific sailing that goes round trip from San Diego) there are nine formal nights, at least according to the daily program. So, I’ll be enjoying quite a few dinners in the Lido. In fact, a nice enhancement to the Lido Dining option is that Holland America now runs full dinner service in the Lido from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., a nice improvement over my past cruises where full service Lido dining cut off at about 7:00 or 7:30, making it an unattractive option for people who like to dine a bit later.
As for the dining room, I have open seating this cruise … a first for me and something I normally would not enjoy, especially since I generally travel solo. I’ll be very interested to see how this works out when I try it on Monday night. I ate in the Lido this evening and will do so on Sunday evening as well, since Sunday is one of our designated formal nights. Yep, we have smart casual and dumb formal on this cruise.
Embarkation day is always hectic, but this one was full of great experiences too. I met a lot of people I’ve only communicated with online. I stayed up until close to 11:00 talking with some of them and only wandered off to bed that early when I realized that I had a shore excursion meet-up time of 8:30 in the morning.
First stop – Victoria, BC. The adventure begins!