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Old March 27th, 2007, 10:09 AM
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Brilliant Cruising
Mar. 26, Day 1

We left the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale just after 10 A.M. and drove to the port of Miami. I was dropping Mrs. Kuki and the luggage at the pier by 11 A.M.
I returned our Hertz rental car to the outlet at the Marriott Biscayne Bay, and returned to the pier by taxi (fare $8.50 + tip). I met up with Mrs. Kuki outside of the terminal by 11:30 A.M.

The embarkation process was a breeze, made even smoother by the fact we are Diamond level members in RCI’s Crown and Anchor Society. (as an aside - whatever your highest level in either the RCI or Celebrity cruise lines repeaters clubs, you are granted the equivalent level in the other’s program). On occasion, on previous cruises, the lines at the Diamond check in desk have been longer than the “regular? lines, but that was not the case today.

Having filled out our guest registration online, we presented our completed “Sea Pass? to the pleasant check in agent, and were crossing the gangway within minutes. By 11:45 A.M. I was already checking out the offerings at the buffet, and had to try everything in sight because we were informed the guest’s cabins wouldn’t be available until 1 P.M. So… what else would one do to occupy their time… EAT!! Well, I did take a break long enough to take a picture or two.

In the past, the cruise lines wouldn’t even begin the embarkation process until the entire ship had been readied, including cabins. This normally meant Noon, at the very earliest, and even though guests were checked in, they could be made to wait in the embarkation building for some time until they were allowed to board the ship.

To be honest, I don’t remember which cruise line was the first to move to allowing passengers to board the ship earlier, and enjoy the public areas until the cabins were prepared - but it certainly was a great idea! No doubt it has made it much easier for the cruise line in many ways as well, spreading the process of boarding thousands of passengers over a longer period of time, rather than having 3 or 4 hours to process and board everyone. Of course, it’s amazing how quickly the onboard staff and crew get the ship looking so clean and “spiffy“, when the final guests from the previous sailing may have just left the ship an hour or so earlier.

I got a few of the housekeeping items out of the way pretty quickly; got my soda card ($6/day per adult + 15% gratuity - $4/day for children + gratuity) (and yes you do have to drink a lot of soda to make this worthwhile, but I qualify), and I got my CyberCabin connections chords ( $120 for unlimited dial up access from the cabin using your own laptop). The ship does have Wi Fi hotspots in several public areas, as well as an Internet Café. I’ll collect information on pricing and available packages for that at a later date, but after a quick glance the best deal did seem to be the CyberCabin if you don’t mind dragging along your own laptop. I also signed us for the Murder Mystery Dinner in Portofinos. They hold it twice during this cruise, on Day 4 and Day 8. We chose Day 8 to make certain our minds would be “cruise mush? by then.

The dining times on the Brilliance are 5:30 for main seating, and 8:00 P.M. for late seating. Though Mrs. Kuki and I normally prefer main/early seating, thankfully we have late seating on this cruise. 5:30 is just much too early for dinner.

The Minstrel Dining Room is located amidships on Decks 4 and 5. Our assigned table for eight is on Deck 4, just two tables in from the doorway, so it feels a bit like it’s not in the dining room. But then I’m somewhat used to being hidden from the view of other passengers.

It’s only night one, so we’ll have to see how things unfold but the luck of the draw for tablemates seems to have also drawn us a bit of an odd combination as well. It’s either going to turn around and evolve, or it could make for some entertaining stories for me to share here with you. Stay tuned ….

As is the case on the first night of most cruises there was one show in the theater for guests of both dinner seatings. A young lady by the name of Ashley Kerr is the Cruise Director onboard. She’s very pretty, and seemed very personable, and comfortable on stage. She must also be very bright because she’s from my hometown, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Royal Caribbean has more female Cruise Directors than any other line I can think of. And if you hadn’t heard it also now has a female Captain, though not on this ship. So, in this regard, for young women thinking of heading out to sea, it seems Royal Caribbean is a fairly forward thinking company.

During the show tonight, I also heard a title that was new to me. Ashley introduced the “Activities Manager?. From the description of the job it sounded to me be very similar to what you’d think a Cruise Director, or Ass’t Cruise Director would do, but now it has a more sophisticated sounding title. Tonight’s show was completed with the comedy of Phil Tag, who I found to be quite entertaining. He has an adult comedy show tomorrow evening at Midnight, and I’ll make a point of being there.

Apparently his luggage was lost today and did not make it to Miami by the time the ship sailed. His “line? was he flew Delta, and he shouldn’t have expected it because their name says it all: Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive. I liked it!

The same thing must have happened to a great many passengers because I’ve never seen so many people wearing shorts in the dining room.
On the subject of dress - I noticed in the Cruise Compass (the ship’s daily newsletter) that on this 11 night cruise there are only 2 formal nights. Either they changed it this morning when they saw the way this week’s crowd was dressed at boarding, or this is another signal of a move to more relaxed dress codes.

We’re encountering some fairly heavy winds tonight, so a bit of movement to get used to. Tomorrow is a relaxing sea day as we make our way towards Labadee, Haiti. I know I’m going to really enjoy sleeping in, and not driving on the I 95.
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