Although we sailed on Sunday the 4th of November we flew from Pittsburgh to Orlando in Friday the 2nd. We were meeting a group of our cruising friends for an extra day and a half of fun in the sun. My Dear Wife and I stayed at the Country Inns & Suites in Cocoa Beach Friday and Saturday nights, after renting a car at the Orlando Airport. This, very nice, property is close enough to Port Canaveral that you can see the funnels on the ships as they prepare to sail. Friday evening the wife and I went searching for dinner and Wal-Mart for needed supplies. Saturday I met Cruise Critic's Radio at NASA and we toured his favorite place on earth. The Shuttle Atlantis was moved to its new home on Friday and we at the opportunity to visit it at its new site, as well as other space related displays. We made a stop at Port Canaveral Locks and saw a manatee and a slew of pelicans and other birds and fish in the canal. Off to dinner at the Port to watch Disney Dream and Carnival Splendor (I think) sail away.
A few more of our friends joined us for dinner and we turned in a little early in anticipation of sailing on Sunday. I woke at 5:30, but it was really 4:30 since it was "clock day" so I laid my head back down for an hour and then got ready for the big day, sail away. After breakfast, complementary, at the hotel, we jumped in the car and drove to the ship. I wound up dropping the luggage, and the wife, off at the terminal and took the car back to the rental office and Radio picked me up for our trip back to the port.
Check-in was one of the worst we have ever experienced. Supposedly there were computer problems, they got them fixed but we still were not moving onto the ship. My wife, who uses a scooter and needed a wheelchair for boarding, found none in the terminal, they were all on the ship. And the ship was on hold for boarding. At one point there were about 200 people waiting outside the building, including the father of one of the cutest little girls who was inside with her Mom, Grandparents and Aunt. Because we know that the Wind Jammer gets a bit crazy on embarkation day, we asked the escort to leave us at Sorrentos. While the crew grabbed some cookies, I went to our cabin to retrieve the scooter, yes it was before the opened the cabins but I was on a quest (no not that one), and I left the carry-ons on deck 5. The cabins soon opened for occupancy and we went to see our accessible balcony on deck 7. This is the same cabin we had in February 2009. As we approached the room we noticed our bags were waiting for us, a very nice surprise. So we unpacked and got ready to do some re-discovering. We were dinner guests of a fellow cruiser at Portofinos. It was fabulous. We decided that this was going to be a total relaxation cruise so we didn't do too many activities during the week. We did play a fair amount of Gin on the pool deck and a whole bunch of not much else.
Monday found us at Cocoa Cay and watching the tenders arrive and depart below our balcony.
Tuesday was a sea day and the Meet and Mingle. I even won a "bucket of office supplies", highlighter and a magnet, my life is fulfilled. Tonight is formal night number 1. The duck was great. By the way, escargot is back.
Wednesday was Saint Thomas. We did get off the ship in search of a dive shop our son used for his trip a few years ago. He wanted a t-shirt they had, his wore out. We wound up buying him 2 shirts and the very nice owner gave me a bottle opener. We went back to the ship, past the NCL Epic (all comments reserved) and NCL Sun. We took a little side trip to Senor Frogs for a drink and some nachos, yum yum. When we got back to the ship we were asked to wait for Security. An Officer appeared and swabbed the scooter, she then went back onboard, and we heard nothing for a while. The Deputy Chief of Security joined us at the Security podium to await the results of the scan. It was then that we discovered this was an explosive material scan. We passed the test so we passed Security and went back on the ship. We found out that a few of our friends planned to go and ride the tramway to the top of the hill for pictures. When I met them we discovered the tram was closed for the day.
Thursday was Sint Maarten (yes I spelled that right, we stayed on the Dutch side). We found a great source for sauces right in the dockyard. We got a few bottles of vanilla extract and some wonderful garlic sauce. We also found a tablecloth shop and picked up a Christmas gift. We wound our way through the dockyard and made our way back to the ship where we were greeted by Security and ANOTHER swabbing. While waiting for the results, I struck up a conversation with the Officer manning the station and he told us that the swabbing would occur each time she left the ship. I'm not sure if this was a company policy or the Chief of Security on Freedom of the Seas.
Friday and Saturday were both sea days and they turned out to be quite windy and we wound up with some rough seas. They motion wasn't too bad but you knew you were on a moving vessel. Friday was "Lobster Night", suffice it to say, a good time was had by all at dinner. Saturday evening we joined our Portofino friends at Chops. The whole meal was wonderful surpassed only by the flaming CrÃ¨me Brule for desert. After the great meal it was back to the cabin to pack.
Disembarkation wasn't much better than embarkation. We reported to Boleros for assisted disembarkation. There we waited for an extended period for a wheelchair and escort. When he finally arrived we breezed through luggage pick up and customs. Once through customs, the escort asked my wife to stand as it was the end of the line for him and he needed to get back on the ship. This left my wife to walk across the building and across the road to a cement bench to wait for me to return after picking up the rental for our return to the airport. Fortunately I was able to coerce a friend to ride me to the rental agency. There, I ran into another SNAFU, the car rental folks had two working the counter and folks wanting rent, return and catch the shuttle to the ship. The men at the counter did a good job handling problems and attitudes of other customers as they were helping us. Back to the ship and to picking up the wife, another friend and all our bags for the trip to the airport. This was probably the easiest part of our Florida journey. We dropped our friend at the Airport Marriott and went to the cell lot to wait until for some time to pass before we could check in. Well, the time passed and I dropped The Boss off at Air Tran curbside check-in and went to return the car. It took me longer to get my backpack out of the van and on my back than it did to print a receipt for the car return. Into the terminal I went to reclaim my bride and go to the gate to wait. The tome passed quickly and we were winging our way home to Pittsburgh, and work.
All-in-all, the trip was all we wanted, RELAXATION and being with friends. The low points, although not up to Royal Caribbean par, were not too difficult to handle and the ship looks great. We did feel the crew could have been a bit more friendly. Our Cabin Steward, Laura, was fantastic. The Cruise Director, Graham, and Activities Director, Lee, were on the top of the heap of their profession. Our next trip will be on the newly refurbished, Enchantment of the Seas in January. I'm looking forward to see what they do to this nice ship.