For at least 25 years, my husband has wanted to take a cruise, but having 4 kids, I could never financially see it happening. But the kids are now mostly grown up and out and it's just me and my husband, and it seemed now was the time to give in to this cruising idea.
Since I'm claustrophobic and had no idea how I'd do, we wanted to try a short cruise before embarking on a larger, more expensive itinerary. I made the arrangements, choosing Celebrity as I had read that they h.ave a 50ish crowd (we're both 50 somethings) and it's not known as a party boat (we're not big on drinking). I thought this would be a good match for us.
Kind of a zoo. Very crowded, long lines (think Disney). I had forgotten to print our boarding passes, so it was a bit of a hassle looking us up on the manifest before being allowed thru security. Once passed security, we were directed to another line for actual check-in. That was a little more smooth and in no time, we were in yet another line to actually board.
We were welcomed on board with a glass of champagne, but there was no direction as to where to go or what to do. Since we knew our cabin number, it seemed to us, we should find our cabin and drop off our carry-on suitcases. After a few wrong turns, we did manage to find our room. Our cabin steward was surprised to see us, but let us know it was okay to drop off the luggage and suggested we go downstairs to the buffet.
When we got there, we noticed everyone else still had their luggage. It was probably an hour later that the announcement came that it was okay to head to your cabins. That's when we noticed helpful people ready to assist with directions to cabins. Everyone picked up their luggage and the place cleared out pretty quickly. No, we didn't look like inexperienced newbs at all.
We headed on a ship's tour including the spa and I signed up for the Persian Garden - very worth getting the pass! Awesome relaxation. I particularly enjoyed it after a day in port.
On the Boat:
I thoroughly enjoyed cruise life from the get go. Being a family of 6 always meat that vacation was a condo somewhere, so I was still grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry - same thing as not on vacation, just a different location. Here on the cruise, I got to be on vacation just like everyone else! I loved it! Yay!!! I got to relax, rest, take it easy, just enjoy myself!
My husband, not so much. He looked around and saw that the majority of people could be categorized as follows: old, fat, drunk or a combination thereof. He was very put off by it. I tried pointing out that we're not spring chickens ourselves, directed our eating toward the San Marco where people ate more the way we consider normal, but the drinking was harder as it was seemingly everywhere. He spent a couple of miserable days, then decided he needed to try and get over i.
The comedian the first night was so horrible we walked out 15 minutes in to his show. We were dubious about going to the show the next night, but I'm glad we did. It was a great show. In fact, the shows got better and better the next few nights.
We didn't preplan any excursions. The night before Cozumel, we went to the shore excursion desk, looked over the different trips and decided on the Jose Cuervo Tequilla Tasting Experience - a really wonderful excursion that I highly recommend. They do teach you how to appreciate not just the taste, but the sight, feel and even sound of tequila - much like fine wine. You also get a tour of an art museum that features native works and the tour guide gave us really good insight into Mexican culture. There are also replicas of several Mexican landmarks which are explained on plaques (which are in English).
At Key West, we got off the boat with no plans, but ended up taking the trolley tour to orient ourselves to the island before heading out on foot to explore on our own. You can definitely get a great feel for the island in the time you have there.
This was done before disembarking at Key West. We were ordered to report to our muster station at 7:10 (Rendez Vous Lounge) where the doors were closed. We waited there for a few minutes with some other people thinking we were early and they weren't set up yet. Then some people came and left thru the doors to the promenade and didn't come back. Uh oh. Maybe we weren't early. We decided to do the same. What an eye opener!!! The line was long, really long, I mean REALLY LONG! It stretched thru the Rendez Vous Lounge past the martini bar and cappucino bar and back thru the casino and was headed toward the Celebrity theater! I was in shock and disbelief at the length of this line. However, once it started to move, it moved quickly, and really didn't impact our time in port.
Like all good things, the cruise was over all too quickly and it was time to say goodbye to the ship and hello to Customs. Like Immigration, this is a really long line, but unlike Immigration, it does NOT move quickly. We were told to report to the Celebrity Theater and once there, realized that we were 2 of a thousand or more. We waited there for a while, probably 20 minutes or so, before they called our number. Then we got to head down to deck 3 to wait in line to get off the ship. Ten minutes later, we were exiting the ship into the cruiseport on the second floor. Here, we waited 10-15 minutes before going downstairs to get our luggage.
Upon retrieving our luggage, we got to get in another line that weaved back and forth about 4 times before turning the corner to what we thought would be customs. In reality, it was more queue time. It weaved back and forth another 4 times before rounding a corner where the line split into 3 - one for each customs station. Get the picture? 2100 passengers on board, 3 customs stations. Yep, each station was handling about 700 people. It was an 1 1/2 hours total to disembark and hit the open air outside the cruise port.
Outside the cruiseport was an organized chaos as not only our ship was dumping into this area, but the Crown Princess was also. It made for a lot of people, going in a lot of different directions, on a lot of different forms of transportation - private cars, taxis, shuttles, buses or their own car somewhere out in the lot.
A Word on Claustrophobia:
I had mentally prepared myself for a smaller space, so I was pleasantly surprised at how big our cabin actually was. Since a balcony cabin was out of our price range, I needed a cabin with quick access to open air. The insides on deck 11 are a great choice as they are literally seconds from open air. I also brought a small fan that we plugged in at night. Really helpful.
Something I noticed on my cruise that none of my research had uncovered and you may want to note: Once you get away from the land towers, your cell phone may not keep accurate time. Even tho we only moved from Eastern to Central and back to Eastern time, and my phone always set correctly when on land, when we were out at sea, it was 5 hours off. Made no sense to me.
Will I do it again? Absolutely! I'll even take Hubby with me. Although I'll make sure we go with another couple who are experienced cruisers, because I think he needs that to get plugged in and enjoy cruise life as much as I do.