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Home > Virtual Cruises > Pride of America: Inaugural Voyage with Regis & Kelly
Pride of America: Inaugural Voyage with Regis & Kelly
Day 1: Embarkation in New York
Day 2: Taping in Boston
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: Taping in Philadelphia
Day 5: Taping in Norfolk
Day 6: Taping at Sea
Day 7: Taping in Miami/Debarkation
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Day 7: Tuesday, Taping in Miami/Debarkation
Taping in Miami/DebarkationIf I had to pick one word to describe today in Miami, it would be hot. It was the kind of hot you could actually see, you know, ripples of stifling air rising from scorching surfaces. And it wasn't even 9 a.m. yet!

For today's show, "Live" staff handed audience members tiny American flags to wave, and red, white and blue umbrellas to ward off the sun (though they were only allowed to stay open during commercial breaks). I ended up sitting one row ahead of IBM Lynn and Ramblynn, and they assured me they'd had a wonderful time since our lunch at the Cadillac Diner, attending lectures and enjoying leisurely meals together. Ramblynn lent me some sunscreen and I lathered it on as we listened to country-pop group Rascal Flats warm up for their live performance.

If Regis, Kelly and the "Live" audience seemed sluggish to the folks at home on Friday's airing, that's because, well, we were. It is impossible to keep up a high level of energy when you are sweating bullets and watching in horror as your skin turns a bright shade of pink, and then red. I think most people, including myself, were almost looking forward to 10 a.m. -- the end of taping, and the beginning of the journey home.

But don't get me wrong, it was still fun. Rascal Flats wowed the crowd, and American Idol judge Randy Jackson made everyone laugh. Johnnie P.'s dance troupe, "Johnnie and the Cruisers," pulled off a polished routine (Ashlee and Dave were off on the sidelines, in charge of blowing sparkles and glitter onto the stage and the performers).

After the show, I made my way through the Aloha Cafe (staff members were encouraging guests to replenish with water and juice), and down to where disembarkation was taking place. But first, I took a detour for one last drink at John Adams coffee bar, and to spend at least 10 minutes avoiding the blazing sun. While sitting in the lobby watching guests say goodbye to new friends, I had a chance to mull over this once-in-a-lifetime experience and what made it so different:

For starters, this wasn't a "typical" cruise. It's not every day you board a ship ... and then are prohibited from setting foot on solid ground again until disembarkation. Not being able to get off in port, however, really forced people to explore the offerings onboard and interact with one another. I caught competing families, such as the Kongers and Svenssons, fraternizing during show tapings; when I joked with them about it they assured me they were there to have fun, not to make enemies, and enjoyed getting to know one another. And under different circumstances, I might not have gotten to know Steve and Terri as well, if at all. Plus, I think folks who sailed this week know this ship inside and out, perhaps better than future cruisers will.

The presence of Regis and Kelly onboard gave the trip a lot of sizzle. But what also made the cruise exciting was that we got to share living space with their guests, producers, camera crew, writers, publicists and bodyguards. It was fascinating to see the ship transformed into a floating studio, and the aerobics studio morphed into a working control room. And though I do call this a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I think it would be fantastic if other shows decided to air from cruise ships down the line. Imagine if Oprah hit the high seas? She'd be giving away free trips left and right! And I'll bet David Letterman could come up with some great "top 10" lists about the cruise experience (Top 10 Reasons to Get in Good with Your Cabin Steward...).

Ultimately what was most memorable was the chance to sail this historic ship's inaugural voyage. Still, this great privilege and honor also requires a touch of understanding and patience, as crewmembers and the ship are still in a "shakedown" period, so to speak. One member of the Matheson family put it best: "We know that we're guinea pigs. It's brand-new, and sure, little things have gone wrong, but there is so much to see and do on this ship -- how could you not have fun?"

In the end it was sad saying goodbye to much of the staff. The young assistant purser at the reception desk always answered my many, many questions with cheerful smiles. The baristas in the coffee bar loaded up my plate with cookies and pastries in the early hours of the morning while I typed up my daily reports. Janet and Jamie in Pink's Champagne Bar were great fun to gossip with over pre- (and post-) dinner cocktails and Diet Cokes, and always remembered not only my face but my name.

There is something very different about sailing on a ship with mostly U.S. crew. I like to get to know the people who feed me and clean up after me, and I found I had more to chat about with these folks than those on foreign-flagged ships. For the first time ever, I met cruise employees from my home state. And more than that, I learned things about other cities in this great nation that I'd like to visit, such as Seattle, Houston and Honolulu. I promised all of my "regulars" that I'd look them up when and if I came back onboard for a Hawaiian voyage.

As I walked out on deck for the last time (at least for now), and peered over the railing, I saw a limousine below with a sign in the window reading "Welcome Ripa." I smiled to myself. There may not be a fancy car below with a "Welcome Baldwin" sign, but whether by economy class or private jet, we're both heading to the same place -- home sweet home in our corner of America.
Day 6: Taping at Sea red arrow  

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