|Kuki's daily accounts aboard the Explorer of the Seas.|
|Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Days 4 & 5 | Days 6 & 7 | Day 8|
This was a most peculiar embarkation day for Mrs. Kuki and I: There was no flying in to meet the ship, or even for a pre-cruise night in Miami. This morning we awoke to a tropical downpour in Miami aboard the Carnival Triumph, waiting to disembark from a fabulous time on the John Heald/CruiseMates group cruise, so we could board the second of our back-to-back cruises, on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.
With heightened security in place due to the September 11 terrorist attacks, United States Customs officers were extremely careful about checking all baggage coming off the ship. We were in the first group of passengers scheduled to disembark, but it was after 10 a.m. before we got permission to leave the ship.
The rain thoroughly soaked us getting from the luggage warehouse to the taxi line. I made certain our luggage was already loaded into the taxi before I asked the taxi driver what the fare would be to go just down the road to the Explorer of the Seas embarkation terminal.
I thought the taxi driver was going to gag as he explained that he had been waiting there three hours for the ship to clear, and this was his first fare of the day. I assured him that I would make the short trip worth his while.
As he dropped us at the RCI terminal, we could see the Explorer debarkation was experiencing the same chaos as the Triumph. Many Explorer passengers from the previous cruise were still waiting to disembark. Therefore the ship was not accepting luggage from any arriving passengers. There was nothing for us to do but stand in line for more than two hours before they would accept our luggage.
But from that point on, the embarkation process went very quickly, and we were among the first to board the ship by approximately 1 p.m.
For me, walking across the gangway and entering the ship is a "WOW" moment. The appearance of Explorer of the Seas' interior is quite stunning, like no other ship I've sailed on. Staff members pointed us in the direction of our cabin, instead of escorting us, but I rather enjoy the adventure of finding our way when boarding a ship we haven't been on before.
Our "Super Charge" card stated we were assigned main seating in the Magellan Dining Room, and at the appropriate time Mrs. Kuki and I made our way there. However, we found that the table number assigned to us didn't exist, so we had to go up a deck to the maitre d's desk to get a table assigned. I'm not certain if this was caused by a computer error, but when we turned the corner from the stairwell we found ourselves at the end of a line of about 200 people, which was not moving very quickly.
After an hour in this line, we received a dining room assignment that actually had a table to go with it. We arrived at our table for 10 to find only three other people sitting there, and they were just beginning dessert. The three table-mates consisted of a lady with two 16-year-old children. Also, the table was located at the back of the dining room, behind a stairway leading to the dining room above.
In short order, I decided that this random coupling for dinner, combined with the table location, would not be satisfactory for anyone concerned, and for the first time ever, I went back to the maitre d' to request a change of tables.
Who knows how tomorrow's new dinner companions will be, but at least the table is in the central area of the dining room, so that if we start throwing food at one another, we can at least supply entertainment for the other passengers.
After dinner, we toured the ship a bit before returning to the Promenade to view the Welcome Parade--a dynamic, high-energy event with fun costumes. We hope the fun atmosphere this event created is a precursor of the rest of the cruise. It certainly helped to soothe the stress I felt from spending four hours standing in different lines today.
I can't wait to go to sleep now, and wake up tomorrow set for a more vacation-like day.