Last year I learned the Serenade of the Seas would be calling on my favorite port in the Caribbean, Wilamstad, Curacao. The fares were quite reasonable, so I booked four back to back cruises. 42 days isn't the longest time I have been on the same ship, that would be about 114 days on the M S Amsterdam. But this is the most cruises I have booked back to back.
There will actually be three different itineraries, but more on that as they occur. Besides, everything is always subject to change by the cruise line and the captain.
Packing for 42 days is not much different than for 14. I need to take a larger supply of medications, and logistics for holding my mail is a little different as the post office will only hold mail for 30 days. Fortunately my three children live close by, so hold mail, they get it, and then hold until my return.
I have booked a shuttle bus to take me to the ship in Port Everglades. Alyssa drives by the Burger King pick up point in Orlando on her way to work. Convenient, but it will be an hour wait for the bus to arrive. I'm on vacation, no hurry.
The weather has been cold in Florida for the last few weeks, and I look forward to 70's and 80's. Of couse I am not complaining about Florida weather, last week it was more than 20 below zero where I used to live in Michigan.
The bus arrives, three passengers board, bringing the head count to nine on a 40+ passenger bus. We leave about 5 minutes early. Such a difference from the last bus I took from Orlando to a ship. No leaks in the roof, and no mold, no wandering local streets instead of the Turnpike. Traffic is heavy, but moves smoothly on the Florida Turnpike heading south.
Our first stop will be in Ft. Pierce for a 30 minute break and to board two more passengers. I learn that where we stop was the Greyhound terminal at one time. Helps explain why there is plenty of room for several busses. McDonald's, Dunkin Donut, and Wendy's are close by. I suffice with a restroom break at McDonalds. We are given instructions to be back on the bus by 15 after the hour, most comply, as always with a bus group there is always one. The driver is patient, and after 5 minutes goes looking for his missing passenger. We are soon back on the road.
We stop for two more passengers in Stewart, and return to the Turnpike. The sky darkens, and it begins to pour. Traffic slows, but is moving much better than the north bound traffic which is almost at a standstill. The driver keeps us informed, telling us we will be arriving 20 to 30 minutes later than anticipated. No worries from me, I have hours before my ship leaves.
Just before our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale the rain stops, and the sun tries to peek through the clouds. I am one of four passengers headed to a ship here, the rest of the passengers are going on to Miami. With 4 passengers, the driver needs to stop at three different piers. My good luck continues as he heads to pier 18 where The Serenade Of The Seas is berthed. No lines, no waiting for a parking spot, the bus pulls right in to the unloading area. I retrieve my passport and set sail pass from my carry on luggage and walk into the terminal. I am not sure where to go. Despite it being at the peak of boarding there are no lines!
I quickly pass through security, no not thru the x-ray machines but a hand patdown. Up the escalator to the cruise counters. Again no wait, there are at least half a dozen clerks just waiting for another guest. The representative asks me if there is a big backlog downstairs or outside. When she learns there is no backlog anywhere she is perplexed. Within a few minutes I am on the ship and head to the crown lounge as the cabins won't be ready for another 30 minutes. I check my emails, and call my daughter to let her know I am safely on the ship.
Once in the cabin, I find several maintenance items that need to be addressed, items I would normally ignore, but won't this time as I need to live with them for 6 weeks. I stop at guest relations to report the broken hinges on both closet doors, and the mini fridge that doesn't work.
My muster station is in the theater, another surprise, all passengers attend and are accounted for.
We leave port about 4:30 as scheduled. The skies are mostly sunny. As we head southeasterly it is anticipated the seas will be about 6 feet, enough to rock the ship a little but not enough to bother most passengers.
The Concierge lounge is nearly a disaster. Of course it is overcrowded. Stock of such basics as limes, beer, and sprite zero are non existant. They are allegedly replenished today, but haven't been distributed around the ship.
Much of the crew has just boarded today, either as new employees, or having returned from time off, and therefore haven't gotten into thier normal routines. It took my server three attempts to make me a gin and club soda. Many other guests had the same experience, most take it in stride.
I have decided to try and use the dining room on this cruise. By dining early, and requesting a small table, maybe I can avoid some of the general frustrations I have experienced in the past. At 5:15 I am promptly seated a few feet from a window. The chicken kiev was excellent, and the service good. The menu is shorter than I remember in the past, making the galley chores much easier. As I leave the dining room I request the same table for the rest of the cruise. Not a promise they would make, but will try, and I expect will succede.
It has been a long day, and I retire early. The next two days are sea days.