Once again, a rotten night’s sleep thanks to the painful arm... At least I could leave Paula in peace and try and sleep in the lounge, unfortunately without much success, so once again, we were up fairly early! The Embassy Suites not only had the welcome drinks but the room rate also included a buffet breakfast in the atrium and as there seemed to be a number of family reunions, seminars and workshops, we decided it might be best to eat early. The food was a fairly traditional American buffet, with bacon done to a crisp, thin overcooked sausages and rubbery scrambled eggs but at least they had fresh pancakes and there was a cook to order omelette section. The pastries were not as fresh as I would have liked and the usual remedy of warming them up wasn’t really an option, so we managed with some fruit, toast and juice – and a couple of pancakes.
I popped up to the top floor and had a good clear view of the Dawn Princess that had apparently arrived about 5am, and we had heard from Ros (not Princess...) that boarding was between 11am and 12 noon. We crammed the last of our belongings into the cases, wandered around the pleasant pool and fish pond area, twiddle our thumbs for a while then used a cab to get to the terminal, less than 5 minutes away, thinking that the building we could see from the hotel, adjacent to the ship was probably a shopping area of some sort. It was a car park...
We opted to hang on to our two cases and wheel them on ourselves then parked our backsides on the front row of seats facing the booths for check in. Considering the building appears to be one dominated by Princess, it wasn’t exactly a good advert for the line. Smugly, we stroked our recently issued Silver cruise cards, denoting two steps up the loyalty ladder, giving us amongst other things, priority check in. It didn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference but as we were on the front row, we beat 298 others to the first desk and managed our check in OK. We were first up the escalators and on to the level platform (no steps) that led straight to the ship.
At the entry to the ship, who do we see first, manning the initial card/scanner but (DJ) Lee and our favourite, Barbara!!! Hugs all round, then we headed straight for our ‘new’ cabin, just a few along from the old one, only to meet Alan, our smiling cabin steward, who was really pleased as he couldn’t get off the ship until his ‘new’ passengers had arrived. Taped to our door was a bright yellow notice from Barbara, welcoming us back! (We have gone in to bat for Barbara as one miserable passenger had written a letter of complaint about her and Robert, as this moaner considered their English wasn’t good enough. Sadly, Robert had handed in his notice and has left the ship. Such a shame.)
As we had three bags of stuff scattered around amongst cruiser friends, we started collating them and unpacking again, before heading up to the buffet. Once again, the first person to welcome us at the buffet entry was our waiter Watchara.
By the time early evening came around, we had caught up with quite a few people and even though sailaway was at 5pm, we opted to eat outside, using the opportunity to lighten our luggage a little with souvenirs that included Thornton’s chocolates and fridge magnets. Meanwhile, the crew orchestra (with two changes – but that is another story...) played Dixieland extremely well, the sax player using a clarinet this time (he didn’t play it before Dover!). The captain had already informed us of yet another change, to avoid hurricane Emily. The photograph shows an angry sky as we left FL.
A short/taster show by Irish comedian George Casey and a visit to the Atrium to hand over a box of Thornton’s toffee for Alana and Alan (more hugs!) before a welcome mug of hot chocolate each and we were well and truly ‘home’ again.
This ship generally rates very highly for friendliness – especially of the crew – but the passengers are also just great.
Some things however had changed that were not to everyone’s liking, particularly regarding the music. The previous Atrium musicians included a fantastic group with violinist, pianist and guitarists. A wide choice of music which most really enjoyed. Now we have a very sober string quartet. The popular Russian solo pianist who also had a very varied repertoire, seems to have been replaced by a lady solo pianist, who, like the string quartet, appears to play more sedate music. The Canadian band, Derringer, had also left, replaced by a group we haven’t yet checked out, but those who have don’t seem too keen.
Oh well, to bed at a respectable hour looking forward to our first sea days - again.