Day 1: Setting Sail

Trip Start Dec 08, 2003
Trip End Dec 18, 2003

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

We made it! The shortly anticipated cruise. We booked this thing at the final, final hour. Not too bad for half-price! Eleven days to the Mexican Riviera on Celebrity Cruise Line's Mercury ship. Departure day, and we have lots of errands to run - bank for money, Radio Shack for dual audio plug (gotta listen to tapes while on board), Sees Candy Shop for peppermints, Office Depot for Michael's ink pen refill, and the post office to pick up his mail. And wouldn't you know it - his brand new passport arrived. The day we depart for our trip. God is good.

Drop off the car and then off to the terminal. The foursome who rode with us was on their way to the airport for a trip to Vegas. Experienced travelers, no doubt. Asked lots of questions - Which cruise line? Cruising to where? How many people aboard ship? They chatted about the "dusty" foliage in the rain forest in Mazatlan. Made note of that. Might want to skip it, but we'll see. Nothing's going to discourage us from experiencing everything we can on this trip.

We've been looking forward to this ever since we took that walk along San Diego's embarcadero. Three weeks ago we went out for a morning stroll and serendipitously happened upon some happy travelers disembarking from a cruise ship. We were curious to know where they had come from and we found out that they had just completed a cruise to the Mexican Riviera. That sounded nice so we inquired when the ship would be departing again on the same cruise. We found out that the next fantastic voyage was scheduled for just three weeks later, and we were suddenly and simultaneously captured by the thought of taking a cruise. And wouldn't you know it, this trip would include all of the lovely cities in Mexico Michael has always wanted to go, and now he's getting the chance to do it all in one trip. And me, I'm going along just to see the excitement on his face.

"What do you think of taking a cruise?" Michael asked.
"Why not!" I replied.

As we investigated, we happened to get in on one of the four staterooms still available at the last minute. And wouldn't you know, we got a special deal -- 1/2 off the normal price. That's what last-minute travel can do. Bargains can be had when you have a flexible schedule.

So over the Thanksgiving holiday - Michael in New Orleans and I in Los Angeles - we planned an 11-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Who would have thought that early morning walk three weeks ago would have blossomed into a dream come true. I can't believe we're here. But now that we are, we're going to make the best of it.

Dwight took our luggage at the terminal. Nice guy, but we wondered about his validity. Had to let that go though. Long line to check in. Lots of older folks. They've probably lived their whole year in anticipation of this trip.

What an exciting and warm entrance onto the ship, greeted with champagne and a welcome photo. Lots of activity and excited faces from the passengers and the crew. Once on board, we headed for our stateroom #9098 on the Vista deck (tiny but cute). Drop off the bags go for a walking tour of the ship, deck by deck. Very nicely appointed. Beautiful art. Each deck has a different flair - modern, futuristic, warm colors, bright, etc. Nice library. Card room. Theatre. Even several stations to check email - for a fee, of course. Fifty cents per minute. I guess we can swing that a couple of times while we're on board. Then up to the dining area where, for the next 11 days, we will spend countless hours indulging ourselves in the culinary delicacies. All we can eat, five times a day! Now that's a dream come true.

As we sailed out of San Diego harbor, our hearts thumped to the up tempo beat of the calypso music on deck and we phoned our parents for a last-minute farewell, knowing we would lose our Nextel connection soon and wouldn't speak to them for almost two weeks. What's that noise? That must be the siren announcing the emergency drill that every cruiser has to go through on the very first day. Can't miss the all-important safety drill. Four-thirty and it's time to don our "designer" life vests and proceed to our evacuation station, then to the lifeboats with all of the old fogies, where we would need to go in the event that we found ourselves in that nightmarish scene from "Titanic" and had to muscle our way onto one of those tiny little boats. Believe me, I wouldn't think twice about knocking over one of these "senior" travelers or even one of the little ones to save my own butt! This is a joke, because it won't be anything like this in a real emergency. People would be totally freaking out. But what the heck, we gotta practice.

Time to prepare for dinner. Even though we have the late seating (8:30 pm at our request), there's some kind of entertainment prior to that, so we don't want to miss anything. Shower, spruce up and we're ready to go. Tonight is a casual night. We peek into the theatre to check out the show and spot a sea of gray heads bobbing in laughter to a balding middle-aged comedian telling jokes about old people, Jewish people, and old Jewish people. Okay, enough of that.

Strolling about the ship some more we spot an art gallery. Nice stuff. Peruse the shops. Then down to the dining room because we don't want to miss a moment of this dining experience. No early entry, so we wait with a group of folks until the doors to the grand ballroom open. I wonder who we will be dining with. Aren't we the lucky ones - we get to sit with a family of four. Mom and Dad (Jenny and Alan) and their adult children, Elizabeth and Joe. Pleasant folks. Jenny was quite the chatter box. Joe was pretty quiet, but he warmed up as the meal went on. Elizabeth is a flight attendant with Northwest who had to take some time off after 9/11/01 because of stress. Something tells me that either Michael or I will see her on a Northwest flight soon.

Hrvoje (Hur - v - yay), our head waiter was quite the character. Thank goodness he said it would be okay for us to call him HR. But we all found it enjoyable to try to pronounce his name (Michael has it down pat). From Croatia, our waitere hasn't been in the states long enough to lose his accent completely. But he has quite an American sense of humor, and he kept us entertained throughout the evening.

The food was pretty good. Five courses. Too tired for wine. As the small talk went on, I found myself hoping that the dinner conversation each night would become a bit more lively as the cruise goes on. The inevitable question popped up. "So what do you do?" asked Alan, looking in Michael's direction. I can't wait to hear what he's going to say. "I'm retired from the military; the Navy," he responds. Alan thought Michael looked more like an Air Force type, though. I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that, but Michael didn't seem to be bothered by it, so whatever.

Alan was obviously impressed that Michael retired as a Lt. Commander. So they chatted about that some. Elizabeth said Michael doesn't look old enough to be retired. I wanted to make some smart aleck remark about how black people never look their age or how every retired person isn't as old as her parents or something like that. But I had to hold my tongue on that one.

After eating, we excused ourselves and wobbled back to our stateroom. Michael insisted that we should go over to the midnight buffet in a few hours. Yeah, whatever, I thought. But I humored him and said, "Sure, I guess we can do that." I knew when I said it that we wouldn't make it. I could tell he was as tired as I was. We plopped down on the bed for a quick nap, and that was all she wrote.

Now our thoughts turn to the rest of the trip. Tomorrow we sail the open waters en route to Cabo San Lucas.
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