Cruise Day 1: Fort Lauderdale

Trip Start Feb 28, 2009
Trip End Mar 10, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, March 1, 2009

The docks at Fort Lauderdale are huge. As we approached we could see more than one cruise ship docked - four, as it turned out - of which ours, Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas, was marginally the largest*.  I didn't get a chance to get a photo of it, as we were too close to get more than a third of it the frame. There will be plenty of opportunities later.
So we all checked in on the dockside. It's very much like an airport check-in, but without the luggage-faff - that gets left outside with an appropriately-tipped porter, who sees that it gets to where it should; you get pre-printed tags with your tickets so all your luggage magically finds its way on board and parks itself outside your cabin.

At check-in, you are each issued with a pass - a credit-card-type-thing with your name, cabin, muster station, favourite colour, what underpants you're wearing... well, there's a lot of stuff on it anyway.  We then move on to another station where we are instructed to insert our cards in a machine, which then takes our picture and records it against the card.
And then it's time to walk up the gangplank - again very similar to boarding a plane and not at all like a plank! - and onto the ship. Well, the four adults walked. Xander ran. He was so excited!
As we boarded, we each inserted our pass in a similar contraption, which flashed up our photos so that the security staff could confirm we're us. Neat. They do this every time you board from a shore excursion. They also use the passes to count who leaves and who returns. I'm not sure what happens if the numbers don't match, but I don't intend to test it!
There's a couple of smiling people catching children and welcoming them aboard. They tell us all about the kids' club (which does sound excellent). They also give Xander a wrist band and put it on him. This has to stay on him for the entire cruise; it has his allocated muster station printed on it. In the even of an emergency, if he is not with us (like when he's at the club), the crew will ensure that he gets to the correct muster station where he'll find us.
Thence to our cabin: deck 7, port side, somewhere near the middle.
We have a balcony - yay! And a splendid view of the port; there's another ship just opposite us, and we're ever so glad we're not on it because it looks like it might be expensive!

The cabin is rather compact, but very well designed for all that. There's quite a bit of space all things considered. We have a sofa with a coffee table, a double bed, wardrobe, dressing table and an en-suite with shower.

We found a clue above the bed:

MUCH excitement!

But we needed our Stateroom Attendant to get it down. Speaking of whom, not long after we'd arrived, there was a knock on the door and Ahmad presented himself. After checking we had everything we needed (one towel short) H asked if he could get us any bath-robes (Margaret knows you get them in the class above ours, so she tipped us off)... "I'll try", he said. And he succeeded. Good man.
And then he got the bunk down:

As the ship left Fort Lauderdale, we were given a coastguard escort (and a lot of honking of air-horns from the shore). Xander was a little confused that the coastguard boat has a gun for fighting pirates with when everyone knows that pirates use swords.
They gave us a fly-past as a parting shot - see video!

Having explored every last nook and cranny of the cabin, it was time to venture out and start exploring the ship.  There was a meet-and-greet session at the kids' club, so that's where we headed for next. And no sooner had we done that, than it was time for our evacuation drill - we all whizzed back to our cabin and donned our life jackets, and followed the rest of the passengers down to our muster point, making bleating noises as we went.  I explained to Xander about how the lifeboats are lowered down and out to be level with the deck we were on, and then they open the gates and we all climb aboard, then they get lowered all the rest of the way into the sea. He decided that sounded a lot of fun and could we do it now please?
By the time that was done, it was about tea-time for small people. One of the things that's been recommended to us is Johnny Rocket's - a 50's style diner. As we approached we could hear loud music playing. Bee-gees, to be precise. Stayin' Alive. It was from the diner. The staff were lined up between the counter and the tables doing the full dance routine. The food was good, too. Best onion rings on the planet. Unfortunately, Xander was completely pooped, so it was a bit of an effort getting him to eat. He was too tired even for ice-cream.

* Until last year it was the biggest in the world, but RC have just built an even bigger one!
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