Boarding is a breeze now. By moving the security checkpoint to the entrance to the port, getting onboard doesn't cause the huge traffic jam it used to. They also had a different setup going - they now stop and take your picture with the welcome signboard before you cross the gangways to the ship, again, it smooths out boarding considerably. Here, they have special 'Welcome Home' signboards, just for this cruise.
Walk onto the ship, they have banners spanning all three decks of the atrium, with yet more welcoming home. There's lots of welcome home everywhere
Move on up to the Beach Blanket Buffet, for an exceptional lunch as usual, serve yourself.
It's confusing - I wish they'd get one policy going and stick with it. Not that I'm complaining, as I am definitely a sampler and grab a bit of everything. We hook up with Beth and her dh. Cheryl & Todd, and Gail & John have stuck with us. And as we enjoy our pleasant lunch on deck 9 aft, I happen to notice, and in passing mention someone's got a cute shirt with 'got points?' on it. This immediately turns into shouts of 'Shontell!' which do get her attention and she drops in for a minute to just say hi to us(she has her lunch sitting over with her mom Gale). After this we kind of break up for a bit, as it is time to go settle in to the cabins.
And upon arrival to the cabin, luggage already waiting, What do we find? MORE cool stuff!
Pins and goodies from the collectors club! And what could the TV be on and tuned to? The Welcome Home Channel, what else?
Ok, time for the fashion show. Safety drill assembly on Deck 4 was a bit more painless than I remember - maybe I'm just getting used to doing it. It went reasonably well, the guy being assembly leader for the group next to us is one of the gameshow hosts, so he keeps everyone entertained while we mill about. Drill over, the rush is on - We make a beeline straight to the cabin for the meet stuff and up we go to deck 10 and already some disers are up there, and the inrush begins. It was pure chaos, I think EVERYONE onboard was up on deck 10 by the time sailaway really began. I took some pictures as did others of people we met then. I do apologize - Between the incredibly loud music(I think they wanted the whole port to know we're leaving) and the crowds, I really didn't get a chance to attach names to all the faces in the pics - PLEASE point out to me people I've left unnamed!
And hey, we really took over the ship too!
Sailaway was cool, got to wave at everyone who showed up along the port to fish, hang out, and just watch the ships go by. There is definitely music stuck in our heads! Once we go out to sea a bit, things really wound down quick. The music leaves, and so do 9/10ths of the people on Deck 10. Well, at least half had to go get ready for dinner. Ah, finally a chance to get a sailaway drink! It's a non-alcohic, strawberry/vanilla, smoothie concoction - very tasty. Yes, I am an admitted smoothie addict. It was fun to just hang out and watch us leave Florida behind, I must admit. We've already seen Hercules 3 times, we easily skipped it for once.
Ah, dinner on a late rotation has pluses in not having to rush off for it, but it is something to adjust to, just to have it that late. I am sorry to admit, while our servers were very attentive, I cannot for the life of me remember either of their names. The dinners on this ship are as much about the presentation as the actual taste of the meal. You almost feel guilty distubing the artistry to actually consume it. Seated together, on our rotation, only a few tables away is the group of Moderators, who actually were organized enough to do such a feat. I was too busy getting the Dis stuff done to even consider dinner seating, oops. So, Mary and I are at a table for eight with three other couples we've never met. Who are nice pleasant company for the entire cruise. We didn't do exactly much after dinner- kinda beat and wanted to be fresh for the first day at CC. Heard stories of some of the parties that went on, and sounded fun
Now what needs to be noted at this point is the fact the restaruant is half empty. This is the late and less desirable rotation, so I would guess the early seating was fuller. We picked late seating so we wouldn't have to rush off at sailaway. While this cruise was something close to if not a total sellout, there are some differences. Most of this cruise was couples. If there were kids, a lot of them were left at home. This fact brings out that while you have a cabin that sleeps four, you now only have two. So while cabin wise the ship is full, the actual number of people is a lot less, without kids. The ship in general seemed no more or less busy than usual. I do imagine the kids programming tracks were a lot lighter.