(June 5, 2006)
Read about the other days:
DAY ONE – Departure
DAY TWO – Key West, Fla.
DAY THREE – Cozumel, Mexico
DAY FOUR – Belize City, Belize, and Xunantunich Ruins
DAYS FIVE and SIX – A Day at Sea, and Returning Home
After thoroughly packing our suitcases and bags the night before, Marline and I awoke at 5 a.m. on Monday, June 5, and began the final preparations. We had purposefully left nearly nothing in the refrigerator, so we could empty it that morning. After we showered, dressed, and added the last few items to our bags, I emptied the last few items from the ‘fridge into the garbage, and took the trash out to the dumpster, and then began turning off electrical breakers in the apartment — we didn’t want to be paying for electricity we didn’t use while we were gone.
My brother Zane showed up at about 5:30 a.m., ready to take us to the airport in my parents’ pickup truck, and we packed it quickly and left my apartment at 5:42 a.m., stopping to fill up with gas at the E-Z Mart near my home.
As a wonderful sign from God (perhaps), we were treated to brilliant thunderstorms along the highway to Oklahoma City , with strong flashes of lightning, cracks of thunder and a downpour of rain that made it difficult to drive. At some points, Zane had to drive about 45 miles per hour on Interstate 40 (where the speed limit is 70 mph), because of the thick rain. A few vehicles pulled to the side of the road. I took all of this as a good sign, partly because I just love thunderstorms, and partly because Oklahoma has needed the rain so badly.
Zane dropped us off at Will Rogers World Airport at 6:50 a.m., and sped home to take a nap. It’s so nice to have family nearby to help out with things like that. Sure, I could have driven to the airport, but it would’ve cost $40 or more to park my car for a week. It was cheaper to give Zane $20 for gas.
Marline and I only checked one suitcase (we packed light), and then I had my final cigarette outside before I had to toss the lighter in the trash, and then we went through the security checkpoint.
Our small (“express”) jet left OKC at 8:15 a.m. and arrived in Houston, Texas, at 9:20 a.m., with the customary good service from Continental . After flying several airlines over the past year, Marline’s settled on Continental as the best, and it didn’t disappoint. My only complaint is the size of the “express” jets. I imagine that before long, the word “express” will be synonymous with the word “tiny.” As in the following sentence: “While the Empire State Building is large, the buildings of Seminole are express.” There’s not much room for anything, except sitting still, especially for a man of my height (6’2″), and I absolutely cannot stand up in an express jet. But that’s the pain of living in Oklahoma — to get to anywhere else, you just about have to ride a smaller plane.
Anyway, Houston is a clean and well-organized airport, and we made it to our connecting flight with time to spare. After boarding the larger plane, we sat on the tarmac for about an hour — I’m not sure why. Still, the plane left at 11:50 a.m. and made it to Ft. Lauderdale by 2 p.m.
There, we picked up the larger suitcase and caught a taxi to the pier where our ship awaited us. It was a simple matter to check in with the Royal Caribbean International staff, much faster than I expected. We each got a “SeaPass,” which would serve as our identification on board the ship. It was a plastic card with our names and ID numbers, with a magnetic strip. On the ship, the card was used for purchases (charged to our account), as a key for our stateroom door, and to scan as we left or re-boarded the ship at each port-of-call.
Another security checkpoint at the pier moved much faster than the airport security, and then we were being herded onto the ship by 3 p.m.
Our ship was the Enchantment of the Seas , a wonderful vessel. The Enchantment is 990 feet long, 106 feet wide, and weighs about 81,000 tons, with a passenger capacity of about 2,500 people. There are 874 crew members on board (about one for every three passengers!) It made its maiden voyage in July 1997, but was much smaller then. In 2005, the ship went through an “extreme makeover,” and was lengthened by 73 feet. The ship features two outdoor pools, four outdoor hot tubs, an indoor pool (under a retractable roof) and two indoor hot tubs. There are two suspension bridges that stretch over the outdoor pool deck, a rock-climbing wall, a bungee trampoline, a full-featured fitness center and more. There’s a jogging track that circles the ship on the top deck, ping-pong tables, shuffleboard areas, etc. Also, there are several restaurants on the ship, of various calibers, including My Fair Lady, Chops Grille, Solarium Restaurant and WindJammer. There is a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stand, and “Latté-tudes” (a specialty coffee stand). Some passengers also frequented the Casino Royale. And, who can forget the Centrum, which is an open atrium that goes from deck four up to deck 10, surrounded by balconies and topped by a glass roof, and featuring glass elevators that look out into it. Several bars were spaced throughout the ship as well, including the Spotlight Lounge, Boleros (Latin-themed), the Schooner Bar, the Pool Bar, etc. And, before I forget it, I should mention the Orpheum, which is a huge theater on decks five and six, where the ship’s production cast put on Broadway-style shows, and other performances. We estimated that the Orpheum could seat about 500-600 people.
Enough about the ship. We didn’t fully explore it all until later.
We found our stateroom, which was on Deck Four. The stateroom had a nice rectangular window about six feet wide by four feet tall, and was about 30 feet above the water level. Two twin beds had been pushed together, with a nightstand on each side. There was also a love seat, a desk, and several cabinets with drawers. A closet there was more than large enough for the clothes we needed to put on hangars. The bathroom was small, but much larger than an airplane bathroom, and had a decent shower. I don’t think we ever felt cramped in the stateroom — I know that in Japan, families of eight sleep in less space. But, for the most part, we didn’t stay in the room much, only using it for sleeping, changing clothes, showering, and a few other marital activities.
After dropping our bags, we headed up to the WindJammer café (Deck 9), to have an afternoon snack, and then checked out the pools on Deck 9.
Just before supper, we attended the a stand-up comic show in the Orpheum theater, which was hilarious, but “clean” (family friendly). I can’t remember the comic’s name.
Supper was in My Fair Lady, the ship’s main dining room. I’ll say that it was very nice , but not nice enough to eat in again. The portions were small, the service was slow, and we had assigned seating, which was irritating. We got seated with seven people we didn’t know. Marline and I decided it was much nicer to eat our meals in WindJammer, where the food service was buffet style, and we could choose our own seats. Besides, at WindJammer, the floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over the ocean, and we could see out into the world.
After supper, we explored the ship, going up deck by deck.
Below us, all the decks were mainly staterooms, and at the very bottom was the crew’s quarters (where we were not allowed), as well as the ship’s full-service hospital area.
On our deck (Deck 4), the front half was staterooms, while in the center was the bottom of the Centrum atrium, the Champagne bar, a “terrace,” where passengers could sit in plush chairs and watch the ocean go by. At the rear, was the bottom floor of My Fair Lady dining room.
On Deck 5, the front was dominated by the Orpheum theater, while the Casino Royale was in the middle, near the Centrum. Past that was the Boleros Lounge, ship’s pursers and Guest Relations, and at the rear was the balcony deck of My Fair Lady.
Deck 6 had the upper level of the Orpheum theater, gift shops (including formal wear, liquor, perfume, souvenirs, and jewelry). There was also a photo shop and a photo gallery where passengers could purchase portaits taken by the ship’s annoying photographers. Farther toward the stern (rear), there was an art gallery, Latté-tudes, art auction gallery, Chops Grille, a conference center, Schooner bar, and the Spotlight Lounge.
We didn’t spend much time on Deck 7, because it was mostly staterooms. Near the Centrum, there was a library, and the “Crown and Anchor Study,” for more wealthy passengers.
Deck 8 was reserved for the more uppity guests, with larger staterooms and “Royal Suites,” which are far too rich for our budget. Also, near the Centrum was the RC Online shop, where we could have paid $8 per minute to browse the internet, send emails, or call home, and the Concierge Club.
Deck 9 was the fun deck. At the front (“bow”) was the WindJammer Café, and then the open-air pool deck stretching back from there. The Island Bar was on the port side of the pool area, while the Pool Bar was at the front. Aft of the pool deck was the Solarium with the indoor pool and hot tubs, as well as a small restaurant, and at the stern was the ShipShape fitness center and spa.
Deck 10 had the jogging track or “sun walk” all around the perimeter, with an observatory at the bow, and a kid’s fun area just aft of that. Plus, there was the glass canopy on top of the Solarium.
Deck 11 wasn’t much, just the Viking Crown Lounge sticking up above the rest of the ship, where the 18-20 year-olds had disco dancing every night.
After exploring the trip, we returned to our stateroom for the night. The ship had pulled out of port not long after 4 p.m., and was already steaming at about 20 knots around the Florida peninsula, heading for Key West.
And, keep checking My Flickr for more photos from the cruise. I guess I’ll be uploading several a day for the rest of the week or so.