Monday, August 22, 2011

Eurotrip 2011: I'm on a boat!

We packed the night before and went to the lobby of our hotel to await contact by our shuttle to the port of Civitavecchia, Italy. Fortunately we had covered the confirmation with the shuttle company prior to the phone failing, so everything went smoothly. We lugged our stuff outside after receiving the call and made our way to port with two other couples on the way to a different cruise than ours. To recap, our cruise had four stops scheduled: Messina (Sicily), Athens (Greece), Kusadasi (Turkey) and finally Crete (Greece). We arrived at port, and were dropped off at the Royal Caribbean check in center for our boat, The Navigator of the Seas.

I was physically burnt. Sleep had been terrible, getting up early to walk over 5 miles each of the past two days didn't help, and I just needed a nice soft place to lay down. In the meantime, we stood in a snake-line with about a thousand people in order to check-in and turn over our passports...which was weird, but worked out fine. We made some preparations before going on the boat to ensure it was as good an experience as possible. I've been on plenty of small boats in my time, for as long as 3 days straight, but since this would be 8 days we made sure to pick up both Bonine and ginger root extract pills. The Bonine is for nausea due to the constant motion in the ocean, and the ginger root helps settle the stomach if the nausea does arrive. Throughout the trip I took half a days serving of Bonine (one tablet) and a ginger pill with lunch and had no problems outside of the unavoidable 'rocks'. Even the rocking isn't that bad when it doesn't lead to hugging a trashcan. We also stashed Bacardi that we bought in Rome, in our luggage within some portable pouches, to ensure we could keep costs down if we really needed to avoid expensive drinks.

We boarded the boat prior to our rooms being ready, so we were instructed to stay on the lounge levels of the boat until 3pm. We checked our luggage but I held onto my camera bag. We walked up 10 flights of stairs to arrive on the pool deck and found a pair of recliners to crash on. We went to the bar, ordered a beer and a water, then retreated to the covered area near some retractable windows. The view outside was pretty impressive. The water in the Mediterranean was amazingly blue and I did my best to try to capture it as days passed. Also, The Navigator of the Seas ship and it's crew were quite impressive. Bigger than the Titanic, with maps of the boat and all it's facilities in about 10 places on every floor, and loaded with just about everything imaginable to make you think you weren't on a ship. They had an all in one ID card/credit card/passport that you had to keep with you at all times and logged all the charges that would eventually be presented to you in a nice white envelope on the second to last day. And due to issues with people walking away from paying in different parts of the boat, they didn't let you start tabs in the local bars. This got pretty annoying by day three, but was a necessary evil.

US outlets were my life preserver

After getting an hour of sleep, the central broadcasting system sounded an alert announcing everyone could check into their rooms, as it was 3pm. We worked our way down to our our floor, towards the front of the ship on the 7th floor, and opened the door. Arguably the biggest room of the vacation and a balcony with a view of the ocean. I'm glad I didn't cheap out on the room. The bed was a queen, but was shaped in such a way that made my heels hang off (I'm 6'1"). I wasn't too concerned with that, I was just happy that we had more than 10 channels on the TV, we had US-spec plug outlets so I could charge my computer and camera batteries, and most importantly the bed was soft. I jumped into the soft sheets with a big smile on my face and heard something awful. I heard the public announcement system, which I thought I escaped already, and it was on in the room informing us of a mandatory life preserver/life boat briefing in 30 minutes. A minute later the announcement started again, but this time in Italian. Then in German. Then in French. Then someone was knocking on the door to remind us to go. Then I was outside with one eye half open being told how to put a life preserver on.

On our way.
This ain't the Atlantic Ocean.

I hobbled back upstairs and decided to take a couple pics. Beth went through the interactive program on the TV to figure out our excursion for Sicily and I then started backing up pictures off my memory cards, because I hadn't had the ability to do so previously. I got back into bed, turned on the TV and found myself one of the two German TV channels which was broadcasting the F1 Grand Prix race at Silverstone. I was happy. I nodded off. I woke up to our luggage being delivered, and our Bacardi made it. I was happy. I nodded off. I woke up a couple hours later to Beth doing her hair at the vanity, post-shower, imploring me to wake up because our scheduled dinner time was coming up fast. Ugh. Despite my ambivalence on attending the organized dinner (there was a buffet option as well which I was betting on), I got in the shower and threw on some clothes. We walked down to our assigned dining table, me with red eyes and on auto-pilot, then proceeded to sleepwalk through conversations with five nice couples from the (4) US and (1) Romania. I did more head nodding and smiling than talking and afterwards we made our way back to the room. After a drink or two I caught my second wind. I've been working evenings and going to bed around 4am for the past 3 years; like magic, regardless of my energy level, once midnight comes around I can always stay up til about 4am without fail. I didn't stay up that late on this night, but 1:30am was close enough. I closed my eyes and tried to catch up on sleep.

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