Embarkation Day!

As usual, we were up bright and early. After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel, and hopped on the #2 Vaporetto to Piazzale Roma. We bought tickets for the People Mover (monorail) to Marritima, the cruise port. This was the only time it was useful to have a chip and pin credit card for our entire European trip, because the tickets were purchased at a ticket kiosk. There were five ships in port that day: NCL Jade, Royal Caribbean (not sure which ship), HAL Rotterdam, a MSC ship, and finally, the NCL Spirit, our ship! As we approached the ship to check in, others were disembarking from their Barcelona to Venice cruise. My husband, friendly guy that he is, was greeting people as they left, “Welcome to Venice!”.

We like to get to the port early, so had to wait a bit before check in started. Then, we waited another hour until we could embark. By then, the terminal was getting pretty crowded. Our check in number was finally called, and we could finally get on the ship! Our passports were confiscated before we were able to board (they were returned partway through the cruise); apparently, this is quite common on some European cruises.

The first thing we did on board was to locate our cabin, though it was too early for us to be able to use the cabin. So, off to lunch! The cruise line likes to direct people to the buffet on embarkation day, but we had read that one of the main dining rooms was also open (Windows), and decided to eat there. The buffet is VERY crowded on embarkation day, but the MDR was virtually deserted. We were seated by the window, so were able to watch people arriving to the port.

After lunch, we were hoping that our luggage would have arrived. We were a little bit nervous, given that we had never shipped luggage to a cruise ship before. It would be a bit of a problem if the suitcase didn’t get there, given that we were going to be on the ship for the next 4 weeks! When we went to the cabin, the suitcase was not there. Uh-oh! We had a lovely mid-ship balcony on an upper deck. Like most cruise ship cabins, it as a “step-saver”; not much room. We like being mid-ship, because both of us are prone to motion sickness, and have found that this is the best location for us (least amount of motion). We found a certificate from the cruise line from our travel agent for $100 on board credit (OBC); unfortunately, we had been promised $300!

We decided to go to the internet café to sign up for a minimal internet package so that we could email the luggage company and the travel agent. After sending the emails, we toured the ship. The Spirit is a very unique cruise ship. It was originally designed for the Asian market, and was named the Superstar Leo. When NCL purchased the ship, they kept the Asian décor. It is a very beautiful ship, with very unique artwork. We really loved it.

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By the time we got back to our cabin, the large suitcase had arrived! Yeah! Clayton’s carryon had also arrived, but mine had not. We unpacked everything (my carryon had arrived by then); the space was a bit tight. We had read that the rooms on the Spirit were a bit smaller than a typical ship; we could have used just a little bit more storage.

We went on a tour of the Spa. I got to be the “victim” for them to demonstrate acupuncture, but, even better, was chosen to be the person they demonstrated various massage techniques on!

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While waiting for the Muster Drill we went down to the Atrium area, and found a place to sit. We chatted for a bit with a couple of women from Nebraska. They told us they were on a “Father Carnival” trip, which was apparently a group of 100+ Catholics that were traveling together with a priest. They had not yet even looked at excursions, which was fairly shocking to us. I personally can’t imagine going on a cruise without even knowing what would be offered! We don’t do excursions through the cruise line; we research ports ahead of time, and find tours that others are setting up through Cruise Critic. Now, after having taken this cruise, I do the organizing of group tours as well.

4:45 was Muster Drill. NCL does a very brief version of this. You report to your Muster Station on the Promenade Deck, and check in. Unlike most muster drills that we have done, we didn’t even need to put on our life vests. We were directed to a line, and the cruise line person that checked us in gave us a brief run-down on what to do in case of an emergency. The only down-side was that we could not hear a word she said! After Muster Drill, we went to dinner, and then had a lovely evening relaxing out on deck.

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The next day was our first sea day. I participated in a “Cabin Crawl” that had been set up by someone on our Cruise Critic roll call. We got to see a variety of levels of cabins that people were booked in, from the smallest inside cabin, to the largest suite. The suites were quite lovely. I must confess that I was a tiny bit jealous! I found out from someone on the Roll Call that our Vatican tour time had been changed. The tour company never let me know; if I hadn’t done the cabin crawl, I never would have found out! This caused me a bit of stress, but was able to fix the problem, with some help from another Cruise Critic person. I think the problem was that I had used my hotmail account for communication, and the nice folks at Microsoft kept blocking my account for my “protection”. One thing I learned from this trip is to never use hotmail when traveling. They will block access to your account if you try to log in from a new location. Every day was a new location, so this ended up being a huge frustration.

I had my hair cut & colored at the salon on board in the afternoon. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the salon. Of course, it was hideously expensive, which I expected, but I also expected a higher quality of service given the high price.

The next day was another sea day, and was also the Meet & Greet for our Cruise Critic group. This is a chance to meet up with people that you are going to be doing tours with, and also a chance for to meet some of the ship’s officers. We found the people that had organized the tours we were going on, and gave them the money for the excursions. We also did a gift exchange. Each person that chose to participate brought a gift (up to $15 value) that represented their home. Being from Seattle, of course I included Starbucks in mine, as well as Market Spice Tea (from Pike Place Market), and some local chocolate. I ended up with a box of See’s chocolates from someone from California. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, wandering around the ship, reading, eating too much, etc. In other words, a typical sea day! Early to bed, because we would be in Athens tomorrow.

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