Day 1 – Saturday – Fort Lauderdale
Our flight is uneventful until just before we touch down, where the weather turns suddenly ugly. However, we push through some nausea-inducing turbulence and get on the ground (lucky for us; shortly after we’re down the airport shuts out all flights for the next several hours). We meet up with some employees from the cruise ship whose job it is to guide us to the proper shuttle, and one of these men has the most leathery skin I’ve seen on a human, alive or dead. Atop his neck is what could pass for an enormous orange scrotum. Regardless of his condition, he directs us where we need to go.
Half an hour later we check into our room on Caribe deck (deck 10), which is more or less the same as our room was on our first cruise—with the exception of the kick-ass balcony we have this time around. We grab a quick bite and then join an arranged tour of the ship. This turns out to be over crowded and geared to the sept-, oct-, and nonagenarian crowd, so we bail and Sarah shows me around herself. Somewhat acquainted with our new digs, we go back to the room for some R&R and sweet, sweet contraband rum. The Muster Drill (where it takes thirty minutes to show everyone how to put on a fucking life jacket; which I want to skip but Sarah is having none of) gets postponed due to the storm slowing things down. So, more rummy rum rum. Then the Muster Drill (yawn).
For dinner, we’ve arranged a standing reservation at the Palm Dining room. Our meal this first night is okay—my seafood pastry has too much pastry and not enough seafood, and Sarah’s fish entrée tastes like… I don’t know, like something she doesn’t want to eat. Post meal, we go to Club Fusion which is hosting a trivia thing. We team up with Bob and Andrea, a fun couple from Massachusetts. Together (okay, really it’s all Sarah) we kick unholy ass. We trade our forms with other teams for marking purposes, and when our marker gives us back our score (23 of 25) he tells us that we need to get out more. Then he tells us this again. Then another seven times. However, free travel alarm clocks are a balm for our sheltered, too-nerdy souls.
Day 2 – Sunday – At Sea
We’re awoken by the dulcet tones of our new alarm clock, and after laying about for a bit we get up to the Lido Deck for buffet breakfast. I promise myself that I won’t be a glutton, that I’ll make a smart, adult-looking plate, but I grab a spoonful of everything and carry the meal of a nine year-old kid back with me. For lack of something better to do, Sarah heads off to a shopping presentation. I feel the itch and burn of the casino, so I answer that call and lose twenty bucks so fast I feel like I’m being punished.
After a quick workout on the tracks, Sarah and I head down to the spa. We’ve purchased week-long access to The Sanctuary, which is a sectioned-off area of the spa that has saunas (aromatic, strong, or mild), rainfall-simulating showers, and heated stone beds. I’m a little skeptical of the whole thing, but it turns out to be a worthwhile purchase and a good deal. The first time there we’re a little unsure of how it works, so other than the courtesy robes we go there buck-ass naked. Ten seconds later, we realize that a) obviously it’s co-ed, and b) most activities involve disrobing—so maybe bathing suits might be a wise piece of apparel. Returning to the sanctuary properly dressed, we bump into the trivia guy who’d sassed us from the previous night. We get talking to him and his wife, and it turns out that they’re actually quite funny. Steve and Jennie are from Utah; they’re not Mormon, and no, they don’t know Dooce. Steve is the spitting image of Robert Patrick from Terminator 2, but I don’t mention this to him. Yet.
It’s the first of two formal nights, which is really poor timing because it’s also Superbowl Sunday (which means most people skip out on formal dining.) Dinner today is better, but they’re still lacking in presentation because our beef medallions are adorned with carrot sticks and tater tots. After this, we catch the Captain’s Toast, wherein he introduces the crew and basically tells us ‘I hope you have a foking good time.’ We follow this with a drink at Explorer's Lounge. Unbeknownst to us, a magic show is just about to start. We’re treated to the PG-13 stylings of James “the Kid” Michael, who performs a show in the vein of The Amazing Jonathan (the difference being that, between flipping us off and telling so-so jokes, this guy actually performed a trick or two.)
After this, we head not to far away to Crooner’s Corner so we can see Bert Stratton, who comes very highly recommended by the Cruise Critic people. I was meh about the idea, expecting some kind of greasy lounge singer, but he’s both extremely talented and funny as shit. He doesn’t take himself seriously, pulling weird faces as he sings or slurring the words of a too-oft sung song. While resembling an older Ryan Seacrest, his face has Jim Carrey-like elasticity. It occurs to me that everyone I meet seems to look like someone else—Seacrest here in front of me, the T-1000 from Utah, and even Bob from trivia is like a skinny Oliver Stone.