I really didn’t need to set my alarm clock for the morning of Saturday, July 26, but I did anyway. Just in case. Haha!
I was dressed and down to breakfast at the Hampton Inn pretty soon after it opened just because I was going stir crazy in the room. Ate breakfast, then went upstairs to double check where everything was and pack up the toothbrush, then it was time to catch the shuttle to the airport to catch ShuttleExpress to the pier. Another couple was taking the same shuttle to the same shuttle to the Westerdam, so we started talking but never really exchanged names. We checked in at Shuttle Express and waited for the driver who came around and asked for my first name and then I assume the woman’s first name and “Strickland”. But it took us all a few minutes to realize what he’d said. Um…we have the same last name. But from what we could tell, though they live in Birmingham, AL, we aren’t related. The ShuttleExpress driver was all “Wait, you’re NOT related??” Total randomness.
We had one other part of a family also headed to the Westerdam and one random person to drop at a hotel in downtown Seattle join us. On the way downtown, we passed a sight you would NEVER see in NYC…
Yes, those are chairs that have been set out to hold places for the Torchlight Parade which would be that evening to kick off SeaFair. No one saying with the chairs or even where they could keep a constant eye on them. Just chairs. Some places had just blankets. And one memorable block (but one which I sadly didn’t get a picture of) had SOFAS set up in three rows. Yes, you read that right. SOFAS! Insanity!!
Very soon we were pulling up to Pier 91 where the ms Westerdam was in one berth and the Golden Princess (who would shadow us (or did we shadow them?) all week). We got out and got our bags and then got in line to wait until the terminal opened. First big difference from Disney was that here I took my luggage all the way into the acceptance point where it was then loaded onto the carts that would transfer it to the ship – no porters involved at all unless you were an upper-suite level guest or someone with some wedding that was going on. You don’t realize how nice it is to drop bags at the sidewalk until it’s not an option! At any rate, checked my two bags and headed upstairs to check in where they did the standard health questionnaire (not that I think those do any good as they are totally dependent on people being honest and with the number of people who don’t bother to get travel insurance you know there are people who will lie so they don’t get denied boarding), take your picture, set up your card, and hand you your boarding number. I got number 5, but things moved VERY quickly. Before long, I was telling the photographer “Thanks, but no thanks” and heading on board.
I knew there would be no “Please welcome aboard…” announcement, but it was even more low key than that. Just scan the card and bam, you’re on board and left to figure it out. First stop for me was guest services (on HAL the “front desk”) to put my cash deposit down. I’d heard conflicting stories of if I’d be required to put the entire $420 down or only $370 because I’d bought $150 in credit. As it turns out, I think I could have put any amount as the girl said “How much did you want to put down?” I went ahead with the $420 option, so I don’t know what would have happened if I’d said less. But it seems kind of pointless to ask in that way if there is a set amount required. But it all got done. Went to the elevator bank and stood there for a moment before the steward standing there said “They’re not coming down to this deck. You have to go up the stairs to the second deck and then get an elevator up.” Um, thanks? So people on deck 1 aren’t allowed to use the elevator now? And if so, won’t the elevators have to go back up? But I turned around and went up the stairs to then catch the elevator to deck 6. It was nice to already have the cabins ready (but not enough that I will get to Port Canaveral later for my DCL cruises…). I had a balcony cabin:
It was fine. Smaller than Disney…and the bed is actually two pushed together, so there is the lovely little dip/bump…but still nice. I dropped my bags off and then headed up to lunch. First checked out the Lido “buffet” which for the first 48 hours was the Lido cafeteria as they don’t let you touch any utensils for the first 48 hours – and honestly even then there was very little that was true self-service. I wasn’t overly thrilled with any of the offerings, so I opted to hit the Dive-In for a burger and fries
THAT was really good. Dive-In more or less became my default lunch when I ate lunch on board. After I ate, I wandered around the ship for a little while. It was a beautiful day, and I was finally able to see Mt. Rainier
Soon it was time for muster drill (which went much smoother than I’d read they sometimes go on HAL ships) and then we were sailing away! No big celebration and definitely no show. We just sort of quietly slipped out of the berth and headed north to Alaska.
I watched the Olympic Mountains go by for a few minutes, then headed to my cabin to get changed since we’d have dinner right after the welcome reception.
It was cool to meet Mila, who I’d been communicating with for probably nine months at this point, and other people on the cruise with us. John welcomed us and he and Jenny explained how things would go – and how we should fill out our prediction forms. See, unlike a flat-out race, the overall winners would be the male and female who came closest to our overall predicted times. Each race had its own system by which winners would be determined.
Dinner was fine. Mila had organized a round-robin kind of system where we’d rotate among tables every night with everyone getting a chance to eat with Jenny or John. It was nice because you got to know other people as the week went on, and even if you had nothing else in common, there was running. So unlike a regular cruise where you might have nothing in common with your tablemates other than being on the same ship, there was a way to start conversation.
After dinner, I wandered around a little, but since the time change and my very early morning were catching up with me, I called it an early night. The next day the fun would really begin!