Checking in! Oh what a day! Day 1 of the Grand World Voyage.
The day we have been anticipating for over a year has arrived. We were now shifting from the Grand World Voyage planning phase to execution, but always mindful that this is joyful journey to be savored.
We enjoyed a room service breakfast and finished repacking our bags. After we arrived in the room yesterday, we took a quick inventory of everything so if something was missing or forgotten we would have time to replace before we left Fort Lauderdale. But we were too tired to repack everything the night before, so we had to do it this morning.
Let me pause for a second and give you an overview of the entire cruise. We leave today, Jan 5th and arrive back in Fort Lauderdale 115 days from now on April 30th. We will stay on the ship for another 16 days as the ship sails back to San Diego, arriving May 16th, before she heads up north for the Alaska summer season. We will get off in San Diego for a short drive back to our home in Imperial Beach.
In between those days we will spend 67 days at sea, 48 days in port visiting 40 different ports in 23 different countries. I will be visiting 10 countries for the first time and Judy 15.
If you look at the map on the top of this post, you should see a world map with every port marked. If you click on the port, it will tell you the name.
We begin heading south toward the Panama Canal, transit to the Pacific and then begin 8 consecutive sea days, our longest stretch of sea days of the cruise. After a swing thru the South Pacific, we head south thru the Cook Islands, New Zealand and then to Melbourne, our most southern point.
Hugging the Australian coast, we head north, visiting Sydney, Moolaboola, Cairns, cruise the Great Barrier reef before swinging west to Darwin. The next 3 ports, Indonesia, will be special for much of the crew, as many of them live in the various islands that make up that country.
Continuing further north is Hong Kong, where we spend 2 nights before heading south towards Singapore and stop in Vietnam and Cambodia along the way. After an overnight in Singapore we sail thru the Strait of Malacca into the Indian Ocean, visiting Thailand, Sri Lanka and then into the Persian Gulf for an overnight in Dubai. Next up is Oman and into the Red Sea for a stop in Jordan before we transit the Suez and visit Israel. After Israel, we hopscotch across the Mediterranean seeing Italy, Monaco, Spain and finally Portugal for our final stop before we return to Fort Lauderdale.
We left our Hotel at 10:45 and arrived at Pier 26 a few minutes later. The pier was so empty we weren’t sure at first if we were at the correct terminal. We spotted the familiar HAL logo and knew then we were in the correct spot.
Porters were instantly available for our bags and we were soon inside the terminal at our first stop – Security. No lines here and we breezed thru – with me carrying the box of wine – and being directed to the bar staff at the corkage fee table.
Next up was the table with Health forms and the Visa Questionnaire. We checked all the “No” blocks on the heath form since we were feeling GREAT and filled out the VISA form indicated we already had our visas for Cambodia and Australia. HAL would get us VISA’s for Vietnam and Indonesia.
The next line was for check in, but there was no line at all. As soon as we could weave thru all the ropes for the real lines coming later, we were summoned to a station with a smiling clerk waving paddle 1. Check in was fast and efficient and we learned later that they didn’t need to take our picture as they used the picture “on file” from earlier cruises. Before we entered the final room we were handed a white card labeled “Group 9” It was now 11:15 – about ½ hour after leaving the hotel. I think that is a personal best for quickest check in to any ship.
Shortly after we arrived, they started boarding the 4 and 5 stars, then on to the groups. About 30 minutes later our group was called and we were on our way. Up the elevator and to the photo spot. We were lucky most people were bypassing the picture so we had time to take several different poses and check out the shots to do them over if necessary. We talked to the photo staff later and they said they will typically sell the same number of photos on a 7 day Alaska Cruise as they do on a 50 day cruise. We will be getting a package where, for a single fixed price, we will get a copy of every picture of us throughout the cruise.
A few 100 feet later we were warmly greeted by Cruise Director Gene Young. And after a quick scan of our cruise cards – We were on the ship! I was instantly relieved of my wine box by a cheerful HAL employee. As in typical HAL fashion, guests are not allowed to exert themselves – ever.
The room was in perfect condition and we were soon welcomed by our cabin steward, Fauzi, and later by his assistant, Jatim. He is working 30 rooms. Shortly thereafter, the steady stream of baggage and boxes started to arrive – both from our airline trip and our advance FEDEX shipment. No time to unpack – as it was time for the Mariners reception on the LIDO deck near the pool.
What a wonderful party. Nice appetizers served by wandering waiters and free drinks of – well what ever you ordered. Didn’t see a single cruise card all afternoon.
We met several people we recognized from the Roll Call and we engaged in great conversations immediately – and finally at 3 pm they started to wrap things up and it was . . . .
TIME TO UNPACK
Back in the room, it looked WAY different once all of our many boxes and bags arrived. Total count – 5 suitcases, 2 medium duffels, 5 boxes, a case of wine, carry on rollers, a briefcase and large carryon bag.
The unpacking started and we worked at it hard till dinner at 8pm.
Time to meet our table mates – on Deck 5 table 52. I had requested a round table for 8 and that is exactly what we received. We were soon joined by a lovely woman who was a real joy – until she realized she was at table 53. Our friends from the roll call joined us and there were four of us – the remaining 4 spots remained empty. We will see if more people arrive tomorrow night. The dining room was half full – the staff said that every seat was assigned, but the first night is typically not as full. Wonder if many folks are jumping on the anytime dining option now available.
Service was fast and efficient. Food was great and conversation even better. A copy of the menu is posted on the blog. We had the Seared Scallops and Brined Pork Chops – Perfect.
After dinner, time for some more unpacking till the sail-away-party starting at 9:30. Another great event near the pool, complimentary beverages and plenty of stations serving cheese, shrimp, beef and other wonderful appetizers.
At 11pm sharp we started to move and we walked back to the Sea View part to watch the lights of Fort Lauderdale fade over the horizon. Sailing south – our last link with the USA – cell phone connectivity – finally switched to “No Service”
We were on our way
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