Thursday, March 2, 2023

January 27, 2023 – Miami, FL – Cloudy – 71F

The room was not too noisy and I actually slept through any noise.  There is a train just across the street and it stops running at around 8 PM.  The landing planes do not make much noise – the only noise is people generated.

I was up at 6 AM and waited until 6:45 AM to go down to breakfast (served from 6:30 – 9:30 AM).  I had two pancakes – produced by an automatic pancake maker in one minute – some oatmeal (a bit watery), an egg white veggie omelet, some scrambled eggs, a toasted bagel, and a cinnamon roll.  I didn’t eat all of that (except for the pancakes).  Overall, the breakfast was good.  The breakfast venue was not crowded and I ate in a little anteroom with a view of the pool.  

At 11:00 AM, we went down to the lobby, checked out, and I called for an Uber.  The driver, Hamlet (yes, Hamlet), in the spiffiest car we’ve yet ridden in for Uber, a BMW with entertainment for each of the backseats (which we didn’t use) and nice piped in music.  The ride took us through downtown Miami – at one point, he took a shortcut through a residential area and then picked up the highway.  We got to the port in about 35-40 minutes.  He drove past the Onward which gave us a chance to get a look at the MSC Divina.  That ship is HUGE and imposing.  He turned around and dropped us at the Azamara Terminal.  The ride cost - $24.41, which included all sorts of extra charges for distance, surge (?), and time.  It seemed excessive since we ran into minimal traffic and the distance was known ahead of time.  Uber may have priced itself out of the market – might use the shuttle at the hotel.

Inside the terminal, we showed people our boarding passes (not scanned). From this initial screening, we passed through security, and then onto some kind of priority check in line (I told them I was a GNT).  She scanned our passports and looked over our vax cards.  She asked us some COVID questions.  She then told us that our cabin had changed to 3027 from 6038.  I looked up cabin 3027 and couldn’t find it on the Onward Deck plans.  Getting a little concerned, I called Jennifer and she explained that these cabins do exist on Deck 3 and are used as regular revenue cabins if the passengers needed them.  She said the square footage was the same as the regular cabins.  We shall see.

We are in the second hour of waiting to board (I can see the ship from the boarding waiting area).

We are scheduled to board at 2:00 PM (about 15 minutes from now).  They did have sweet rolls, etc. and chilled apple juice (?) and water to tide us over until we get to board.  We are in Group 8 so I don’t know long that will be.

Boarding was scheduled to begin at 2 PM and it started right on time.  We did an almost “on the run” lifeboat drill (maybe five minutes) and then went to our cabin on the non-revenue deck 3.  As we passed through areas of the ship we could tell that this was the newest of the Azamara ships and had been refurbed recently.  Public areas looked new and the ship was very clean.  There were just minor differences between Onward and Quest in terms of decor.

Cabin 3027 was a standard passenger cabin with a porthole (we have been in rooms like this before).  It appears that this floor and walkway is basically occupied by entertainers.  This might result in a quieter experience.  You can only get to these rooms from the aft side of the side (the crew quarters are just beyond our door).  The room looked in very good shape and was clean and stocked. 

We dropped off our backpacks and went up to the Windows Café to check out the lunch options.  From the patio area, I got a nice shot of the MSC Divina as well as the Port of Miami.

Lunch wasn’t a typical layout – more like hors d’oeuvres.  I tried the fennel salad; the vegan sliders (either Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers).  The tastiest item on the menu for me was the baked tortilla chips and superb guacamole and salsa.  I had two helpings of the chips etc. I also had a Carlsberg Beer – I had set up my WiFi and drink package earlier with Guest Services.

After lunch, we went to meet with the Cruise Director, Martin Lawson, a very friendly and supportive Cruise Director.  He looked up my lecture schedule as I did not get a letter in my room.  He always said he would make sure we had a room steward.  We also met Astrid, the Activities Manager and DJ.  Also in the office was the other speaker, anthropologist, David Roberts, who will be giving four lectures on the Panama Canal.   

Ellen had the brilliant suggestion that we check out room 6038 (our original room) to see if our suitcases were there.  And they were – we hauled them back down to 3027.  We also met out steward (so happy we have one) and went over the room and what it needed.  It looks like the room situation will be ironed out.

We hung out in the Living Room for a while – coincidentally the MSC Divina was docked right next to us at the port. I also managed a panorama shot of Miami.

We decided not to go the Dining Room tonight and instead would check out the Windows Café.  That was a good call.  I had a salad from the salad bar (the Ranch Dressing was excellent and the items on the bar were good).  They also had Salmon in Butter and two kinds of potatoes au gratin.  The dinner was really good and the place was quiet and unrushed.  I tried the Chardonnay, which had a bite but was OK.

We went to Mosaic Cafe for after dinner coffee and desserts.  The café is now on the other side of the room and the desserts this evening are all versions of chocolate petit fours.  We had one of each.  Some were better than others.

There is only one show tonight – the “Welcome Aboard” Show at 9:30 PM so we spent time in the Den until the doors opened.  Martin asked me to sit near the front so he could introduce me and I could say a few words about my lecture series. Martin also gave us a breakdown of nationalities on board – along with a smattering of other countries, there were 80 Germans, 100 or so Canadians, and over 230 Americans.  The total number of passengers sailing on this cruise is 513 (capacity is 670) – so about 76 percent.  In addition to the speakers, there are two other “guest entertainers” on board – Watercolor artist Pat Langewis (husband Cor) and a Bridge Instructor. He also introduced Assistant Cruise Director, Roy Ryan, who will manage the day-by-day activities.

The entertainment on this cruise will be provided by the Azamara Orchestra (Tina is the musical director) which has eight members and sounds great.  

The Signature Singers and Dancers will do Production Shows and help run the games on board.  

The show featured each of the Singers and Dancers individually.  Kelty did a version of the "Trolley Song".

They can all sing and then at the end did a few minutes of one of the production shows, “Amped Up”.  

It was an entertaining show and not loud like the Celebrity Edge.

Specialty dancer, Sabrina, and her partner (don't know his name) did a dance number - they are not quite Sasha and Dima.

Also performing was the party band, "East Pearl" - good voices and good instrumentals.

The show ran over an hour and we didn’t get back to our room until 10:45 PM.

It took us a little while to settle down and lights were out at 11:15 PM.

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