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Ready, Set, Board the ship

With the alarm set for 8, I was frustrated that my body wanted me up and moving at 7:10, probably due to sacking out at 10 the night before. Because I’d picked up a PowerBall ticket for the Saturday night draw, I checked and found my ticket was worthless – at least that meant that I could plan on going back to Florida after the cruise. After getting the suitcase almost fully packed, I took my shower and dressed.

With too much time before I could head to port, I went out to Calle Luiza and found Egg Joint. An open-air eatery, it served breakfast all day. I ordered a Fluffy scramble with avocado, caramelized onions, scallions and sour cream on a warm brioche, with a glass of OJ. I began journaling while I waited, covering my morning activities and I began thinking about how I’d review the tour on Saturday. Perhaps my expectations for the 14+ hour tour were set too high?

An observation: on Puerto Rico, all distances are measured in metric, as is petrol. However, speed limit signs are in imperial – miles per hour. I’d raised this at one point during my few days there, and we came to the conclusion that because road transport came from the mainland, having speed limits in metric would require a conversion to match a speedometer. When looking at gas stations, regular was just under a dollar a liter, and the conversion is about 4.5 liters per gallon.

The eggs were great; really flavorful and fresh, hot but moist. I didn’t realize how hungry I was, as I consumed most, but not all of the brioche. (I did think that the bread should have been toasted.) Sitting next to me were a young couple, obviously from the States, where she watched him wolf down his burger. A rather attractive pair, we chatted a bit as I finished my meal and headed to n ATM to get more cash in case I needed it in the ports we’d visit.

Back at the room, I brushed my teeth and finished packing. I left a pair of polo shirts and a few skivvies, dirty, for the housekeeper, and took the trash out to the bin. With plenty of time before leaving for the port, I dallied and did more email.

When I’d done my online pre-check-in with NCL online, I’d selected a boarding time of noon. By 10 I was bouncing off walls, so I called an Uber and watched as the car got closer, using the app. The driver loaded my roller, and I got in back with the backpack, heavy with camera and electronics. At least I didn’t have to carry the book as I had on the plane! At the dock, I tipped in cash, and was instructed to turn over my luggage. Because I didn’t have a stapler at the flat, my tag was handled by the porter.

From there, I queued up to board a bus which took us to a cavernous space, which I later found out was the convention center. I was given a number, told to wait to be called, and shortly was sitting with a medical person who swabbed in my nostrils. Never was I asked for my PCR results I’d so carefully scheduled in Manati. Off to another waiting area, where I watched for my number to come up, with a table to head to. I’d passed the quick antigen test, so was given a screaming pink wristband and sent out to another bus. We headed back to the port, and, after filling and signing several forms, I was processed onto the ship, given an access card.

Out onto the pier and to the gang plank. They didn’t ask for a card, only that I submit to more antiseptic goop and to having a photo taken for facial recognition. We boarded on level 4, and I decided that I should immediately take a trip to my muster station location on deck 7 forward. We’d all been prompted to watch an online video twice, but were required to visit ship personnel to be scanned to prove we knew where to go.

Walking down a flight, I opted to visit O’Sheehan’s for lunch. While on previous cruises the only boarding-time dining was the buffet on the upper deck, Norwegian had several bars open. My stomach was a bit queasy, so I opted for club soda with bitters and a Cobb salad with blue cheese dressing. The salad was “small”, with cubes of turkey and ham, but was just what I needed. I treated myself to carrot cake for dessert.

Armed with my phone and camera, I hefted my backpack and began exploring the ship. On the top deck I tried to find either cathedral, really only finding St Augustine’s brilliant white domes. In the buffet, I found a wine dispenser, which pumped out a glass of the selected wine based on choice, using the room key. Clever way to keep from oxidizing the wine, and not requiring a staff member.

About 3 I finally had access to cabin 12539, a solo cabin using 100 square feet. No drawers, and too few shelves, unpacking got creative as I stashed my clean clothes and hung my jacket and rain poncho. My roller was a bit too bit to fit under the bed, so it became another surface to hold stuff. The toilet was set at an angle in one corner, opposite a narrow shower cabinet. Very little space around the sink; and finding where the few power outlets were took a few minutes. I had an extension cord, so it got plugged in and I had the chargers all close by.

A perk for the solo cabins was a private lounge. Solo cabins were all interior rooms, on decks 11 and 12. There was a private staircase from the twelfth deck walkway down to the bar, which was only staffed from 5 to 7 by a friendly Filipino named Danny. After pouring me a scotch, another solo came through, advising me that there was a second single’s group which met nightly at 5:30 near the Malting’s Bar on 7. Apparently there weren’t too many in the solo cabins, and with back-to-back cruisers getting upgrades, the singles were a force to deal with.

Leaving Danny, I descended and joined the group, maybe a dozen plus per my notes. We had an assigned crew member, a charming and cute Filipino named Zoran, who arranged for the group to have dinner together (8 of us) at the Shanghai Noodle Bar, and then seats at the Epic Theater for the Beatle’s cover group’s show.

Starting dinner with a wakami salad, it was followed by hot and sour soup. The salad was blah, drowning in dressing, with the soup being adequate. My main, Char Siu with rice noodles, is described as barbecue Chinese pork, flat rice noodles, bok choy, scallions and fried shallots. My notes say it was bland until I doused it with hot sauce, red pepper flakes and lite soy sauce. At this point, my meal was a bust. However, a charming and quite attractive woman (albeit very camera shy) from Charlotte named Shirley proposed that the two of us order all four desserts and share. Five spice chocolate cake with sweet ginger sauce, coconut tapioca pudding with mango and orange, panda salad with coconut and pineapple, and crispy chestnut and red bean triangle with green tea ice cream and caramel sauce. She took charge and immediately began dividing portions and setting up separate plates. My assessment: ”triangle was good, tapioca a winner, chocolate cake dense and rich, but the mousse a step above.

With Stephanie, a woman from St Alban’s, we scooted to the theater and joined the group in the front row for the cover show. The band featured the earlier Beatle’s music from the early and mid 60’s, which I thoroughly enjoyed. By the end of the show, I figured I’d had 3-4 whiskey’s and was done for the night, so as the group headed back to a bar, I folded and headed to the cabin. My phone didn’t get service, so I put it in airplane mode, without setting an alarm.

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