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Day 1 Cruising
April 25, 2015 18:59
We woke up about 6 am, showered, got dressed, and packed up one of the suitcases with all of our dirty clothes, and went down to the lobby and had them call us a taxi. The taxi then took us (and our suitcase) to a nearby laundrymat which opened at 7am, shortly after we arrived there. Since our trip lasted 20 days, we didn't bring enough clothing to last us that long without having to wash them while abroad, and this was about as close to the halfway mark as we could get, without interfering with any other activities. Lets face it, there wasn't a whole lot else to do this morning in Southhampton and we couldn't start boarding the ship until 11:30am, so we had several hours to kill anyway. Might as well do laundry.
This presented somewhat of a snag, however, as we didn't have an abundance of British currency in coins, which is the only way to pay for the machines. They had vending machines that gave coins as change, and we DID buy a few things out of there, but we still needed quite a bit more. Between the cost of the machines, the cost of things we had to buy to get ahold of coins as change, ATM fees, and the taxi ride from and to the hotel, we spent about $60 doing laundry that day. Still, that's about 1/3 of what it would cost to have it done onboard the cruise ship, so still worth it. Besides the vending machine, we also bought trinkets at a local market across the street and I also hiked down to a McDonalds and bought us breakfast, requesting change in all coins. I will definitely plan ahead for this next time. A large quantity of coins could have easily been obtained while we were in London, just by walking into any bank.
A couple hours later, we were done and called the taxi service to come retrieve us. We had a different driver, but otherwise had an uneventful trip back to the hotel. We booked it back up to the room and did some reorganizing and headed back downstairs to get some "more" breakfast as we were oddly hungry still, and not sure how long it was going to take to get onboard the ship. By the time we were done eating, it was getting about time to head over to the port, and we noticed a crowd start building in the lobby, so figured we had better get on it.
This is the point at which the tiny elevator became a serious bottleneck. After waiting several minutes, we just climbed the 6 flights of stairs to our room, grabbed our stuff and waited by the elevator, only to find it full each time (and slowed even more by people riding it up to go down, along with people requesting it at every level). So after witnessing this happen a couple times, and noticing there were already several people ahead of us in line waiting to use it, I started the process of hauling bags down the stairs one at a time... with a bad foot. This was not a great deal of fun. I got the first bag down without too much fanfare, although I was a bit winded at this point. I found a safe-ish place to stash the bag for the moment, and hobbled back up the stairs to get the next bag.
When I got back up there, EVERYONE was gone, and only the single large bag remained, so I grabbed it and carried it down the stairs as well. Gertie had gotten lucky and got an empty car while I was hauling the first bag and most of the others waiting had apparently given up and followed me or had caught another empty car. Not sure, but she was able to get herself and most of the remaining luggage into the elevator before it filled up. Lucky. Anyway, I got downstairs with the last bag, found Gertie, and gathered all of our luggage into a pile, amongst all the other piles of luggage. I went ahead and checked out and settled the bill. We then attached our cruise luggage tags to all of the bags we weren't going to carry onboard ourselves, and then gathered our stuff and walked out of the hotel.
The walk over wasn't too bad. All of the large pieces of luggage were on wheels, but it's still a bit awkward carrying everything that way. Thankfully, there were decent sidewalks the whole trip over there, and it wasn't very far, but it was still a haul. It might have seemed rediculous to take a taxi on a 1/4 mile trip, but it seemed somewhat less insane by the time we got there.
Now things started to get interesting. The cruise ship we were on, the Quantum of the Seas, was brand new. Not only was the ship itself new, but all of the technology, programs, and processes were new as well. Very little worked correctly, and this became apparent starting with the boarding procedure. Baggage handlers were recruited from other departments and had never done that before, so they were a big green on the process. We got our bags checked in and got some tracking tags for them and wandered into the terminal. Instead of having us form lines to check in, they had us forming small mobs around an employee with a tablet to do the same thing. Not sure how this was more efficient or easier in any way, but whatever. We eventually got ahold of someone to check us in, and they were having numerous problems either with the WIFI, the system, or more likely both. We had to get new pictures taken for our IDs and enter all of our information again, but it got taken care of. Eventually.
Next we go through security, which was far less annoying than I was expecting, but it took a few extra minutes to get through that since I was now hauling a ton of coins with me, and had to fuss with that a bit. At some point in this process we were supposed to receive a boarding card which is basically a number that they call and have us board in a orderly manner. Well.... we didn't get one and only found out we needed one once we got into the big room and discovered that everyone else seemed to have one but we didn't. Gertie went off in search of some while I guarded the carryon luggage. Well, she's awesome, found a manager, who then had us escorted onto the ramp leading to the boat and told them to let us through without the card. We later discovered that it took several hours to get everyone else on, and we had managed to sneak on long before we should have been able to. Yay I guess. Long story short, we were on about 45 minutes after arriving at the port. It wasn't immediate, and that was about twice as long as others claimed it typicaly took at a normal port for an experienced ship and operation, but for us at least, we really had no complaints. Keep in mind though, while our experience with it wasn't bad, it was far worse for others. This would greatly benefit us later.
Now we're on board and take some time to wander around a bit. It's too early to go to the staterooms, and we're told they'll have our room keys ready in about an hour, so until then we tramp around hit the bathrooms, and finally just grab a chair for a few minutes. We then wandered down to a deli and got some lunch and explored a bit more and then it was time to go down to our room. We found the room without difficulty, but although all the other rooms on our deck seemed to have their cards waiting for them, ours did not. I stayed with our luggage and Gertie headed up to Guest Services to figure out what happened with the key. She came back a few minutes later with a card, but it didn't open the door. I later realized it probably DID open the door, but I wasn't pushing hard enough to open it. I realized this later after helping a neighbor get into their room and realizing it just probably required some effort. By the time Gertie returned a second time, we were able to get in.
More to come...