She’s big, she’s beautiful, and she knows it. Gazing up at the berth of the ship as we stand on the sizzling Rome pavement, I take in all 18 floors of her. Regal and vast, she stretches wide across the sea, quite comfortable in her aqua throne.
I had never been on a cruise before and am about to step onto Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. Just me and about 6,500 of my closest friends sauntering along the western Mediterranean. Standing nearly 1,200 feet tall, she is 100 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower and as long as 3 ½ football stadiums. So, no big deal.
We are handed printed boarding cards (conveniently connected to our credit card for easy-peasy spending), our hands squirted with Purell, and then are ushered into the blasting air conditioning – welcome aboard, sailors.
We head to our room, which is a Family Stateroom in ship-talk, and the kids promptly jump all over our bed with their sweaty feet while their pristine bunk bed alcove remains germ-free. Located at the end of the ship (below the outdoor water theatre and take a right at the rock climbing wall), our 270-square feet of space cost more than my first car* so I made a point to appreciate each extra foot.
Bing, bing, bing
Captain’s announcement. Cheerful in three languages, he reminds us to check in at our muster station for our safety briefing.
“Mustard briefing?” my son Zack says. “We get free hot dogs?”
We did, in fact, get free** hot dogs, but that mustard was after we mustered.
We shuffle into our seats for the safety talk and are greeted with an animated video singing about washing our hands. I look around. No one else seems disturbed by this. People are simply watching the screen. What is happening? Is this how cults break down new members? Never before have I so wanted to strangle a cartoon charter (and that includes SpongeBob and his weird underpants).
Soon the cartoon hazing is over and things pick up as we stroll through the indoor mall area, the outdoor Central Park area, and head to the 15th-floor deck. It is kid heaven – or at least a suburb of heaven for my suburban kids: full basketball court, mini golf, ping pong tables, zip line rope, Flo Rider surfing station, and several pools. My husband and I spend a lot of time on this deck in sun chairs while the boys whiz around us.
Although only 1,500 passengers are American (according to Captain Happy), I’m continually serenaded by American music. Kelly Clarkson only gets stronger, Taylor Swift shakes it off, Naked Eyes make me promises, promises, and Tom Cochrane reminds me that life is a highway and he’s going to ride it…all night long.
But the ship is just the vessel, to use a redundant expression. We’re here for the excursions. With only one day at-sea in our seven days, we are speed dating with our European suitors.
On the sunshine tour, we begin in Naples (see previous blog) then it’s on to Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Marseilles/Provence, and Cinque Terra on the Italy Coast. All are amazing ports with history everywhere, ample July sun to test our daily deodorant supply, and food for days and days.
Each of these cities deserve more coverage so I will plan a part 2 of this part 5. Until then, I will summarize a couple key learnings into bullets:
Proof I am American:
- I love ice and air conditioning – preferably eating ice while in air conditioning
Confusion remains about the purpose of:
- Cartoon videos about hand washing
*My first car was a used Suzuki Samurai. The cruise cost about double that car but, hey, it was the ‘80s.
**Free on a cruise is an amusing term since, after your thousands of dollars spent to step aboard, there is ample opportunity to donate much more money – daily – for futuristic things like wifi and bottles of water.