For several years many members of our singles/couples group have seen saying that we should take a cruise especially as over the last several years many of us have moved away and are scattered across the country. While attending the wedding of Bill and Jane Setman the conversation turned once again to this desire to travel together. After much thought Randy and I decided we would give it a shot and put something together.
So many factors had to be considered. Some friends were still working, some traveled quite a bit, finding a port that would be easily accessible to everyone, some had cruised some had not. Andrew Skolnick of CruiseOne had organized several cruises we had been on so Randy contacted him to see what he could find.
Given all the parameters we gave Andrew he suggested Norwegian Cruise Lines specifically the Norwegian Star leaving from Tampa and traveling several ports in the western Caribbean. After several emails back and forth with perspective fellow travelers we booked a cruise for February 5-12, 2012.
We wound up with a motley crew of fourteen including me and Randy. Traveling with us were Jim Jones and Vilma Colon, Frank Burroughs and Paula McMahon, Bill and Vicki Zimmerlee, Barry Pokrass and Lana Halpern, John Zarou and Mary Thibault and Bill and Jane Setman.
I must share with you a fun story about Bill and Jane Setman and how they traveled to Tampa. The week before our cruise Bill and Jane set out from Pennsylvania and drove down to Ft. Lauderdale to get on the Royal Caribbean ship The Oasis. Their cruise disembarked on Saturday, they got into their van and drove to Tampa, spent the night and then got up the next morning to meet us for our cruise. I thought this was just wonderful.
We decided to go to Tampa the night before so we could get an early start on embarkation day. I woke up Sunday morning looking at a sunny, warm day just perfect to sail off. We got up early so we could walk the few blocks to a local restaurant to get a good breakfast and a good start to the day.
Both were accomplished by following the recommendation of the hotel staff and stopping at The First Watch Restaurant. From the moment we looked through the window we were impressed with its clean, nicely decorated and well lit restaurant. Our waiter was quick, friendly and happy to make some suggestions.
I decided to get their fresh fruit crêpes Randy decided to get French toast. What I will tell you about our choices is that if there is a First Watch wherever you live, go! The presentation was just wonderful so I was already happy as soon as the plate was put before me. These beautiful crêpes were packed with wonderful slices of ripe banana and red, ripe, sweet strawberries. The crêpes were topped with organic strawberry yogurt and blueberries. Also on my plate was a bran muffin that Randy could not keep his eyes off and a small bowl of granola. Randy enjoyed his french toast equally as well. Just wonderful!
Then off to the port. While standing in line Jim and Vilma came along then Bill and Jane. Once inside we choose a spot to keep an eye on incoming cruisers to if we could spot others. We hoped we would be able to board together as a group and we were successful. We boarded and all went up to the Market Café to grab a little lunch and talk about dinner arrangements while waiting for our cabins to be ready. Everyone spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the ship.
Andrew had made arrangements for us to eat in one of the main dining rooms at least for the first night until we could all decide what to do for the rest of the week. We met at 5:30pm in the Aqua dining room and were seated at two tables one for six and one for eight. We all decided that evening that we eat there the rest of the week unless individuals wanted to try some of the other restaurants on board and that each evening we would rotate where we sat affording everyone an opportunity to have one-on-one time with each couple.
We were all so excited to be together the conversations were lively as everyone was eager to catch up. Of course, the Super Bowl was a hot topic at the table some anxious to finish dinner and get to one of the three areas around the ship that was showing the game. Dessert done John and Mary were off to the Atrium to enjoy the game. Many of us went to the “Welcome Aboard Showtime! Show in the Stardust Theatre. The show gave a sampling of the entertainment that would be available for the rest of the week and we were introduced to many of major crew/staff. Our cruise director, Pedro was very funny indeed telling the audience with very silly jokes, etc.
After the show Randy and I went walking around the ship and ran into John and Mary and sat down just in time for the Super Bowl half-time show.
It had been a long day so Randy and I went back to our cabin to unpack and get a good night’s sleep, it was going to be a very active week and we needed our beauty sleep.
So as Styx beckoned back in 1977, “Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me” as I share adventures and pictures from our wonderful cruise.
Tomorrow-Cruising with Friends-At Sea