The first day of our first cruise, we found, was quite a daunting experience. There were thousands of passengers and friends in the area when we arrived to board. It appeared to be organized chaos. We wondered what we had let ourselves into. But let me tell you how we got to be on our first cruise before explaining our "questionable" start to our first cruise. I had always wanted to try a cruise. Our first cruise came about by default. Six months before my 70th birthday, my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I mentioned that I had a new set of golf clubs. Her reply was, "Not until you improve your golf."
My golf at the time was uninspiring. Then I suggested that I would like to see the Wanaka War Birds shows in New Zealand, only to find out that the show had been the previous week. It only occurred every two years. Then I suggested the cruise. My wife had resisted the idea in the past. But now I had the opportunity to do one.
So the planning began. With the help of a friendly travel agent, we selected Princess Cruises, which specialized in cruises for our age group. The cruise went into the Pacific from Brisbane in November. Now that you know about how the cruise took place, let me tell you about our first day on the boat.
Let me begin by noting some words my wife said to me as the boat sailed down the Brisbane River and we sat in the Princess Theatre with hundreds of others with life jackets on our laps. "I don't want to be here." How did this come about?
We had no idea what 2000 people trying to board the boat at the same time would be. As first-time cruisers, we read the instructions that told us that people having staterooms on our deck should arrive between 1 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. to board the boat. We did this to find "organized chaos."
We put our bags at the loading point and proceeded into the boarding hall, where we found a tangled mess of people going hither and thither. Officials told us to go to the Portside shopping area, have a coffee, and come back in 30 minutes. We did this, coming back to find the chaos had abated a little. So, we joined a zigzag line to go to the sign-in point. 30 minutes later, we had our boarding card and a boarding number. We were then required to sit and wait for a call to board.
In the meantime, hunger began to flourish. We did not have lunch before because we believed we would have time to do that on the boat. We got the call to board, went through all the checkpoints, and arrived at the boat, where our cards were checked and a photograph of each of us was taken.
With some guidance, we found our stateroom and began unpacking after a quick but unfulfilling lunch when the call for all passengers to report to their muster station came over the ship's P.A. system. We were "bushed" and struggled to get down with hundreds of others to our muster station for the safety training that was mandated by Australian law.
Now, this brings me back to the words of my wife-"I do not want to be here". Once the safety briefing was over and we were back in our staterooms slowly unpacking and relaxing, things began to work out.
By the time we showered, dressed for dinner, found our table in the restaurant, and met our dinner companions and our waiter, five hours of chaos were finally over. Now we were ready to enjoy our first cruise. We are embarking on our fourth cruise soon. We learned much from our first cruise. We now arrive at the cruise terminal when the embarking is about to begin. This reduces the mad rush and there are fewer people around and the boarding process is over quickly. Some more experienced cruisers say that they come to board late in the boarding period as they find their boarding is less of a hassle.