To the Ship

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

I went downstairs a while ago to show Kris the kidney stone I had just passed. It initially hit me mid-trip on Mercury, of course. Kris said, “Oh isn’t that nice.” She was busy extracting DNA from raw wheat germ, testing an experiment for use in the classroom. Waterford Crystal cordial glasses were lined up on the counter, each containing an unappealing blob of primordial matter. My facial expression asked the obvious question. “I couldn’t find my test tubes, and I need to be able to see the reaction,” she said. I showed my own reaction, but it wasn’t enough to distract her. Just another day…

People marched en-masse to the exit and the bus beyond. We, meanwhile, had to take care of something.

“Where did you get that?” I asked Ryan.

“At the cruise desk,” he answered.

“Did you pay for it?”

“Well, yeah”

“I thought I mentioned that our ride to the ship was all set.”

A little shrug of the shoulders was the only response.

“No big deal,” I said as I took the paper from Ryan. I led the way to the cruise desk and got in line behind another customer. I’m not sure what they were trying to do, but it sounded complicated. I wondered how long it would be before the next bus came along.

A Celebrity employee emerged from the background and peered around her co-worker. “May I help you?”

“Yes. My son bought this transfer ticket, but I already had one for him.”

She retrieved the ticket from me, examined it and then rifled through a stack of paper on the desk. “Here it is. Oh, good – he used a credit card.” She took all of the relevant forms and tore them into little bits. “All set. The bus is waiting.”

As we made our way to the curbside, I glanced at my watch. It was only 11:45 a.m., fourteen minutes before I was due to land in Miami. Was this the Twilight Zone? We must have gotten in at least a half-hour early. I never heard of a tail wind running north-south.

Our luggage was secured and we boarded the bus. For twenty minutes I kept a lookout for exotic Italian sports cars speeding through the streets, drug runners plying the waterways in speedboats, exotic women and police helicopters – Miami, as I knew it from television. I saw not a single one of these things.

The highlight of this leg of the trip was a ride down skid row. The driver pointed it out, but it was recognizable without his help. I suppose Miami is a much better place to practice this lifestyle than Boston is — closer to normal body temperature year-round.

Miami Cruise TerminalThe bus pulled into the cruise ship terminal, and the passengers spilled out onto the sidewalk. The building was huge and modernistic, capped with oddly shaped white domes themselves topped by spikes. I think the architect may have been trying to realize a cruise ship theme somehow, but the effect said “W.W. I German military helmets, freshly bleached” to me.

We were directed toward the entrance. Ryan and I walked slowly, savoring the warm air and sunshine. “I’m sorry I messed up with the ticket thing,” he said.

“Fahgetabowdit.” I could tell that Ryan was pretty uptight. Kris had warned me that he was scared he’d somehow ruin the trip. “We’re on vacation. Nothing else matters – everything is going to be great.” I kept my fingers crossed for a few extra seconds.

We entered the terminal. The stark modernity continued inside. Signs pointed us in the right direction. As I recall, we passed through a couple of security checkpoints before being deflected by a sign that said “Suites and Captain’s Club”.

A woman at the base of an escalator made sure that we qualified before we began the ride up one floor. Straight ahead was a small office with a counter. Four or five people were lined up ahead of us. In turn, they presented their ticket books, answered a couple of questions and received their little all-purpose cards. Within a few minutes, it was our turn.

“Welcome. May I have your tickets please?”

I handed over the booklet. The desk person examined it, and punched the reservation number into her computer. After looking at the screen a little too long for my comfort, she said “Welcome Mr. X. Would you mind stepping into that room over there please?”

Oh boy. Was it the suitcase again? Ryan and I walked the few steps into the adjoining room, which was furnished with a couple of tables, some chairs and a couch or two.

“What’s going on?” Ryan asked.

“I don’t know. No idea.”

We looked around. At the side of the room, a table appeared to hold refreshments of some sort. “Might as well get comfortable,” I said. “Want something to drink?”

Ryan nodded and we made our way to the table. I was reaching for a cup when suddenly Ryan said “Dad!” while tugging at my sleeve. He pointed toward the door, and I quickly looked in that direction.

I was unprepared. Had I noticed the statue of a goddess in the lobby, I would not have been so surprised to see it come to life. Marching purposefully toward us was a tall woman with long blonde hair flowing freely behind her. Her legs were so long that each step must have covered six feet of ground. With two strides she was across the room, hand extended in greeting.

A smoky, sultry voice said, ”Welcome to the Mercury Mr. X and Mr. X. I am Christine, your Social Hostess. I would like to take you on board the ship. Are you ready?” It could have been Greta Garbo talking.

“Yes, we’re ready”

Ryan and I had to walk quite briskly to keep up. As it turns out, Christine is from Belgium. I work for one of Belgium’s biggest companies, so that helped get the small talk going. We were waived through an additional checkpoint, zoomed around a corner and into an enclosed glass passageway that brought us onto the deck 6 promenade aboard the Mercury.

I knew exactly where I was. Everything looked just as it had on the Galaxy — teak deck, blue-painted surfaces and brass fixtures. Even the shuffleboard markings were there. Home again.

In front of us was a display table covered by bottles of champagne. We were offered a glass on the fly as we passed into the ship’s interior. I lifted the glass, inhaled and just let the bubbles tickle my nose.

Inside, I was lost. I knew that the Galaxy and the Mercury were twins, but that the major public areas differed somewhat in layout and certainly in décor. Immediately, I could feel the difference. Galaxy was light and gold-toned. Mercury was warmer and darker. We made our way to the Grand Foyer. Again, different. Galaxy’s was vertical and narrow. Mercury’s was broad and sweeping, surrounded by tables that looked like a great place to hang out. Galaxy’s foyer was bisected by a narrow winding staircase, while Mercury’s is broad and gently curving.

We descended to the Guest Relations Desk on deck 5. Back in familiar territory. Christine summoned the desk personnel and asked them to issue our cards. This was done with great dispatch. I could tell that Christine had clout.

I presented my credit card upon request, and we were given our shipboard cards. A white-gloved attendant was summoned, Christine bade goodbye and we were whisked up to deck 9 on the central elevator. A few steps away, we entered cabin 9135. The big hand was on the 12, and the little hand was on the 1.

Once again, I did not even have time to get my camera out for some embarkation pictures. We must have bypassed the ship’s photographer.

“Wow!” I said to Ryan.

“What was that all about?”

“I really don’t know. Strange, though – they didn’t take our ID pictures. So, what do you think so far?”

Ryan made a series of faces that expressed uncertainty. As I waited for his formal answer, a knock came at the door. Ryan turned to answer it, and as he navigated the hall he removed his Rasta hat.

Whoever it was at the door was in for a surprise.

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