Well, I didn't get to bed as early as I had hoped, but I did fall asleep early enough to make it slightly more than a nap when the alarm went off at 3:30. Bryan, my hero, was there at 4:20 (requested for 4:30, just as an FYI for those of you who think he's always late) to drive us to the airport. You see, while we were flying to Salt Lake City first, the connecting flight was to Vancouver, making it an international trip, indicating we should arrive 2+ hours before the flight. Actual time to check in and get through security? About 20 minutes. However, Newark Airport has CNN monitors around the gate areas, so we did at least have entertainment. Most of the news stories were about the much-anticipated Harry Potter release. (Sidenote: I ordered mine from Amazon UK, since the rest of our set is the British edition. Don't know when it got here, but it was waiting with the rest of the mail on Monday after I returned, and I finished it in just over two days. Non-spoilered thoughts on the matter: Argh. Oy.)
At boarding time, I was introduced to Delta's Little Blue Bags. I don't know if other airlines do this, but Delta has mostly given up on the heated-up trays that nobody liked anyway. Instead, they pack Little Blue Bags that the passengers pick up while boarding and eat at their leisure. The flight attendants still do beverage service and snack, and provide trays for people who made special dietary requests. A breakfast Little Blue Bag includes a small bottle of water, a piece of fruit, a cup of low-fat fruit yogurt, a cup of cereal, a small carton of milk, and a Nutri-Grain bar. Oh, and a spoon, a napkin, and a little packet of sugar. Frankly, I prefer that to what I remember from other breakfast flights I've had.
Meanwhile, we were delighted to discover that the seat next to us was one of the three unoccupied seat on the plane. Jeff took the window, I took the aisle, and our carryons and Blue Bags got the middle. With both armrests up, we were quite comfortable. The flight was uneventful, and we got to Salt Lake City about 20 minutes early. This would have been delightful, since we only had about a 45 minutes layover and needed to get from Terminal B to Terminal E. However, our gate was occupied and we had to wait for it to clear, with the end result that we arrived right on time. Fortunately for us, in Salt Lake the connections between terminals are on the cleared side of the security check. I don't believe that is true of many airports. So, about ten minutes later, we arrived at the other gate and checked in.
We were considerably less impressed with the flight between Salt Lake and Vancouver. It was a tiny little plane, two seats on each side and very narrow ones at that. It was also the first time either of us had needed to board from the tarmac in the US, although we'd both done it internationally. I learned that airplanes carry seat belt extenders, because the man across the aisle from us was of rather ample girth. And we filled out customs cards. On arriving in Vancouver, we got the joy of standing in the customs line forever, or at least for half an hour. Then while we waited for our luggage, the customs dog kept sniffing at one of my bags every time he went by, to the extent that his human partner started pulling him away as they came around the corner. I later realized that I had granola bars in my suitcase, and that I had in fact lied on my customs form. However, that wasn't the suitcase the dog was sniffing. (For the law-abiding types: the granola bars stayed packed in my suitcase not only throughout the time I was in Canada, but in fact for the whole trip. It was too bad, because a couple of times I could have used them, but I only remembered them at the wrong times. They're still in the suitcase, actually.)
My watch said we had a little over an hour to get to the ship, but since Vancouver is three hours behind the east coast, we really had about 4 hours. Jeff's parents had called the night before to let us know that there is a shuttle bus that is a little cheaper than a cab, which goes to the hotel above the cruise ship terminal. We found it without much trouble, and eventually blundered our way into the correct locations to fill out yet more paperwork.
Eventually we made it onto the ship and into our cabin, in the middle of deck 7, where we found our shore excursion tickets, a bowl of fruit I'd ordered, and a message on our voicemail from his parents. By then, about all I wanted to do was take a nap before going somewhere to eat. Instead, we unpacked a little, since there was a lifeboat drill scheduled for 5:15, after all guests had to be on board but before we set sail. That can best be described as Lesson One In Being A Sheep. I was not thrilled by the gender-separation thing. I thought that had gone away some time ago. So did Jeff's family, all of whom had cruised before.
Dinner was at 6:15. It is amazing how many people are around to serve on a cruise ship. Dinner introduced us to our waiter, Gokhan, his assistant waiter, Jose, the assistant maitre d', Dariusz, the wine steward, Walter, and the cocktail waitress, Rosalia. The restaurant serves five courses: appetizer, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. And they manage to use more silverware for it than I was confident of, and I used to read etiquette books for fun as a child.
After dinner, we gave ourselves a tour of the ship. Starting from the top: Deck 11 is the exercise and observation deck, and the Revelations Lounge. Deck 10 is the AquaSpa, the swimming pool, and the casual dining area (aka buffet line). Decks 8 and 9 have the library in the center of the ship, and the rest is all staterooms. Decks 6 and 7 are the same plan,
but have a music listening room in the center instead of the library. Deck 5 is the top of the theater, the Emporium (mini-mall), the card room, the Martini Bar lounge, and the top of the dining room. Deck 4 is the bottom of the theater, the photo shop, the casino, the internet cafe, the Rendezvous Lounge, and the bottom of the dining room. Oh, and the top of the Grand Staircase. And the lifeboats. Deck 3 is Guest Relations, the Bank, more staterooms, the specialty restaurant, conference rooms, and the cinema. And the bottom of the Grand Staircase. It's also the most common entrance/exit deck. Deck 2 is all staterooms, and there is no deck 1 as far as the passengers are concerned. And then there's belowstairs. There are regular elevators near the front and back, and glass elevators in the middle.
By about 9:30, I collapsed into bed - it was by then 12:30 back home, and I'd been up since 3:30 as you may recall. That bed is the most comfortable one I've ever had.