26.03.2011 - 26.03.2011 23 °C
Well today is changeover day. The ship arrived in Miami in the very early morning hours while we were still sleeping. By daylight dock workers were loading and unloading fuel, food and other supplies. The forklifts were buzzing around the dock way below our balcony like a horde of buzzing bees. All of the supplies were laid out in a very orderly fashion in an open air shed the size of a medium sized parking lot. It is amazing how many supplies this floating city of 4200 passengers and crew go through in a week. The supplies were all packed in small containers or shrink wrapped on wooden pallets. The forklift trucks just pick up a whole container or pallet and drive it over onto a ramp leading into a large opening in the side of the ship where it is passed off to another forklift that is inside the ship which then moves the pallet of goods to the appropriate location inside the cargo bay of the ship on deck “0”. It is all very orderly but with lots of hustle and bustle and shouting of instructions back and forth.
Those who are ending their cruise today (80-90% of the passengers) were instructed to leave their packed luggage out in the corridor the night before keeping only their essentials and carry on items with them in their cabin on this their last night. The packed luggage which is left outside your cabin when you turn in for the night is given a special luggage tag with a number on it which corresponds with a luggage area on the pier where the luggage will be found when passengers disembark in the morning. During the night the crew will collect the luggage from the corridors and take it down to the cargo deck. On the cargo deck the luggage is sorted by tag numbers and loaded into large wheeled containers. Once we are tied up the large wheeled luggage containers are off loaded by forklifts and taken to each numbered luggage area where all of the luggage is unloaded from the carts and left for pick up by the passengers as we disembark. The logistics of unloading the 2800 passengers and their luggage, getting them through customs and immigration and then cleaning all the cabins and then loading the new 2800 passengers all within a five hour window is like a precision military maneuver. These folks have crowd control down to a fine art.
Since we are part of the roughly 10-20% of passengers who are staying on the ship for the second week we got to watch the organized chaos. Those of us who are staying on board for the second week have two options - get off the ship and explore Miami for the day or stay on the ship for the day. Either way we stay in our same cabins so no packing and unpacking is necessary. Those of us who decided to stay on the ship for the day still had to disembark to a special little area of the terminal directly connected to the gangway just long enough to clear US Customs & Immigration and then turn around and get right back on the ship. Seems a bit redundant but no one ever said Customs & Immigration was either organized or efficient and our experience today did nothing to dispel that perception.
Once back on the ship we had a complementary lunch in one of their specialty restaurants (a nice touch because they usually charge for these special restaurants) and spent much of our time sorting out things in the cabin and reading and relaxing. By late afternoon the usual excitement of a new crowd had taken over and everything was organized chaos as people got settled in and unpacked. Everywhere you went people looked dazed and confused as they got used to where everything is located on the ship. With 16 decks and over 1000 feet in length it takes several days for most people to get their bearings. Some people seem to be perpetually disoriented. Fortunately, outside every elevator and at every stairway there are large diagrams of the ship showing you where you are. One of the most confusing things even for an old sailor like David is which direction you are walking in – towards the bow or towards the stern. The ship is so large and there is very little sense of motion and unless you are in an open area you often can not see outside to determine which direction the ship is sailing in. The main bank of six glass walled elevators are located opposite each other at mid-ship and look into the great open atrium that extends from top to bottom of the ship. So when you get out of the elevator every time you have to decide do I need to turn left or right? Do I need to walk forward or aft? Generally speaking food facilities are located in the aft and the main theatre is located on decks four and five in the bow. Out cabin is located towards the bow and is on deck 8.
Miami Beach from the deck of the Eclipse
At 5:00 pm sharp we cast off from the Miami Cruiseport, as scheduled. The departure is always exciting as the ship has to pass out through a long narrow canal way leading from the inner harbour area out to the ocean front. The canal way is probably several kilometers long with the great long cruise docks and other cruise ships tied up on our starboard side and a major Miami causeway leading to the South Beach area on the port side. Also on our port side are a beautiful group of small (4 to 5 acres) residential islands in the Miami harbour and out towards the end of the canal way we pass beside the Miami Yacht Basin. At that point you can look northward and from our vantage point sixteen stories above the waterline you can look right down the trendy Miami South Beach strip. Just to the right of the South Beach strip is the famous Miami Beach with its row of high rise condos and pristine white beach bordering the blue blue ocean and stretching northwards as far as the eye can see. Once clear of the canal way the Harbour Pilot is let off the ship and we pick up speed as we head off for another week of fun and relaxation.