We're on a boat!
Yes, as the song says, we're on a boat. Though not without some difficulty. Here's the story.
We had made their way to the Doubletree Hotel in Newark, returned their car and were all set to head to the Quantum of the Seas. I'd been checking Uber regularly to make sure we wouldn't have to wait too long for a car. What I didn't take into account was this: that traffic in New Jersey congested, and that the Uber driver who picked me up might not be familiar to the area. This last thought was so non-obvious that I didn't think of it until I started writing this. But in retrospect it's obvious. We're not far from Newark Airport. There's going to be a steady flow of drivers from Manhattan, and other non-local places dropping people at the airport. And one of them is most likely to get the call. He wouldn't know the area. If the GPS gave him wrong directions he wouldn't know it. And if he missed a turn, he wouldn't realize it, until it was too late.
Whether my theory on why this is likely is right or wrong, the fact is: that happened. As planned and expected we got a driver pretty quickly. I called him to make sure he knew where we were--which was a good thing because he missed the hotel first time around, but maybe because I moved the pin. Dunno. Uber seemed to show him circling around before he got there.
Anyway the car arrived. As always with Uber it was a spotless car of recent vintage. We got in and we took off. I remembered that there was a trick getting on the road in the first place, and once we'd done that, I let him take over. What I now realize is that I ought to have tracked our progress all the way with Maps or Waze. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. Until it stopped being enjoyable.
It seemed at first we were going the same way we'd gone the previous night, but pretty soon it seemed different. That's when I pulled out my phone and discovered we were way off course--further away in time and space than we had been at the Doubletree. Bad! Bad! Bad!
I had him pull off and used Waze to plot a course back and looked at Google Maps to confirm it. Also a semi-bad idea. They agreed on the amount of time needed. They disagreed on how to get back. Waze seemed to want to take us overland. Maps seemed to want to turn us around and head back into the stop-and-go traffic we'd seen going in the opposite direction. I decided to go overland.
There were lots of twists and turns, and opportunities to go the wrong way, but I managed to pick the right road, or almost the right one, when the road was ambiguous. We got to the Cruise Port right on time, but only because I'd planned things so that we'd get there a hour early.
I had wanted to take our suitcases on board with us--they were roll-ons--but the baggage handler who called us out of traffic said we couldn't; that we had to check the bags with her. Which we did, but as we walked closer to the entry I could see that there were other people rolling their bags on board. Maybe she was telling the truth. Maybe she gets paid by the bag. Or maybe she wanted the tip that I reflexively gave her for possibly misguiding me.
Whatever. We got through baggage and body scanners. We'd previously registered online, and as part of the registration process we'd uploaded pictures of ourselves and our passport numbers, then printed out a "Set Sail Pass." A young lady with an iPad met us, scanned the barcode on our Set Sail Passes, and up popped our pictures. She scanned our passports using the iPad as well, asked us some fairly stupid questions: "Have you been to Africa in the past three months?" "No." (And if I had, maybe I'd want to lie about it because people are so fucking paranoid!) "Do you have a cold?" "No." (And what would you do if I had one? Deny me boarding.). Then my favorite: "Are you sure?" This is a question designed to trip up people who lie the first time and who become so guilty when asked a second time that they completely cave in. "Aaargh! You got me. I do have a cold. And I've spent the last year in Africa. Working in an Ebola hospital. And I'm testing a new vaccine. And, yes, yes, I let myself be infected, to test its efficacy."
Well, she didn't trick me. We continued on to a desk where our Set Sail Passes were again scanned, and the results of the first were confirmed, but not including another "Are you sure you aren't sick?" check. The whole process was very smooth,
We'd been warned that our rooms might not be ready--after all the boat had gotten in just six hours before--but the onboard elves had done their job efficiently and our rooms were clean, made up and ready for us, although set up for a queen, not twins as we had requested. No problem, we were told. And it was no problem. Our bags took a little time, but we had them before dinner.
I registered for Internet access, and once things were settled I checked my email which included a bill from Uber. It was for more than $80.00 instead of the $30-ish I had expected. But conveniently it showed a track of the route that the driver had taken: past the turn-off for the port we'd taken the other night, and then all around Robin Hood's famous barn, and finally overland back the port.
It wasn't obvious how to complain, but that's OK. I googled and got the procedure, followed it, and sent in a polite request questioning the charges. On Monday, when the support center came on line, I got an acknowledgement and a follow-up question. And on Wednesday or Thursday I got a refund: they dialed the cost back to what it should have been if the driver had taken the right course. Yay Uber!
Internet cost me a little over $200 for 11 days of 0.23Mbps download speed. Once they've got you on the boat, they've got you. For example, their price for movies on demand: $12.00 a view. But they make up for these extortionate costs by serving amazingly good food, in VAST quantities, delivering extraordinarily fine and friendly service everywhere, having lots of high quality entertainment, and providing lots of ways to amuse yourself for free.
More about this in later posts.