Desert Storm Reunion: Day 1 Chaos
Sorry for the delay on this—I’ve spent the last week doing two short stories that were due October 31 (and got both in on time). All that while I still had cruise brain.
I flew to Galveston, Texas on October 10. It’s apparently a major hub for cruise ships. In addition to my ship, the Navigator of the Seas, Carnival Magic was also there (Carnival line). October is a slow time of the year.
My cousin Sonya, who is about what would have been my mother’s age, picked me up at the airport and took me to the hotel. I had an extra day on the backend of the trip so we could visit.
There was a Desert Storm veteran gathering at the hotel I was staying at. I was surprised at the number of people, and the number of women who weren’t wives. I have one annoying moment when I wore my Desert Storm hat down in the elevator and one of the hotel guests asked if my boyfriend or husband was the vet.
I didn’t know anyone at the gathering, so no one from my unit. I’d be surprised if they would have done a reunion, though. By the time the war ended, everyone despised each other.
One of the veterans would come in very late. He was flying in from Europe, and the airline lost his luggage in New York. By the time he landed at George Bush, he was less than two hours from cruise departure time. Bush is 90 minutes from the docks, so he gave the driver a generous tip and arrived in an hour.
Boarding the Ship
Getting on board was chaos, and yet, not nearly as bad as it could have been (like flying. Ahem). There were some 3,000 people getting on board the ship, and the cruise ship kept it running smoothly. Imagine 3,000 people boarding an airline.
I lugged my suitcase and carry-on into line and stopped at a counter where my passport was checked in. The counter person gave my Sea Pass, which is a multifunction card:
- It was pass to get onto the ship. If I had a Sea Pass, it meant that the cruise line had verified my passport. The crew would scan it going on the ship and off, so they could have accountability.
- It was the key card to my stateroom.
- It was like a credit card. No cash was carried on the ship, which probably cut down on that. We just used the card to, say, pay for ice cream.
After my Sea Pass card was duly scanned in at the gangplank, I wheeled all my luggage on board and tried not to whack anyone with it. My stateroom was on Deck 2, which turned out not to be that easy to find. The ice rink cut off Decks 2 and 3, so they were the only ones that didn’t go all the way through the ship. I actually had to go up to Deck 4, go aft, and then go down to Deck 2.
At last I found my stateroom.
It was pretty small, though the shower was even smaller. It was like a torpedo tube. There were some pretty heavy people on the cruise—I don’t know how they took showers. It was small enough that it was a little too close for me.
Suitcase down, lunch next. With all the check in and trying to find my stateroom, it had taken a while. It was almost 2:00. I consulted the directory next to the elevator and headed up to the Windjammer Café on Deck 12.
The Windjammer was a buffet. The food was free, but if I wanted sodas or booze, I had to pay for a drink package. In my case, I purchased a soda package. All I had to do was show the Sea Pass card, which had a Coca-Cola logo in the corner to get my soda.
I was so hungry at that point that I hit the first line I saw, grabbed a glass of water, and ate. I found out later a lot of the other veterans did the same thing. Exploring the buffet more came the next morning. The Windjammer had these big windows all around, so I had a good view of Galveston.
After that, more exploring. I kept getting lost, so I did a lot more walking that I probably should have. Because my feet a “poorly constructed” as my podiatrist says, they really hurt and ached. But it was fun to walk around because the cruise ship wasn’t like a big hotel. It was meant to entertain everywhere, in some way.
At the landing for every set of stairs, there were two paintings and two glassed in sculptures. Not hotel art bought in bulk, but actual original art the cruise line picked (and for sale).
I found the walk about deck, which circles most of the ship. I could walk around it and see the water.
I was out there when the ship started to move. I watched Galveston get left behind, but I couldn’t stay out there very long. Watching the water made me dizzy, and for a while I was aware of our movement.
Then it was off to the Promenade. Most of my association with that was hearing it on The Love Boat.. The Promenade was like a giant mall. It was where all the stores were, and the 24-hour snack place.
One of the events of the cruise on the first day was a circus parade. The crew quite efficiently unrolled a blue cloth tape and roped off the crowds on the edges.
The parade was chaos in itself–a lot of brightly colored costumes whirring past. But it was a lot of fun, and it looked like the performers had fun.
Dinner was in the dining room, and 8:00 seating. This was hard for me, because dinner was so late. I would end up getting a snack during the cruise at about 4-5 to tie me over until dinner. The times were picked by the reunion committee, so it was what it was.
The cruise had put all the Desert Storm veterans together on one end of the room. We were assigned tables (on the all purpose Sea pass card).
I was surprised to see that the menu offered dairy-free (also gluten free). I’m lactose intolerant—I can have cheese, but not milk or yogurt. Unfortunately, though the menu said dairy-free, that did become a problem. I think most people probably went to the Windjammer instead because you could pick your food. The kitchen seemed pretty unprepared for actually dealing with it.
The kitchen gamely tried to work around the dairy issue without complaint, though when I did a survey for the cruise, I did comment that the menu really needed to have one item that didn’t have milk. Most of the time, the kitchen was having to make adjustments, rather than just serve the meal. Also that they shouldn’t call Caesar Salad dairy free because that turned it into lettuce and tomatoes.
The meal was three courses: a small appetizer, the main course, and desert. Despite the late time and the problems with the milk, I went to all of them. It was one of the few times all the veterans got together, and also, the food was really good.
By the time the meal ended, it was 10:00 and time for bed!