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Ready for a GRAND (Princess) time! August 18, 2009

The long weekend with a time change and a lack of sleep is catching up with everyone, and having to be awake at 4:45 this morning is not helping anyone’s mood.  Manilo is there right on time at 5:30 to take us to Fiumicino, and it’s like leaving a good friend or family member – there are kisses and hugs and handshakes.  I so hope we see him again.

Jim almost got himself beaten to death with one of the chairs at the gate when he started stuff with me.  We were looking for a place to grab something to eat and a place to exchange money, but nothing was open once we got to the gate.  Jim started his nonsense about not wanting to ask for help, so I left and walked back to the gate where everyone else was waiting.  He came back in a miserable mood, demanded Eilis go with him, and he left again.  He’s lucky he made it out of Italy alive.

One thing that was consistent throughout the trip – no wheelchair 🙁  But that’s not even half of the story.  Not only was there no wheelchair, but they changed our gate.  We had to go down a flight of steps, out to the tarmac, onto a bus, and we were bused over to the plane.  We then had to climb the steps up to the plane.  All of that was fine for us, but it was murder on poor Dot!  They didn’t make her ride the bus – they drove her over to the plane – but she had to climb the steps, and by the time she got to her seat, she looked as if she might pass out.  They were very quick to bring her a drink, but it was really a stressful way to begin the day.

Again, the wheelchair people were busy prepping meals on the plane, and they came around with breakfast sandwiches, coffee, tea and juice.  Not too many in our party liked the breakfast sandwiches – I thought they were okay – but the tea was popular.  The flight was quick, and we were soon at Heathrow. 

Now where is that darn fly?  The one that gets in the ointment?  Oh yes – Jim – here he is.  Remember back a couple of days ago when we checked our bags at the baggage storage facility at Heathrow?  Well, Jim has lost our claim ticket, so now we have to pay a penalty.  No matter – at least we can get our bags out of storage.  Jim and Russell wait while I hit Starbucks for some cold water, juice, a latte, and some breakfast items.  I figure we’re all hungry and tired, so if I feed everyone, they’ll all fall asleep on the 3 hour ride to Southampton.

With our bags in hand, we go out to meet our driver – who had graciously driven us over to this terminal so we could avoid the whole planes, trains, and automobiles fiasco that is Heathrow.  He loaded the bags for us, and informed us that our trip is only an hour and a half.  WHAT?  You have NO idea how excited I am that we are not going to be in the car for three hours.  This is, so far, the best part of the trip.  I am beyond thrilled that this trip is so much shorter than I had thought.

Jim chats happily with the driver the entire trip, and once we are there, my stomach just starts jumping with excitement!  I can’t wait for the little kids to see the ship, see all there is to do, get underway – I’m excited for them!!

The line to check in is LONG.  Dot and Russ can go to a different line that allows handicapped access, and they take Brighid with them, since she is checking into their cabin.  We take the two littles and wait in the line.  It moves pretty quickly, and they are both getting lots of attention from the other people in line.  We are soon up at the front, room cards in hand, embarkation photo taken.

Once inside, we quickly look at our staterooms, and decide to get some lunch.  We head up to the buffet, which is, as expected, mobbed.  We have a hard time finding a table, and we end up at a table outside, which is freezing.  The wind is blowing, it’s drizzly rainy – very typical English weather.  I wander around inside and come across a big enough table for all of us, and we move, but we are all so tired and crabby, it’s not even a good meal.  I can’t even remember what we ate.

After lunch, Jim and I headed up with Eilis and Granuaile to sign them in at the kids’ club, which they love, and then we headed back to start unpacking.  There is an issue with beds.  There are two lower bunks and two upper bunks, but they do not have the extra guard rails as they said they would when I spoke with Princess.  To further complicate things, if they push the beds together for Jim and I, we can only pull one bed down anyway.  Granuaile sleeps with us.

It is soon time to get ready for dinner, and it feels good to be out of the clothes we traveled in, washed up and ready to go eat.  We are in the Botticelli dining room, which is very nice, but the table we are assigned is right beneath the air conditioning vent and it’s quite chilly as we sit there.  The waitstaff is very nice, and the meal is good. 

As soon as dinner is over, we decide to go back to the stateroom to finish with the unpacking and organizing.  We soon realize how tired we are, so we decide to skip the show and turn in early.  We have an early morning tour tomorrow, so there is really no rest for the weary!