Today finds the Adventure of the Seas in the pretty Dutch port of Willemstad, Curacao. There’s a warm breeze whipping across an otherwise cloudless sky. In front of us is P&O Cruises’ Britannia. From both ships a torrent of passengers is pouring ashore like a stream of maddened ants.
I’m thinking back to last night right now, and remembering one of the most spectacular welcome aboard cocktail parties that I’ve ever seen on any ship in over three and a half decades of cruise travel. As events go, it was- like the rest of this enormous ship- spectacular, and well over the top.
The venue was the vast, four deck high Royal Promenade, a huge open space that bisects the middle of the ship over a length of around six hundred feet or so. It’s done up like a European main street, and is lined with bars, shops and cafes that run right along the length of both sides. There’s an English pub here, a sports bar there, and a French style sidewalk cafe for good measure. Tables and chairs spill out along the paved ‘street’; a trio of viewing bridges span the middle levels of the complex while, on both sides, three rows of atrium cabins have huge bay windows that look down on all the fun below.
So you have a grand, truly glamorous venue that buzzes and hums with foot traffic at all hours of the day and night. This being formal night, most people put on their glad rags, and really dressed up to the nines.
The large Puerto Rican contingent on board looked every bit as smart and snappy as you might expect. They promenaded up and down the huge expanse of space in large, expansive family groups, from Grandparents right down to tiny tots. It was a wonderful sight to behold.
One young couple even paraded their baby dog. Naturally, the little doggy was carried, proudly sporting a bright new red bib that it had been bought for it’s prom stroll. It got almost as much love and attention as the cutest of the kids. You couldn’t help but smile.
In the midst of all this, a battalion of solicitous Royal Caribbean stewards circulated among the crowd, delivering glasses of complimentary chilled champagne to the milling throng. And, stage left, the ship’s eight man orchestra took it’s stand. All sporting full tuxedos, they launched into a rollicking set, with the five man brass section creating a wall of sound that reverberated off the upper level of this cavernous chamber and it’s crowd of schmoozing, boozing fun lovers.
They played it all; starting with classic Sinatra staples, then segueing smartly into sultry Brazilian samba and a medley of delicious Dixieland jazz. People began to shuffle their feet and dance as the music, mood and venue came together to create something utterly magical, and well worth getting dressed up for. To those who say that the magic has ‘gone’ from cruising, well- no. No, it hasn’t.
There then followed the usual welcome introduction from the captain and his officers, and then we all set away to indulge in our own wealth of diverse whims for the evening. All in all, it was a truly stellar beginning to a magical night at sea.
On another front, by now I was beginning to grow mildly worried about my increasing addiction to the fried dumplings served up at the on board breakfast buffet. My arteries started to whimper every time I laid eyes on the damned things, but they were just too good to resist. It’s only a week, I kept telling myself…
And so, with the sun well and truly past the yardarm on another sunny day, it was time for my daily Jacuzzi aerobics session before heading ashore. Honestly, who knew that lifting a Strawberry Daiquiri in a hot tub required such intensive practice?