The Embarkation has to be the worst part of the cruise. You arrive at the terminal and you have two options. Check your bags or carry your bags.
The parking attendant dude told me that if my bags had rollers I would probably be happier taking care of them myself rather than checking them in. I still haven't decided whether or not he was wrong or right, but we decided to skip the check-in process and just roll our two big suitcases and one small suitcase.
We parked and approached the terminal. There is no one there with any instructions. Lots of old folks milling around looking rather lost. We joined that crowd. We milled around for several minutes while we heatedly discussed what to do with our bags. My wife was of the opinion that we should now check them in. We avoided the line of cars going to the check in counter because we can check them in ourselves or something. I think my stubbornness and the milling around with the old people finally wore her down so we finally go in "the line" with all our luggage in tow.
There is this huge building with probably 4 double glass doors leading in, but everyone is lined up behind one of the doors. There are no instructions. I guess they assume everyone has done it before. Or perhaps they line up the first 20 folks and assume everyone else has the Lemming mentality. I chose to behave like a lemming, but I was not the first. By the time we joined the masses, the line was already out to the curb and wrapping back in on itself.
Luckily some friendly vacationing school teachers got in line behind us and they were a hoot. They started complaining that my wife and I were doing too much kissing so I told them that she couldn't help it. This resulted in one lady heading back and running the circuit with all of her friends to tell them what I'd said. Pretty soon I felt like a stand-up lemming comedian. It was funny and uncomfortable all at the same time.
I lost track of time with all the giggling, but I feel that we stood in line for a very long time although not as long as we waited to get her passport stamped. Eventually we made it inside the building. Inside the building they have one of these roped off areas that allows the line to snake around 10 or 12 times before coming to security. I was, in a heartbeat, elated and broken. I was out of the Texas sun and into the building and the building was just another line.
Finally, we arrived at the security checkpoint and were able to prove we had nothing that they were looking for. And, for the curious, my wife's passport stood up to the initial onslaught of inspections.
We left the security line with all our luggage and were ushered into another room with another line. We were told to sit down because the line was too long. So, we sat... In plastic seats... I hate sitting in plastic seats. They make my... well, nevermind.
From my new vantage point I could see that this room had, in fact, two lines. We sat in our plastic seats for a bit. I don't think it could have been more than 30 minutes although my butt was numbing by the time I got up. They corralled us into another line and handed us a boarding number. I'm still not really sure what the number was for except maybe a safety device created to keep people from cutting in line. Darn 5 year olds.
The line finally evolved into a "checkout" type line sometimes used as some electronics chains. With one lady at the front telling each party which counter to approach. We were told which counter to go to and made our way to the counter. I had already entered all of our information online the day before and the guy at the counter was appreciative of our due diligence. He was the first person to pause at my wife's temporary passport, but he still let us go along with our "FunPass" cards. Later I'd learn these should be called, "Forget you are spending your actual money" cards. He gave us instructions on how to get on the ship. "Go this way and turn left" kind of deal.
This is the second line in the same room. It's not actually the line to get on the ship. It's the line to get your "first" picture made. Out of the crew of 900 on board the Ecstacy I suspect that 850 of them had cameras. This is the crew, not the passengers.
So, after the fast photo sessions (at least they were efficient). We were ushered up esculators to another line. I can now see the ship and this new line seems to be getting onboard so I am assuming this is the last line. It's another long one.
At the end of this line, you are on the ship and there are two crewmembers there taking pictures and scanning the Funpasses. It looks to me that they are assiging images to cards for future reference and to prove that no two lemmings are identical.
We are finally onboard. Yay!