If you weren't fully aware, I'm a total degenerate gambler and because of that, Foxwoods Casino likes to reward me with free hotel room, free tickets to show, free gifts, and yes, the occasional free cruise. Trust me, there's a hell of an asterisk next to that word "free" in free cruise. No matter what, you have to pay port fees and taxes for both yourself and the person you are taking along on the cruise. That's about $350 per person right there. The other thing is, on the cruise ship, they don't want people handing out tips. But there are probably hundreds of people behind the scenes (waiters, cooks, cleaners, and crew people making the boat properly go to and fro without getting into trouble with those damn Somalia pirates) and those people all get paid a little something for there efforts. When the cruise is over, there is a $13.50 forced gratuity on the bill, per person, per day, amounting to almost another hundred bucks to your free cruise. A free cruise is basically $450 per person, or $900 for the cabin.
And what a cabin. Almost 60 square feet that fits you and your cabin partner with two twin beds, your luggage, and an additional 20 square feet for a bathroom. If you had a fear of drowning, big ships, or being sea sick, those are offset by the almost instant claustrophobia. Good news, there is a TV, and it has CNN, BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, and ESPN, with 24/7 soccer, cricket, and other sports everyone but the United States likes to watch. Thankfully there is basically a free pay per view movie channel that plays all the new DVD releases. I was able to watch "Inside Out" about 4 times, "Pitch Perfect 2" about 5 times, "Max", a kids movie about a dog about 3 times, and then there are the random ones. "Mr. Holmes", "The 100-Foot Journey", "St. Vincent", and others I'm blanking on. Keep in mind, you don't actually watch these movies start to finish, that would be weird. It's just something to have on in the background.
Simply because this is a Part I of a no more than Part VII story, I might as well begin on the very first day of the cruise.
Actually, no, let me go back even further, to January or so, when we purchased and confirmed the cruise. The free cruise through Foxwoods did allow me and another guest a room. But they would also give anyone else on this deal 10% off if they joined the cruise with it. Of the different friends and family we asked if they wanted to go, only Paul and Christie wanted to cruise like a Norwegian on the Norwegian Dawn from Boston to Bermuda.
Paul and Christie, for ordering their tickets to the cruise so early (it literally was January, and we were settling for an October cruise departure), they got a sweet ass deal. Instead of the 10% off, they used that to upgrade to a balcony room. Me and Mike had an inside cabin with no natural light. My office was bigger than our room. Hell, most cubicles are bigger than me and Mike's room. Also, by ordering so soon, the people at Norwegian Cruise Line (or NCL as they'll be called from now on) gave them some free options. $250 of on board credit, free meals (meals are free, but they could eat at the specialty restaurants every night and for free), or the Ultimate Beverage Package.
I was actually on the phone with Paul and the woman from NCL and I told Paul to get the Ultimate Beverage Package. This package is basically worth $850, and it allows you and your cabin-mate to drink all the beer and mixed drinks you want without paying ANYTHING. Just no drinks over $15 and no sharing the free drink card with other guests. As for me, I'm a cheap prick, but I do love free drinks. Thankfully because Foxwoods gave me the free cruise, me and Mike's room came with free drink in the casino cards. Anytime we wanted to, we could just gamble and have free drinks all day long. Or, for me one day, just literally sit at the bar in the casino and get totally shit faced and make friends with an older couple who I kept bumping into the rest of the cruise. God it was weird, they knew my name, I had no clue who they were. All I could do is smile and wave at them...
Got lost there for a moment. Time to move ahead to the actual first day of the cruise.
Friday, October 16th DAY 1:
Mike, Paul & Christie all took that day off from work. Not me, I'm very paranoid about leaving work too early, and I can still get a lot of work done in a few hours. I typically work from 6:30 AM to 3:00 PM. On this day, I showed up around 5:30 AM and knew I could post that morning's inventory, take care of yesterday's settlement, pay for any bills that showed up, clear up any open emails, take care of some invoices, do a few credits, and make sure there was enough back up paperwork for things my coworkers need around the warehouse. I was able to knock all of this crap out and punch out around 10:30 AM. Five hours extra to my paycheck, and very satisfied that I left my office in good enough hands. (It would take over a week to learn that later on that night, the printer to my office stopped working, and was unable to get fixed and back in working condition until the Wednesday of me being back at work. I take a vacation, and there was literally 10 days worth of paperwork sitting there, just waiting for me.)
I happily drove home, and starting to gather up all of my gear. Made sure my bags were packed, had my e-docs, my passport, some reading material, and some motion sickness medication. I don't fuck around with motion sickness. I call my doctor and get a prescription for the patch (you're welcome, Mike!) behind my ear, and I also take some over the counter Dramamine. Me and Mike were all set, and were just waiting for mom to pick us up and drive us to the actual boat in Boston's port. To relax my nerves, me and Mike had a few mixed drinks from my left over vodka. Why did I have left over vodka? Because I'm a borderline alcoholic (you guys remember the 4th of July) and I'm cheap. So I do the mouthwash trick.
WARNING--IT IS ILLEGAL TO BRING ANY ALCOHOL OR DRUGS ONTO A CRUISE SHIP. Some cruise ships allow some bottles of alcohol to be brought on board (wine) but they charge like $50 for a bottle opening charge. I have a bag with all of my toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, soap, and yes, a bottle of mouthwash) stuffed in the bottom of one of my bags. The bag gets x-rayed, and delivered to my room, and no one has opened the bag of toiletries yet. I can tell, I put a weird knot on that plastic bag so nothing moves.
The mouthwash trick was something I invented 3 years ago when I went on a cruise (I've now done the same cruise 4 years in a row. Last year was different in that due to a Hurricane, we skipped Bermuda and went to the Bahamas. That was my favorite cruise of the first three, and even cooler, I went with Justi instead of Mike. She was fun.) to save me money from buying drinks on the ship. It's very simple: you buy a big bottle of mouthwash (I found a 1.5 Liter of Equate mouthwash at Wal-Mart for $2.79) and empty it. Clean the insides and wash it out so it doesn't taste like minty freshness. Pour in a shitload of vodka, and a few drops of a Gatorade to get the right color of mouthwash. I went with Gatorade Fierce Green Apple as it had the same green hue as the bottle of mouthwash. Then, anytime you want to get drunk, you just take your water bottle container (I purchase mine last year for this trick) and fill it up with ice and something to mix your booze with.
I found lemonade to be a great mixer, and combine the ice, lemonade, and mouthwash for a great way to get shit faced on the cruise without having to pay additional costs. Easily saves me a few hundred on drinks. Best, I can just go out on the deck, walk around, eat some food, read my book, and take sips from my big water bottle container and no one is the wiser. When my water bottle container is empty, I do not refill. Instead I stay happily buzzed for the rest of that day.
Where was I... Oh yeah, me and Mike are drinking at the house waiting for mom to pick us up and drive us into Boston. Mom is the best at this, and has also done this for all four times I've gone on my cruise. You are the greatest mom in the world. I try my best to make up for it, and that is why two days after our cruise ended, I happily drove mom to Logan Airport so she could fly down to Florida for this month. See you for Thanksgiving mom!
Security and passport check ins are not a pain in the ass like they used to be. 3 years ago, it took almost an hour from mom dropping us off to being on the ship. This year, drop off to being on the ship was just under a half an hour.
It was a very windy day, but nice. Me and Mike took our carrying on bags to our room (11652) and then walked on the top deck to find Paul and Christie. We found them, sipping on some drinks and looking very happy. Me and Mike left our house around noon, took one hour to get to Boston, some time for security, more time of walking to our room and then more time to find Paul and Christie. When we found them, it was about 2:00 PM. Paul and Christie had been on the boat since about 10:30 AM.
They showed us their room, we showed them ours, and they decided that will be the last time they step into our room. We decided to grab some food and drink at the 24/7 restaurant (The Blue Lagoon, really great chips with the spinach and cheese) before we would be forced to go to the mandatory emergency evacuation drill. Everyone on their room key card has a special number that indicated where to go in case the boat starts to go all Titanic. Ours was Y3. It just shows this is the life boat, how to put on a life vest, how women and children are not all that important, etc. Only reason to go is because you need your named marked off the list. If you don't, they fine you on your bill. I'm there, Mike eventually shows up, and after going almost deaf from the loud horns (ya know, in case of an emergency), we're free to go and enjoy our cruise.
And with that, let me stop.
I know this has been almost all filler, but I got better things to look out for including gambling success (not me), lots of food and alcohol consumption (everyone), trivia contests, stories of past cruises with a crazy ex (Mike), the Island of Bermuda, Patriots on Sunday night Football, and a game of dodgeball.
All of this and more later on this week.
Brian's Big Thought of the Day:
I think one of my big cruise ship regrets was not stealing the picture of me and the dolphin.