Carnival Splendor Again: But First, Queen Mary (Again)

So, I haven't really even finished scrolling through my hasty notes for the New Year cruise, and here I am with a Spring Break cruise to yap about. But at least this time I took proper notes, like I used to, and can give a full trip report to my cruise-minded friends, right?

(Well, I started to, and... honestly, I don't even need notes for most of this cruise. Went to thalassotherapy pool. Went to steam room. Went to cabin for a nap. Shuffle and repeat.)

During the cruise Mike and I both tried to keep a bit of a diary going over on the Funville Forums, one of the few places you can go for free on the ship's slow Wi-Fi, but that was no fun because I felt like I had to keep my manners on and couldn't bitch properly what with being in someone else's living room. Meh.

Look, let's start where Sister Maria would start, at the beginning. No, not the beginning where we indulged in another cruise as an attempt to help me finally beat my post-pneumonia wheeze (in the spa's thermal suite), but the beginning where - because the Long Beach Grand Prix meant almost all rooms in town were booked up - we indulged in a stay on the Queen Mary the night before...

This was our second stay on the QM. I documented the last trip in the following posts:

This is going to be One Stinkin' Long Post. No sensible breaks this time. Sorry. (It's the only way to be sure I'll get around to finishing. Lately I'm lucky to get out a post or two each month. Strike while the keyboard is hot!)

Our start was rough with a stop in Primm to try the Mad Greek Cafe there. Sacrilege, perhaps, not to stop in Baker at the original, but once we pass the California border I always get tetchy about stopping except for the usual Victorville gas (Chevron, north side of Bear Valley exit). Plus, in Baker I always feel like I'm one bad pothole or one misjudged speedometer reading away from an Unexpected but Significant Travel Delay.

So, we stopped in Primm to recapture the magic of the strawberry milkshake we'd shared in Baker at the Mad Greek on the way to San Diego in December.

Problem 1: Mike, out of habit, ordered the large size. I guess we got a medium last time, because the large comes in a "collapsible to the touch" styrofoam two-hander with no lid.

Problem 2: Anticipating a thumb covered in whipped cream at best whenever I'd try to grab the drink while driving, I opened the car door and spooned a few inches of the shake onto the parking lot pavement before we left. (It looked gross, I know, but it's not exactly littering.) Then I decided to get something out of the trunk, and stepped directly into my pile of strawberry muck. With the only pair of (non-dress) shoes I was bringing on the trip because I was too lazy to go back upstairs and grab another pair to throw into the trunk, just in case. Blegh and argh!

Problem 3: My grr-fest over and us finally on the road and finally past the border and into the mountains, we had to suddenly pull over to the side of the road:

After My Own Milkshake Drama, Actually

No one was getting away unscathed from dairy-based drama today. I don't think either of us ever wants to see a strawberry milkshake again.

But here's a photo from about an hour before that, at the gas station around the corner from the house: Because, You Know...

The rest of the drive was uneventful. We skirted all of the downtown Grand Prix traffic by taking a more direct and logical route than usual: I-15 out of Las Vegas to 210 west to 605 south to 105 west to 710 south all the way to the end, which is the aforementioned parking garage. Easy all the way, despite it being Saturday, plus we got the thrill of zooming right past (what the map said was) Compton. (Seriously, I'd deliberately avoided this route in the past, but the highway is its own world.)

Already we could see some changes from our visit three years ago: new hotel sign, and the elevators to the gangways have some plush red seating and decor nearby on the ground level.

Queen Mary - New Sign

Otherwise everything was pleasantly familiar, and we were excited to be back on the lovely (for all the shuddering mistakes made in the restoration process) Queen Mary. The staff, while fine on the last trip, was beyond courteous in every way on this visit. (With the exception of some critical misinformation, which I'll describe later.) It was the kind of hospitality that you notice, from reception to restaurant to the people you just pass in the corridors.

The only thing that wasn't familiar was the throng of people. On our last visit, we came away worrying about the hotel/attraction staying in business. This time the joint was jumping, as they say. If you know us at all, you know we hate crowds, but we were too happy to see the QM doing well to really mind.

Last time our room had a bed by the door with a sitting area by the portholes. The QM's deluxe rooms, former first class rooms on the Main Deck by the suites, follow an interlocking pattern that you can see on this excellent (insert 30 more bonny adjectives here) website. This time our bed was by the portholes (along with a new, sizable flatscreen TV) and instead we had a wide corridor between bed and bath with a chair, several closets, vanity, writing desks, etc. (None of which I seem to have really bothered to photograph. Laziness or distraction?)

If you look at the old Main Deck blueprint, ours is the room on the top row, at the end of the corridor just above the "G" in "Gents Lavy" on the far left, and it's the room on the left at the end of the little hall. Or, more or less the fifth room from the left, marked "2." The cabin to our left is shaped like what we had last time. (Which, if you're just desperately into these things, was the cabin on the bottom row, under the second "L" in "Ladies Lavy," also on the left at the end of the corridor.

The first thing I noticed is that this time our room had period books:

Queen Mary - What's on the Bookshelf

I really liked the title of the one of the left, A Guide for the Bedevilled, but it wasn't what I expected.

We had a Harbor View last time, which was nice for peeking at the lights of the shopping area called The Pike (and reminiscing about the real Pike, not that I was around for that), and I requested the same view again, but it wasn't available. We didn't mind - trying something new was interesting, too. We ended up with a spacy look at the Carnival cruise terminal, aka the old Spruce Goose dome:

Queen Mary - Port-Porthole View

The room, more or less:

Queen Mary - Nicer Room Than Last Time

The old callboxes (I think?) remain outside of each original cabin. (I only know about Main deck. From the previously linked website, it sounds like only the M-deck cabins are original. The lower deck cabins are all reconfigurations of smaller cabins. We were offered a B-deck room, which would be less noisy, but we wanted to be in an original cabin.) When the renovation was done in the early 1970s, the rooms were renumbered. Outside our room, you can see where the new number plate for M154 (which was glued over the wooden original, ew) has fallen away to reveal the cabin's original number, M134:

Queen Mary - Room M154 Is Really Room M134 (Original Nameplate Exposed)

Also in view from our room was the now-decaying shopping village from the Disney-era of Queen Mary ownership.

Queen Mary - Village Shops and Cruise Parking

Strangely, this is still advertised as an attraction in the hotel book inside the room although it's been defunct for years. (And it's described as "Dickensian." Is it not Tudor? Or at least what's left of the building on the left? and tilting churchy-looking towers behind it?) Does anyone know if anything is happening in these buildings now? It seems silly that the cruise terminal waiting area should be so exposed, packed, and miserable when here are some structures that might at least give respite to the more ambulatory or well-wheeled special needs guests who board almost-first or even the wedding parties who board before everyone else. (VIPs do have their own building.) Or just for me, because I hate standing in the sun. (We didn't have to this time, though. Later!)

Or if Carnival doesn't want to do anything with it, some enterprising person could make a killing selling soda in just one of the shops. Everyone seemed to be carrying on soda on the cruise, and I'm sure more would if it was more convenient for those who fly in to acquire it. (Not that Carnival would want to encourage this, but then maybe that's enticement enough for them to do something with it. How about a Shore Excursion desk? A bar? A gift shop? Something that only operates three days a week - embarkation days - but could generate revenue for them and alleviate boredom for those who are victims of Customs' new, time-consuming procedures?)

People on the various forums (Mike thinks it's pretentious when I say "fora") are always asking how close the Queen Mary is to the cruise terminal. It's this close:

Distance from Queen Mary to Cruise Terminal

Just a hop across the parking lot, and you're there. Mike had to walk back to get the bag we'd decided to leave in the car... which ended up having the hairbrush and toothpaste in it. (I didn't ask him to walk back again when I remembered I'd left my jacket, too.) Check-in is just outside the dome... unless you check in early (Carnival Paradise) or you check in early and the weather is bad (Carnival Splendor). Then it's on Queen Mary at the back part of the museum, but OH OH OH, I have a story about the misinformation spinning around all that. (Later.)

I took photos from the gangplank while me and my newly bad knees (don't even ask - I know the last cruise report was like a Physician's Desk Reference) waited for Mike to walk back.

Queen Mary - Looking Aft + Moon

While Mike took the bag to the room (yes, I expect his sainthood paperwork will be rushed through even faster than John Paul II's), I started taking my "homemade" tour, based on the (again, extraordinary) website linked earlier.

Like, I wandered into a gift shop by the main gangway...

Queen Mary - Former Radio Telephone Room - Promenade Deck

...that used to be the radio telephone room. The original clocks remain:

Queen Mary - Former Radio Telephone Room - Original Clocks

As do the etched glass panels by the ceiling, depicting wireless (mid-20th-century-style) technology:

Queen Mary - Former Radio Telephone Room (Post-War) - Now Gift Shop

Note the souvenir mugs just below. I wonder how many people think to look up? If I have one complaint (and of course I do; it's what I do), it's that the Queen Mary's free "self-guided" tour is very thin on information. I'm sure the guided tour is great and of course the management rightfully has every incentive to encourage people to book that, but I wish the QM would sell, for maybe even the cost of the tour, a softcover guide to all of these little tidbits around the ship. (At this point I'm very tempted to develop an app for smartphones, but I really couldn't do it without negotiating with those who've provided all of this information online, and I don't want to undercut the seemingly always-endangered QM revenues in anyway. Now, if the Queen Mary would like to hire me for a reasonable pittance to make one...)

Mike thought maybe the Promenade floorboards were shinier this time. I don't know. The ship looked great in the late afternoon light, though:

Queen Mary - Promenade Deck

We were hungry by now and strolled over to the Promenade Cafe, a restaurant that sits on what used to be the starboard side of the Promenade deck. The location of the restaurant, when there is so much under- or weirdly used space inside, seems to me to be Yet Another Unfortunate Decision Made 40ish Years Ago when the Queen Mary underwent her renovation into a hotel/attraction, but we had an excellent breakfast here in 2008, and a look at the current dinner menu lured me in with talk of onion rings and a creamy pepper sauce.

Queen Mary - Panel of Woods Used and Entrance to Former Starboard Promenade Deck

We were seated at a lovely table by the window, overlooking the lights of the shore and the green/purple glow of the Queensway Bridge. Oops, no tripod:

Queen Mary - View of Long Beach from Promenade Deck (Oops, No Tripod)

Once again the food was really delicious. The low-light photos are not very flattering, and I'm afraid our "down-home" choices (the onion rings, chicken wings then chicken-fried steak for Mike, mac and cheese for me) for once fit the stereotype of what people often assume we (as fatties) usually eat. But mmmmmmm! The onion rings were crisp but not oily with actual flavour, not just texture. The creamy pepper sauce was spicy but not too hot. The macaroni and cheese was a nice back-and-forth of crunchy topping and silky cheese with the buttered toast making an unexpectedly good (if carbtastic) accompaniment:

Queen Mary - Promenade Cafe - Macaroni and Cheese

We enjoyed it all with pink lemonade and superlative service from the main waitress to the hostess to the drinks-and-bus person to the manager-type who wanted to make sure all was delicious since we had so much food left over. The drinks-and-bus guy (okay, what's the real title?) even got us plastic forks to go with our (bagged in a paper QM-logo tote) leftovers so we could enjoy them in our room later.

Now we could walk off dinner on a beautiful ship. So different from the cruise ship we'd board the next day, yet the satisfaction was so similar. I discovered that the Google Docs spreadsheet with my tour notes wasn't loading well on my phone (I've heard about a proper app but can't find it?), so instead I pulled up the (please don't be sick of hearing about, but it's just that good) website by Julian Hill and tried to guide us around "the ship in hiding."

Obviously, money for repairs remains an issue:

Queen Mary - Promenade Deck - Broken Window

See the horizontal board at the top of the window? There was one of those just lying along another windowsill. "Mike! I could totally come back down here at 4 a.m. and hide it!" Except then I'd be one of the Bad People, so of course I wouldn't. But the temptation was there.

My "tour" mostly consisted of standing outside of places, like the Observation Bar, and pointing at locked doors saying, "This? This used to be the darkroom!" The shops were all closed (except the central shop with the Asian goods, but it has always been a shop, so...), so I'd press my face to the dark glass and say, "I think this was a writing room!" (Then spend ages on the slow internet trying to find out if it was 1st class or 2nd class, while Mike waited. Might explain why he didn't tip at the end. But kudos to him for recognizing a statue of Guan Yu in the "Dragon Shoppe.")

Queen Mary - Warriorspotting with Mike

Here's a shot from earlier in the day of the souvenir shop on A-deck. It used to be the ship's bank:

Queen Mary - A Deck - Former Bank

I like how the British shop - site of one of the former funnel hatches - has family crest plates for both GonzaleZ and GonzaleS. (Somebody savvy is working in that marketing department.)

Queen Mary - British Goods Shop Carries Gonzales AND Gonzalez Family Crests

Then it was back to the room for reading, a little television, talking to Mike's mom on Skype, and enjoying part two of our dinners. The neighbours in the cabin to the left (aft) were drunk and easily heard through the walls. When their smoke alarm went off I got dressed and got ready to let them have it, but it turned out to be an honest issue with the alarm itself. Security came up and I heard everything through the walls (okay, so I had to press against the wall a bit), including the part where Security said that it was a known issue, and that he was going to just disconnect the smoke alarm so it wouldn't happen again.

Great, now we'd have drunk party people next door (and their seeming revolving door of friends) who could set the room on fire, but no alarms would go off until the flames reached our room. Isn't there a fire code or building code or hotel code or something against this?

One guy started going on about being too tired to have sex, so he was going up to the Observation Bar to find "two chicks to **** each other while he watched." After he returned from what appeared to be a failed plan and it was getting quite late, I was desperate to start making light ghost noises through the wall. Mike said no. "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease?!" But Mike again insisted that I not. And since Mike usually encourages me to make most of the decisions and to choose to do what I want, I had to respect his rare request, only squeaking out one tiny demo-howl to show him how fun it could be. (He still said no!)

The walls weren't the only place woods talking. The ceiling was tap-tap-tapping with every footstep that crossed the Promenade Deck. Ah, so this was what the desk clerk meant by B-deck being "quieter." Chalk up another reason to book a Harbor View room instead. (Then you'll have the restaurants above you instead of foot traffic.) But even this wasn't so bad once I got used to it, and without much effort we fell asleep.

Well, I did. It was around 4:30 when Mike finally was able to settle in... and that's when I decided to get up. Empty Queen Mary to explore!

Outside our room was a staircase:

Queen Mary - Staircase - Main Deck - Not Quite Aft

The elevator next to it was long out of service, with only its old buttons recalling its purpose:

Queen Mary - Old Elevator Buttons

Earlier we'd gone down these steps. This time I went up, vaguely noticing the "Crew Members Only" sign, but thinking it had something to do with the broken hole in the wall.

Queen Mary - I Thought They Meant the Hole

So, I was a mite surprised to be greeted by this:

Queen Mary - Oops, Did That Sign Mean Me

Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to walk a little further...

Queen Mary - Not Supposed To Be Here Either

Now I was standing in what used to be part of the Long Gallery but what is now a small hall around a conference room, looking at the hall and entrance to what was once the Cabin Class (First Class) Smoking Room, but what is now... another conference/catering room. (Here's the full explanation with before and after photos. I'm telling you, you could spend days on that site.)

Not much to see (and not much permission to see it), so I walked back down our deck, past the former first class entrance...

Queen Mary - Former First Class Entrance - Main Deck

... up to the Promenade Deck.

Queen Mary - Ascending Stairs to Promenade Shops

There I glanced at the former cigar shop:

Queen Mary - Former Cigar Shop

As well as the former flower shop on the other side:

Queen Mary - Former Flower Shop

I turned back down a little corridor to some displays by the ladies' room. I looked at the exhibits (including a selection of postcards, including one just like my lucky one), coveting a few items:

Queen Mary - Old Jigsaw

Queen Mary - Matchbook Display

Notice the etched glass above what used to be Writing Room (and is now a restroom).

Queen Mary - Former Starboard Writing Room (Now Restroom) - Original Glass Panel (Cave Paintings)

Each panel represents a form of writing, in this case cave paintings. There were actually two First Class writing rooms, one on starboard side (this one) and one opposite on the port side. After the war, the etched glass was put in, and the port-side room became the radio telephone room described earlier. (As always, I only know all of this because of Julian Hill's site.) I couldn't get good photos of any of the panels, but you can see more by looking through my Queen Mary set on Flickr. (Note: covers both visits... or even "all three" visits, if you count a "professional" Polaroid from my 1989 drop-by. I only wish the photographer had posed me in such a way to remind my future self that I once had a waist to go with those nice legs.)

I took in some of the "grottiness" along the edge of the Promenade Deck:

Queen Mary - Rough Wood Along Promenade Deck

I feel a little bad for enjoying the decay, but I think it's only because there's so much on the ship that's been taken away or strangely redone that it's exciting to get little glimpses of the "real" QM. It's not quite an accurate perspective, but this is how I always start to feel as I look around. The polished woods are luminous and rich, but the ruins can't help but be compelling.

Still blurring despite the 1600 ISO, I admired the original doors:

Queen Mary - Promenade Deck - Original Gangplank Doors

I stepped out onto the aft gangway, where the tourist (2nd) class and cabin (1st) class promenades used to divide, looking at the main gangways and elevators between the parking lot and the decks of interest to tourists (R-deck for Sunday Champagne Brunch, A-Deck for hotel, Promenade Deck for touring).

Queen Mary - Elevators and Gangplanks to Attraction

I think the second set of double windows from the right, just under Promenade Deck, is where Mike was getting a cherished four hours of sleep before Early Check-In, but I'm not 100% sure.

Queen Mary - Gangplanks at Night

I decided to stick my head into the hallway by the wedding chapel (former Second Class Smoking Room), when I saw these elevators:

Queen Mary - Aft Elevators (Sealed Shut) - Promenade Deck

Notice the old buttons and the metal plaque welded to the doors. I wonder what the inside of the actual elevator car (presumably resting on the lowest deck?) looks like today.

I started walking down the steps by these elevators, toward the (open) "Hotel Guests Only Please" gate, and past several etched glass panels. Hmm, this wasn't something I'd noticed on the Hill website...

Queen Mary - Staircase From Aft Elevators

All of the panels, winding around the derelict elevators from Promenade Deck to B-Deck (where I ended up later), featured something to do with transportation.

Queen Mary - Transportation Mural (Aft Elevators) - Cracked Glass (Between Promenade and Main Decks)

(More photos of the stairwell glass is my Flickr stream.)

As I already described, Mike and I had toured around after dinner, pondering one locked door or empty space after another. I wanted to see the outside of the former library, now a chair storage room, hoping the door would be unlocked and I could see the rolling glass cabinets for myself. (The glass covers over the cabinets rolled, not the cabinets themselves.)

Alas, when we opened an unmarked door leading toward what is now the Brittania Room - available for your next catered affair - and was once the Tourist Class Lounge with a promenade on each side, some event was in progress and it looked like, from our hasty glance down the corridor, we were in forbidden territory.

However, following the glass art like a white rabbit down the staircase, I now found myself outside the Brittania Room in what is surely an allowed tourist area, unless all the displays are just for those who wander past on their way to their function.

Queen Mary - Entrance to Former Second-Class Lounge (Now Brittania Room)

More goodies:

Queen Mary - Outside Former Second-Class Lounge (Now Brittania Room)

Looking inside, it's nothing like it used to be. Just a blank canvas at best.

Queen Mary - Former Second-Class Lounge (Now Brittania Room)

More obvious in this photo is the part of the promenade area that has been carpeted over and made part of the expanded room:

Queen Mary - Former Second-Class Promenade Deck and Part of Lounge (Now Brittania Room)

Turning back, I did get to see the covered windows of the library:

Queen Mary - Blocked Windows to What Remains of Library (Now Chair Storage)

This is the hallway back to our room, only a few steps away from the door at the end. This is where we'd originally stuck our heads in then scurried back. What you should notice in this photo (and what I didn't fully comprehend at the time) is that this hallway was added later, and it cuts through part of the original library. The wall to the left was added later to create the service space for the Brittania room, and as you can see, it doesn't reach the ceiling. The light fixture is one of the library's original fixtures, as shown on the Hill site.

Queen Mary - Original Library Light Fixture - Walls for New Hallway Go Around It

Of course, at the time I just took the pic because I thought the wall was funny. But hey, something to be said for instincts.

I tried opening the door to the left (not seen above), where the remaining bit of library and promenade would be... and this time the door was open!

Queen Mary - Covert Shot of Some of What Remains of Library - Now Service Area for Banquet Room

I was too nervous to stand still for a proper photo, though. In fact, I didn't even shut the door tight before running away. Wuss! In case you don't click on the link, the octagon was a painting frame. (The paintings were cut out of the frames - there is a matching one in the chair storage area - and are now in yet another conference room. At least they were saved.)

Down on B-Deck, I finally got the shivers.

Queen Mary - B Deck - By Aft Elevator Staircase

There's something about that tile that says "insane asylum, unvisited for decades" to me. I looked around a little, but everything felt very closed and isolated. I (alas) don't get "creepy vibes" of the ghostly sort on the ship, but I did think "you know, there are a lot of non-ghostly reasons not to wander around in dark corners of hotels before sunrise on Sunday morning."

So, looking with regret at the shut-down elevators, I exercised my wonky knee with a climb back to the Promenade deck, where I was about to go check for our incoming Carnival Splendor out on the aft deck, but nature called, so I decided to check out this original lavatory:

Queen Mary - Original Ladies' Room - Promenade Deck

The photo on the wall is of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip visiting the Queen Mary.

Long Beach was all misty.

Queen Mary - Long Beach in Morning Mist

The Spruce Goose dome looked very dirty (especially in black and white).

Queen Mary - Cruise Dome Needs a Scrub

And what was emerging through the fog?

Queen Mary - Here Comes Splendor

Okay, so, I left out the whole bit where I loaded one of those "Where is the ship now?" sites on my phone, got the impression that Carnival Splendor was delayed by a few hours, and went back to the room to open up a decent computer (one of the few times you'll hear me call the netbook that) to investigate things further. I figured out I was nuts and sprinted (okay, gently walked in a brisk fashion) up a deck and to the back where I was rewarded with the above scene a few minutes later.

In the middle of this drama, I had also tried loading Splendor's webcam on my phone to see what she was seeing. That's when I got an idea.

So, as soon as Splendor did this:

Queen Mary - I'm Looking at Splendor

I fumbled with my other hand to get a screenshot of this:

Queen Mary - Splendor is Looking at Me

That's Splendor looking at me, and me looking back at Splendor, or vice versa, depending on how you think about it. True, you can't see me on the webcam, but if you were to enlarge (like on the cop shows), you might find a few out-of-place purple pixels belonging to my shirt.

Carnival Splendor - Ready to Scooch Sideways to Dock

And that's my ship, parallel parking as only a cruise ship can. Our Beloved Carnival Splendor. See the dark spa windows at the top of the ship, up front? See the deck of cabins underneath? See the third cabin from the front? That's going to be our home in six hours! (Except it turned out to be more like eight hours. Again, a story for later!)

Having greeted our old friend, I went back downstairs for a little reading before it was time to wake Mike for Early Check-In.

Ah. Early Check-In. So many questions, so many opinions, too many official answers.

Right before our sailing, John Heald - Senior Carnival Cruise Director - confirmed that while Carnival Paradise (sailing Fridays and Mondays) always offers early check-in on the Queen Mary, Carnival Splendor only does so in inclement weather.

If you want to know whether Carnival Splendor offers early check-in on the Queen Mary, go back and read that last bit over and over and over. Ignore anything else you may read online, hear from your travel agent, or are told by the Queen Mary staff herself.

Flashback to when we checked in. Although Heald had made this definitive statement, right before that, the QM staff had told me to ask them when I checked in, as different factors were at work. I respect John Heald more than I can adequately express here, but he does get bad information sometimes. (And he's to be commended for always sorting it out quickly, but - for example - today I'm grumbling over his announcement that jeans are now allowed in the steakhouse on Cruise Casual nights... which people on the internet are freaking out about... but no one is responding to my or Mike's WTF where we point out they've been allowed since at least December. And yes, we both keep sharing the photo, and we have a near-twin of the one we saw on Carnival Splendor a few weeks ago. This is not news. This is not a change. No one should be having a meltdown. But Heald is dutifully reporting it as a new policy when someone in Miami has it wrong.) So, sometimes it pays off to ask more than one person, as we all know.

At check-in on Saturday, we were told that yes, tomorrow there would be Early Check-In for Carnival Splendor. Okay. But, cynic that I am, I called the main desk at about 8:45 (15 minutes before ECI would start) to ask again: "Is there Early Check-In for Carnival Splendor today on the Queen Mary?" I was assured that they were definitely doing it, and I was again given directions to where it would be held. Okay. Hey, it's Southern California, maybe they count fog and chilly weather as "inclement"? She said ECI started at 9:30 (as opposed to the 9 a.m. I'd read elsewhere), but we chose to start down early in case she was wrong.

But first, a few shots from the bathroom while Mike took his shower:

Queen Mary - Hot Salt

Queen Mary - Soap Dish (Cabin M134 now M154)

Queen Mary - Toilet Flusher (Cabin M134 now M154)

We decided to walk back to the Brittania Room so Mike could see all that, then go up the stairs and across the aft gangway to what looked like four flights of stairs to the lower deck where the museum is and Early Check-In is held.

When we got to the bottom, we saw that the gate to the parking lot was still locked.

Queen Mary - Gate to Museum Is Locked, But We Are Inside

However, it wasn't quite 9 a.m., so maybe Carnival would be opening it after they were ready to go. Here's Mike standing by the door that leads to the stairs back up to the gangway:

Queen Mary - Mike Outside Our 'Secret' Door

We decided to go up to the main museum doors to wait.

Queen Mary - Gangway to Museum

When we got there, we found that one was partially open. Well... ECI is actually a separate room in the museum, so maybe it was okay to just go inside? We did, and we walked over to look inside the "Early Cruise Check-In" room.

Queen Mary - Early Cruise Check-In

Things looked dead. But, the door was open. Should we? Nah, more fun to look around the museum. Maybe Early Check-In really didn't start until 9:30.

It didn't seem right that we should be in the museum, but standing around outside wasn't every appealing, either. At least here there were benches.

Mike posed by the ship's heavily painted anchor - the cruise check-in is just past the glass on the right.

Queen Mary - Mike with Anchor Outside Early Cruise Check-In

We sat for awhile. I snapped a photo of a dreadful typo on one display: "Queen Mary moved to it's final home." (Sideways text.) It's ITS, people! I know all other possessives get an apostrophe, but "its" is the weird one. I don't make the rules; I just have the temper flare-ups when I see money spent on poor punctuation. (Knowing I would've spell-checked it for a cheap price. That said, this post is so long that I can't bear to proofread it, so maybe I shouldn't offer any punctuation advice lest irony strike.)

Queen Mary - It's ITS, People

Besides, as Mike pointed out, "it should be her final home, not its." That's right! Disrespectful on two levels!

People started coming in, and we would look at them hopefully, and they would say hello, and we would say hi back, but then they'd walk through a door somewhere and disappear, sometimes with cleaning carts in tow. We started to wander around the main room some more.

Hey, that's my birthday:

Queen Mary - Museum

Our room was more or less around "56":

Queen Mary - Cutaway Mural in Museum. (We Stayed Around 56)

So, at around 9:20-something, we're just standing around when a guy walks up, looking a little unsure of this situation. (Or maybe very sure of the situation - INTRUDER ALERT! - but not sure how to handle it.) "And who are you waiting for, again?"

"Oh, the cruise people, so we can do early check-in." I say this in a breezy voice that I hope makes us seem non-threatening, and not like the reenactment of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I have come to realize that we are.

And then the guy, relieved but still with a problem on his hands, tells us that the cruise people would be here by now. And I agree that it seems odd, but then I tell him that the front desk insisted just half an hour ago that it was happening. And then he starts to reach for his cell phone like he's going to phone them, but he cocks his head and says he really thinks it must be happening in front of the dome. We cheerfully agree that it probably is, thank him for his help, and wander back outside, a bit put off to have wasted all this time, but a little chuffed at our little adventure as, basically, maritime museum ninjas.

The only problem is that, once we're outside, the gate is still locked. Oh no, don't tell me we have to climb all those stairs, walk the length of the ship, go all the way back down, then cross over to the dome? It's nearly 9:30! All of the Zone One cards will be gone, and our plans to grab one, go back to the room, then get on the ship early (and avoid what have become legendary long waits for getting on to Splendor)? Grrr - stupid QM! (I have to say it!)

But Mike, ever the hero and still the ninja (or just the guy with good powers of observation), found a way to walk around various walls and get out after all. We trotted across to the dome, feeling sorry for the few people disembarking, rolling their mounds of luggage like refugees from paradise, and managed to get the VERY LAST Zone One card.

(Oops, haven't uploaded that pic yet. We'll save that for the Embarkation Post. Which will be much shorter. Pinky-toe swear.)

Check-in for Carnival Splendor only took a couple of minutes and everyone was very friendly. I especially liked the guy who shook his head sympathetically over our tale of where we'd been waiting. "We tell them and tell them, and I used to work over at the Queen Mary, but they just can't get it right!" So, once again, let me confirm: there is only early check-in for Carnival Splendor if the weather is bad. No matter how it was in the past or how it is for other ships, this is how it is for Splendor.

The plaza by the dome was nearly empty, and a stand for sunglasses and other items began to open up. Cruise! Cruise! Cruise! Time to get excited!

But first, a nap. Carnival's people told us to return at noon, so we could now reclaim a couple of hours of missing sleep. We took the long way back to our room because I wanted to see Queen Mary's dining room; it's usually inaccessible, but it would be open today for weekly Champagne Brunch.

Queen Mary - Glance into Dining Room for Brunch

That's all I saw. I assume it's more interesting once you get inside?

And with that, it was time to have one last damp snooze (the portholes don't fully close) before leaving the old for the new.

Queen Mary - Back to the Room for a Lie-Down Before the Cruise

08 May 2011 |