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IMG_5325Embarkation: Yes! Sleep was better. Overtired and late night food—Julia’s choice of chicken strips and fries which were, I admit, superior but not conducive to sleep—and Wisconsin morning time were our challenges yesterday. Today, my eyes are open and julia is bushy tailed.

We are ready early. Kinda’ a theme of this traveling which is not without benefit. We are up, showered, breakfasted and re-packed and still have almost an hour til the shuttle to the ship. Julia’s smallish anxieties about the ‘boat’ have eased. We’ve talked a lot about the size of the ship.

Now there is just me to deal with. The balm to my anxiety about motion sickness is a Relief Band which looks like a clunky watch and emits small electric pulses to my wrist. I used it when I rode buses in Chicago. It is the extra strength version of the elastic bands with acupuncture buttons that have always worked for me when flying. I’ve been cocky sure that these remedies would keep me well on our ‘boat.’ Right now, I admit to some anxiety. Rational mind keeps up the chant—- a ship that hold 3,00+ people can’t be rocking too much if at all, my crazy animal mind is still crouching in the corner. (Next morning: I have not abandoned my band but have only felt the ship’s movement when I’ve laid down. I feel a slight disorientation to balance with no uncomfortability. )

But we are ready.

Julia has time to do some home work. Reading. She is finishing up the close reading of a chapter and observed that the main character who began the chapter rather sarcastic has gotten a lot more humble because he is scared and needs to depend on someone. So many days I despair that Julia cannot read inference or complex character. Then she says something like that!

Late shuttle. We have hours to board so no worries. At least yet. But I was trying for early boarding and the emptiest boat I could manage for acclimatization. So much for that.

We sit outside our Travel Lodge. Waiting we sit with 8 others, four couple who have divided themselves neatly by gender and whose groups does not afford any easy entry.

Later.

Embarkation was crazy, chaotic and crowded. Sort of the reverse of the Ellis Island experience except instead of a promised land, we were boarding a floating fortress. To board, however, we needed to swim through a sizable portion of the 3,000 fellow cruisers. There was a bottle neck at the port entrance and I gritted my teeth for our process. Julia is pretty good about the patience needed to navigate crowds and waiting, but the jostle of a sea of humanity is a challenge. And almost immediately, as we hit the port entrance (imagine a multi floored airplane hanger) the orange shirted Autism on the Seas folks took us in hand. When we saw the first pair close to the door, I admit to letting out a small cry of relief! We were ushered around the huge lines, through uncrowded metal detectors and side/back corridors. To be sure at times we waited on little lines but it was the express lines of check in. During the process, AotS people met us, chatted—many recognized us, obviously, they had studied the picture of Julia I sent with our questionnaire —and escorted us to the next orange shirt. We were easy to spot because they gave Julia an orange balloon to carry at the entrance. (Julia is usually scared of balloons but this one now adorns our cabin and seems to be of a different ilk than run of the mill balloons.

When we were called to the check in desk, handed in our credentials, hand pictures taken and swapped boarding passes for room keys, we were sent to board. “We get on the ship? Now?” Julia asked and sure enough it was time. She commented on seeing the entire ship from the dock, “Will it move?” I could not answer, “I think so.” With something so big, who could say for sure.

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There is a lot of figuring out the lay of the ship, safety lectures and drills the first day. Our group had meetings and much later small interviews. They do offer respite time and absolutely are ready to help when needed or just for fun. Exploring the ship during the day, we found the arcade space where Julia would like to spend time. Without me! No problem, AotS folks said. They will work out an outing during respite.

So much, so much to comment on. Sail away was magical. The floating fortress pulled out of its docking space and turned! Leaving land behind was impressive. I really could spend hours on our balcony looking at nothing but water and wake. And I was so tired by evening’s end. I haven’t yet found a rhythm, the list of next day activities is overwhelming at the moment, dinner was good, conversation with our table mates was forced but promising. Julia wants to go to dance parties and karaoke. We’ll find those. Beds are comfortable and sleep comes quickly.