We embarked on Thursday. Our hotel was less than 1.5 miles from the dock and so we arrived by foot, each of us with back pack and pulling our carry on bag. Once again, Autism on the Seas met us at the first check in point and moved us through lines and crowds. There is something wonderfully familiar and comfortable about this cruise. The ship is not configured in the same way but most of the same elements are there, the mental maps are so much easier. Julia and I were at ease much sooner and we were able to clue Cheshire in.
It is great having Cheshire with us. A second person to interact with and boss Julia around, a lovely companion for me to enjoy. Last cruise, julia and I had a wheel chair accessible cabin. We booked late and some of those rooms had been released. Our cabin this time is standard and a lot narrower. We have a window and not a balcony. I miss the ability to be outside immediately and the balcony provides a few extra feet but we manage the tight space well. I do find myself constantly straightening and putting away out stuff. Clutter happens fast.
We took off at 4:30, Julia had a great time meeting AotS staff and dancing at the first on board party. April, our special staff person, is fun and sassy, a great match for Julia. Julia is obsessing about her LEGO Ninjago sticker book right now and April was able to enter the world and coax Julia into quick interaction. We had a nanjago and iPad free day yesterday and with April’s help, it went very well. One of the leaders, Chris, was on our Alaskan cruise and a familiar face was good for Julia.
Day 2, Friday morning, we arrived at Key West and it felt like we were hardly accustomed to the ship and it was time for land. There is an other worldliness about the ship—somewhat like living in a mall. Clean, orderly, controlled, pipped in or live music everywhere like a soundtrack to our every movement. Schedules of activities, lots of places to sit down, look at moving water, play cards, chat. I could add drink lots of alcohol but neither Cheshire nor I are drinkers and so far we haven’t yet managed even a glass of wine with a meal. It is a complete departure from our day to day and as such, there is a losing touch with reality. I think beginning with a sea day last time was a more complete separation from the everyday making our first land day feel far, far removed from reality. Not as much this time as we landed on Key West on Friday morning. (Not better or worse, just a noticeable difference,).
In Key West we walked from one end of Duval Street to the other, visiting a charming Butterfly Conservancy and the furtherest point south in the USA. It was warm, we sweated, we all gained a bit of color—Julia’s legs are soooo white right now. We got back on the boat early and enjoyed the emptiness. We napped, ate, saw a show and watched part of a movie on deck in the dark. Last cruise, julia had wanted to watch a movie while she was in the pool but it was way too cold for that. We didn’t make it into the pool last night during the movie but sitting on deck chairs was pretty sweet.
Two highlights: Julie sang karaoke the first night on board. There is no karaoke for kids or families on this ship. The sessions begin at 10:30 and they are not every night. This is a bit disappointing for Julia but we will be there,very,very late when scheduled. She had a great time, was somewhat better with the follow words and the mike and had her sister as backup singer.
Last night, AonS had its private rock climbing session. Julia agreed to go but was not enthusiastic until she was harnessed in. Last cruise, julia climbed a bit over her own height and she was scared and somewhat unable to listen to directions. This time she climbed twice, waiting for the long line of other climbers to finish before her second turn. She climbed to an impressive height the first time and then on her second trim she got to the top and range the bell. Of course, with the AtoS staff and group, there was plenty of clapping and cheering for everyone who tried, and crazy excitement for the bell ringers! I saw two things as she climbed. First, a much stronger body on that girl. I think the strength is thanks to cheer practices. Second, I saw perhaps for the first time how Julia’s stubbornness can translate into persevere and persistence. I have believed this could happen and I can point to indications of the transformation but it was so clear watching her climb. Good metaphor for so much of what swirls around our day to days.
Today is our first sea day. Lots of activities and lazing around on the agenda.