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Cruising On Star Princess, Part 4
We have embarked on Star Princess for the start of our Caribbean cruise, and following a delicious lunch we find our cabin is now ready for occupation. It is always a great relief to see one’s suitcases outside the room, as it is one’s worst nightmare to be on a cruise ship with only the clothes you stand up in. I have met people who this has happened to, and it must be really awful, as they don’t get their suitcases until the first port – if they are lucky!
I decide to quickly unpack, so the pair of us open the suitcases and start putting our clothes away. Luckily there is plenty of room as I have, as usual, brought far too much with me, but you never know what you might need, and you can never have too many shoes, can you? That done, we scan the daily news sheet to see what is next, and carry our lifebelts upstairs to our Mustering Station in the Explorer’s Lounge, up on the Promenade Deck. We can see others doing the same, some already wearing them (they must be ‘newbies’ as you should always carry them until told to wear them – and always be careful not to trip over the dangling ties). We find a seat and wait for the Captain to begin his preamble before the sirens sound to mark the beginning of Muster Stations. All the crew take part in this legally required exercise, and on board it is taken very seriously.
It is quite amusing to watching people as they try to put on their lifebelts, but thankfully, staff are on hand to assist. Now it’s nearly time for the sail-away, and while Paul takes our lifebelts back to our cabin, I go on deck to find a good spot to watch our beautiful ship sail out of Fort Lauderdale. It is a fascinating port with a wide basin, and a long, narrow waterway leading out to the open sea. There are several large liners waiting to depart and we wonder which one will be first. I take lots of photos as they leave ahead of us. The ships signal to each other as they leave, deep, throaty blasts on the ship’s siren. The sound ricochets around the port, as they acknowledge each other. It’s a joyous sound and we know that very soon we shall be joining the trail of huge liners as they sail gracefully out to sea. Not to be outdone, each will try to be the one who signals last, and just when you think they have all finished, a cheeky final blast is heard, and the winner acknowledged.
People are sipping special sail-away champagne cocktails and there is a real party atmosphere. A steel band is playing and this is the one time when you see most of the passengers up on deck. I gaze over the railings and notice the telltale churning in the water as the side thrusters are engaged – we are moving at last! The huge Bridge, which extends several feet beyond each side of the ship, is in our view, and we can see the Captain as he directs Star Princess as she departs Port Everglades. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she moves out from the dock, parallel to the terminal building, then her bow swings out and she makes her way along the causeway and out to the open sea.
All along the waterside there are huge and magnificent mansions, owned by the rich and famous. One, in particular is owned by a gentleman who, without fail, stands in his garden to wave to these leviathans of the sea as they glide past his home. He has a megaphone and shouts greetings to us. Far below us, and looking dangerously close, speed boats zoom up and down, their occupants waving to us. Graceful yachts sail past us, and we can’t help but wave enthusiastically as they overtake us. For now, we are definitely slower, but it is a very narrow course we must take, and it requires great skill to ensure that this huge ship does not ground itself. More people on the shore join in the waving and there is a wedding party on a grassy green who stop and greet us. Finally we reach the tall condos, which stand guard at the entrance to the port. We peer at the balconies and are rewarded with the sight of people waving flags and cheering us as we pass by – there is a huge union flag fluttering from a balcony, and people blow whistles and cheer. It is an amazing feeling – despite seeing these ships on a weekly basis as they sail past, these people never fail to greet us and wave us on our way.
The wash of the ship races towards the shore and breaks on the rocks, causing a huge surge as we pass. Then we are free of the breakers and out into the ocean, with several ships steaming ahead of us on the horizon. Now its time to get ready for dinner, so we make our way round the deck for a final time, and I take some glorious sunset shots of Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale as we sail away on our Caribbean cruise. The huge wash, produced by Star Princess’s propellers, snakes behind us like a vast snail trail, the water bubbling and frothing as these immensely powerful engines speed us on our way. As the sun drops rapidly below the horizon a lone aeroplane makes its approach to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.
We walk slowly back to our cabin. Our cruise is really underway, and we are steaming towards our first port of call, the beautiful island of Jamaica. But first it is nearly dinner time, and tomorrow we have a day at sea.
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