image(Wherever, Off Mexico) – A shopping mall with cartoon characters for the kids?  Inside the middle of a ship more than a thousand feet long with its own Starbucks hustle in the middle?

Uh-huh…this is cruising on a mega cruise ship.

Our ride down from the ranch to Houston Saturday morning was uneventful.  We stayed in a modest hotel in The Woodlands, ate incredibly healthy, and got more sleep than the folks we were traveling with.

The Landry’s had a wedding to attended, so Elaine and I took the opportunity to roll 12-hours of ZZZ’s.

Boarding the ship Sunday in Galveston was a tad of the frustrating side.

The way the Port of Galveston is set up, they have two parking areas that are several blocks from the actual cruise ship and shuttle busses are used.

Here’s the problem:  Absolutely zero coordination between the lot attendants and the shuttle drivers.  “Go stand by the fence,” one told us.  But that was with a half-empty bus much closer and going to the same two ships.

The first shuttle by the fence drove right by, and while Elaine and the Landry’s were wandering around after being told “Wait by your vehicle,”  Ures truly finally found a bus with an intelligent driver and after a good bit of cross-parking lot bellowing, and did I mention $10 bucks? – we got my bus underway and picked up the three Musketeers.

You need to understand a few things about the Galveston dock:  It’s like a cattle chute system, unless you’re traveling with people who have been on a lot more “points”.  Since Robin is “Emerald” we managed all the “special lines” which cut waiting time a lot.

However, since boarding was delayed a better part of an hour, that meant things were getting hot, people grouchy, and a dozen people wanted to cut in line, since ours was moving faster.

The slow part, just as at airports, was the security check points.  The number of wheel chairs, stroke walkers, and artificial hips, knees, and so forth, was prodigious.  They don’t really need security guards so much as a trauma or triage doc for this thing.

Eventually we boarded and Robin scored a table for four on the shady side of the ship on the 11th floor because rooms were not quite ready yet. 

A good thing, as it turned out, since it gave us plenty of time to study the drink packages and we took care of that little detail.

The rest of the day was spent getting to know the place, which we did.  And in a few minutes the breakfast buffet will be opening and all hell will break loose as 3,500 people need to eat.

So far, the general impression is good, provided you can travel with a couple that has plenty of points in already.  We are “gold” but that doesn’t get you past the general herd at boarding.

Given a preference in the future, Elaine and I are leaning toward smaller ships (Norwegian Jewel size, or 2,500 passengers).

We did chat with one of the more odd coincidences.  We happened to sit for a few minutes with a nice young couple (half our age, if that) who were on the cruise for the first time.

He happened to be recently out of the Air Force and his first name was Brandon.  During three adventures in the sandbox, he was an Air Policeman.

The fun part:  One of Elaine’s boys was in the Air Force as an Air Policeman.  His name?  Brandon.

I love little reminders like that:  the Universe is all totally connected along with all the people in it.  We just miss the 6-degrees of separation many times because lots of people don’t look for it.

Today, I think we are in Cozumel, which doesn’t hold much fascination for me. Having done the cave diving over on the mainland, we will likely kick around the idea of a shore excursion.

But none of us really needs anything.  And when you buy stuff on a cruise, then you get into Customs declaration.

A message there perhaps:  We live in a country which can keep an un-taxed fifth of rum, tequila, or cognac out of America. 

Yet we can’t keep 10% of the population of Mexico out.

It’s those kind of realizations that are driving me through the buffet line and then I’ll be hiding under the covers for a while longer…

Happy Labor Day, and if you’re a first responder with fire hoses, taser’s, or units of blood, thanks for not taking the day off.

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