Sunday, June 04, 2006

We're sailing!

The stormy skies over Miami have cleared, the lifeboat drill is over and we're finally sailing. Drivers along the MacArthur Causeway beeped their horns; others parked along Watson Island to watch the ship go out.

Several people who have seen news clips and stories about Freedom of the Seas in New York and Miami have asked why this is called the maiden voyage. It's because this is the first real voyage -- with paying passengers aboard. (Previous sailings were for media, travel agents and invited guests.)

There are 3,600 of us aboard, I'm told by a company spokesman. So far, so good! I boarded about 2;30 -- no lines for security, no lines for check-in, no lines to get aboard. No lines in the Windjammer Cafe for a late lunch. The only line so far: To make spa appointments!

A few early impressions:

- The Freedom is much like Royal Caribbean's Voyager class ships...but bigger. Promenade, pizza parlor, plenty of bars ... and one of the biggest gyms I've ever seen.

- The art photography that adorns stairwells throughout the ship is a welcome surprise. It's not so outrageous that it gives you a headache, but many -- like the Geof Kern photgraph (left) of a woman "flying'' over a lawn -- will give you pause, even make you laugh.

-- The staterooms are bigger than on some ships, and quite comfortable. My standard outside balcony stateroon has as pretty sea-green decor, a full sofa and a closet that might be big enough....if I hadn't overpacked.

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