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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

It’s all in how you get there

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(8/2013) We pulled into the parking lot of the Baltimore port. My family – my mother, father, brother, and myself – as well as two of our friends poured out of the stuffed Chevy Suburban and onto the hot asphalt. My father wrenched open the tailgate and started unloading the carefully packed trunk that only he could have organized in expert Tetris fashion. Everyone claimed their pieces of luggage as they appeared, and away we went.

The security building was a stuffy place. Bodies crammed through the doorway in hopes of finding air conditioning, only to be disappointed by the hum of fans. Bags, belts, and shoes disappeared through the X-ray scanner. One-by-one we marched through the metal detector and claimed our certifiably safe goodies on the other side. The line itself was a living thing, twisting around corners, and wiggling closer and closer to its goal. Anticipation grew. A stern face took my passport and looked me in the eyes. The loud clunk of the stamp told me I looked enough like my picture to get on board. Walking out of the building, we stepped into the shadow of our mighty cruise liner, Enchantment of the Sea. I looked up in awe as a white wall of glistening windows greeted me. I felt so small but so excited by the possibility of adventure that this ship symbolized.

I was practically jumping out of my skin with the thrill of stepping on board. My friend Amanda and I twittered away enthusiastically as staff greeted and guided us. I wished the elevators would move faster so that we could find our rooms. Once on the eighth floor, we practically ran down the hallway to our rooms, threw our bags inside and immediately made it our mission to explore the ship. Our mood was dampened only slightly by the fact that we had to meet for a quick information session teaching us about our safety options – life boats and vests – and their location if, God forbid, we pulled a Titanic. But after that, the ship was ours.

Our hallway led out into a sitting area filled with board games and a small library, but more of interest was the balcony overlooking the very heart of the ship. Leaning over the shiny railings, we could see our reflections in the glossy black of the grand piano and we watched people bustling across the polished marble floors. Grinning like kids in a candy store, Amanda and I slid into the glass elevator and made our descent to the glamorous ground floor.

Everywhere I looked, there was something to see and do. A singer danced on the shiny piano while balloons fell from the ceiling into the gathering crowd. A fancy concession stand sold ice cream to customers waiting to have their caricature drawn by the quiet artist in the corner. A soft shhh sound came from the tools of the spray-on temporary tattoo artists. Shops lined the hallways, selling everything from T-shirts to Rolexes. A barbershop was filled with men getting the royal treatment, a close shave and a warm towel to prepare for the formal dinner held that night.

We had to prepare for dinner as well, and unfortunately, that meant postponing further exploration. After primping and polishing and running into each other in the closet-sized bathroom, Amanda and I were finally ready for dinner. Adorned in floor-length gowns, we entered the dining room. The ceiling glistened with dozens of chandeliers and large windows that allowed a breathtaking view of the sunset over the Atlantic. Taking our assigned table (conveniently located just inside the doorway), my family was introduced to a friendly young man who was to be our waiter for the duration of the trip.

The next day we took our Willy Wonka inspired glass elevator to an exciting place we hadn’t seen yet – the upper deck. The doors opened to another beautiful dining room. This one was much less formal, but with high ceilings and glass construction, no adornment was needed. The sparkling ocean and bright morning sun were more than enough to replace the fancy chandeliers. The smell of breakfast teased my nose. A vast fruit bar was spread before us. We will definitely visit this room at least once daily, but right now our goals lay elsewhere.

We opened the door to the upper deck only to guard our eyes from the shimmering of two pools and a hot tub – all pleasantly filled with families and smiling faces. We found our way to a staircase that led us to an even higher perch. Leaning against the railing, I was able to look out over nothing but deep blue Atlantic waters. I felt again just how small I was.

The upper deck was an entirely new world from the heart of the ship, with more physical activity and a relaxed atmosphere. There was rock climbing and surfing, a gym, a running track, and a game room. People were swimming, jogging, tanning, and reading. It was a place where the people were being active instead of entertained by the glitzy distractions the floating city provided. The oncoming night was not enough to shut it down either. Lights lit up the deck like a beacon. Tables of food decorated with ice sculptures and carved watermelons were rolled out, music was played, and an ice sculpting demonstration was shown. Chunks of ice sprayed into the audience as guesses were shouted out as to what the artist would create. I watched in amazement as a block of shapeless ice transformed into a swan within five minutes.

Inside the ship, the casino came alive as we reached international waters. While I wasn’t about to gamble – I wasn’t old enough anyway – I had to cross through the casino to reach the ship’s movie theater. As I crossed the threshold, something caught my eye. I looked down to see an aquarium beneath my feet. They weren’t real fish or plants, but the colors and designs were beautiful and convincing nonetheless. A few more steps and my ears were assaulted with the tinkling of coins, the dings of slot machines, and the hum of hundreds of voices talking simultaneously. My eyes blinked against the bright lights and flashing colors. I crossed the floor quickly and found solace in the dim lights and soft whispers of the theater.

This wasn’t your typical movie theater, however. From what I had already seen of the ship, I should not have been surprised by the extravagant opera seating, the heavy red velvet curtain, or the beautiful gold painted trimming, but I was. The ships endless glamour made this little farm girl feel like royalty.

The third day of the cruise was the most exciting. From our room’s balcony, we watched as a tiny speck on the horizon became larger and larger until buildings rose from the morning fog. The ship pulled slowly into port, and I looked down to wave at the specks that I knew were people. My time so far had been spent exploring a ship all of which I still probably hadn’t seen yet, but now I was ready for something new. Jet skiing, snorkeling, Segway tours, shopping, and pink sand beaches all waited for me on the island of Bermuda. Would I go missing in the island’s mysterious Triangle? Perhaps, but that was a risk I was willing to take in exchange for the unique sights, sounds, and experiences the island had to offer. With sunglasses in hand, I disembarked, ready for another adventure.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones