In some ways, every cruise is the same, and in other ways, every cruise is different. This one is unique in that I'm traveling with a large group from my institute. There are 7 of us, and one more is joining us after the first week at sea. For a seasoned lone traveler like myself who's never afraid to board a ship full of strangers, it feels a bit weird to be surrounded by people I know. It's a change, but it's good. I'm excited for this cruise.
Getting all of us here was actually easier than I expected. We flew into Raleigh, North Carolina, spent the night there, and then drove out to Morehead City yesterday. Only one person had a delayed flight; our rented full-size van got us safely down the highway; and when we arrived, one phone call to a colleague got us an escort into the port. Not half bad, if I may say.
We divided and conquered for the afternoon. Two of us went to return the rental car; the remaining 5 set up our lab. Getting in and out of the port to return the car was actually a bit of a hassle, because only individuals with security clearance can move about as they please; all others require an escort. None of us OIMBers have the necessary clearance, so when our original escort disappeared, we asked one of the ship's crew to help out. Thankfully, she was patient enough to escort us, letting us out of the port and then back in. As we headed out, though, there were a tense couple of minutes as a police officer realized the person escorting us out of the port was not the same person that had escorted us in. Profuse apologies and a couple signatures on a form took care of it, but there were definitely a few moments when I had to remind myself to breathe. Port security does not mess around!
We're scheduled to leave port in another hour and a half, so the ship is buzzing with activity. We got our lab set up last night, and it's probably the cleanest it will be the entire expedition right now. We'll spend most of our time sorting larvae, which requires a lot of manpower, a lot of time, and hopefully some strong stomachs. Staring down a microscope at sea can induce motion sickness, but once we get going, it's usually fine.
Here's to a good cruise!