𝟷𝟶 𝙰𝙼. 𝙿𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝙲𝚊𝚗𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚊𝚕, 𝙵𝚕𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚍𝚊.
The sun this day would be the first good sign of things to come. Twenty-five degrees Celsius this late into December was warmer than expected, and undoubtedly a most excellent day to start a vacation. The sky was clear, save for the occasional cloud or sea gull. The cruise terminal was bustling with prospective vacationers. Some came with their own private car that they stowed in the nearby parking garage; but the vast majority came by taxi or bus line from the airport. Indeed, there were taxis and buses that only drove here specifically. But there was no crew outside, no. Hundreds of personnel parking places were already filled long before this moment, and the inside of the ship had already been thoroughly prepared for their arrival. After all, the prestigious SS Astarte could not keep their customers waiting.
As was to be expected, the VIP members were given priority boarding. And as they passed by the long queues they were trailed with eyes of envy; but sometimes of recognition depending on the VIP in question. With each boarding pass checked, the crew would welcome their new customers with a bright smile and a package that contained various pamphlets and a personal letter from the hosts themselves. Their luggage was then swiftly taken by clerks, and they would find it in their rooms later. After all, VIPs needn’t worry about a thing!
As each VIP came on board, they were asked to make way to the exclusive upper deck. The area was easily spacious enough for the sixteen invited to stand, or sit on one of the many lounge chairs and couches, while still being out of arm’s reach. The view gave a stellar impression of the morning sun and lit up the room beautifully. Once they arrived, they were served Dom Pérignon Champagne and offered their pick from a varied assortment of sweet treats of well-established luxury by one of the three servers neatly in uniform. It was as if to ensure anyone who had any doubts at this point that for them, there was truly no expense spared. That VIP ticket was truly worth the asking price.
Waiting for the VIPs were two people; a tall, wide man with a dimpled smile and a short woman with tight curls and expressive eyes. They weren’t wearing the standard uniform, but instead the man was wearing a white polo shirt with the United at Heart logo paired with navy blue slacks while the woman wore a sleek navy dress with white trims around her short sleeve and collar with a similar logo on the material. It was clear that these members of staff were important.
“We speak for United at Heart and this ship’s crew as a whole when I say that we wish you all welcome aboard our vessel!” The lady started. She spoke enthusiastically, but it was clear she had told the same speech many times before. “I am Maggie Simmons. And this-” She gestured at her co-worked, who had been radiating a cheeky smile throughout the talk. “Is Jack Sterling. We are your personal hosts, and the chiefs of staff of the VIP suite’s private staff. We, and all fifty members of our team, will be at your beck and call, 24/7!”
Jack took over next. “And that is enough about what we will be doing. Let's talk about what you will be doing, instead.” His smile crooked upwards just a tinge more. “You are here to relax, first of all, and I’m sure you’ve all read what amenities we offer. You want it, we have it. Yes, you know that. But you didn’t come to United at Heart for just a vacation, oh no. Here at United at Heart our main commodity is love.” He said. “As you might’ve seen, our itinerary offers ample opportunity to mingle with your fellow guests. This week the SS Astarte shall be your Pacific Princess!” Jack quietly hoped at least one person got that reference. Sometimes he worried that he was growing old.
Maggie swiftly cut in, though the amusement on her face was evident as day. “And today we will start with a simple speed dating event where you will be getting to know your fellow passengers. An ice breaker, if you will. But first we will take a small break, so feel free to talk to each other and introduce yourself.”
But that was for her peers to worry about. Diana was totally going to enjoy her forced week of vacation on the Caribbean sea. She totally wasn't on her laptop the entire flight over, drinking another three cups of coffee to fuel her the entire journey, working on paperwork and attending meetings.
From: MomAre you there yet?
From: MomYour dad tells me you're still attending meetings. Is this true?
Nope, not at all!
At least Diana knew how to placate her mother by this point. A simple (read: worthless) promise to do better was all it took for her mother to get off her case. Diana even made sure to send an additional text to her secretary, to keep her updated about the events at work in exchange for a Christmas bonus. It was a sweet enough deal, and Diana got to continue working as she pleased.
She continued to work until her private car stopped at the drop off point, forced to tuck her laptop away to begin boarding the cruise. After scanning through the pamphlets with mild disinterest, she headed towards the exclusive deck for the obligatory welcoming session. Diana tried her best to ignore her desire to check her phone. She could just feel it buzzing in her pocket, undoubtedly her secretary doing as she had asked and sending her the updates she wanted. Surely she could just slip into that corner over there and...
Her sly attempt to get to the corner was interrupted by a server with a tray of champagne. Although nothing fell - and a quick once over of the crew told her that he was fine - the clang was enough to cause even Diana to react in surprise. She looked around, noticing the eyes of Maggie and Jack on her when she let out an awkward laugh. Raising her half empty champagne flute, she spoke. "I guess these are getting to me, carry on." It was meant to be a joke, but it just made her sound like an alcoholic. What a way to form first impressions.