Day 1 - This is my last cruise before I depart for 115 day around the world journey in January. My first and only opportunity to test the process for maintaining a blog from sea where internet connections are often marginal at best. Obviously if you are reading this everything worked, or maybe I will have posted it after I return home. I will let you know later. (Worked as expected, some editing done after my arrival home.)
This cruise is also unusual for me in that my daughter Adrienne, her husband and several or their friends are also accompanying me. Well I should turn that around. Technically I am accompanying her as she booked the cruise first and after I saw where it was going, I also decided to go along. The quick version, our third stop will be Curacao, my favorite port in the Caribbean. More on Curacao in a few days.
We all meet at Adrienne's house 30 minutes before our agreed upon time. The luggage is loaded in my van, and then had to be rearranged and reloaded again as the tailgate just wouldn't close. The second attempt was successful and we were on our way a few minutes before our planned departure from Clermont.
After an easy drive to Tampa we park off site from the terminal at a small lot aptly called "Park4Cruise". They load our luggage and shuttle us off to the pier, less than a 10 minute process. Check in is very smooth, much easier and better organized than I often encounter at larger ports.
Since I hadn't bothered to make my "My Time Dining" reservations beforehand, I go to the dining room to take care of that little detail. There are a dozen or so other people waiting, and I soon overhear several conversations about what day it is. One woman was thinking it was Saturday, while another was trying to correct her and explain that it was Monday. The discussion continued and soon several other people entered the conversation with varying views. I was pretty sure it was Monday but didn't feel I could add much to the deliberation. As the conversation carries on I discover the issue arose because the "Cruise Compass" schedule printed for all passengers included a few errors. The dates were correct, and the port of calls were correct, but the day of the week was listed incorrectly as Saturday instead of Monday.
This confusion continued as there was another reference to departing Barcelona, and announcements were made from the bridge that referred to us leaving "Key West" and sailing out under the Sunshine Bridge.
As usual on nearly every ship I board I soon run into a number of fellow passengers that I know. The muster drill is efficient and well organized. There are about 400 Diamond and above Crown and Anchor loyalty guests. The lounges will be quickly overfilled, so I go early to secure a seat. I am successful, and enjoy a few beverages with friends before dinner.
Tuesday morning's announcement had us arriving in "Tampa". I'll just attribute these mistakes to time warp when traveling. All said and done it doesn't really matter what day it is, the ship just goes where it goes and gets there when it does. The day of the week really isn't relevant.
I have never sailed on The Vision of The Seas, and didn't expect to know any of the crew or staff. I was soon surprised that Tito, whom I have known since my days on the Monarch of the Seas, is my room steward. Actually he remembered me quicker than I remembered him. The memory and recognition of passengers by the crew is a phenomenon that has always amazed me.
The Vision was refurbished about a year ago and several venues popular on newer ships were added. The added venues carry the same name as used on other ships, but due to physical considerations are often located in different decks and different areas. To add to the confusion, signage is not always updated to reflect changes made during refurbishment. Add these factors to my aging memory, and I have the right to be confused for the first day or so, but I manage to easily find the important stuff like my cabin, the Schooner bar and the Loyalty Lounges.
Assuming you have read earlier posts on my blog, you may remember that there was a certain karma that appeared to be in force to direct me to book the world cruise departing in January. On this cruise there is a different karma, but I don't know the meaning yet. Basically it is something to do with "time".
I haven't worn a wristwatch in over 30 years, and as a result I usually have a good sense of time. Many times it would be a game with my children to see how accurately I could sense what time it was. To their astonishment it wasn't unusual for me to be accurate within a few minutes. However when I travel I do carry a small quartz pocket watch as that is the prudent thing to do.
Trying to be proactive, several days ago I decided it would be a good idea to replace the battery, otherwise it would probably run out while I'm at sea with no way to replace it. I took the watch to the battery store that advertises watch battery replacement. They popped the back off, installed a new battery, and tried to put the back on. Tried is the key word. Not only did they shatter the crystal, they bent the watch casing. Fortunately the watch was quite inexpensive, and they insist they have someone that will repair it and send it to me. We will see. At home I find an old wrist watch without a band, and after a quick trip to the store I replace the battery myself. At least I have a time piece for this cruise. I suppose if I were a shopper, this could give me a shopping mission while in one of the ports. I really doubt if that will happen, I hate to shop.
I also always bring a LED display alarm clock when I cruise. This provides a little bit of night light in my cabin, and most importantly I can set the alarm if I need to catch an early shore excursion or something. Well for the first time I forgot my alarm clock. I moved it off the dresser, and I will find it on my bed when I return home.
With two instances of "time" not working, I wouldn't think much about it. However the Captain during his noon time message just a few minutes ago apologized to everyone for the ships time malfunction. We had a time change at 2 AM as we traveled East. This morning some of the few public clocks around the ship were observed running backwards. Also in the process of changing ships time, all wake up calls were canceled from the system. I didn't need to be up early this morning, but the captain was late for his first meeting of the day.
Maybe by the end of the cruise I will figure out the "time" karma. I can think of several possibilities, but won't go there now.
Day 2 - Our first port was Key West. The people that control such things moved our birth from the usual cruise ship dock to the pier at the Navy facility. Many passengers were grumbling, but personally I found it to be a great advantage. The shuttle tram pulled right up next to the ship and took us to the center of town. About a 15 minute trip during which were were given the usually talk from a tour guide.
Key west looked unchanged from the last time I was here about 18 months ago. Duval street has several bars in each block interspersed with local shops selling tee shirts, cigars, and souvenirs. If you haven't been to Key West in recent years, my memory finds it much cleaner and less seedy than it was 20 or 30 years ago.
Since our ship is docked at a naval facility, there is an additional security checkpoint on our way back to the ship. Everyone was reminded, at least several times that we would have to have photo ID and our sea pass card to return to the ship. As expected several passengers didn't get the message. They endured an embarrassing lengthy grilling before the tram was allowed to proceed. I would like to think this wouldn't happen again, but I can assure you there are always a few in every group.
Day 3 – at sea. The weather is great, party cloudy skies, temperatures in the mid 80's and seas under 10 feet. The ship is steady as a rock as we head south east along the northern coast of Cuba headed for arrival in Bonaire on day 5.
Day 4 - Our second day at sea. The Skies are partly cloudy with warm temperatures. The seas have built some to probably about 15 feet. I expect the captain has the ships stabilizers out, but I have no way of knowing for sure. The wind has begun to whistle around Deck 11 where the concierge lounge is located, and there is a little pitch and roll as we continue on our journey, expecting arrival at Bonaire about 11 Am on day 5.
I meet with my daughter Adrienne at the future cruise desk to book two additional cruises this morning. First is Alaska in May of 2016, and the second is an 8 day on the Freedom in 2017. The Alaskan trip I actually have been working on for several weeks and already have part of my air, train reservations, and some hotels booked. I need to make all of my arrangements now as waiting until after my next cruise will be too late.
When I first see Adrienne she doesn't look well. A little pale, that greenish look, and certainly not here usual bubbly smile. She has had several gall bladder attacks recently, and is scheduled surgery the day after we return. (Yes Adrienne's surgeon gave the OK to take this cruise.)
The gall stones combined with a touch of motion sickness and maybe an extra beverage or two and a heavy dinner last night and she isn't doing well. She asks her husband to retrieve more sea sickness medicine from the cabin.
After the bookings are complete, we go to the Windjammer and she eats a small bowl of cereal. The comforting food, fresh air, and visual sight of the horizon, she soon begins to look and feel better. Marilyn, Amie, Adrienne, and Steve head off to sun on the deck, and I head to the Concierge Lounge to write.