August 24, 2016

Heading West Towards Mexico

Our first of several days at sea. The seas are calm, the skies mostly clear with some broken clouds. Our course is taking us just off the northern coast of Cuba. The Havana skyline is visible in the distance. Gradually restrictions are being lifted on travel to Cuba. Some cruise lines already offer regular service, but the cost is pretty high compared to other Caribbean cruises.

I head to the buffet for breakfast, it is very busy even though it is after 10 AM. I grab a couple of freshly cooked eggs. Fortunately another perk for many cruises is reserved seating in Giovanni's Table. Now if they could just devise a way to avoid the endless jams at the elevators.

Having just looked at tonight's menu, I conclude that Royal has made significant improvements in the menu choices since last fall. So far no temptation to dine in the buffet instead of the dining room. The main dining room on Deck 5 is dedicated entirely to My Time Dining now, where last year it was just a half of the room. That being said Royal is pushing very hard for the My Time diners to make a reservation at the same time every night. Sounds contrary to the spirit of my time dining, but fixed dining times are certainly much easier to manage, and historically Royal has faltered with managing My Time Dining.

My usual stop at the Concierge lounge before dinner. Several other old friends are there that I haven't seen since last fall. Kaye is pushing real hard to be Pinnacle by the end of the year. If she is able to make all the cruises she has booked over the next 4 months, she will make it before Christmas. She is one of the most driven passengers to become Pinnacle as soon as possible, that I have ever met. Personally I don't get it, but to each his own. I was told there are 31 Pinnacle cruisers on this cruise, I have no idea how many at the other levels as I skipped the reception for the Crown and Anchor members. I have tried to go to the Diamond lounge on two occasions, but it has been packed and they are not using adjacent areas for the overflow, so there are a substantial number.

About a year and a half ago Royal started a project of adding scrubbers to the diesel exhaust. A little over a year ago a fire broke out in that area of the ship. Today they still have the area blocked off and signs indicate there is construction in progress, but I have seen no workers. I wonder if the scrubber project has been scrubbed?

The show tonight is one I don't remember seeing. A comedian and guitar player. With dining early I have to attend the later show. It is only 70% full. The next time he performs and I am on the ship there will be one less person in the audience. He wasn't very good.

We arrive in Costa Maya before schedule, but clearance of the ship is about 45 minutes later than scheduled. The docks can handle two ships at the same time, but we are the only one here. Being an unscheduled stop, they scrambled to have all the shops and tours open today, but tourist from the cruise ships is all they have here. I honestly must say that I really don't remember much from the last time I was here, so I go ashore and walk the shops and venues at the pier. Actually better than some ports. There is a public pool, a small area with lounge chairs overlooking the harbor, and of course the many shops and vendors. The village center is about a 30 minute walk or a $5 cab ride away.

The weather here is much lake it had been in Florida all summer. Hot and humid, fortunately there is a nice breeze off the ocean and it is quite pleasant in the shade. I am back on the ship in time for a slice of pizza for lunch.

I have found the Diamond lounge is a good place to write. During the afternoon they are only 3 or 4 other people here. Today another couple reading their emails and answering phone messages, and another gentleman noisily taking his afternoon nap.

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