October 16, 2016

Falmouth, Grand Cayman and Cozumel

Our ship arrives in Falmouth, Jamaica just before 10 AM. The temperature is 82 with the high for the day expected to be 84. The sea is as flat as glass, with a breeze so light that flags hang perfectly still. Skies are mostly sunny with a few scattered clouds. A perfect Caribbean day.

Nearly everyone leaves the ship. Over 60 buses are lined up on the pier to whisk passengers to any of over 50 shore excursions ranging from shopping tours, climbing Dunn's River Falls, to enjoying a sand beach at a resort hotel. Maybe a hundred of us remain on board to enjoy the pools and the rest of the ship without congestion.

Tonight is Italian night. The other six guests still haven't made an appearance for dinner, I can only imagine my reputation preceded me. The lasagna is excellent. I had anticipated three cheese ravioli, but it wasn't on the menu. Maybe in one of the nights ahead.

Our entertainment tonight is "Alfred & Seymour". Since I don't remember the name I certainly don't remember the show, so there is a possibility this is a show I have never seen. I will be there.

The internet has been good today, probably helped by most passengers being ashore. Certainly much faster than on The Amsterdam earlier this year.

Thinking of The Amsterdam it is good to not have any ill mannered passengers to write about. I apologize if any of you are disappointed by this reality, but it does make for a more enjoyable cruise. Now, only if our politicians could clean up their acts. Enough said about politics.

Alfred & Seymour were good, especially since it was the first new act I have seen on a Royal ship in a long time. After the show I stop at the piano bar for about 20 minutes, then its off to the cabin for the night.

The morning finds us anchored with two Carnival ships in Grand Cayman. The Dream and The Sensation. Again another near perfect day. High of about 85, mostly clear skies with a light wind.

Having a late breakfast I thought I would skip lunch. I certainly won't waste away to nothing. Well that was a good plan, but by 2:30 I was starved and went to Johnny Rockets for a burger. It actually was the best they have served me in several years. I will even speculate that they are purchasing a better quality of beef, but that would be contrary to the continued cost cutting.

It has been speculated for years that the home office would like to cut back on the benefits for the loyalty program, surprisingly that was confirmed in a conversation with an upper level staff person that will remain unnamed to protect his future.

In the past I have been on ships where passengers are left behind, and others that made it back to the ship with minutes to spare. Today we had 2 passengers that missed the last tender boat, but were shuttled back to the ship in a small boat as we started our journey to Cozumel. They boarded as the harbor pilot was disembarking.

Not having lunch until about 3:00 I skipped rolls, appetizer and desert and just had a little of the three cheese tortellini for dinner. Roger, still my only table mate, had 2 shrimp cocktails and 2 orders of lobster. We were in and out of the dining room in under an hour. Our assistant waiter is about 8 weeks into her first contract. From China she has already experienced enough that she hopes she is not transferred to any of the Asian ships on her next contract, she loves the Caribbean. She is eagerly learning and adjusting to life at sea. Incidentally her English is better than that of many Americans.

Back in the concierge lounge after dinner, we were impressed with a gentlemen dressed in the most elaborately decorated jacket I have ever seen entered. At first it was thought he might be an officer, many medals and and tons of gold embroidery on his shoulders and arms. Much fancier than I have ever seen on any Captain, so it is unlikely it is another officer. It turns out he is a retired five star army general dressed in his "mess whites". Not being a military person I didn't even know such dress existed. Yes, retired from the US army, Joan asked.

Another couple went to Chops for dinner tonight and were greatly disappointed. They had allowed people into to chops, the fanciest venue on the ship, wearing swim suits. Words with the staff produced no explanation or apology. They humorously decided to don swimsuits and robes to have their picture taken with the captain. He obliged, but the photo staff refused to sell him his pictures. The last I head was a phrase about his employment for one of the national TV networks and having a following of several million twitter fans. I don't think this is the end of the story.

Occasionally everyone runs into elevators that have stuck or non-functioning buttons. As frustrating as that can be we have a magical elevator that wins the award for frustration. Just before the doors begin to open the deck is announced, randomly at unpredictable times the announcement is for the wrong floor. Passengers that listen get off on what they think will be deck 11, but find themselves instead on deck 9. At other times the elevator is going up, stops without any doors opening, then reverses direction and goes back down. This may repeat for several cycles and then go to the decks it is supposed to. It has been worked on, but as of this morning not fixed.

Friday morning we are in Cozumel. I thought I might get off the ship today, but after hearing the high temperatures are expected to be in the mid to upper 90's I decided to spend the day on board. The Majesty of the Seas, a sister ship to the Freedom, is berthed on the other side of the pier. Like most "sister" ships she is nearly the same, but there are some subtle differences. She has been updated more recently with water slides and a new splash zone for the kids. Her exhaust scrubbers appear to be fully installed, but I can't say they are operating. The Freedom has had part of deck 13 and 14 in disarray for several years while they work on installing one exhaust scrubber. Most significantly, the clocks are set on different times as The Liberty is sailing out of Galveston.

The Carnival Dream is also in port. When passengers first started disembarking the ships, the line to pass through security on the pier backed up the entire length of the dock. It took about an hour to get everyone ashore.

While sharing information about ships, there was a conversation the other night about new ships on order. Royal has 6, Celebrity 4, MSC 10, and all the Carnival brands 12. Many of these are being built to run on LNG, liquified natural gas. Either infrastructure will need to be built in the US, or all the LNG ships will remain in European and Asian waters.

Saturday is much warmer, and the seas about 4 or 5 feet. The ship pitches a little but not much. The winds on the pool deck are the biggest annoyance.

Disembarkation Sunday morning is smooth and quick. As I get to my car there is a heavy downpour, but as always the shuttle bus drops me off right at my car. I'm home before 10 and begin to unpack.

I leave for a week on the MSC Divina in less than two weeks. Having never been on MSC I promise to also post photos.

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