November 17, 2016

Coco Cay and Nassau

I always bring an LED alarm clock with me when I travel. The few occasions I need to set an alarm, I can, but more importantly if I awaken during the night I can see what time it is without turning a light on. I wake up and see that it is 10:15. I am surprised I slept so long and wasn't awakened by the dropping of the ships anchor. I get up, turn on the TV to the bridge camera channel, and am further surprised to see Coco Cay several miles off in the distance. Everything falls into place when I read that the time is 7:40 not 10:15. My old dependable clock has gained over 2 ½ hours in the last 18!

I get up anyway. The temperatures are forecast for a high of 75. Currently it isn't raining, but I can see rain to the North. It is cloudy and foggy with an almost non-existent breeze. John Denton, the hotel director, is having a private reception on the island today for his best customers, the Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members. Since it has been years since I have gotten off the ship here I decide to attend. The rain looks like it has dissipated, and the temperature remains very comfortable in the low 70's with no sun.

About 40 us show up at the gathering point and we are escorted as a group to the tender and then to the picnic pavilion overlooking the beach. Before my hip replacements it had become near impossible for me to walk on any unstable surface like gravel or sand. I still find the uneven surface of my lawn very challenging, but hadn't tried sand in a long time. Well, I managed to walk across the island and back, but have determined sand will continue to be on my "things to avoid" list.

Having never been able to eat seafood, I can't say that I ever missed it, but today they had platters of some of the largest shrimp I have ever seen. They looked delicious. There was lots of other food and of course the two bartenders were able to make just about any drink that didn't require a blender. (No electricity on this part of the island.) Being so early in the day I settle for a Sprite Zero. The group stayed a little over an hour and then broke up and headed back across the island to the tenders. Being as cool as it was, there were few people in the water. The bars were busy, and many people were still finishing the ever popular BBQ on the island. (Brought from the ship's galley.)

One of the tidbits I heard from another guest explains a lot of the inconsistencies I have seen in how the higher level Crown and Anchor members are treated on different cruises. According to the story the Hotel Director is given a budget, and he has near total discretion on how the money is spent. A party on the island, shrimp, chicken wings, chunks of cheese, celery, or nothing at all for appetizers in the Diamond Lounge. He can use the budget for guests, staff parties, or to even spend on himself. In the case of John, he will tell you he works because he loves his job and the people. As a result, being the kind of person he is, he probably spends the entire budget, and maybe then some, on guests and staff.

Another passssenger related a story he witnessed when John encountered a crew member having a beer in port. John asked if he could buy him another and the crew member replied no thank you as he was scheduled to be back on the ship shortly. John bought him another beer and told him to enjoy it and that he would take care of his return time.

I have recognized for years that John is one of the strongest advocates for C&A guests, but had never heard this is how the system works. I can't verify the story so it may be true or not, but it makes sense, fits with everything I have seen over the years, and explains a lot.

There are several showers in the afternoon after I am back on board the ship. Not the greatest day at Coco Cay, but good considering many ships have to pass on stopping here at all because the seas are too rough to tender.

When I return to my cabin I find a plate of cheese, crackers, and fruit along with another plate of small desert cakes. There is enough food to feed an army. I eat a little, and combined with 2 chicken wings in the Diamond lounge that will suffice as my formal night dinner.

I would estimate less than 50% of the men are wearing a jacket tonight, and many of them without a tie. Not surprising considering this being such a short cruise. Since I didn't even bring a coat and tie, I am in the majority.

The Production shows with the singers and dancers are tonight at 9:15 and 10:30. Having seen it many times in the past, and doubting I can stay awake that long, I listen to the guitar player at the piano bar until about 9:00 and then head to the cabin. My clock has gained another 2 hours, so I turn it away so I can't see it. Time for a replacement when I get home, and with another cruise coming up in about a week I can't even consider it a Christmas present.

During the night we travel about 75 miles to our next port, Nassau. The seas remain near perfectly calm as they have been since we left Port Canaveral.

There are 3 other ships in Nassau, Royal's Empress of the Seas, The Carnival Elation and NCL Breakaway. The Empress is smaller than the Majesty, originally owned by Royal as The Nordic Empress, eventually sold to Pullmantur, and then returned to Royal and extensively refurbished last year at a cost exceeding fifty million dollars.

There has been some heavy rain, many of the streets in Nassau are flooded with standing water, and it is cloudy and dreary with a temperature of about 70 at most. Initially I had intended to get off in Nassau, as I told my daughter, "to get a beer and a burger". Looking at the weather I decide otherwise. Many people stay on the ship. As the day progresses the skies improve to partly cloudy with the sun peaking through on occasion. The rain appears to be gone and there is a brisk breeze but temperatures remain too cool for the sun worshipers. Deck chairs become occupied but the pool empty.

All the ships leave about 5 while I am enjoying cocktails in the Diamond Lounge. The Elation leaves first with us and the Empress right behind. As the sun sets, the lighted ships head North to their next ports, the Majesty at a blistering 9 knots.

The Monarch never had a Johnny Rockets venue like most of the newer Royal ships, but it has been added to the Majesty during one of the refurbishments. I deliberately decide to go there for dinner tonight, which will enable me to get to the Crown and Anchor loyalty reception at 7:45. At 6:30 Johnny's is about half full, and I am promptly greeted and seated. The type is so small that I can barely read the menu, so instead I just tell my waiter what I want, a cheeseburger with American cheese, bacon, and nothing else.

Without exaggeration I can say the burger is the best I have ever had on any ship. Guaranteed better than shrimp or lobster that some passengers crave.

I have a few minutes to wait for the opening of the Crown and Anchor loyalty reception. The orchestra is playing music, and we are entertained with a few songs, not sung by one of the singers or someone on the entertainment staff, but by Lucy, a gal that works back stage. Her voice is excellent, but remember this is an opinion being offered by someone that can't carry a tune is a bushel basket.

There are the usual introductions and sales pitches. On this voyage there are about 140 diamond members, 40 diamond plus, and 6 pinnacle guests. The top 5 cruisers are introduced, photographed with the loyalty host and hotel director, and presented with a bottle of each guest's favorite beverage whether that be champagne, wine, vodka or fine whiskey. Another little detail that this hotel director does differently than what is done on some other ships.

I head to the theater to catch the headliner show "Michael James". A combination comedian, juggler, etc. I have never seen him before, and overall his show is good.

Tomorrow is a day at sea. The seas are expected to be under 6 feet throughout the night and all day tomorrow. The ship hardly moves, and unless you look outside you would think we are tied to the dock.