November 30, 2016

Two Days At Sea

Last night we set our clocks ahead one hour. This morning the skies are mostly sunny with a few high clouds. The wind is on the stern at 11 knots as we head towards Oranjestad, Aruba at about 16 knots. The temperature will remain at 77 most of the day.

As I leave my cabin I meet my stateroom attendant, Ovidio. He is very pleasant, but speaks little English. I tell him about the TV. I think he understands, but I'm not sure.

Two eggs cooked to order, and a glass of apple juice for breakfast. Seating is limited, but I am able to find a table quickly. After breakfast I go to the "shore excursions presentation". I quickly remember that I have done the tours of our first three ports that would interest me the most.

The Corning Museum Of Glass has glass blowing demonstrations on three Celebrity ships. I always find them interesting, and the artists are very talented. I probably watch for an hour and a half. It is very comfortable on the 15th deck, and today the seats are all in the shade. The two gals and a guy take turns making vases, cups, and a water pitcher. Now don't think the pitcher is for display, it is for them to keep water in while they are working. The one they are currently using is cracked, and slowly leaks, so they need a new one. So they do as any good glass blowing artist would do, they just make one.

It needs to sit in the annealing oven for many hours, so they won't be able to use it for a few days.

Usually glass blowing ovens are gas fired, but being on a ship they are all electric. Designed specifically for the Celebrity ships at a cost exceeding two million dollars, only 5 sets of these furnaces have ever been made. Three are on ships and the other two are at the Corning Glass Museum. They need to be rebuilt once a year, these were done last week, a week long process as it takes several days for them to cool, and sevral more to be reheated.

I head back to my cabin. The TV still does not work, so I call the front desk. Within an hour the cabin attendant comes to put new batteries in the remote. That obviously does nothing. He calls the "tech" guy. Within 20 minutes the technician calls me and says he was in my cabin earlier, and the TV worked fine. I politely disagree and he says he will be here in ten minutes.

As I let him in the cabin, he apologizes and says he was sent to cabin 9160 not 9260 earlier. And yes, the TV in 9160 works just fine. Again fresh batteries don't help. The cabin attendant should have given me a new remote, but didn't, so the technician gives me the remote from his cabin. He also explains that the buttons on the TV are all disconnected because they found many guests would get confused and switch the TV to an input that didn't exist and then wonder why nothing worked. I can now turn the TV off without having to unplug it.

Celebrity no longer has "formal" nights. Today the wording is: "Say goodby to Formal Night, and hello to Evening Chic. While dressier than smart casual, Evening Chic is intended to be less dressy than Formal attire." In yesterday's "Celebrity Today" evening chic was defined as: "Tuxedo, suit, or dinner jacket"....sounds like formal to me. When our waiter was asked, his interpretation is that jackets are no longer required in the dining room, period. I'm sure that is all clear. I'll let you know how the passengers interpret this.

Celebrity uses the entire Sky Lounge for complimentary cocktail hour from 5 to 7 for their best guests. No getting a jump start here, the doors remained locked until after 5:00 as the crowd of thirsty passengers gather in anticipation. The beverage selection is similar to what is offered on Royal ships. Personally I notice Beefeater is used as their bar gin, fine with me.

I leave just before 6:00 to be at the dining room on time. I have a long wait for the elevators and arrive a few minutes late. All 8 chairs are empty, I settle into my spot next to the window. George greets me with a complimentary gin and tonic in hand. Data mining at its best, or a big coincidence. No one else shows up. I have a salad and sliced duck, and no desert. I am out of the dining room in time to catch the 7:00 show.

It is a production show tonight. I will assume it is new since I was here in March of 2014, as I do not remember a bit of it. After the show I decide to walk thru the buffet on my way to listen to the piano player. Of course this means walking the length of the ship twice, that's just the way life is on a ship. Wherever you are going it is always on the opposite end of the ship from where you are.

The buffet is busy but not crowded. Many of the staff are having dinner as well as a number of passengers probably including those that have never showed in the dining room. The entree selection is quite varied. Kobe beef patties, sliced leg of lamb, steak, chicken, and the usual pasta to order, pizza, large salad selection, etc. There is even a choice of about 10 flavors of hand dipped ice cream with a multitude of available toppings.

I listen to the piano player for about an hour and then call it a night.

The next morning finds the weather basically unchanged. The wind is now on our port side at 13 knots, the seas have calmed a little, and the temperature has warmed to the low 80's. Very typical weather for this time of year in the Caribbean.

Many people are already burning themselves around the pool. I am surprised at the number of "lobsters" I see, probably shouldn't be as there are quite a few Europeans and Canadians on the ship, and they probably just don't realize how easy it is to burn in the southern sun.

At noon time today there is the "Captain's Club Appreciation" in the Sky Lounge. Many officers are in attendance along with the Captain. He is just returning from vacation time, and appears to be fairly young compared to many captains. The high point cruiser is recognized, a gentleman with over 4000 points with Celebrity. (basically days) No bottle of wine or any other gift, just a picture with the captain.

I spend the afternoon reading the shore excursion brochure.

There are a few that I will consider, but I still have time to make any decisions.

After taking a good look at how passengers dressed in the dining room last night, I come away with the conclusion that regardless of what Celebrity may be saying, the passengers are focusing on "less formal". Tuxedos were few and far between. Probably only half of the men wore any jacket, and only a small fraction of them wore a tie. Many passengers wore no jacket at all. Typically the dress tends to go down as the cruise goes on. It will be interesting to see the third "Evening Chic". FYI 2 years ago on this same ship and same itinerary you were not allowed in the dining room without a jacket, and Celebrity enforced that rule, even loaning you a jacket if needed.

At 5:00 I head to the Sky Lounge for free cocktails. I expect I will go to the buffet tonight. One of my reasons to go to the dining room is to chat with other passengers, but that plan isn't working as my mind hasn't yet deteriorated to the point that I talk to myself.

Tonight's show is Doug Cameron playing the violin, a show that is very familiar to me. He does a good show and I have heard him on at least two previous cruises, I just can't tell you which ones.

Tomorrow we arrive in Aruba at 8:00 AM.

To Miami for 14 Days on the Eclipse

I have a 14 day cruise booked on the Celebrity Eclipse sailing out of Miami. Parking is expensive, and its too far to ask one of my children to make two round trips, so I am going to try a new approach. I have booked a round trip shuttle bus with Cruse Connection by ESCOT. With a few extra stops, it should only take a few hours longer than if I drove myself, and cost much less. I am told the bus is scheduled to be at the pier in Miami by 12:30

I packed yesterday, set my alarm for 6:00, and leave the house at 7:00 to drive to a Burger King in Orlando where the bus is schedule to pick me up about 8:00. I have been asked to be 15 to 20 minutes early, and arrive with plenty of time to spare. Alyssa is going to take my car back home, and come back to meet my bus in two weeks.

After a few minutes an ESCOT bus arrives, I gather my luggage and walk to the bus. A habit I learned many many years ago is to ask the driver if the bus is going where I expect before I get on. He tells me he is not going to Miami, but that my bus will be along in a few minutes.

Since Alyssa is meeting a friend for breakfast I wave her on and she is on her way. About 10 minutes later, not one but four other ESCOT buses arrive. I ask the driver of the closest bus...she not only is not going to Miami, she doesn't know where she is going. The next driver is going to Port Canaveral, and adds the comment that he has never seen so many buses at this pickup spot. After another 10 minutes or so, one of the drivers indicates that he in fact is going to Miami. Many passengers and lots of luggage are shuffled between buses.

The driver has a list of every passenger that is supposed to be on his bus, and he writes down every piece of luggage and which ship it is going to. Despite more confusion than the drivers expected, we are all boarded and could leave only a few minutes later than our scheduled time. We could, but it doesn't work that way. We all sit in the Burger King parking lot for another 30 minutes. Why? No guess, no other passengers or buses arrive. Oh, maybe it is because the drivers all want a long coffee break.

The bus is comfortable, there are only about 15 passengers headed to Miami, some for the Navigator of The Seas, some for a Carnival ship, and other like myself for the Eclipse.

Our next scheduled stop is Fort Pierce. So as not to play favorites with a particular fast food burger business, this time it is a McDonald's parking lot. On line information about the trip says we will have a 30 minute stop somewhere for lunch. This is it, but we are almost already an hour late so I ask the driver how long we will be stopped. 15 minutes I am told. That makes sense to me. I am about the second or third person off the bus, and head straight to McDonald's entrance. I can do this in 15 minutes. When I open the door there are at least 40 people waiting in line for one order taker, regular customers and passengers from the two buses already parked when we arrived. I use the restroom and decide to forgo lunch.

I make it back on board within my 15 minutes. A few new passengers are on board, and I take a different seat near the back of the bus. Then again we sit, and sit. Finally after 50 minutes the driver counts his passengers and we are on our way again. The ship isn't scheduled to leave until 4:30 so I am not worried.

Traffic gets heavier as we get close to Miami. An accident delays us for a few minutes just before one of the toll booths. Northbound traffic is at a crawl, but fortunately Southbound traffic in the express lanes is moving smoothly. The port is in sight, there are at least 7 ships. We head into the tunnel and arrive at the port. Our first stop is for the Navigator. It is early afternoon and thousands of passengers are standing outside, with the line to security not even moving. I have never seen such congestion waiting to board a ship.

We make stops at several other ships, then finally the Eclipse is the last stop. I should say there is a line headed towards the entrance, but a better description is that there is just a mass of people between the piles of luggage stacked on the walkways. Slowly the mass of humanity inches towards the security entrance. A cruise line representative tells us that the majority of passengers are already on the ship, and once we get thru security the lines are moving quickly. I'll assume you are already laughing.

I finally make it thru the process and I am aboard the ship by about 3:30. There are hundreds of passengers still on the dock at the bus unloading area. The muster drill is at 3:45. I leave my carry on in my cabin, send a message to my kids, and head to the muster drill. Just as I get on the elevator it is announced that the drill is being postponed until 4:15. So far all I have heard was that all ships coming into port were delayed, the Eclipse by about 2 hours. At our scheduled departure time of 4:30 there are still truckloads of provisions sitting on the dock along with hundreds of suitcases. Our departure is delayed until after 6:00.

Historically Celebrity has always done a good job in the dining room, and since it is the first night, I head to my table for early seating at 6:00. I am promptly greeted by my waiter, and his assistant. I tell him I will wait for the others that have been assigned to the same table.

After 20 minutes, no one has arrived so I order, then as expected another couple arrives. I ask George if he will hold my dinner and serve us all together. He probably would have done that anyway, as he has many years of experience. Unlike most other ships I have been on lately, George has at the most 16 guests to serve, tonight he has only 11. The food is good, and everything is served hot or cold as appropriate. The wine steward comes by several times to ask if anyone would like anything, and the assistant keeps the water glasses full and the dirty dishes removed. For the first night anyway, Celebrity is providing top notch service.

After dinner I have one drink, attend the 9:00 show, and head to the cabin for the night. The show was good, a female trio from Toronto that will be getting off the ship in a few days. When I get back to the cabin I find I am unable to turn the TV off. Neither the remote nor the buttons on the TV work. I try changing the remote batteries to no avail. (No, I don't carry spare batteries for TV remotes, but do carry them for my mouse.) Eventually I manage to get the power cord disconnected. I'll deal with this tomorrow, a day at sea.