Saturday we are back in Tampa for what is called the turnaround day. Most of the passengers leave, the ship is prepared for thousands of new guests, the ship is refueled and re-provisioned, and any crew changes will occur today.
I am one of about 15 passengers staying on for another week in what is called a back to back cruise. The processing of back to back passengers is different than the regular passengers getting off the ship. I have done this a number of times, but the procedure is never the same. Essentially the cruise line tries to do everything they can to make the process quick and painless, but unfortunately it is the customs and border protection service that controls the process.
We gather on the ship having received our new sea pass cards the night before. We are escorted off as a group after all other passengers have left. Then the waiting begins. We wait in the terminal building before going downstairs. Once downstairs we wait to be processed by one of only two customs agents checking passports and declaration forms for the 2000 disembarking passengers.
Once our passport and declarations form are checked we wait as a group until eventually we go back upstairs and wait again. No one is allowed back on the ship until it is cleared by the port authorities. For some reason clearance is delayed and authorities are not allowing passengers to board. Eventually, about an hour and a half after starting the process, we are back on the ship.
This is the longest this process has ever taken me. The quickest was about 5 minutes several years ago when the customs agent came to the meeting point on the ship, collected our forms, said thank you, and we were on our way.
The weather is very nice today in Tampa. The pier is covered with tons of provisions to be loaded on board. The Solarium pool is closed for maintenance. Several broken tiles are being replaced. Overall, for being an older ship, Royal has done a good job of maintenance and there are few visible signs of her age. The seating in the theater is some of the most comfortable I have encountered.
On my way to the muster drill I run into several friends that I have known since my days on The Monarch of the Seas in 2012. The drill is efficiently completed and we set sail right behind the Brilliance of the Seas promptly at 4PM. In just over two hours we will be passing under the Sunshine bridge. This time I am committed to having my camera and capturing a few images. On previous cruises either the weather didn't co-operate or I was unprepared. Before heading to the Diamond lounge I grab my camera and decide where will be the best spot to take pictures of the bridge as we pass under.
The lounge is busier than last week. All the severs in both the Diamond Lounge and the Concierge lounge have been reassigned this week. Not an uncommon occurrence, but as a group they are disappointed. I would like to think we are their better tippers, and the job is easier as they don't need to deal with guest sea pass cards. Of course on the other hand, some of the most frequent cruisers are the cheapest cheapskates I have ever encountered.
The seas are only about 3 feet and sailing through the night is very calm. The next morning the temperatures are in the low 70's under sunny skies. Most passengers take advantage of the gorgeous weather and enjoy the pools. Yes, the Solarium pool repairs are completed and it is filled with fresh water.
There is a wedding in the Crown Lounge just after noon with about 50 guests. Often weddings on cruise ships are performed by the Captain, in this case the official performing the ceremony came with the wedding party. The bride was seen all around the ship in her white wedding gown, but walking barefoot. Something I would recommend that no one do as glasses are broken on the floors and carpets quite often.
During the day with mostly sunny skies the temperatures rise to the mid seventies, and the seas remain slight with about a 20mph wind out of the East.
No need for the destination talks this week. I sit in the shade by the pool for several hours, and walk back and forth on the port side of deck 5 outside where it is shady and there are no smokers. Part of the outside deck at the aft of the ship is blocked off for window washing, and on this ship the public walking area does not extend around the bow area as that space on deck 5 is where the mooring winches and lines are located.
A Coast Guard ship runs along side of us for a few hours as we pass just off the West tip of Cuba. Eventually she turns and heads back North towards the U.S. No other ships are in sight today.
Again this week I am avoiding the dining room. Of the eight of us that gathered in the Diamond Lounge for beverages, only two are going to the dining room, everyone else is also going to the Windjammer for dinner. After a quick bite, I catch the early production show with the singers and dancers.
Tomorrow we will be in Roatan, Honduras.