March 05, 2017

Cozumel and A Day at Sea

We are the first ship to arrive in Cozumel at the downtown port and the ship is cleared by 7:00 am. The winds are very light, and the humidity near 100% as the sun breaks through the clouds.

At the last minute last night I decided to do an excursion on the Atlantis submarine. This not only required me to be off the ship by 7:15, but to set an alarm.

While we are gathering on shore to depart for our journey The Harmony of The Seas pulls into the International pier several miles south.

There are 15 guests taking the tour and we are shuttled to the proper dock in several taxi cabs. Once at the Atlantis dock we are given a safety briefing and have our pictures taken in hopes of a later sale. It is about a 30 minute ride to the sub which remains on location over the reef we will be viewing.

Once we are seated and the hatch is closed we submerge to begin our nearly hour long dive. There are only 19 people on the sub including the crew, and it is capable of carrying 48 passengers plus crew so we have plenty of room. In fact we are directed to spread out along the length of the vessel to keep her balanced. We submerge to depths over 100 feet. Obviously we see lots of coral, and many small fish, but also some lobsters, barracuda, sting rays, larger grouper, and scuba divers. We also viewed an old Mexican naval vessel that was sunk on the reef for both the fish and divers. In many ways this was better than scuba diving. No gear, no work, and I stayed dry and comfortable in our climate controlled submarine. I took pictures, but they do not do justice to what I actually saw.

After about 3 hours I am back to our pier. I had planned to go to Senor Frogs again for some popcorn and lunch, but with no breeze it is quite warm and uncomfortable so I just return to the ship.

An ambulance is on the pier next to the gangway. We hear that someone was hurt on shore and the ambulance brought them back to the ship. That sounds a little unusual, as the cruise line usually likes to have anyone that needs medical attention beyond first aid taken to a shore facility whenever possible.

I spend the afternoon in the Concierge Lounge sorting through the hundreds of pictures to find the few worth posting for others to see.

After our dinner in the Windjammer I catch some of the entertainment in the Centrum – dancing with the stars – where guests are paired with some of the professional dancers for a dance competition, the winner determined by audience applause.

Being awakened at an ungodly hour by an alarm clock, I make it a short night.

Friday is a day at sea. As we leave Cozumel and head North, the winds and seas gradually grow. By mid morning the seas are 10 to 15 feet, the winds across the deck about 35 to 40 mph, and the skies heavily overcast. Not very many people out on the deck, and little chance of sunburn today. The stabilizers are out to minimize any roll, but they do not help control the pitch of the ship which many passengers are complaining about. A few sea sickness bags are hung about the ship just in case. I wish they would tell us exactly how much pitch and roll we were experiencing, but a captain rarely does. Probably there is a phone app that would tell me, I have never looked. If not, maybe that is an opportunity – for someone else.

Alyssa will pick me up at the port Saturday morning. Guessing what time I will clear customs is nearly impossible. Last week the process was very slow, some of the last passengers were probably not cleared until noon. I am scheduled to be in the first group of passengers off the ship at 8:30, after those that are carrying all their own luggage. I tell Alyssa I should be ready by 9:30 which will get me home by 11:00. The rest of the day I will be helping her move into her new home.

Well with all my calculated planning, I guess wrong. I exit the ship 15 minutes early at about 8:15, walk directly to my luggage and right thru customs without a delay. By 8:30 I am outside on the sidewalk with many others waiting for my ride that won't arrive for another hour.

The hour isn't wasted though. You may have heard that The Majesty of the Seas was recently held in Port Canaveral for an extra day as a result of a less than stellar ratings during a Coast Guard inspection. According to a source I consider creditable, the reality is that every ship in Port Canaveral in recent weeks had scored poorly during regular inspections. To make the point that the CG meant business, The Majesty was denied sailing to set an example for all the cruise lines. The Majesty was chosen not because her violations were more severe or more frequent, but because she was the smallest ship and the delayed sailing would effect the fewest passengers.

I think my next cruise will be on The Empress of the Seas in May, if not I have cruises booked for October, and December this year, and March 2018. I will continue to post any ship travels here. As usual pictures will follow in a few days.

March 02, 2017

Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya

We arrive right on time at 10 AM in Roatan. During the night we set our clocks back an hour to match the local time. The weather remains near perfect. Mostly sunny skies, about a 20 mph breeze out of the East and temperatures expected in the upper 70's and lower 80's by mid afternoon.

For the most part I am staying on the ship today. I will get off for a little while just for the walk.

The best entertainment of the morning is off the side of the ship, away from the dock. One lifeboat has been lowered and they are teaching new crew members how to drive them. There are about 15 or 20 crew members involved and they take turns at the helm. The first twenty minutes or so, it is obvious this is their first time at a helm. They practice and get better and better. Essentially they are practicing bringing the lifeboat back to the ship so the hoisting cables can be connected. Not exactly an easy task with the wind, waves, and a vessel that is designed more for stability than agility.

I also stop at the front desk to verify the proper on board credits have been applied to my account. Again being an older ship I am not able to review my account on the room TV as can be done on most newer ships. The Customer Relations manager told me last night that within a few months Royal is rolling out a new system to make the front office operation entirely paperless. It sounds good, has been embraced by many others in the hospitality business, but I wonder how some of the older passengers will accept it. I think I heard it is going to be smart phone app based but I'm not sure my memory is correct.

I get off the ship and take a walk on the pier. There is a small shop on the pier selling locally produced chocolate. I like dark chocolate, sample some, but find it way too bitter for my palate. I return to ship without making a contribution to the local economy.

The metal detector does it's usual thing and targets me as a possible undesirable trying to smuggle something on the ship. Not only does my belt buckle and both hip replacements trigger the walk thru metal detector but also his hand wand, so do both of my shoes. Seldom do my shoes trigger the alarms, but there are a couple of nails holding the heels on each one. I'm eventually allowed to board. With spring break approaching in a few weeks, security is being ramped up to deal with the more challenging travelers.

The headliner show tonight is a juggler and there are only about 200 guests in the theater, there should have been 199. Obviously other passengers got the message and I didn't. Overall the entertainment has been good, but not tonight. Being my first cruise on the Rhapsody I had never seen these specific production shows, and they have several headliner shows during the week which are on the ship for only one day.

Overnight we head to Belize. The water off the port of Belize City is very shallow, and the channel to the anchorage wanders back and forth like a snake. The weather is still the same, mostly clear skies, a brisk wind of about 20 mph and temperatures in the mid 80's. This week the tender ride is almost 30 minutes, I think we are anchored further from shore and the tender boat is slower. Holland America's Osterdam is anchored about a mile or two behind us, and therefore closer to the dock.

Tonight is the top tier event for recognition of Royal's best customers. There are 999 Crown and Anchor members on board. 40 diamond, and 14 Pinnacle. Diane didn't mention how many Diamond Plus, but there are several including yours truly. A number of acrylic blocks are being awarded on this cruise, an award given to those that reach 140 points and any multiple of 70 points above that. It really is a nice gift. A solid block of clear acrylic about 4 x 5 x 2 inches with the outline and name of the ship engraved in the center of the block. During the event I was presented with my fourth block. Barbara, the top cruiser on this voyage, probably has 35 or more in her collection. I know I will never collect that many.

I attend the production show, a country and western music theme. I missed this one last week, it was good. Our clocks move ahead to Eastern time as we head to Costa Maya tonight.

We arrive about an hour late, not because of the long distance to get here, but because the winds are just strong enough to make docking difficult and we are the third ship in line.

The skies are mostly cloudy, and there is a slight chance of a shower in the afternoon. Since I stayed on the ship last week in this port, I go ashore for about an hour and a half. Once out of the breeze it is quite hot with the humidity probably over 80%, and temperatures in the upper 80's. In addition to many local shops and restaurants there is also a swimming pool and a dolphin encounter. The entire port area is quite clean. The projected showers never materialize.

Our next, and last port before returning home is Cozumel.