October 20, 2017

Day 19 - Fly Home

I try to sleep, but I am not very successful. I sleep maybe from midnight to 2 AM. About 2:55 there is a code blue called. I check, it's not for me, at this point I wouldn't be surprised. It does result in every staff member scrambling. Even at this hour the unit is staffed with about 12 to 15 people divided into 4 teams with about a dozen patients assigned to each team.

Precisely at 3:00 a nurse comes to wake me. My last vitals are checked, I'm given my last drugs. I remove the last electrode patches from my body. Some are easy, some are stuck to last forever. She even finds me a tooth brush, mine is deeply buried in the suitcase. Freshened up, and in more or less clean clothes I am ready.

About 3:15 the call comes. The cab is here. I thank the staff and express the hope that the next time we meet it is in Florida or on a cruise ship. One person takes me in the wheelchair, another of the nurses hauls my two suitcases as far as the elevator.

The front door is a little problem. Not for getting out, but that no one can get back in from the outside. Fortunately there is another staff member nearby to hold it.

It is chilly, there has been a good frost tonight. The streets are nearly deserted. The cab driver is very interested in talking about our current President, like most Canadians he is very nervous, almost scared.

Twice on the way to the airport we have to stop for deer in the road. The driver says he often has a run to the airport in the early morning, and deer are quite common. I pay the cab fare by credit card, but give the driver a cash tip including several $2 bills. Having never seen them before, he is intrigued. Being brand new, and in sequential order makes them even more special to him. He helps me with my bags right into the airport terminal. No cops here telling him to move on.

There are only a handful of passengers at the airport. There is a kiosk for check in which I manage to navigate through. One employee didn't show up this morning, so one person is split between scanning checked luggage before it is loaded and processing passengers so they can board.

Mine is the second flight, so I just find a seat and wait my turn. Every passenger is assessed a $25 fee for airport improvements. A task which has begun but is progressing very slowly.

They label it as two gates, but really there is only one door. No ramps, just walk across the tarmac, and climb the stairs into your plane.

My turn. A small 2 engine prop plane that carries about 40 passengers, there are 2 empty seats. The single flight attendant is having a hard time getting passenger co-operation. Maybe its just too early to understand that you have to take the ear buds out of your ears and your bag needs to go under the seat.

Due to the heavy frost, we have to be de-iced before departure. We leave about 30 minutes late.

The flight to Montreal is smooth, I can't see out the window, but it is dark most of the way anyway. We land late, and I have limited time to make my connection. I have asked for wheelchair assistance. The guy starts on the way, I have my small suitcase in my lap. My large suitcase has been checked thru to Orlando. His pace is double what mine would be.

After about 5 minutes, he commandeers an electric cart. This moves about 5 times faster, beeper honking constantly. We make good time. He calls his supervisor several times to let him know of our progress. Where I need to go must be as far as possible to go from where I landed. We change vehicles again, he doesn't work that section of the airport. A stop at Canadian customs and security, yes every buzzer goes off as usual. Finally I am passed and we head to US immigration for a similar process. Global entry doesn't help me here. Eventually I am on my way. The gate is so far away, the gal isn't even sure how far it is. I see gate 73, about 100 yards ahead. The terminal waiting area is empty, as she rolls me down the ramp I hear an announcement that all passengers are aboard and the door is closed. I hope not, I'm not on the plane yet!

I board to find my seat occupied, expecting a no show, someone else changed seats. I don't care, the plane's door is closed and we begin to move before my baggage is in the overhead bin. Probably I have been the topic of speculation as to why the plane isn't leaving, it obviously was being held for me.

The plane is an Airbus 310. Luxurious compared to the last plane. There are two empty seats in business class and a few isolated seats scattered around the main cabin. A delicious fruit plate for breakfast with real linens,china and flatware. No free drinks for me, a glass of club soda will be fine. The flight is smooth, and I actually sleep for a few hours.

We make good time to Orlando, arriving a couple minutes early despite our late departure. Again with wheelchair assistance I arrive at baggage claim a few minutes before the luggage. My bag is the first one off, I call my waiting driver, Adrienne, and am headed to my house. With little sleep the last four days, I let her drive.

I tell her a little more about the details as we drive home. It is difficult, my ears have failed to equalize to the change in air pressure. If its not one thing it's another.

Day 18 – Heading Home

It is Wednesday, October 18th. I'm scheduled to be discharged this morning to begin my journey back to Florida.

I awaken at 5:30, walk to the washroom, and as I return to my room become aware that part of my tongue is swollen. I bring this to the attention of the nurse a few minutes later when she comes to check my vitals. There is an ensuing consultation with several of the doctors an I am given a large dose of benedryl. I react to the benedryl, but no reduction in the swelling. The lymph nodes in my neck are obviously enlarged. Discharge today looks unlikely.

The doctor arrives expecting to sign my discharge papers. He is disappointed in my condition, and surprised to find the swelling. He orders more blood tests and wants further intervention from the cardiologist.

I am given more drugs, and the swelling subsides. My symptoms are controlled but the causes remain elusive.

The cardiologist arrives armed with all the lab and recent test results. We discuss my history in detail, both my long term medical history and the short term sequence of events. He concludes that while there is the possibility of a minor cardiac contribution to my condition, this is not significant enough to have caused the shortness of breath and is unrelated to any swelling. He is going to confer with the rest of the team, and my Doctor will be back with me later in the day.

It is time to call Adrienne and bring her up to date. Unfortunately the plane tickets are non refundable, but there are a few hours left in the 24 hour cancellation period. I tell her to cancel the flights, and we will just rebook when needed. There are still seats on tomorrow's flight, so this is not a flight that is always sold out.

About 4 o'clock I get word that I am being moved to the internal medicine floor somewhere else in the hospital. I'm barely settled in, haven't even met any of the staff when my Doctor arrives. He has a plan.

They are now convinced that the swelling is most likely a side effect of a maintenance drug I take, I am not surprised as this is a common side effect. Still no definitive cause for the shortness of breath, but many possible causes have been ruled out.

The objective is now changed to get me safely to Florida.

I will be discharged at my convenience to go directly to a plane.

Use of the suspected drug is suspended.

As I am discharged I will be given a dose of steroids to counteract any swelling, I may just happen to have an additional dose with me while I travel, just in case.

If nothing adverse occurs, I will start the discharge process at whatever time is needed to catch my plane.

The Doctor and I meet with the head staff person to discuss the discharge arrangements. If they have ever discharged a patient in the middle of the night they are not acknowledging so, but say with confidence they can do it.

I am in contact with Adrienne to rebook my flight. Of course this doesn't work either. The airline will no longer accept my credit card. I understand, people shouldn't be booking and canceling the same flight within a few hours. I give her another card to use. Have I ever mentioned that I always carry more than one credit card when I travel? Just for time like this.

I call my PCP and arrange for an appointment a few days after my return to Florida. Arrangements are made to have all my hospital records faxed to her, at the moment 44 pages and counting.

Adrienne confirms that I am booked on the 5:45 AM flight.

I have dinner, take a shower, and repack my suitcases. I need to know what is where to get through airport security and US customs. Though not neatly packed, everything of importance is accounted for.

I am free to walk around the corridors. I don't bother other patients, but talk with the nurses at the station only when they are not busy. One of them frequents central Florida once or twice a year and is very familiar with the area where I live. Actually just getting up and walking around results in lifting my spirits and helping me feel better.

The planes are booked. The nursing staff has arranged for a taxi to pick me up at the proper entrance door. My records have been successfully faxed and received by my Doctor.

I will be awakened at 3:00 for the next leg of my adventure.

Day 17 – In Hospital Trauma Center

I can't start by saying "when I awakened this morning", because I have not slept a wink in the past 24 hours.

I have been pondering whether to return to ship, or return to Florida. No definitive cause for the breathing difficulties has been found yet. The ship is close to good medical facilities for a week, but then will be pretty isolated in open waters far from the US.

The doctor arrives. He really has no additional information. I probably will be OK to go back to ship, but they just can't find what was causing the shortness of breath.

I tell him that I have made a decision, and will cut the trip short. He is aware of flights leaving Saint John headed to the states, there are several each day, and suggests it will be best then that I stay another day for observation to be sure, and that I will be discharged first thing the next morning in time to catch a plane that leaves late morning or noon. 8:30 or 9:00 AM discharge at the latest. He asks me to have him paged if there is any delay in my discharge.

We have a plan but I alter it a bit. I text Adrienne, ask her to find me a hotel for Tuesday night, and book flights for Wednesday instead of late Tuesday. I now have a buffer of time between discharge and catching a plane. Royal Caribbean customer care team would have made these arrangements for me, but I trust Adrienne much more than Royal. She is good at this type of stuff.

She finds a Holiday Inn close by, and books me on a flight to Montreal and then to Orlando on Wednesday leaving at 5:45 AM.

As she is looking to make travel arrangements, I become aware that I really don't even know where I am. I have to ask one of the nurses. There is both a Saint John and a Saint Johns, an easy confusion, and insignificant in casual conversation, but very important in booking flights. I am in Saint John, New Brunswick, not Saint Johns, Newfoundland.

Adrienne makes a reservation for me Wednesday at a Holiday Inn about a mile away, and for flights leaving at 5:45 AM on Thursday for my return to Florida.

I find the hospital staff very pleasant and the Canadian accent I can handle quite well. I learn that I am designated as an "international patient", but often referred to in private conversation as the "cruise ship passenger".

They have had cruise ship passengers here in the past, but it is not a frequent occurrence.

Throughout the day I am spotted by previous staff that are surprised to see me. A couple of guys from fire and rescue that moved me off the ship stop in and we chat for a bit. Much of the staff is working 12 hour shifts. I hear at least one say this was his 15th straight 12 hour day without a day off!

Monitoring is continued, and I am given a steady flow of various drugs and antibiotics. With all the monitors, bells and ringers it sounds like a carnival with so much commotion. My now having added the use of my phone only adds to the confusion. Yes, of course I can use my phone, rules and regulations for patients are basically non existent.

Whenever an ambulance is on the way, the initial call is often broadcast throughout the entire area. About 4 o'clock a particular call springs everyone into action. They need my room.

Within 60 seconds I am moved out, the room cleaned and sanitized and ready for the next patient. I am delegated to a space in the hallway in front of the nurses station counter. Within 30 minutes I am moved to the the acute ER next door. A similar arrangement except the rooms are smaller and there are 45 instead of 25. Most of the staff is new to me, but a couple I recognize from the day before. Each day staff is assigned to a location where they are needed, but also qualified.

Subsequently I learn that this is a 600 hundred bed hospital which also has a third ER which has 72 beds for patients needing routine ER care. Certainly there are hospitals that are larger, but this is the largest I have ever been a patient in.

I quickly settle in to my new environment. There is a chair, so I can get up and sit if I wish. There is a washroom down the hall, I just need to disconnect myself from all the monitors when ever I need. I actually get a dinner plate here, Ham, carrots, mashed potatoes and a fruit cup for desert. It tastes delicious, the first real food in a couple of days.

My breathing remains fine. I still have the lingering effects of the cold as expected, never have had a fever, and my oxygen level remains normal hours after removing supplemental oxygen. I'm feeling pretty much back to normal except for the cold.

Finally about 2:00 AM I fall asleep.

Day 16 - Part Two

It seems like a 20 minute ride to the hospital. I learn it is a level 1 regional trauma center serving the province of New Brunswick. Vitals remain the same, no improvements, but no deterioration either. They begin a more methodical approach.

If you are having a heat attack, a dose of this should help, you will tell very quickly. Probably just hearing the phrase heart attack probably makes my pulse jump a little. Any better? No change I reply. Lets give you some more. This is repeated 4 times. Same result. Move on to medication two. This should open up your breathing passages. One dose should help, again repeated several times. I can tell no difference. We arrive at the hospital.

The medical team is waiting as I am wheeled into the trauma center. Immediately blood is drawn for blood work. Sure glad they use the IV already in my arm. They start at the beginning. As the questions begin I reach into my pocket and hand them the yellow card, even has insurance information. Everyone wants to know how they are going to be paid.

Their approach is a little more broadsided. Multiple drugs are administered nearly simultaneously, with the assumption that one of them will arrest the condition.

I must be medically stable. My oxygen level has obviously improved and I feel better. The frenzy subsides to a level of constant attention. More discussion about how this came about. The underlying cold, more detail of my medical history, allergic reactions, etc.

Many possible causes remain on the table. Time to find it. First up CT (I think) scan looking for any blood clots. I'm taken to radiology. They are waiting, my name is checked and verified. I am asked about allergies. "Contrast Dye" I respond. She freezes, makes a phone call and they have me on my way back to trauma center.

The staff is in constant radio communication. Shortly they stop and head back to radiology. Trauma was aware of my allergy, but feel they already have given me enough drugs to counter any reaction. Just to be safe they are sending someone, drugs in hand, just to be sure.

The contrast dye is given without reaction. Subsequently I learn that contrast dye has been reformulated in recent years with a resultant reduction in allergic reactions.

More blood work, X-Rays, breathing tests, constant monitoring, the work continues.

About the time the ship is leaving for its next port, absent one passenger, my luggage is delivered to my hospital room. I'm confident they have most of it. It is easy when everything needs to be packed, and the room empty when you are finished.

Though there is absolutely nothing they can do, it is time to let my family know what is happening. I get my phone and send Adrienne a text to let her know that I am off the ship and in the ER.

About 10:30 or 11:00 the Doctor returns. No definitive cause has been found, they want me to stay the night, and he will consult with the other doctors to determine if there is any reason not to return to the ship. I will be discharged sometime in the morning.

Royal has a special customer care team to assist passengers during times like these. They are the team that makes sure luggage gets to me, finds appropriate medical care anywhere in the world, and reaches out to help contacting relatives, finding transportation, or helping in any way they can. They have talked to the hospital several times to inquire on my status, I have overheard the conversations, and they have tried to reach me more than twice, but I can't usually get to my phone, or it has been off.

Sleep is impossible. Side effects of some of the drugs, high level of anxiety, and too much happening. This section of the the ER has about 25 beds around one central doctors station. I am just a few feet away and can overhear nearly every conversation amongst the staff. Conversations fall into several categories. Discussion about one of the patients, complaining about some silly management directive, or the exchange of the latest jokes or sports scores. Exactly what I would expect to hear in nearly every work environment, I think the formula is universal.

The hospital is over capacity, so I can't be moved to a regular room. I am kept in the trauma ER.

Day 16 – The Perfect Storm

Monday October 16 – Arrival in Saint John, New Brunswick. During the night we have 10 foot seas. I barely feel any motion in my cabin, but later I will hear other passengers talking about how bad the ship was rocking during the night. Face it, I am used to it, others are not.

When I awaken, I'm winning, my cold is losing. There is a little swelling in my right hand and lower lip. I have had this angioedema occur several times in the past 4 years. I feel pretty well, at least well enough to venture out, but I will wait until after lunch to make a final decision. My tour is in the afternoon. The weather is good, cool but no rain. My usual bowl of cereal for breakfast.

We arrive about 10:00 and passengers head off the ship in large groups for various tours, mine will be one of the last of the day. I find a chair on deck 5 and check my email. At nearly every port we have had very good local cell service.

About noon I head to get a bite to eat, nothing looks appetizing, I grab a slice of Pizza and an Iced Tea. One bite but it doesn't taste like pizza, but I don't know what. I take a few sips of tea and head back to the cabin.

I suddenly realize that I am out of breath even though I am not exerting myself. I make it to my cabin, 7 decks down and on the opposite end of the ship, but have to stop and rest. I sit in the cabin for a few minutes to gather my senses. This is not my usual self. I'm not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't have issues slowly walking along the corridors of cruise ships large or small, and this is a small ship by comparison.

Just run down from the cold? Maybe, but I felt pretty good earlier in the day, but that's the way colds work, you are usually at your best early in the day and the cold takes over as time goes on.

Make a prudent decision, do I go or skip the train ride and shore excursion. Actually I looked up some reviews for it on the Internet last night, and many reviews were pretty negative. Disappointing, but I'm not missing a lot. It is not like I haven't ridden an excursion train before.

I sit in the cabin for a bit and my shortness of breath does not improve. There is only one option, see the ships doctor. I check and the office doesn't open for 3 hours. Waiting would be procrastination, not a smart decision. Time to call.

The phone system has a dedicated button for medical. The phone rings and rings, no answer, not surprised, the office is closed. Who sits in a closed office?

I try the front desk button. Even with most passengers off the ship, there is always someone at the front desk or the back office to answer the phone. Same response, no answer.

Another button is just labeled emergency. In my judgment this would be the button to use if there were a fire, or someone fell overboard. It is answered within several rings. It obviously goes directly to a manned command center somewhere on the ship. Actually I think it is between the elevator shafts on deck 2. I explain that I have shortness of breath and that I am in my cabin and would like to see the Doctor.

Within a minute a security officer arrives quickly followed by other staff with a wheelchair and a nurse. Another minute and I am in the medical facility, one deck below and less than 50 feet down the corridor. My condition has deteriorated as my anxiety goes up. No, I don't panic, but there is the realization that this could be a serious issue, or at least I have triggered the mechanism to handle the most serious of emergencies.

Am I having a heart attack? Was that bite of pizza that didn't appeal to me contaminated with a piece of shellfish? Is what I have been thinking to be a cold not really a cold but something more serious like pneumonia or worse? Every ship has passengers from all corners of the earth, strange and unusual illnesses can circle the globe rapidly. Norovirus? Dreaded on every ship, but quite common in any area with lots of people in close quarters. There are countless possibilities.

The nurse, obviously the leader in the medical department, springs into action, immediately blood is drawn, as my vitals are monitored and an EKG recorded. My oxygen is low, no surprise that fits with my only symptom of shortness of breath. Oxygen is started, and an IV placed in my arm.

Simultaneously a barrage of questions, most are answered by a little yellow laminated card I always carry in my pocket. I have carried this for over 20 years, and is kept updated whenever anything changes. This is the first time I have used it in a real emergency. Allergies, major surgeries, known medical conditions, prescriptions and OTC drugs, emergency contacts, all listed on one little easy to read card.

Armed with the results of the first blood tests and my history I am given several medications. Blood work again, continued monitoring, a constant barrage of radio communications.

The pecking order of the office is soon obvious. The nurse runs the operation, but makes the Doctor feel like he is in charge. She suggests, he says yes. Initial investigation doesn't reveal too much. Slowly the facility fills with other staff members. A decision was made to call local emergency medical staff. I don't remember any participating in that decision, but it is well understood that one of the main goals of the ship medical staff is to transfer any serious problem to someone else if possible. We are tied up to the dock, I am much easier to transfer than the patient last week that risked his life as he was handed over to a Canadian Coast Guard vessel.

I must have my passport to get off the ship. Where is it? I am asked. "In my safe." I respond. They will get it, several radio calls to the man with the secret safe code. They can't get the safe open. I tell them "the code is 9948". So much easier.

Just like in Florida, the Saint John EMT is a combination of Fire Department fire and rescue and an ambulance team. The medical facility is now crowded.

At this point I have already been given numerous injections, I'm sure my pulse is racing a mile a minute, but that would be true just from all the activity. My shortness of breath is really the same as it has been since this all started, not really worse, certainly no better.

They are almost ready to wheel me away, but still no passport, and they suddenly realize I have not given them consent to treat. That detail is taken care of and an envelope arrives with the contents of the safe.

As we leave the medical facility I am given three envelopes. One with my passport and other stuff from the safe and my phone, a second with a copy of all medical records from the ship, and a third with an additional copy of the medical records for me and my bill from the ships Doctor office. I now know what he was doing.

I am wheeled through the bowels of the ship to a forward ramp, I think the one that is being used by the crew today. It goes directly to the pavement. An ambulance is 50 feet away. This time I am the subject of observation for any nearby passengers. I look, but don't recognize any faces. I would have waved, but they have me pretty well strapped in.


October 15, 2017

Day 15 Halifax, Nova Scotia

Our transit during the night was uneventful. The seas were calm enough that the ship didn't exhibit any pitch, roll, or moaning and groaning.

We arrive early, again. I think the captain is anxious to start his vacation. We are joined in Halifax by the Oceanic cruise lines Insignia. A small upscale (read more expensive) ship that carries about 600 passengers.

The sun peaks out from behind the clouds and the temperatures are warmer than they have been the last several days, probably in the 60's. We have nothing on the ship that tells us the current weather conditions other than sunrise and sunset and occasionally the wind.

To be nice to other passengers, and to facilitate curing my head cold, I elect to stay on board and mostly remain in my cabin today. I purchase some internet time and catch up on posting the last several days to the blog. With most passengers on shore, the connection speeds are almost tolerable. I sort through emails, nearly all of which go directly to the trash bin. I don't need new tires this week or really care that the pool back home has been closed and then reopened.

TCM has several decent old movies that I watch. Not exactly a reason to go on a cruise ship, but some entertainment, without commercials to pass the time during the day. The usual activities like trivia, karaoke, coloring, and dance music don't start until most passengers are back on the ship late in the afternoon.

Despite the warmer temperatures, the pools remain empty with the lifeguards standing at their station just in case.

I have no appetite, normal when one is fighting a cold. I settle for a little pasta, tasted like wall paper paste, and a dish of chocolate ice cream. Shortly after we depart it begins to rain and the wind has picked up to 35 Knots directly on the bow. The seas are expected to be 10 to 12 feet tonight, I'm sure enough to rock the ship as the captain warned everyone to use the hand railings at all times.

Last week my special "gift" was four RC beach towels. I quickly realized there would be no way to get them all in my suitcase especially if I was given four more on each of the next two legs. Usually the system takes weeks to update information, but I changed my preference to Sprite Zero. It worked! No more towels this week, instead 7 cans of Sprite Zero. I expect the same when we leave Bayonne for Galveston.

I give up on the HVAC and call maintenance. The cabin has been on the cold side today. Despite turning the controls to maximum heat it continues to blow cold air. Miraculously about 20 minutes after I call, there is some heat. Of course the maintenance man shows up 20 minutes after that.

Tomorrow we are in Saint John, New Brunswick. Because of the shape of the harbor, the tides here approach 50 feet. I'm not sure that "tide" is technically correct, as what happens is that the water sloshes into the uniquely shaped harbor. I chose a tour here because it incorporates a train ride. For kicks I look up the reviews of the tour I am taking on line, and many people say don't do it, it is the worst tour in Saint John.

If I don't feel better by morning I may just skip it. No point in going if I feel miserable, and if still coughing I refuse to spend time with other passengers. Time will tell, I will let you know tomorrow.

We are scheduled to arrive about 11:00 for another tender port.

Day 14 – Sydney, Nova Scotia

I can only assume we arrived on time at 7:00 AM, or maybe even early. I have no clue as I was still sound asleep. The high temperatures are forecast to be about 55 today, with a brisk wind.

Probably one of the reasons I slept late is that about 1:30 AM I awoke and wanted something to drink other than what I had in the room. The Park Cafe in the Solarium remains open until 2:00, so I dress and go to get a glass of ice tea or something. The ship looked like a ghost ship! Other than 2 staff members in the Solarium, the ship was totally void of visible human life. No music, no elevator bells, nothing. Well I suppose to be expected as this is an older group of passengers than what you would find on a three day weekend cruise to Nassau where ship boarding time is Midnight.

We docked here in Sydney last week, but this time the dock is occupied by the Zuiderdam and we anchor about a mile away in the bay. Four lifeboats will be used as tenders.

I initially was going to get off, but I am exhibiting the beginnings of a head cold so I will be content to stay on the ship. Not that it is warm on the ship, many of the public areas are rather cold. A fuel conservation measure I'm sure, aggravated by wide open doors to the loading platform for the tenders. Most guests are wearing winter jackets all the time, even to the dining room.

I meant to tell you about this earlier, but the day after we left Quebec there was an extra bingo session. Cards were $35 each or 2 for $60. The first two games resulted in small monetary prizes of less than $100, but the third game was an upgrade to a suite, obviously one that wasn't sold, or more likely one where the passengers just didn't show up. Based on the large attendance, my guess is that Royal netted an extra ten grand!

This morning I received an email from Royal Caribbean concerning the status of San Juan, St Thomas and St Marten sailings. Obviously the information that the captain gave us last week was in error or as one fellow passenger said "optimistic". The cruise line is hopeful that operations will resume by the end of the year, not last weekend as previously stated. Another evaluation in conjunction with government and port authorities is to be made in several weeks.

Indirectly related, some Caribbean cruises were being sold this morning for as little as $35 per day. I doubt the inventory lasted very long. Unfortunately I won't be able to take any of them because of other obligations. You win some and you loose some.

Everyone has an interesting life story, it is just that some are boring like mine and then there are others. Yesterday in the Diamond lounge I met an interesting young lady that joined the ship in Quebec. I have to say young as she is more than young enough to be my daughter.

She is from Colorado, has owned a dog sitting business since early high school, recently retired, sold her home and purchased a used RV to call home and placed it on a lot she owns. She downsized the dog sitting business and gave it to her parents. She is now traveling the world. If not on a safari in Africa, or climbing a mountain, she is on a cruise ship or an airplane headed for another far off destination. Who would think dog sitting could be such a successful career.

Tonight is the top tier party. I am sure we have more Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members than last week, I will find out tonight. Speaking of groups, there are several very large travel groups on the ship. The first night one of them booked all of Chops.

The reported count: 259 Diamond, 202 Diamond Plus and 39 Pinnacle, almost 1/3 of the ship. Interestingly the hotel director corrected the information reported by the Captain last week, but of course did not refer to the error. Totally unrelated, the Captain reported that he is going on vacation when we reach Bayonne. For all docking and departing maneuvers he utilizes someone on his staff.

The Zuiderdam was using the only docking space today, but we arrived first. The captain waited, let the Zuiderdam pass and then anchored much closer to port. Yes we had to leave before they could.

I haven't totally figured out the towel animals yet. Some nights there is one, others not. Totally unimportant except for my adult girls, they can't sleep without their bedtime animals. I'll probably hear about sharing that detail. On second thought not, their friends probably already know this about them.

The dining room called my room this evening, having noticed my absence. I explained that there was no problem it is just that I am choosing to go to the Windjammer this cruise. So far it has been good. I am not sure if the improvements are fleet wide, or just this ship or this itinerary. Something I will never know for sure for sure until I cruise more.

Tomorrow we will be in Halifax, and sharing the dock space with the Zuiderdam. It is expected to be cold again, but as the Captain put it "no storms yet". I think he suspects something he is not sharing.

Day 13 Corner Brook, Newfoundland

We arrive at Corner Brook on time, and the ship is quickly cleared for passengers to disembark. This is not a popular cruise ship port, only being visited by six to eight ships this year. Four of those visits by The Vision of The Seas.

Our welcome is very warm. Volunteers from the community meet us on the pier, answer questions, offer a taste of locally made candy, make luggage tags for those that wish, and use local school buses to shuttle passengers into town.

I don't think the temperature has reached 40, the skies are overcast, and there is about a 20 knot wind making it very cold for a person that has lived for the past 9 years in Florida. The primary attraction is hiking trails in the nearby hills, a few passengers make a trip to the nearby Walmart to purchase some items they forgot to pack.

I ask several times about the large pipe sections on the pier. No one knows anything, not even a speculation as to where they are going or what they are to be used for. A secret military installation? No one is talking. I take a walk thru town, then return to the ship.

Our bus driver has lived here for 40 years, but since retirement spends his winters in Florida, North East of Tampa, about 40 miles from where I live. He leaves for Florida next week, and will arrive before I do.

This didn't happen on this ship, but on The Explorer of The Seas several years ago according to two passengers involved. Four people booked the cruise in two separate cabins. Shirley #1 and Shirley #2, in cabin A, the names of the others is not important. Upon boarding the ship Shirley #2 quickly realized she was claustrophobic as she walked the relatively narrow hallway to the cabin. She immediately decided she would be uncomfortable and decided to leave the ship before it even sailed.

She consulted with the front desk and disembarked the ship. Luggage was still being processed, but she was told that her luggage would be returned to the pier before the ship left. You probably already have figured it out, They return the suitcase for Shirley #1 instead of Shirley #2.

After the ship left port, and all luggage was delivered, Shirley #1 realized her suitcase was missing. Upon going to guest services, she was told the mix up was all her fault for having two people with the first name of Shirley staying in the cabin. The other couple laugh now, but at the time they were not happy campers.

One tour group is a few minutes late returning to the ship, but we are delayed less than 10 minutes. As we pull away from port, the sun finally comes out.

Tonight's entertainment is "Rookie" a band that plays music from the 50's and 60's. They were on the ship last week as well. The show is good, and the theater packed to capacity.

Tonight we set our clocks back 30 minutes, and will be one hour ahead of the time back home in Florida. Seas are expected to increase to 9 feet tonight, but as I retire for the evening the ride is smooth. Tomorrow is a tender port in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Day 12 – At Sea

I realized this morning that several times I have referred to being "at sea", when really we have been in the St Lawrence river. I suppose I was accurate if you interpret being "at sea" as meaning underway as opposed to being in a port.

We have been at near maximum speed all night, sometimes running as fast as 24 knots. At about 11 AM this morning when we entered the reduced speed zone, our speed dropped to under 10 knots. Our speed is restricted to protect migrating whales in this area. The seas were light and the wind below 20 knots most of the night. During the day the seas and wind have increased. It is doubtful that the high temperatures today will reach 50, but the sky remains mostly clear. With the temperature and the wind, you definitely need a winter coat to be outside. Doesn't stop the lifeguards though, bundled in heavy jackets they man their post at the side of the pools. The Solarium pool is indoors, and two or three guests take advantage of the pool and hot tubs.

The medical team is earning their pay so far on this cruise, there were two alpha calls before dinner time yesterday and another this morning. The manifest of passengers is very similar to last week. Very few passengers under 50, and so far only a handful that appear to be under 25. I doubt the kids program staff will have have any guests this cruise. I imagine they are assigned other duties.

Even though this is a 12 day cruise, the singers and dancers only do two shows. The other nights are filled with guest performers, called "headliner entertainment" by Royal, and movies played in the theater. Last night's headliner was the same comedian we had last week, Don Gavin. His routine didn't deviate at all, but there are only 121 of us that knew that. Our new cruise director is Steve Davis. I have seen him before, I think it was on the Radiance in Alaska, but I don't remember and it is not important enough to try and look it up.

As is to be expected we have many Canadians on board, about 450, Of course the most passengers are from the US with Florida, Texas, and California strongly represented. I don't know the numbers yet, but the entire Viking Crown Lounge was filled with overflow from the Concierge Lounge last night, and most of the Some Enchanted Evening Lounge was filled with the overflow of the Diamond Lounge. Over 70% of the passengers are Crown & Anchor members. Only 2 guests in the theater last night acknowledged that this was their first cruise ever.

I have come to realize that the battery in my laptop must be getting old. It only lasts about an hour or so, whereas when it was new It would last for 6 or 8 hours. Just adds to the challenge of juggling all the things that need to be kept charged with the one outlet in the cabin. Computer, phone, camera, toothbrush, and hair clippers. I have a multi outlet adapter but didn't bring it. Several other passengers have told me that for some reason they are often confiscated during luggage inspection.

Our headliner entertainer for tonight was singer Elsia Furr. The theater was full but not over full as it often was last week. Her show was a "Tribute to Celine Dion", a show she has performed in Vegas for a number of years.

Tonight we move our clocks ahead 30 minutes. Tomorrow we will dock in Corner Brook, the first of 8 straight port days.

As I retire for the evening we are still cruising at 9.5 knots, once we are past the speed restricted area we will again resume near maximum cruising speed.

October 11, 2017

Day 11 - Departing Quebec City

The temperature is a brisk 28 this morning, the skies are clear. It is doubtful that the highs today will reach 50. The Zuiderdam left last night to be replaced by an NCL cruise ship early this morning. Roughly 1900 passengers disembark and will be replaced by new ones. In addition to the usual buses and taxis meeting passengers at the terminal, many can be seen walking to town with luggage in tow. Probably a 2 mile jaunt depending on their destination. Parts of the walk into town are across grass, gravel, or in the roadway as there are not always sidewalks. It won't be easy.

Dozens of trucks are lined up waiting to unload grain at the grain elevator just across the dock from our ship. Once they start unloading the air looks foggy from the grain dust released into the atmosphere. I'm sure the crew is thrilled with the fallout after having just cleaned the ship.

There are 121 passengers that are staying on since the last cruise. We were told to meet in the dining room to exchange seas pass cards. Once the ship reaches a zero count, our cards will be scanned as if we were boarding the vessel for the first time. The exchange works smoothly except for those passengers that want to keep their old cards for sentimental reasons, the ship has them. They are told they can get them later at guest services.

The ship can't be cleared, two passengers are unaccounted for. They are paged twice and eventually found in the dining room with the back to back passengers that are staying on the ship. Confused, or just hoping they could remain on board is unknown.

After an hour we are officially on board for the next cruise to Bayonne, NJ. Unlike newly boarded guests, our cabins remain available at all times. My room steward is excellent and always seems to clean my cabin during the small span of time that I leave for breakfast.

A few minutes after we are processed, new passengers begin to board. I spend several hours finishing an audio book that I had loaded onto my phone. I can now say that in all my years of cruising I have completed one book at sea.

Three or four trucks are lined up with provisions. There is just one or I should say at least one issue. They are near the bow of the ship, and provisions are loaded near the stern. The gangway prohibits just driving down the dock, they must navigate around all the arriving traffic, go thru the grain elevator facility and return to the other end of the pier.

The reprovisioning process is rather complicated. Fork lift 1 unloads the pallets from the truck and sets them on the ground. Then fork lift 2 picks up same pallet seconds later and loads it into a cage. The cage is then lifted with a crane and swung towards the ship where crew members pull it inside as it is lowered. I then imagine an additional fork lift stores the pallets in the proper location of the ship. I'm sure they will have everything loaded before we leave tonight, Several pallets of fresh eggs are the first items to be loaded.

At noon there is a lunch in the dining room just for the back to back cruisers, no fighting the crowds in the Windjammer. I choose Caprese salad and cheese ravioli. Lunch is good.

I take a few more pictures of the city from the ship and will spend most of the afternoon listening to my next book. About 4:15 there is the customary muster drill. As usual we don't need to take our life jackets, but a winter jacket is in order due to the cool temperatures. Unlike 10 days ago several passengers are missing. I have always known that the room stewards check all cabins to make sure no one is in them during the drill. What I didn't know was that as each cabin is checked, a red tag is placed in the key slot indicating that particular cabin has been checked.

I review all the paper work left in my room, excursion tickets, notice of on board credits, etc. Glancing at our itinerary for the next 12 days it is worth pointing out that we work our way South to Boston and then return North to Bar Harbor, Me. and then go South again to eventually arrive in Bayonne. I imagine this route is dictated by available docking space, not the desire of the Captain to just take us on a longer voyage. Over the next 12 days there are only 2 sea days, every other day we are in a different port. Not all ports are the same as our northbound voyage, but there is much duplication. Being several weeks later, the fall colors may be better.

I make a decision to avoid the dining room on this leg, but probably will dine with the officers. A perk that I really care little about, but should.

We turn our clocks ahead 1 hour tonight. We are currently cruising 20 knots, but at some point need to slow for the restricted speed area. The seas are fairly calm with negligible motion on the ship. Tomorrow is a sea day.

October 10, 2017

Day 10 Arrival in Quebec City

The captain is keeping his reputation for early arrivals. Despite being diverted far off his intended course, and holding steady in the water for an hour for a medical transfer, we arrive in Quebec City an hour early.

We are docked behind a very large grain elevator. The ship is quickly cleared for passengers to enjoy tours or just wander the city on their own. It is pretty foggy, the temperatures are rather cool, but the forecast for rain is less than 20%. Checking the weather forecast, temperatures are expected to rise to the upper 50's at best. A quick walk outside confirms that warm clothing is definitely in order.

Leaving the ship is painless, no security checks, no customs, just have your sea pass card scanned as I leave the ship. There is a large tent which serves as a waiting area for embarking passengers, tomorrow it will be busy. There are a number of stools and oak barrels for tables that serve as work space for those that want to avail themselves of the free Wi Fi, a service enjoyed the most by crew members. A little kiosk serves as an information booth where maps, only in French, are available. It is the street names that are important and the "X" the gal writes on the map to indicate where to catch the returning shuttle bus. A few steps away is the waiting line for the free shuttle.

The shuttles depart as fast as each bus can load, and takes passengers from the ship into the center of town. It will be running until 10 PM tonight. After arrival in town I decide that a hop on hop off bus tour is my best bet. It is a couple of blocks walk to the tourist information center where I begin my wait in line for tickets. There are at least a half dozen tours and combinations of tours. Most of the passengers don't speak or read French and have a hard time deciding which tour they want. There are English descriptions, but they are rather abbreviated compared to the longer French descriptions. The line moves very slowly.

Once I have my ticket there is another long line across the street waiting for the "red bus", the one I have been instructed to board. A bus is trying to arrive, but traffic is very congested. Some passengers try to get on the bus before it even gets to its designated stop. The bus driver refuses to board them, and directs them to the back of the queue. There is an applause from the dozens of tourists that have been patiently waiting for over half an hour.

The bus driver blames all the traffic on people going to the two ships in port, ours and Holland America's Zuiderdam, I don't buy that as there is no traffic in the port, just on many of the city streets. Many times people walking on the sidewalk are making better progress than we are. It doesn't matter we are on vacation.

Quebec city is a combination of old and new. When I say old, it is by North American standards not European standards.

I take the bus around its entire loop without getting off. We progress slowly, at one point the driver suggesting that it would be faster if we got off the bus and waited for the next bus. I don't understand the logic and I think no one else does either. Maybe something was lost in his English explanation. Everyone remains seated. The normal hour and a half trip takes over 3 hours. Occasionally the sun pops out to warm us. By the end of the tour, it has become quite cloudy and looks like it is going to rain.

I find a local place to eat a very late lunch. A simple expensive burger and a delicious dark chocolate milk shake. In the area around where the shuttle drops us off there are hundreds of boutique shops selling everything from original art to Christmas decorations. I stick my head in a few shops, but you should know by now that I am not a shopper. I wander back to the pick up point for the shuttle bus, also a stop for many bus tours from both cruise ships.

The wait for the shuttle bus is no more than two minutes, a short ride back to the port, and just as I walk up the gangway it begins a light rain.

I can only assume the water level has changed significantly since this morning as we disembarked from deck 2, and returned to deck 4. It will be interesting how many passengers stay in the city for dinner tonight, I imagine quite a few, as the free shuttle runs until 10pm, and the ship is open all night for boarding.

Passengers are also allowed to disembark the ship whenever they want, any time today, or at the prescribed time tomorrow morning. If they disembark early, they just have to take all their luggage with them, similar to self assist disembarkation except the the passemgers can leave anytime.

Several passengers were talking about Uber. A few cars were available to pick up passengers at the ship today, but the local government is stopping all Uber operations effective October 15th. Just too much competition for the well connected taxi companies, just like in many other cities.

With such a late lunch, it will serve as my dinner tonight, especially since I will augment it with a few appetizers from the Diamond lounge.

I head to the theater early to catch the final farewell show. There is only one at 7:15. Our CD, Chris Hopkins, is leaving the ship to return to England. At the moment he has no offer from Royal to return. The comedian, Don Gavin will be on the ship for a few more days. The singers and dancers will be here for a long time as they just started their contracts when we left Bayonne 10 days ago. The other headliners and entertainers I don't know about yet.

As the tide goes in and out, the gangway is moved between deck 2 and deck 4. No motion of the ship tonight, we are tied to the dock in Quebec City.

Day 9 – At Sea

When I arise this morning and look at the navigation channel I see that during the night we have suddenly changed our course from nearly westerly to almost due south. We are also still running at just under 20 knots, when the impression I got from the captain was that we would be running at less than 10 knots after about 4 am.

The seas are minimal, the sky mostly overcast, and temperatures in the mid 60's. Much better than last night.

As I'm leaving the cabin, the captain makes an announcement confirming that we have deviated from our course and will be meeting a Canadian Coast Guard vessel within an hour to transport a passenger to a land based medical facility.

I join many other passengers on deck 5 to watch the transfer. I will try and be polite, so I will just say no one was impressed with the boat handling skills of the CCG. It took them about 30 minutes to get their boat secured to the boarding platform extended from the side of our ship. Several times the lines slipped loose from the coast guard vessel because they were not properly secured. In the process they lost a large portable fender, managed to rip a five foot section of gunwale from the side of their vessel, not once but twice, and nearly wrapped a dropped mooring line around the propellers. After numerous attempts the vessel was sort of secured to the boarding platform.

Everyone held their breath as the patient was passed between the vessels. A feat performed mostly by Vision crew members. Eventually the transfer was completed which resulted in a loud outburst of applause from the watching passengers. The Coast Guard vessel was quickly on its way to shore, and we would soon be underway again.

Shortly the captain tells us that we are still in the speed restricted area for several more hours and he does not expect the time lost for the medical emergency to delay our arrival in Quebec City. What he does not say, but I can only speculate, is that the needs of the medical emergency had priority over the speed restrictions, or the captain just ignored them. Continuously prior to the transfer we had been doing almost 20 knots, and now we have only several hours of restricted speed while yesterday the captain said we would have 10 hours of restricted speed.

The pool has been refilled. The life guard is standing at his post on the edge of the pool, and no one is in the water, understandable as the temperature is probably about 60 today. The sun peaks in and out through the clouds.

Just after noon we pass a cruise ship heading the other way. She is too far away to identify, but she is definitely a small ship, smaller than any royal ships. I don't know the name of the land area we are cruising by, but hundreds of wind generators can be seen on the horizon, extending as far as the eye can see to both the East and West.

At 2:30 there is a meeting to tell us the procedures for the 121 back to back cruisers. I have done this a number of time in US ports, and each time it is different. Here in Canada I have no idea what to expect. My past experience with Canadian customs in general is that it will be very smooth and easy.

We have passed a number of dolphins today and some whales. Of course when I didn't have a camera.

In another unusual change, it has been pretty predictable that on formal nights RC would offer lobster and prime rib on the menu. Well last night was formal night, but tonight has the lobster and prime rib. I have no guess as to why, except this is a 10 day cruise, and the ship usually does 7 day turns.

We turn our clocks back 30 minutes tonight so we are on the correct time when we arrive in Quebec tomorrow for an overnight stay and a new manifest of passengers. Well new except for the 121 of us that are not disembarking there.

Day 8 - Corner Brook, Newfoundland

As the captain seems to do every day, we arrive a little early, and the ship is quickly cleared. It was bound to happen, and today is the day. It it pouring rain, foggy and dreary. Few passengers, others than those taking tours, bother to get off the ship.

The dock is primarily an industrial dock without even a tent for cruise ships. Hundreds of sections of pipe cover much of the dock. I would guess they are 8 to 10 feet in diameter and of several varying lengths. I am unable to determine what they might be for. The walls are too thin to be concrete, and too smooth to be cast iron. They might be either plastic or carbon fiber with a protective coating on both the interior and exterior.

Corner Brook is a relatively small community. The major, and maybe only, employer of significance is a paper mill. Until a few years ago it was the largest mill in the world. Water vapor pours from dozens of stacks across the plant, adding to the moisture in the air. How much pollution being dumped into the harbor is unknown.

At one point an ambulance arrives to disembark a passenger. There have been several "Alpha" calls since we left Bayonne, the call for the entire crew to a medical emergency.

Later in the day, the temperature rises into the mid sixties and the rain lets up to an occasional drizzle. I remain on the ship.

I continue to dine in the main dining room, the veal shank is excellent. Michael and Jackie, my table mates were two of the passengers that took a tour today, a hike on several trails. The trails were well maintained, the rain was minimal and the scenery was beautiful and they finally even got to see some trees that have begun to change color. The evening before they were seriously considering canceling the tour, now they are glad they didn't.

Our headliner entertainment tonight is a comedian. I get to the theater about 30 minutes early to find every seat occupied. I stand at the back of the balcony. About half way thru his show there is another alpha call to the casino. He stops mid sentence, and after a few minutes the show continues. His show was good, and he did it without resorting to foul language as many comedians do.

Our next port is Quebec City. For about 200 miles of the transit, we are restricted to a maximum speed of 10 knots because we will be in an area where whales migrate. The speed limit is strictly enforced by the Canadian Coast Guard, enforced to the extent that last week they even fined one of their own ships for speeding at 10.1 knots. Soon after we depart we are cruising at 20 knots, the wind is on our bow in excess of 40 mph, and it raining very hard.

I listen to the pub entertainer in the piano bar for about an hour and then head to the cabin for the evening. I think his accent might be English, but I'm not sure. His music is good and varied, but I have a little difficulty understanding him when he is talking. Of course that is made more difficult by a group of 15 guests next to me that are carrying on a rather loud conversation, oblivious to the fact most people in the room are there to listen to the entertainer.

Tonight we turn our clock back 1 hour. I am relatively confident this is not in conjunction with any time zone, but an arbitrary decision on the part of the captain to leave the additional 30 minute adjustment for the last night before arriving in Quebec City.

Despite running at near top speed there is no vibration in my cabin, but the entire ship creaks and moans. There is no information to tell us the sea conditions, but given the wind speed and ship motion I would expect the seas are probably 10 to 12 feet.

Tomorrow is a sea day, I'm ready for one. Six ports in six days is unusual, not what I usually encounter. No alarm tonight!

October 07, 2017

Day 7 – Sydney, Nova Scotia

When I retire for the evening we are cruising at about 12 Knots, and there is a little vibration in the cabin. Not enough to keep me from sleeping, but enough that I realize it is there. 10 minutes later that changes, something is now rattling loudly. Coat hangers? Something in the bathroom? Ice in the bucket? I turn the light on to investigate. It turns out to be the A/C cover which is directly over my bed. A couple of gentle pushes and it stops. Back to bed for a good nights sleep.

We arrive in Sydney a little early and the ship is quickly cleared by local authorities. With no specific plans, I let the passengers that have tours get off while I have eggs and a sausage for breakfast.

Again the weather is picture perfect, a few light clouds, a gentle breeze and temperatures rising above 60. As with every other port, the warm weather has delayed the usual changing of leaves which so far this fall just hasn't happened anywhere I have been.

Sydney is a small port, very friendly for cruise ships. Step off the ship and you are here. There are a number of shops on the pier. Absolutely some of the best quality merchandise I have seen at any port. Most items are locally made, and there is none of the usual junk imported from Asia.

There is a strong Keltic influence here seen in the shops, and heard from bagpipers as one walks along the harbor towards town. There is a giant oversized fiddle on the pier, a favorite picture spot. I can't help notice a sign at the entrance to the shopping pavilion on the pier listing the operating hours during the week, under which it says "and allways when there is a cruise ship in port". Rockland should take notice.

Another sign informs guests that there is a concert on the pier starting an hour and a half before the ship departs, and that it can be enjoyed from the open areas of the ship. Absolutely no question that this town welcomes the visitors that come by cruise ship.

Reboarding the ship is as easy as it could be, just show your sea pass card. It must just be my day, as for the first time on this trip I pass thru the metal detectors without the buzzers going off.

Sometimes the pools are drained for repair or cleaning. Today the main pool on the ship is drained, maybe just because it hasn't been used in a week? I'll see when they refill it.

Probably just to break habit, but I have been going to the dining room each night. I think the menu has changed, but i'm not sure, all I know is there are one or more good choice each evening. The food has been good and the service excellent.

After dinner I go to the Concierge Lounge. The topic of conversation is Royal's new policy of either charging more if you want a refundable ticket, or if you cancel after 30 days losing your deposit regardless of how far prior to the date of sailing. The concensus amongst the frequent cruisers here is that future cruise bookings on board have dropped to the point of almost being non existant.

I am planning on listening to the pianist, Rosemarie Olifindo, tonight. I have been here a week and haven't spent any time in the Schooner Bar. Tonight should be the night. I have no plans for tomorrow, our stop in Corner Brooke, Newfoundland. There are only four tours being offered, so I can only assume it is a very small town. Rosemarie plays mostly classical, there are a few guests, no where near the crowd that Kelly would draw.

Tonight we turn our clocks ahead 30 minutes. Yes 30 minutes, half of a time zone. Newfoundland is North and East of Nova Scotia. We are now 90 minutes later than Florida.

Day 6 – Halifax, Nova Scotia

We arrive in Halifax harbor a little before our scheduled arrival at 10:00 AM. Again it is a gorgeous day, blue skies, no clouds, a light breeze, and temperatures rising to about 70. We could not ask for it to be nicer.

Before arrival we had to complete a declarations form for the Canadian authorities. We just dropped it in a box by the front desk, so I doubt much is done with them. Upon disembarkation there is no check at all, just a government employee counting passengers as we enter the terminal building.

I did not book a tour for today, instead take the Hop-on Hop-off bus that makes a continuous loop around the city lasting about an hour an a half.

I get off at the only stop that interests me, the maritime museum. The museum is appropriately housed in an old warehouse along the water front. There are many artifacts, the more unique being a mold for casting large anchors and a complete rotating lens assembly from a light house. I would estimate the lens to be 6 feet in height, and 4 feet across.

Many ship models are on display, including old "ships in a bottle" dating back several hundred years. There are several old ships in the harbor that are also open for touring.

Halifax is a very modern city, and the guide tells us it is the second fastest growing city in Canada. The current population is about 400,000. We are told A 600 sq ft apartment rents $1000 to $1500 a month plus utilities and an additional $150 for a parking spot.

I return to the ship too late for lunch, which is probably just as well as I have been going to the dining room each evening. Tonight is the first show with the singers and dancers, the same tribute to Broadway they have been performing on the Vision of the Seas for years. The cast is new, having joined the ship in Bayonne

There are actually several people in the Solarium pool, the first I have seen the pool used at all.

I don't know if this is just this ship, or just my room steward, but so far there have been no towel creatures on my bed in the evening. Is this another cost cutting measure​?

I think I mentioned yesterday that the theater entertainment was a movie last night. Surprisingly they had the entire 9 piece orchestra in the Centrum playing music for those that wished to dance. There were a few couples, but not many, actually I only saw two.

The food and service has been good in the dining room with the exception of the first night when the galley couldn't keep pace. The Canadian Government did an exhaustive health inspection that took all day while we were here in Halifax. The captain and the dining room staff both reported that the grade was 100%. The crew and staff were very happy, and I doubt any passengers were disappointed with the inspection report.

I should have internet for the next several days, and will be posting the blog on a more regular schedule.

After dinner I head to the theater to catch the production show. As I had been warned earlier, the theater was nearly full 35 minutes before show time when I arrived.

Tomorrow we are in Sydney, no not Australia but Nova Scotia. 

October 06, 2017

Day 5 - Bar Harbor, Maine

During the night the skies are clear and there is a bright full moon, the temperature drops in to the twenties and we slowly make our way from Rockland to Bar Harbor over relatively calm seas of less than 6 feet. As has been the case every night so far, the cabin is very quiet. No drunks yelling in the hall ways, kids screaming, or mechanical vibrations from the engines or propulsion system.

I have a tour that gathers on the pier at 1:15 so there is no need to set an alarm. I awaken just after 8:00 and go to the Windjammer where I have a couple of eggs cooked to order for breakfast. By the time I gather my camera, phone, ID, and jacket the line for the tenders has diminished to non existant. I make my way to the loading platfrom on deck one and immediately board a tender.

Always being one to learn something, today I learned how to wash the salt spray from the windshield of the life boats that are used as tenders. A crew person opens the hatch, sticks his head out, and pours a bottle of drinking water on the windshield while running the wipers. Simple enough.

This harbor is surrounded by many islands and rocks protruding out of the water. Many boats are docked or anchored in the harbor, and the harbor is covered with many hundreds of lobster buoys marking the location of the pots below. It is a short ride to the shore side dock which is just a few steps from the center of town.

By mid morning the temperature has warmed to about 70, the sky is blue with no clouds in sight. There is a slight breeze, another perfect day. The fall foliage has barely begun to turn color, the weather has been unseasonably warm here this fall.

Bar Harbor is such a contrast to Rockland. Many stores and restaurants, all open and competing for the tourist dollar. By all indications Bar Harbor is a thriving waterfront town. There are two ships here today, The Vision of The Seas which I am on and the Norwegian Dawn which does an itinerary between Boston and Quebec City. Today she is Southbound. I believe 161 ships visited Bar Harbor this year compared to less than a dozen to visit Rockland.

I spend several hours walking around the town. I visit a few shops, but as usual purchase nothing. Since there will be no opportunity for lunch, shortly before I board my bus I purchase an ice cream cone. I don't know the brand, but it was very good, and not over priced.

The tour bus to visit Cadillac Mountain and some of the highlights around Bar Harbor is a small 14 passenger bus. The driver and guide, Bill, has lived in Bar Harbor for 42 years and now spends his winters in Florida, often in his RV at Lake Louisa State Park, very near where I live. I must add that I was in Bar Harbor about 55 years ago, I remember some of the National Park, but only a little.

I continue to be pleasantly amazed by the passengers on this cruise. When we get off the bus for a 30 minute visit at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, everyone is back on the bus and seated several minutes before the designated time. We are rewarded by taking a longer route back to the port.

I do need to tell you a story that our guide to Mt Washington told us about happening last week. He was guiding the same tour from the Port of Portland to Mt Washington for a group of passengers from a Princess ship. On the return trip there is a spot about 10 minutes or so from the port where you can see the ship anchored in the harbor, only this time the ship wasn't anchored, it was steaming out to sea. As the driver continued towards the port, the ship went out of sight. The passengers began to panic. Had they missed the boat? What were they going to do? This tour was booked thru the cruise line and they are supposed to wait, but obviously the ship was leaving.

It is a long process to clear customs and get to where the ship had been docked. Nobody can tell them anything. When they finally meet a Princess representative it turns out that low tide was approaching, and the captain was just moving the ship to deeper water, a simple procedure that caused panic among 45 unsuspecting passengers. They were tendered to the awaiting ship just outside the harbor.

Our tour gets us back to port about 15 minutes before the last tender. We are directed to a large luxurious catamaran for the journey back to the ship, added capacity to get the passengers back as quickly as possible.

There is no show tonight, just a movie being played in the theater. We need to turn our clocks ahead one hour to adjust to the time zone in Halifax, Nova Scotia, our next port. Our arrival is anticipated to be about 10 AM. I did not book an excursion, but will get off the ship.

Day 4 Rockland

No alarm this morning, since there is no early tour today. I sleep until a little after 8, and deliberately walk outside to get a feel for the weather. The navigation channel which usually provides some basic information such as ship's time, temperature, wind, etc. is mostly non functional. The time has been indicated as 00:35 for several days now, and weather conditions are never displayed.

There are just a very few high wispy clouds in an otherwise blue sky. There is barely a breeze, and the temperature is already closing in on 70. It is going to be another perfect day.

It was a very short cruise from Portland, and at one point we were moving at 4 knots on calm seas under a bright full moon. I guess we are anchored about 2 to 3 miles from the boat dock used by our tenders.

There are only a handful of passengers having breakfast in the solarium, one of those venues that often remains undiscovered by passengers. I have a ham and egg sandwich on an english muffin. It is served hot, and is all I need.

I return to the room and pack my camera, phone, and a jacket just in case. If one is not on a tour the tendering process is to get a ticket in the Schooner bar, and when your lucky number is called you may proceed to the boarding area on deck 1. This process does a good job of relieving the congestion that often occurs in the stairwells. My wait is about 40 minutes.

On many other ships, the higher level loyalty members are given priority tender service. Not here. We also don't have priority seating for the shows, one of those little perks that cost Royal nothing, was appreciated by the guests, but has been eliminated.

While waiting for my tender I turn my phone on and am pleasantly surprised that I have cell service. I send off a meaningless message to my daughters.

On the tender ride to the dock, we pass 100's of lobster buoys in the harbor, and also pass the Rockland lighthouse. A number of boats are anchored in the harbor, but there are more empty buoys than ones with boats attached. Probably the boats have been pulled for the winter.

A number of locals were handing out maps, answering questions, and otherwise greeting passengers as they came off the tenders. As I walked main street I found the majority of the shops and businesses were closed. A handful of restaurants were open, all pushing lobster in one form or another.

Unlike many ports I visited there were only one or two cabs working the dock area. I just got the impression that the economy is suffering here. If I were a store owner, with several thousand tourists coming to town for the day, I think I would at least open the doors. Why not?

Yesterday in Portland, security was very strict to reboard the ship. Passengers were unloaded from buses outside of the port area, we needed to show photo ID and Sea Pass to enter the port and then went thru the usual X-ray screening, pat downs, etc. Of course this was all repeated once we got to the gangway on the ship.

Rockland was much more friendly, just a crew member checking sea pass cards before boarding the tender, then the usual check on the ship.

Once I reboard the ship I find my room steward shampooing the carpet in my cabin. I wouldn't have described it as dirty, but I did notice a few spots that looked like shoe polish. I imagine they will be all gone when I return later. I leave my jacket and grab my laptop to go the the concierge lounge to write. There are a few other guests here, one couple enjoying a bottle of wine they brought from their room.

I have been told that the Top Tier reception is this evening, but as of the moment I don't have the usual invitation that is in the room when I embark the ship. Other guests haven't gotten theirs either but have been told by a friend of a friend that it was tonight.

A couple days ago there was a lunch for the Pinnacle members in the Izumi restaurant. It appeared there were many guests in attendance, I will try and find out how many when there is a top tier reception.

One of the two elevators that serve deck 11 has been out of operation for a couple of days. Monday when I was riding it to 11, the car stopped and the doors opened, but the elevator car was about a foot above where it should have stopped. Fortunately a passenger noticed before stepping out, and no one was injured. The entire elevator was shut down for a few hours, today it is operating only between decks 1 and 9.

Late in the afternoon a lobster boat was working within 20 yards of the ship pulling and resetting lobster pots. The catch appeared to be good with 10 to 20 lobsters being removed from each pot.

When I return to my cabin late in the afternoon, there is in fact an invitation to the top tier party tonight at 7:00 in the main theater. Why it is scheduled during dinner I can't explain. I tell my waiter that I need to be finished with dinner by 6:45. He does an excellent job in serving me quickly and I head off to the reception.

A few interesting facts are shared. Royal will be starting service out of San Juan this week with the next scheduled cruises. This is much sooner than many would expect, but as the captain explained this is the best thing they can do to help get things back to normal. Give us the opportunity to spend money there.

On this cruise there are 220 diamond level cruisers, 100 Diamond Plus, and 39 Pinnacle, actually less than I would have guessed. The staff here has a much more positive attitude towards the Crown & Anchor members and has made arrangements to have enough space for all those that wish to visit either the Concierge Lounge or the Diamond lounge. When I was complimenting the loyalty ambassador he told me that the main office heard loud and clear that many of the cutbacks they were trying to implement was not well received by the customer.

The captain explains that so far there have only been a handful of ships to visit Rockland, that may explain why the reception was less than what I expected. Unfortunately for those residents that see the benefit of cruise ships calling on Rockland, they may be disappointed in the future as few passengers on this ship would rate the stop very favorably.

Tomorrow is another tender stop, Bar Harbor, ME. I have an afternoon excursion around Bar Harbor and to Cadillac Mountain, so there is no need to set an alarm tonight.