Day 2 – We are headed in a basic south east direction at about 17 Knots headed for our first port of call, St. Thomas. St Thomas was one of several ports heavily damaged by hurricanes a few months ago. Life has not returned to normal, but enough has been restored so that cruise ships are again calling on this popular Caribbean port.
I go to the Windjammer for a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Finding a spoon is the most difficult part, they are located only at one of the many food service stations, and not by the coffee, the fruit, or the cereal where you might expect.
After a quick breakfast I head to the theater to listen to the shopping talk. Not to hear the sales pitch, but to gather a little insight on how many of the shops and stores are open or will remain closed. Most of the ship recommended stores are open, but not so for the smaller establishments.
This is followed by an attempted excursion presentation. The technology just wouldn't co-operate with the slides changing at will without relationship to what the presenter was talking about. Despite numerous attempts to fix the laptop, it continued to have a mind of its own for the majority of the presentation.
After leaving the theater I take a couple of laps around the ship on deck 5. This ship is a little different than many others in that to walk around as you near the bow of the ship you have to walk up a flight of stairs to deck 6 where the helipad is, and then back down to deck 5 on the other side. Just a little more exercise that is good for me.
I head to the concierge lounge to watch the ocean go by and I run into Charlie, one of my neighbors. I spend the afternoon with him, catching up on the goings on in the community where I live. I have known Charlie and his wife for about 5 years, he lives in the same community as I in Clermont, but I never see him at home, only on cruise ships, usually a couple of times a year. Yes he cruises much more than I do, but he pretty much sticks to the Caribbean these days.
The weather today is ideal, reaching the high 70's possible 80. The skies remain partly cloudy, but there is no prospect of rain. The seas are about 3 feet at the most, and the ship barely exhibits any motion.
Tonight is a formal night, and the Captain's reception. Another photo opportunity and a free glass of champagne if you wish. I elect to remain in the lounge until after 7 and then I stop in the Windjammer for a little dinner. No rolls, and no desert.
The main entertainment tonight is Gary Williams. He says he has been doing shows for Royal for 20 years, but you couldn't prove it by me, I don't think I have ever heard him before. He sings songs made popular by Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, and other singers of the 60's. The theater is nearly full, but no one is standing.
After the show I stop and listen to Anna playing classical piano in the Centrum. She is a very good pianist, and often played on the Monarch when I first started cruising about 5 or 6 years ago. I don't think I have seen her in 4 or 5 years.
Tonight we turn our clocks ahead 1 hour as we move further East. The seas remain the same as we continue on our course to St. Thomas.
Day 3 – still at sea. Having lost an hour of time, I sleep until almost 9:00. The temperatures are in the mid 70's and expected to reach a high of 80 today. The skies are partly cloudy. Again the seas are only about 3 feet, any motion of the ship is negligible, and we continue on our course to St Thomas at just over 16 Knots.
After breakfast the first activity is the Captain's Corner where the ships officers are given the opportunity to answer questions from the guests. Most questions are legitimate, and I learn a few interesting details.
Many of you always wonder about rough seas. Someone asked the Captain what were the roughest seas he has encountered in his career. How about 70 to 80 foot waves! Yes this was as captain of a cruise ship, The Oasis of the Seas. The ship suffered a few broken windows, but otherwise escaped without damage. The largest seas I have ever encountered were about half that during hurricane Sandy.
The hotel director, Phillip Ashcroft, has had his career cross many familiar names. He worked for Premier cruise lines, a line I sailed with in the 80's. Later he worked as a Hotel Director on Disney ships for 4 years. This was followed by a seven year stint on "The World". For those of you that don't recognize the name. The World is a residential ship where individuals purchase apartments on the ship. Its itineraries are determined by the residents, and will frequently make its destination significant world events like the grand prix of Monaco, Carnival in Rio, or the America's cup race in Australia. After being stuck on land in Arkansas for about a year, he joined Royal in 2016.
I was aware that our itinerary was changed 3 times, but further learned that the changes number 6, the most recent being a day before departure. The last change was to bypass St Kitts, and make a port call in Martinique. The reason was simple. 5 other ships would also be in St Kitts the same day, a port that that has docks for 2 ships and barely can handle tendering for one additional one. Definitely a wise choice unless four other cruise lines decide to make the same last minute change.
I have lunch with Carley Boileau, the cruise director. She has a 31 year career in the cruise industry, including being a dancer on Carnival ships at time time I took my first cruise. She and her husband make their home in New Brunswick, Canada where my most recent favorite hospital is located. Probably one of the most professional and polished cruise directors I have encountered. Her experience shows.
Rare for royal ships, but they have an enrichment presentation covering the ports we will be visiting. Jim Clement gives a little history and some geography about our ports of call. Such programs are common on Celebrity and Holland America, but this is the first I have seen on royal outside of Alaska. Better than watching the belly flop contest.
Having a larger than usual lunch, a few appetizers will suffice for dinner. The show tonight is a production show with the singers and dancers. Actually a show I haven't seen before as this is my first time on The Serenade of The Seas. For the most part each ship has its own production shows which rarely change during the life of the ship.
We expect to arrive in St Thomas tomorrow morning at 8:00. this is the first time the Serenade has called here since the hurricanes and is one of the first ships here period. I expect there will be at least one other ship in port tomorrow.
The seas remain slight, and I am happy to report the passenger behavior is good. Surprisingly I did not receive cookies or fruit in my cabin the first few nights, but tonight there was a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, not from the usual Concierge Host or Hotel Director, but from the Captain. I can' tell you why the change.