January 30, 2017

Two Days At Sea & Home

As we leave St Maarten for the 1200 plus miles back to Port Canaveral we will be cruising at near top speed for the next two days. I can't say the seas are calm, but the ship doesn't pitch or roll a bit, primarily a result of her large size. The skies are mostly sunny both days with temperatures expected in the mid to upper seventies.

I spend an hour or so on the bridge. The Carnival Sunshine is about 15 miles in front of us, and another cruise ship about the same distance behind. Being an American with English his first and only language, Captain Rob Hempstead is the easiest to understand of the many Captains I have met over the years. After school, one of his first jobs was on a container ship where he found himself for seven months with no one to talk to as no one else spoke English, and he could speak no other language. He chose to leave the container industry and eventually found his way to the cruise line industry with Royal Caribbean after a stint as Captain on fish factory ships in the Bering Sea.

I also take a free galley tour, another benefit of being a Crown and Anchor Diamond Plus member. I sympathized with the Chef that led our tour as he too is allergic to seafood. He can't even sample what he fixes for the guests. He is also responsible for incoming food quality. Actually rather typical, but the Oasis loaded 27 semi trailer loads of provisions for this cruise.

On the Oasis class ships they have a separate galley for each dining venue including three galleys for each deck of the main dining room. On many ships a single galley serves multiple venues and multiple levels of the main dining room. Of course this is much harder on the staff as they are going up and down stairs all the time.

There are other groups doing paid galley tours, either just as a tour, or as part of a specialty lunch package. Ship tours have become a good profit center for the cruise industry. Years ago such tours were free for everyone.

The Captain's corner Q&A lasted nearly an hour. Surprisingly there was not one stupid question, but there are questions from other captain's. A captain of Great Lakes ore carriers had a question about staff organization, and an airline captain wondered why we just didn't reverse our itinerary when weather prevented us from going to Nassau when scheduled. I think he didn't have a full grasp of the fact that the ship can only get so far in a day when we can only travel at 21 knots.

The performance of Cats was stopped and subsequently canceled part way through the show yesterday because of some type of mechanical failure in the theater. All subsequent performances of "Cats" and the other production show "Come Fly With Me" were also canceled. I saw Cats when I was here just over two years ago so it doesn't matter to me. As has been the case many times, a large percentage of passengers did not stay for the entire performance for either of the two performances of Cats earlier in the week.

By Saturday afternoon the temperatures have dropped into the low 70's. The weather forecast is predicting temperatures in the forties when I arrive in Port Canaveral. Yes I remembered to bring a jacket.

I elect to go to the buffet instead of the dining room for dinner. The offerings are more enticing than in the dining room. The buffet is busy, but not overwhelmed. I head back to the Diamond Lounge for a last drink.

Some signage around the ship indicates a restaurant, "Wonderland", in the space that is now actually the Diamond Lounge. The Wonderland exists on The Harmony, but never was installed on the Oasis and Allure during the last refurbishment as scheduled. The inaccurate signage just feeds the rumors that the future of the Diamond Lounge is doomed, a rumor that has been around for several years. Time will tell.

I return to my cabin to pack, at most a 20 minute task.

I have been assigned a relatively late disembarkation as Royal does not offer priority disembarkation on the Oasis. I don't really want to carry my own luggage off the ship, so I will be patient and leave at my assigned time.

I head to the dining room waiting area. The Process is very slow. After the self assist passengers get into the terminal everything comes to a screeching halt. The terminal is jammed and customs is functioning at a snails pace. Passengers are held back at the entrance to the baggage area, and the waiting line extends all the way to the waiting area on the ship. About 10 am when all passengers should be off, but only about half are, the ships staff gives up and just tells everyone they can get in line whenever they want regardless of their assigned number.

Eventually I get to the luggage area, find my luggage, hail a porter, and avoid what probably would have been another hour or two wait in line for the four customs agents processing the 5000 passengers not using a porter. (There is a separate agent for guests using porters, and the line is short since the number of porters is very limited.)

I am home by about 1:00, drop my bags, change clothes and head to Alyssa's new house to help her with some painting preparation questions.

I am home for about a week and then departing Feb 4 on The Freedom Of The Seas back to the Eastern Caribbean. I used to think the Freedom was a large ship, this time it will seem small and definitely be less crowded than the Oasis has been.