February 14, 2017

Two Sea Days and Home

The captain has altered his course back to Ft. Lauderdale to keep us in calmer water Saturday. Friday morning finds the seas calm with a brisk breeze across the open decks. The temperatures are probably in the low 70's. In the shade it feels cool, but out of the wind, in the sun, it is hot. Hot enough to turn unsuspecting passengers into looking like the lobsters that will be served for dinner tonight.

All of my children go ice skating this morning. Miraculously, considering all the other injuries on this trip, no one falls. Don't worry, I wouldn't consider ice skating. In fact I am not sure I would even feel safe walking on the ice. I may take risks traveling to unknown lands, but I really try to avoid any risk of a fall. I have heard that falls are the number one killer of the elderly, not that I consider myself in that category.

The cruise director told us this morning about several things to look for in the sky tonight. First just after sunset there will be a lunar eclipse lasting several hours and then later in the evening a passing meteor should be visible. At one point he said this hasn't happened in 1000 years, at another point 600. I'll leave it up to you to determine the accuracy of either statement. Since I certainly won't be around the next time this occurs, and I have seen tonight's show many times, I will probably wander to the upper most deck of the ship to take a look. If the skies are clear, viewing from a ship can be very good as there is no light pollution to contend with.

I had sent an email reminder to a friend that is into astronomy. He replied that it was going to be such a non-event, the astronomy club is doing nothing to attempt a viewing.

Obviously the amateur astronomers know more than a cruise director when it comes to eclipses and meteors. Even though we had clear skies, there was nothing about the moon that the untrained eye could observe, and the moon was so bright, even when in a partial shadow, no stars could be observed not to mention a faint meteor.

The seas remain calm, another cruise ship has been 5 to 10 miles in front of us all day, as we continue to head home.

Saturday morning finds the seas running about 6 feet. The ship is perfectly stable and the temperatures are again in the 70's with mostly clear skies.

There are now two ships traveling in our same direction, one off in the distance in front of us, and another behind us. This morning I take a tour behind the scenes of Studio B, the ice rink. A few tidbits that you may find interesting.

The ice rink floor is flexible. If it were more rigid, like the steel plates used to construct the rest of the ship, the ice would crack as the ship twists and flexes. The largest ice show production cost is the repair of lighting equipment. Because of the constant vibration, lamps have a very short life and mechanical fasteners often come loose requiring a high level of maintenance. I must mention that the Freedom was one the earlier ships to have an ice rink, and hopefully they have learned some lessons for the newer ships. In fact I think most lighting on the newer ships is LED instead of incandescent.

My cabin is just a little larger than the one I had on the Oasis, but what a difference in functionality. More than double the storage space, plenty of space around the bed, and nothing is broken. My cabin steward is very personable and we exchange greetings daily. In St Maarten he managed to get a few hours ashore to enjoy a local beer. If I had known, I would have treated.

The children spent time ice skating, rock climbing, and flow riding. Activities that I wouldn't even consider.

The customs and border protection department has instituted a new service in Ft Lauderdale for returning U.S. passengers disembarking ships.

Essentially you download an app, enter your personal data such as passport information, take a picture of yourself and answer a few questions about your trip. After you arrive at port, the data is sent to customs, and a bar code is sent to your device. The bar code, which is only valid for 4 hours, is then scanned and the agent only needs to check your passport. We will see how it works.

We will be some of the first passengers off the ship as the intent is to get Adrienne back to Orlando in time for her afternoon work shift. Time will tell. If disembarkation is as slow as it was for me two weeks ago, she will lucky to get home for her shift tomorrow.

By later afternoon there are three cruise ships in sight in addition to several freighters. We pass a lighthouse marking a shallow shoal about a mile to starboard. Of course I don't have my camera with me. Our last night in the diamond lounge. I have met some interesting passengers including a college student that is studying for her masters degree in computer science. She has spent at least eight hours each of the last three days in the crown lounge working on school work. And some people question the dedication of the younger generations.

Another couple is staying on the Freedom next week, and then will be with me on the Rhapsody for the following week.

And of course I met two new "Steve's". I think I now know enough Steves to staff a ship.

The final show is good, a combination of acrobatics and a comedian. I watch the second show which I later heard was better than the first.

The alarm is set for 5:30, something very ridiculous while being on a cruise. Our plan is to meet at 6:30 by the elevators on deck 8, and be some of the first passengers off the ship.

It takes about an hour to disembark the ship, clear customs, wait for the shuttle bus to the parking lot, pack the suitcases in the cars and be on our way. The new process for customs works for some passengers and does seem to be a little faster. Sunday morning traffic is very light and we make good time traveling home. Adrienne even has time to do the first load of laundry before going to work.

In 6 days, on Feb 18, I leave for two weeks on the Rhapsody of The Seas. A ship about 10 years older than the Freedom with a capacity of about half as many passengers. No ice show, mini golf, or flow rider, but she does have a rock climbing wall. As if I cared.

St Maarten and St Kitts

We continue to have gorgeous weather. The temperatures are a little more bearable than they often are in this area, and the breeze in St Maarten is quite brisk just making it more comfortable to be in the port.

Alyssa and Adrienne have booked a couple of dives in the morning. The seas are a little choppy for their small craft to the point that they have to sign extra waivers. Their dive is enjoyable and uneventful.

The big plan for the day is to meet at the Lazy Lizzard for a drink and some food. Adrienne and her husband Steve had met Nick and his wife, the owners, on a previous cruise and have been keeping in touch via facebook. I am the first to arrive, probably about and hour and half before our agreed upon time. It only takes a minute to find and meet Nick. I settle in and have some food and a drink. Over the next two hours I am joined by the other 10 cruisers in our group, and two crew member friends from The Harmony of The Seas. (The Harmony is docked next to us.)

It is very obvious why Nick is successful in his business. If you are ever in St Maarten, check out the Lazy Lizzard. Tell Nick that Steve sent you and you will be treated just like all his customers. With quality beverages and food in a friendly atmosphere, at fair prices.

Taking the water taxi, I am back on the ship in about 40 minutes. A cool shower, change of clothes, and I am ready for the evening. The show is a magician that I have never seen before. His show is good and well attended. I retire to my stateroom, answer a few e-mails, and try to catch up on my blog.

Overnight we travel to St Kitts for an early morning arrival. Early in the morning the skies look quite threatening, but so far no rain. I decide to stay on the ship today. There are only two other ships here, a princess ship sharing our dock, and the same AIDA ship we have seen the last several days.

Many in our group have arranged for a private tour with some time at one of the local beaches.

The next two days we will be at sea headed back to Ft. Lauderdale 1200 miles away.