February 24, 2017

Roatan, Belize City and Costa Maya

We arrive in Roatan, Honduras precisely on time at 10 AM. The ship is cleared in about 10 minutes and passengers begin disembarking even before all the lines are secured.

Roatan is one of the smaller ports that cruise ships visit. There are just a handful of shops on the pier, including of course the ever present Diamonds International. Most passengers are off on tours, probably 700 stay on board. I get off and walk around for an hour or so. I have little interest in beaches, zip lines, or shopping.

There is another ship docked about 5 or 7 miles away at another port. Too far away to make out the cruise line.

Again the weather is ideal, but maybe a little deceiving for some guests. The temperatures are in the low 80's but there is a 25 mph wind making it feel much cooler. A perfect recipe for some good sunburns. The water is crystal clear, even right at the pier. Many small fish can be seen swimming in the water.

Tonight's show is a comedian and juggler that uses several members from the audience to help him. As often is the case, the audience participants steal the show.

It is a short overnight cruise to to Belize City. The seas are slight and the motion of the ship is minimal.

Belize is a tender port, and we anchor about 5 miles off shore. The Carnival Freedom is about a mile in front of us, and a small German ship, "Hamburg", is about 5 miles to our stern. I go ashore several hours before my tour. All the usual shops and a few local ones. "The Wet Lizard" grabs my attention so I enjoy a beer with some other passengers before getting on our "air conditioned" tour bus. Nearly all vehicles in Belize are old vehicles imported from the US. The poorer the condition, the less tax they have to pay when importing them. Looking at most vehicles on the roads, they avoid a lot of import tax.

Our guide shares a number of things that I hadn't remembered about Belize City. First of all, the city is actually two feet below sea level. New development is almost non existent, and most growth is in the interior of the country. Very few private residences have AC, only the homes of the very rich. Schools, stores, and medical facilities are not air conditioned. Today the temperature is mild, in the low 90's. During the summer the highs often reach 115, and the humidity is very high. Agriculture, primarily citrus crops, and tourism are the major contributors to the economy. The first cruise ship visited the country about 20 years ago. Today there are three here and tomorrow there will be four.

I return to the ship and change for cocktail hour. Right on schedule at 5:00 the captain applies power to the thrusters to turn the ship around. The vibration is a little more severe than usual in the Diamond Lounge, and after about 5 minutes a stack of about 25 plates vibrates to the floor in a thunderous crash. Without a doubt it is very clear, the Captain did it.

Sometimes I think there is payback, but I wouldn't wish this payback on anyone. One of the passengers that is amongst the most poorly dressed each night didn't have the sense to stay out of the sun or use sunscreen. Much of his face is badly blistered from sun burn. Probably the worst sunburn I have seen in years. He looks like he should be getting medical treatment he looks so bad, but I will guess that he does not have enough sense to do that either.

The next morning we arrive in Costa Maya. The weather is about the same with temperatures in the upper 80's on the ship with a nice breeze coming off the ocean. I decide to stay on the ship today and take care of some logistics. I gather my laundry. They say it will be back the next day, but I often find it takes 2 or 3 days. I connect to the internet and skim over my 123 new emails. There are only a few of any importance. I respond to those that are most important, some can wait until I am home, and many just get deleted.

I had a new experience the other day. Often there are various "gifts" in my cabin. Sometimes plates of cookies, bottles of wine, fruit and cheese plates etc. There was not one, but 2 plates. The first the usual chocolate covered strawberries and other desert items. I was a little perplexed that they would send two such plates to my cabin. I looked at the second. It contained shrimp, scallops and other deadly food! This is something the cruise lines are very careful about. They know of my allergies, but someone just made a mistake, or maybe it wasn't a mistake, maybe they are trying to tell me something. 

Rhapsody of the Seas

February 18, 2017 – I am off for two weeks on the Rhapsody of the Seas sailing from Tampa, Florida to Honduras, Belize , and Mexico. Actually I am doing a back to back and will be visiting each port of call twice, unless the captain diverts us to some other location.

Scott and Alyssa drive me to Tampa, and are spending the rest of their day at Busch Gardens.

This is definitely one of the fastest and easiest ship boardings I have ever encountered. Probably less than 20 minutes from stepping out of the car to being in the crown lounge on the ship. Of course this being a smaller ship makes the logistics much easier, but everything went smoothly, well for me anyway.

Entering the port building immediately in front of me was a couple with a big red wagon loaded with about 4 large suit cases and miscellaneous smaller items. I sure I saw a kitchen sink in the pile. Needless to say, security would not let them in. I have no guess what they expected to do with the wagon once on board. Fortunately I was able to just change lines and enter a different door.

The cabins were ready by 1:30, and I found my luggage in the hallway by a little after 2:00. To get the ship loaded as quickly as possible, luggage was initially just brought to the right section of the ship. A separate crew was slowly moving luggage to individual cabins, but most of it was just picked up from the hallways by the passengers.

By mid afternoon it began to rain, and I must assume it was also raining at Busch Gardens. Hopefully the kids were lucky, and inside at the time. After the usual muster drill, not "mustard" as many say, we left port promptly on time at 4:00 PM. The rain had stopped but it was very cloudy and overcast as we made our way under the Sunshine Bridge a little more than two hours after leaving Port. Tampa will never see any of the larger ships as they are just too tall to fit under the bridge, we clear with feet to spare.

The diamond lounge at most has about 40 guests during cocktail hour. I understand it is the first night, but the dress is what I would expect on Carnival. Armless tee shirts, shorts, swimsuits and ball caps. Not what is usually seen. I will see what happens tomorrow.

I am assigned late dining, as that is all that was available when I booked. Just one more reason I plan to eat at Park Cafe or the Windjammer.

The first night there is only one show. The comedian was good. I remember seeing him before, but don't remember the specifics of his routine. There are advantages to being able to forget.

As we head WSW towards Honduras, the seas are about 3 to 6 feet. Being a small ship we roll just enough so that if you think about it you realize you are on a ship.

Sunday is a sea day. The temperatures are in the mid to upper seventies, the skies are mostly sunny most of the day. Many passengers lounge in the sun or take dips in the pools. Unlike the larger ships there are plenty of deck chairs for everyone. A new detail I have noticed for the first time is that one of the pool staff stands on the platform of one of the hot tubs all day just watching over the pools. Not a lifeguard, but at least a set of eyes. There are some kids on board, but not a significant percentage. The cruise director tells us that the passenger manifest includes people from 21 countries, the majority being Americans followed by Canadians.

I spend an hour or so with future cruise sales re-booking some cruises. Because of changes in fares, and the fact that I now qualify for a discount on the single supplement I was able to save some dollars by re-booking.

By Monday evening the seas have picked up a little and a few passengers are beginning to complain about the ships motion. Every 20 of 30 minutes we hit a little larger wave that rattles throughout the ship. It's good to be able to hear and feel that I am actually on a ship and not just in a hotel somewhere.

The same improperly dressed guests are in the Diamond lounge again tonight. Even though it is formal night, they don't care. Yes, I had a private conversation with Alan the Diamond Lounge Concierge about the lack of proper dress. He doesn't seem to care any more than the offending guests.

Charlie is here, and fact he has been here for the last 7 weeks. I have said this before in earlier posts, but the only time I ever run into Charlie is on a Cruise ship even though he is one of my neighbors at home. I hope these two weeks turn out better, but his first four weeks were plagued with rain, high winds and generally unpleasant weather. They were diverted to different ports on several occasions, but that is just the way it is when dealing with mother nature.

Tonight's production show is with the singers and dancers. This being my first cruise on this ship, it is the first time I have seen this particular show. Because of the cost involved Royal very rarely will change a production show. They find it more advantageous to reposition ships to different markets every 3 to 5 years instead.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to be in Roatan, Honduras.