February 25, 2017

Cozumel and a Day at Sea

We move very slowly towards our scheduled arrival at Cozumel early in the morning. We are told that 9 ships are expected to be in port today. Our assigned pier is one of the old docks near the center of town instead of at the new International pier on the edge of town. The winds are quite brisk out of the West, rare for this area.

The Rhapsody is an older ship with conventional propellers instead of the newer azipod propulsion system. The Captain is uncomfortable with the motion of the ship and aborts his first docking attempt and heads back to open water. He tries again, and this time is successful.

The Hamburg which is right behind us makes three attempts before she is able to dock. Two other ships remain at sea and don't even attempt to dock. We are about an hour late in getting the ship cleared, so our departure is delayed by half an hour to compensate. Later the captain relates this was one of the most difficult conditions he has ever encountered in docking at Cozumel. Had the winds and current been any stronger we probably would have had to skip the port also.

I am off the ship before 10. On previous cruises I had heard about the No Name Bar, a favorite hangout for crew members of many cruise lines. I decide to make it a mission to find it and check it out.

After asking directions, twice, I learn it is only about a block from the pier. I head in the appropriate direction, and after walking right by it the first time, I spot the entrance. Probably the smallest entrance to any bar in Cozumel. Being quite honest, if I hadn't been told about it by others I wouldn't risk going inside, it looked a little too scary from the street.

After walking through a narrow dark passageway, the No Name Bar is actually pretty nice. There is a small beach, which is closed today because of the rough water, a nice pool, a bar, and many tables and chairs. There are hundreds of crew member name tags attached to the entrance walls, much like you would find business cards attached to bar walls in the US. Posted prices look reasonable, and of course there is free Internet.

There were only a handful of people there, but it was only about 10:30 in the morning, early even for sailors. At one table there were several of the servers from the Diamond lounge, and their manager, all using the free WiFi to talk to their families around the world. They were shocked to see me there. We chatted for a bit and then I left. Even though it was too early to order a drink, my mission was accomplished.

Ultimately I stop at Senor Frogs for free popcorn, my favorite snack food, a beer, and lunch.

I had spent several hours earlier in the week re-booking several cruises. I received the new confirmations and sent off an email to Kent, my trusted travel agent, to make the final changes. Disappointing, frustrating, and not surprising, what the Future Cruise Sales Manager said the travel agent could do turned out to not be possible.

After several emails to Royal's main office, and further communication with Kent, he accomplished what I needed, and at a price better than what Royal would give me directly. I have only booked direct with the cruise line a few times, and usually I am disappointed with the outcome. I will stick with my travel agent whenever possible.

The captain's Corner is attended by about 300 passengers, many many more than is usual. The questions were sincere and appropriate, and lasted over an hour. I found it to be surprising, but the captain revealed he prefers to steer the ship manually, forgoing the use of automatic systems. He admitted he doesn't trust the computers as well as his own instinct. Even more surprising in that he is a younger captain.

When I return to my cabin I find my clean laundry waiting for me. I now have enough clean clothes for the remainder of my journey, but will probably have them do one more batch early next week anyway.

The internet has been spotty, and several times when I have attempted to post the first several days to my blog I have been unsuccessful. I will keep trying. Obviously if you are reading this I was eventually successful.

I have spent several evenings with Deb and Tom in the Diamond Lounge. He dislikes air travel more than I do, but they also like to travel. Twice they have cruised the Mediterranean. Once by taking a repositioning cruise to Europe, and then returning by Cunard's QE2 to New York.

The second time they took the QE2 both ways to Europe, and are doing the same again in May. I have thought about such a trip, but haven't been diligent enough to figure out an itinerary that works. I'm now inspired to work at this a little harder. I definitely won't endure a plane flight across the Atlantic, and this is another alternative way to get there.

Their opinion was that while Cunard is still more formal than most American cruise lines it is not as "stuffy" as its reputation. Like all cruise lines the dress code has slipped from tuxedos every evening to just jackets.

This afternoon I tour backstage of the theater. Compared to the newer ships it is very small. There is no overhead room to "fly" sets, they must all be brought in from the wings. More significantly the time code equipment is broken and they are running all the shows with manual ques. From the audience you would never know the difference as every show appears to run smoothly.

Later in the day I tour the bridge, the captain joins us and chats with the small group. The bridge is very quiet, no traffic in sight and pretty calm seas. After nearly an hour a security officer arrives, interrupts the captain and asks us to leave. There is another tour waiting at the elevator lobby.

We are expected to enter the channel to Tampa at about 3:30 AM. The Radiance of The Seas will be in front of us and has to dock first as the she needs the space we dock in to turn around. Yes, the Tampa port is that small.