October 15, 2017

Day 15 Halifax, Nova Scotia

Our transit during the night was uneventful. The seas were calm enough that the ship didn't exhibit any pitch, roll, or moaning and groaning.

We arrive early, again. I think the captain is anxious to start his vacation. We are joined in Halifax by the Oceanic cruise lines Insignia. A small upscale (read more expensive) ship that carries about 600 passengers.

The sun peaks out from behind the clouds and the temperatures are warmer than they have been the last several days, probably in the 60's. We have nothing on the ship that tells us the current weather conditions other than sunrise and sunset and occasionally the wind.

To be nice to other passengers, and to facilitate curing my head cold, I elect to stay on board and mostly remain in my cabin today. I purchase some internet time and catch up on posting the last several days to the blog. With most passengers on shore, the connection speeds are almost tolerable. I sort through emails, nearly all of which go directly to the trash bin. I don't need new tires this week or really care that the pool back home has been closed and then reopened.

TCM has several decent old movies that I watch. Not exactly a reason to go on a cruise ship, but some entertainment, without commercials to pass the time during the day. The usual activities like trivia, karaoke, coloring, and dance music don't start until most passengers are back on the ship late in the afternoon.

Despite the warmer temperatures, the pools remain empty with the lifeguards standing at their station just in case.

I have no appetite, normal when one is fighting a cold. I settle for a little pasta, tasted like wall paper paste, and a dish of chocolate ice cream. Shortly after we depart it begins to rain and the wind has picked up to 35 Knots directly on the bow. The seas are expected to be 10 to 12 feet tonight, I'm sure enough to rock the ship as the captain warned everyone to use the hand railings at all times.

Last week my special "gift" was four RC beach towels. I quickly realized there would be no way to get them all in my suitcase especially if I was given four more on each of the next two legs. Usually the system takes weeks to update information, but I changed my preference to Sprite Zero. It worked! No more towels this week, instead 7 cans of Sprite Zero. I expect the same when we leave Bayonne for Galveston.

I give up on the HVAC and call maintenance. The cabin has been on the cold side today. Despite turning the controls to maximum heat it continues to blow cold air. Miraculously about 20 minutes after I call, there is some heat. Of course the maintenance man shows up 20 minutes after that.

Tomorrow we are in Saint John, New Brunswick. Because of the shape of the harbor, the tides here approach 50 feet. I'm not sure that "tide" is technically correct, as what happens is that the water sloshes into the uniquely shaped harbor. I chose a tour here because it incorporates a train ride. For kicks I look up the reviews of the tour I am taking on line, and many people say don't do it, it is the worst tour in Saint John.

If I don't feel better by morning I may just skip it. No point in going if I feel miserable, and if still coughing I refuse to spend time with other passengers. Time will tell, I will let you know tomorrow.

We are scheduled to arrive about 11:00 for another tender port.

Day 14 – Sydney, Nova Scotia

I can only assume we arrived on time at 7:00 AM, or maybe even early. I have no clue as I was still sound asleep. The high temperatures are forecast to be about 55 today, with a brisk wind.

Probably one of the reasons I slept late is that about 1:30 AM I awoke and wanted something to drink other than what I had in the room. The Park Cafe in the Solarium remains open until 2:00, so I dress and go to get a glass of ice tea or something. The ship looked like a ghost ship! Other than 2 staff members in the Solarium, the ship was totally void of visible human life. No music, no elevator bells, nothing. Well I suppose to be expected as this is an older group of passengers than what you would find on a three day weekend cruise to Nassau where ship boarding time is Midnight.

We docked here in Sydney last week, but this time the dock is occupied by the Zuiderdam and we anchor about a mile away in the bay. Four lifeboats will be used as tenders.

I initially was going to get off, but I am exhibiting the beginnings of a head cold so I will be content to stay on the ship. Not that it is warm on the ship, many of the public areas are rather cold. A fuel conservation measure I'm sure, aggravated by wide open doors to the loading platform for the tenders. Most guests are wearing winter jackets all the time, even to the dining room.

I meant to tell you about this earlier, but the day after we left Quebec there was an extra bingo session. Cards were $35 each or 2 for $60. The first two games resulted in small monetary prizes of less than $100, but the third game was an upgrade to a suite, obviously one that wasn't sold, or more likely one where the passengers just didn't show up. Based on the large attendance, my guess is that Royal netted an extra ten grand!

This morning I received an email from Royal Caribbean concerning the status of San Juan, St Thomas and St Marten sailings. Obviously the information that the captain gave us last week was in error or as one fellow passenger said "optimistic". The cruise line is hopeful that operations will resume by the end of the year, not last weekend as previously stated. Another evaluation in conjunction with government and port authorities is to be made in several weeks.

Indirectly related, some Caribbean cruises were being sold this morning for as little as $35 per day. I doubt the inventory lasted very long. Unfortunately I won't be able to take any of them because of other obligations. You win some and you loose some.

Everyone has an interesting life story, it is just that some are boring like mine and then there are others. Yesterday in the Diamond lounge I met an interesting young lady that joined the ship in Quebec. I have to say young as she is more than young enough to be my daughter.

She is from Colorado, has owned a dog sitting business since early high school, recently retired, sold her home and purchased a used RV to call home and placed it on a lot she owns. She downsized the dog sitting business and gave it to her parents. She is now traveling the world. If not on a safari in Africa, or climbing a mountain, she is on a cruise ship or an airplane headed for another far off destination. Who would think dog sitting could be such a successful career.

Tonight is the top tier party. I am sure we have more Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members than last week, I will find out tonight. Speaking of groups, there are several very large travel groups on the ship. The first night one of them booked all of Chops.

The reported count: 259 Diamond, 202 Diamond Plus and 39 Pinnacle, almost 1/3 of the ship. Interestingly the hotel director corrected the information reported by the Captain last week, but of course did not refer to the error. Totally unrelated, the Captain reported that he is going on vacation when we reach Bayonne. For all docking and departing maneuvers he utilizes someone on his staff.

The Zuiderdam was using the only docking space today, but we arrived first. The captain waited, let the Zuiderdam pass and then anchored much closer to port. Yes we had to leave before they could.

I haven't totally figured out the towel animals yet. Some nights there is one, others not. Totally unimportant except for my adult girls, they can't sleep without their bedtime animals. I'll probably hear about sharing that detail. On second thought not, their friends probably already know this about them.

The dining room called my room this evening, having noticed my absence. I explained that there was no problem it is just that I am choosing to go to the Windjammer this cruise. So far it has been good. I am not sure if the improvements are fleet wide, or just this ship or this itinerary. Something I will never know for sure for sure until I cruise more.

Tomorrow we will be in Halifax, and sharing the dock space with the Zuiderdam. It is expected to be cold again, but as the Captain put it "no storms yet". I think he suspects something he is not sharing.

Day 13 Corner Brook, Newfoundland

We arrive at Corner Brook on time, and the ship is quickly cleared for passengers to disembark. This is not a popular cruise ship port, only being visited by six to eight ships this year. Four of those visits by The Vision of The Seas.

Our welcome is very warm. Volunteers from the community meet us on the pier, answer questions, offer a taste of locally made candy, make luggage tags for those that wish, and use local school buses to shuttle passengers into town.

I don't think the temperature has reached 40, the skies are overcast, and there is about a 20 knot wind making it very cold for a person that has lived for the past 9 years in Florida. The primary attraction is hiking trails in the nearby hills, a few passengers make a trip to the nearby Walmart to purchase some items they forgot to pack.

I ask several times about the large pipe sections on the pier. No one knows anything, not even a speculation as to where they are going or what they are to be used for. A secret military installation? No one is talking. I take a walk thru town, then return to the ship.

Our bus driver has lived here for 40 years, but since retirement spends his winters in Florida, North East of Tampa, about 40 miles from where I live. He leaves for Florida next week, and will arrive before I do.

This didn't happen on this ship, but on The Explorer of The Seas several years ago according to two passengers involved. Four people booked the cruise in two separate cabins. Shirley #1 and Shirley #2, in cabin A, the names of the others is not important. Upon boarding the ship Shirley #2 quickly realized she was claustrophobic as she walked the relatively narrow hallway to the cabin. She immediately decided she would be uncomfortable and decided to leave the ship before it even sailed.

She consulted with the front desk and disembarked the ship. Luggage was still being processed, but she was told that her luggage would be returned to the pier before the ship left. You probably already have figured it out, They return the suitcase for Shirley #1 instead of Shirley #2.

After the ship left port, and all luggage was delivered, Shirley #1 realized her suitcase was missing. Upon going to guest services, she was told the mix up was all her fault for having two people with the first name of Shirley staying in the cabin. The other couple laugh now, but at the time they were not happy campers.

One tour group is a few minutes late returning to the ship, but we are delayed less than 10 minutes. As we pull away from port, the sun finally comes out.

Tonight's entertainment is "Rookie" a band that plays music from the 50's and 60's. They were on the ship last week as well. The show is good, and the theater packed to capacity.

Tonight we set our clocks back 30 minutes, and will be one hour ahead of the time back home in Florida. Seas are expected to increase to 9 feet tonight, but as I retire for the evening the ride is smooth. Tomorrow is a tender port in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Day 12 – At Sea

I realized this morning that several times I have referred to being "at sea", when really we have been in the St Lawrence river. I suppose I was accurate if you interpret being "at sea" as meaning underway as opposed to being in a port.

We have been at near maximum speed all night, sometimes running as fast as 24 knots. At about 11 AM this morning when we entered the reduced speed zone, our speed dropped to under 10 knots. Our speed is restricted to protect migrating whales in this area. The seas were light and the wind below 20 knots most of the night. During the day the seas and wind have increased. It is doubtful that the high temperatures today will reach 50, but the sky remains mostly clear. With the temperature and the wind, you definitely need a winter coat to be outside. Doesn't stop the lifeguards though, bundled in heavy jackets they man their post at the side of the pools. The Solarium pool is indoors, and two or three guests take advantage of the pool and hot tubs.

The medical team is earning their pay so far on this cruise, there were two alpha calls before dinner time yesterday and another this morning. The manifest of passengers is very similar to last week. Very few passengers under 50, and so far only a handful that appear to be under 25. I doubt the kids program staff will have have any guests this cruise. I imagine they are assigned other duties.

Even though this is a 12 day cruise, the singers and dancers only do two shows. The other nights are filled with guest performers, called "headliner entertainment" by Royal, and movies played in the theater. Last night's headliner was the same comedian we had last week, Don Gavin. His routine didn't deviate at all, but there are only 121 of us that knew that. Our new cruise director is Steve Davis. I have seen him before, I think it was on the Radiance in Alaska, but I don't remember and it is not important enough to try and look it up.

As is to be expected we have many Canadians on board, about 450, Of course the most passengers are from the US with Florida, Texas, and California strongly represented. I don't know the numbers yet, but the entire Viking Crown Lounge was filled with overflow from the Concierge Lounge last night, and most of the Some Enchanted Evening Lounge was filled with the overflow of the Diamond Lounge. Over 70% of the passengers are Crown & Anchor members. Only 2 guests in the theater last night acknowledged that this was their first cruise ever.

I have come to realize that the battery in my laptop must be getting old. It only lasts about an hour or so, whereas when it was new It would last for 6 or 8 hours. Just adds to the challenge of juggling all the things that need to be kept charged with the one outlet in the cabin. Computer, phone, camera, toothbrush, and hair clippers. I have a multi outlet adapter but didn't bring it. Several other passengers have told me that for some reason they are often confiscated during luggage inspection.

Our headliner entertainer for tonight was singer Elsia Furr. The theater was full but not over full as it often was last week. Her show was a "Tribute to Celine Dion", a show she has performed in Vegas for a number of years.

Tonight we move our clocks ahead 30 minutes. Tomorrow we will dock in Corner Brook, the first of 8 straight port days.

As I retire for the evening we are still cruising at 9.5 knots, once we are past the speed restricted area we will again resume near maximum cruising speed.