December 02, 2017

Day 9 – At Sea

December 2, The first of two days at sea as we head to Ft Lauderdale for turnaround. Most, but not all, passengers will disembark and return to whatever is their land based life, and a few crew members leave for a much deserved vacation. A few passengers will remain onboard as the crew prepares the ship for an onslaught of new guests. All cabins are cleaned, the stores are re-provisioned, the new crew members introduced to their new duties and the entire staff prepares to greet about 2000 new passengers.

It is absolutely another beautiful day in the Southwest Northern Atlantic ocean. There is about a three to five foot swell, but no waves and negligible wind. The air temperature is a very comfortable 80 degrees, and the skies are mostly sunny with a few scattered clouds.

This morning the top tier party is held in the theater to recognize the Crown and Anchor loyalty program members. Of the 2100 passengers on the ship 1400 are crown and anchor members, 23 Pinnacle, 180 Diamond Plus, and 308 diamond. With the Diamond lounge holding about 30 guests, and the Concierge lounge holding about 50, it is obvious why there is seldom an available seat.

The pool is busy today, with nearly every deck chair occupied.

Tonight is the second formal night with the usual dinner option of lobster. Never for me though, I have been good, and stayed away from the dining room except for the first night.

Tonight the show is a production show with the singers and dancers, but not with a live band. Instead the music is prerecorded. Actually the end result is good as the band doesn't overpower the singers.

This evening the temperature has dropped to the mid 70's, the seas have increased and the wind has picked up and is directly on the bow. The ship is starting to pitch, roll, moan, and groan a little. Some passengers will be complaining in the morning, while many others will have the best night's sleep of the cruise. The seas have slowed our speed just a little. Probably the stabilizers are extended but I have no way of knowing for sure.

Tomorrow is another sea day.

Day 8 - Saint John's, Antigua

After another incredibly smooth overnight passage we arrive in Saint John's under partly cloudy skies, a slight breeze and temperatures in the mid 80's. The stern of the ship can't be more than 200 feet from the nearest Diamond International store. It can't get much easier than this for the shoppers.

The Norwegian Dawn and the Crystal Serenity occupy the other pier. Antigua will do well today.

After breakfast I spend an hour walking the shopping area. What a pleasure compared to St Lucia. The vendors selling tours, taxis, and merchandise are friendly and polite. I expect their efforts will be better rewarded.

I now realize that the steady drone of a diesel engine I hear in my room is not either of the two main engines, which are turbine engines, but the axillary engine used to provide power when the main engines are not needed, or when more power than 1 main engine is required, but not enough to run both main engines. The sound does not bother me, and there is no vibration.

Today we are being refueled, or bunkered as the maritime industry calls it. I have seen this process a number of times, but picked up a detail that makes sense but I had never witnessed before. The oil barge has 8 storage tanks. Before the hoses are connected to transfer fuel several of the Serenade's crew remove 3 samples of the contents from four or five of the tanks. I must assume they are then analyzed before transfer can begin.

The main engines on the Radiance class ships don't use conventional bunker oil, but a much lighter fuel like kerosene, similar to what jet airplanes use. I can imagine how quickly the engines would die if they were fed the heavy bunker fuel consumed by most marine diesels.

The Serenade is one of several ships in the Radiance class. I have become to appreciate why this is a favorite class of ship for many frequent cruisers. She only carries about 2100 passengers, a small number compared to the Freedom's 4,000 and the Oasis class ships which approach 6,000. She has a relative large amount of public space, definitely more per passenger than most other Royal ships. The cabins are just a little larger, enough to be make them a little more comfortable. So far they haven't taken any of the public space and turned it into more cabins like has been done on the larger Freedom class.

Theater seating is comfortable, there is a separate room for cinema, there is an English pub in addition to the Schooner bar for nightly entertainment, and she carries the usual compliment of specialty restaurants, bars, shops etc. along with the enclosed solarium with retractable roof.

Both the Diamond Lounge and Concierge Lounge is on deck 13 with an outside view, and the Concierge Lounge also has additional outside seating, weather permitting. Of course neither lounge is large enough, and on this cruise the Hotel manager has decided to do nothing to accommodate all the upper lever Crown and Anchor guests. No ship is perfect, but this one has a lot going for it.

In all fairness I must add that if you are looking for zip lines, water slides, and wave riders, or ice rinks, this is not the ship for you. However there is a rock climbing wall, mini golf, billiards, and basketball.

The top tier party is scheduled for tomorrow, so I should learn how many loyalty passengers are on board. 25% of our passenger manifest is international, representing 36 different countries. This is higher than usual for Royal Caribbean cruises in the Caribbean.

I'm sure it's done every day, but the Concierge gets a good cleaning today. All the glass is cleaned and the brass polished. In a little mix up during the last refurbishment all the window curtains were removed, probably for cleaning, but never reinstalled. So if it is sunny, the sun is unbearable during happy hour in one lounge or the other. Was this an error, or was this a deliberate move to try and discourage use of the loyalty lounges? It will be years, if ever, before we learn the whole story.

All the cabin air handler filters are being replaced on my deck today. I don't know how often this is done, but I imagine every month or so. Yes, I had to look, and there is no mold lurking behind the closed panels as I saw on a ship of a different cruise line. A cruise line that I won't sail anymore.

The Norwegian Dawn also gets refueled by the same barge after they are finished with the Serenade. Yes their crew also drew samples from a couple of the tanks. I will probably always look for that step every time I see a ship refuel.

At 7:00 we begin our two and a half day trip back to Ft. Lauderdale. The ship is rocking a little tonight, not too obvious to me unless I stop and watch the self leveling billiards table. Each end of the table probably goes up and down four to five inches. The system actually does a good job of keeping the table level, level enough so the balls don't roll on their own.

The main entertainment tonight was David Howarth a piano showman from Southampton. He does a good job, but as often is the case the drums, and trumpets of the backup band are amplified so much, much of the piano music was over powered.

We will be cruising at just about 20 knots for the next two sea days.

Day 7 – Bridgetown, Barbados

We arrive in port about 7:00, and dock at the first spot closest to the pier shops and excursion buses. Right behind us the Jewel of the Seas ties up to the same pier. The Europa 2 is moored a little further away. Not really too far, but far enough that a shuttle is provided for them.

By 8:00 passengers may begin disembarking. The skies look ominous, with dark clouds rolling over the island. By 8:30 the rains come, and come they do. A very heavy steady rain that lasts until after noon when it begins to pour. The rain continues until we depart at 5:00. Nearly every passenger that ventured off the ship returns soaked, but most handle it in stride with few complaints.

Despite the rain, today is lifeboat training day for the crew. All the lifeboats on one side of the ship are launched to give the crew practice. Often I would observe, but not today in the rain, I listen to some more of my audio book.

The lounge is extra busy tonight as we have lost the outside seating to the rain, and the only show this evening is the ever present love and marriage game, not a favorite of the frequent cruisers. The free drinks in the lounge is the most attractive option.

I learn that most loyalty passengers did get a plate of cookies even though I didn't. But just to keep everything fair, others didn't get bottles of water or chocolate covered strawberries. Except for just a screw up on someone's part, no one has an explanation for the discrepancies. Maybe just another cutback, only give the little perks to some but not all of their loyalty guests?

As we head North Westerly towards St Johns, Antigua, the seas remain very slight, the rain has stopped and our speed is 21 Knots, very close to the ships maximum of 24. Our expected arrival time is 9:00 AM. The forecast is for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80's, time will tell.