December 10, 2017

Day 17 – At Sea

During the night the seas subsided to less than five feet. The 15 knot wind is on our stern as we head West Southwest towards Curacao at 18 knots. The temperature is 82, and skies are mostly sunny. A perfect day in the southern Caribbean. Yesterday we were at the extreme eastern location of the cruise, tomorrow we will be at the most southern location.

This morning I had the opportunity to take a tour of the galley. With the language barrier and the high noise level in the galley I missed much of what was said, but did pick up a few interesting facts. On every ship there are always a number of guests with special dietary needs. On this ship all special requests are prepared by one chef and his staff in an isolated area of the galley. As we toured he was cooking 2 eggs for a guest for breakfast. Yes in an 8 inch pan, rare in a galley that feeds thousands.

Turkeys were being roasted for lunch. Just like at home there is lots of juice that bakes out. While we take extra care to not spill any drippings in the oven, here they deliberately dump off as much liquid as possible when removing the trays from the roasters. It all goes to a catch pan in the bottom to be dealt with later. I would guess they were roasting about fifteen turkeys at the same time.

Many ships have a separate galley for the buffet, this ship does not. Everything for the Windjammer on deck 11 is prepared in the galley on deck 4. Because of the added logistics you wouldn't expect this, but Royal does a better job of serving hot food in the buffet on this ship than they do on most others.

One of the most popular activities this cruise has been watching movies in the cinema. They show movies 4 times a day, and at each showing there are a number of disappointed guests that can't watch because the theater is full. Very popular, and they don't even serve pop corn.

The Christmas holiday is approaching, and the spirit is beginning to spread throughout the ship. A guest in the lounge the other night was sporting a red Christmas outfit complete with blinking lights, tree earrings and Santa hat. All personnel in the shops are wearing matching red hats. A Christmas carol singing get together for guests was held, but at 10:30, too late for me. Background music on information TV channels is now Christmas carols, as is the music between entertainment sets.

A nice day to be outside, the pool and lounge chairs are full with many passengers soaking up the sun.

One of the production singers is sick and quarantined to her room so the show had to be re-blocked without her. No understudies here. I saw the show last week so chose not to attend tonight.

Tonight was Italian night for dinner. As always the Lasagne was excellent.

Tomorrow we arrive in Willemstad, Curacao. The destination that was my excuse for taking these last two cruises, not that I need much of an excuse.

Day 16 Bridgetown, Barbados

The ship is cleared by a few minutes after 8:00. The weather is absolutely perfect. There are a few scattered clouds, the temperature about 80, and a nice steady Easterly breeze making it feel even cooler. My tour is scheduled to gather at 12:15 on the far side of the terminal. Mayo Clinic does this in Rochester Mn, and I am sure there are other facilities, but once in the Barbados terminal they have very wide colored stripes painted on the floor. If you have a tour, you follow one stripe, If you are going off on your own, follow a different color. Of course both stripes take you past all the shops on the pier.

We are one of five ships in port today. The P& O Cruises "Britannia" occupies the best dock, The other smaller dock, close to the terminal, is occupied by the 5 masted "Royal Clipper", the world's largest sailing vessel. Definitely the most elegant ship in port. Directly in front of us is the SilverSeas "Silver Wind". Across the harbor another 5 masted schooner "Wind Surf" is docked. A very busy day in Barbados.

I leave in plenty of time to wander the shops before my tour. Because we are so far from the terminal, a shuttle bus takes us to the terminal entrance. A service I do appreciate.

I wander the stores, and even make a $3.00 purchase, a Dark chocolate candy bar. I haven't had any dark chocolate since I left home, and decide to treat myself today. I guess it will be lunch, strictly by the time it is consumed.

The tour group is split between two buses. I deliberately choose the second. The first bus has a few empty seats, the second is only about two thirds occupied.

I have done a very similar tour before, and everything goes as scheduled for the first two hours of the 3 hour tour. The roads in Barbados are very narrow, rough, and with lots of curves and blind intersections. The driver uses the horn a lot as the roads in many spots are not wide enough for two vehicles to pass.

He leans on the horn and it won't stop! For the next 15 minutes we drive down the road, horn blasting, and then pull into our last scheduled stop, a church. I'm sure the horn was appreciated. Everyone gets off the bus and immediately walks as far away as possible to get away from the noise. The driver removes a seat cushion and crawls under the bus. He does stuff, and eventually the horn stops.

He restarts the bus only to find that the brakes no longer work. Time to call for help. Several impatient passengers keep asking him questions, and he has to walk 50 yards from the bus to talk to the office. When he returns we are informed that another bus will be sent.

Another bus at the church is about to leave, and is headed back to the pier. The impatient passengers want to switch and ride back on the other bus. Several are allowed to do so.

The driver keeps working under the bus. By now 45 minutes have elapsed, and the replacement bus that was supposed to be here in 15 minutes hasn't arrived. The driver feels he has it fixed. Now never mind that there are no less than three parts just laying on the ground when he announces the bus is ready to go.

We board and he starts down the road, gets about 500 feet over the crest of a long windy hill and stops. I think the brakes lock up. That is usually the way air brakes fail, if they loose air, the brakes are applied with maximum force.

Under the bus again, this time with the help of a "mechanic" from a nearby house. Finally the replacement bus arrives and all are told to board the other bus, even the driver. We are supposed to be on the ship in 15 minutes, we know there is no way.

The rest of the trip to the port is uneventful. The replacement bus is much newer, and seems to be moving a lot faster, I guess the driver is trying to hurry. We are quickly passed through security and head into the terminal building. The shops are all closed, no last minute shopping today. The terminal building is nearly devoid of life as we walk through headed to the remaining shuttle bus to take us to our ship. The shore excursion manager is there with us. I am the last to board the ship, number 23 of 23 missing passengers. Yes late, but 1 minute before departure time.

No, I really didn't sabotage the bus to add some excitement to this cruise, but up until this point you will have to admit it has been rather boring. And some people question the extra expense involved in taking the cruise line tours instead of booking privately.

We are pulling away from the dock before I can get to deck 12 to watch our departure. I head to the lounge for whats left of cocktail hour.

One interesting fact I learned on the tour today is that all the McDonald's and KFC stores have failed. The locals don't eat hamburgers, and KFC did not offer enough choices. A local chain now has several outlets that offer much more variety while retaining McDonald's playground concept.

Tomorrow will be a day at sea as we head to Curacao. The ship has very little motion tonight.