August 31, 2018

Willemstad, Curacao August 30

As expected I am still asleep when we arrive in Curacao this morning.  The "megaport" as it is called here, has room for two ships, we are the only one today.

After a quick breakfast, I head into town. Again the weather is perfect. In the shade the temperature is probably about 80. There is brisk breeze which makes it quite comfortable. As to be expected, in the sun it is hot.

I never had thought about going to the Southern Caribbean in the summer to escape the Florida heat, not a bad idea. I think it must be differences in observation of daylight savings time, but all of our ports of call have been on the same time as Florida. I don't remember this being the case in the past.

There is about a one meter swell in the harbor as I walk across the floating bridge. She creaks and moans as the decking twists back and forth with the waves. I have no concerns, the bridge has been here well over a hundred years.

As I approach the area of the floating market, my first disappointment. Not a single vessel in the market area.  For years vessels from Venezuela were selling all kinds of fruits and produce. I later learn this is a result of the current economic and political situation in Venezuela. The government won't let the boats leave.

There are a half dozen vessels in the fish market area. As I head back towards town I pass a crew member with an empty hand cart. Fresh fish for some tonight?

Otherwise Curacao seems unchanged. The gas flarings, and occasionally a plume of smoke, indicates that some if not all of the refineries are operating. The shops appear to be thriving as do the casinos and hotels. The buildings remain painted bright colors, a trademark of the city.

I make it back to the ship for a late lunch.  So far posting to the blog with just my phone and without a computer or internet access seems to be OK.  Communication timing seems to be rather strange at times, and I will learn when I return home next week how well it actually worked.

Tomorrow is our last port before heading back to Miami.

August 30, 2018

August 29, Oranjestad, Aruba

We arrive shortly after 7:30 and the ship is cleared by a few minutes after 8:00.

We are not the first ship in port, but the second.  The Monarch was already secured when we arrived. Formerly the Monarch was Monarch of The Seas, a ship I was on many times including one of my best cruises ever, at sea during hurricane Sandy.

I spend a couple hours in the downtown area before the sun gets too hot. The forecast was for clouds all day, but they soon gave way to bright sunny skies. 

Once I had my first replacement parts I would set off the metal detectors every time I came back aboard a ship. That has ended as I no longer pass through the detectors, instead heading directly to manual screening. After a week and a half I am recognized and the process is quite quick.

The big refinery in Aruba closed, has been purchased by Citgo and is expected to reopen. There are still a number of oil platforms a few miles off shore. Where the oil is being taken I have no idea but it may be Curacao which has a number of refineries.

The trees are still growing on the sandbar. An oddity I recall from my first visit to this port 5 or 6 years ago. The port would not be the same without them.

The Freewinds is berthed on the inside of the same pier where we are docked.  Definitely an older ship and much smaller. Possibly a capacity for 200 passengers and crew. Of particular interest is the open lifeboats, seating for probably 20 or 25 passengers at most. No worry about the engines not starting or having enough fuel, the life boats are powered by four pair of oars. I think this ship might be permanently berthed here as I think i have seen her here before.  She appears to be void of passengers.

Our ship is also quite void of passengers this evening with many choosing to take advantage of our late departure.

The crew avoided a major catastrophe yesterday. The galley has an ice cream department where they make about a dozen flavors of gelato for the gelatoteria on deck 5 and another dozen flavors of ice cream for the ice cream station in the oceanview cafe.

Yesterday the cooler in the oceanview was failing and couldn't keep the ice cream frozen. Fortunately repairs were made overnight, and the ice cream again remains frozen, and guests remain happy. The ice cream is as good as any land based ice cream store, and the gelato rivals that found in Italy.

The comedian performs to a nearly empty theater with maybe 200 guests in attendance. Despite the empty theater he does a good job, much better than the comedian last week.

I will be asleep before we leave for the short journey to Curacao, and in fact I probably will be asleep when we arrive about the time the sun rises.

August 29, 2018

August 28 - Sea Day

We continue in a south easterly direction headed towards the ABC islands. During the night the easterly winds have increased to 30 knots, and the seas have increased to "moderate" or 2 to 3 meters. The skies are mostly clear and there is a chance of some liquid sunshine today.

Speeding along at 20 knots and our stabilizers extended, the ship barely exhibits any motion. There is an occasional creak and moan, but very minimal.

The second test of WiFi trivia is held this morning. 60 players were successful.  As each question is completed the app indicates the correct answer and the number of guests that choose each of the multiple choice answers. When rolled out as a finished product the intention is that any guest can play from any  location at any time.  There has to be a new revenue stream here somewhere.

The guest vs. staff archery challenge wasn't even close.  One officer got 3 in a row, the best any passenger did was one. All arrows remained in the atrium, and no one was accidentally pierced.

The grass really greened up from the rains the other night.  Looks better than my grass at home, if fact the might even be more of it.  I have no clue as to what type it is, but is similar in texture to golf course greens.

Our magician was not as good as the one last week. I have yet to make any of the late entertainment. By 10 I'm ready to call it a day.

Seas calm a little as we get further south and east. Our expected arrival in Aruba is 8:00 AM.

August 27 - Sea Day

I start my day with a trip to the buffet for breakfast. My usual bowl of cereal and glass of juice. Everyone is talking about the storm we passed through during the night, waking most passengers. The thunder and lightning was intense, with no delay between the two, indicating the storm was very very close.

By sunrise the skies were clearing and the day began with temperatures very comfortable in the high 70's or low 80's.

The cruise critic meet and mingle is in the sky lounge this week to accommodate the large crowd. Same format as last week. An introduction of many of the officers, a few words from the cruise director and from the captain. We learn that Bug Naked awoke the captain during the storm. I'm still OK that I missed it.

Trivia, that old staple of entertainment has been taken to a new level on the Equinox. They are testing a system where guests use their phone, ipad, or other device to enter answers. Connected by wi-fi, questions are displayed on your device, there is a time limit to answer, and scores are compiled automatically. The opportunity to cheat has been reduced, no more stalling for time by asking the question to be repeated. I expect this system will be rolled out to all Celebrity ships in the near future. What does the cruise line get? Better control of the key chains and more data about their customers. Is there a fee to play trivia in the future?

I take the complimentary galley tour, not because I haven't done any before, but just to see if anything is any  different on Celebrity. My first impression is that the galley is more crowded than most that I have seen. The galley tour itself takes about 10 minutes, the next 30 is primarily a sales pitch  for speciality dining.

I find a comfortable table on deck 5 by the atrium and spend a few hours writing.  The keyboard and phone works pretty well. Of course the editing functions are much more limited than with a laptop, but that would not matter much if the author could type. The convenience of not lugging around a laptop so far outweighs the shortcomings of this approach.

I don't consider myself a technology leader, and have been surprised by the number of people walking by that see what I am doing and stopping to ask questions. I am definitely not alone in having fingers that are too big to use phone keyboards.

There are quite a few more little kids here this week, and a fair number of teenagers. Most are well behaved. Running up and down the hall ways has been limited to daytime hours. One boy, I would guess about 7 or 8 years old, has mastered the game of elevator.  He pushes both the up and down call buttons, and then as any elevator arrives he just reaches in and pushes all the buttons without getting on. As soon as the elevator leaves he pushes the call button again. This kept him occupied, for quite awhile.

The skies remain partly cloudy, the seas calm, and the air temperature rises throughout the day. We are headed in an easterly direction along the northern coast of Cuba until about 9 PM when we pass Guantanamo and turn south. As we enter the Caribbean the ship begins to roll a slight amount as the waves are now on our port side instead of on the bow.

Formal nights are a thing of the past on Celebrity. What historically would have been labeled formal night is now "Evening Chic". For men the suggested dress is a "button shirt, comfortable slacks, or designer jeans". Of course suits and tuxedos are acceptable as well. I would estimate about 35% of the men are wearing a jacket or better compared with about 15% last week. And yes there are a few shorts and sleeveless tee shirts.

Tonight's schedule allocated 45 minutes for pictures with the Captain. After an hour and a half she is still greeting guests and smiling. Definitely  a very popular captain.

Tomorrow is another sea day.

August 26 Key West

The passage through the night is smooth and uneventful. We arrive in Key West, are quickly cleared, and passengers stream ashore for the day. 

We are docked at the main dock, just a few minutes from Duvall Street and all there is to offer in Key West.

I decide to take the Old Time Trolley tour. Our driver is excellent, not for his driving, but for his stories. Actually his driving is good also. I had done the Conch Train tour here in the past, but this tour is much better. Definitely worth the few extra dollars. When we get to the famous marker indicating the southern most point in the US. He stops the trolley bus, and asks the hundred or so tourists that are waiting a turn to take a picture to please stand back so the people on his bus can get a picture.  They oblige, and everyone that wants is able to get a picture of the buoy from the bus without strangers in the picture.

There is little evidence of any damage from the hurricanes last year. Key West was spared for the most part, but the southern edge of the city was buried in six feet of sand form the storm surge. Cleanup was prompt and efficient.

I'm back on the ship for lunch. The Majesty of The Seas arrives shortly after noon, again to a waiting ambulance. Like it or not I am just much more aware of medical vehicles. Unrelated, while I was on  the trolley bus I get word that my grand daughter has been discharged from Neonatal Intensive Care and is now growing at home. It  won't be long before she will be able to cruise.
I forgo going to the Sky Lounge at 5:00 when it opens to enjoy our departure from port on the fordeck, or helipad. One never knows the criteria for such invitations. About 75 are in attendance. Skies remain mostly clear and the seas calm as we begin our 1080 nautical mile journey to Aruba. As Key West fades in the distance behind us we are asked to clear the deck and must return inside.

Most of our entertainment this week will be a repeat of last week shows. Even the headliner comedian is here for 1 night before departing in Key West.

I catch the early show at 7:00 then head to the Oceanview Cafe for dinner. Maybe 100 other passengers, several officers, and captain Kate share my preference for the buffet over the dining room.

The captain shares a story from last week.  While in port at the same time as the Harmony, she invited captain Johnnie to the Equinox for dinner. He was impressed with the food, and even though his ship is much larger, conceded that she has much larger and nicer quarters.

This may be the end of an era. Every ship I have ever been on has had a piano bar, including this one. the only thing that has been missing both last week and  this week is a piano player. Progress? A change for the better? You decide.

The next two days are sea days as we head to Aruba at 20 knots.

August 26, 2018

Turnaround Day

Turnaround day - the day that one cruise ends, the majority of passengers depart, new passengers board and a new cruise begins.

The very busy crew has a lot of extra work to clean the ship from stem to stern in preparation for the next group of guests. Tons of luggage, food, booze and other supplies must be transferred off and on the ship.

For the back to back passengers there are special procedures we must follow to keep Customs and border patrol happy.  Every port and every cruise is different as the procedure is dictated by the authorities not the cruise line. This morning was one of the easiest I have ever encountered.  We gathered in one of the bars, and were issued our new sea pass cards.  After a short wait we checked off the ship, walked by an agent that checked our passports, turned around to board the ship, had new ID photos taken as we boarded,  and within 30 minutes were sipping champagne.

All regular passengers had cleared the ship by 9:00 AM, again a very quick disembarkation. I don't know how long luggage claim and customs took for them.

As we sit near the atrium sipping our champagne, crew are busy cleaning and setting up to receive thousands of new guests. At 10:30 new passengers are streaming aboard, and by 11:00 storms were rolling in and the rain is pretty heavy, keeping everyone inside.

There is a special lunch for back to back passengers. This week that is about 75 passengers that don't have to fight the crowds, last week it was nearly 200. I  choose grilled chicken and green beans.

At 2:45 it's time for the muster drill. The drill is being held indoors so no one will get wet. I get my second indication that this cruise is going to be quite a bit different than last week. About an hour earlier there was a serious altercation between two grown adults, I can only assume a couple traveling together.  They were screaming and yelling at each other, in a language I did not understand. That is probably a good thing. Just as the elevator door closed, she could be seen swinging her heavy purse at him, and he attempting to protect himself.

As we gather in Michael's club, one couple staggers in. Seats are limited, and it is very crowded. They are so drunk they are unable to stand and slouch to the floor in a corner. I wonder how they will be by midnight? Passed out?  Not the passenger behavior expected on any ship. Somehow they make it through the drill, and stagger out of the room, probably headed to the nearest open bar.

The rain continues until just as we untie from the dock and head to sea. Again we are the first ship to leave port and pass The Seaside and a Carnival ship that will follow close behind.

It is a short 148 nautical miles to Key West where we are expected to arrive about 7:00 AM. The seas are calm, and by sunset the skies have mostly cleared, and the full moon rises over the ocean.

August 25, 2018

Two Days at Sea

We spend the next two days at sea, headed towards Miami where most passengers will disembark. We will take on fresh provisions, and a fresh group of passengers.

The seas remain relatively calm with waves reported at less than 2 meters, actually I think they are less than 1 meter most of the time. We pass through several showers during the night but as of Friday afternoon, none during the day.  The sun is very hot as there is barely a breeze on deck as the winds are on our stern at 20 knots, just about the same as our forward speed.

I watch the hot glass artists for a time, and then spend the rest of the afternoon listening to an audio book, an activity I don't usually find time for. 

The sky lounge is less busy tonight, a trend that I usually see on every ship. As the cruise progresses fewer people attend happy  hour.

The singers and dancers perform again Thursday night. In general most would say better than your average production show on Royal ships.

Friday morning is the Captain's corner in the main theater. Speaking to the popularity of Captain Kate, there is barely an empty seat anywhere in the theater. A few tidbits to share. 

After graduation from the maritime academy Kate worked on banana boats. The spiders, and snakes were too much and she wanted to get on a cruise ship. She did not get a single response to any of the hundreds of resume's she mailed out. Realizing a change in strategy was needed, she rewrote her resume and applied for a bar tenders job even though she had no knowledge of the work. Anything to get off the banana boats. Disney contacted her, said she was over qualified for a bartender's job, and hired her in a low ranking position.

I had assumed like many that the "H" on the foredeck was to indicate a helicopter pad, while it is true that a helicopter could land there, it really is there to indicate the hover position for a helicopter to lower a basket.

Also there is no requirement for removing passengers from a ship by helicopter, there is a requirement to be able to bring someone onto the ship in certain situations. 

The important knowledge I learn at sea.

Back to a little more about our captain.

With Disney only having two ships at the time, Kate did not see many opportunities for the future and moved to Royal Caribbean where she worked her way up through the ranks. Three years ago she accepted her first Captain assignment with Celebrity.

Over an hour of Q&A with not a single stupid question. Kate McCue, and her hairless cat Bug Naked, are raising the bar for cruise ship captains. They both have a large following on instagram. (I think I may have said facebook earlier.)

This afternoon, Friday the 24th, there is a matinee show in the theater. If I counted correctly, this is the 7th show they have done this week. The usual number for a 7 day cruise is 4, two performances of two shows.

I know some of you have ties to this detail, Kate's first time on a cruise ship, at the age of 12, was on "The Big Red Boat". She told her father she wanted to run the entertainment. I guess being a ship's captain qualifies.

We encounter a few showers late in the afternoon and evening.

Tomorrow is turnaround day in Miami. I could get off the ship if i wished, but don't and won't.

Wednesday August 23, St Maarten

I am sure I have spelled St Maarten several different ways. I think they are all acceptable, but the purest will point out the subtle differences in the meaning implied by each spelling.

We arrive in port early, soon joined by The Allure and the Caribbean Princess. Overnight we passed through several very heavy rains, or at least that is what I am told by fellow passengers. Being oblivious to the outside world is one of the advantages of an inside cabin.

While in port we receive fuel from a barge that moors alongside for several hours. I don't know how much fuel we take on but can assure you it is a lot more than I would want to pay for. Increasingly more stringent air quality standards require the use of lower emision fuels. Years ago ships used the lowest quality oil with resultant high levels of pollution.

Most new ships on the order books for delivery in the next 10 years are being equipped with turbine engines instead of diesel engines and will be powered by LNG, liquified natural gas, instead of bunker oil. This ship has turbine engines, and uses a much lighter fuel than bunker oil, and consequently is one of the cleaner ships as far as pollution is concerned.

I don't make it to the Lazy Lizzard, a favorite watering hole on the waterfront, but do pass by during my 3 hour catamaran cruise along the coast. The air temperature is very comfortable in the low to mid 80's, but the sun is very hot. There is evidence of the hurricane damage from last year, and many of the resort hotels have not yet been repaired.  Our guide tells us that all tourism other than by cruise ship is greatly depressed.

One of the features of the Solstice class ships is the Hot Glass Studio on deck 15. Until about 6 months ago it was sponsored by Corning Glass works and was strictly "watch  the demonstration".  Now the show is operated by Hollywood Glass Studio, Hollywood, Fl. For a fee, guests participate in the making of a glass object of their own choosing. Other objects are for sale and they have packing materials and boxes to assist passengers getting their purchase home safely.

Guests are still encouraged to watch the artists. Personally I think this is much better than the prior arrangement.

We leave port right on time. We are again the first ship to leave, followed by the Allure. The seas remain the same at 1 to 2 meters. The skies have scattered clouds as we begin our journey northwest towards Miami.

The officers reception is tonight for select guests. Select meaning probably 30% of the passengers that have attained a higher status in the Captains Club, Celebrity's loyalty program. The room is over packed, but the staff does an excellent job of keeping drink glasses filled and tempting everyone with an endless supply of appetizers.

Tomorrow is the first of two sea days.

August 22, 2018

Tuesday August 21 St Thomas

We arrive in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas a few minutes early and the ship is cleared by 8:00 AM. Skies are clear with a nice breeze. temperatures are in the low to mid 80's, very pleasant, for me anyway.

Four ships are expected today. We are the first to arrive. The Harmony of The Seas arrives about an hour after her expected time. Due to her size, she has to back into the bay. Later in the morning a Carnival ship and a Princess ship arrive. I' will be back on the ship before all these passengers descend on the island.

Disembarkation from the Equinox is efficient. I anticipate it will take me 15 or 20 minutes to get to my gathering point for my tour, but it only takes about 5 once I leave my cabin.

The open air bus is full, but comfortable. At several viewpoints we can see the other ships heading to dock. There is some evidence of lingering damage from the hurricanes of last year, but in the areas we drove thru it was minimal. Our driver told us that steady progress is being made, and the issue is a lack of qualified construction workers.

Captain Kate is also a geocasher and has stashed marbles in many location. She gives a few hints as we arrive at each port. What an ideal career for the hobby. Definitely of the younger generation.

The passenger manifest is as one should expect on Celebrity. A few children, I think less than a dozen in the children's program, passengers of all ages with a predominance in or near their retirement years. Mostly americans, and many from Florida.

Tonight we have another production show with the singers, dancers, and acrobats. Our magician, Jason Bishop, left the ship today so it is obvious he won't be doing another show for us.

I should know better than to write about something before it happens. So I erased a paragraph about us leaving port at 6:00 PM.

I'll start by just saying Captain Kate had a better day than Captain Johnnie on the Harmony.  No only was the Harmony an hour late in docking, when it came time to leave they were still missing "a passenger".  There is only one harbor pilot. I don't know if that is the usual procedure or if something was unusual today. With the Harmony being scheduled to leave first, the pilot was on board. After waiting a half hour, the pilot left the Harmony and came aboard the Equinox so we could depart. The Harmony had no choice but to wait until the harbor pilot returned.

As we pulled out of sight of the harbor, the Harmony was still at the pier with numerous dock workers, security personnel, and ships officers standing on the pier. It must have been an important passenger to wait over an hour and also lose the departure slot.

Maybe Captain Johnnie's motor cycle broke down while he was touring the island.

The production show tonight was well attended. As we head to Phillipsburgh, St. Maarten the skies have a few scattered clouds and the seas are under two meters, not enough to make the ship pitch or roll even a tiny amount.

August 21, 2018

Monday August 20 Arrival in San Juan

Today we arrive in San Juan at about 3:30.  We have been cruising at 20 knots since leaving Miami. Captain Kate says she is expecting to arrive on time.

The influence of the female touch is evident in my cabin. Celebrity is one of the few cruise lines still (or again) placing a little square of dark chocolate on our pillow each night.  Each cabin also has a vase of fresh flowers. Little extra touches you don't often find anymore.

There is lots of hype about the new Celebrity Edge, due in Florida the first of December.  Entirely new design of cabins, many more speciality restaurants, and of course a much expanded presence of suites and special areas for exclusive use of suites guests. The good news is the passenger capacity is just a little more than here on the Equinox. The  largest of the suites has more square footage than my house, and I am sure a cruise fare to match.

Over night the winds have increased to 25 knots, and the seas have increased to 2 meters. Just enough that there is a slight motion to the ship. Skies remain clear and temperatures are still in the mid to upper 80's. I heard someone mention that we  had a few showers yesterday, but you couldn't prove it by me.

I will get off the ship this afternoon, but I am not taking an organized tour. I hope to post the first few days to my blog and download all the emails. I'm sure the proud parents will send me a few new pictures of Eliza.

I discover the first thing that I have forgotten to bring. Any pens. Usually I have half a dozen in my computer bag and they are not an item I specifically have on my packing list.  No computer this time and therefore no pens. A brief walk to guest relations resolves the shortage. Also a note to  myself to revise my packing list for the future.

Probably a destination I will never get to, but I attend a presentation on Celebrity trips to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu. A little detail I was not aware of, the Ecuadorian government requires that all crew members of any vessel visiting the Galapagos be Ecuadorian.  Celebrity is building a new ship to service the Islands, and the accomodations will all be suites. I haven't placed a deposit.

We arrive on time under clear sunny skies. I retrieve my phone, and am deluged with text messages and emails as soon as I turn it on. No need to walk into town just to get cell service. It works fine right here on the ship. I just hope I am connected to the right carrier. I didn't get any messages from any carrier, so if there is a large bill I will have to deal with it when I get home.

The "Hot Glass Show", one of my favorites, is no longer sponsored by Corning. It is now operated by a studio from Hollywood, Florida. The Venue  is unchanged with the electric fired kilns on deck 15, but it has now been turned into another profit center. Glass blowing lessons are offered, and are usually sold out before sailing. They also sell glass objects made by the artists priced from $150 and up.

Captain Kate did a fine job docking, I think many passengers were watching more closely than usual. There was an ambulance waiting on the pier, bringing back memories of my  ambulance ride from a cruise ship eleven months ago. The rumor mill hasen't reported anything.

I think we are the only ship in port, and will be leaving at 10PM, leaving lots of time for many passengers to have dinner on shore.

To share a little of Captain kate's personality, when she announced that the ship had been cleared and passengers could disembark she also passed on the weather forecast and reminded everyone to carry photo ID, sea pass card, and half an umbrella since there was a 50% chance of showers.

I changed my mind and stayed on the ship. Jason Bishop was the guest entertainer for tonight. Probably one of the best slight of hand magicians I have ever seen. With so many passengers ashore, the theater was barely half full. 

I will skip the late night dance party on the pool deck. It is a short cruise to our next port of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. We expect to arrive by 8:00 AM

August 20, 2018

Sunday August 19, A Day at Sea

Today is a sea day. I slept like a rock, probably a little longer than usual, because of my short night the day before. 

The Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle is the first activity of the day. About 50 passengers attend, but most impressively nearly every ship's officer.  I meet our captain. A little bit of a surprise for me. Very young for a captain, I would say about 40 at the most. Shoulder length hair, which is a little unusual. No visible tattoos like many with a sea background. Excellent english, with a very friendly and outgoing personality. Born, raised and educated in the US. And most surprising, wearing heels? Yes our captain is Kate McCue  one of the youngest captains in the cruise industry and the only US born female captain. She has been a captain for Celebrity for several years, and boarded the Equinox this week after returning from time off.

Our hotel director is also a lady, Jill Anderson from the UK. Is Celebrity  headed towards having a fully female staffed ship?

The weather today is perfect. Clear sunny skies, temperatures in the mid 80's, a relief from what we have had in Florida recently, and seas with only one or two foot waves.

The Captain Circles party is held in the Sky Lounge. The usual free drinks and recognition of the top cruisers. Music for dancing,  but no sales pitches which are often the case.

The dinner menu is mostly fish or seafood, so I return to my usual habit of dinner in the Ocean View Cafe. the selections are varied, and there is plenty of seating.

Tonight's show is the singers and dancers. I really should say acrobats as they are more acrobats than dancers. The audience is not disappointed in the show.

No late night activities for me, I'm in bed early. Tomorrow we arrive at our first port, San Juan at about 3:30 PM.

Saturday August 18 Off to the pier

It has been a long summer but I'm finally headed back to the sea for 16 days on Celebrity Equinox, back to back on a 7 day and 9 day cruise. The first week will take me to San Juan, Saint Thomas and St. Marten.

Packing was postponed until Friday for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the arrival of my first Grandchild, Eliza born Tuesday afternoon. Small as expected when born about 5 weeks early. A full head of dark hair that I am sure must be one of my genes. She will remain in very capable hands at Winnie Palmer NICU for a few more days. The cruise lines won't let here cruise yet anyway.

My alarm is set for 3:45 AM, a ridiculous time to be awakened for any reason. I arrive at the "Red Coach" bus terminal a few minutes early. There are half a dozen other passengers waiting. I quickly learn that our bus will be leaving "a few minutes late". I assume a bus coming from Gainesville is the reason. Finally about 40 minutes after our scheduled departure time we board the bus and are on our way across the 528 headed to the turnpike. the bus from gainesville? It never did arrive, nor did any other bus. I must now conclude the driver overslept or there never was an intention to leave at the scheduled time.

The full size bus has only 3 seats across and seats about 30 passengers. The seats are plush, and recline more than most reclining seats. Personally I don't find them very comfortable as the head rest pushes my head forward. It is not adjustable.

I think I fall asleep within 5 minutes, and sleep for about an hour.

We make several stops on our way to Miami. At West Palm Beach and Port St Lucie we litterley stop at the service plaza on the turnpike to discharge passengers. Maybe a 60 second pause. At Ft Lauderdale we pull into the airport and everyone is discharged at one location regardless of which terminal they need to go to.

We soon arrive at Miami International. No traffic delays and with minimal delay to discharge passengers I think we arrive on time.

The next challenge is to  find Supper Shutttle. The terminal is nearly empty. I find a Shuttle kiosk as instructed but there is no one around.  Soon a taxi driver stops looking for a fare.  I ask and he says there are more kiosks further down. I start walking. The next kiosk is also empty, but I see another. Finally a human. I give him the reservation information.  He calls, and after about 10 minutes I am on the way to the pier.

There are also several passengers for the MSC Seaside.  As we near the pier area we can see a Royal ship, and two Carnival ships in addition to the Seaside and the Equinox.

The driver goes to the Seaside first. traffic is its usuall in Miami, vVery congested. As the driver starts on his way, he has no idea how to get to the Equinox. We tell him it is the next ship down the pier, but he doesn't believe us.  He tries calling his dispatcher, no response.  He then draws the attention of a traffic control officer as he is blocking traffic. He is again told the Equinox is at the next berth.

Once at the pier everything moves smoothly. I am added to a new "list". People that refuse to walk thru the metal detectors.  The list description is a little misleading. I didn't refuse, but explained that I have a pacemaker and they directed me not go through the metal detector. I am again labeled for life, but not as bad as some labels I probably carry.

I don't remember if this was the case the last time I was on the Equinox about a year ago, but this time  passengers are offered a glass of champagne as we board. A tradition that is always seen in the movies, but rarely practiced by the cruise industry today.

I head to the Sky View Lounge on deck 12 to await the opening of the cabins. I send final messages to Adrienne at work, and call my other daughter Alyssa. A long time tradition to let them know i am safely aboard.

Instead of fighting the crowds in the Oceanview Cafe for lunch I stop at the Mast Grill. Seating is plentiful as only a couple of other passengers have found this alternative location for lunch.

A cheeseburger and a glass of water and I am nourished for the balance of the day. Unfortunately, I managed to splatter bright red ketchup on the front of my white shirt. Of course spot remover and laundry detergent are in my luggage which won't arrive for hours. I head to a rest room and wash out 95% of the ketchup with hand soap at the sink.

Soon it is announced that our cabins are ready. I unpack my carry on stuff and store my valuables in the safe. I meet my cabin steward, Wilson, the same cabin steward that took care of me last year.

I reacquaint myself with the ship, it appears little has changed. I attempt to locate my table in the dining room, but they are not set yet. The menu looks good, and I decide to go to the dining room tonight.

The last passengers are boarding at 2:30, just minutes before our muster drill. We are the first ship to leave Miami as we head out to sea with clear skies and calm seas.

Unlike Royal, there is no cocktail party on the first night, or on the night of a captains party. The pork chop I order for dinner is good as are the sweet potatoes and green beans. I splurge and have a pastry for desert.

Again unlike some other ships there is both an early and late show tonight. A comedian that boarded today in Miami. His show is good, and the theater is mostly full.

The ships orchestra is playing dance music in the atrium as I head to the cabin to call it a day and settle in for a much needed night's sleep.

August 12, 2018

Headed Back To Sea

It has been too many months. I had to cancel a few trips and was stuck here in Florida, but that is now all behind me as my doctors have given me the green light to resume travels. Next Saturday I will be headed to Miami to board the Celebrity Equinox for 16 days.

I now travel with a new permanent friend, a computer in my chest that keeps my heart functioning better. For those of you that believe in conspiracy theories, you realize this was sanctioned by our government and paid through them. An implanted device that some would think can track my every movement, every conversation and litterally every heartbeat. For you the ultimate in big brother watching.

Yes, the technology is amazing. Every heartbeat is not recorded, but any abnormal ones are and medical staff at a monitoring facility are notified immediately. And yes, from any location in the world where I am in range of cell service. I guess they could back track to see where I am, but who cares.

As part of this process I volunteered to participate in a medical study. More on that later when I have nothing else to write about.  

The first week takes me to San Juan, Saint Thomas, and Saint Maarten. After a brief return to Miami, the next nine days I will visit Key West, Aruba, Bonaire and my favorite location in the Caribbean, Curacao.

Gone is my laptop. This is all being composed on my phone with a small folding keyboard which connects via blue tooth. I think this is resulting in about an 8 pound reduction in the weight of my luggage. This is stupid statement if you think about it. If you can read this, the new process is working.  If the process doesn't work you won't know the difference. 

The next few days are pretty much consumed by dentist and doctor visits. Friday I pack and leave the house at 4:30 Saturday morning to catch a bus. I have taken the "Cruise Connection" bus to Miami on previous trips and was planning to do the same this time. when I went to make my reservation I learned they don't operate June thru October. Move on to plan two. bus to Miami airport and then a shuttle to the port. I will share my opinion on how well this works when I return home, assuming I do. Return home that is.