September 30, 2018

September 29, Cozumel, Mexico.

I awake after 10 hours of peaceful sleep. By the time I leave the cabin, passengers are allready headed ashore. A glass of juice and a pastry will suffice for breakfast. I decide to catch the movie "Overboard" playing in the cinema. Being a port day I expect it should not be crowded. About 30 minutes into the movie, a fire drill is started for the crew. The movie sound is cut off for the announcements and the general alarm strobe lights flash every few seconds.  Fortunately the movie is shown with captions, and it is not a movie that requires one to pay close attention. Eventually the drill ends and the captain thanks the crew and guests. The alarm strobe light continues and there is no movie sound.

After about 10 more minutes, time to find a phone, and call the front desk.  I am promised they will call the bridge. Shortly after I make it back to my seat the all clear signal that should have been sounded long ago is heard, and the movie audio returns.

When the movie concludes I head into town. If for no other reason than to say I got off the ship in every port. There are already two Carnival ships on the next piers, and shortly we are joined by the Majesty of The Seas.

After a walk through a number of shops, I head to Senor Frogs. This is becoming a habit.  I'm soon joined by Steve #1. There is no doubt left at all, the food is better than on the ship.

I head to the lounge a little before 5. This is the slowest I have seen it in two weeks, maybe at anytime on any ship. At 5:30 just before early dinner seating there are 3 customers in the entire lounge.

Time comes and goes for the ship to depart.  The names of 11 passengers are called, then again. No one approaches the pier, we leave them behind. I have never heard of so many passengers be left behind, but there is a first time for everything.  If the missing passengers were relying on cell phones or local time they would be an hour late. I wonder if the captain feels any guilt for not changing time this trip?

A bowl of chili for dinner, it  actually was pretty good. The Windjammer is busy again tonight, one actually has to look for an empty table. I head directly to the top tier party, over 600 crown and anchor members have been invited. David and Collene are top cruisers again. They bring the gift bottle of Champagne to the lounge to share.

In total there are 7 Pinnacle members, about 70 diamond plus and 75 diamond members on this cruise. The event is poorly attended, with only about about 50 in attendance. It is rumored they are going to stop having top tier events on 4 and 5 day cruises after the first of the year.

About a year ago Pinnacle C&A members were told there were changes coming they would like. I now know what that change is.  As ships are being refurbished they will be reconfigured to include the Coastal Kitchen and a lounge for exclusive use by Pinnacle and Suite guests. A much smaller lounge will be for all passengers Diamond and above and suites, often being located in a small interior room. In many cases the public crown lounge will be converted to suites and specialty restaurants. Maybe I will be Pinnacle before all the smaller ships will be converted.

The seas remain calm as we head Northeast towards Tampa. Tomorrow is my last sea day for this cruise.

September 29, 2018

September 28, a Sea Day

After 10 hours of sleep I wake to clear skies and calm seas. Well that is true, but I have to go elsewhere to view that.  One of the advantages of an inside cabin is that once you turn the light off the room is totally dark. No rising sun, or sound of wind or waves to disturb a good nights sleep. There is the steady soothing drone of mechanical equipment heard in the cabin, there are no vibrations or other noises except an occasional loud voice in the hallway.

I find Francisco sitting at his desk doing nothing. I share my thoughts on the pool drain leak and he says he will pass it on to the right people in engineering. It is very unlikely I will ever be in that cabin again when the pool is being drained to find out.

There are many groups on board this week, recognized by a number of guests wearing the same shirts or hats. One group with the initials USDC explains many of the others. "United States Drinking Corps". Enough said.

The top cruisers of last week, David and Charlene, live about 30 minutes from the port. While the rest of us just hung around the ship for the day, they drove home, picked up the mail and spread some roundup on the weeds.  They spend most of the winter on cruise ships, and the summer months in upstate New York.

I spend most of the afternoon reading, or more accurately listening to a book. Nothing too deep, I am on vacation after all.

Fransisco didn't come through with any diet tonic, but Bernadette did. She scrounged five bottles from around the ship and has them safely secured in her locked cabinet. I will ration them over the rest of the cruise, and she will continue to be rewarded with $2 tips, more specifically $2 bills. A few days ago my bank called to inform me that they have a new supply for me.  They have to order them from the Federal Reserve, and sometimes it takes up to six weeks depending on the press schedule and demand.

Tomorrow we arrive in Cozumel for the last time on this cruise. Unlike a few days ago, we are not instructed to change to local time, but we remain on ships time.

The seas remain calm, the skies mostly sunny, and the temperatures a little cooler than at home. Life is good.

Turnaround in Tampa

I am already awake when my alarm sounds at 7:00. I expect to be all packed and out of my room long before the 8:30 requested time.

Out of habit I turn the TV on, it turns itself off within a minute. Strange. I turn it on again, same result. I walk across the carpet and step on a wet spot. Stranger. I look around and water is leaking from above the ceiling!  Fluid is dripping out of the TV chassis, the paperwork on the counter is wet, as is my alarm clock. Fortunately my phone, keyboard, and camera escape harm.

I shower and pack my suitcases. The last items are the safe contents. Yes inside the safe is wet but my passport escapes unscathed. I have to admit that I thought a safe inside a closed cabinet would be, well, "safe". Wrong again.

Nothing I can do, but I attempt to call the front desk. With so many passengers needing to settle their accounts no one answers. I hunt down Ed, my cabin steward. He is not happy, he now has a lot of unexpected cleaning to do on his busiest day. I will check in at the front desk later.

Disembarkation is starting slowly. The first passengers do  not start leaving until after 8:00.

At 9:20 I head towards the Centrum, the designated waiting area for b2b passengers. Guest services is no longer busy so I stop to appraise them of the water leak in my cabin. I am confident Ed will clean the best he can, but informing the front desk stands a better chance of resulting in corrective action by maintenance.

As the ship empties of passengers we check out with our old sea pass cards for the last time, walk down the gangway towards the luggage hall and customs agents.  After a few minutes an officer comes to us. He asks that we hold our passports up, he glances over the group and says OK you may go back aboard. We are back on the ship in about 15 minutes. Easy.

As usual we are being refueled, the dock is busy with forklifts moving stuff. Everything is on pallets, but a few are piled too high to fit thru the doorway in the side of the ship. You would think they could figure out how to pack a pallet so it can be loaded directly aboard. The top rows are manually removed a case at a time and piled on a different pallet.

A tanker truck pulls in. The labeling says "Environmental Services". The truck has the appearance of collecting waste oil. All the fork lifts cease operations, the dock is in gridlock, there is no room to move. The truck can't get to where it needs to connect to the ship. Eventually it backs out of the way, waiting its turn.

Most of the pallets this week are canned goods and beverages. I look for diet tonic, but the labels are too small to read on many of the products. Interestingly no eggs, and no fresh produce to be seen.

Further down the dock is a steel cylinder about 12 inches in diameter and 10 feet long. I recognize it as a component of the system that launches the life boats. A cable is lowered from an onboard jib crane on deck 13. Straps are connected to the eyes on each end of the cylinder.  The cable draws tight, and then no more.  The crane is unable to lift the load aboard.  Several officers confer, I assume the chief engineer being one of them. The effort is abandoned until another day.

By 11:00 the Sky Bar is packed. This is a 4 day weekend cruise after all, more of a party crowd is to be expected.

I locate my cabin on deck 2, it is the first cabin just forward of the Centrum elevators. I would guess there are only about 2
30 or so cabins on deck 2. Most of the deck is provision storage and crew quarters. In all respects this cabin is just like my previous ones except it is left handed. Everything is on the opposite side.

Muster stations change with cabins. This week my station is in the Schooner Bar, how appropriate. The elevators are always very busy after the drill ends, so I walk the four flights of stairs to return to my cabin for a shower and clean clothes for the evening.

The lounge is not busy with guests, but people trying to get in that don't understand that your sea pass card will let them in if the lounge is an area they are supposed to have access to. Many yank on the magnetically latched door trying to open it. No surprise that it is broken.

I hadn't noticed earlier, but the pool was drained and painted the previous night. BINGO! I now know the source of the water in my cabin. A leak in the pipe used when the pool is drained. It all fits, the rust and corrosion, and the relatively clean water. Steel will rust very easily when exposed to water with high levels of chlorine such as from a pool. By the time maintenance would be called, all the water will have evaporated, hiding its source.

Do this several times a year and soon you have lots of corrosion, but no mold or odor. Infrequent enough that no one  recognizes a pattern, so the root cause is never addressed. I will talk to Francisco in the morning when he is not busy.

Skies remain mostly clear, the seas are calm as we head out of Tampa Bay on our way to Cozumel. Yes, for those of you that are counting my third visit in less than two weeks.

Tomorrow is another relaxing sea day. I brought several audio books with me, I better start listening or they will expire.

September 27, 2018

September 26, A Day at Sea

The skies are mostly clear and the seas calm. Our speed remains about 15 knots. Motion of the ship is non existant in such calm waters.

There are 400 kids on the ship this week, I expect there will be even more next week. Usually the Diamond and Concierge lounge is a safe haven with only a few well behaved children with their parents.  This week that is not the case. Several kids have decided the lounge is their playground, running around, banging plates on the tables, climbing on the bar stools, etc. Yes under the sight of the concierge host that does not dare offend the bratty kids staying in a suite. I don't blame the children at all, but their parents that are so engrossed with themselves that they ignore their children.

Royal gives the impression of improving entertainment options.  Along with long standing bingo, trivia and pool games, 6 or more variations of various TV game shows are held, outside vendors are providing mystery games, and the headliner entertainment seems to be of a generally higher caliber. 4 or 5 movies are shown each day, most in the cinema, and several by the pool.

The fans have been removed from the corridor by my room. By late morning the worst of the bratty kids that uses the Concierge lounge as home is there, by himself, sitting at Francisco's desk, but surprisingly dressed in a suit and bow tie. Imaginary role playing? Dressed early for dinner? Waiting for a wedding? 

Berttie has been the host in the Diamond lounge this week, a host I remember from the Freedom several years ago. He and Francisco will switch roles in a few weeks, changing rooms and guests. Bernadette expects to remain the main bartender and server in the concierge lounge, her customers hope so. As if we don't keep her busy enough, she is also manager of the crew bar, the other night keeping her busy until after 2:30 AM.

There is no meeting for back to back guests this week, with 13 of us it is hardly neccessary. We are just instructed to meet in the Centrum at 9:50.

Draw your own conclusion, but I know 8 of the other 12 b2b passengers, we are lounge regulars.

I need to pack to move to yet another cabin. This time as low in the ship as you can get, deck 2. Shower and packing takes a mere 45 minutes, so that is a task for tomorrow morning.

We should pick up our pilot about 3:00 AM, and arrive at our pier in Tampa before 7:00.

September 26, 2018

Cozumel, Mexico Tuesday September 25

Our passage through the night is smooth. We maintain about 15 knots for our short passage from Georgetown to Cozumel.  Captain Ole gets the side of the pier that our captain didn't get last trip. The only other two ships here are both Carnival ships. I say "only", as there is room for at least 6 ships here at the International Pier, plus at least 2 at the downtown pier.

The skies are cloudy when we arrive, and about an hour after most everyone is off the ship the skies open up with a very heavy downpour that lasts for about 45 minutes. Several passengers leave with luggage, and 3 new passengers are seen boarding with luggage. Both groups escorted by Mexican officials on the pier.

I know this is getting myself in a rut, but head to shore for a beer and lunch at Senor Frogs. Is it an excuse to go ashore, or is the food really better in Mexico? I'm back to the ship before the next brief afternoon shower.

The ship is mostly empty, the fans still outside my cabin door. Today I gather my laundry, my last chance to have it done for free. If not, no clean clothes for next week.  

For some unknown reason Royal doesn't have diet tonic on board for US cruises, but they do have a no sugar European version.  So far Bernadette has been able to find a bottle or two each night left over from a season in the Baltic. Now a bottle is only about 6 ounces, and barely fills a glass, so two bottles does not stretch very far. Several times she has been told that a certain bar has some, but when someone is sent to get them, they come back empty handed.

Going to the next level I decide this is a good challenge for the concierge. We will be provisioning in Tampa in a few days.  Lets see how good Francisco is at making things happen. I'm not optimistic, but it worth a try. If not, mabe only club soda for the next week.

All passengers are supposed to be on board by 7:00 the horn has sounded twice now, but the ship isn't moving. All the appearances of missing passengers. We soon depart into the darkness headed to !Tampa for new passengers, more provisions, and with a lot of luck diet tonic water. The Carnival ships are long gone, i have no idea when they left.

Tonight's headliner entertainer is Derek Marshall, a hypnotist. His show, utilizing about 25 random audience volunteers is very good, much better than the few other similar acts I have seen over the years.

Tonight we return our clocks to Florida time. We are cruising at about 15 knots for the next day and a half.

September 25, 2018

Georgetown, Grand Cayman

We arrive in George Town without incident and maintain our position in the anchorage without the use of any anchors. Newer technology on most cruise ships allow them to maintain a fixed position and heading automatically using the ships various propulsion systems.

The only other ship here today is a Carnival ship, and the 3 tenders serving our ship shuttle the passengers quickly ashore. The weather remains mostly sunny. For the northerners on the ship, it is hot, for the many Floridians, the caribbean continues to provide a relief from the heat. Everything is relative.

A water pipe springs a leak just outside my cabin sometime during the day. My cabin is not affected, but after quick repairs are  made,  much time is spent drying out the wet carpet, and blowers are left on all night.  Fortunately it was a fresh water line.

Bernadette is serving the entire lounge by herself again tonight. She does an excellent job which is helped by the lounge being 30% empty, a rare occurrance. Her husband works in Windjammer, and they have made plans to get off the ship tomorrow and enjoy lunch in Cozumel.

Jimmy Hopper is our main entertainment tonight, a hold over guest performer from last week. Earlier in the day In conversation while we are listening to one of the piano players I learn that he not only is paid for each show, but is paid for his idle time on the ship between shows. It makes sense, because if he were ashore he would be performing every day. Most of the time he performs at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

The top tier party barely fills a third of the Colony Club this week with 12 Pinnacle, 70 Diamond Plus and about 80 Diamond passengers on board (Two Pinnacle members missed the ship). The captain on the Brilliance for the next few months is Captain Ole, one of the oldest and longest term employees of Royal with nearly 40 years of service to the company.

There has been no Captains Corner so far on the Brilliance, maybe Royal is conceding to Captain Kate, realizing they don't hold a candle to her personality, charm, and professionalism.

Once I close my cabin door, I can barely hear the roar of the fans outside. The seas remain calm as we head to Cozumel Mexico at a very comfortable 15 Knots. Arrival time is expected to be 10:00 AM.

September 24, 2018

A Calm Day At Sea

The seas remain flat, our speed constant at about 15 knots. There are a few clouds that provide a break in the sunshine with temperatures in the mid 80's. Being on deck 8 this week, there is no engine noise. The same can not be said for some of the 400 kids on the ship, some of which are still running all over the ship screaming and yelling at midnight.

As we pass the western tip of Cuba a flock of seagulls fly along side the ship for hours. They don't attempt to land but just fly alongside at exactly the same speed as the ship. Maybe our presence gives them confidence for their flight, wherever it is taking them.

This class of ships is one of the few that actually has a dedicated movie theater.  With limited seating, and not easily adaptable to other uses, its only function is showing movies several times a day. A few days ago one of the movies was "Overboard". Today I enjoyed "Adrift". Both very appropriate showings for cruise ship passengers.  A few years ago Titanic was a favorite.

The lounge was barely full last night, the number of loyalty customers being much lower than last trip. I heard only 14 pinnacle guests, 8 still here from the last trip.

I don't know exactly why, but having everyone set their clocks back an hour has not gone without a few hitches. A number of times listed in the Compass would be accurate if we hadn't changed time. Most of the public ship clocks, but not all, reflect the change, and the time displayed on the navigation channel is off by an hour. I'll just blame it on a new captain, a new cruise director, and a ship that hasn't been to Grand Cayman recently. I trust my old technology wind up pocket watch.

The seas remain calm as I retire for the night at 10:30, or 9:30, depending on the clock.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman, is a tender port and we will remain in a fixed position several miles off shore for the day after our arrival at 7:00 local time.

Turnaround in Tampa

I managed to send the wrong email in the wrong order so I expect you will find an incomplete post out of order. I have no way to fix it, so it be.

Most of you are probably unaware, but posts are made by me sending an email to a special account.  Software extracts the contents and writes the posts to the blog. The date of the blog is the date received, which is not necessarily the date written about, or the date sent. I do not see the actual blog while travelling.

The lounge was very busy last night and all guests were kicked out at 8:30 for a private function for some officers, possibly a farewell for the captain and others leaving today.

There is a rumor that today will be health inspection, if so boarding may be delayed.  I will know better later in the day. Incidently we were never given any feedback on the inspection last Monday. Often we are told, maybe only when the inspection report is good?

Yesterday was a little cooler and there were some late afternoon showers. Seas have been good for the entire 5 days.

It is a bright sunny day in Tampa. We are being refueled. Some ships can carry enough fuel to cruise for about 30 days, but no one will say how much fuel is on board at a particular time. I would expect substantially less than their maximum, especially when doing 4 and 5 day cruises.

Disembarkation started late, but progresses rapidly. Departing crew members, contract workers and back to back guests were off the ship by 10, and I was back on by 10:30.

There is one crew of about 20 workers  that boarded in Europe to work on the internet system. It must be a complete redo as they are installing new cable in many areas throughout the ship and don't expect to finish for another month. For the techies, all Cisco equipment.

There is another crew changing out ceiling light fixtures. I think from halogen to CFL. Why not LED I don't know.

This ship is showing its age more than most. Numerous elevator buttons are non functional. One elevator goes into "overloaded" alarm when the car is about half full, the passengers quickly adapted to this autonomous behavior.

The glass door to the concierge lounge slams shut instead of closing slowly. Last night when also caught by a strong breeze from the open outside door the door header ripped loose and crashed to the floor. Fortunately no one was in harms way.

Hopefully repairs will continue while the ship is in service as another drydock isn't scheduled for over 4 years.

The dock is stacked with dozens of pallets of provisions. Trucks arrive in a steady stream unloading everything from apples to zucchini. I see more pallets of eggs than anything else.

Cabins on different decks will be ready at different times. Last week deck 3 wasn't ready until 2:00, this week I am on deck 8 and rooms are to be ready by 1:00. If I were staying in the same cabin, it would be done first before all the others.

My cabin this week on deck 8 is in much better condition than my cabin of last week, possibly totally refreshed during the April refurbishment.

Usually at the muster drill the crew has a list of passengers so they can just check off attendance. Not this week, they just wrote down every cabin number. Impossible to see who is missing.

I decide to go to the show tonight. Another plan that doesn't pan out.  The entertainer never made it on board. Hopefully he will catch the ship in the next port.

The seas remain calm as we head to Grand Cayman. Tomorrow is a sea day. Since we will  be spending two days in the next time zone, we set our clocks back an hour, I retire even earlier.

September 22, 2018

Thursday September 20th, Cozumel, Mexico

There is confusion as we approach the port in Cozumel. The Majesty of the Seas has docked at the pier we are supposed to be at. The captains and the port authorities work it out and we pull into the other side of the International pier. I can't see where it makes much difference except either moving the gangway to the other side of the ship, or turning the ship around before it is docked instead of when we leave.  Regardless, we dock, the ship is cleared and the exodus begins at 8:30.

I slowly get around and head to town after all the tours have departed. I share a cab with others headed to Ponchos, a favorite hangout for food and drink. I head to the shopping area, on an errand for my daughter.  I pass the "No Name Bar", a favorite hangout for crew members. They have a new much larger entrance than the last time I was here. I can only assume the drinks, free internet, and  ocean frontage are the same.

The Carnival Freedom is at the old pier, not to be confused with the Royal ship Freedom of The Seas, which is often just referred to as the Freedom.

There are two Senor Frogs, one located very close to each pier. I will let you solve this puzzle.  The Senor Frogs next to the Freedom, the Carnival ship with a known reputation for drinking and partying, is totally void of customers. The Senor Frogs next to where the Brilliance is docked is packed, without an empty table. I wait 5 minutes to be seated. Have the reputations been erroneously assigned? Are the carnival passengers partied out? Or are the passengers from the Royal ships starving for a good drink and some food. I have no guess one way or the other.

I'm back to the ship by 2:30 or so having made my contribution to the Mexican economy. Yes a beer and sandwich at the busy Frog.

By 3:00 clouds are beginning to build. There definitely is rain in the area, but none falls on the ship today.

I always felt the Majesty, one of Royal's oldest ships was smaller than the Brilliance. I can't speak for tonnage, the usual measure of ship size, but she is definitely taller than we are as I sit in the lounge looking up at the bottom of her Crown Lounge. That almost sounds inappropriate.

Time to clean up for 3 1/2 hour cocktail hour. The lounge is busy, but not crowded. The A/C has been worked on. But is barely adequate with the hot humid air coming in from outside everytime someone walks within 10 feet of the door. I can assure you that there is no hot air being generated  by the guests.

All aboard is 5:30 with an expected departure of 6:00. We finally depart a few minutes after 7:00. I have no clue as to why. The Carnival Freedom is still moored as we pass by, but an hour later she passes us, and rapidly leaves us in her wake.

Cocktail time is interrupted by the Crown and Anchor party for the majority of crown and anchor members. There are 25 Pinnacle, 163 Diamond Plus, and 225 Diamond members on board. The 3 top cruisers are recognized. The captain is leaving for vacation time, and several other staff members are going to the Harmony for the President's cruise over the next few weeks.  It is actually sold as the Presidents cruise, a cruise where corporate officers are on the ship. In reality there is more than one president's cruise.

I have not returned to the dining room since  the first night, but have run into Nancy and Judy several times.  Sleeveless has been showing up, always late, and tonight in a swimsuit. Do you think he showered before the pool? Or is the pool his shower? Yuk!

This ship just completed a crossing from Europe before this cruise, a fact apparent by some of the provisions bearing labels from England, France, Germany, South Africa, etc.

We are cruising at a very comfortable 15 knots. The seas remain calm as they have been since leaving Tampa last Monday. Tomorrow will be a sea day.

Friday, a Sea Day

I have an early breakfast at 8:15. The Windjammer is nearly empty, many passengers electing to get their last chance to sleep late.

At 9:00 I tour the bridge with about 15 other passengers. The ceilings and walls are painted a dark blue, a color I haven't seen used on a bridge before.  The layout is similar to all other cruise ship bridges. Several miles in front of us we can see the Majesty, the only other traffic in sight. she passed us during the night, but we are told that as we approach Tampa Bay, we will be in front of them because of where we are docking.

At 10 there is a meeting for all passengers staying on the ship for the next cruise. There are about 50 of us. This is the first time where I have done back to back cruises and had to change cabins. The process is about the same, but I need to pack all my belongings except for hanging clothes, and then in the morning my cabin steward will move everything to my new cabin. 

I have only one problem. I have no idea what my next cabin number is. I think it is is wise idea to find out just so I can make sure my cabin steward moves everything to the right place. I always knew the concierge was  here for a reason.

September 20, 2018

Day 3 at Sea

Seas remain calm throughout the night. Running at just 10 knots the vibrations are much reduced from when we were cruising at 20 knots plus.

We pass thru a few storms during the night, and the forecast for the day is mostly sunny skies with a chance of showers. Temperatures are in the low 80's.

In midafternoon we encounter two heavy storms, forcing all outside decks to be cleared and secured.  While the storms were intense, they were relatively small and had no effect on the calm seas. Within 30 minutes many passengers returned to perfecting their sunburns. 

Quite appropriately one of the movies being played in the Cinema is Overboard. A theater room dedicated to showing 3 or 4 movies each day is another feature lost on newer vessels. All day there is the usual mix of entertainment choices including trivia, knockoffs of TV game shows, and of course a favorite of Royal, belly flop contests.

After a short stay in the concierge lounge I have delicious lasagna for dinner, yes in the Windjammer.

The theater is mostly empty for the main production show with the ships singers and dancers. Others are smarter than I am. I retreat to the relative quiet of the concierge lounge for the rest of the evening.

By bed time, 9:30, there is a gentle roll to the ship. Surprisingly with no complaints from the guests. It is often common to hear guests complain about the rocking of the ship when we are still moored to a dock and there isn't any motion at all.

It is almost like a reunion this cruise with many passengers I know from previous passages, some going back to my first days on the Monarch. I also meet a couple that lives in my community in Clermont, not that any of us spend much time there.

Tomorrow morning we arrive for a day in Cozumel.

Day 2 Key West

Our passage from Tampa to Key West is smooth and fast, we arrive over an hour early, but I get ahead of myself.

My cabin is on one of the lowest decks in the stern of the ship strategically sandwiched between the engine room and the main galley. The engines vibrate all night as we cruise at over 20 knots.  The constant drone of the diesel engines is broken only periodically by someone dropping something heavy, maybe a full side of beef, or a full keg of beer in the galley above. I quickly return to a sound if not soundless sleep. Booking this trip only a month or so ago, I did not have a lot of options for cabin location.

I head to the buffet for  breakfast. There is the usual cereal dispensers for cold cereal.  One is labeled Special K, my favorite. Spoons are no where to be found, neither is skim milk.  After asking several of the staff, spoons and milk are located in opposite corners of the buffet from the cereal. I settle into my chair to enjoy breakfast.  Not Special K as I had expected, but something edible. Oh well.

As we approach Key West we are escorted by not one but two coast guard boats, each with 50 mm manned machine guns. Not that a cruise ship is a threat to the naval base where we will be docked, but our arrival gives them an excuse for an exercise.

Despite arriving about an hour early, passengers are anxious to disembark.  Since we are docked at a naval base passengers can't just walk down the pier but must ride the complimentary transportation.  Pictures are not allowed to be taken while on the base, but quite honestly, the entire base is much more visible from the ship than anywhere at ground level.

I avoid the congestion and wait a couple of hours before venturing into town. Nothing has changed since I was here a few weeks ago. The  skies are mostly sunny, and with a slight breeze the 82 degree temperature is warm but comfortable. There is a Carnival ship at the main pier, but it leaves just as I am getting to town. Just Brilliance passengers and the regular tourists. I stay about an hour, have a local no name ice cream cone, and head back to the ship.

In the morning when we arrived the captain announced that our departure will be later than previously planned, and all aboard will be an hour later at 6:30 instead of 5:30, giving everyone extra time ashore. The detail he neglected to mention was the fact that the last shuttle from town arrives at the ship at 5:30, and that is the only way to return. How generous of the captain to remain in port an extra hour.

The concierge lounge is less crowded tonight, and of course with fewer guests we have the full compliment of staff, two bartenders and a server. Everyone is served by a few minutes after 5.

The ship departs before sunset. We head south westerly on calm seas towards our next destination of Cozumel. A little too far to make in one day, we cruise at 10 knots for arrival in about a day and a half.

Tonight's dinner will be in the Windjammer. Not only is the menu offering in the main dining room not exciting, once was enough for this trip. It carried a fancy name, but essentially the pot roast was delicious.

I catch the entertainment in the Schooner bar for awhile, then most of the feature show in the theater.  A ventriloquist I had not seen before. Obviously a regular, he relates that he will be on 30 ships this year, flying all over the world going from one ship to another.

With the ship moving at just over 10 knots, the vibrations are minimal throughout the night. The beer kegs are still being periodically dropped.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

September 18, 2018

Two weeks on The Brilliance of The Seas

My two weeks home were very busy. My grand daughter is growing as expected. I think she is already being spoiled, but that is a right of passage for grandparents.

I learned a few other disadvantages of not traveling with my laptop, or or I should say more accurately the information I keep on my laptop. My memory said I would be on the Mariner this week, a false memory prompted by seeing the Mariner in the port of Miami when the Equinox docked, I'm actually headed to the Brilliance for three back to back cruises out of Tampa. Don't get excited, the three trips encompass only 4 different ports and 14 days.

I receive several notifications from Royal that our usual boarding time of 10:30  has been delayed until 12:00 and then subsequently 12:30. The Coast Guard has scheduled and extensive inspection. Often inspections are unannounced, but I believe this one was scheduled because the ship has just returned to a US port after spending the summer overseas.

I keep procrastinating my packing until Monday morning as I have no need to leave the house before 10. Now, yes I do some preparation work for packing, like laundry and organizing my medications, beforehand.

Most of the drive to Tampa was to be as expected, heavy traffic on I-4, but no major delays. The off site parking lot is full, and many cars are turned away. No reservation, no place to park except at the terminal garage. The few block drive to the terminal is very slow. even I could have walked it in less time but not while hauling my two suitcases.

As we get off the shuttle van there are no dockworkers to take bags. We wait for a few minutes, and there isn't even anyone in sight. There are several empty luggage carts, and a couple holding luggage tagged for the Brilliance. I just put my checked bag on the cart and head for the ship. If it doesn't make it to the ship, I won't be the only passenger without luggage, everyone else follows suit, and soon several carts are full.

The  lines thru security move slowly, but continuously. I have a short wait for checkin at the counter. My lucky day, I get the new Inter Cruise employee that is totally clueless on how to checkin a passenger. Keystroke by keystroke he is being guided by his trainer. By the time I get my sea pass card I learn he has been doing this for over a week,  and this is the 7th cuise he has worked. I don't think he is going to master the task.

Just as he finishes with me, priority boarding begins and I walk on the ship without further delay. No desire for food in the buffet, I head to the Concierge lounge on deck 13. There are a few others already there, passengers that did back to back from the last cruise. The room is hot, hotter than outside. The open door proivdes a little relief, but not much. Obviously the AC is not working. I move to a cooler wait in the crown lounge.

The cabins are not ready until 2:00, I secure everything from my carry on bag and head to the dining room to locate my table. A table for 10 tucked against a serving station. It is apparent that all the dining room furniture has been recently replaced. Chairs are bright white clean leather.

The muster drill is just after 3:00 outside, and very hot. Our leader tries his best but he has a rough group of passengers to work with. About a dozen cabins for our station don't even show up, significantly more than I am accustomed to seeing. The process is chaotic, no one seems  know where they are going or can understand the simple directions of turn off your cell phones and pay attention.

Afterwards I take the stairs to the lower deck, almost the bilge, where my cabin is located. No luggage for me, but there is for many other passengers. No information in the cabin about Diamond or Concierge Lounge hours. About 4 I head to the Concierge lounge. In the elevator I meet Steve #1, so named as he is the eldest of a group of Steve's on a previous cruise. I am Steve #2, and my son in law Steve #3. I think eventually there were 5 Steve's on that cruise.

We find a table and begin our wait. After 4:30 we learn they don't begin serving until 5:00. The room is packed as usual. There are a number of faces I recognize from cruises past including one that I remember for the wrong reasons, put quite simply he presents himself as a jerk. 

There are supposed to be two bartenders and a server, only one bartender shows up. It's certainly not my good looks,  so it must be my charm, we are the first customers served.

At 5:30 everyone has their first drink by now, so I order a second and decide to give the dining room a try, besides prime rib is on the menu. I'm a little concerned because I am a few minutes late. Unfounded worry for nothing, the dining room is 15 minutes late opening. I indicate that I know where my table is, but they insist that a waiter show me. He has no idea despite a diagram in his hand. More than likely he wasn't able to read english or whatever tongue the diagram was written in. No problem I just guide him until he gets to the correct table.

Within 10 minutes 6 of the 10 seats are occupied. A young couple on their second cruise, the rest of us are seasoned travellers. On this ship Royal has gone to a one page menu, with the waiter even taking desert orders when you order everything else. 30 minutes into dinner time, just as our appetizers are arriving 2 others join the table. They immediately start complaining about the chairs, the light, the non existant sun, etc. They move to the far end of the table from where I am seated, not to be heard again for the rest of dinner.

30 minutes later, now an hour into our dinner, but still waiting for appetizers dishes to be cleared, a strong vial odor wafts across our table. Seconds later the source of the odor is apparent as an unbathed, inappropriately dressed man about 60, and I assume his wife, joins our table.

Nobody says anything but everyone else at the table is very uncomfortable.

Nearly every table I can see is only partially occupied. The speciality restaurants and the Windjammer must be doing well tonight. I have been reminded of another reason why. Four of us from dinner return to the Concierge lounge, open until 8:30 we learn.

My luggage has arrived by the time I return to the cabin. everything gets stashed away and I decide to check out the entertainers. YES, multiple pianists! Life is good.

The seas remain calm as we head out of Tampa bay, under the Sunshine bridge on our way to Key West. I retire by 10 or just after.

September 04, 2018

September 3 - Return to Miami and Home

We arrive in Miami with a greeting of heavy rain and strong winds. For some reason we are diverted  to a different pier and things continue to go downhill from there. There are problems getting the ship cleared, and problems getting the luggage ashore. Those passengers that carry their own luggage begin disembarkation almost a hour late.

Disembarkation is by order of the tags that you are given for your your luggage. Luggage with tag #10 usually can disembark as soon as luggage with tag #10 is ready, and preceding passengers have cleared the way to the luggage area. I have luggage tags 39, numbers go as high as 79.

By 9:15 or so, the time last week when all passengers were ashore they have called #18! This does not look good. I need to get to the airport and catch the only bus headed to Orlando.

About 9:40 Hester tells us that all the baggage is ashore, but there is a big backlog of passengers. They are giving up on calling numbers and we can wait here or wait in the terminal.  I elect the terminal, at least I will make some progress and be ahead of those that wait on the ship.

The line moves slowly, but at least moves.

As I have my Sea Pass card scanned for the last time I encounter one more surprise. Captain Kate is personally thanking each passenger as we head to the gangway. When I first met her last week I told her that she was raising the bar for all her peers in the industry. I had no idea how much. 

I quickly find my bag and head to the line for Customs. One advantage of the limited facilities in Miami, there is no room for a long line of passengers and I am soon out the door.

Earlier I had called Red Coach to get my reservation number for the Super Shuttle to the airport. Super shuttle is no where to be seen. The porters consistantly tell me where Super Shuttle stops. I go there and call Super Shuttle. I am told they will be there in 10 to 15 minutes. 20 then 25 goes by without a single super shuttle van sighted. I call again, he is on the pier somewhere. I ask where would they like me to wait. I am told he will find me. Considering the thousands of people and tons of luggage cramming the 10 foot wide sidewalk, I am doubtful.

I plan an alternative, at 11:00 just take a cab to the airport if I have to. Soon I see my shuttle # 538 slowly moving thru traffic. He gives no indication of stopping, I wave my arms and yell. He stops in the middle of the street as does everyone else. The passengers relate that they thought I was trying to get the drivers attention and they told him to stop. I thank them.

30 minutes later or so I arrive at the airport. I still have almost 30 minutes before the bus to Orlando. Time to get a snack and a beverage. Wrong! I find a terminal directory, and all food and restrooms are on the other side of the security checkpoints. I get it, most people are here for a flight.

The rain continues to fall and the wind blow. I will remain inside until the last minute when I need to venture out in the rain to cross the street to the designated bus stop. My first break of the morning. The driver illegally parks in a handicap space so we can board without getting soaked.

I settle into my seat for the 4  hour drive North.  Soon I realize water is dripping on me from above. The roof must leak. I switch to another seat to only find it worse. Now I realize why there appears to be mold on the bottom of the luggage racks, water will cause that in Florida's heat.

We are headed towards the Turnpike. Southbound traffic is very heavy, Northbound not too bad.  A few minutes later I realize we are driving on city streets. Strange. We do so for about 45 minutes. As nearly I can guess, the driver missed the entrance ramp to the turnpike.

A little later are slowed for a bit by an accident. By this time many passengers are following our progress on Google maps or some other similar app. I amuse my daughter at work with a steady stream of useless texts. She plans to use me as a excuse to leave work a few minutes early today.

As we get closer to Orlando I can more accurately predict my arrival time. It will not be early, and it will not be on time, but about 45 minutes late. I think that is the same amount of time we spent on the city streets of Miami.

While on the bus I get some great news. My grand daughter, now just over a week home from NICU has booked her first cruise with me in March. Were she full term, she would have been too young. There has to be some advantage to arriving in this world early. Maybe Eliza's first cruise will inspire her to become a Captain like Kate McCue's first cruise on The Big Red Boat.

I'm home for two weeks then head to The Mariner of The Seas.

September 2 - Another Sea Day

This morning the seas are slight at less than three feet. There is a fairly steady rain keeping all but a few die
hards away from the pool.

The Oceanview is exceptionally busy for breakfast. For the first time on this trip I decide to have eggs. As I am waiting, those that haven't ordered are told they are out of luck, they have run out. He was not clear as to whether the ship was out or just this galley.  We will know tomorrow.

I have been on several ships where they ran out of limes, and Captain Kate related a time the ship ran out of coffee and another when they had no rice, the primary staple for many of the crew. The rice shortage nearly prevented sailing, but enough was sourced and loaded on the ship at the last minute.

At the Captain's corner we learn that the passengers that were late boarding in Bonaire were in touch with the ship, it was not revealed whether or not they were on a Celebrity excursion. I suspect not because if they were that would have presented the opportune time to reinforce one of the advantages of booking with the cruise line.

This ship is going in for a major refurbishment in the spring. I know they will be adding more suites and specialty dining, specific details are scarce.  

The afternoon show was the house orchestra and the singers singing tunes from Broadway shows. For a change I was familiar with all the numbers. I return to my cabin and do most of my packing before it is time for our last gathering in the SkyView Lounge to say our goodbyes.

The rain subsides bout noontime, and by 4:00 the sun is bright and the skies clear. the seas are almost like glass. No complaints about the weather or sea conditions from this passenger.

The choices in the Oceanview are pretty slim tonight. The crew relates that they have just run out of some items they would normally still be serving, this group of passengers consuming more than anticipated.  We were told this is a very common problem on Asian cruises as many passengers just sit in the buffet and eat all day long. On some ships the problem got so severe that the hours were cut and the area closed as that was the only way they could get passengers to leave so tables could be cleaned.

s show features Ashley Amber Harris in a tribute to Whitney Houston.  She is an energetic performer and is well liked by the nearly full theater. When the Celebrity Edge is launched in December she will be a permanent entertainer with a show blocked just for her.

When I retire for the evening my alarm is set for 7:00 AM. The trip is nearly over as we head to Miami. We should be docked before 7:00 and passengers that want to carry all their own luggage should be leaving a few minutes later. Again a few passengers are staying on board for the next cruise, but most of us must return to reality until next time.

September 1 - A Sea Day

As we leave Bonaire the seas are moderate with winds of about 30 knots. Throughout the night there is a slight roll to the ship, and a constant but subtle moaning and groaning.

We awake to mostly sunny skies with the seas still running 6 to 9 feet. The forecast for the day is pretty much the same with a slight chance of showers.  As we progress in a North Westerly direction towards Miami the seas are expected to gradually subside.

Throughout the last two weeks nearly
everyplace the ship has traveled, the water is covered with large patches of a yellowish green algae, some patches
as large as 50 feet across and 100 feet long.  A phenomenon neither I, nor anyone else I talked to, have ever before seen to such a large extent.

Whatever it is, and whatever is causing it, can not be good for the health of the seas.

The Equinox is a good ship. Cabins are spacious and comfortable. Spacious, now that's a word I would not normally think of associating with a cruise ship cabin, but here the cabins are about 30% larger than cabins on Royal ships.

The vases of flowers in my cabin, a nice touch, I believe are a result of my loyalty level. I do expect however that everyone gets a chocolate on their pillow every night.

Announcements are made only once a day, no constant pleas to attend art auctions or bingo. No belly flop contests or wet tee shirt contests. Games here are more refined and include bocce ball, archery, pool volleyball and baggo. Are bingo and trivia considered games?

Real ice cream, and soft serve if you wish, served for you most of the day along with a variety of cookies and pastries. Fruits, salads and cooked to order pasta and pizza is available from late morning until well after I am asleep. Gelato is also available most of the day, but, for a fee.

Many varied menu choices are always available in the Oceanview Cafe including steak, chicken and fish cooked to order every day. Fruit smoothies most of the day. Salad and sandwich options are nearly endless. Themed meals such as Indian, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, British, etc. are featured on different nights. Gluten free items are always available as are individually prepared items for anyone on any type of dietary restriction. The offering of Fish N Chips created the only lines in the Oceanview.

Definitely a much wider range of options than most other cruise lines, and most importantly, at least in my opinion, hot food is always served hot! Even the soup kettles are kept at near simmering temperatures all the time.

Of course this ship does not have water slides, zip lines, or wave riders, but the passenger demographics don't call for such features either. Or maybe the features determine the demographics? Your choice.

Entertainment is typical for this size ship. Not as elaborate as can be offered on the megaships, but acceptable.

By nightfall the seas have subsided to three feet or less, and the skies are rather gloomy.

Tomorrow is our last day at sea before returning to Miami.

Friday August 31 - Kralendijk, Bonaire

We approach port before 7:00 but are unable to dock as our berth is occupied by a Dutch naval vessel. After a short delay the ship is secured and quickly cleared by local authorities. Again we are the only cruise ship in port, there being berths for two, we are at the south pier. Passengers begin disembarkation by 8:15.

This is not a port for shopping, but offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. There are not a lot of divers amongst the passengers and with little opportunity for shopping, more passengers than usual remain on board.

I spend about an hour ashore, more than enough. Our pier is in pretty rough shape with much of the concrete crumbling. Work crews and divers are busy at work making repairs.

Most often bunkering is accomplished by pumping fuel from a barge that pulls alongside while we are in port. Yesterday in Curacao the process was a little different. There are oil pipes that run out on the pier to a pumping station. Hoses are then connected to pump fuel into the ships tanks. I can only guess the pipes originate at one or more of the nearby refineries.  The same equipment and pier is probably used to fill and empty oil tankers when there are no cruise ships in port.

I need to correct a statement I made last week. This vessel is powered with four diesel engines not turbine engines as I stated. The celebrity Millenium and other ships I have sailed are turbine powered. 

The skies  are mostly cloudy first thing in the morning. As the day progresses the clouds give way to more and more sun. The temperatures remain in the mid 80's with less of a breeze than yesterday, making it feel much hotter.

The crew practices emergency procedures all the time. Today it is a fire drill which lasts about an hour. Yesterday it was a life boat drill with about half of the life boats being launched and driven about by the crew.

By 3:00 there are still a few passengers heading back to the ship.  All aboard is 3:30. Captain Kate has been very clear that she has never left a passenger behind when leaving port. Now there have been occasions when passengers chose not to return to the ship on time.

Today was one of those days. The Captain blew the ships horn several times in warning of our pending departure. Two passengers were paged to contact guest relations. No response. As 4:00 PM approaches the dock workers are posed to undo the lines.

A young couple appear on the pier. They fumble to find sea pass cards, once past security they make a mad dash to the ship, receiving a loud applause from all the passengers lining the rail in anticipation of our departure. It was their lucky day, another two minutes and they would have watched us sail into the sunset.

A different group of passengers have been invited to the helipad for our sail away this afternoon. An honor arranged by Hester, the Captain's Club host.

No free cocktail hour today, instead there is an officers reception at 7:30 for all levels of the Captain's Club. The Sky Lounge is packed, but for the regulars at the bar, seating is not as issue. The bartenders have our favorite beverages already poured and waiting thus saving our seats. The staff recognize their best customers.

The 7:30 timing is intentional as the Sky Lounge is no where large enough for all invited passengers.  The early show is still taking place in the theater, and many passengers with early dining are still finishing desert. Both activities cutting back on the number of guests that can participate. Have I mentioned that I prefer the flexibility of grabbing a quick bite in the Oceanview instead of spending two or more hours in the dining room?

The next two days are sea days, and in a little over 60 hours we should be pulling into the port of Miami. As near as I can tell, with all of our passengers still onboard.