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.