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.