December 12, 2018

Two Days at Sea

As usual I sleep very well. The cabin is very quiet, the AC works properly, and the image for the virtual balcony is basiclly a black screen throughout the night.
In the morning I meet my room steward, Winton. He informs me that none of the virtual balcony work and he will call maintenance about the sewer gas. Fair enough. The Park Cafe is so close, that will be my first choice for breakfast if possible. I win, there are hardly any guests here.

The seas remain virtually flat, with any waves under one meter, no where near enough to rock this behemouth of a ship. The temperatures start the day in the low 70's and are expected to rise to about 75. Under mostly sunny skies the pool decks quickly fill with passengers.

The  Cruise Critic meet and Mingle was poorly attended. Over 150 had signed up, but there were only about 25 in attendance. None of the officers made an appearance, but nearly everyone won something in the drawing for door prizes.

The ship is properly decorated for Christmas. The theme this year is white lights, the 30 foot tree is adorned with thousands. Large balls of white lights hang from the promenade ceiling.

The galley staff had been busy creating a number of ginger bread houses, the largest over three feet tall. 

The gardeners have contributed dozens of potted poinsetta plants strategically located around the ship. 

Many of the staff wear Santa Hats in recognition of the season.

There is a small wedding in Dazzles, small by the number af attendees, not by the extravagence of the brides dresss. Definitely one of the most elegant I have ever seen.

The Attic is opened for the overflow crowd for the Diamond lounge, but nobody knows about it. No signs, no verbal communication when you can't get in the door at the Diamond lounge. Only if you venture into the Attic are you then asked for your sea pass card and learn that it is being used for overflow.  The bartender tells us that this will be the case for the rest of the cruise.

I attend my first ice show at 7:30, imeadiately after which I head towrds the Aqua Theater. Standby guests are being admitted, and I actually find a better seat than the previous night when I had reservations.

I head to the cabin for the evening. Now I don't even have a remote for the virtual balcony. I guess if I don't have one, I can't say it doesn't work.  The sewer gas odor is better, but not gone. Or maybe I am becoming accustomed to it.

Another good nights sleep. The seas remain incapably of rocking the ship at all. We continue in a southeasterly direction toward St Marten.

On the second sea day I have a very busy (for me anyway) schedule. At 9:30 I have a galley tour. With only about 15 guests in attendance, and one of the most articulate staff members as our tour guide it was good. Each of the three main dining rooms has its own galley. Only the bakery serves the entire ship from the galley on deck four. Eight tons of flour turned into bakery items each week. Much of the process has become automated, much more so than on the older ships.

Immediately after the galley tour it is time for the Crown and Anchor top tier party in the Aqua Theater. 15 PInnacle, 203 Diamond Plus and 422 Diamonds are on the ship. Many of the officers are introduced, the top cruisers recognized, and about 20 minutes of entertainment provided by the divers.

I said earlier that I wouldn't go to the dining room this week, well I have to take that back as I decide to partake in a "meal with an Officer" a perk of being a frequent cruiser.  The conversation with Karina, the Loyalty Ambasador and Ante an electrical systems engineer was  enjoyable. The steak was overcooked, and the mousse desert almost inedible.  Being a special occasion, our waiter only had one table to take care of so the service was good.

Tonight I have reservations for one of the headliner acts, a ventriloquist. The theater fills a half hour before showtime. A comedian as much as a ventriloquist he is good.  Another example of one of the advantages of the megaships, they have a larger budget for the entertainment.

Tomorrow we arrive at our first port, St Marten. I plan to make a visit to the Lazy Lizzard and visit Nick.

Headed to The Harmony of the Seas

I am all packed and set my alarm for 7:00 AM. Ft Lauderdale is about a four hour drive. As I head to the car the AC is turned higher, and the heat turned lower. I need to leave the water on as some new plantings still need a little more water than provided by the regular sprinkler system. I do remember to turn the hot water heater off.

The turnpike to Ft Pierce, and then switch to I-95 after a quick fuel stop. Though I know the way, I turn on Garmin.  Within a few minutes it warns me that I-95 is totally blocked in both directions about 30 miles ahead. I switch back to the turnpike, as do many others. Modern technology sometimes is good.

Having saved me from inevitable delays on 95, Garmin wants to extract payment as I near my destination, it directs me on local roads to get to my parking lot instead on staying on the expressways. do I listen to garmin or follow the expressways? Garmin saved me once today, I better pay attention. I take the local roads. No big deal but probably adds 15 minutes to my travel time, or saves me hours, I will never know.

Park-N-Go is extremely busy but very well organized. Within 5 minutes I am on the shuttle headed to the ship.

The security line extends outside the terminal to the sidewalk. The lines slowly weave back and forth. Once past security it should be directly to the ship as everything was done online including uploading a photo and collecting complete credit card information.

Another failed plan. Somehow Royal lost all that information so all passengers must wait in another line to check in at the counter. My status helps as there are only a few passengers ahead of me instead of the hundreds in most of the lines.

Finally an hour and a half after stepping off the shuttle I board the ship. The cabins are open so I drop off my carry on. When I open the door I immeadiately notice a strong odor of sewer gas. I will deal with that later, the first order of business is a bite to eat. Park Cafe is close, and usually undiscovered on the first day. 

I grab a sandwich and send messages off to the kids that I am safely on the ship, even anwering the inquiry "...are you there yet?"

Back to the cabin. Yes there is defininitely a bad odor.  I don't remember if I actually splurged on this trip, or it was the only cabin left, but I have a virtual balcony cabin.  This is an interior cabin where they have added a 48 x 72 display on the end wall. The image displayed comes from a camera pointed off the side of the ship. Visually it is surprisingly realistic, but with a minor issue. The view is off the port side, but the room is oriented fore and aft. I can't wait to see the effect if the ship starts rolling or pitching. The visual image is 90 degrees rotated from the motion of the ship. Certain to mess with your brain.

Oh you say, just turn it off. Well that is another issue, the remote control doesn't work.

Not knowing if I will see my room steward, I leave a note on the bed for him if he returns and I am not in the cabin.

With the weather a mixture of of sun, clouds, strong winds and showers I am glad my muster station is in the theater. Opportunity for a quick nap and then wait for the lounge to open.

I remembered to reserve all my shows from home, and RC has an app that connects on the ship. I expected to be able to see my reservations on the app, but no that doesn't work either. A stop to introduce myself to Mohamed Sayeth, the concierge host, he insists he remembers me from a previous cruise, I have no clue as to which one. He is able to retrieve and print a list of my reservations. One problem solved.

The lounge is over crowded, I shouldn't expect anything else on a ship with nearly 6,000 passengers and a lounge for 60. I am lucky and find a seat.

Many guests are initially turned away, but seats come available once people begin to leave for early dinner. As usual I have no plans to even look at the dining room.

A few hours after departure the weather improves. I grab a cup of chili in the windjammer and then find a seat for the aqua show. My memory says the similar shows on the Allure and the Oasis were better, but that may be because they were the first I saw of this type of show. Regardless, aquatic performances that I won't seen at my local pool back home.

A short stop at the Jazz club, and then back to the cabin for the night. My suitcase is in the hall along with dozens of others, the note is gone from the turned down bed, but the odor of sewer gas is still in the room. Something to deal with tomorrow.