July 18, 2019

July 14th Return home

The alarm is set for 7:00. Our scheduled departure is estimated to be between 8:10 and 8:20. Gail is doubtful she can make it down the gangway, thru the terminal and out to the bus. Her "bug" has taken a toll and she is very weak. We decide to take advantage of wheelchair assistance and just need to get her to deck 5 forward to the gathering place for those passengers needing assistance.

After a brief stop to sit and rest. We make it. Shortly her name is called and we begin our exit. A crew member takes her as far as the elevator, then a shore person takes her from the elevator to baggage claim which today is the first group of luggage as we enter the big hall. I arrange for a stevedor to take our bags.
We continue on our way to customs where we barely pause long enough to open our passports.

Within less than 20 minutes we are getting off the bus at my car in the parking lot.

Home, unpacked and all the clothes are washed. Gail sees her doctor the next morning. The Z pack has worked and he finds no indication of any serious lingering issues.

In a few days life will return to normal and we will be ready to travel again. Hopefully without an unwanted "bug".

Though disappointing, things happen and one just needs to roll with the tides and deal with what cards you are dealt. Tomorrow is another new day.

July 13 A Sea Day

By early morning the temperatures are already in the low 90's, the skies clear, and the sun very hot. The seas have calmed to nearly flat. The ship is cruising at near top speed of over 23 knots headed back to our home port of Port canaveral.

Gail is still unable to get up for breakfast so I make a trip to the Windjammer. Rest is most important.

I catch an Aqua shown in the morning, and watch most of the Broadway production Greece in the afternoon. I miss the last 5 minutes because nature is calling and I don't dare wait until the end of the show.

No dining room again tonight, it is just too much effort when one doesn't feel well.

After dinner our bags are packed and set out in the hall. I make a last trip to the lounge to say goodby and leave a tip for the concierge host. No late night partying for these passengers

The seas remain very calm. Tomorrow morning we will be berthed in Port Canaveral, disembark the ship, and drive home.

July 12, Cozumel, Mexico

As always, Cozumel is busy. Besides The Harmony, The Liberty of The Seas and two Carnival ships are at the international pier. There are probably a couple more ships at the downtown pier.

After a quick breakfast of pancakes at Johnny Rockets, I plan to head into town. Just a slight problem. The safe won't open. It just keeps beeping and displays "error".

My third call to maintenance. First for the flooded shower, and then the next day the head wouldn't flush., and now the safe.

Security arrives within 5 minutes and the safe is quickly opened. I verify it now works and head to breakfast. I will bring something back for Gail, she is too sick to make it to beakfast on her own.

To ensure that the pancakes are hot I ask that they microwave before serving.  It works, the pancakes are warm enough to melt the butter.

Soon I am on my way into town. I wander the shops looking for a decent price on a certain brand of vanilla for my daughter. I will tell her this was the only reason I took this trip, but she knows better.

I settle on $12.00 USD. Much better than the $30.00 USD for the same brand in Costa Maya.

Some pop corn, one of my favorite snacks, and a bloody mary at Senior Frogs before I head back to the ship. Shopping mission completed before noon.

They have built a new security checkpoint here, or maybe I just don't remember. ID check, xrays, or manual pat down in my case, and I am on my way.

I meet Kelly and Ann on the way down the pier, they are headed out for lunch. Her cold is pretty much gone, but she has a lingering cough.

Lobster is on the menu tonight, but I don't see any being served.  I settle on the cheese tortelloni. Gail manages some baked fish. Right after dinner she heads to bed for the night.

Back in the Diamond lounge I meet a neighbor from my community in Clermont. I also learn some of the diamond plus benefits have disappeared. Specifically access to the suites lounge and coastal kitchen that was available on some ships.

It is also being rumored that a pedestrian bridge is being built from NCL's private island to cococay so they can pay to use the facilities. Personally I am very doubtful.

I visit with Ann for awhile while listening to Kelly do his Neil Diamond set. No longer staying up to close the bar, I am asleep before 11.

The seas remain under 6 feet. The skies clear of storms, and the temperatures in the upper 80's.

Tomorrow is a sea day as we cruise back to Port Canaveral.


July 12, 2019

July 11, Roatan, honduras

The captain has decided to continue to operate on ship's time despite the fact we  have crossed  two time zones. Much easier for  him and the crew, but dangerous for passengers that rely on a cell phone for the time.

We arrive before 7 local time, but ships time is two hours later.

Roatan is a very small port, but is in the process of enlarging the land area, I assume for more shops.

If you are not taking an excursion there is little reason to get off the ship here, I don't.

My sore throat is lingering,  but not getting worse. We forgo the dining room for the Windjammer. It is obvious why there are so many empty tables in the dining rooms. The Windjammer is very busy.

The theater is only 70% full for the singers and dancers production show.

Two passengers are paged several times as we are ready to leave Roatan. An indication that the captains clock plan caught someone that didn't make it back to the ship on time.

As we leave on our course for Cozumel, the wind and seas have picked up to about 3 or 4 feet, just enough that occasionally you can feel a very slight motion to the ship.

July 11, 2019

July 10, Costa Maya

We are tied to the pier long before I open the curtains. The skies are clear and sunny, and the seas calm.

Royal's Empress of The Seas, the smallest ship in the fleet, is also berthed in Costa Maya. A village of 2000 now over whelmed with 6 or 7 thousand visitors.

A brief visit ashore to say we have been there. No purchases, not even a drink. On the way back to the ship a Carnival ship arrives to add several thousand more tourists.

The dining rooms are even more empty tonight. There are many tables available on all three decks. The few speciality restaurants I pass also do not appear to be very busy.

Another perfect day comes to an end as we head to  Roatan , Honduras. Again cruising on calm seas under clear skies.




July 9, a sea day

The seas remain calm and the temperature in the mid to  upper 80's.

The Top Tier Party is combined with the Captain's reception which is open to all guests, it is poorly attended with only about 300 in attnedance.The top cruiser has 1400 points, a little more than double my count. There are 62 pinnacles, 106 Diiamond plus and 231 Diamonds on the ship.

The crowd in the Diamond club remains very manageable and the service prompt. The Windjammer buffet is a different story. There are often waiting lines to enter, and seating hard to find.

Reserved seating for upper tier guests solves any seating problem in the Aqua theater.

The pool decks remained packed all day as to be expected.

There are  many empty seats in the dining rooms each night. I can only suspect that many of the families just go to the buffet.

The skies are sunny and the seas calm as we head for our next port of Costa Maya Mexico. 

July 10, 2019

Monday July 8

The ship arrives in Cococay before 7:00, passengers begin to leave by 8:30. skies are overcast with a very light breeze. temperatures are in the high 70's or low 80's, a much enjoyed relief from the Florida heat of late.

I haven't been to Cococay in 3 or 4 years, since before  the pier was built. It was strictly a tender port, and not a friendly one as the slighest seas made tendering too dangerous.

This summer Royal has mostly completed a transformation of the small island from just a beach stop to what I will call a carnival stop with a water park, zip lines, water slides, etc. all to be enjoyed by the guests for a fee.

Many of the walkways are now paved in very colorful bricks. I am sure the colors are of significance, leading to certain attractions.

A couple of nice things Royal did is provide shade and seating on much of the pier.  They also provide continuous shuttle service for those that need or desire it. Less than an hour of exploring is enough.

My cabin is very spacious, significantly larger than the interior cabins I am used to. Storage design is very functional. Shower drains, maybe not. The shower drain did not work properly and the entire bathroom flooded with an inch of water.

A call to maintenance, and hopefully a permanent fix has been made.

The weather remained overcast all day, but I don't think there ever was more than a few drops of rain. 

One drink in the lounge and then off to dinner. The service was as good as the first night. Surprisingly there are quite a few empty tables again tonight. After dinner we catch the ice show that we missed the previous night, there is plenty of room for all the "standby" passengers, like me, that don't have reservations.

After the show it is off to the Schooner bar to catch Kelly. He is playing an early set which ends at 8:15. We visit with Kelly and Ann for a bit until they need to get a bite for dinner. When he comes back at 9:15, he will play nearly continuously until way after midnight.  Ann is good, but fighting a cold. It was a pleasure to see them again, it probably has been two years.

The seas remain flat as we start on our day and a half cruise to our next port. Temperatures remain in the low 80's during the day, and a little cooler in the evening.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Sunday July 7, 2029

The drive to the port is very leisurely, and unventful. No accidents and no traffic jams.

The off site parking lot has improved their procedure. Stop and your reservation is verified, or I assume if you haven't prepaid, you depart with the appropriate funds. Move on to the next stop, an area covered with canvas tents. Your luggage is unloaded and taken to the appropriate bus depending on your ship. Park your car, and walk back to the waiting bus. After a few minutes the bus is nearly full, and we head to the port and our awaiting ship about 3 minutes away.

Security  is swift, despite the fact I can't pass through the metal detectors and need special screening. Upstairs to the checkin area. The barcode on the set sail is read, a picture is taken and it is off to the ship.  Less than 40 minutes after arriving in Canaveral I am sitting in the Schooner bar waiting for the cabins to be opened so I can unload my carryon luggage. Brief calls are made to the kids to let them know I am safely on board.

There are some kids on the ship, but not nearly the number I expected. Maybe they are just hiding the first day, I will find out by the end of the cruise.

On the Harmony, all the muster stations are in interior spaces, mine is in the  dining room on deck 5.  The Diamond club or concierge lounge as I often call it, opens at 4:30. It too was used for a muster station, and the room needs to be cleaned before opening at 4:30.

Mohamed Sayeh, the Concierge, told me earlier in the afternoon that the lounge will not be overly busy. He was correct, it did not fill up. A rare ocurance, especially on the first night which is usually the busiest.

I have early dining, which usually means 5:30 or 6:00. On this cruise early dining in the main dining room is 5:00! It will be OK, that makes it easier to attend early entertainment.

We are a few minutes late. Waiters are no longer showing guests to their tables, they just direct you in the general direction.  When I find table 720, a waiter asks how many in my party, and I say 2. He takes the table number and moves it from a table set for 8 to a table for 2. I wonder where the other 6 passengers assigned to table 720 are going to  sit?

The dining room service was near the best I have ever encountered. Very friendly, accomodating, and very attentive. The head waiter even stopped at the table at least 3 times!

There were a few showers in the afternoon, but I escaped them all.

Somehow I managed to misplace the list of booked entertainment. By the time I had Mohamed print me a new one, I missed the first ice show. Oh well. there is always another day.

The seas remain essentially flat as we head to Cococay, our first stop. We are to expect a few showers overnight.




July 06, 2019

Going to Sea in July

I just couldn't wait until October to be back on the high seas. I have booked the Harmony of The Seas for the week right after the fourth of July Holiday. I know better than to cruise in July and have never done it before. Shoot me now! I expect the ship to be loaded with families and kids on summer vacation. Most will be well behaved, but with passengers numbering over 5,000 there will be more than a few brats.

Regardless, someone is looking out for me. Even though I booked a guaranteed inside cabin, I was upgraded to a larger oceanview balcony. Two firsts for me. A meaningful free upgrade, and on my 74th cruise, the first time I will be sailing in a balcony cabin.

Our first port of call will be Cococay, Royal's private island that they have turned into a very popular carnival attraction with waterslides, ziplines, and other sources of revenue. More of that later after we have visited.

Many bottles of wine, a spacious cabin, and 24/7 access to the Concierge Lounge to escape the bratty kids, and it is going to be a lovely week. It should even be cooler than it is in Florida.

March 16, 2019

2 Sea Days and Home

The last two days of my vacation are upon me. It seems like it was just yesterday that I boarded the ship in Port Everglades, and it is now time to start thinking about packing and going home. Time passes so quickly.

First thing this morning the sky was heavily overcast and it looked like rain was imminent. A glass of juice and an egg sandwich in the Solarium for breakfast. Forty minutes later when I go to the bridge for a tour, the sun was bright and shining, and the lounge chairs are all occupied or inconsiderately reserved with an old book or a towel.

Yes, I do pick up a new bit of information even though I have been here before. The Serenade has over 225 cameras watching every public corner of the ship. All cameras are on 24/7  and each camera image is continuously recorded. It was not revealed how long the recordings are kept, but I imagine a significant length of time. Storage space is cheap.

I find it quite interesting, but not surprising, that there has not been a single service animal on the ship in the past month and a half. There are many motorized scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, but not a single service animal. Historically there would be several each trip. I can only jump to the conclusion that the new program to verify that each animal is truly a valid service animal is working. Thank you Royal.

I did not go to the show last night, I was just beat and went to bed right after dinner. An absolute terrible thing to do, sleep on a full stomach that is, but I just couldn't stay up any later. Tonight's show is a production show for the singers and dancers, I plan to attend the 6:30 show.

Trivia has been a mainstay of ship entertaiment for years. Music trivia, movie trivia, sports triva, you name it and there is a trivia game for every theme.

Most triva players are very dedicated, some are very good, and sometimes win a keychain, zipper pull or hi-liter. There is not much that can interupt a trivia game. One thing that did was the sighting of a pod of whales less than 100 yards off the port side of the ship. Nearly every trivia player rushes to the windows in the Schooner Bar to watch. Trivia is stopped in its tracks. I now know that whales trump trivia.

I have seen whales in Alaska and New England, but never before in this area even though they migrate thru here each year.

Several days ago we were treated to a school of dolphins, a more common event. Some passengers saw some sharks, but I did not.

We meet in the Lounge, have a drink, and then go to the 6:30 show. If we do it right there will be enought time to have another beverage just before dinner.

There have been plenty of seats in the reserved section. The more one has cruised, the less likely they are to attend a show, they most likely have seen it before, especially since the same production shows have been playing on this ship since she was launched in 2003. The cast changes about every 6 months, but not the show or wardrobe.

Tonight is lobster night in the dining room. Not Maine, or New England lobster, but warm water lobster. Those that eat it claim it is not nearly as good. I have prime rib and tortellini.

A quick stop at the Schooner Bar so Chester can see his youngest fan Eliza, and then it is off to the cabin.

During the night the seas have grown a little, and there is a gentle roll to the ship. Most passengers will sleep well, a few will suffer ill effects if they are especially susceptible to motion.

The first activity of the morning is a galley tour. We catch the bakery making rolls. The machine rolls out 3 dozen at a time, the baking pan holds 35 easily, the 36th is squeezed in. The rack rolled into the oven  bakes 600 at a time. The baker confirms he will make savory bites on request. They most likely must be made by hand, they
are not round like the output of the machine.

Usually when my children travel with me, they want to carry all the luggage off the ship so they can be on the road as quickly as possible as often Adrienne has to work in the afternoon of the day we return. She or her husband would help me get my large suitcase down the ramp to the terminal. From there I can handle it along with my carryon suitcase. Self assist departure will be impossible this trip. There is just too much luggage including dive gear, diapers, a stroller,  baby carriers, and many suitcases.

Add to this, I am given some amenities by Royal. In addition to everything I brought to the ship to sustain me for six weeks I am leaving with two bottles of rum, sixteen, yes sixteen, beach towels, a a three pound acrylic block, chocolate, spices, and other stuff I purchased.

Surprisingly I am able to get everything except the rum and four towels into my large suitcase along with all my clothing. Never mind that it is so heavy I can't lift it from the bed to the floor. That is what a strong son in law is for. Thanks Steve!

The entertainer our last night is a comedian, I attend, he is good. The alarm is set for 7:00 as I need to vacate my room by 8:00 in the morning.

I am wide awake long before the alarm, grab my last belgian waffle and meet up with the others to depart the ship. On the way I stop in the spa to check the scales. I'm optimistic, but must wait for the real check when I get home.

It is rainy and dreary In Fort Lauderdale. The drive is uneventful, the usual traffic congestion, a couple of restroom breaks, and a fuel stop. Scott and his family stay on I-95 while the rest of us in my car switch to the Fl. Turnpike.

I set myself two goals while driving home. Find and download Emily Post's Etiquette book, or possibly an updated version for ship travel originally written about a century ago. My second goal is to decide on a new reference for my dining room food expectations. Only two have come to mind so far, The Golden Coral, and Cecis Pizza.  I'll work on it. If I set my expectations low enough, I will most always be pleased.

A stop to pick up Nemo from Alyssa's house, and we are at our respective destinations by 3:00 PM. Turn on the water, water heater and air conditioner. It is hot and humid in Clermont!

By bedtime all the clothes have been washed, the refrigerator restocked with some basics, and the scale checked. I won! Six weeks on a cruise ship, eating in the dinning room, without weight gain. I will keep cruising, and may even continue the dining room, but with early dining not late dining. Late dining was just very difficult.


March 13, 2019

March 12 - Antigua

We arrive in port early, and the ship is cleared by 7:30. The Freedom of the Seas pulls in to the other side of the same pier.

The Fred Olsen Cruise Lines ship Braemar is docked at the next pier. Fred Olsen, long known for land tours now has a few cruise ships. I think this is the first I have seen. Nearly 30 years young, she carries about 900 passengers. 

The skies are partly cloudy, the humidity is typical of the Caribbean, and there is the usual offshore breeze.

Antigua boasts 365 beaches, one for everyday of the year. Eliza and family head off to one of them. As often the case, I will stay aboard most of the day.

The Serenade launches all the lifeboats from the starboard side of the ship. A regular training exercise that occurs about once a month.

The Braemar has a small barge with a rolloff trash container on its deck pull alongside. Trash is thrown into the container piece by piece. No compactors on such a small ship, but also much less garbage compared to us or the larger Freedom. The barge begins to pull away, but a crewmember is waving them back. One more piece of paper, probably the one that will result in the trash hauler being paid.

By noon the the skies are mostly clear. I venture ashore to have gelato for lunch. Better than eating on the ship. Besides it helps the local economy. That is always a useable excuse. 

Actually I encounter an ice cream shop first. Vanilla with chocolate chunks. So much better than any on the ship!

They also have a good sign. "Sorry we don't have wifi - talk to each other". What they did have besides belgian waffles and ice cream was comfortable chairs in the shade.

Container ships transport all kinds of merchandise around the world. Only a handful of standarized shapes give no clue as to what is inside. There is a containership in port where the cargo is very obvious. She is carrying at least seven yachts of various types and lengths. Whether coming to or leaving Antigua I couldn't tell.

As departure time approaches, one passenger is missing. Just as the lines are ready to be hauled in she comes running down the pier to the applause of hundreds of passengers lining the rails. Just seconds from a 1300 mile swim to Florida, she is back onboard.

The seas remain calm as we begin our leg back to Florida. The next two days we will be at sea.

March 12, 2019

March 11 - St Lucia

We share the port with two other cruise ships. The smaller P&O Cruises Oriana and the much much smaller Windstar Cruises Star Breeze.

The Serenade has launched a few lifeboats for crew training.

Most of the crew from the Star Breeze are on the dock beside the ship, wearing life vests, I also must assume for training.

The weather is perfect, about a 15 knot breeze with mostly blue sunny skies.  There was a two minute shower about 9, just enough to get the decks wet.

Much of the morning several local divers are under the stern of the ship. Something needed inspection or a quick repair.

The others are ashore, I stay aboard and enjoy the peace and quiet.

About 2:00 the containership Tropic Carib pulls into a dock across the harbor. A smaller containership, she slips into the dock smoothly. A tug is standing by, but isn't utilized.  The Tropic manuvers as if she has Azipod propulsion instead of older technology shafts and propellers. It would certainly make sense on smaller commercial vessels, but I know the largest container ships still use drive shaft propulsion. So far they have been unable to scale up azipod technology to take the thrust required for the largest ships. Within a few minutes she is unloading containers onto the dock.

Several mechanics are working on one of the lifeboats that was used in the drill earlier today.  Several push/pull control cables are being replaced. When the work is complete the engine is started and the propulsion and steering systems exercised while hanging in the launch assembly.

Several passengers appear to be missing at all aboard time, and are paged to the front desk. It is possible they were missed when they returned to the ship. It has happened to me.

As we prepare to leave port, another brief shower drives the passengers lining the rails for sailaway to cover. The rain quickly gives way to a pretty sky as we head towards Antigua.

Elisa, as with most babies, gathers lots of attention wherever she goes. Chester sings to her delight, servers stop to interact, the wait staff give her lots of attention. Grandparents missing grand children back home are thrilled with her. Eliza even eats a fraction of a gram from the plate with two big scoops of mashed potatoes brought to her by our waiter Hurry.

No show tonight, I listen to Chester for about an hour and call it a day.

The seas remain calm as we head to Antigua.


March 11, 2019

March 10, Sea Day

Again the skies are blue, the sun bright and the air and sea temperature about 80.

With the wind on our bow as we head Easterly towards St Lucia, there is a brisk breeze across the open decks. Many passengers will get a sunburn today. There is little motion to the ship.

Last year I had noticed a yellow brown biomass floating over much of the Caribbean Sea. It is present again today, but to a lesser degree. Several sources say it originated in the Indian ocean and is spreading around the world in tropical waters. I have no way to confirm or dismiss this theory.

For beaches that are positioned in its path it is causing major disruption. As it begins to dry it produces a toxic obnoxious gas that is not healthy to higher forms of life like humans. Getting rid of the stuff is very expensive and difficult. Installing protective booms such as are used in an oil spill help catch it, but the disposal problem still remains.

Another byproduct of global warming that some politicians in Washington deny?

This afternoon the hypnotist does another show, totally different than last nights show. Well attended but not packed.

The weather remains great, at least in the view of most passengers, one was heard complaining about the occasional light cloud that passed by.

When Adrienne arrives for cocktails it is evident that travel has got her again, large blisters on her right arm. She thinks she may have brushed some coral during her dive. With a known allergy to chlorinated pools, maybe it is just the salt water? Or the toxins being released by the bioslime? Regardless, ice packs to relieve the pain, and lots of Benadryl and topical antibiotics to ward off infection as the blisters break.

When we arrive at our dinner table, things are obviously running a little slower tonight. The table is only half set. Hurry comes ready to take our order, but quickly realizes we don't even have menues yet. Doesn't matter to me, but the others have no idea of today's offering.

As we are leaving the assistant waiter tells us if we don't see him tomorrow, it is because he is not feeling well. Now he tells us! This man has more excuses. No sleep, too busy, may be sick. I doubt he will make a career working on cruise ships.

There are about 5 tables still seated when we leave.

We gather in the Schooner Bar. Shortly Melinda and Eliza head for the show and the others head to thier cabins. I sit with Carly, our cruise director, for awhile, and then catch the last 15 minutes of Elisa Furr's show. Much better than a few weeks ago when she was struggling for some reason.

The seas remain under 6 feet, and the ship stable as we continue towards St. Lucia. We expect to be cleared by 8:30AM.

March 9 - Kralendijk, Bonaire

I sleep late, Adrienne has a 2 tank dive. Eliza & family expect to rest until noon. Pann & Terry are going to take a taxi tour of the island.

There are few passengers remaining on the ship with me. The weather is again near perfect.

Yesterday in Curacao was refueling day. No barge pulling along side the ship. A pipeline runs directly from the refineries, along the dock, thru filters and metering, and into a hose attached to the ship.

Looking down at the crystal clear water  many schools of small fish can be seen just under the waters surface. The few birds that fly overhead quickly make thier catch and fly on.

Again we are the only cruise ship in port. Sharing our pier is a barge loaded with concrete block and brick to feed the many construction projects underway. The economy of the ABC islands is so much better than most of the other Caribbean islands.

There are tentative plans for a walk to a nearby watering hole for a local beer later in the afternoon.

Adrienne's dives are  successful, no emergencies, and lots of "fishies" and other sea creatures to view.

I pass on the local brewery, and remain on the ship.

There continues to always be seating in the Concierge lounge, our meeting location on the ship. A couple of beverages are in order before dinner.

OK I have to digress. I arrive first and grab a seat at the bar. The couple next to me start a conversation about tipping. After being critical in general about how other passengers do or don't tip, he shares that he always tips his server after they have three drinks. Everyone does what works for them. The conversation drifts to other subjects. Twenty or so minutes later they need to leave for dinner, he confirms with his wife that they have had 3 drinks, each, and tips the server $1.00!  That's about sixteen cents for an otherwise free drink. 

While on the subject of tipping. I met  a couple on the last trip that had already been here 31 days. Having never been to Curacao, they proudly told me that with all they saved by cancelling all thier tips every day they were extending thier cruise another 11 days.

Some people can just irritate me.

We head to the dining room a few minutes early, tonight we are third from the last table to leave!

Our entertainer tonight is a hypnotist. A humorous show where he hypnotizes a group of passengers and suggests silly behavior. The victims comply.

The seas remain under 5 feet, with waves almost directly on the bow as we head to our next port of St. Lucia, a day and a half away.

March 09, 2019

March 8 - Willemstad, Curacao

Curacao is the "C" of the ABC islands, but ships never visit them in A B C order, physically they aren't located that way, and calling them the ACB islands never took hold.

The skies are partly cloudy, with temperatures to reach a high of 80.

Adrienne and Steve along with Pann and Terry have rented a car to visit several snorkeling beaches around the island.

I will take Scott, Melinda and Eliza on a walking tour to the floating bridge.

We are here untill 7:30, so there is no rush. We are the only cruise ship in port, so there are no crowds.

The weather is ideal, enough clouds to provide some protection from the sun, a nice breeze to make one feel more comfortable.

Not only do they get to walk across the bridge, they witness it's opening for a container ship headed to ports unknown.

Aftere several contributions to the local economy, we are back on the ship about 4.

As we gather in the lounge before diinner, it shows that Melinda got more sun than she realized, Adrienne has acquired a lump on her forehead, and a swolen ankle, both byproducts of insect bites she claims, or maybe the result of jellyfish she encountered.

We are not the last to leave the dining room tonight, but next to last.

Another juggler for entertainment, I doubt the theater is 30% full. Not as good as either "Lucas".

The ship leaves port at 7:30, headed to Bonnaire, our last of the ABC islands.

March 08, 2019

March 7 - Aruba

The ship arrived under partly cloudy skies, calm seas, and comfortable temperatures in the low 80's.

The MSC Divinia is berthed in front of us.

The kids made the decision to fogo both of the beach suggestions and head to a closer, more popular beach with more amenities like washrooms. I elect to stay on the ship this morning.

Our departure is scheduled for 11:59 PM so I will have lot's of opportunity later in the day.

The first order of business is to check on the tree on the sandbar. It is still surviving even though as when I first saw it, it looks like it could be washed away any moment. I will continue to call it a tree even though I have been corrected that it is a group of trees.

Eliza returned from her first ocean swim, apparently enjoying it with no reaction to the fact this was salt water as opposed to fresh water in the pool where she usually swims. Yes she is taking swim lessons.

We all walk into town for a local beer or whatever or two or three.  Local variety, and more reasonably priced than on the ship.

I have started to develope symptoms of a cold, whether from last week's passenger or given to me by one of my children, or most likely some other source I will never know.

Again this week the galley has substituted for the 4 cheese ravioli. I even ask Hurry if it the right ravioli this week, to which he replied yes.

The shape was right but it was spinach and ricotto cheese. I learn from other passengers that substitutions are often made and not disclosed. Having stayed away from the dining room for years I wasn't aware the practice was that common.

I am in bed long before our 11:59 sailing to Curacao.

March 07, 2019

Two Days At Sea

I survive my first night of late dinner. The seas are extremely calm with barely a ripple. I make the Windjammer just in time to get a waffle with strawberries. At 10 I meet my family for the cruise critic meet and mingle. Few passengers have bothered to register so Royal has reduced the best raffle prizes from three full sized bottles of wine to 6 oz bottles. I am not a wine winner but do win a travel bag that I pass to my daughter.

I complete my request form for a bridge tour, galley tour, theater tour, and a lunch with the officers. Of course I have done all these before, but one never knows what tidbits I will learn, and they are always activities held on sea days not port days.

The rest of the day is spent on a combination of writing, walking, or listening to an audio book. Some may have observed that a nap in the lounge chair may have been in order at times.

About 5:30 I change and head to the Concierge Lounge where I am to meet up with the family.  Everyone arrives by 6:30, Eliza is allowed in even though she and her parents are not technically supposed to be. At 14 pounds she doesn't take much space and won't drink anything.

At 7:30 it is a quick trip to deck 5 for Eliza's picture with the captain, and some group photos of the entire group. No revenue for the photo company or Royal as our free coupons will cover more than what anyone wants.

Tonight is formal night, and even I am wearing a jacket and my favorite cruising tie, one covered with clowns. The waiter and his assistant are much better rested tonight. We are not the last table to leave the dining room, but next to last.

We all go to the 10:15 show of Paul Boland, the man with 1000 voices. Though a show definitely designed for a more mature crowd, my children acknowledged they knew 75% of the songs or people he impersonated.

Tonight we set our clocks forward 1 hour, the only clock change we will make on this trip as most of the US will have switched to daylight savings time while we are gone.

The seas remain very calm as we continue south easterly at about 18 knots.

When I wake, about 9, the skies are mostly cloudy, a few drops of rain are felt, but shortly the clouds give way to blue skies and sunshine. By afternoon the south easterly wind has increased, and the seas have incresed to 5 or 6 feet. We are headed almost directly into the seas, so the ship is very stable but the breeze across the deck is brisk and some spray is keeping much of the walking track on deck 5 wet.

The top tier party is at 11. 38 Pinnacle, 156 Diamond plus, and 289 Diamond passengers. The top cruiser has 1967 points.

I quickly change clothes for lunch with an officer. Last week there were only about 8 attendees. Karen really pushed this week to get better participation. I got no less than three invitations. Her efforts were successful, about 40 attend.

I am seated with the photo department manager, Carolee, and the Shore excursion manager.  The food was typical, the conversation fun. Coincidently I learned Carolee was on the Freedom on the same cruise I was on that left Port Canaveral three times the same evening, having to return to port twice because of medical emergencies.

Adrienne has learned her dive excursion has been cancelled because of lack of participation. Not surprising considering the demographics of the passengers.

Eliza has decided that a trip to the beach is in order. Adrienne is now confirmed on a dive in Bonnaire later in the week.

While looking at the Aruba map trying to decide which beach to go to, a couple from Holland assist, and suggest a beach at one extreme end of the island.  Adrienne isn't sure so I introduce her to Frank who has a time share in Aruba and has spent a lot of time here in the past 35 years. His recommendation, a beach on the opposite end of the island!

Everyone decides to pass on the show tonight. We try to go to dinner a few minutes early, but they are slow seating tables. In the end we are again one of the last tables to leave.

Half an hour of listening to Chester and it is off to bed.

The ship has had near negligble motion the past two days. In the morning we will arrive in Aruba.

March 4 - Turnaround Day

We arrive in Port Everglades under blue skies with a gentle offshore breeze. The seas are almost flat. The air temperature is to be near 90.

In addition to disembarking and boarding new passengers, today there is going to be a USCG inspection before passengers are allowed to board. 

The first passengers start leaving @ 7:15, before 8:45 they are calling for all remining passengers to get off the ship. As one of 60 consecutive cruisers, we leave as a group by 9:00. Within 30 minutes we are back on the ship, but unlike other times we are confined to the  Vortex lounge until about 10:30.

The inspection must have gone well, boarding of regular passengers begins at 10:45, only 15 minutes later than usual.

There are a large number of upper level Crown and Anchor passengers booked on this cruise. I expect the lounges to be packed.

Several passengers go to the Windjammer, gather food, and return to the concierge lounge to eat. A behavior I haven't seen before. With no servers, and no support staff I don't see the benefit of all the extra work.

In addition to the usual provisions, a half dozen rolls of carpet are brought on board. Considering this ship is 16 years old, she is in good condition. A testament to ongoing maintenance.

My oldest daughter Adrienne, her husband Steve, my son Scott, his wife Melinda, and thier 6 month old daughter Eliza, and family friends Pann and Terry will be boarding shortly. They had ben told by Royal that boarding would be delayed by the inspection.

While I await thier arrival, I venture to the spa to see how badly the scales are broken. Much to my satisfaction it still reads less than when I boarded over a month ago. Would the cruises lines be successful selling cruise travel as a weight control program? It seems to work for me, but the final verification will be when I am back home.

I wait at the railing for my arriving family and friends. The plan is to let them store some of thier carryon luggage in my cabin prior to when they can access thiers. I had forgotten how much extra stuff one carries when traveling with a baby. Carriers, diapers, strollers and of course clothes, but at least they are small clothes.

It is a struggle to get to my cabin as rooms are still being cleaned and the hallway is filled with suitcases for incoming passengers. We manage, some of the luggage is temporarily stored and we head to the windjammer so they can get some food.

At 3:15 it is time for the usual muster drill. My station is in the theater, and I grab a seat near the back in my assigned eating area. One thing you don't want to mess with is the crew and the muster drill. This part of passenger safety is taken quite seriously. You won't be tested to see if you know how to fasten your seatbelt, but verification of attendance is very important. 

One passenger didn't want to understand this. Just as instructions begin I hear an argument between a passenger and a crew member. I couldn't understand most of what the passenger was saying, but when he turned to walk out of the theater it becme quite clear.

"Sir, you cannot leave."

"I'm leaving."

"It is mandatory that you attend the muster drill."

Within seconds two additional security officers and a ships officer were on the scene. The passenger was escorted somewhere, where I do not know. Maybe to face the captain, maybe to the gangway and put off the ship. Whichever, this is not the way to start off the first few hours of a vacation.

I was wrong about the lounge, it is busy, but not overcrowded. I have a couple of drinks with Adrienne and Steve, and then return to the cabin to clean up for dinner. Dinner at 8:00, usually the time I am nearly finished for the evening.

The dining room correctly has the reservation I made last week, 4 different cabins linked together. Our waiter is Hurry, the same waiter I had several weeks ago.

After dinner I walk thru the Schooner Bar, Chester has a good crowd, often unusual for the first night. Scott and Adrienne want to play a game of pool, but the tables are both busy. I wander back to the cabin and go to sleep on a full stomach.


March 04, 2019

March 2, 3 - Sea Days

As we head North at 18 knots toward Florida the skies remain partly cloudy. The high temperatures will only be about 77 today, and the seas remain calm at under 5 feet.

I start using my two free days in internet access which will last until we are docked in Port Everglades. Royal offers two different internet speeds. The slow one is pretty slow even for just basic email. The higher speed surf package performs much better.

The lounge chairs by the pool are rapidly filled with towels or bodies being toasted by the invisible UV rays. The wind is mostly behind us, making the breeze on the decks quite low. The Solarium is the first area of the ship to fill with passengers. Some groups spend thier entire day there reading or playing cards. Few actually use the pools, the hot tubs are more popular. Most of the time I find the solarium uncomfortably hot and humid. The area is enclosed with a retractable roof, which is kept closed more than open.

The lounge is crowded this morning with groups of passengers making final air and ground transportation arrangements.

By afternoon there are a few more clouds, but none that look like rain. The seas remain under 5 feet. We pass a couple of container ships, one heading in our direction at a much slower pace, and another headed southeast towards one of the islands.

It is lobster night in the dining room, and nearly every table is filled, I think the first time I have seen that since lobster night on the last leg.

The show tonight is a production show of the singers and dancers. I probably could have made the 6:30 show, but elect instead to attend at 8:30. As most of the shows have been, the theater is full with standing room only.

Several times I have made reference to Charles, the piano player. Well that is a typo, the piano player in the Schooner Bar is Chester. I wish I could tell you that is the only typo I have made, but it isn't, and there will be more.

I receive an email from my daughter asking some income tax return questions. Answering is my last task before sleep.

Our second day at sea is much the same as the first. Since I never received instructions on the procedure for continuing passengers this week, I verify the meeting time and place with JJ. We probably will not be allowed back to our cabins until after the USCG is complete with thier inspection.

The belgian waffles have been excellent in the Windjammer. One crew member with three waffle irons that make four waffles each. He doesn't make them and dump them in a steam table pan as on most ships, but paces his cooking to the number of guests. Every waffle is served hot right off the grill.

We pass another Royal ship headed South. Crew tell us it is the Allure, it is too far away for me to see.

I take a galley tour, an opportunity to learn what happened to the ravioli earlier in the trip. The story from the galley is that there was no ravioli in the provisions that were loaded in Port Everglades last week. The galley knew they would be substituting tortellini, and the head waiter failed to either have the menus reprinted or to pass the information on to the servers and guests.

There is also an unscientific poll on whether guests preferred the new factory made apple pies, or the ship bakery made version. Four to one preferred the bakery version.

This afternoon there is another show by Paul Boland. Entirely different than his previous show, he performed to a full house. He will be on the ship for our first headliner show next week.

The dining room is very busy again tonight. The steak is acceptable not outstanding.

Later in the lounge I learn that towels were removed from many of the chairs by officers, not the pool attendants. Progress! No, I had no influence on that one, but fully support the action.

There is talk of a couple that were removed from the ship at our last port and hospitalized because of acute respiratory distress. I don't know if it was the couple that had such a bad cough, but I never saw them again.

Holland America has implemented a test program of charging a $10 fee for an additional entree. Doesn't bother me. But those that order 3 and 4 lobsters may revolt.

The entertainer tonight is a comedian, Jackson Perdue, I guess I wasn't impressed, I fell asleep.

Tomorror is turnaround day in Port Everglades.

March 02, 2019

March 1, St Martin

The clouds of yesterday are gone, and this morning there is nothing but blue skies. The high for the day is anticipated to be 79, and there is a nice breeze out of the East.

We are the only ship in port today. Yesterday there were 6 ships here, and the day before 5.

Many passengers are headed down the gangway as soon as the ship is cleared at 7:30, I wait until after 10. No crowds, the pier and nearby docks are near empty. 

My plan is to take the water taxi to the downtown beach area, stop at the Lazy Lizard to say hi to Nick, and have an early lunch. Nick is working by himself, with just a few customers. As I approach, he greets me and asks if I want my usual Diet Coke and burger. I say yes to the Diet Coke, but that I need to look at the menu.  Does it mean I come here too often when I am greeted by name and they know what I am likely to order?

As I approach the ship on my return, something I have never seen before. The ship is not moored snugly against the dock, but is moored loosely such that the ship moves about 6 inches away from the dock, and then slams against the pier as she rides the small swells in the harbor. I wouldn't think good for either the ship's hull or the pier. If there were a Captains corner I would ask why.

I'm back on the ship by 2:00, grab my keyboard and head to the Concierge Lounge to write. It is nearly empty except for the germ spreaders. They start coughing before I even sit down, sounding worse than ever.

OK, many of you know I can be out spoken. I am going to be polite, but need to say something to them. Maybe they are not aware there are medical services on the ship. I could be risking physical retribution.

I politely say I have heard them coughing for several days, and suggest that they may want to see the ships doctor.

"I saw a doctor awhile back before I got on the ship."

Regardless, I say, your cough is getting worse, and that is not a good sign. 

"Oh and besides I was a nurse."

I just let it drop and walk away, saying to myself, well then you should know better than most.

After another 10 minutes of uncovered coughing they leave.

The ship has been bunkering since  shortly after we docked. I think it has been three weeks since we took on fuel, and I imagine she is quite thirsty.

When I was headed to my cabin, my cabin steward was in the hallway. He was headed off the ship for a few hours break. A perfect day and perfect location. It is the first time in four months he has been able to go ashore. I tell him to get going and quit talking to me.

Another passenger has shared a change made recently on Carnival ships. The cabin steward only services each cabin once a day instead of the customary twice. The passenger can choose between morning or evening service.  I will predict this cutback in service will soon spread throughout the industry. Personally it wouldn't bother me at all. At home I'm lucky if I make my bed once a week. Don't even think about twice a day.

The word has spread amongst the passengers staying on for the next cruise about a few possible disruptions during our turnaround in Port Everglades. We will not be berthing at the ships  usual pier 18, but at pier 25. This will probably slow the disembarkation process as the setup on each pier is different.

Additionally incoming passengers have been notified by Royal that they are expecting a USCG inspection. If so, this will delay clearance of the ship before passengers can board.

Several years ago, a Royal ship failed such an inspection, and was not allowed to leave port for several days. It was later acknowledged that the ship was chosen and given a more stringent inspection than  usual, primarily to "set an example". The conditions that were cited, had been deemed acceptable on many previous inspections, but no longer.

Many of the passengers that took water excursions today were treated to a special sight. The St Maarten Heineken Regatta is taking place from Feb 28 thru March 3. In addition to the many competing yachts with colorfull spinnakers, several of the largest private yachts in the world are here to watch and partake in the festivities. One reportedly to have cost nearly 800 million dollars, comparable to the cost of the ship I am on.

The lounge is exceptionally quiet tonight, even the coughers are absent.

The headliner entertainer tonight is "Paul Boland, a man of 1000 voices." The title says it all. He was good and appreciated by all. He will do a matinee show on Sunday, and I expect he will be held on the ship for our first headliner show next week.

JJ shares that 60 passengers will be staying over for the next cruise. One passenger is bent out of shape and being quite nasty that she didn't get the back to back notice in her cabin as some other passengers did.

Charles has the night off, and there is no entertainment in the Schooner bar. I retire before 10, and to realize next week I may still be in the dining room at 10. Maybe I will just set my watch to Texas time so I don't think it is so late.

We are headed towards Port Everglades at about 18 knots. The seas are under 6 feet, and there is barely any motion to the ship. How boring.

March 01, 2019

Feb 28, St Kitts

We are the first ship to arrive at 7:00. The skies are mostly cloudy, and showers can be seen over the nearby mountains. The temperatures are in the upper 70's.

About 8:30 the MSC Preziosa glides in to the other side of our pier. A much newer much larger ship. My guess is pushing 6000 passengers.

Just as I start walking down the pier to my gathering point for my tour the rain arrives. It was too windy to use an umbrella, and the vinyl  raincoats are too hot. I just get a little wet. I keep my camera in my driest pocket. We are soon herded into awaiting buses, 20 passengers per bus. About 15  buses in total, some passengers from each ship.

It is about an hour tour prior to boarding the train. The sugar cane production ended many decades ago, and all that remains is the remnants of some of the old factories. Nothng has come to replace the lost industry.

The Chinese have started building a large resort hotel, but that too looks abandoned after  being about 35% built.

The excursion train runs on the abandoned narrow gauge tracks where trains were used to gather sugar cane and haul it to the processing facilities.  The buses are relatively new, the rail equipment very old. The four bridges have been updated with new timbers on top of the old steel girders.  About 10% of the decaying wood rail ties have been replaced with concrete ones. Probably enough to keep the rails in gauge.

The motive power is a non descript small diesel electric. Additional power comes from diesel generators housed in a make shift car behind the engine.

The tour lasts just under 4 hours.

It sprinkled a few times on the train, but I stayed relatively dry on the open upper level. Just as we arrive back at the dock, it rains quite hard for about 15 minutes. Everyone gathers in the shelter of the local shops until the rain passes. Back to the cabin, shower and dry clothes. If it wasn't, it is now laundry day.

Since morning the Seabourn Odyssey has also berthed on the far side of the harbor. During recent hurricanes, one of the two main piers were destroyed, and workers are busy constructing a new one. All the pilings appear to be in place, and maybe 10% of the concrete deck. Probably another year or two to complete. Crowded with two ships this morning, I can imagine what it would be like with four. 

Last night was very quiet in the dining room. I would guess 25% of the seating empty between 5:30 and 6:00 when I was there. Tonight is my favorite, but most difficult menu. Three good choices.

The waiter suggests the chicken cordon blu, one of my favorites. It was not the best choice. kind of dry and the rice wasn't warm enough to melt soft butter. I eat most of it.

The only entertainment is the love and marriage game show, Chester will get my attention again tonight.

Our next port is St Martin. As has been the case as we move from island to island, the pace of the ship is very slow. The seas are a little heavier at about seven feet, and the ship exhibits a little motion.


February 28, 2019

Feb 27, St John's, Antigua

Blue skies, comfortable temperatures, and mild tropical breezes. day after day, perfect weather. I say perfect because I don't know what would make it any better. I stay on the ship for the day.

There is training for some of the crew this morning, a regular occurrence when we are in port. The staff that removes the breakfast from the Concierge Lounge must have been required to participate because they are an hour and a half late in cleaning up.

Being a train buff in addition to a cruiser, a couple of days ago I decided to take an excursione on a narrow gauge train in St Kitts tomorrow.  The Royal App on my phone wasn't functioning, and the excursion desk was closed. I didn't think about it again until last night after dinner as I was walking by the desk. I stop. 

"Sorry all sold out, no seats available on either tour." I have taken this tour before, so I wasn't overly disappointed. Then it occurs to me it may be time to use some influence. JJ, the Concierge Host, is not busy. I explain that I was told the tour was sold out and wondered if she had some tickets in reserve. A quick phone call, 30 seconds to print the tickets, and I am all set. There are some benefits to living here.

Some passengers take advantage of the host and have them do everything for them, I prefer to limit my requests to things I am unable to accomplish on my own.

I hope I am safe in saying this, and don't jynx the rest of the cruise, but there have been no mechanical elevator problems on this ship. I may have stumbled on the reason why. The other day there was a technician methodically testing the operation of every button and verifying every indicator light on every deck and every elevator. With 9 elevators covering 13 decks, a lot of buttons and lights to push and check. His efforts show.

The Diamond Lounge remains pretty busy, but the Concierge lounge less so. A gross couple sitting in the corner drives most of us away from the bar. They are both very sick, and neither makes any attempt to contain thier coughs. I learn there have been numerous complaints about them in the past few days in various venues around the ship, but Royal will do nothing to get them to see the doctor. After dinner they are in the Centrum coughing into the crowd. I leave, more dilligent than ever about washing my hands. If I am never seen again, they may be why.

Our entertainment tonight is Albert Lucas, a juggler and comedian. The description is nearly the same as was given for Ron Lucas a week or so ago. A typo in his name? No one knows.

It turns out, Albert Lucas is correct, he is a different performer, and whereas Ronn was excellent for his humor, Albert is excellent at his juggling skills. He holds a number of titles in international competition and several world records. This was only the eighth time he has performed on a ship. He will be back if he wants.

We head towards our next port of St Kitts at a blistering 7 knots.The seas are less than 6 feet, but they must be hitting the ship just right as every 15 minutes or so she shudders.

February 27, 2019

Feb 26, St Croix

The skies are blue with a few passing clouds. Temperatures are in the upper 70's with a nice easterly breeze.  The Serenade is the only ship in dock today.

Over the years cabin stewards have made many different things out of towels to leave on the bed or hang from the ceiling. Monkeys, swans, turtles, shrimp, bears, mice, I thought I had seen them all.

Last night it was a small basket with carrying handle complete with flowers. I can't imagine how long this took to make.

I am staying on the ship today, nice and peaceful and quiet. I find a chair in the shade on deck 12 to write this. Usually I use a full sized folding bluetooth keyboard, but today i am using just my phone.  Much much slower for me. Many passengers and crew are intrigued when they see the portable keyboard. I think they would sell many in the shops.

There are a number of sailboats anchored in the harbor. Someone in a small inflatable is going from one to another, boarding for about 15 minutes and then moving on to the next.

A modern day pirate looting what he can find? Or a paid entreprenuer delivering provisions or just checking on each boat's status? Your guess is as good as mine.

There is a optional lunch with a officer offered to the upper diamond plus passengers. The last time I went, the officer was a lifeguard and an employee from the spa. Apparently other passengers are under whelmed as well. Only 8 guests accepted this week.

Long a favorite activity has been the Captain's Corner, an opportunity to ask the Captain and other top officers questions. Whether just this captain, this ship, or fleetwide, the Captain's corner appears to be history.

"Your cruise in review" a DVD of various footage shot during the cruise also is no longer being offered. I heard the cruise line was sued over copyright and privacy issues. I'm sure it was profitable so being forced to stop makes sense.

You would think I just boarded yesterday and not a month ago. Today I learned there is a kiddie pool here. It is on deck 12 aft. OK, my excuse, it has been years since I have used a pool on a ship, and then it was the adult pool.

Dinner had a little twist tonight. The four cheese ravioli is my choice. Seated at my usual table, the couple at the table next to me arrives a few minutes after I do. That is unusual, as most nights they are finishing thier starter when I arrive. I order the ravioli which is served in just a few minutes, an advantage of a table near the galley.  My surprise, it is not ravioli but tortellini. It is one of those insignificant errors which isn't worth mentioning to the wait staff. Was the menu printed incorrectly? Did the pantry just deliver the wrong stuff to the kitchen? Will never know. What other errors are made? Do they prepare Salmon steak instead of Beef steak? It makes you wonder.

The entertainer tonight is a violin player, Gary Lovini. The theater is packed to standing room only.  His music, accompanied by the house orchestra, is enjoyable, and he interacts with the audience. Not only does he come into the lower level audience, he also climbs the steps to the balcony without missing a string, something I have never seen a performer do before.

Chester is back in the Schooner bar. Bt 9:30 when I arrive after the main show it is standing room only. By far the biggest crowd he has drawn since I have been on the ship.

We move at a very slow pace to our next port of St John's, Antigua. The ship is unaffected by the seas of less than 3 feet. 


February 26, 2019

Feb 25, St. Thomas

The ship pulls into the dock right on time. The skies are partly cloudy, but it has rained recently as the decks are soaked. The walking track surface on deck 12 is quite slippery, extreme caution is in order. The air temperature is about 75, where it will remain most of the day.

About 50 crewmembers from food service are getting instructions on how to load lifeboats. After about 30 minutes of verbal instruction, two lifeboats are lowered into the water for further practice.

I take a taxi to the downtown area, walk around, and have a drink at a local pub. Taxis are not as you would think, but short flatbed trucks with open sides and a roof. There is seating for about 20 passengers. Fares are regulated at $4 per passenger to downtown from  the ship.

Many  buildings and shops are boarded up. There is some infrastructure construction taking place, but today must be a day off ar there are no workers. With just the Serenade and a smaller Carnival ship in port today, streets are not too busy.

As on the mainland, craft beer is all the rage. There is none actually brewed on St Thomas, it is all imported from St Croix. At least they are honest about it.

Back on the ship by mid aftrnoon the crew is busy washing some of the outside windows. Just as they are  finishing, a brief shower passes by. 30 minutes later the sun returns.

The hotel manager comes into the Concierge Lounge and is looking carefully all over. He spots something he does not like in the outdoor seating area. He whips out his phone and calls someone. A few minutes later another officer with similar ranking appears. There  is a discussion and apparent agreement.

Another call, another officer, but of lesser rank as indicated by fewer stripes on his jacket. This process repeats about four times over the next half hour. Something is going to be addressed, I have no idea what but the message has started at the top and passed all the way down thru the ranks. Whether it is a cleaning issue or a repair issue I have no clue, I may learn in the next few days.

I exchange messages with my daughter. Verifying that my 6 month old grandaughter is not allowed in the pool and that dining reservations have been taken care of. Supposedly they are, but will know for sure when eight of arrive in the dining room. I think I will verify on the first day of the next sailing.

The cabin air filters are being replaced on my deck today. Hidden behind the panels where guests seldom see? Bright metal, not black mold as I saw on the ship of another cruise line.

Last week I talked to Karen, the Loyalty Manager, about the process when I reach the status of Pinnacle. One of the benefits is a free cruise, but I know there are strings and restrictions attached. She does not know the details and says to talk to the future sales manager. 

Future sales is a very busy department, but as I am walking by the desk I find the manager available.  Her response - talk to the Loyalty Manager.  She has no idea of the details of the free cruise and how it works. Am I surprised, not at all. Something to take care of when I return home.

Tonight is the one menu where there is nothing screaming at me to eat in the dining room. I go to the Windjammer instead. No frozen and reheated apple pie here. Tonight they have a fresh apple pie about three feet in diameter. Many of the offereings in the dining room are also available, a change from several years ago when the menu was always different.

I return to the lounge and have a Sprite Zero. I consider attending the 8:30 production show, but am too tired. I go to the cabin, sleep for two hours then spend the next three watching a movie.

We are moving at about 8 knots to our next port of St Croix. According to the Captain the seas are less than 6 feet but they rattle the ship periodically. They must be  hitting the side of the ship just right.

February 25, 2019

Feb 22-24, Turnaround, and 2 sea days

I leave the cabin before 8 and head to the Windjammer for breakfast. A small belgian waffle with strawberries. The skies are partly cloudy with negligible breeze. As is normal in Port Everglades the humidity is  high.

The dock is covered with new provisions and bales of recycled materials that have been removed from the ship. Definitely much more coming on the ship than going off. I am sure the conservation of matter means that the difference resides in the bellies of the passengers.

There are also two fire trucks on the dock, lights flashing but otherwise no activity. Probably just stopping by for breakfast.

The 41 back to back passengers are given new sea pass cards and head off the ship at 9:15, shortly after all other passengers have cleared. After a brief wait in the terminal our passports are checked by CBP and we are back on the ship by 9:45.

It is time to go to the spa for a weight check. The scales must be broken, nearly every passenger will make that claim. My discipline in the dinng room must be working, my weight is down from when I boarded the ship three weeks ago.

There are numerous announcements for all the crew before the passengers begin to board. One tidbit, this voyage is refered to as "Serenade of the Seas cruise number 693". I assume 693 cruises since she was launched. If my mental math is corrrect, that translates to at least 2 to 4 billion in revenue just for cabin space.

The Celebrity Silhouette is the only other cruise ship in port today, quiet for Port Everglades, just another advantage to a Monday departure.

The muster drill at 3:15 is short and to the point, everyone is soon dismissed. I change for the evening and head to the Concierge Lounge. The new bartender is organizing the bar. Everything is placed similar to the way David organized it, but not the same and progress is made at a much slower pace. Probably the arrangement is set by management. By 4:30 there are 5 bartenders and servers ready for the first night onslaught of thirsty passengers.

The lounge never reaches capacity, a seat for everyone that wants, including an 8 or 10 year old boy sitting at the bar with his parents. Some of the same guests as last week, claim thier favorite spots.

I learn that Royal is finally trying to crack down on passengers falsely claiming thier pet is a service animal. Not exactly sure but Doctor certification of need must be obtained within a certain time period prior to boarding is one of the measures being implemented.

Bingo is a common cruise ship profit center. The biggest prize each week is one game where the winner wins a free cruise. No suspected shenanigans, but the same person has won the last two cruises. She will be trying for three in a row this trip.

In the dining room I learn that Christiana, my waiter from the first trip has been extended and will be here through the rest of my cruise. I have asked to be seated at one of her tables next week when some of my family are here. Initially she was to go home March 4th, the same day they arrive.

As we  head southeast from Port Everglades, the seas are less than 3 feet, the skies mostly clear, with a mild breeze out of the East.

With our speed of 16 knots, heading into a 25 knot wind, the breeze across the deck is brisk and cool. That doens't hinder the sun worshippers as they are out in full force at day break.

I meet with Karen, the loyalty ambassador, and confirm that the official presentation of my Pinnacle status will be on the cruise that I reach 700 points. As with reaching all other levels, benefits will be available on the following cruise. I expect that will happen this December on The Adventure of the Seas.

I do get my invitation to the cruise critic meet and mingle as promised. With fewer guest than last week, it is held in the Vortex lounge on deck 13. A few introductions of activity staff members and a quick drawing for some gifts including 3 bottles of wine, I'm not a winner. No plans for a slot pull, cabin crawl, or any other crusie critic activities.
 
The lounge is relatively quiet again tonight with seating usually available. The table behind me in the dining room seats a large extended family of several generations including half a dozen children under 10.  I think 14 seats total. All much quieter and better mannered than the drunk of several weeks ago.

The Beatles impersonation group is our headliner show for tonight. A repeat from last week. I pass and enjoy Henry and Chester in the Schooner Bar instead.

Motion of the ship is negligible with seas less than 3 feet, but there are a number of passengers complaining. I can only guess they must be very sensitive to motion sickness. The number of passengers heard coughing on this trip is much higher than the previous two. Hopefully they don't spread it to the rest of us. Hand washing and sanitizing are the best prevention.

Tonight  our clocks are set ahead an hour until March 4th when we return to Florida. Time for another 10 hour sleep.

The skies are heavily overcast first thing in the morning, but soon give way to bright sunshine. The top tier party is held in the theater. Free  champagne, or wine, too early in the day for this traveller, but I attend as sometimes there are noteworty announcements about future ships and itineraries.

The usual introductions of officers. Fewer top tier guests this week which helps explain why seating is more readily available in the Concierge Lounge.  28 Pinnacle, 122 Diamond Plus, and 281 Diamonds.  Not always announced but there also are 129 Emerald and 298 Platinum members sailing. The top cruiser this week has 1960 points.

The Concierge lounge is nice and quiet during the day. I kind of think of it as my private space. A coffee machine with hot chocolate, fresh fruit, and windows that overlook the ocean to the port side from more than 100 feet above the surface. Various seating configurations including outdoor seating that is shaded most of the time. A walk across the hall and the view  changes to the starboard ocean view or the mid ship areas of the ship including the pool and lounge areas of decks 11 and 12.

The gulls are successfully diving into the waters to catch fish. If you watch closely you can see the fish swimming just under the surface before the gulls catch thier prey.

Service and food remains excellent in the dining room. I think I am now safe in saying Royal has improved over three years ago. Being a smaller ship also helps compared to the big girls as the Oasis class ships are often called.

Chester is off today, so nothing exciting in the Schooner Bar for entertainment. There are a few game shows in the Centrum. I catch the 6:30 production show with the singers and dancers after dinner. Yes I am usually out of the dining room in less than 45 minutes. It helps that I don't drink coffee, and rarely have a dessert.

We are scheduled to arrive in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas at the Crown Bay Pier at 9:00  AM with expected clearance by 9:30. Another passenger told me there are only two ships in port, so it shouldn't be too crowded. I will decide in the morning, what, if anything I will do ashore.

February 22, 2019

Feb 20, 21 - Sea Days

Blue skies with a few clouds. The wind and seas are mostly following making for a very pleasant day. I am up early and go to the Solarium before 8:00. Over half the lounge chairs are covered with towels, few passengers are around, and none are in the pools yet.

Along with 5 other passengers I take a tour of the bridge. Crystal clear visibility for many miles. Nothing within human sight, no land, no other ships.  Radar is even unable to detect anything within its 20 plus mile range. The ship is on autopilot headed to Port Everglades.  It says our arrival will be at 4:50 AM.

I use my extremely slow free internet these last two days.  Delete all the junk emails and answer a few important ones. I stop at the future cruise sales desk and inquire about a couple of cruises for later this fall and next spring. The price I am given sounds high, so I send off a message to Kent, my travel agent. Sometimes he has the same price, and often a lower one. I will see what he comes up with before making a decision.

Today is the egg drop contest.  Contestants signed up near the begining of the cruise. The object is to drop an egg from deck 10 to deck 4 in the Centrum without it cracking. Only recycleable items  may be  used, there are a  number of other rules. Plastic covers the grand piano and much of the floor just in case.

This has been an activity for a number of years on various ships, and the passengers have become very skilled. Parachutes are the most common approach, some contestants just rely on shock absorption upon landing. Some devices are complicated with parachutes, ballons, etc. The simpler designs work the best.

Amazingly eight out of ten eggs land uncracked! Very impressive.

David has extra work this afternoon. Last night after the Concierge Lounge closed everything had to be removed from the bar for an inspection. Today everything has to be brought back, glasses, mixes, and all the liquor. Probably an extra two hours of work.  

David has been with Royal for 17 years, and is one of the few crewmembers  that gets off the ship in nearly every port the ship visits. He estimates he has missed only a handfull of ports in his entire career. Unfortunately he is probably going to be at the pool bar next cruise. I will miss his excellent service.

The dining room is busy, usually the case when lobster is being served. I settle for the tortellini, probably the same choice I made last week. It is good and, definitely served hot. The head waiter stops by and I make dining room plans for the next three weeks. For the next ten days I will have the same table, but a different wait staff. For the final 11 days, while my family is also here, the table choice will be his. I am confident he will give us a good table. 

After dinner there is a lull in the lounge, with many empty tables and chairs. It doesn't last long, within 15 minutes all seats are again taken.

In the past few months Royal has introduced a new "Key" program where essentially guests can purchase some upgrades like included internet, carry on baggage storage, reserved theater seating, and dining preferences for an additional daily charge. As to be expected a few of the Pinnacle members are outraged that others with fewer cruises can purchase the same amenities that they enjoy for free.

We continue to move at just over 20 knots. This evening there is a little roll to the ship, but most passengers take it in stride.

I sleep late and totally forget about my scheduled galley tour. The skies are overcast but the air is warm and humid. I have my quote back from Kent. A few dollars less than booking on board, and I would prefer to give him the business. A quick email and I am booked for a 32 day round trip to California this fall and a 21 day trip to the southern Caribbean islands next January.

Many passengers are watching the clock so they can check in for flights tomorrow. JJ tells me there will be 41 passengers staying on the ship for the next cruise, I know a handful of them.

A stop at  guest relations for gratuity envelopes and to get some large bills changed. I did relent yesterday and asked my doughter to bring some extra cash with her. In reality I put the money in her bank account and then asked her to bring me the cash. Easy to do and avoids any cash advance fees.

There is a late night comedian in theater at 10:00 I catch all but the first few minutes of his show.  When I leave the theater, all the forward elevators are being used for luggage service. Up the stairs it will be. When I reach the elevator lobby on deck 8 it is packed with suitcase carts and suitcases.

To be nice to my room steward, I set my alarm and will be out of my cabin by 8.

February 20, 2019

Feb 19, Antigua

We pick up the pilot before 9:00. Three other ships are already berthed, The Freedom of the Seas, the AIDAperla and the Seabourn Odyssey. The AIDAperla is a new modern design with a vertical bow instead of the more traditional bow.  I can't speak for efficiency in the water, but there is certainly room for more cabins. All told there are over 12,000 visitors form the three ships.

We have to back into the berth so the disembarkation doors will open over the pier. Really an easy task for modern ships, but one that made new cruisers nervous about the captains ability to manuver in the tight quarters.

The propellers and thrusters kick up lots of mud, obviously there is little clearance to the bottom of the ship. Two dredges are in the harbor. They don't appear to be actively dredging, but there are workers aboard.

As often is the case during a port day, it is continued training for the crew. I can overhear the disaster training plans. A command station has been set up in an office on deck 5. A medical evacuation helicopter has crashed into the bridge attempting to land on the helipad. There are fires on decks 4, 5 and 6 at the bow of the ship. Enough,  I move along and head ashore, the ship will survive.

Nothing specific, just a leisure stroll along the waterfront shops. No donation to the locals. The ships horn blows signaling everyone to thier muster stations. Yes, this is just a drill, we were told this morning to disregard all signals and announcements as they were for the crew only.

An hour later I'm back on the ship headed to my cabin to shower and clean up. A passenger in the elevator voluteers that he thought the alarm was for real when it awoke him from his sleep. They got dressed and packed thier suitcases. Only as they encountered some crew members while dragging thier luggage down the hallway did they learn this is just a drill. What is wrong with this picture?

Royal has an interchangeable insert that goes in the floor of each elevator with the day of the week. A good idea they implemented years ago as it really is very easy to loose track of the day. This afternoon I heard a passenger praising the idea of labeling each elevator with a name. It is going to be tough for him to find the "Tuesday" elevator tomorrow.

The temperatures are a little warmer today, probably in the low 80's. The skies are mostly clear with a few passing clouds. The breeze on the upper decks is probably 25 knots, but at ground level minimal, making it feel very hot.

As with most of the Caribbean islands, the majority of passengers are called to beaches for swimming or snorkeling in the bright sun and warm waters. More than a few passengers return looking like lobsters.

Another weak menu in the dining room, but not bad enough to drive me to the Windjammer. Pasta it will be, a food that I very rarely eat at home anymore. eating too much is a challenge for most cruisers, and one of the reasons I stopped going to the dining room several years ago. In a couple days I will venture back to the scales in the fitness center to see if I can eat anything all next week.

The headliner tonight is a "Tribute to Liverpool". Obviously Beatles impersonation.  The theater was packed, I settled for a seat behind a pole. Though much of the view was blocked, the sound wasn't.

Chester has the night off so Henry is playing in the Schooner bar. He's a good pianist, but does not sing as many piano players do. The room is nearly empty.

We will be cruising at just over 20 knots for the next two days. The following seas are expected to remain under two meters. It will be a smooth sail back to Port Everglades. No stories about rough seas to pass on from this journey.



February 19, 2019

Feb 18, Barbados

We are greeted in Barbados with another perfect Southern Caribbean day. The skies are blue with a few whispy clouds, moving rapidly, carried by the easterly trade winds. We are at the far end of a commercial pier. No walking from here, too dangerous. You must take the free shuttle to the entrance.

The pier next to us is a busy container facility. There are thousands of containers along with many stacks of precast concrete pilings, and hundreds of new vehicles. Several lifts are scurrrying about moving containers to and from awaiting trucks. I was aware of various sized containers, and specialized containers for liguids. This is the first time I have seen containers without sides. Very obvious when you think about it, the precast concrete slabs are too heavy to be loaded into the end of a container. One worker rides his bike continuosly from one office to another. I assume moving physical paperwork.

We share the port today with the Cruise ship Mein Schiff 5, and the Holland America Koningsdam, both of which are conducting life boat drills. Dozens of little orange bubbles scurrying about in no organized pattern. A small container ship patiently awaits just offshore for these intruding cruise ships to leave his dock.

Several crew members spend all day doing routine maintenance around the ship. Today several are working on deck 12 forward hiding any rust spots. Another team is replacing loose or cracked tiles in the Concierge Lounge and the Vortex lounge. Wallpaper is being hung in the Vortex also. Fixing rust spots is no longer chip and paint, but just slap on another coat to cover it up.

I stay on the ship today. Most of the passengers are gone, and it is pretty quiet. A few enjoy the pool, more, relaxing and reading a book at thier favorite quiet spot.

T Mobile is my cell phone provider. One of the benefits is that I have free text and data service in over a 100 countries worldwide. Well, yesterday I learned Grenada isn't one of them, so I have more than the usual amount of emails to contend with this morning. It is still better than using Royal's internet.

There is just nothing of interest on the menu, I have JJ call and cancel my reservation for tonight in the dining room. My first venture to the Windjammer. Baked chicken and a loaded baked potato. Cherries jubilee and bananna foster are the specials for dessert. I pass.

Ronn Lucas is our headliner for entertainment. He does a good show after which I head to the Schooner bar to listen to Chester. The lounge is full, and after a wait I finally snag a seat at the bar, and order my usual glass of ice water. The one drink that is chemical and sugar free, as well as being free except for a tip.

Our next port of Antigua is about 300 miles away, and we will cruise at over 20 knots to pick up our pilot at 9:00 AM.

The seas are about 6 feet, with little motion to the ship.