December 17, 2019

Dec 15, Disembarkation and Home

I am awake long before the 7:00 that I set on the alarm. A trip to the Windjammer for a glass of juice and a roll.

I wander to our decided upon meeting spot on deck 4 near the theater. Before 8:00 everyone has arrived. Shortly Raphael leaves with the suite guests, we follow behind as instructed.

I takes about 10 minutes to get to the luggage area, and we proceed towards the customs agents after we gather our luggage. Again Raphael is there to direct us into a special line, a very short one just for the priveledged. 

Within 20 minutes of leaving the theater, we are standing waiting to board our shuttle bus. Just as the bus arrives, my son realizes he forgot to pick up Eliza's car seat from baggage claim.

If you think getting off a ship and thru customs can be cumbersome, don't even think about getting past customs to go back a get a piece of checked luggage. It can't be done!

The proper supersvisor must be found to retrieve the luggage and bring it thru customs to you. This process takes a little over an hour as the rest of us wait and watch bus after bus take passengers to the parking lot.

By the time Scott returns with car set in tow, there are a number of passengers waiting for the shuttle. All civility has been drained from their bodies. The last to arrive mange to push their way to the front of each line. It doesn't help that where the bus is going to stop is determined only by where he can find a space, not a designated slot. There is no organization.

Eventually we get a bus,  and are returned to our awaiting cars.

I am not nearly as tired as I was 8 days ago. The drive home is mostly uneventful from this point on. My plan was to stop in Ft Pierce for fuel and a rest stop. Suddenly the "range" of remaining fuel drops about 30 miles. Why? If the car instrumentation is accurate I will have 27 drops of gas left in the tank when I reach Ft. Pierce. The prudent decsision is to stop at the next service area on the turnpike. Ultmately we determine the fuel price is within pennies per gallon of the price in Ft Pierce. Stopping was a wise choice.

Next stop is Alyssa's house where most of the luggage and passengers are left. I head to Clermont with 3 others.

Soon I am home. Water turned on, Hot water heater started. A command to Alexa to turn on some music. "....unable to connect..."  I have no Internet. I reset the router. No better, the router is actually working. I call my provider. Unable to get past the "your next in line..." when I get disconnected.

Ok, deal with it later.

Finally at 9:30 PM I get to talk to a person. Sorry, everyone is gone for the day. Can I have someone call you when they come in?  Yes! Even if it is 4:30, the phone call will awake me.

Of course I never get a call, but I do call them again at 7:00. He tells me that he is unable to reset or do anything from his end, a serviceman will have to come to my house. Fine. When will that be?  The earliest is Thursday morning.

I didn't think that I would ever be writing to say that internet on a ship or most foreign countries is better than at home.

Unfortunately cell service in my home is almost non existant, and as a result I use the internet connection for my cell service also.

Thus the long delay in posting these last few days.

The laundry has been  washed and hung up all ready for my next trip. Until then, Any day at sea is a good day. Certainly true this trip.

Fri Dec 13, 14 At Sea

I am not one to be concerned about a Friday the 13th, but... We have left our last port of call, OK just a sad thing, not bad.

My son and I have been working on some simple software for a project I am working on for the train club. It  works fine in short term tests, but randomly fails long term testing unexpectdly. It must be the date. Scott acknowledges he gets a kick out of being to say that he was writing software while on a cruise ship. I actually doubt many of his coworkers can make that claim. I appreciate the help, he can accomplish in 30 minutes what would take me 2 days.

During the day on Friday, the seas slowly subside, the skies are blue and the sun bright.

The ship is properly decorated for the holidays with a large, maybe 25 or 30 foot, Christmas tree at one end of the promenade. At the other end is a 6 foot ginger bread house or more accurately, village. Great photo backdrops for the ship photographers.

I am happy to see that as the older ships are being renovated, sinks for handwashing are being added to the buffet entrance. Much more effective than hand sanitizer. The sinks here also have air hand dryers built into them, the first I have seen, very effective. Water, soap, wash and then dry without moving your feet and dripping water all over the floor.

I now have a better understanding of the extra perks for having attained Pinnacle status.

20 cans of soft drinks, some I have consumed, some shared, a few I will take home. This could have been 3 bottles of wine, but even though I drink wine, I can not drink that much, especially with an open bar in the lounge from 4:30 until 8:00.

A fruit basket, given to my cabin attendant.

A chocolate covered strawberry, yes 1, and other dessert snacks delivered on 3 days. Mostly consumed.

Internet service for the entire cruise. I shared with the rest of the family. Sometimes it works well, but not always. T Mobile cell service in most ports is better.

Pinnacle breakfast every morning. I never attended.

Meal with the officers in Giovanni's, excellent lunch even if everyone felt their steak was overcooked . No possible way I can have dinner after the lunch.

Early disembarkation, and priority access to customs agent line. I take advantage of this, and Raphael is kind enough to extend this benefit to everyone in my party. The only "extra" benefit I asked for.  We will be in the first group of passengers to disembark the ship after those that carry their own luggage. A task I do not care to do.

Access to "Suite Lounge". Very plush compared to older Concierge Lounge and Diamond Lounges. Never over crowded, well not on this cruise anyway, we will see if this holds for the future. The Diamond lounge is a different story, was severly over crowded. Drinks, food, etc are the same in both lounges. the ratio of servers to customers is much higher in the Suite Lounge

Other perks like free laundry, photos, reservations, and reserved seating for shows remains the same.

While talking about Pinnacle, there is a lady on the ship, with 88 years of maturity I was told, that was one of the first passengers to attain Pinnacle status. At the time celebrated with a party at the home of Royal's CEO. My understanding is that there are about 10,000 Pinnacle members today. What I don't know is if they are still all active. I tend to think not and that the given number represents all those that ever attained pinnacle status even if they have now been deceased for 10 years. How would Royal ever know?

Saturday finds a cool breeze across the deck with temperatures in the low to mid 70's. There is barely a ripple on the water. The pools remain very busy.

I watch the kids in the pool, surf the waverider, and climb the rock wall. All activities that I am too mature for.

I am just not motivated to pack, and don't until after 9:00 PM. It only takes about 30 minutes. Save out clean clothes for the trip home, everything else will be washed when I get home regardeless of whether it was worn. That just makes life easier.

I have yet been to the Schooner Bar except to watch the kids play Trivia. I don't think I shared that. The topic was Disney songs. They added up the accumlative years of Disney employment amongst them, I think the total was 74! Yes they were the only team to get a perfect score, and several key chains. I think there would have been a mutiny of trivia players if the others had known who the competition was.

The piano player was OK, but very loud. He had a handful of guests, but no where near the following that Kelley would have.

I return to the cabin, set the alarm for 7:00. Another cruise is concluded except for the trip home.

December 14, 2019

Dec 12, Oranjestad, Aruba

I sleep soundly for over 10 hours.

Clearance is delayed about 30 minutes, but passengers disembark with plenty of time for shopping, sightseeing or whatever else they have planned for the day.

Good news from Rafael, he did not crash the lifeboat on his first time at the helm.

Cold cereal in the Windjammer for breakfast. I have seen this several times, skim milk is only available if you ask. No guess as to why. Probably it cost more than whole milk?

Limes continue to be in random short supply. Some venues have none, others seem to have a handfully sporadically

I make plans to meet most of the others at Iguana Joe's about noon. I had checked the weather forecast before leaving the ship, just a 7% chance of a shower. Just as I reach the security checkpoint, the skies open up. I stand under cover for about ten minutes until the skies are blue again.

Aruba only averages about 20 inches of rain per year, and the local people relish every drop.

A few drinks, and then back to the ship. Shower and clean clothes for the evening.

Late afternoon another shower looms somewhere producing a bright rainbow over the island. Over the ship the skies are clear and sunny.

The most important news, the lone tree on the sandbar survives. I have been keeping an eye on it since 2012, Bette and Bill have been watching it for about 20 years. I guess it is much hardier than it looks.

The captain is looking for two passengers as the time to depart arrives. Their fate is unknown.

The seas are about 3 to 5 feet as we begin our journey home with an expected arrival early Sunday morning.

December 12, 2019

Dec 11, 2019 Kralendijk, Bonaire

We slowly cruise through the night. I'm sure we made a few circles just to eat up the time we need to be at sea before we can dock in Kralendijk. The seas have lingering 4 or 5 foot swells from the higher seas earlier.

The weather is basically the same with a slightly higher chance of showers today. One lasts for about 10 minutes as many passengers are waiting for excursions.

I elect to stay on the ship today. Many of the crew are engaged in various safety drills in the morning. The Suite Concierge, Rafael Soares, is very excited as he is being trained to drive a life boat.

An Azamara ship is docked behind us. Azamara is another of Royal's brands that is more upscale and offers all inclusive sailings. There are few ships in the Azamara fleet and I don't see one often.  My guess is that the ship holds only two or three hundred passengers at most.

Bonaire is known for its diving, shopping opportunities are limited. Adrienne and Alyssa have booked a couple of dives, Steve and James Snorkel in the same location.  Most dive locations here are accessed from shore, not from a boat. To keep her reputation intact, Adrienne gets numerous scrapes on her legs and arms from the rocks as she is exiting the water after her last dive. A cruise for her would not be complete without at least an  injury. Fortunately most have been minor, but she does see the value in having travel medical insurance.

The lounges have become less busy, the normal progression as the days pass by. One of the servers in the Diamond lounge has just transferred here from The Serenade where she was also my bartender in the Diamond Lounge. Our cruise director, Drew  has been on many ships that I have, going back to the Monarch, a ship I travelled on frequently since 2011.  Yes passengers and crew become family and surprisingly they remember you along with thousands of other passengers they meet every year.

Another successful evening of hot food in the buffet for dinner. We leave port after dark for another very short passage to Oranjestad, Aruba with an expected arrival at 7:30 AM.

December 11, 2019

Tuesday Dec 10, 2019 Curacao

The ship arrives and is tied to the dock long before I see the light of day. There are two other ships here today, The Monarch, which was the former Monarch Of The Seas, a favorite of mine that I sailed often, and a Carnival ship.  The Carnival ship was probably one of two that we could see several miles away most of the last two days as we made our way south from Florida.

The weather here is as good as you could ask for. Temperatures are expected to reach a high of 82, skies are mostly clear blue with a few passing clouds and there is a strong breeze to keep one cool.

The ship is being refueled today, a common occurence in this port. One of a few ports where pipes run from storage tanks to the edge of the dock instead of requiring a barge or tanker to be brought alongside.

The kids have rented cars for a day of beach hopping. I elect to just take a stroll into town. I stay for several hours, not even purchasing a beer.

I do complete a survey request from Mayo Clinic for information updating data for some medical reasearch they are doing. A  constructive way to spend a half hour sitting on a park bench in Willemstad.

Returning to the ship I am not asked to take my shoes off, but during a physical patdown the security officer caught his hand on my belt or pocket and nearly pulled my pants off. A New first, almost very embarrasing.

I don't know if the number is accurate, and if all those being counted are active, but I am told there are ten thousand Pinnacle members world wide. There are about 30 on this ship.

My guess is that includes everyone that ever attained Pinnacle level even if they are now deceased, or no longer cruising.

I give in to suggestions of others and dine in the main dinig room. 10 of the 14 of us are there.

There are several alcohol tastings in the Royal shops. I go with some of the kids, but resist any urge to purchase anything.

By 11 I am resting my eyes. Tomorrow we will be in Bonaire, just a few mile away.

December 10, 2019

Dec 8 & 9 - Days At Sea

After a very busy week, and a long drive I sleep like a rock for over 12 hours. I realize that I always sleep longer while on a ship, but over 12 hours is getting excessive. Well I guess I needed it.

Another perk of being pinnacle is having high speed internet for free for the entire voyage. first of all, high speed is a relative term. Fast enough for emails, but not for large amounts of data or images.

The negative side of this is that I get all the annoying emails on the ship that I get at home.  They are dealt with the same way. Delete, delete, delete.

The weather is quite pleasant with partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the mid 70's at the most, and a breeze on our stern making the wind across the deck minimal.

After watching the kids play a round of minigolf, I think Eliza was the winner. She would pick up everyone's golf ball and drop it in the cup.

Midafternoon was time for another nap.  Retired cruise life is exhausting.

It is formal night. I remember to put my Pinnacle badge on the right side of my jacket. Not only right side, but correct side. the magnets are barely strong enough, I will need to change them or risk easily losing the badge I spent so much for.

Eight of us go to Giovanni's for dinner. The food and service was good. We leave in time to get an after dinner drink in the lounge and go to the theater for the production show.

For most of the day there was some motion to the ship, seas were about 6 feet mostly on the stern,

Others were headed to late entertainment, I crashed by 9:30 for another long nights sleep.

During the night the wind shifted to the south east, mainly on our bow. Seas increased to 10 feet or more and occasional when we hit a larger wave the entire ship would shudder.

Heading directly into the wind, the breeze across the decks reach 50 mph at times. Better hold on to deck chairs and towels. Some of the outside doors are closed due to the high winds.

Several of us gather at Adrienne and Steve's balcony for breakfast of fruit and coffee or in my case hot chocolate.

Being one to always expanding my wealth of knowledge, this afternoon I learned something that I probably should have learned 50 years ago as a teen ager. Don't try to eat an ice cream cone while facing 50 mile per hour 80 degree winds.  The ice cream melts faster than if you were holding a hair dryer to it, and as it turns to liquid it is immediately blown against your white shirt. What I was able to eat was good though.

Scott and I spend several hours on a project I am working on for the train club. A circuit board with flashing lights should have been a beacon for security checks when I boarded, but no questions were asked. Probably they were challenged by counting the two bottles of wine in my carry on.

We all have dinner together in the dining room. The head waiter obliges, and takes pictures of the 14 of us all gathered on the main staircase in the dining  room.

I catch the  show "Lady Luck",  three singers from Las Vegas. Tired and unimpressed I leave part way through and head to the cabin for the evening.

The seas and winds have begun to drop by bedtime. Tomorrow morning we will be in Curacao.

December 09, 2019

Dec 7, 2019 Adventure of The Seas

It has been a very hectic week. In the past six days my youngest daughter Alyssa packed everything from her old house into two U-Haul trucks, closed on the sale of her old house, closed on the purchase of her new house, and unloaded the two trucks. And that was just Sunday and Monday! Anyway I am headed to the Adventure of The Seas, with my family and some friends. 10 of us are headed to Ft Lauderdale in two cars, four others will meet us on the ship, having flown from other parts of the country. My alarm is set for 5 AM and I leave the house by 6.

I am on the ship by about noon. The drive was long and I was very tired, but we all arrived safely without incident. Cabins are ready before the announced time of 1:30. By 3 I have found my suitcase about 20 doors down the hall from my cabin. It is rare anymore that luggage actually makes it to your door. We are lucky if it can be found in the general area of the ship where your cabin is. Maybe eventually the cabin steward would find it for you, but most passengers are content to find it themselves and complete the task of unpacking as soon as possible.

The weather is perfect as we sail from Ft Lauderdale just as the sunsets over the city skyline.

Whereas on my past several cruises you could count the number of kids on your fingers, there are over 400 on this cruise. It is OK, I was a kid once, and I can escape to quiet locations on the ship. The benefits of frequent cruising.

This is my first cruise as a "Pinnacle Club" member, having acquired over 700 points with Royal Caribbean. I haven't decided yet how often I will wear my gold badge indicating my status. Maybe that decision will be influenced by the details of a short story.

I recceivd the badge, crystal block, luggage tags etc. a few weeks ago. Now most people would wear a name badge on the left side above any shirt or jacket pocket.  However this badge is held in place with a strip of very strong magnets. They seem to hold quite well, and of course magnets will not damage your clothing as much as pins would.

But I also need to tell you that I have had a pacemaker for  about two years. Guess how you turn off my pacemaker? Place a magnet over it!  

Considering the maturity of most people that reach Pinnacle level, I wonder if someone at Royal figured out this was a good way to trim the ranks of senior customers that are less likely to shop in the  gift stores, take excursions, etc. and also the customers they spend the most on in the form of perks like free cocktail parties, bottles of wine, and lavish dinners.

This ship was recently refurbished. More slides were added, and the specialty restaurants updated. The Suites and Pinnacle lounge has been elegantly decorated with marble counters, bright wall paper, and plush carpet. Seating is comfortably spread out and not cramped as often is the case in other lounges.

As is often the case the Diamond lounge is way too small, and the entire Viking Crown Lounge, called the Blue Moon on this ship, is being used for overflow. Both of my daughters have access to the Diamond lounge, my son will after his next cruise I believe.

Most of the group scatters to various venues for dinner. I grab a quick bite in the Windjammer. Despite having been serving dinner for two and a half hours, everything I had was served HOT! Amazing that Royal can do  this.

There is little motion to the ship as I retire. In  the bathroom of my cabin you can feel a steady vibration from the propulsion system, a vibration not perceptable in the rest of the cabin. I am sound asleep by 9:00 PM. It has been a long day. The next two days will be sea days prior to our arrival in Williemstad, Curacao early Tuesday morning.

November 17, 2019

Fri Nov 15 Final Port

We arrive in Port Everglades a few minutes late. I guess the currents weren't as strong as the captain has estimated. The Celebrity Edge is across the harbor from us. I am scheduled to disembark at 8:20. when I arrive in the lounge to wait, I find it packed. No one is off the ship yet! Usually by now half of the passengrs are gone.

There is a problem getting any luggage off the ship. I don't know if it a mechanical problem, a customs inpection problem or a dock worker labor issue.  The end result is the same. No one is leaving.

Eventually the process starts. It takes me longer than usual to gather my luggage. First of all because I never had to find 4 suitcases before, and secondly the suitcase gorillas thought some of the nines were sixes and put two suitcases in the wrong location.

The next delay was waiting for a porter. The were in very limited supply, and the demand for them on this ship was probably higher than most because of the mature demographics of the passengers.

Getting thru customs was a breeze, probably my Global Entry and the fact I was using a porter saved me an hour.

No one else is waiting for the parking lot shuttle bus. Not many passengers left cars here so I give them a call. Within 15 minutes the bus arrives to pick up 3 passengers. He takes me directly to my car, and helps load the luggage in the back.

Now the big challenge is do I remember how to drive?

The driving is easy, but the GPS has failed again. Fortunately I have driven this route so many times I know it pretty much by heart. I get on the expressway and within 2 minutes the GPS decides to cooperate afterall.

A long drive home, a stop for food and the restroom along the way.

I unpack and start the first of two loads of wash and head to the grocery store for food. I left the icebox nearly empty. A little to my surprise, it now has some food in it. Food placed there by Alyssa in anticipation of her move in two weeks.

By bedtime all the unpacking is done, the clothes clean and hung in the closet. One must be ready, there may be a good cruise fare for a ship leaving this weekend. I'm ready.

Nov 14 - Sea Day

The seas subside as we progress towards Florida. We skirt the northern edge of Cuba as that is where the currents are most favorable for conserving fuel. The captain shares that by catching easterly currents they can turn off one engine and still maintain speed. Tons of fuel will be saved.

The skies are mostly sunny, but the temperatures are beginning to drop, and it is noticeablly cooler outside on deck and by the pools.

Guest talent show, guest singers, guest performance of "The Killer Dance". Do you see a pattern of how the passengers are being entertained? And Royal is keeping costs down.

This is packing day. I need to get extra luggage tags, I don't trust the gorillas with only one tag on the luggage, I always attach two. Guest services is busy with guests settling accounts and fixing account discrepencies.

I have been here for weeks, and on the last day I meet neighbors that live just North of me. Frequent cruisers that will make Pinnacle status level on their next cruise, as I did on this one, Irving and Linda are also both pilots. 

Last chance for dinner in the dining room, I pass and go to Park Cafe for a snack.

I expected to find the liquor I purchased when I returned to my cabin. Nowhere to be found, I was misinformed, I needed to go to the shops to pick it up. It was waiting for me on the counter when I arrived. 

Bruce and Sandi come in while I am there. The sales person shows them the distinctive bottle and laments the fact he has no more to sell. He offers a few samples to finish the last bottle of Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey in the store. We we happy to help.

With liquor in hand, I can now pack my last suitcase and get the needed ones out in the hall.

The alarm is set for 7:00, sadly tomorrow I need to leave and go home.

Nov 13 - George Town, Grand Cayman

By  10:30 most passengers have taken tenders to shore. The sytem works much more efficiently here than in Cabo San Lucas, primarily because the tenders are operated by the port, not the ship.

The weather is hot but ideal. No clouds, lots of sun and a light breeze. There is also a Holland America ship and a Carnival ship anchored nearby.

I go ashore for about an hour. Nothing needed to buy, nothing bought. I return to the ship and shower.

As we are about to leave, the captain makes an announcement about an outbreak of norovirus that is spreading on the ship. I wasn't aware except that I thought the cleaning efforts were more aggressive than usual.

One passenger reported that she was aware of the outbreak about two days out of San Pedro as it had struck people at most of the tables around her in the dining room.

Whether norovirus or something else, Bill didn't feel well and went to the medical facility yesterday. After a $1,000 bill he was advised to disembark in George Town and seek more advanced medical care. He ignored the advise.

Several times there were indications that some passengers missed the ship. Today the identity was confirmed of a person that did miss the ship in San Pedro.  Captain Mike was supposed to take command in San Pedro. For an unexplained reason, he didn't make it and boarded in Colon instead. So if you had any idea that the ship would wait for you, thing again. They didn't even wait for the captain.

The seas are about six feet as we leave port headed to Ft Lauderdale, Fl. There is a nice roll to the ship. Most passengers are fine, but there are those that are complaining.

Another comedian ventriloquist for entertainment. Not as good as most others I have seen.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

November 13, 2019

Dec 12 - At Sea

We leave Cartagena, Columbia and head North to George Town, Grand Cayman.

The seas are smooth and the clouds spotty. Periodically the near full moon peaks thru the clouds and provides a shimmering glow across the sea.

The day is filled with the usual activities plus some that only occur occasionally on longer cruises.

Volunteer crew members stage a show in the theater. Singers and musicans, the crew has lots of talent. The house is packed.

For nearly two weeks guests have been building contraptions to safely allow an egg to be dropped from deck 7 to the Centrum dance floor 40 feet below. 20 of the 25 entrants are successful. One entrant earns a bottle of bubbly for his excellent efforts.

My son would be proud to see the towel folding demonstration. Along with the turtles, elephants and swans was a roasted chicken, better known to my son as a dead chicken, a skill he mastered as a youngster and introduced to ship staff 30 years ago. OK Roasted chicken is probably a better name.

The battle of the pianos featured three of the piano players on the ship. One of the pianists played blindfolded. The same as last cruise, it was declared a tie. Actually, the audience won with an hour of top piano music.

The lounge is empty at 5:30 when the first seating in the dining room begins, but quickly becomes over crowded. Reynaldo is still the best bartender. Most of this trip I have been asking him to make me "baby" drinks. It has worked, the pours are normal not triple as he would do  on his own. I think it inappropriate to ask what he will do with all the $2 bills I have tipped him.  From my observation this group of passengers is good about tipping.  Last trip I observed a demanding guest  pretend to tip, but he put nothing in the tip jar. I can't say he didn't know better, only that he was cheap.

A few passengers have begun to pack. One couple, having been on the ship sice before she left Barcelona, is particularly concerned since they bought stuff in nearly every port. They will probably buy additional luggage in George Town

It is lobster, and formal night. I am talked into joining others in the dining room. Cheese tortellini for an appetizer and prime rib for the main course. The dining room manager and the head waiters were very pleased to see me. Despite assurances to the contrary, when a guest doesn't go to the dining room they assume it is because of them.  Yes, I was offered real apple pie for dessert.

Not all passengers were happy. They did not have enough lobster for the last seating. Allegedly it will  be offered again to those guests.

Lobster is not the only thing in short supply. Banannas have been rationed for the last month. Skim milk is scarce, and the supply of english muffins is gone. Hot chocolate mix and potato chips are hit and miss. Somedays they are available, others not. Nobody will starve.

Motion of the ship is negligible with the seas under three feet. We should be ready to go ashore by 8:30 in the morning.

Dec 11 - Cartagena, Columbia

There is some motion to the ship as we cruise to Cartagena, Columbia. I am not aware of it unless I pay close attention.

The area at the end of the pier is one of the nicest I have ever encountered. In addition to the usual shops and restaurants there is a small zoo or sanctuary area where there are many monkeys, peacocks, parrots, flamingos, anteaters, etc.

I spend about an hour. The merchandise looks to be fairly priced, but of course I don't purchase anything.

Back on the ship I find the Solarium neary empty and spend nearly 2 hours in the pool. Too deep to walk, but swimming is easy in the salt water.

Getting back on the ship, security insisted on x-raying my shoes. Now I will concede that I could conceal over a pound of emeralds, diamonds, or drugs in my left shoe. Having passed through security checkpoints hundreds of times in the past seven years of cruising, this was another first. Security really wasn't busy, so it was easy for them, and no other passengers were held up.

It is mostly cloudy, and at the docks the temperature is about 80. In the city it is much warmer.

The ships officers lead a recognition ceremony for veterans of all countries. A few words of thanks, a moment of silence, and the playing of taps. Every veteran is given a certificate. Very well done and appreciated by all. Many of the passengers in the Diamond lounge are veterans, and many experiences are shared. Even two of the ladies are 20 year veterans.

The comedian headliner is decent, and his language clean, unlike many comedians. It was either catch his show or eat dinner. I chose the show, I have been eating too much anyway.

I sign up for internet for the last several days of the voyage. Starting on my next cruise it will be free, well free if you don't count the cost of a hundred cruises to be rewarded with the perk.

Today only two passengers are missing at all aboard time. Hopefully they really are onboard. I had that happen to me once, and even when I called, they didn't believe me. I don't know how as my card was scanned and my picture displayed on the screen when I boarded. Sometimes technology just doesn't work.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

November 12, 2019

Nov 10, Colon, Panama

Once we leave the canal channel it just a mile or two to our pier in Colon. We make the trip last over 12 hours by going out to sea a little and then returning.

Colon itself has little to offer tourists except that this is where the excursions to visit the canal, the jungle, or Panama city originate. In fact it is strongly advised not to leave the fenced in area of the port except by tour bus.

All the reports from passengers are positive. During the day several heavy storms passed over dumping heavy rain. The tour groups were lucky as they were on a bus or inside during the rain.

The staff was looking for five passengers at departure time, the usual indication of them not getting back to the ship on time.

Speaking of time, my pocket watch stopped working this morning. I can't say it has lasted very long, maybe for two years of use just when I travel. Maybe a byproduct of dropping it and shattering the crystal earlier this year. I will replace before my next trip. There are times when I need to know the time, and a phone just doesn't do it on a ship.

Colon harbor is quite busy, mostly with container ships. There is one oil tanker in port, tied alongside all day giving us bunker fuel. The 9 hour process is completed about 30 minutes before departure. How many tons of fuel can be pumped thru an 8 or 10 inch hose in a day?

Cartagena, Columbia is our next port.

November 10, 2019

Nov 9 - Crossing The Panama Canal

During the night there are several heavy storms. When I go outside just before 7:00 we are ready to enter the first lock, The skies are cloudy, but no rain. For many passengers this is the first time they have ever been thru the canal. The narration is excellent. Bill is a retired canal employee that worked in various positions across the canal in his 30 year career.  Steve, the cruise director, implies that he is just a passenger that has voluntered to narrate. I hope not, at a minimum he should have been given a free cruise.

We soon learn that the schedule for entertainment that had been revised yesterday, isn't going to work as our transit is scheduled to be much faster than anticipated.

Time to reprint the Compass for the third time, this time after they were distributed to the guests. God forbid if trivia didn't take place at the proper time. I often listen, but don't care to participate. Trivia is the one activity that some passengers are very passionate about. Key chains are so valuable.

Traffic in the canal doesn't appear to be very heavy. There is one ship directly in front of us, but by the time we get into Gantun Lake there are only a few ships holding for clearance into the next lock. A large container ship, a ship with a cargo of about 100 wind turbine blades stacked on the deck, and several tankers probably carrying crude oil or distilled product.

The weather remains ideal all day, mostly overcast but not any rain.

The passenger that caused so much trouble the first few days must have tamed his anger. He has been seen, but to the best of my knowledge there have not been any more altercations.

For the first time there is a "silent dance party" tonight. Popular on Royal ships for several years, I go with Chuck and Janice, a new experience for them. Besides chosing what music you want to listen to with your headphones, you get to control the volume.  Red and green lights on the headphones indicate what you are listening to. I find it interesting that some couples are each listneing to different sound tracks while dancing together.

I have never had much of a taste for whiskey or bourbon but tonight there is a free tasting in the shops. Chuck convinces me to go with them.  They are featuring a very rare Kentucky bourbon. I concede it is very good. Chuck buys two bottles, and I purchase the last one on the ship. Not having any more to sell, we help consume multiple samples from the open bottle that can't be sold and with no remaining inventory has no value to the shops for future sales. I think this is a good way to use up the remainder of the non refundable credit on my account.

We exited  the last locks about 3:30. Just outside the entrance to the canal there are about 30 to 35 ships holding for either entry to the canal or orders to pick up a load of cargo somewhere. We join the crowd as we need to waste more than 12 hours until we can tie up in Colon, Panama our next port which is just outside the entrance to the canal.

Nov 8 - A Sea Day

During the night there are several rainstorms. The ship has some motion, but to be honest, after being here for over three weeks it is no longer noticed.

The lectures on sea days are interesting, and provide a break from the ongoing trivia and other games. I mentioned one on animal intelligence the other day. With veterans day coming up, a very appropriate one was about the importance of naval campaigns in the Caribbean during World II. Something you seldom hear about.

Today's talk was about the evolution of pets. Obviously dogs are man's first choice. 

Not surprising, having seen them in Yellowstone, and observing tourist behavior, bison are not tamed for pets, and in fact kill more people than any other cause in all the national parks.

Throughout the day the temperatures remain in the high 70's or low 80's. Occasionally the sun peeks through for a time, but we escape any of the predicted  rain. 

I wouldn't call it heavy traffic, but we see more and more ships following the same heading we are on. Ships headed to the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal.

One of the headliner entertainers that was to board the ship yesterday was unable to make it, leaving Steve short on entertainment. A scramble to rearrange the schedule, and a quick call to Miami, and another entertainer is found that will board the ship in Colon, perform his show, and leave the ship the next morning in Cartegena.

The Compass, the daily program of activities, is all printed for our day in the canal when the ship receives word of a schedule change for the locks.  The compass needs to be reprinted. 

With our first locks scheduled for 7:00 am I set my alarm before I retire.

November 09, 2019

Nov 7 Punterenas, Costa Rica

The ship arrives before sunrise and is cleared by local authorities by 6:00 AM.

Early the skies are cloudy, but have cleared by 8:00. The temperature will be in the low 80's here at the port. In the rainforest I have no idea, but possibly cooler.

The pier and the walk to shore is quite long, possibly close to half a mile. Semi trucks with refrigerated containers are lined up bringing provisions to the ship. The ship cargo doors are 3 or 4 feet below dock level, no problem, there is a platform that can be raised and extended to reach out over the dock. Pallet by pallet each container is loaded aboard.

No surprise, but before each container is opened paper work is inspected and compared by government officials, ship staff, and the driver to verify the proper container is being delivered. Only when everyone checks off does a dockworker cut off the multiple security locks with large bolt cutters.

Most of the tours visit the interior of the country. One was described as requiring climbing 6 steps and a 150 yard walk. Returning passengers reported that they encountered multiple stairs ascending 300 feet or more and fitbits that registered 4 miles of walking during the tour. I'm glad I wasn't there.

I did visit the local shops on the pier. Nothing noteworthy, I return to the ship and spend a few hours in the solarium pool.

It is laundry day. That means stuffing a weeks worth of dirty clothes in a tiny plastic bag. I don't bother washing the shirt they ruined last week, the price of free laundry. Fortunately it was one of my least favorite.

An activity I have never encountered before are debates among passengers on various topics, topics I would generally avoid. Abortion, capital punishment, evolution, gun control, politics, global warming, etc.

It is rewarding having passengers from so many countries. Besides general conversation with interesting people, information is shared about different ports and destinations that you won't find in the cruise reviews.

One reported detail I was surprised to learn is that it is highly probable that cruise ships will be banned fron Venice, Italy in a few years. The tens of thousands of passengers are overwhelming the city, and in general they are contributing relatively little to the economy. Definitely a Venice political issue.

I remember six or seven years ago when Curacao was having the same discussion. The final outcome was the construction of a new pier which eliminated the need for cruise ships to dock in the channel, the only valid issue raised by those opposed to the cruise ship visits.

Tomorrow is a sea day as we head to the canal.

November 07, 2019

Nov 6 - At Sea

Today was another beautiful sea day. There was a strong breeze over the deck, the skies mostly sunny and temperatures in the low 80's.

I spend a few hours reading, or more accurately, listening to a book. The lecture subject today is intelligence, not of humans but of many other animal species. An interesting way to spend an hour. One tid bit. Whales recently learned a new method of catching seals. This information is methodically being spread around the world amongst the whale population.

I attend a hour and a half tour of the theater and all of it's backstage systems. A tour narrated by the people that run the lights and the sound etc. The most informative tour of a ship's theater I have attended.

In speaking to the technician responsible for sound I learn why I do not need ear plugs. He keeps the sound level between 80 and 85 db in the theater. Royal's guidelines call for no more than 95. A painful difference. He has a meter in the booth. Yes I thank him!

The only show tonight is a concert by the orchestra. This group of musicians has been together for over three years. When you realize that each musician has his own contract, usually about 6 months in length, the odds of them being able to stay together is slim.

Steve Davis has mentioned several times that other cruise lines are cutting out live musicians, instead using sound tracks. Somehow a soud track of a piano playing in the Schooner bar just doesn't sound right. Of course a  license to play music costs much less than a musician.

Chicken cordon blu in the Windjammer. Better than the same dish in the dining room last trip, and no rolls to tempt me.

There is a little rocking to the ship all day and evening. I can't tell you about during the night as I sleep soundly.

We are scheduled to be cleared for disembarkation by 6:00 AM tomorrow morning in Costa Rica

Nov 5 - Puerto Quetzal, Mexico

We arrive before sunrise to coincide with a favorable tide. The ship is cleared by local authorites at 8:30 and the thousand passengers taking Royal shore excursions begin boarding buses. I elect to remain on the ship, even forgoing the local vendors on the dock.

The solarium pool is packed, no peaceful swim today, in fact not even a lounge chair in the shade by the pool to be found.

I download my renewed books and spend a few hours listening. In the future I will always verify that I am able to open each book. I think this is a lesson I had learned previously in my life.

I have a long conversation with my waiter of last week. He has worked for Royal for 8 years and acknowledges he has seen the same deterioration in food quality that many passengers are aware of. One of his biggest problems is inconsistency from the galley. Over cooked, undercooked, cold food plated, etc. Duhh!

Everything is falling into place with Alyssa's house and move. Always having been good at organizing, the rental truck will be loaded before the closings on Dec 2, she will move in and organize her home over the next few days, and leave for a cruise on Dec 7. Fragile items are being held at my house to be moved by car instead of U-Haul truck. Just to add to her schedule, an engagement party is being planned for them at her sister's on Nov 24.

The port here is quite busy. The coal pier in front of us is empty, but every other pier is occupied. Three or four container ships and one RORO (roll on roll off). Another four container ships await outside the harbor for a turn to load and unload.

The fully loaded car carrier leaves the port just as an empty one arrives. The tug boats are busy running about between the two ships. They are required to help turn them as they enter or leave the harbor.

I was not aware of Guatemala being an auto exporting country. I question if vehicles manufactured in Mexico are being shipped from here.

The weather remains very nice all day. Returning passengers report very good tours and tour guides. Well most of them. At least one bus broke down, bus passengers were returned to the ship before boarding time, returned by another bus without AC, and without a complete tour. Stuff happens.

German theme in the Windjammer tonight. Very good, I have made the right decision. 

It is a night for the production show. Enjoyable, and I do not need my ear plugs.

Seas remain at about 6 feet as we continue South. Being a fairly seasoned group of passengers, I hear few complaints. As I have for over a month, I sleep well.

Tomorrow we will be at sea all day.

November 05, 2019

Saturday Nov 2 - Puerto Vallarta

We arrive in Puerto Vallarta about 25 minutes late, the ship is quickly cleared by local authorities and 90 % of the passengers soon are off the ship.

The captain's forecast, actually Royal staff in Miami, is for thunderstorms all day. Presently the sky is a little hazy but quite sunny.

I decide to check out the mall across the street. Of course most names I am not familiar with, but a few are universal around the world like Radio Shack, McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut.  I actually decide a Subway sandwich for lunch would be a welcome break. Yes it was!

I have neglected to finish any of the audio books I brought with me, fortunately I am able to renew from here. I have switched to Libby, an app that interfaces with most libraries.  Much easier to use than going to the individual library sites. Thank you Robert.

With message and data service I spend part of the day communicating with my children about upcoming events. Yes I am old enough to remember when it was prohibitively expensive to talk by phone with someone in the next town. Communication with a passenger on a ship, or a person in another country was reserved for extreme life or death matters, not planning parties and juggling schedules.

By 3:30 it is getting a little cloudy. Maybe the captain will get his thunderstorm yet. We will see.

Over a third of the passengers are from countries other than the US, a much larger number than I usually see.

Apparently one couple didn't make it back to the ship. They were paged three times in the last half hour before the ship sailed. I hope they are having a good time.

A very unusual occurance in the Diamond Lounge this evening. A very heated argument built between two passengers, one from the US, and the other from Brisbane, Australia. Something about each's involvement in Vietnam. Intervention by respective wives, ship staff, and other passengers separated them before anyone was hurt.

Time to leave the lounge, I join Chuck and Janice for dinner.

The seas are calm as we head for Guatamala. No it never did rain today. Royals weatherman has a near perfect record of being wrong.

Nov 3, 4 - Sea days

It is a 2 day run to our next port of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. The skies are partly cloudy, but the sun is bright and hot. The humidity is high, just like Florida is much of the year.

I have an invitation to an unnamed event on deck 8 by the forward elevators. There is not much there, I will learn later, but I suspect it is something in conjuction with me attaining Pinnacle in Crown and Anchor, Royal's loyalty program.

The top tier ceremony isn't until tomorrow, and I don't get the additional benefits until my next cruise in December, but I am getting closer.

I try to listen to a book this afternoon to only learn I have permission to listen to the books that I just renewed, but the files are not on my phone. A glitch caused by an erroneous setting when I renewed the books in out last port. I will fix at the next port when I have cell service again.

The 5:00 reservation is indeed part of becoming a Pinnacle level. A reception for me  and the other three new Pinnacles on the bridge with the captain and most of the officers, champagne, and presentation photos. No, I don't keep the acrylic block yet, as it will be presented again tomorrow morning at the top tier event. I did get to hold it for a minute though.

Only a few of you will see the humor in this, but the celebration cake was in the shape and appearance of a pineapple.

The entertainment tonight is an Elvis impersonator. Probably one of the better of many I have seen.

Skies are clear and the seas calm as we sail into the night. There is a nice view of the setting sun from the windows in the Diamond club.

The top tier event involves nearly half of the passengers. 27 pinnacle, 291 Diamond plus, and 359 Diamond passengers. I am one of 4 passengers being honored for having attained the level of Pinnacle. The first since this ship left Europe 2 months ago. Again I hold the statue and certificate just long enough for pictures, but at this point it is official, records indicate that I am a Pinnacle.

By noon time the wind has increased to over 25, and seas are increasing to 2 to 3 meters. Despite stabilizers, the ship will pitch and roll.  For the first time since I left Miami over three weeks ago the staff is warning passengers to hold onto railings.

We pass a northbound cruise ship about 5 miles off our Starboard. I think a Celebrity ship but it is too distant to see clearly. Cruise ships and commercial ships are relatively infrequent in these waters.

The Elvis impersonator is doing a matinee show today. Steve Davis, the cruise director has done an excellent job of scheduling many activities. Yesterday there were five football games for the sports addicts to choose from. So far all the lectures I have heard before, but that shouldn't detract from the fact they are made available.

By dinner the ship is rolling pretty good.

I learn more about the altercation in the Diamond Lounge several days ago. The Australian has been instigating trouble with a number of passengers over multiple dsys. Both male and female passengers have been his victims. Royal has been actively investigating each instance, and I will not be surprised if a passenger is disembarked prematurley. So far verbal warnings from the staff have been ineffective.

The entertainment tonight is a comedian/juggler.

Because of tides and currents, we will arrive in port about 5:00 AM, but will not be cleared for disembarkation until 8:30. Royal's weather forecast is for rain.

November 02, 2019

November 1, Cabo San Lucas

Yesterday was Halloween. A number of passengers do an exceptional job with costumes.

I only mention this today, the day after Halloween, as decorations in the Windjammer did not appear until this morning. Mostly carved pumpkins, which probably were brought on board in San Pedro, but didn't make it thru provisioning and the "carving crew" until today.

The weather is good with a cloud cover but no rain. Temperatures are much more reasonable in the mid 80's instead of the 90's of last week. 

We arrive at our scheduled time of 11:00. The Norwegian Bliss, a much larger ship is already anchored in the harbor. We anchor further away from the dock than last week.

Tendering starts about 11:30. The process is very slow, being hindered by the long run and the fact only 4 tenders (lifeboats) are being used.

I get my tender ticket. #12.  By 1:45 they are tendering groups 5 and 6. 2 hours elapsed and less than one quarter of the 22 groups have boarded tenders. Many passengers like me change plans and remain on the ship. I care less, but many are frustrated.

With passengers getting ashore so late there is going to be a problem getting all the passengers back to the ship by 5:15, the scheduled time of the last tender.

I give my tickets to a family with children that are anxious to go ashore. 12 is better than ticket 21 they are holding.

We get underway about an hour or hour and a half late. Like it or not extra fuel will be used if the captain plans to arrive in Puerto Vallarta on time tomorrow morning.

Dinner in the Windjammer is a good decision so far. Tonight is Italian night.

I catch the second show in the theater. An act billed as Music vs. Magic. Ok, but I wouldn't book a cruise just to see them.

There is minimal pitch and roll as we cruise South East along the Mexican coast towards our next port.

November 01, 2019

October 31, A Sea Day

The ship pitches and rolls thru the night and most of the day in the 5 to 6 foot swells. I'm sure it happens often, but I hear of a number of passengers that are not doing well with the motion. The temperatures remain pleasant, only warming to the low 70's. The Solarium is full, but not the deck seating around the pool.

This is a younger crowd than the last two weeks with infants, toddlers, and teenagers present along with their young parents. 

Two weeks ago I had asked the Loyalty Ambassador to change my amenities from wine to Diet Sprite and club soda. For some reason it didn't happen, so I ask her to please chage it if she could. No problem she will see that it is taken care of.

Maybe a language issue, or maybe an inventory issue but the wine is taken back and I am given the Diet Sprite, but sparkling water instead of club soda. Oh, not 12 ounce cans but eight quart bottles without a recloseable top.

After considering a number of options I decide any remainder after opening each bottle will be transferred to a recycled water bottle. Being adaptable helps.

The diamond lounge continues to be quite busy. Rynaldo has asked for a helper, i'm not sure he is much help as most drinks more complicated than a bottle of beer he has to be helped. The helper being helped by the person he is supposed to be helping? Oh well.

The same Motown entertainers from last week are in the theater tonight. Instead I listen to Henry in the Schooner Bar.

By mid evening the seas have subsided and the rolling and creaking cease.

Tomorrow we arrive in Cabo San Lucas.

October 30, San Pedro, Ca. (Los Angeles)

The ship arrives on time and disembarkation starts at 7:00 am. The air temperature is 47 degrees, I knew there was a reason to bring a winter jacket. 

The alarm is set for 7:00 so we can be out of the cabin by 8:00. With a 2:45 flight Gail is scheduled for a 10:00 AM disembarkation with the last passengers scheduled to depart at 10:30, and the back to back passengers after that. The process is a little mixed up. Many passengers are given conflicting directions on the area they need to wait in. Numbers are not called in order, and numbers are only announced in the area where those passengers are supposed to be instead of throughout the ship. Royal soon realizes some of the errors in its process.

We start to disembark about 10:45, nearly an  hour late. Once off the ship we realize the issue, a long line for Customs and Border Protection to check passports.

After over an hour in line and a minute with the cutoms agent the luggage is easy to find and the last two airport transfer buses are waiting. Gail is off to San Mateo

Being an "in transit" passenger I should have been able to get right back on the ship. Because at 12:10 there are still passengers disembarking, I had to wait in the terminal. A few minutes later when I board, the line for customs still extends back to the end of the ramp from the ship. Once openened for boarding, over 2 hours late, a thousand or more passengers quickly fill the ship, the reamainder will board soon.

Passengers that booked a shore excursion in conjunction  with a transfer to the airport found the excursion to be heavily modified due to all the fires around the LA area. Other passengers that planned to tour independently changed plans due to the late departures, there just wasn't enough time.

The Grand Princess is berthed at the next pier. I wonder if they had a better experience? I get the feeling LA is not a cruise ship friendly port, and Royal anticipated a slow disembarkation, but not this slow.

With cellular phone service I call my daughters to let them know I am still alive. It was from this ship two years ago that I was transferred to a local hospital in St John, New Brunswick where I remained for 4 days. So far this trip all is well, I will keep my fingers crossed

A lot happens in two weeks. My youngest daughter became engaged, sold her house and bought a new one. Subjects I heard only a little of before embarking on this trip. I will learn more when I return home. I now have a wedding to pay for, but I won't let that impact my travel budget.

The temperatures rise to the low 70's during the day, Skies remain clear except for the smoke and fog  over the city. The low  humidity is a pleasant change from Florida 

I make the basic decision to dine in the Windjammer buffet this trip instead of the dining room. The extra rolls were not good to me the past two weeks.

The Ship rolls and creaks slightly in the 5 foot seas as we head South to Cabo San Lucas. Tomorrow will be a sea day.

October 30, 2019

October 28 & 29, 2019 Sea Days

The seas remain calm and the skies clear as we head north west towards Los Angeles.

The air temperature has dropped considerably, below 60 at day break, by mid day a brisk 63, cold, compared to the high 80's and 90's of Florida over the past months.

8 or 10 days ago we decided to go to Chops Grille on the next to the last night, day 15. I anticipated that may be a formal night despite the Diamond host telling me formal night would be on day 12.

It turned out I was correct, which was OK, but I missed out on the cheese tortollini for dinner.

Chops was a partial disappointment. The steak was good and properly prepared, but the baked potato barely room temperature. The goat cheese salad lacking in several of the listed ingredients. The bread spread came directly from the freezer and couldn't be penetrated with a butter knife. There was a nice view of the sunset however, and the server was good. In this Chops the table was covered, on some ships only placemats are used.

As often is the case, Chops Grille is less than half occupied.

Jodi, one of the regulars in the Diamond lounge was celebrating her birthday today. Karen, the lounge host, arranged for a birthday cake and Jodi's husband, John, provided party favors. As he does every night Ryanaldi poured free drinks for everyone. A good time was had by all.

The winds are slight, but by midafternoon the ship is creaking, pitching and rolling from the 5 and 6 foot swells coming from the north west. The remnants of some far off storm.

The Centrum and front desk is now adorned with a handful of decorations for Halloween. Maybe more in the next few days.

Royal's relative inexperience with provisoning for longer itineraries shows on this trip. Bananas disappeared about 3 days into the cruise. Today the only fruit available at lunch time is a few apples and kiwii. Soup crackers have been soggy and stale since day one. Potato chips remain since the ship was stocked in Europe, being sourced from Belgium. Soft drink cans have come from Europe, Mexico, and the US.

Despite the relative small number of passengers, 1,938 Royal is expecting it to take three and a half hours to clear the disembarking passengers before processing the 40 or so back to back passengers.

I am going to do both. Disembark with the regular passengers to get Gail off to her plane at LAX, and then reboard as an "in transit" passenger. Allegedly this skips some of the process followed when normally checking in, but is not the same as the back to back passengers. Always something new.

Bingo is a long time favorite activity. This afternoon the big prize is a 7 day cruise for two. Surprisingly only about 25 passengers are playing. Actually makes the odds of winning pretty good. I still pass.

The ship rolls just slightly the remainder of the way to San Pedro, Ca.

Disembarkation is to begin at 7:00

October 28, 2019

Oct 27, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The seas remain calm and the skies blue. This is our last stop before LA,  and the only tender port of the cruise. The ship passes the point of the peninsula with an excellent view of the arch, still intact, unlike the arch in Aruba which collapsed several years ago.

The plan is to go ashore, but with temperatures in the 90's, clear views of the  coastline from the ship, and the ship nearly devoid of passengers we decide the Solarium pool is a wiser choice.

The salt water is crystal clear, and comfortably cool, and swimmer count never exceeds three. Seating is plentiful.

All of the visible coastline is covered with large resort hotels and condiminiums. Definitely a lot of developement here in the past 30 years.

Chicken kiev for dinner is one of the better meals so far.

When I return to the Diamond lounge,  the Executive Chef is paying a vist. What an ear full he was getting from passengers about poor quality food. I felt he had heard it so often, that his responses were well rehearsed. "The food is always hot when it leaves the galley, if not delivered hot it is the serving staff. Otherwise everything is dictated by Miami with ship's staff having little input." The passengers agree to a point, the wait staff tries to make the best of what they are serving.

I expressed my feelings about the factory pastry in place of chef made apple pie. I was surprised to have him tell me they also cost more per serving than fresh pies made on the ship. I had assumed the change was made to cut cost. I was wrong. Why did they change? I now have no idea. Maybe a Royal employee in Miami also owns a pastry factory.

I thought this was going to be one of those rare cruises where I didn't run into anyone I knew other than some of the staff and Steve Davis our cruise director. I'm relieved as I run into Nancy and Ron Cook. Yes her memory was much quicker than mine.

Royal is definitely working hard to modify the cocktail hour benefit for Diamond and Diamond Plus passengers. Over they past few months they have instituted various schemes to collect data such as scanning cards for all drinks, banning delivering soft drinks and water unopened, banning leaving the lounge with a beverage. Not only checking but logging the arrival and departure of every passenger into and out of the lounge. I'm afraid another cutback is in the works.

No show tonight, just the orchestra playing music.

The seas remain calm and flat, the skies clear as we continue our trip north along the coast to the port of San Pedro on October 30. Essentially Los Angeles.

October 27, 2019

Saturday Oct 26, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The captains weather forecast is for rain storms. As we arrive the skies are clear with a slight breeze.

I was here about 35 years ago on my first cruise on the Carnival Tropicale. You shouldn't be surprised when I tell you what I recognize, nothing.

I contribute about 30 USD to the local economy. No, beer is not that expensive, less than $3 at Senor Frogs, but the round trip cab fare and tip was many times times the cost of a beer.

About the first mile of the return cab ride was over the roughest cobblestone streets I can remember. The old Nissan with over 150,000 miles rattles and shakes at every stone. The cab driver does not charge extra for the "massage ride". He is retiring in 4 weeks and praying his car lasts that long.

The weather remains excellent all day. Walmart and the large shopping center across the street do a good business from the ship's passengers, more than one returning with an empty suitcase to pack all the acquired trinkets.

None of the vendors I encounter are aggressive, maybe because of the large police presence.

By the time we leave port, it has never rained, but a few white clouds have appeared. There are times when the forecast being wrong is OK.

What should have been a good comfort food dinner was inedible. BBQ baby back ribs were tougher than shoe leather. Not cuttable or chewable. I can't imagine how they did it. An unusual occurance? No. After dinner the waiter shares that the ribs are never good. It would have helped his tip if he shared that before we ordered. The roast duck was no better.

I pass on the entertainment tonight, motown music, another period of time I missed.

Again the seas remain calm as we leave port and head to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 14 hours up the coast.

Friday Oct 25 - At Sea

The seas are calm throughout the night. Morning finds us in fog and rain, but that soon gives way to mostly clear blue skies.

Royal Caribbean has a large weather tracking and forecasting team in Miami. Information is passed on to all the ships around the globe. It was pointed out to me by another passenger that the forecasts on the ship have not been correct since we left Miami. Maybe the Miami weather department doesn't know where this ship is located.

Todays lecture is on the drug cartels, the corruption in Mexico, and the governments efforts to stabilize the tourist areas.

The sea remains flat and the sun bright all day. Our course takes us 15 to 20 miles off the west coast of Mexico. Despite the sunny weather the pools remain relatively empty, passengers keeping busy with indoor activites like never ending trivia, golf in the centrum, practicing with rhe guest chior and building contraptions for the egg drop contest.

Ronn Lucas does an afternoon matinee show performing to a packed house.

The casino is quite busy, I actually walked thru it once today. I'm sure it was my passage, as a passenger won $10,000.00 on a slot machine. Such a rare event that Steve Davis, the cruise director mentioned it several times.

Bobby Arvonn is our headliner entertainer tonight.  I have seen him several times, and will confess he is one of my least favorites.

Again the seas are flat and the skies are clear as we head to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

October 26, 2019

Oct 24, 2019 Huatulco, Mexico

We arrive at precisely our intended time of 11:00 AM. That is ship's time. Passengers have been told many times to stay on ship's time today. When we leave tonight we will know how many passengers ignore that advice.

The skies are blue, temperatures about 80 with a nice breeze blowing ashore off the Pacific. Another perfect day.

The harbor entrance is quite narrow, but the modern pier is capable of having two cruise ships here at one time. There are no commercial facilities here but hundreds of pleasure craft and vessels to support the tourists such as sport fishing boats.

There are a number of large resorts along the coast. A few look prosperous, several appear to be abandoned.

The marina I would guess has a 1000 to 1500 vessel capacity.

The usual jewelry shops, bars and restaurants along with a sandy beach that is quite busy. Some of the restaurants are not only built on the beach, but there is no distinction where the beach sand becomes the sand floor of the restaurant. Shop keepers are as I have come to expect in Mexico, mildly aggressive.

Several passengers that hired a taxi were given more excitement than they planned. A police officer stopped the cab, ordered everyone to get out. The officer would not let the cab continue until he extorted a payoff from the driver. The payoff amount wasn't disclosed. Fortunately the passengers weren't robbed. Mexico is still a corrupt country.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

October 24, 2019

Oct 23, 2019 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Our ship arrives at this industrial port before sunrise. The Windjammer opens at 5:30 to accomodate the many passengers that leave on shore excursions at 6:00. No that is not a typo, excursions are leaving at 6:00, earlier than I have ever seen before. Not for this passenger.

The skies are mostly clear.
This is a small but busy commercial port. A bulk carrier is unloading coal in front of us. Several smaller container ships are loading or unloading nearby. At least five more ships are waiting at sea for their turn to enter port.

Our dock is a floating dock with a several hundred foot floating ramp. Probably safe even if it does rock and roll as passengers cross. No vehicles here, not even a golf cart. No room for more than one cruise ship either.

There is a small but very nice shopping area for locally made handicrafts. A restaurant is advertised. Besides beer, the only available food I see on any menu is pizza or nachos.

The area is exceptionally clean and the locals very friendly. Muscians play in a central gazebo. No vendors in your face here.

In exiting the ship I saw signs directing to the dialysis center. Not something I usually see on a ship. I will try to learn more.

During the day many visitors are being given a tour of the ship and enjoying lunch in the buffet. Relatives of crew, prospective employees or future customers I have no idea. The only hint that their stay is limited is the prominent "VISITOR" tags.

The headliner entertainment tonight is Ronn Lucas, a good entertainer I have seen several times in the past.

The seas are calm as we leave the sheltered port and head North to our first Mexican port of Huatulco.

October 23, 2019

Oct 22 - A Sea Day

The rainy weather of yesterday has given way to mostly blue skies and bright sun. The humidity is high, but the temperature is a comfortable 80 degrees. The walking track is quite busy with walkers, an endless stream of bodies working off a week of over eating. 

Speaking of eating, I was exceptionally good in the dining room last night, a small bowl of pea soup and a plate of fruit. Of course there were also some lime slices with my gin. No risk of scurvy for me like plauged sailors of long ago. The head waiter continues to do most of the work for our table. The consensus of most passengers is that the dining rooms are pretty non functional, the main dining room being worse than my time. Many guests acknowledhe that they have given up are are going to the Windjammer. Sounds familiar.

Those thoughts remind me that I failed in my challenge to define a lower level of expectation for ship food and service.

All that said about the dining room, the beverage service in the Diamond lounge is excellent!

Over the past week several officers  and management staff have made a visit to the lounge to visit with guests. Where in the past the crew was forbidden from accepting gifts from guests like a fruit basket or plate of chocolate covered strawberries, the practice is now permitted, at least on this ship. If I were a crew member I would be cautious.

This morning is the top tier party for all the crown and anchor members of platinum and above. 27 Pinnacle, 213 Diamond Plus, and 356 Diamond. The 3 top cruisers 1220, 1256, and 1272 points respectively. On my next cruise I join the ranks of Pinnacle. A few more benefits, access to The Coastal Kitchen on those ships that have it, and entry to the Concierge lounge again. A benefit that was taken away from Diamond Plus passengers earlier this year.

There have been a few very brief showers today. The seas remain at about 6 to 7 feet, enough to impart a gentle pitch and roll.

Sitting in the Crown Lounge we are headed directly into a very black cloud. Definitely will be more than a brief shower.

Just before we enter the rain cloud, several whales are spotted 50 yards off the starbord side. Not a usual sighting this time of year. Of course I don't get a picture.

As we enter the storm, visibility is reduced to a few hundred feet.

This afternoon there is an excellent presentation about pick pockets and some things you can do to protect yourself. Well qualified on the subject, the speaker advises and teaches law enforcement worldwide. Just a tidbit, pickpockets expect to make over $10,000.00 per day.

Veal shank for dinner was very good. I catch the last production show with the singers and dancers.

By bedtime the ships roll has disappeared as the seas become almost flat.

Tomorrow we arrive in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala 

Oct 21 - Punterenas, Costa Rica

The local authorities have contacted the ship and moved our arrival time up by an hour to better coincide with the tide.

As we arrive two tugs are standing by to help us into the pier if needed. Apparently the tidal currents are very strong near the pier, and it was the strong currents that prompted the change in arrival.

We are secured to the pier without incident.  Many buses back down the long pier to be loaded with excursion passengers. Yes they backed about a third of a mile as the pier is only about 25 feet wide, no room to turn around. Semi trucks with provisions for the ship have the same issue, drive on, back off.

The skies are overcast and it drizzles rain on and off during most of the day. The sun peeks thru, almost dries the decks, and then it sprinkles again. Repeat, repeat, and keep repeating. By dinner time, as most passengers have returned to the ship, the rain ceases.

One passenger returned with minor unjuries. While zip lining he became stuck between towers. The bearings froze and would not turn. The solution, send another rider to crash into him and push him along. Now there were two stuck riders dangling above the  jungle canopy. Somehow they changed carriers mid air.

Some of the shore excursions offered here are the same as offered from the Caribbean side of the country. Makes sense once you think about it. All said, I stay on the ship.

Cell service here is the best since Miami, a strong signal and as fast a connection as I need.  The staff says the internet on the ship is working, many passengers report otherwise.  I haven't tried it yet.

A good day to possibly watch a movie, and listen to a book. Yes listen, as listening is easier than reading hardcopies or ebooks.

During the night there remains a slight pitch and roll to the ship. As always a good night sleep awaits.

October 21, 2019

Oct 20 - A Sea Day

When I awaken the ship is still creaking, groaning an rolling. The skies are producing a steady rain. The pools are empty except for 5 or 6  hardy souls that realize the rain will get them no more wet than the hot tubs.  The pools remain open but empty as the water sloshes about quite vigorously, potentially an invitation to be slammed into the edge of the pool. A few deck chairs under cover are occupied, but otherwise  nearly everyone is finding refuge indoors.

We are moving at a mere 15 knots, soon a mid sized container ship overtakes us. Probably bound for California

I listen to the excursion presentation for our upcoming Mexican ports, an interview with the executive chef, and a presentation on many of the upcoming repositioning cruises. One actually caught my attention. I have to check the medical schedule first to see if I should even consider it.

Trying to always be one to learn new things, I learn about a virus that is threatening the world wide crop of banannas. So far no luck in stopping the deady disease, the only hope being a resistant GMO breed that is yet to be developed. As the disease is currently spreading, banannas will probably be extinct in 15 to 25 years. Before then expect the price to rise exponentially. Yes the crops in Costa Rica, Guatamela and all other countries are already being affected.

The violinist is doing a matinee show today, billed as not being a repeat of his show several days ago. I pass and use the time to write this.

Just for the cruious, the rain jacketed life guard stands at his post at the edge of the empty pool.

Entertainment tonight is another comedian, not my favorite entertainment, but he is good.

The rain continues all day, but the seas gradually subside. The creaking and rolling subsides by bedtime.

Oct 19, 2019 Crossing The Panama Canal

The skies are clear and sunny as we take our position to enter the first lock. We are the tenth Northbound ship of the day. Yes Northbound. The canal runs more North and South than it does East and West. In fact when we exit on the pacific side we are actually further East than when we entered the canal.

As expected we use the old locks, locks that have been in operation for over 100 years. A very large container ship right behind us uses the new locks. Obviously too long for the original locks. Many passengers scramble to find a viewing spot on the bow of the ship. I elect a spot on the stern that is much less busy and offers unobstructed views.

Our narrator for the crossing had worked for the canal for over 30 years and did an excellent job of explaining the transit. It didn't appear to me that the canal was especially busy.

Once in Gantun lake we are in a hold position for several hours to allow South bound traffic to clear the narrow channels. The weather remains good most of the day with just a few showers. We must be one of the last ships to exit as locked behind us are a small sightseeing ferry and a private yacht, possibly 45 feet in length maximum.  

It is well after dark when we finally reach the pacific. Clouds and rain preclude any view of Panama City. The seas have increased to 5 or 6 feet and the ship begins to roll.

Roast turkey for dinner, one of the better offerings from the galley. It is tender and flavorful.

Tonight's show is an Elton John tribute. A good show but I feel Kelly Goodrich does a better job immitating Elton.  

Hopes were raised that the internet was fixed. It hasn't worked since we left Florida.  This ship has just returned recently from Europe where it spent the summer. When it reached the coastal US the antennaes were supposed to lock in on a different satelite. It didn't happen.  A technician was flown to Colon where he boarded the ship to fix the problem. We will see.

Through the evening and thru the night the ship creaks and moans in the higher seas. The ses sickness bags are hung everywhere. I will seep well, unfortunately there will be a few passengers that are not as happy.

Tomorrow is a sea day as we head North West towards California.

Oct 18, 2019 Colon, Panama

I wake early enough to watch our arrival at Colon, Panama. the seas are flat, the temperatures comfortable in the low 80's and the skies dark and threatening.

Dozens of ships are anchored within the break wall surrounding the entrance to the harbor, many more are waiting in the distance. Either waiting for a load of cargo, or waiting for their alloted time slot to enter the canal.

Colon is not a large city, but is a large port for commercial traffic. Many ships are unloading or loading containers, bulk cargo, or autos. A large modern CNG carrier awaits off shore.

A special treat in Colon, We share the cruise terminal with the former Monarch of The Seas, one of my favorite ships that I sailed many times out of Port Canaveral before Royal sold her to a sister brand Pulmantur.

Today is also our day to bunker, or take on fuel. My guess, the least costly port we will be in. The fuel tanker remain tied alongside most of the day.

The overcast skies turn into a light drizzle. Most passengers are taking tours, even the solarium is nearly empty.

I elect to stay on the ship except for a brief vist to the shops on the pier. I finally have phone service and am able to download all my emails and text messages. It takes me over an hour to read thru them and either respond or as more often is the case, delete them.

Despite the large number of Diamond level and above passengers, the service in the Diamond lounge has been excellent.

It is after dark when we leave port to take our position to enter the canal in the morning.

October 18, 2019

Oct 17 Cartegena, Columbia

We arrive in Cartegena first thing in the morning. The captain tells up the high temperature will be in the low 80's. The skies are partly overcast.  Being my first visit to Cartegena, I have booked a shore excursion, a panoramic overview.

Royal has designed a good system to board the 1500 or so passengers that are taking shore excursions. The theater and lounges are divided into numbered sections, each number representing a bus. As passengers arrive in the waiting area they are given bus stickers and instructed where to wait. When the bus is ready the entire group leaves together.  It works quite well.

Much of Cartegena is only a few feet above sea level at high tide, sewage backs up into the streets as it is unable to flow to the sea. Fortunately the side walks are high enough that we keep our feet dry. The future Venice of South America? 

The street vendors are in your face at every turn. Much  worse than I remember ever encountering in any European port or Nassau, a destination infamous for aggressive vendors. Uniformed police have a large presence.

There is a small sanctuary for flamingos, peacocks and other birds and monkeys at the pier. As often is the case, all returning passengers are forced to pass all the shops etc. in order to return to the ship. Actually this might have been the high point of the tour. 

At one point our guide lost the bus, or the other way around, and we were left standing on the sidewalk for about 30 minutes waiting for the bus to return as the water level in the street slowly rose. The temperature? Not in the 80's as our captain predicted, but a hot muggy 97!

I came, I saw, and I won't put Cartegena on my list of must return to places even though I will be back in a couple of weeks. 

There have already been several medical emergencies. Events that I am now more conscious of after having been evacuated from this ship myself just two years ago in St John, NB Canada.

During the day the Crystal Symphony pulls in to share our dock. An all inclusive line where everything is paid for up front. A ship much smaller than we are. Maybe some day, but not high on my list of priorities.

I am surprised that I remember the production show from two years ago. Often I don't remember what I had for breakfast. Tonight the headliner show is also one I have seen before, a violinist from London.

I learn from other passengers that the internet on the ship has  not worked since we left Florida. Likewise I was unable to get cell service in Columbia. The emails can pile up. Maybe I will have better luck in Panama.     

The seas remain calm as we head to Colon,  Panama where we will will spend a day before crossing thru the Panama Canal to the Pacific ocean.

Oct 15, 16 - two sea days

Our course takes us south thru the Bahamas passage between the Bahama islands, Hatti and Cuba. For much of the first day Cuba is a dozen miles off the Starboard side of the  ship.  There are a few heavy but brief morning showers.

The demographics of the  passenger manifest as one would expect for a longer cruise, mostly retired frequent travellers. Into our third day I have only seen a couple of people that I would guess to be under 30. Surprisingly walkers and motor scooters are at a minimum and no service animals, leading me to reinforce the conclusion that historically most were "fake", and with new rules passengers are unable to bring them. Many nationalities are represented.

Lounge chairs in the sun by the pool are plentiful. This crowd learned years ago of the consequences of sun bathing, a lesson yet to be learned by much of the younger generations.  

In addition to the usual dance classes, trivia and other games, this cruise has added more movies and guest lectures for each sea day.  Whether organized, or just impromptu groups of passengers, there are also bridge lessons, various religous discussion groups and even debates on various topics in the Schooner bar moderated by a staff member.

The first night food in the dining  room was delivered barely warm. The next night the head waiter stepped in to not only take our order but to deliver it to us. Definitely hot, the plate would burn your fingers.  Our waiter I have had before on the Brilliance. He remembered me first.

Dress for formal night was much better than the past two weeks on the Mariner. The captain's reception was sparsely attended, most of these passengers are no longer interested with such traditions. They have been there and done that too often in the past.

I verify with the Loyalty desk delivery of several bottles of wine. Being a longer cruise, delivery is being spread over several days instead of everything beng delivered on the first day as often is the case. Fine with me.

By mid day of our second sea day, the seas have increased to about a meter, and there are a few white caps. Still not enough to be felt by most passengers on the ship. We have turned our clock back one hour to align with Columbian time. Skies remain clear and sunny.

As our ship gets further south the seas again subside to a few feet. A very smooth far.

Tomorrow morning we dock at our first port, Cartagena, Columbia.