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.

February 18, 2019

Feb 17, Granada

Breakfast in the Solarium, then back to the room to gather my camera, ID, and some cash. My tour meets on shore at the end of the pier. As I start down the pier it all comes back to me, yes I have been here before, and I have been telling everyone this would be a new port. Oh well, I still remember where I left my keys, (in my car) and where my cabin is (on the ship).

The last time I was here I took the same tour to a nutmeg factory and the Diamond Chocolate facility. At least I am consistant in my thinking.

I am quickly reminded why I forgot about this, there is not too much to remember.  Narrow streets, very poor living conditions, and another struggling economy.  It is Sunday and most shops are closed, so the economy looks even worse as there is no activity.

Our tour guide is French Canadian and traveled here with his wife in his sailboat from Northern Lake Champlain about 6 years ago. It took him a year to get here, and they still live on the boat. The local government is very supportive of people that arrive by boat as opposed to those that arrive by plane. Arrive by plane and your maximum stay is 4 months, by boat, indefinite.

I purchase about a pound of chocolate. A reasonable way to support the local economy.  Presently unemployment is about 30%, a major improvement from a few years ago when it neared 50%. 

A  few other tour guide facts. Bring a car to the island and the import duty is 150% of the cost of the vehicle. No building codes for wood structures, just if you use concrete. Government services are nearly nonexistant. When asked what does the government spend money on, the guide refused to answer. The local medical college supplies 2% of all medical doctors in the US. When hurricanes closed many Caribbean ports recently, Granada was over whelmed with 4 and 5 ships a day resulting in more tourists than locals.  Tourism is the main economic force.

The weather is perfect with the air and water temperature both about 78 or 79 degrees. The skies are mostly clear with an occasional patch of clouds passing by in the strong easterly trade winds. 

By midafternoon the pools are busy.

The lounge is full tonight, but not over crowded. It has become very obvious that David is the best bartender in the lounge. He works circles around the others that sometimes are more of a hinderance than a help. Especially when one drops a tray of glasses over the bar wells. Shattered glass everywhere that brings all service to a halt for 15 minutes.

Overnight we cruise to Barbados where we arrive for an 8:00 AM disembarkation.

February 17, 2019

Feb 16, St Lucia

We arrive In St Lucia. The Skies are partly cloudy. We dock at the shopping side of the port, a TUI ship is docked across the harbor at the commercial pier. A 150 ft three masted schooner is moored near us, probaby a private vessel.

I often sleep 10 hours, but last night it was 11, very unusual for me. I was even in bed by 10 last night. This cruising stuff is just so exhausting.

No Special K available for breakfast, so it will have to be Corn Flakes. For the most part Royal has done away with the little boxes of cereal, and uses dispensers for cold cereal. Certainly more economical and much less waste to contend with.

Speaking of waste and the environment, there no longer is any plastic. Coffee cups and straws are paper and stir sticks and skewers are bamboo.

The maintenance supervisor is again working on the Concierge Lounge door. Sometime it slams shut, other times it does not close and passengers without access can and do just walk in. He adjusts it, tries it once, and leaves. 5 minutes later when the door is next used, it does not close. I now see why it often takes more than one attempt to get things fixed. In reality, after 16 years the ship is beginning to show some age.

This is an unusual trip for me in that some friends, my oldest daughter, son, spouses, and grandaughter will be boarding the ship in about two weeks. This is an opportunity for me to be "reprovisioned". Unfortunately I have thought of nothing I need them to bring other than some empty suitcase space to return home the rum and beach towels I have accumulated. Space was prearranged as many of 6 month old Eliza's baby diapers will be left behind.

Just two lifeboats are launched today, probably training for crew that have just returned to the ship. David is trying to get a jump start on the bar, at 12:15 he brings ice and other supplies. I doubt much of the ice will be left by 4:30.

Book listening is in order for the rest of the afternoon. One completed with several days to spare.

When I arrive in the dining room my waiter is quick to share that the individual that has been causing all the disruption won't be causing any more, at least not for this  part of the dining room. His reservation has been "moved". To where and when wasn't shared.  Apparently he came to the dining room every night drunk. There must have been quite a few complaints for Royal to have the courage to address the situation. Good for them. Now if they would just deal with the lounge chair hogs. Even though I don't use them most passengers do.

A Royal sponsored tour on a "pirate ship" is late returning to port so our departure is held up about 30 minutes. With all the islands so close together it really doesn't matter much.

The headliner entertainer tonight is Marcus, a juggler and comedian. Usually jugglers are not too exciting, but his comedy made the show excellent.

Tomorrow we will be in Granada. I have an early morning tour so I forgo anything after the 8:30 show.

February 16, 2019

Feb 15, St Kitts

Our passage through the night is smooth and calm. Again plans have changed. We are docked at our usual pier in St Kitts. The Carnival Fascnation shares our pier, the Norwegian Dawn is across the harbor where we were expecting to dock. It will be busy in the shops.

I stay on the ship today and catch up on some emails. I have been listening to an E Book that expires in a few days. Hopefully I can finish it today.

Refueling is in process and if like last week will take most of the day. About a dozen crewmembers and staff are practicing righting a small 15 passenger inflatable life raft and pulling people into it from the water. This takes place in the main pool, a drill I have seen before, and an excercise in which I hope to never participate.

A comfortable place to write is in the Concierge Lounge. Occasionally I overhear interesting conversations like the couple this morning staying in a two bedroom suite ordering dinner to be delivered to thier cabin this evening, and needing chairs as all they have are balcony chairs. They order from the main dining room menu. Appetizer, main course and dessert will be delivered all together at the requested time. ( whenever they want as long as it is during regular dining hours.) Minor tasks for JJ. 

Many passengers have been in and out this morning, and no one has mentioned to JJ that we changed ports. The front desk was still telling passengers this morning we were at the other port, and passengers were surprised when they started down the pier.  When JJ learned of our true location it was mutually decided that everyone else on the ship had the correct information and that the Captain just got lost and pulled into the wrong pier.

The skies started out sunny, but have clouded over by mid day. The skies look like they will release a heavy deluge any minute, but there are just a few lite sprinkles through the afternoon. The temperatures are cool for this part of the world, maybe 75 with a nice breeze.

Returning to my cabin late in the afternoon I find a surprise. A plate of chocolate covered strawberries. Unlike the usual process, there is no note to say who they are from or why. Regardless, they were delicious. Often available in the Diamond and Concierge lounge, these are the first I have seen.

Between 4:00 and 4:30 the regulars begin to congregate in the Lounge. The bar tender and a helper arrive at 4:15. They finally have the process figured out, and have the bar ready by opening at 4:30.

Historically the lounge is often visited by various officers and staff. The 40 guests in the room probably represent 75 years  of cruising with Royal and have a good insight how this particular crew is functioning. So far in the past 15 days the only staff member to make an appearance is the future sales manager trying to sell future bookings.

I head to dinner about 5:20 so that I will arrive at my requested dining time of 5:30. I am usually punctual about such things. As I am waiting for an elevator, which tend to be scarce at this time of day, I chat with Mario, the Diamond Lounge Concierge. Other passengers gather, When an elevator arrives I excuse myself from conversation with Mario to which he replies he will ride down with me.

Several others overhead that comment and immediately jumped to a conclusion. "Are you OK?" I respond that I'm fine, Why?  "Do you want me go with you?" I'm headed to dinner. Oh, we thought Mario was taking you to the medical facility. There was a good laugh.

That is the way many passengers are, always ready to jump in and help a fellow passenger.

At dinner I learn about the strawberries. They came from our waiter. Unusual, as I wasn't aware a waiter had a budget for such things. The guests at  three of his tables received them, probably an attempt by the dining room staff to apologize for the behavior of his other table earlier in the cruise.

Our headliner entertainer tonight is Lisa, a singer. She boarded late this afternoon and will probably leave tomorrow but doesn't say. The early show is nearly full. She does a good job despite indications of her being exhausted.

Tonight we head to St Lucia at a speed of 17 knots. The seas are about 3 feet, and the ships motion is negligible.


February 15, 2019

Feb 14, Ponce, PR

I have been to San Juan, PR  numerous times but never before to Ponce. We arrive on time. This is a near empty commercial port. Cranes and infrastructure to handle lots of container cargo, but no ships, no cargo, no containers.  The economy of Puerto Rico is so distraught that there is zero container trade at this port. There is one small oil tanker berthed nearby.

A handful of tents have been setup to house local vendors, no cruise terminal located here. On the plus side, the tour busses are only a few steps from the gangway. Very few ships call here. The Serenade was here in November, and another cruise ship last month. 

An ambulance is awaiting as we arrive. It is amazing how conscious of this I am after taking a ride from the ship in one myself 16 months ago. Temperatures are in upper 70's, the skies partly cloudy as we arrive, but showers are expected. 

Ponce as a community is trying very hard to make cruise passengers welcome. A band played in the town square, many store fronts sported "Welcome Serenade Passsengers". The police presence is strong, probably 50 uniformed officers around the square. Half are dedicated to directing traffic. They tell each tour bus exactly where to park. Venturing from the area of thier presence doesn't look like a good idea.

My tour was as described, a tour of a museum, a mansion built in the 1930 by the family of what is now Don Q distillery, and 45 minutes to roam and shop the downtown area. What was unique was that there were two guides on the bus in addition to the driver. The driver had difficulty navigating the narrow streets, at one point as he was making a left turn downhill onto a very narrow street he wedged the bus between a light pole and a parked car. The tour guides went knocking on doors to find the car owner to move the car. If they hadn't been successful, we might have been there for hours as the bus was unable to move forward or back. The damage to the bus was minimal, the car escaped unscathed.

Yes, I did get wet during the 15 minute shower that would better be described as a downpour. I didn't melt, and I did dry within 30 minutes.

The head waiter greeted me on entry to the dining room and again thanked me for bringing the issue of the nearby table to his attention. Tonight was not a problem. As with all back to back cruises, the menu this week is exactly the same as last week. Again the best choice was the four cheese ravioli. I was in and out of the dining room in about 45 minutes.

One of the nice things that JJ does every night for all guests in the Concierge Lounge is hand out a one page fact sheet that she puts together for the next days port. This is when I learn our port tomorrow is not as expected in St Kitts, but instead we will be docking at the commercial pier in Frigate Bay, about a 10 minute shuttle ride from Port Zante where we usually dock.  I expect I will remain on the ship.

The seas are less than 3 feet as we cruise at 17 knots towards St Kitts with an expected clearance by 8:00 AM

February 14, 2019

Feb 12, 13, Sea Days

The skies are clear, the sun bright. Seas remain under 6 feet, almost directly on our bow, the best seas for passengers as the ship has no roll and just a minor slow pitch. Temperatures are to be  just uder 80 for the next two days. As always, there is a chance of a passing sprinkle.

In order, our next six ports are: Ponce, Puerto Rico; Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis; Castries, St. Lucie; St George's, Grenada; Bridgetown Barbados; and St John's Antiqua. Ponce and Grenada are ports that I have not visited before, at least I don't think I have. 

I think every pool chair is occupied by a towel. Most of the passengers are from the northern states, and they can't resist working on thier sunburns. With our 17 knot speed, and the 25 knot breeze on our bow, the decks are breezy. There are a lot more children and younger passengers on this cruise. I am told it is school break time for some northern state schools.

Both the Diamond Lounge and Concierge Lounge were full at 9:30 this morning. I grabbed a bananna and an orange juice and moved to the Vortex to find a seat. About 75 guests attend the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle. Again I don't get my reservation, but know where and when to go. The Royal staff member in charge says she will add my name for the next two cruises. After I reminded so many others to sign up, it is fitting that my registration is the one to get lost.

I select a couple of excursions for the ports I have never visited. As I was talking to the person at the excursions desk, initially the first was all sold out, but as we spoke someone cancelled and two tickets became available. Not all of my luck is bad.

Tonight is formal night, the menu is the same as the last cruise, and the same menu rotation will continue for the next month. I don't know whether it is hangovers, the effect of it being formal night, or the result of this guest and others having a conversation with the head waiter, but the table behind me  is more respectful of the rest of the dining room tonight.

I know this will come as a big disappointment to others in my family, but savory bites are nowhere to be seen, and the cheese rolls are scarce. My waiter has confirmed that sometimes savory bites are available on special request. I order an apple pie for dessert, it has always been good and something I never have a home. My surprise when I am served a four inch round pastry. The waiter tells me this is the "new" apple pie, and I have the first he has served. The flavor is of apple pie, but it is now mostly crust with few apples. I am sure flour cost less than apples.

The Concierge Lounge is busy but enjoyable tonight. The bar tender forgot his keys and when he returned with them he had difficulty opening the locks, so he is late setting up and serving guests. Several guests offer to help, but our offers are ignored.  A little later in the evening a passenger manages to close the fire doors. Fortunately JJ is in the room and knows who to call to get them opened. I doubt any of the passengers could have figured it out. They just can't be manually opened.

Motion of the ship is slight, and continues throughout the night. We turn our clocks ahead one hour, where they will remain until our return to Port Everglades on Feb 22.

I sleep for over 10 hours, a common occurence almost every night while on a ship. I have thought about adding pitch and roll to my bed at home, but just cruising is easier.

The top tier party is this morning, I get to say Hi to Carly, the cruise Director I got to know last year. On this cruise there are 42 pinnacle, 244 Diamond plus and 317 Diamond passengers. The top cruisers have 1944 points and have been on the ship over 3 months.

The skies were a little cloudy first thing this morning but soon cleared. The decks remain breezy, but all the lounge chairs are covered with towels or people being burned by the  sun. There is a little motion to the ship, but not enough to make her creak and bang.
The rowdy table is back in action tonight in the dining room tonight. Fortunately they don't arrive until I am almost ready to leave. As we leave together, the people at both of the tables next to me stop to say something to the head waiter. He says he will address the problem, I am doubtful.

I catch the 8:30 production show and retire for the night. Tomorrow we are in Ponce, PR  and I have an early tour.

Feb 11, Turnaround at Port Everglades

I awake long before my alarm clock is set to go off. We have been instructed to meet at 9:15 for processing as back to back passengers. We need to get our new sea pass cards, and be checked by CBP, usually just a cursory review of our passports.

By 7:40 all the self assist passengers are gone, and they begin calling luggage tag numbers. The process is quick this morning. Before 8:45 all tag numbers have been called.

Processing of the 143 back to back guests begins, we are given our new sea pass cards. Once all other passengers have cleared the ship we head to the terminal at about 9:20. A short wait on the second floor and an agent comes to check our passports. We pass by one at a time and I am back on the ship by 9:45

Early the sun was shining, by the time I'm back aboard it begins to rain. There are over 100 pallets of provisions on the pier waiting to be loaded. The produce is gettng an extra wash.

The ship is almost erie. There are no lights, no music, no sounds. I head to my cabin. The only light in the Centrum comes from the outside windows. The shops are all dark, there is barely enough light to see the stairs. I know that the closed door that says "do not enter" does not apply to back to back guests.We can have access to our cabins at any time.  I'm headed to get my keyboard and computer. The hallway is dark except for a few lights. There is no power in any of the cabins. interior cabinis are especially dark. After carrying a flashlight for many years in case I need to find my way, I finally do and use it. 

All power to the ship was shut off so the emergency generators could be tested, the elevators were still functional, as are emergency lighting, and the black water sewage system. All other electrical loads were turned off.

I head to the Vortex lounge to return a few phone calls. The piano is being tuned, not a conducive background noise for phone calls. I move to the Concierge Lounge. By the time any new passengers begin to board electrical power has been turned on, the rain has stopped and the clouds begin to break up.

A special lunch is being provided for the back to back guests. A little load off the Windjammer, and a special touch that costs Royal nothing. The braised beef portion was triple the size of what was served for dinner a week ago, I ccouldn't begin to eat all of it.

JJ has moved from the Diamond lounge to the Concierge lounge this week. Mario has returned from vacation to head up the Diamond Lounge. Carly has returned from vacation to resume her duties as Cruise Director. All staff I know from previous years.

I have the same table this week, but new wait staff. The table behind me that was so quiet last week is now filled with a group of loud party people.

Two of the  headliner acts from last week are held over for shows this week. The comedian, not one of my  favorites anyway, is pretty dull.

We will spend the night and the next two days at sea on our way to six different islands. As I retire the seas are less than 6 feet, and the ship has negligible motion.


February 11, 2019

Two days at Sea

During the night the seas increase to about 2 meters, enough to give a little motion to the ship. Being in an inside cabin, as I always am on a ship, I have no clue as to what is happening outside. I turn on the TV and turn to the channel with the bridge cam as I am thinking of getting up for the day. Water is streaming over the window in front of the camera, it must be pouring out. I head for breakfast in the Solarium. I am surprised to see blue skies and bright sunshine. Apparently just as I turned the TV on, the windows were being washed on the bridge. Pictures can lie.

I have internet service for the next two days, compliments of Royal and my loyalty level. Emails are  answered and several other tasks are taken care of and then I spend most of the rest of the morning working on stuff for the train club. After a few hours the battery in my laptop gives out, ending that. I will have many more days.

With the nice sun, and temperatures in the upper 70's, and no rain I might add, the Solarium and pool decks are full. There is barely a chair without a towel. Do notice I didn't say the chairs were full with people.  As on many ships, people "reserve" a spot by laying out a towel and placing a  book or other object to hold it until they return, possibly many many hours later. No reserving of chairs is another policy that is totally ignored and never enforced.

Tonight is formal night, again. Lobster tails for those that are so inclined. I will have either prime rib or cheese tortelloni. I'm not sure if it is the three cheese variety or not. You would think if it were they would advertise the fact. Maybe my waitess and assistant wll be back and I can find out the true story for yesterday's absence.

The lounges have now reversed, the Concierge lounge is quiet and peaceful at happy hour, the Diamond lounge and the overflow to the Vortex Lounge is very loud. 

I decide on the tortelloni for an appetizer, and a slice of prime rib. The tortelloni is good, but not as I remember the three cheese. The beef is as I ordered, but doesn't hold a candle to what I have at home.

I learn the truth from our waiter. They were given the day off for being the top sales team in the dining rooms. Sales such as specialty dining, cookbooks, and the upcharged meals in the dining room.

The show this evening is a production show with the singers and dancers. Reserved seating isn't needed tonight as the theater is only 80% full. The schooner bar afterwards, much less. I imagine people are winding down as the end of the cruise is approaching for most pasengers.

When I return to my stateroom, my clean laundry has been delivered. Clean clothes for another week.

By morning  the seas have increased to almost three meters with waves mostly on the bow.  The ship rides nicely with a little roll and pitch. The centrum elevator cables slap against the elevator shafts with a loud crack like the sound of a bullwhip. Most passengers take it in stride, some are greatly distressed. 

Midday the skies become mostly cloudy, with temperatures in the upper 70's. The pool chairs remain in high demand, but the sloshing of the pool water keeps passengers out of the pools. Our speed has slowed a  bit to just over 17 knots, I'm sure still fast enough to arrive in Port Everglades on time.

The last day for most passengers, suitcases to be packed, farewells to be exchanged.

Both lounges are very loud and very busy tonight. One drink and off to dinner. An egg noodle carbonara is my best option. I expected peas in it, there were none.

Leaving the dining room I request the same table for the next 11 days. Waiter assignments have not been made yet, so I may or may not have the same wait staff. Regardless the location is good, close to the galley and close to the windows.

I expect animal control will be sent to my cabin soon. It is overrun with koala bears, elephants, and mice among other white species. The bottles of rum have been brought to my cabin. No cross checking to see that I will be on the ship for another month. What an easy way to get your own liquor on board if you are doing multiple cruises. Sorry Alyssa if the rum doesn't make it home.

We are expected to arrive in Port Everglades before 7:00 for turnaround day. I set my alarm  for 7:30 just to be sure. With turning our clocks back to Florida time, I expect to be awake long before I need to be.

February 08, 2019

Friday Feb 8, St Marten

The skies are sunny, there is a nice island breeze. Temperatures are probably near 80, the same as the surrounding ocean. We are the only cruise ship in port today, usually there are three or four. What a difference. The docks are not crowded, there is no line for the water taxi.

There are three large private yachts here. The largest is about 200 feet and has at least 5 decks. She is being reprovisioned, boxes and boxes brought by vans and carried up the gangway one by one.

The middle sized yacht soon leaves port. I only see a few crew members handling the lines and pulling in the gangway.

The smallest of the three, maybe 100 feet in length is painted a high gloss black, more shiny than the fanciest black limo you have ever seen. She sports a helicopter on the top deck and looks like a yacht right out of a James bond movie. Maybe she is.

I get all my emails as soon as I have cell service in each port. I learn that my brother passed this morning. Not an unexpected event as he was fighting a losing battle with brain cancer. That's two losses this week. As bad news like this often comes in threes, I wonder what is next?

My task for the day is to stop and see Nick at the Lazy Lizard, and purchase some Bananna Rum for my youngest daughter. I was surprised to learn that Nick bottles the rum himself, not using a commercial bottler. I expect that would be near impossible to do in the US.

Despite my maturity and failing body, one part that still  works remarkably well is my ears. I over hear a middle aged couple sitting several tables behind me at the Lazy Lizzard. They are not from the cruise ship, they did not come by yacht, but by boat.  What boat they did not say. They will probably stay about a month, but plans are not too firm as they continue on a round the world venture. The gentleman is so impressed with his food that he orders a second plate. I believe it was calamari.

A simple cheeseburger and diet coke for me. Much better than what is available on the ship.

Either some of the crew missed the life boat drill the other day, or needed additional training as several lifeboats are launched today. They do  their usual running around the harbor and then are brought back on board.

This was  our fifth island stop in just as many days, unusual for a Caribbean cruise. Deck 13 is almost unbearably hot this afternoon. Either the AC has malfunctioned, or more likely has been turned off. The lounges are full, but not over crowded.

Neither my waiter or assistant are in the dining room tonight. Within several minutes I am given several excuses. First they have been given the day off because they are "employees of the month", next I hear they are sick and quarantined, third I am told they have exceeded the maximum number of allowed working hours. The third is most plausible, but I will probably hear an official reason tomorrow night, that is assuming they haven't just jumped ship.

The pasta is not nearly as good as several days ago. The sauce lacks flavor, and appears to have been watered down.

When I return to the Concierge lounge the AC is working, and the noise level is tolerable.

For the next two and a half days we will cruise at about 18 knots on our way back to Port Everglades. Most passengers will disembark  and then I will begin an eleven day cruise to four different Eastern Caribbean islands with a return call to St Kitts.  I will learn how many other passengers are staying on the ship on turn around day, I am already aware of quite a few. The seas are forecast to be under two meters, essentially flat.

Feb 7, St Kitts

We arrive in St Kitts and passengers begin disembarking before I awake.  The Captain's forecast for today is for overcast skies and rain. I think he has his days confused. Yesterday he forecast clear sunny skies, and there were showers much of the day. Today as I look out the skies are mostly blue with an occasional whispy cloud.

I grab a  quick breakfast in the Diamond Lounge and head ashore.

We are sharing the dock with the Celebrity Summit, and there is another ship anchored in the harbor using tenders. She is too far out for me to identify but I believe she might be a Windstar ship. 

Workmen are busy constructing a new pier, I suspect which will hold two ships, and probably of the oasis class size. I would guess scheduled for completion next year. The streets are clean, and the shops more than plentiful.

I find it very ironic that I needed to travel thousands of miles to answer a question I  had 16 months ago while visiting Canada on the Vision of the Seas.  I am sure you all remember, but on the pier were hundreds of sections of large pipe. I asked and asked, but at the time no one was able to tell me what they were for. Now that has changed.

While ashore this morning I was having a conversation with a passenger on the Summit that turned out to be from New Brunswick, Canada. He tells me the pipe was purchased to build a pipeline to transfer oil bearing tar sands to a refinery near Montreal. Due to inability to secure all the required permits etc, the project has been temporarily halted. Locally this was a very sensitive topic as the halt put the jobs of thousands of workers at risk. Subsequently no one was willing to discuss the subject with anyone, especially an outsider like me.  Who would have guessed that I would find the answer sitting on a park bench in St Kitts.

As I return to the  ship a group of our cremembers are wheeling carts of provisions to the Summit. I can't read all the labels, but many boxes of asparagus are transferred. I hope they haven't given away too many limes. FYI the Summit is sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Our ship is being refueled today. The process takes most of the day. I belive there are refineries here, but I am not sure. There are definitely a number of large storage tanks, and at least one oil tanker is moored nearby.

I take a peak at tonight's menu. Why do they do this? Three of my favorite dishes on the same menu, while last night there were none. I will wait until I arrive in the dining room to decide.

Cleaning and maintainig a ship is a never ending job. The past two days all the carpets on decks 13 and 12 were shampooed. A process that appears to work quite well as the carpet now looks nice and fresh.  One crewmember sprays a detergent solution on the carpet, giving extra attention to any stained areas. I can't imagine anyone would ever spill a drink. This is followed by a standard carpet shampoo machine with strong suction and I assume a water rinse.  When all finished, fans are used for drying. I didn't get it, but I heard one guest complaining to the concierge host that cleaning the carpet made it dangerously slippery.

Today all the lights are being repaired in the Vortex lounge.  In additional to replacing  burned out general lighting, some of the spotlights had failed as had several strobe lights over the dance floor.

The only entertainment in the theater tonight is the love and marriage game show. I expect the Schooner bar will be busy. 

I resolve my dining dilema once I reach the dining room. Lasagna and braised beef but skipping the accompaning potato. No appetizer and no desert as usual. 

With no entertainment tonight, I return to the Diamond lounge. It remains packed until closing at 8:00. I then head to the Schooner bar.

Thee was a decent sunset tonight, of course I don't have my camera and don't take pictures. The seas remain calm as we head to St. Marten at about 8 knots.

February 07, 2019

Feb 6, St. Johns, Antigua

There are three ships in port this morning, The Serenade of The Seas, the much larger Royal Princess, and the much smaller Silver Spirit. The skies are completely overcast and a light rain just heavy enough to soak you in a few minutes. The air temperature feels much cooler than the reported 81. Maybe the skies will clear later in the day.

Another day for more crew training. Simultaneously there is a fire drill on one of the crew decks and a life boat drill which involves all the lifeboats on the starboard side of the ship. Once launched they randomly run around the harbor. One boat gets too far from the ship, and the harbor police approach him with lights flashing, I can only guess to direct him to stay closer to the mother ship.

Because of the inclement weather, many passengers remain on board today, and an extra movie in the theater is added to the entertainment schedule. There are diffenet movies that play about 4 times a day in the cinema, two movies that play continuously on TV, and often a movie on the big screen by the pool each night.

By 1:00 the rain has almost stopped, and I venture off the ship. Bars, shops and casinos packed right up to the water's edge. The street and walkways are crowded. I return to the ship, mostly dry, before the next band of showers rolls by.

The Silversea's Silver Spirit is bunkered from a barge that pulls alongside. The barge is about 70% as long as the cruise ship.

I forgo the Concierge Lounge and go to the Diamond Lounge instead. The entire Vortex lounge is being used for overflow so there is no issue with not being able to find seating. The noise level is much lower, and the server is much more competant than those I encountered in the other lounge.

The sun finally comes out in full force about an hour before sunset. Many passengers are hoping for a picture worthy sunset, but just before sundown the sun passes behind some clouds. No sunset pictures to take home today.

The menu is unappealing this evening so I settle for the ever present strip steak. Tough by my standards, but more or less what I expected.

It is billed as a jazz set in the Centrum, and I know it is my maturity and preconceived ideas, but two guitars and a piano don't make up what I would call a Jazz band. Later in the evening the entire orchestra is in the Centrum. Much much better.

The headliner entertainer this evening is a comedian and magician. He plays to a packed house, and does a good job. Some of the simpler, almost obvious, slight of hand tricks he explains if you want to watch. I fell it's better for the future if you don't know how a trick is performed and just enjoy it for its entertainment value.

A set or two of piano music in the Schooner bar and it is time for bed. The seas remain calm, and we will cruise along at about 7 knots to our next port of St. Kitts.

February 06, 2019

Feb 5, St Croix

We arrive and are docked long before I arise. The skies remain mostly clear with a few passing clouds. The humidity is high and the temperature expected to rise in to the low 80's.

There are always new things to see around the ship. This morning about a dozen crew members were in the pool practicing the rescue of persons floating in the water with life jackets. One crew member, playing the role of the person needing to be rescued, was clearly panicked by the notion of floating on her back and having another person swim her around the pool. If not panicked, she was a good actor.

I have seen this twice now. When the breakfast foods are cleaned up in the lounge the crewmember first makes up about 3 plates. A couple of toasted bagels, fruit and whatever else is left over.  It leaves with him on the cart. Somewhere there is a crew member that prefers this to the crew dining room.

I am staying on the ship again today, have been here before and will be back in a couple of weeks. 

Ok I lied, I get off for a few hours and contribute to the local economy by buying a diet Coke. The pier is longer than most, a half mile or more from the gangway to shore. 

Tours leave from the pier right at the gangway, and a taxi driver with a van offers transportation along the pier for tips.

The shore area is clean, and the area where I wandered devoid of the megamerchants like Effy's and Diamonds International.

The Concierge Lounge is exceptionally roudy tonight but not over crowded. I suspect many other guests were driven to other venues by the loud noise as was this passenger.

A long time favorite dish of my daughters was three cheese tortolini. I give the four cheese ravoli a try, probably a replacement for the three cheese dish. It is good, but I think the 3 cheese was better. Tortolini or ravioli really only differs by shape and filling.

The seas remain calm as we leave port right on schedule. I head back to the lounge after dinner only to find it louder than before. Instead I head to the Schooner bar for quiet  piano music.

With calm seas there is zero perceptable motion to the ship. Tomorrow is another port day, Antigua.

February 05, 2019

Feb 4, St Thomas

Our arrival is scheduled for 8:30 after having spent roughly the past 64 hours cruising at about 17 knots. There are a few scattered clouds, temperatures are in the upper 70's as we approach the harbor.  I am up early, grab breakfast in the Solarium and head to helipad on the bow of the ship to watch our arrival. What an entertaining decision. The longshoremen on the dock were the the most entertaining I have ever witnessed. Unorganized, tripping over lines and each other you would think this was the first they had ever handled  the lines for a large ship.  Soon a crewmember was on the dock giving them directions, and eventually we were safely moored.

Passengers began disembarking as the  last lines were being secured. We are the only ship in this port this morning, so the shops and beaches shouldn't be crowded. The funnel of a Carnival ship can be seen several miles in the distance at the downtown port.

On the port side of the ship cell service is marginal, but on the starboard side it is good.  I post the first several days. I am sort of getting used to doing this all with my phone instead of with a computer, but must confess and apologize that I don't have access to a spelling checker. At least I have a full size keyboard which helps with the large fingers. Hopefully you can decipher my misspellings.

I received word this morning that Bruce, a fellow model railroader, and avid blog follower has passed away. He will be missed.

By noon time, most passengers are ashore with maybe a couple dozen taking the opportunity to use the pool or relax in the sun on the deck. The Windjammer has plenty of seating,  and the abundance of chicken wings, hot dogs and hamburgers may be an indication that they didn't sell many at the game last night.

I suffice with appetizers in the Concierge Lounge for dinner. There just was nothing that appealed to me on the dining room menu.

The ship was about an hour and a half leaving port. No explanation was given, but most likely a tour was delayed.  It really didn't matter much as even with the lost time we cruised at a mere 7 knots as we head to our next port of St Croix.  The seas remain calm, the air warm, the skies clear, perfect Caribbean weather.

February 04, 2019

Two Days at Sea

I sleep 10 hours, obviously there was nothing to disturb my sleep. The neighbors were quiet, there were no loud drunks in the hallway, and  there were no disturbing noises from any of the many mechanical systems on the ship. The waves knocked the ship around just a little making her creak and moan like any other ship would in the same seas.

By the time I shower and dress, it is too late for breakfast in the Solarium, so off to the Windjammer. Busy, but not over crowded. I decide on my usual bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice.

Only one of the two doors were repaired, and the mini fridge still does not work.  I tell my cabin steward about the fridge and show him the door. He was aware of the attempted repairs. He will call maintenance again.

The skies are partly cloudy, with the temperature in the low 80's. We are expected to encounter some showers over the next two days. Seas remain a little over 6 feet. There is enough motion to the ship that both the solarium pool and the main pool remain empty of humans as the water sloshes back and forth with the ships motion. The hot tubs see a few guests.

The passenger manifest is as to be expected. Mostly Americans, a couple hundred Canadians, and about a hundred from the UK. In all there are passengers from 30 countries. Very few younger passengers, younger being a relative term. The captain reports there are 70 passengers under 21. Someone commented in the Concierge Lounge last night that Medicare cards should be used to gain entrance.

By late afternoon the second door is repaired, but not the fridge. My cabin steward gets me a "medical" cooler. His years of experience knows how to get around the system. Probably not large enough to hold a six pack, but it will hold a couple cans and my medications. It is small enough and has a long enough cord that I put it on the top shelf of the closet.

As expected the lounge is less crowded on the second night. The server does his job without error, limes are plentiful as I believe everything else is. 

Beef tenderloin is my chice for dinner tonight. Yes we have the same table and waiter, I knew they  would do it. Being formal night, the majority, maybe 60%, of the gentlemen are wearing jackets. Tuxedos are scarce. After dinner a stop in the Centrum for the captain's reception and then on to the early show in the theater.

Ricky is a high energy performer singing many favorite Rock N Roll songs from the 50's and 60's. He does a good job, and this is his ideal audience, where the average age is above 65.

Right after the show I advace my clock an hour and then crash for the night. The ship continues to rock just enough so you know you are on a ship and not in a hotel. No alarm clock as there is nothing I have to get up for.

I sleep past 9:00 and grab a glass of orange juice and a donut in the concierge lounge. At 11:00 there is the top tier party for Crown and Anchor.  There are 275 diamonds, 263 diamond plus, and 43 pinnacle members. The top cruiser has over 2700 nights. Another passenger, not even in the top 5, has been on the ship since the first of October, and you think I cruise often.

At noon I attend "A Meal With an Officer" in the main dining room. One or two officers or managers are seated at each table. My hosts were the life guard manager and an attendant from the spa. This is the first time Sunshine has attended such a function. She is a little shy and uncomfortable. Face it, this is a big change from her native Zimbabwe. Her contract ends in about 10 weeks, and if she leaves Ft lauderdale on a Sunday morning, it will be Wednesday night before she gets home.  OK that is a long commute home from work. Lunch was good but leisurely, taking almost two hours.

Today is Sunday, the big event being the Superbowl, which is the only show for today. For a mere $99 + tax and gratuity one can buy a "superbowl ticket" which covers all your drinks during game time. Those of you that know me well, understand I have no interest.

By mid afternoon the seas have dropped to about 3 feet. The ship no longer pitches or rolls. The skies have cleared to mostly sunny, and the air temperature is about 80. The pools have attracted some passengers, but are not overcrowded. Half a dozen guests are in the concierge lounge reading, playing cards, or in my case trying to keep up with writing.  Tomorrow is our first port of St Thomas, and my plan is to post the first few entries to my blog. This is so stupid to write, if it doesn't work, you will never know.

With a large lunch, dinner is a small portinon of pasta. Excellent, covered with shaved parmesan, not grated.  We kinda had our same table. Just as we arrived I observed the guests switching table numbers. The waitress that was serving both tables was there and of course proclaimed she had nothing to do with it. Though the view was not as good, there was more chair room. I was fine, the couple that made the switch are on thier second cruise ever and deserved the view.

After dinner a trip around the ship to see how many passengers were watching the game. Not many, maybe a quarter of the passengers, and a very small percentage of them appeared to have bought into the "package".

I settle in to the Schooner bar and listen to the piano player for a few hours and then retire for the evening.

The next  five days are all port days. First is: Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. Followed  by: St Croix; St Johns, Antigua; Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis; and finally Phillipsburg, St Marten.

42 Days on the Serenade Of The Seas

Last year I learned the Serenade of the Seas would be calling on my favorite port in the Caribbean, Wilamstad, Curacao. The fares were quite reasonable, so I booked four back to back cruises.  42 days isn't the longest time I have been on the same ship, that would be about 114 days on the M S Amsterdam.  But this is the most cruises I have booked back to back.

There will actually be three different itineraries, but more on that as they occur. Besides, everything is always subject to change by the cruise line and the captain.

Packing for 42 days is not much different than for 14. I need to take a larger supply of medications, and logistics for holding my mail is a little different as the post office will only hold mail for 30 days. Fortunately my three children live close by, so hold mail, they get it, and then hold until my return.

I have booked a shuttle bus to take me to the ship in Port Everglades. Alyssa drives by the Burger King pick up point in Orlando on her way to work. Convenient, but it will be an hour wait for the bus to arrive. I'm on vacation, no hurry.

The weather has been cold in Florida for the last few weeks, and I look forward to 70's and 80's.  Of couse I am not complaining about Florida weather, last week it was more than 20 below zero where I used to live in Michigan.

The bus arrives, three passengers board, bringing the head count to nine on a 40+ passenger bus. We leave about 5 minutes early. Such a difference from the last bus I took from Orlando to a ship. No leaks in the roof, and no mold, no wandering local streets instead of the Turnpike.  Traffic is heavy, but moves smoothly on the Florida Turnpike heading south.

Our first stop will be in Ft. Pierce for a 30 minute break and to board two more passengers. I learn that where we stop was the Greyhound terminal at one time. Helps explain why there is plenty of room for several busses. McDonald's, Dunkin Donut, and Wendy's are close by.  I suffice with a restroom break at McDonalds. We are given instructions to be back on the bus by 15 after the hour, most comply, as always with a bus group there is always one. The driver is patient, and after 5 minutes goes looking for his missing passenger. We are soon back on the road.

We stop for two more passengers in Stewart, and return to the Turnpike. The sky darkens, and it begins to pour. Traffic slows, but is moving much better than the north bound traffic which is almost at a standstill.  The driver keeps us informed, telling us we will be arriving 20 to 30 minutes later than anticipated. No worries from me, I have hours before my ship leaves.

Just before our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale the rain stops, and the sun tries to peek through the clouds. I am one of four passengers headed to a ship here, the rest of the passengers are going on to Miami. With 4 passengers, the driver needs to stop at three different piers. My good luck continues as he heads to pier 18 where The Serenade Of The Seas is berthed. No lines, no waiting for a parking spot, the bus pulls right in to the unloading area. I retrieve my passport and set sail pass from my carry on luggage and walk into the terminal. I am not sure where to go. Despite it being at the peak of boarding there are no lines!

I quickly pass through security, no not thru the x-ray machines but a hand patdown. Up the escalator to the cruise counters. Again no wait, there are at least half a dozen clerks just waiting for another guest. The representative asks me if there is a big backlog downstairs or outside. When she learns there is no backlog anywhere she is perplexed. Within a few minutes I am on the ship and head to the crown lounge as the cabins won't be ready for another 30 minutes. I check my emails, and call my daughter to let her know I am safely on the ship.

Once in the cabin, I find several maintenance items that need to be addressed, items I would normally ignore, but won't this time as I need to live with them for 6 weeks. I stop at guest relations to report the broken hinges on both closet doors, and the mini fridge that doesn't work.

My muster station is in the theater, another surprise, all passengers attend and are accounted for.

We leave port about 4:30 as scheduled. The skies are mostly sunny. As we head southeasterly it is anticipated the seas will be about 6 feet, enough to rock the ship a little but not enough to bother most passengers.

The Concierge lounge is nearly a disaster. Of course it is overcrowded. Stock of such basics as limes, beer, and sprite zero are non existant. They are allegedly replenished today, but haven't been distributed around the ship. 

Much of the crew has just boarded today, either as new employees, or having returned from time off, and therefore haven't gotten into thier normal routines.  It took my server three attempts to make me a gin and club soda. Many other guests had the same experience, most take it in stride.

I have decided to try and use the dining room on this cruise. By dining early, and requesting a small table, maybe I can avoid some of the general frustrations I have experienced in the past. At 5:15 I am promptly seated a few feet from a window.  The chicken kiev was excellent, and the service good. The menu is shorter than I remember in the past, making the galley chores much easier. As I leave the dining room I request the same table for the rest of the cruise. Not a promise they would make, but will try,  and I expect will  succede.

It has been a long day, and I retire early. The next two days are sea days.