March 16, 2019

2 Sea Days and Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2019

March 12 - Antigua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2019

March 11 - St Lucia

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

The Serenade has launched a few lifeboats for crew training.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seas remain calm as we head to Antigua.

March 11, 2019

March 10, Sea Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are about 5 tables still seated when we leave.

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

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

March 9 - Kralendijk, Bonaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people can just irritate me.

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

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

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

March 09, 2019

March 8 - Willemstad, Curacao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 08, 2019

March 7 - Aruba

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

The MSC Divinia is berthed in front of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 07, 2019

Two Days At Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4 - Turnaround Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sir, you cannot leave."

"I'm leaving."

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

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

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

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

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

March 04, 2019

March 2, 3 - Sea Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorror is turnaround day in Port Everglades.

March 02, 2019

March 1, St Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh and besides I was a nurse."

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

After another 10 minutes of uncovered coughing they leave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 01, 2019

Feb 28, St Kitts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tour lasts just under 4 hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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