October 30, 2019

October 28 & 29, 2019 Sea Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disembarkation is to begin at 7:00

October 28, 2019

Oct 27, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No show tonight, just the orchestra playing music.

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

October 27, 2019

Saturday Oct 26, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Oct 25 - At Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 26, 2019

Oct 24, 2019 Huatulco, Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow is a sea day.

October 24, 2019

Oct 23, 2019 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2019

Oct 22 - A Sea Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow we arrive in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala 

Oct 21 - Punterenas, Costa Rica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 21, 2019

Oct 20 - A Sea Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 19, 2019 Crossing The Panama Canal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 18, 2019 Colon, Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 18, 2019

Oct 17 Cartegena, Columbia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 15, 16 - two sea days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

32 days on The Vision of the Seas

Saturday, October 12th. Time to unpack after returning home from the Mariner of the Seas, and pack for 32 days on The Vision of the Seas. This may sound like an overwhelming task, but a detailed packing list makes the process very easy. the list reminds me to take razor blades and Q-Tips, it is just up to me to pack the quantity I need for almost 5 weeks of travel, travel with limited access to the comforts of  home.

Gail  will be traveling with me for half of the trip, departing in Los Angeles to visit friends in California before returning to Florida.

My ship leaves from Miami, Fl and will be returning to Ft Lauderdale. The plan is to drive to Ft Lauderdale, spend the night, park the car at Park N Go, my favorite parking vendor for Port Everglades. From the parking lot we will take Uber to the ship in Miami.

The drive is boring but uneventful. with several stops along the way we arrive at The Marriott North about 5:00 pm, just in  time to use the concierge lounge. Unlike many concierge lounges, drinks are expensive. Dinner  is in the hotel restaurant. Many of the offerings are prepared offsite and just heated in the kitchen. Food, not great, but better than driving to a chain restaurant.

Sometimes I amaze myself with the new experiences encountered. I think everyone has encountered cold showers with no hot water. The shower here definitely had hot water,  only hot water, in fact scalding hot that could not be turned colder. Fortunately I checked first and wasn't burned. Oh well, I can shower tonight on the ship.

Once in the car I enter the address of the parking lot into my GPS. It is immediately found, but is unable to connect to any satelites. I reseat the cables, the usual fix, still no luck. Maybe the tree canopy is just too heavy, I move the car, still nothing. Other than being in or near Ft Lauderdale I have no idea where I am or what direction to travel.  Plan two.

I bring up Google maps on my phone. Within a minute or two it is giving me directions. First I need to make a U turn as I was headed away from my destination. A few blocks down the road my car GPS begins  to function. I now have two electronic devices telling me which lane to be in and which way to turn. Surprisingly they agree, with neither always being quicker or more detailed.

Within 15 minutes I check in to the parking lot.  The attendant  is initially confused. The Vision of the Seas is not in Port Everglades. He doesn't know whick line to put me in. I explain about Miami, Uber, being back in a month. Twice, and then he gets it. No problem, park in the left line and I will direct your uber driver directly to your car.

We actually use Lyft. $26 to  the ship in Miami. Very reasonable we feel. Being a holiday the traffic flows smoothly. The driver has a little problem finding the ship as it is not listed on any of the directional signs at the port.

The process for security, check in and boarding is simple and quick.  It was not a goal, but we are  among the first dozen passengers to board. If I didn't walk so slow, we would have been first.

Time to kill before before  the cabins will be ready. A stop in the Viking Lounge to message the kids.

The luggage soon arrives. Despite being an older ship with less efficient cabin design, everything finds a home. I  shower, finally, before heading to the Diamond lounge.

The muster drill seems to take forever. Immediately following the captains dismissal there is a medical call to one of the life boat stations. Not the way to start  a vacation.

The Diamond lounge on this ship is a small room at the aft of the ship on deck 6, possibly with room for 30 people. With over 600 Diamond and Diamond Plus passengers they have allocated the entire 300+ capacity Some Enchanted Evening (SEE) lounge for us. Nearly every seat is soon occupied.

I open up my Royal app to check reservations, excursions, and OBC to find no dining reservations. I am 99% positive I made them months ago, but have no way to be sure. A quick stop to see Karen, the concierge host, and she is able to either book or confirm our table for 2 every night at 5:30. Based on overheard conversations, I think on line reservations were lost from the database, not an infrequent occurance. The Royal app seems to have some bugs.

As we leave port the Navigator of The Seas is just a few hundred feet behind us, She is headed to Coco Cay, the same itinerary as last week.

The skies are clear, the seas calm as we head to Columbia South America, where we will arrive in two and a half days  on Thursday morning. 

October 11, 2019

Coco Cay Oct 10, 2019

It is another perfect day in Coco Cay, just as advertised. 

This morning there is a wedding ceremony in the Crown Lounge. There are about 15 in attendance. All the passengers in the Diamond Lounge are very respectful, talking in whispers, and not allowing the door to slam closed. It's rewarding to see examples of respect, it has become so rare in our society.

The helium balloon on Coco Cay has been filled since we were here two days ago. I expect it will be in operation soon. Today is a perfect balloon day as the winds are minimal.

Today is my last day to get off the ship. Though I shouldn't have any food for at least a week after dinner last night, I decide to go ashore for lunch. OK maybe not really lunch except for the time of day. Does a cookie and a glass of fruit punch count as lunch?

There are two helium trucks parked near the balloon. I have no clue as to capacity, but just considering they have Texas plates and there are no roads to the island, I imagine refilling the balloon was an expensive undertaking.

It would be interesting to know if there is a way to remove the helium and store it when the balloon needs to be deflated for any reason. Considering that the world's supply is quite limited, it would be a smart idea.

Last week Royal made an error in posting OBC (On Board Credit) to my account. They argured with me for an hour despite my showing them email confirmations of the amounts to be posted.

This week they made nearly the same error, except instead of not posting a credit, they posted one twice. Do you think this took an hour of discussion to be fixed? No way! Royal discovered the error in favor of the customer and corrected it within 12 hours of being made. Yes, fixed before I even saw it. Hmm. A double standard here?

Our last meal in the dining room. The head waiter again brings me fresh apple pie. This time accompanied by a birthday candle and a birthday chorus from the waiters. I'll just say I'm maturing, not getting older.

The Seas are dead calm as we head back to Port Canaveral.

October 10, 2019

Nassau Oct 9

It is partly cloudy when we arrive in Nassau. The forecast is for thunderstorms.

I tentatively makes plans to meet the others, Adrienne, Steve, Kim and Brian at the local craft brewery. By 11:30 as I am thinking about getting off the ship there is a heavy downpour. I will wait and see if weather improves. By 2:00 the sun is out, but there are more storms on the horizon.  No beer for me today. That will be OK.

The added entertainment from the Diamond Lounge is the passenger smoking his pipe on the cabin balcony on the Navigator, a definite no no on most ships. I suppose he not only figures that rules are for others, but that no one can see him. Eventually someone else appears on his balcony and he tries to hide the pipe under a chair. Busted!

Did an officer from our ship seen him also?

We have dinner in Chops to celebrate Adrienne and Steve's tenth anniversary. The food and service was good. Much more than I should have eaten.

Tomorrow we are back at Coco Cay.

October 09, 2019

Coco Cay Oct 8

We arrive in Coco Cay to beautiful skies and bright sunshine. The weather gods are nicer to us than the weather forecast.

Many passengers enjoy the day on the island. Nearly every passenger gives good reports of Coco Cay. Personally I stayed on the ship.

A relaxing day for me. The aches in my body from the fall are getting better. I expect in a few days to be back to normal, whatever normal is. The plastic wrap is making it possibe to use my phone so I am able to write these posts.

As we did last week we share the pier with the Navigator.

Rumors about the future of Coco Cay are rampant. Two of my favorites are the construction of a bridge to the next island which is used by Norwegian. The other is construction of a resort hotel on the island which would allow passengers to arrive by ship, stay a week at the resort, and depart by cruise ship. I doubt either makes economic sense.

The weather remained perfect until after our departure. By nightfall as we speed to Nassau at about 5 knots, lightning could be seen in the sky behind us.

Back to the Mariner, Oct 7

As I pack, I watch the weather and news. My usual route to to the ship includes a portion of the Florida Turnpike, traffic is backed up for miles due to a multi vehicle fatal accident.

The weather is showing heavy storms all along the east coast of Florida stretching past the Bahamas.  The week is not starting well.

I arrive at Adrienne's at 10 to pick up the four passengers riding with me. As I step out of the car, I step on a seed pod about the size of a tennis ball, twist my ankle and fall flat on my face on the concrete. With phone in hand, the front glass is smashed to a thousand pieces. A neighbor helps me to my feet.

I appear to have suffered only a few cuts and bruises and fortunately no broken bones.

The screen appears to still work, but it is impossible to wipe a finger over it because of all the glass shards. I wrap the phone in plastic wrap which seems to help.

Steve, my son in law, finds a local repair shop. Arrangements are made to have my phone repaired Friday when I get home. 

I take a few acetaminophen, I am already beginning to hurt.

As we head to the port, Adrienne attempts to message a friend only to find her phone does not work at all. It had worked fine earlier at her house. Definitely a bad phone day.

The rain comes and goes as I drive to Port Canaveral. The car is parked, and we board the ship just as the cabins are ready. I unpack my carryon, read my emails and send a few messsges. My phone appears to still function.

My first stop is to talk to the dining room and modify our dining reservations. I get a window table for us on deck 5 at 8:00 pm. Not my favorite dining time, but I will make the best of it.

After the muster drill, my luggage has arrived and I put everything in its place. Even for a four day cruise the shoe hanger I hang on the outside of the head door with its 24 pockets comes in very handy to keep things easily reachable without covering the very limited counter space.

The lounge is very busy as expected. The gin does wonders for the soreness in my ankle, arms, hands, knees, and shoulder.

The ice show is almost the same as last week. The major difference, none of the skaters fall.

Dinner is as expected except I do indulge in apple pie for dessert. Not the tasteless pastry that comes from a factory, but a fresh apple pie baked on board and delivered by the head waiter in person after a little prodding.

Like last week there is a slight gentle rocking to the ship as we head to Coco Cay. I retire for a good night's sleep. The weather forecast is for thunderstorms.

October 04, 2019

Home for the weekend

As is usually the case I am awake before the alarm goes off at 7:00. Just as I leave the cabin at 7:30, the announcement is made that my luggage tag number has been called an I can proceed to the gangway.

A few minute wait for an elevator and I arrive at the departure point. My sea pass card is scanned for the last time and I start the walk to the great hall to retrieve my luggae and be checked thru customs. I have done this dozens and dozens of times.

I was totally unprepared. As we enter the luggage room there is a bank of cameras that captures each departing passenger's image. Facial recognition software compares the image of the passenger with passport information and if approved, we are sent on our way to get our luggage. No lines! No waiting! Maybe a 15 second process. I grab my suitcase and walk to the awaiting shuttle bus.

From my cabin to my car is less than 30 minutes. Historically I have often spent 2 or 3 hours just getting past CBP. 

In am quickly on the road and arrive home at 9:30, probably the earliest I have ever been home after a cruise.

Some obligations over the weekend and then it will be back to The Mariner Of The Seas on Monday October 7th. Same port, same ship, same itinerary, different cabin and mostly different passengers.

Another day at Coco Cay

The weather at Coco Cay on our second stop here is perfect. Blue skies, a gentle breeze, nearly flat seas and temperatures in the mid 80's. Nearly everyone goes ashore. For the first time there is seating available in the Solarium all day long.

It is seldom that I ever need anything from guest services, and ususlly when I do it is something simple like a replacement key or to get some lager bills broken.

This trip there was a different need. There were two separate on board credits that should have been applied to my account, there was only one. I was missing a $50 credit.

Fortunately I had the original emails from Royal. But that made little difference. When I was told it was the booking credit that was missing I produced the documention for that credit. The representative disappeared for 15 minutes and upon his return announced that was indeed the credit on my account.

Showing him the Stockholder credit confirmation, he again disappeared to the back room and returned to say the stockholder credit was the one on my account.  When I challenged him to make up his mind, he just mumbled something I couldn't understand.
Having stood at the counter for about 45 minutes and being totally frustrated with his incompetence I told him I wasn't going to waste any more time over $50, but his handling of this issue would certainly influence my decision on future business with Royal. I walked away with the issue unresolved.

After I thought better, I returned, saw the same representative, and demanded to see a manager. 

Surprisingly he too only wanted to offer a bunch of excuses that this was done by shoreside.

It was only after I reminded him how many cruises I had purchased from Royal, and that I had choices of other lines that he relented and said he would issue the $50 credit.

Probably one of the worst customer service performances I have encountered.

Very obviously had I not had the confirmations, and had not been very aggressive in pursuing the issue, it would have never been corrected.

Oh well, just another day and another story to share. A story that will not help Royal fill their ships.

The lounge is a little less busy tonight. I leave in time to go to the theater to see the production show, a show I have not seen before. The theater is about 60% full. About half way thru the show everything comes to a halt. The performers exit the stage, and there is an announcement that due to technical difficulties the show was halted and will resume momentarily. We have all heard this type of announcement somewhere.

Well 20 minutes later, no further announcement, no resumption of the show, and very few guests left in the theater. Another passenger shared with me than the previous week there was no show at all by the production cast.

I pack my suitcase and set it in the hall to be off loaded in the morning. Usually passengers bring alcohol onto the ship for consumption while onboard. I find myself packing up some of the free wine and taking it home. Is having too many bottles of wine a disadvantage of being a top tier frequent customer?

The alarm is set for 7:00, my scheduled depature time is 7:30 in the morning. Yes I remember why I usually don't take such short cruises.

October 03, 2019

Nassau on The Mariner

The ship moves slowly thru the water to reach Nassau by morning. About a 70 mile cruise.

We are the third ship in port after the Navigator and a Norwegian ship.

The skies are sunny with a brisk breeze. Temperatures hover in the low 80's, very pleasant.

Again I stay on board. About 2:00 the Carnival Freedom arrives.

Today I discovered another dedign feature that has carried across every ship that Royal operates.  Hidden in the deep dark depths where passengers never venture is the control system for the elevators. You and I would think these to be relatively straight forward systems that would drive elevators up and down between decks, opening and closing doors as needed to let passengers on and off.

Well I can assure you from first person observstion that these systems have developed a level of artificial intelligence unequalled anywhere.  Elevators have minds of their own. Going where they want and stopping or not stopping at their whim and not following the buttons that are pushed or the announcements it makes in the car every time it moves.

Very clearly the arrows and the announcement said going down. After the doors closed we went up, stopping at several decks with no passengers waiting either on or off the elevator.

Now I know another reason the audible announcements haven't survived to newer ships. Too much confirmation that the elevator mind is in control not the passengers.

Our departure from Nassau is after dark. The lighting on the newly added water slides and jumping ball are impressive.

Tomorrow is another day at Coco Cay.

Coco Cay - Royal's private destination

The ship continues to roll slightly thru the night. I sleep like a rock as I almost always do while on a ship.

Morning finds the skies cloudy with the sun peeking thru occasionally. The rain comes and goes, but mostly just brief light showers lasting two or three minutes. Some passengers get to the pier and turn around to go back to the ship. Others headed to the beach realize they will be wet soon anyway. I elect to stay on board, with many others.  

We share the pier at Coco Cay with The Navigator of the seas. On the island the balloon was removed as a precautionary measure for the last hurricane, and hasn't been put back. Otherwise there appears to be no after effects in this part of the Bahamas.

I run into Rod and Val Montgomery, a couple I have not seen in about 3 or 4 years. They continue to cruise much more than I do, and attained Pinnacle status  two years ago.

The  diamond lounge seats about 35, no where near enough for the 350 or so Diamond and Diamond plus passengers. Being such a short cruise there is no top tier party or captains reception. Dress code for what used to be formal night is now billed as "dress your best". That sounds like an invitation to a tee shirt with the sleeves ripped off. To the wearer it is "his best". Who could argue.

By afternoon the skies clear to bright sunshine. As expected many come back to the ship sporting newly acquired look. Lobster Red.

For those of you that have been reading this for a long time will remember that I often shared bad behavior of passengers. I really have been trying to get away from that, and a lot of bad behavior is just so commonplace it isn't worthy of mention. Last night there was an exception.

As expected all the seats in the Diamond Lounge were occupied.  I was sitting with 5 others. A couple arrived with a young adult daughter in a motorized wheel chair, and were standing at the end of the room.  The 3 people across from me left for dinner and I asked the couple next to me to help me try and get their attention so they could have a seat. The wife turned to me and said "she is a special needs child and I don't want her sitting with me".

My reaction is probably predictable, I stood up and waved my arms vigorously to get their attention and motioned them to come join me. They did, were grateful, and we had a very enjoyable conversation. Well at least the four of us did, after a few minutes the other couple left with drinks in hand. I hope I don't see them again, I probably won't, they wouldn't want to sit near me anyway.

Royal has had a pier in Coco Cay for several years now. There is another private island less than a mile away, I think for Norwegian if I remember correctly. Passengers there need to tender to shore.  A ship approached, hung around for awhile, and then very slowly departed. No beach for them today, the seas were too rough to tender. Precisely the reason Royal buit a pier.

We leave a few minutes before the Navigator and head to Nassau. Again there is a slight motion to the ship. We are going too slow for stabilizers to do any good anyway.

I forgo the dining room for the second night, getting by with appetizers in the lounge and a slice of pizza for dinner.

At 8:00 I head to the Schooner Bar to listen to the piano player. OK but not a player or entertainer at the level of Kelly. The room is nearly empty.

Tomorrow we will be in Nassau.

October 01, 2019

Mariner of The Seas Sept 30, 2019

I became anxious waiting for my next booked cruise so at the last minute I booked two four day cruises on the Mariner of the seas. It probably has been four or five years since I have taken such short cruises.

One might ask why I didn't just book the three day cruise in between and eliminate a lot of packing and unpacking? I would have, but I already had made a commitment for a train show for the model train club I belong to.

The drive to Port Canaveral is uneventful. I park at the Radison, an off site location I have been using for many years. It is over an hour wait for the shuttle bus to the ship, very unusual. I could have walked, but wouldn't even consider it.

One couple behind me in line was very impatient and called Uber. I bet they couldn't wait to start using their drink package either.

Processing through the terminal to the ship was quick and efficient and in no time I was unpacking. Having keys already at you cabin, and entering credit card information and a picture when creating your set sail pass has greatly simplified shoreside checkin.

As we left port the swells were large enough to impose a gentle roll to the ship. I head to the Diamond lounge for coctail hour. As expected it is packed, and the entire Crown Lounge is being used for unofficial overflow.

Royal has imposed a new procedure that I have never seen before but was told has been used on and off over the years.

The server wants our cabin number, not a sea pass card, and supposedly if the passenger is not entitled to the Diamond Lounge perks, they will be billed for the drinks.

Doesn't sound to me like the most effective system. On most ships they just look at your sea pass card upon entrance.

This is my first time on the Mariner. Heavily upgraded a few years ago with more suites, more waterslides, and less open public space.

As I explored the ship, now about 20 years old, it became very apparent to me the evolution of design that has taken place over the decades.

For one example, on older ships no promenade, just a wandering hallway between the shops.

This class of ship has a narrow promenade, and a small ice rink that spanned the full width of the ship.

The promenade and the ice rinks grew, and now on the Oasis class ships we have an ice rink with fore and aft passage beside it, and a vast promenade, topped by an  outdoor venue aptly named Central Park.

I think it would be fun, and educational if you need that excuse, to book all the cruise ship classes in order starting with The Empress, Royal's oldest and smallest, and working up to the newest and largest ship.

Some features survive the test of time from one class to another, other features do not.

For example most, if not all, have signs in the elevator flooring indicating the day of the week.

This ship has an audible announcement that the door is opening or the door is closing. A feature that was not carried forwrd to newer builds. I understand why.

Maybe next year, no time left this year.

I always enjoy the ice show. Very rare, but one of the main skaters was having a bad evening and fell several times. I hurt just to see him fall.

An early evening, I am asleep before 10. As I retire there remains a gentle roll to the ship. Great!