December 17, 2019

Dec 15, Disembarkation and Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, deal with it later.

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

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

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

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

Thus the long delay in posting these last few days.

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

Fri Dec 13, 14 At Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A fruit basket, given to my cabin attendant.

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

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

Pinnacle breakfast every morning. I never attended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 14, 2019

Dec 12, Oranjestad, Aruba

I sleep soundly for over 10 hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 12, 2019

Dec 11, 2019 Kralendijk, Bonaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2019

Tuesday Dec 10, 2019 Curacao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 10, 2019

Dec 8 & 9 - Days At Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 09, 2019

Dec 7, 2019 Adventure of The Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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