February 04, 2019

Two Days at Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

42 Days on the Serenade Of The Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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