January 30, 2020

Jan 28. 2020 Curacao

There are a few clouds over Curacao in the morning. We left Aruba last night before The Rotterdam. Whether she is coming to Curacao I don't know. Yesterday I heard that the Rotterdam was living up to the reputation of having a very elderly group of passengers. A couple in their late 60's was bemoaning the fact that they were the youngest on the ship and everyone was asleep by 9.

I have a mission today. Find a replacement shot glass for my daughter. She washed the one she had and most of the decoration came off. I will look for one with permanent markings.

There is a lady in the lounge frequently using the ships computer. Yesterday she was preparing payroll for the company where she is employed. Spending much more time cruising than I do, and working full time, she definitely has the ultimate "working from home" environment.

I think she might even have a good argument for cruising expenses being declared as a legitimate "home office" expense.

The weather here is perfect. A few scattered clouds, light breeze and 80 degrees. Curacao is delightful. Helped by the fact we are the only ship in port.

Some shopping, a beer, and back to the ship for lunch.

Upon returning to the cabin there is a bottle of wine from the hotel manager. A decision will be made as to which meal it shall accompany. I try to find the menues on the Royal app, but they are nowhere to be found.

Sometimes I observe things for ehich I have no explanation.  A medium sized oil yanker approaches the enyrance yo the port. About a mile off shore she is mey by the pilot boat. Yhe pilot boat heads back yo shore, and the tanker abrupyly turns and heads out to sea where she disappears over the horizon. Unusual to say the least.

Dining room again. I choose pasta, my last resort on the menu.  Seated at a diffetent table, we have a different team of servers, but all of our previous wait staff continuously stops by to check on us. Dinner is a long process.

We start our 60 hour cruise back to Ft Lauderdale. Our course will take us just off the Eastern tip of Cuba and into the bahamas channel. Seas are very calm. The next two days will be sea days

January 28, 2020

Jan 26, 27 Aruba

The seas remain calm for our leisurely cruise from Cartagena to Aruba. With temperatures about 80, the sun decks are packed. Passengers are eagerly working on sunburns and tans, trying to make up for lost exposire during the first few days of overcast skies and light rain.

The top tier party is held in the main theater. Over 75% of the passengers are C&A members. This cruise has 62 Pinnacle members, 322 Diamond Plus, and 458 Diamond passengers. The top cruiser, which is rewarded with a bottle of champagne has amassed 2668 points, that is almost 4 times my accumulation. I need to cruise more.

Very few passengers are using the Diamond or Concierge lounge on deck 13, preferring instead the Safari lounge on deck 6 which probably holds 300 compared to the very limited capacity of the other lounges.

Mario, the Concierge host, had a collection of small nick knacks on his desk that have been given to him by passengers.  Much to our surprise management told him to remove them. It will be interesting to see if they reappear over the next two weeks.

We arrive at 4pm in the afternoon. I would guess that 25% of the passengers find dinner ashore, as the dining rooms have many empty tables.

The Club Med 2 is berthed behind us. A 600 foot long five masted schooner capably of carrying just under 400 passengers. Being much smaller than we are, she will visit smaller ports on her itinerary. She leaves port about 6:00, sailing under diesel power.

Another good meal in the dining room. Even the factory pastry that replaced freshly baked apple pie has been greatly improved from a year ago when the pastry was introduced. The pastry is now about 25% larger, and contains three times as much filling as the original version. 

Most importantly, the tree on the sandbar that looks like it will wash away any minute, is still in place looking the same as when I first spotted it 8 years ago. I have been told by other passengers that it has been here for many years before I first spotted it.

Tied to the dock for the night there is no motion, and none of the usual ship noises, but I still sleep well for over 10 hours.

The morning finds the sun bright, the skies clear, a slight breeze and the temperature 81. Over the next 24 hours the low is anticipated to be 79, and the high 82. Such is island life.

Holland America's Rotterdam is berthed behind us.

Before noon we head ashore for some window shopping and my usual lunch at Iguana Joe's. Excellent BBQ chicken strips and a couple of Pink Iguana beverages.

Dinner tonight is in chops, I think my caloric budget for the day will be busted.

The seas remain calm as we move to Curacao under the cover of dark. Being a short hop, the ship barely moves thru the night.

January 26, 2020

Sat Jan 25, 2020 Cartagena, Columbia

Another beautiful day in the Southern Caribbean. Sunny, clear skies, temperatures in the low 80's, a pleasant breeze

A special treat for me, we share the pier with Monarch, the former Monarch of the Seas that I cruised on many times. She is disembarking and boarding many passengers. Unlike the US, passengers carry their luggage, no other option.

No tour for me, but an hour watching the flamingos, peacocks, parrots  tucans, monkeys, and the large ant eater. Parrots like to sit on ladies shoulders and attempt to remove ear rings. At least once they succeeded, much to the dismay of the lady. 

A wander thru the shops and seeing that chocolate is selling for between $75 and $100 per pound, I quickly loose my passion for dark chocolate, well at least for today.

Returning to the ship, it is mostly void of passengers. The pools are empty and the Windjammer has plenty of seating.

The harbor is busy with the arrival and unloading of container ships. A Columbian naval vessel armed with machine guns and larger artillary periodically plies the waters. There to protect the drug trade?

A few beverages in the Safari lounge and another good meal in the dining room. I would like to say my faith in Royal has been restored, but I am skeptical.

I did have the thought that hot fresh food may be because we are dining at 6. Long after the 5 and 5:30 seating.  Nearly no other passengers are being seated at 6:00. Maybe I have learned something.

The seas remain calm as we head to Aruba, our next port. Well, our next scheduled port would be more precise.

We turn our clocks ahead one hour for the next several days.

Friday Jan 24. 2020 Colon, Panama

After running around in the ocean going nowhere we returned to a berth in Colon, Panama early this morning.

If not taking a tour, there is very little, actually almost nothing to do here. Most tours to view the canal or the rainforest leave very early at 6:00 or as shortly thereafter as the buses can be loaded. Beyond the confines of the pier, the area is really not safe for tourists to wander.

One couple did, were stopped by police, and promptly directed to a bus to take them safely back to the ship.

I spend a quiet day on the ship.

For the first time since leaving Florida several days ago the sun is out. Passengers are happy, as many were beginning to get grumpy with the overcast skies.

The lounge is very hot tonight as the sun is beating in the glass windows that surroung the end of the lounge. When originally launched there were curtains thst could be closed, but at some point they have been removed.

Dinner again in the MDR, main dining room, is excellent. Now if we can just get the skills of the galley here cloned to other ships.

The seas remain calm. Tomorrow morning we will be in Cartagena, Columbia.

January 24, 2020

Jan 23 - Unexpected Sea Day

Having been diverted to Falmouth for a failed attempt to disembark a passenger requiring shore side medical care, and our scheduled stop in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica having been cancelled, we  continue towards Colon, Panama at the ships top cruising speed of 23 to 25 knots. The current plan is to dock at a cargo pier in Colon as soon as possible to disembark the passenger, then return to sea  and in the morning tie up at the passenger pier as originally planned.

The weather remains gloomy with overcast skies and periodic showers.  A few passengers are beginning to grumble about the weather. The seas have calmed to less than 3 foot waves. Rolling and pitching of the ship has ceased. Certainly no red lobster sunburns so far on this cruise.

As we get closer to Panama there is a steady stream of ships that have just transversed the canal.

By late afternoon there is a light fog and drizzle. Just a gloomy day. We enter the  entrance to the harbor in Colon and the skies clear, the sun comes out, and the waters in the protected harbor are glass smooth. Plans are changed again. The equivalent of a 40 foot coast guard vessel pulls alongside and the medical passenger is whisked away for more comprehensive care.

I learn later from passengers that were present, the man collapsed from a heart attack when leaving the casino. 15 minutes of CPR and AED revived him and he was taken to the ships medical facility. We all wish him a full recovery.

After the transfer, we turn around and head back to sea to spend the night. 

Dinner tonight is in Giovannis, one of the specialty restaurants. The food and service were excellent, and the price was right, half price to be more precise.

Early in the morning we will return to our dock in Colon. Some excursions start leaving at 5:45 AM! Too early for me.

January 23, 2020

Jan 21, 22 Scheduled Sea Days

During the night there is some motion to the ship as the winds from a cold front moving south across Florida churns up the seas.  The air temperature remains about 70, and the skies are mostly cloudy and overcast. The day is consumed listening to the shore excursion presentation, some walking on the deck, a brief lunch, and listening to Anna on the piano. Soon it is time to dress for dinner. Reservations were for dinner at 5, but I changed that to 6:00 as 5:00 was too early, even for me. At the same time I booked two specialty restaurants for later in the week using a BoGo special intended for use only on the first two days. Another advantage of being a top valued customer, exceptions are easily made.

Tonight is the first formal night and also the captain's reception. Surprise number two from the dining room. The slices of tenderloin were very good. Two excellent meals in a row!

After dinner a stop in the Schooner bar for musical entertainment by Perry Grant.

Throughout the day the seas slowly subsided from what were approximately 10 foot seas to 5 foot. The ships motion is slight. Skies remained overcast all day, few people were in the pools. Even if it were bright sun, probably few of this very mature crowd would be sun worshipers. There are few children under 18 maybe a dozen at the most.

During the night the motion of the ship unexpectedly increases. Creaks and moans are frequent and some sounds are unexplained but sound like a cart crashing into one wall and then another as it rolls around a deck above.

At daybreak the captain makes an announcement throughout the ship. We changed course during the night, and are now headed to Falmouth, Jamaica to disembark a passenger requiring medical care. Our stop in Costa Rica has been cancelled, but we will spend about 4 hours in Falmouth.  Such is the unpredictable life on a cruise ship. Fortunately the diversion is not being made for me. 

The skies are overcast winds brisk, and there is a slight drizzle as the harbor pilot from Falmouth boards the ship.

Two attempts to back the ship down the narrow channel are aborted. The wind and currents are just too strong. Our ship narrowly avoids being grounded, being forced by the wind and current to within a few feet of a buoy marking the edge of the channel. I think it is the first time I have witnessed a Captain order full throttle ahead while moving in a reverse direction. Shortly the harbor pilot leaves the ship and we head for Colon.

No word on the passenger. It appears the wind and seas are too severe to attempt a transfer to another vessel or for a helicopter to attempt an evacuation.

I head to the Solarium for lunch at Park Cafe. A bad choice, the entire Solarium is covered with half an inch of water that has sloshed from the pool and hot tubs.  Maybe contributed to by our fast acceleration. With a well seasoned manifest of passengers, everyone is taking the changes, the weather, and the seas in stride. Surprisingly, few are complaining. I say few as at least one passenger was demanding a total refund because of not going to Costa Rica. Obviously the request was totally denied.

The captain makes another announcement about updated plans. Being barely audible I have no clue, but will find out from others.

Anna is a different style of piano player. She never sings, and seldom says anything during her performance. Of German ancestry I believe, in person she is a delightful lady. I first met her on the Monarch Of The Seas, probably in 2012 or 2013. Her appearance has not changed a bit. Probably she still plays the same  music. Regardless, enjoyable. I catch a set and a half before cocktail hour.

Dinner tonight is in the Windjammer and then an hour of Perry. Disappointing as his set was an identical repeat of the show the previous night.

I learn that we are headed to Colon at top cruising speed of 23 knots, expecting arrival tomorrow afternoon to make another attemp to get  the passenger needing medical assistance ashore.

The skies remain overcast and the seas gradually improve the further south we get.

January 22, 2020

21 Days on The Serenade

I have been on terra firma too long. It is time to get back on the water. It may sound like this is a spur of the moment decision, but I booked these two trips almost a year ago.

Friday is my appointment for a bimonthly eye injection, careful planning is needed to avoid needing a treatment while traveling. It is not common, but my eye looks like a product of a Frankenstein horror film. Mostly blood red and watering. No question it looks much worse than it feels.  Usually any discomfort is at the level of having your eyes dilated. I just avoid sun and bright light until everything returns to normal.

Saturday there is a surprise graduation party for James, Alyssa's fiance, and a house warming party to celebrate their moving to a new home. I believe the surprise was executed with James having no hint of the plans. The party was fun and the food delicious for the 35 or so guests in attendance.

Sunday I make the four hour drive to Ft Lauderdale. A less than great nights sleep at a Hampton Inn, and Monday morning it is a quick 25 minute drive to Park N Go, my "go to" parking lot in Ft. Lauderdale.

We drive in, our luggage is taken directly to a shuttle van, and before I am seated my car is whisked away to an unknown parking spot. Within a few minutes we are at the terminal.

Royal has greatly simplified checkin. The biggest improvement came when room keys, or sea pass cards as they are called, are waiting at the cabin door instead of being distributed by clerks ashore.

The ability to submit your own "selfie" for an ID photo also helps. Even with special processing at security because of my pacemaker, time in the terminal is minimal.

Cabins are ready by 1:00, luggage is delivered to the hallway by 2:30 or so. An essential ingredient to a comfortable cruise is planning and organization. Everything is assigned a home in the cabin so that stuff is not scattered all about. This takes time but delivers a great return during the rest of the cruise.

The muster drill is uneventful. The skies are partly cloudy with temperatures about 70. Much warmer than home where the lows were in the low 40's the night before. My journey has begun. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, Colon Panama, Cartagena, Columbia, Aruba, and my favorite port Curacao.

I expect the lounge to be crowded. A fundamental change has been made by Royal this year.

What was called the Concierge Lounge is being renamed the Suite Lounge.

Where in the past it was available to Diamond Plus, Pinnacle, and Suite guests, now Diamond  Plus status Passengers are no longer allowed access.  The change is being phased in on different ships at different time. This ship made the change 3 weeks ago. I reached Pinnacle just in time.

Surprisingly the lounge is uncrowded with empty seats! The Diamond lounge and Viking lounge also has plenty of seating as the Safari Lounge is being used as the Diamond Lounge.

On the way I meet Frank and his wife from Hawaii, and Steve (#1) is sitting at the bar.  He got the recognition as #1 as he was the elder of 5 Steve's sitting together on a cruise a number of years ago when we met. The bar tenders, yes there are 3 for the 30 or so guests, are measuring proper drinks instead of free pouring. Our dinner reservation is at 5, so only time for 1 drink plus 1 to go.

The prime rib in the dining room is worthy of mention for it's excellence. So much better than what I have experienced on other ships in the past year. I am not foolish enough to say that Corporate Royal is trying to up the quality of dining room food, but at least this one meal is much better. Thanks Royal.

It is cool and overcast as we head south easterly. The next two days will be spent at sea, then 6 port days before returning to Florida.