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.