December 14, 2021

Disembarkation And Back Home

I am awake and up long before the 7:00 AM set on my alarm. A quick shower and pack the last few things in my carry on suitcase. I am scheduled to leave in the first group, but I decide to wait until after 4 or 5 groups have been called to allow time for those that are in a hurry to leave the ship. When the next group is called, about 25 minutes into disembarkation I head to the gangway.

No wait for the elevator. As the door opens on deck 4 there is a sea of passengers in front of me. There has been a malfunction of the gangway, and no one has left the ship yet.  Why did they keep calling for more groups to disembark? The new procedure of waiting in your cabin is designed to eliminate the jam of people in public spaces.

After about 30 minutes the line begins to slowly move. Passengers never fail to boggle my mind. One lady about 20 feet in front of me is trying to manipulate 3 large suitcases. You just want to tell here that is why they give you luggage tags and have you gather your luggage in the terminal where a ported can assist if needed. the line meanders to the terminal and into the baggage holding room.

Facial recognition works flawlessly for CBP. 10 seconds max. A long walk to the waiting shuttle bus.

The shuttle driver is to make 2 stops before reaching the main lot. She forgets both of them. I guess it is too early in the day for her.

On the drive home I talk to my children. Most of them still have a lingering cough and upper respiratory infection. Everyone around me has caught this bug, but so far I have managed to avoid it. It is so common and widespread, the thought has gone through my mind that I might be an asymptomatic typhoid mary.

Arrive home, turn the water and water heater on, unpack, wash all my  clothes, and I am ready for another trip shortly after lunch time. In reality it will be about a month and then the first time for me on The Odyssey of The Seas to Curacao, my favorite port.

Day 5 - A Day At Sea

The sun rises to a mostly overcast day. Temperatures are about 75, the same as the sea.  There were a few showers during the night, and more are expected as the day progresses. Very typical Caribbean weather.

Cruising at over 20 knots and with a 25 mph wind almost directly on our bow the decks are very windy. Unless clipped, towels blow off chairs, paper napkins easily escape peoples grip. It is impossible to walk around the bow of the ship on deck 5 and 6.

Everytime someone opens the door to the pool deck a hurricane of wind blows through the open dining areas on deck 11 including Chops and  the Windjammer Definitely a windy day.  

Despite the breeze and the accompanying 6 foot seas the ship is very stable. No roll and very little pitch.

I'm hooked on the french toast for breakfast in Chops. I order it again today. Still no V8, they have none on board. Yesterday they loaded about 20 cases of canned goods aboard while we were in Cozumel. I was hopeful. Something important, but not V8.

during the day I finish the last piece of fruit from my basket. All the same fruit is available in the Windjammer, but it is just more convenient when it is in your cabin. I continue listening to the book I started nearly two weeks ago. there is a chance I may finish it by cruise end.

This afternoon I have reservations for the ice show. Every available seat is booked, probably 90% of the passengers that made reservations actually attend. I guess average for a free show.

The skaters are, as usual, excellent. The circus theme, under the big top, is well done. One skater takes a nasty fall and slams hard into the wall. She quickly recovers and continues skating, to relief of all. I'm sure more was bruised than her pride.

I pack late afternoon. Having checked the weather at home my evening clothes will suffice for the short drive home. A last stop at the Schooner Bar, and a seat in the back of the theater for the farewell show. Neither is very busy. For most passengers this trip has come to an end. A lucky few dozen will be staying on for the next trip.

Much more of a party crowd than I am accustomed to on Royal, but as I have said many a time. Any day at sea is a good day providing your not having to work.

There are very few suitcase out in the hall as I return to my cabin. Mine is still where I placed it 4 hours prior. Another indiction that most passengers will carry off thier luggage.

We should be in Port Canaveral by about 6:30 AM.

December 13, 2021

Day 4 - Cozumel, Mexico

The ship is secured to the pier a little after 7:00. By 7:45 passengers begin to head ashore. The temperature is in the mid 70's, the sky partially cloudy. On the 7th deck, where my cabin is, there is a light breeze.

Plans have been made to have breakfast in the dining room about 8:30. Bill calls and he is on the way. My French toast is good, but not as good as in Chops.

Lynne shares that she went to the medical facility last night because of dental pain from a dislodged crown that had been reattached by her dentist a few weeks ago. Some magic potion seemed to dull the pain for the night, but had returned by the end of breakfast. She had been instructed to come back if needed, but not until after 11 this morning as the medical staff would be busy giving all crew members flu shots.

By 10 AM the drinking party was going strong at Senor Frogs, a popular spot just off the end of the pier. If I had any inkling of wandering over for a beer and some popcorn, assuming they still have the  complimentary snack to encourage more drinking, it was quickly discarded by the noise of the party.

I finally have the chance to try the pizza that has been reported to have been reformulated. The pizza is no longer in Sorrentos, but is part of the Cafe Promendade which also incorporates Ben and Jerry's and coffee service.

Thin crust, with several of the common choices such as cheese, or pepperoni. It is good, but my memory is not good enough to make a specific comparison to when I had it several years ago.

Back in my cabin for a few minutes, there is a knock at the door. It is the housekeeping manager making an inspection of cabins. Basically checking up on the cabin steward. I assure him that everything is in order and after checking some boxes on his form he moves on to the next cabin. I know this is often done, but this is the first time I remember being in the cabin at the right moment.

Speaking of injuries and the medical facility, while in the Windjammer yesterday one of the staff severly burned his hand while reaching to serve a passenger. He claimed he was OK, but a supervisor had him go to the medical facility for evaluation. I wish him the best.

The sun is out about 20% of the day. Most of the rest of the time it is cloudy except for a brief period mid afternoon when the heavens open up for about 30 minutes. Many passengers get an extra cooling off on the walk back to the ship. From the balcony I felt the rain was cold, but I do live in Florida so now anything below 75 is cold.

Just as the rain started an ambulance arrives at the gangway. The EMT's start to get out, but seeing the rain approaching they get back inside where they wait until the rain stops. Once they won't get wet they board the ship and return with a young man that looks like he could be a crew member. based on his dress.

I have no idea how much I walk everyday and decide to see if a phone app will tell me.  With my first attempt I am unable to get the app to register any steps. I am sure it is operator error of some sort so I move on to the Samsung app that is built into my phone. It just needed configuring and updating. Success. It works.

I deliberately take a walk outside on deck 5 to see what it says. 24 steps. Impossible, but I didn't count them. I walk a short distance, counting every step. 40. I look at my phone. It has added over 250 to the previous count. I am unimpressed. Maybe the other pocket. Still no where near a reasonable count. This sounded like a good idea, but my phone is not accurate enough to be meaningful. Before cell phones were so prevalent I had a mechanical pedometer. It was no better. Probably it is just me.

Back to listening to my book. For years I used some cheap earbuds that you keep after taking a tour and listening to the recorded audio in your choice of languages. I can't imaging they cost more than $1.00 for the tour operator.  I splurged and bought an expensive $15 set from Amazon. They do work much better.

I look off the balcony just in time to see a group of passengers returning form shore. One young female passenger is so drunk she gets back to the ship in a wheelchair. Her comrades carry her onto the ship. More what I expect to see on Carnival than Royal.

While in the Schooner bar I run into George, a fellow passenger I met years ago but haven't seen in probably five. He has sold his home and is now planning to live exclusively on a cruise ship. He currently is booked on the Mariner until June when he moves to another ship because the entire ship has been chartered by a group. Royal is transfering him to a ship sailing out of Tampa until he can return to the Mariner.  If I were to consider such a move, it wouldn't be on a ship that does 4 and 5 day turns. 

The show tonight is the first performance for a new cast of the show entitled "Gallery of Dreams". They do a good job and the lower level of the theater is 80% full. I can see no one in the balcony which is reserved for the unvaccinated.

As we head north from Cozumel the seas slowly build. Initially ship motion is barely perceptable, but eventually reaches the point that most passengers probably can feel it.

Tomorrow will be as a sea day as we head back to Port Canaveral.

December 12, 2021

Dsy 3 - A Sea Day

Saturday December 11. The seas remain at about 5 to 6 feet. The wind is at or stern at about 15 knots, slightly less than our 17 knots of progress towards Cozumel.

The skies are mostly clear, the sun bright and temperatures in the low to mid 70's.

It is a good thing I had no desire to dine in Chops as I learn they have been sold out since before we sailed. I guess that explains why they haven't been pushing the specialty dining. 

Compared to my last sailing a few more activites have been returned. Special merchandise sales on the promenade such as the cheap tee shirts and hats, discounted silver, a watch sale.  A  "diamond" sales pitch in the theater, oops I mean seminar. And the old standby, the  shopping guide sales pitch for Cozumel, our next port of call. I pass on all of them.

A top tier event is held in the Star lounge. Not for Diamond and above as in years past, but only for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle. At most 60 passengers attend out of the 200 invited. Champagne or punch, or whatever if you ask. 

A gentleman that arrived 15 minutes late,  downs two double bourbon on the rocks in less than two minutes, then gets up and leaves in the middle of the event. Behavior of society hasn't improved. Why did I let him sit at my table?

The new procedure for complimentary drinks for Diamond and above is that depending on your level you can have your alloted number of beverages from most any location at any time of day. The servers are supposed to ring up each drink to keep track. Well having just reviewed my account I can tell you that often does not happen. Possibly a cash tip to the server with your first drink, and the next ones don't get rung up?  I doubt anyone from Royal will be reading this.

As I anticipated, Barbara is the top cruiser with 1905 points. There are 310 diamond passengers, 167 Diamond Plus, and 25 Pinnacle. World wide Royal has over 17,000,000 crown and anchor members.

I felt the piano player was decent the other night, so I go the the Schooner bar to pass time before the show. Disappointment. Exactly the same set as before. another passenger asks the bartender, and yes he does exactly the same thing every single night. Probably one of the reasons I enjoy Kelley Goodrich so much.

The vocalist show from the Phillipines, "Goddess" is good and also gives me the opportunity to eveluate a new set of sound reducing earplugs I purchased for such occasions. My inaccurate sound level meter app in my phone peaks the audio at 105 dba. The earplugs lower the level substantially, but unlike the inexpensive foam plugs I have used for years does not alter the tonal quality.

As we turn more south after passing Cuba, the seas drop to about 2 feet. We are expected to arrive in Cozumel about 7:30 AM.

Day 2 - Mariner of The Seas

Before sunrise we have pulled into the pier at CocoCay. Provisions for the days consumption on the island are off loaded. At 8:00 AM passengers begin going ashore. A large percentage of passengers want to sit in the sun or play on the beach or water park. I have already decided to stay on the ship.

The Symphony of the Seas shares the island with us today. I am sure there is space for everyone, but the peace and quiet of the ship is more enjoyable.

The balloon is not tied down to the ground today, a first for me. But it is not going aloft either. It is tethered about15 feet off the ground. It makes for better photo ops that way, but no revenue.

The weather remains beautiful all day. A light breeze with temperatures about 75. A NCL ship is anchored a few miles away for their private island experience. No pier for them, they have to tender to shore as Royal used to do before building the pier here.

Real breakfast this morning in Chops Grille. Another Pinnacle Club benefit. French toast made to perfection. I run into Bill and Lynne and we make plans to test the champagne later in the day, so upon returning to the cabin I ask my room steward to please ice the champagne. 

A couple hours later I am back in the cabin and I see that he has brought the ice, but the entire counter is covered with water and beginning to run to the floor. A quick investigation reveals a small hole in the bottom of the bucket. The water leaks out as fast as the  ice melts. 

The bucket is quickly transferred to the sink, and 2 bath towels later the counter is dry. Fortunately nothing of significance was damaged. I am glad I returned when I did.

Bill and Lynne have a suite, so of course we plan to drink the champagne there. I am eager to see what I am missing. Parts of the cabin are identical to my standard balcony, but there are some significant additional amenities.

The first is that there is a real lighted doorbell in the hallway. The closet space is about 50% larger. The bath includes a very deep tub with sides so high many people, including all of us, would find it very difficult to get into, and nearly impossible to get out of. Of course they have a real spacious shower compared to the tiny round one in my cabin. The bed, and sofa are identical to my cabin, but of course the counter tops and coffee table are quartz or marble, not imitation wood laminate. In addition to chairs, the balcony has heavily padded loungers. Yes very nice.

The Champagne is better than we expected it to be. We finish about half of the bottle and I leave the rest for them to enjoy. I think afternoon nap is in order.

Having found the Diamond lounge quite busy yesterday, I decide to go to the Pinnacle Lounge just after 5:00. An adjustment for Covid, the Pinnacle Lounge is temporarily located in the Library. A small windowless space tucked off to one side of the entrance to the Star Lounge.

Of course everthing is always at the other end of the ship. I get some exercise that way. In walking down the cabin hallway to the fore elevators I pass the Medical team dressed in what passengers describe as Haz Mat Suits going in and out of a cabin. Obviously at  minimum someone is in quarantine as a safety precaution for some reason.

The Lounge is empty with only two other passengers there. Barbara I remember from many cruises ago, possibly back to my Monarch days. She is often the passenger with the most points at t he top tier party. If you have any question how she does it, this is her 16th of 17 cruises back to back on The Mariner.

It is the Windjammer for dinner tonight. Italian night so it is pasta with Bolognese sauce. At the entrance to the Windjammer the galley has made a large ginger bread village display complete with running train. How did they know I was going to be here.

I  have reservations for the show at 10:15, but go to the Schooner bar. After a set or two I decide the prudent think to do is sleep, not stay up for a show.

All day I have had in my mind that we would be in Nassau tomorrow. Not true. Cozumel is our next port. We will pass to the North of cuba tomorrow, a sea day.

Seas are about 5 feet, but no motion is felt by most of the passengers as we run at about 17 to 20 knots against a strong current, but with an equally strong following sea.

December 10, 2021

Dec 9, Prior to and Day 1 on Mariner of The Seas

Covid protocols require covid testing within 48 hours of departure time.  Being able to secure testing at a local facility exactly when needed appeared to be problematic so I have been using supervised home testing. 2 days until departure so it is time to test.

"Due to a connectivity issue we are unable to provide test results. Please try later." Same results hour after hour. I soon learn AWS (Amazon Web Services) is having severe issues affecting customers worldwide. I had no idea that Amazon provides about 1/3 of all internet services. If they have an outage, the effects can spread worldwide. Just out of curiosity I tried to connect to Amazon shopping services. Shut down as were many streaming services and Alexa functions.

The next day I try again. Works as it should. No delays, no error messages, and in less than 30 minutes I have my printed negative covid test in hand. Packing is essentially complete.

When exiting by the front door to take my luggage to the car I notice a hole in the ground in the planter. I thought it was caused by a burrowing animal, but never
saw the tell tale paw prints. Having seen no activity the hole was filled in a few feeks ago. Suddenly, with a little expert advise, I realize the hole is caused by a broken sprinkler line.

A work order  is  submitted moments before I head to the ship. There are advantages to living in a community with an HOA that takes care of lawns, hedges, sprinklers, and painting the outside of my house.

The drive to the parking lot is uneventful and I am soon on the shuttle bus to the ship. The terminal is much busier than when I was last here 10 days ago. There is a backup at the first checkpoint, but it only lasts a few minutes.

My entry to the ship from the gangway takes me past my life boat station. I pause again to complete the safety briefing on the app. I complete it but the app refuses to acknowledge that I have done it. The same as it did earlier at my house. I check in, and am told they are having lots of similar problems with many passengers today.

Just inside the ship is the dining room hostess stand. Time to use my influence and change some dining reservations. Sorry it can't be done. The earliest they have a table for 3 is 8:30. That is too late for all of us.

With only a glass of milk for breakfast I head to the Windjammer for lunch. It is packed! With a few tables blocked for "social distancing", empty tables are scarce. I finally secure one and grab the fixings for a small ham and cheese sandwich. Oh I should say the staff serves me the ingredients to make a sandwich.

Cabins are not ready yet so I head to the Crown Lounge.  Bill comes by. He and his wife are in a suite, so they are given immediate cabin access. He shares his woes of covid testing using CVS. Initially they gave him bad advice and told him to get tested 3 days before the cruise. He did, then I saw him and raised the probability that it would not be acceptable for cruise ship boarding. He went back and got another and I think maybe a third test. After several trips to CVS and numerous phone calls to them, finally on the morning of departure he got a phone notification that they had tested negative.

Not quite there yet though. When they were boarding they ship they had a difficult time with the port staff as his personal information such as name and date of test was not on the same screen as the results. A situation that could be easily faked. After much discusssion Bill prevailed and he and his wife were allowed to board.

I head to the cabin, they have been ready for about an hour by the time I get around to heading there. A little smaller than on the Independence, but at least the balcony door works smoothly. On the desk is plate of cookies, a basket of fresh fruit, 6 or 8 cans of soda, four bottles of water and a large bottle of champagne.

I find my suitcase about 100 feet down the hall. I also meet my cabin steward. He greets me by name.  It's amazing. I don't recall him from a previous cruise, but he may have seen me go in or out of my cabin. He offers to bring my suitcase, but as he already has two in tow, I thank him and take it myself. He has enough to do today.

The Diamond lounge is full long before sailing time so I head outside to watch sailaway. Half the lines are removed and a man comes running towrds the ship. He is expected as the crew gangway is still in place. Just as he steps on the ship the gangway is removed, and in a few moments we are underway, I think right on time. 

After a walk around the ship, and a brief stop in the cabin I head back to the Diamond Lounge. A table is leaving just as I arrive and I am able to share a table with with a couple from Indianapolis that entered the lounge right behind me.

Knowing that the dining rooms are packed tonight, I decide to just go to the Windjammer. The selection is varied as always. I settle on a small piece of grilled chicken, and about an inch and half long piece of corn on the cob.

An hour of watching "finish that tune" and it is time for the headliner show. A comedian that is pretty good, but I must acknowledge that having been up for 18 hours I may have dozed once or twice for a few moments. It was never acknowledged, but he looked an awful lot like the late arrival on the ship just before sailaway. Maybe his twin.

The seas are very calm as we head south to CocoCay our first port of call. Our expected arrival time is just after 6:00 AM.

December 05, 2021

Dec 3, 2021 Back Home

Running at full speed thru the night we arrive in Port Canaveral just before noon. There is a new procedure in place for Royal that they have been testing for several months and have now decided is going to be standard practice.  Historically they ask everyone to evacuate their cabins as soon as possible, and gather in a public space awaiting customs clearance and disembarkation.

Now passengers are asked to wait in cabins, and when disembarkation time arrives, go directly to the gangway, this works much more smoothly for the passengers, but does eat into the time the crew has to prepare cabins for the next cruise. This turnaround is going to be extremely tough on the crew. The next cruise will be leaving late.

We disembark about 12:30 and are quickly thru customs, to the parking lot, and on our way home. With facial recognition, passengers don't even need to show passports. A process that historically could take hours, now take mere seconds. Some parts of our government do work.

As we are looking forward to disembarkation, we are informed by the captain that the evacuated passenger is stable in the hospital. He reiterates that it was NOT covid related in any way.

A few days to do the laundry and I will be on the Mariner of The Seas December 9th.

Day 4 Nassau

We are one of 5 ships in Nassau today. Us, The anthem of the seas, Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, A Carnival ship, and a three masted sailing vessel from Norway, the SS Stratsraad Lehmkuhl. 

The Stratsraad Lehmkuhl is a beautiful ship with graceful lines. Exactly what you would expect of a ship built in 1914. The young sailors on board are partying hard.

Many of the piers are under construction, and the sound of jack hammers fills the air all day long.

The others go into town to do some sight seeing. I elect to remain on board. The ships crew is practicing many safety skills today, launching a number of the lifeboats and responding to a "practice drill fire" somewhere on the lower decks. The ships emergency horn is sounded several times, but as always during the drills passengers are told to ignore them. Probably the entire exercise lasts 2 to 3 hours.

Last night there was a wedding in the Crown Lounge. The couple had met on this ship, planned their wedding for last year but like many events it had to be rescheduled to this year because of covid. The wedding party probably consisted of 10 to 12 guests.

I have lunch in Johnny Rockets today, primarily to spend some of the remaining nonrefundable on board credit. Even though we are in port, it is quite breezy, and keeping track of my paper napkin is a challenge.

At 3:00 it is off to the theater to see the broadway musical Grease. The cast does a good job and recovers quickly from from a scenery change glitch midway through the show.

After the show it is obvious that we did not leave port on time. The captain had announced we were delayed for a medical emergency. I don't know if it was the alpha call at 2:00 or as rumored by some passengers an incident that occured during a shore excursion. Regardless we were not leaving on time.

The captain soon appraised us of the situation again. We were waiting for a medical evacuation plane from the US. and its earliest arrival time would be about 10 PM. Never any details on the passenger other than we were told it was not covid and that the patient was stable.

Dinner in the dining room was again excellent even though we were seated at yet another table. Even though the dining rooms on decks 4 and 5 were often empty, our dining room on deck 3 held the first seating of traditional dining, and it was only after those tables were cleared was there room for any of the my time diners.

The head waiter not only brought the savory bites that are so well enjoyed by everyone, but he brought a special dish, not on the menu, that is a tradition of his home country of the Phillipines. I enjoyed 3 cheeze tortolini, a personal favorite for years.

After dinner the orchestra in the Star Lounge was playing several sets of jazz including Dixieland Jazz and Jazz cabaret. The captain joined part of one set playing the trumpet.

The medical passenger leaves the ship, and we finally are underway about 7 hours late at 10 PM. We will cruise at full throttle, 24 to 25 knots, to get back to Port Canaveral.  We do not know all the circumstances, but knowing how close Nassau is to Miami, the passengers realize the passenger would have been able to get shoreside medical attention much sooner had the ship left on time and just diverted to Miami instead of waiting for a medical evacuation plane.

This incident is exactly why I always strongly suggest that one travel with a passport even when it is possible to travel with just a photo ID and a birth certificate. Without a passport the medical evacuation by plane would have taken much longer, possibly days longer.

The seas are quite calm. There is a light headwind as we travel North, and we also have the ocean currents of the Gulf Stream pushing us back towards our home port. Expected arrival is about noon time.

December 02, 2021

Day 3, CocoCay

I awaken to the sound of the bow thrusters as we are pulling into the pier at CocoCay. The skies are partly cloudy, temperatures in the mid 70's. We arrive right on time at 7:00 AM. The Anthem of the Seas is due in shortly. Yesterday the captain said it would be a tossup to see which ship actually arrived first.

At 8:00 the ship is cleared for passengers to disembark and enjoy the private island. Many things are included with the cruise fare, but you can spend hundreds extra for a private cabana, and slightly less for a ballon ride, a zipline,  jet skis, or a water park.  The wind is too high for the tethered balloon. In many visits here I have never seen it off the ground except in pictures.

I accidently run into the others at breakfast. They are headed for the beach. We had made earlier plans to meet at the end of the pier at 11:00. I'll decide soon whether to even get off the ship or not.

At 10:00 The Anthem of The Seas arrives, and they begin to disembark just as I make my way to our gangway.  The pier is crowded and the locals operating the shuttle vehicles are totally disorganized. I take 15 minutes making the 10 minute walk to the island.

As I am waiting for the others at our designated meeting place the heavens open up with a very brief but wet shower.  It only lasts for a few minutes but if you were not prepared by being in a swim suit, or lucky enough to find cover it was enough to get one wet.

The others arrive and head to the beach chairs, yes the complimentary ones.

With no interest in sitting on the beach I wander over to the tram station to take the tram around the island. Probably a 30 minute trip that goes past all the popular places. Designed primarily for people like me it is easier than walking, but not faster.

I head back to the ship and my morning shower even though it is after noon. A quick lunch in the Windjammer and then time to finish yesterday's blog.

The windjammer is nearly empty. More people went ashore than I anticipated. Good for those that remain on board.  All the pools are near empty and the promenade is devoid of passengers. The Windjammer food seems to be a mixed bag. The selection has been cut back from past years, and with limited passengers I have yet to find more than half of the serving stations open. Room capacity is controlled by the staff scanning your seapass card as you enter and exit. Some tables are blocked from use to provide more social distancing. Even with these restrictions there is never a line to enter the Windjammer.

Last night was formal night, I think I spotted one tuxedo and a few suit jackets. No formal dresses at all, pant suits at best. At the other extreme, on a previous night, a grown woman was wearing what the girls described as a onesy. A single piece bodysuit that enclosed her from head to toe. It could have easily passed as a panda bear halloween costume. Yes, this was in the dining room.

We depart CocoCay about 4:30. Just after we leave port a waterspout is spotted directly in front of us. The captain tells us why he is making some unexpected turns.

The dining room accomodates our desire to dine earlier than 6:45 as we have reservations for the ice show at 8:00. We are promptly seated. There are just 5 of us this evening as the two others are dining at Giovannis, one of the specialty restaurants. We also inform our staff that we have show reservations. It totally works, we leave the dining room in just over 45 minutes. the wait staff in the dining room has been very good. 

The chicken cordon blu was good. Unfortunately they did not have the ingredients for cherries jubilee.  Another item that does not exist on the ship is cream cheese. Fortunately gin suppy appears to be more than adequate.

Absolutely no rumors of any illness on the ship so far. There have been a few injuries including one gentleman that recieved a large gash in his arm as the elevator doors he was holding for someone in a scooter closed on him. A behavior we all have participated in.

12 stitches, many steri strips and lots of glue he is doing fine. The passenger has nothing but praise for the medical staff. 

We also have one and a half service animals on board. I say a half because no one is convinced the second dog is a legitimate service animal. Historically this has been an area that was greatly abused by passengers, but prior to the pandemic the cruise lines began clamping down on false service animal claims.

We get to Studio B for the ice show early and have our choice of nearly any seat in the house. My favorite is seated in the last row behind a narrow counter, providing a place for beverage glasses.

As the show is about to begin we learn that two of the performers were injured earlier in the day. Too short of skaters to do the show,  each of the remaining skaters spends a few minutes on the ice doing their thing. All finished in less than 20 minutes. No word on the injured skaters condition. Unfortunately stuff happens and you do your best. They could have just cancelled everything.

We head to the Star Lounge to listen to the orchestra playing Dixieland Jazz. Very enjoyable and no ear plugs required. The Captain is waiting to join the band for a number or two, but we leave before he plays to catch Tyrone Hawkins, a comedian, in the main theater.

After another good comedy show it is back upstairs to the Star Lounge to hear the last 20 minutes of Jazz Cabaret.

The others were headed to partying on the balcony. I went to the cabin to sleep. It did not take long.

The seas remain calm and the winds light as we head a short distance to Nassau.  So short in fact that many ships making this jaunt will either just sit motionless in the water for hours, or will cruise in circles to use up time. We are expected to pick up the pilot about 6:30 and should be in port by 7:00. Tomorrow is another day.

December 01, 2021

Day 2, At Sea

We continue slowly on our course south along the coast of Florida. By 2 PM we are off shore from Boca Raton heading south at the blustering speed of 5 knots. The captain is deliberately following the coast line so passengers have a view in the distance.

Our passenger count is about 2400 out of a maximum of 4600 if all berths were occupied. There are very few children on board, and 99% of passengers are vaccinated. A requirement of the bahamian government for ships calling in the Bahamas.

At many times the ship almost feels deserted. At lunchtime, during a walk down the promenade, I encounter more staff and crew than passengers. 

In what has now become the norm, I encounter a couple in the Diamond lounge "working from home". In one overheard conversation, "I have to work one more hour today to get my time in."

By midafternonn the sun has become very hot. Most passengers are on the sundeck, many getting a sunburn. I have a reservation for the ice show later in the week, but will try to see it today on a standby basis.  Reservations are required for all shows, and at least for the ice show each passenger is restricted to one reservation.

A few tidbits picked up during the Captain's Corner presentation. Royal has returned 18 of it's fleet of 26 ships to service.

Nassau is one of the most challenging ports to enter and exit.

Sorrentos pizza receipe was reformulated. I have yet to sample it.

Tomorrow the water temperature at CocoCay will be about 77 degrees, not much different than the air temperature.

The plan for the ice show is foiled by a mechanical failure. No show today, maybe tomorrow.

The Diamond Concierge, Grecia Guillen Roca, is from Manilla. Very personable and makes a point to visit with many of the guests in the lounge. At one point she was promoting Royal's world cruise in 2023. I suggested she should line herself up to work that cruise and she became very excited  at the prospect. 

The sun sets as we were passing off the coast of Miami. A beautiful sunset behind the Miami high rise buildings. A sight not caught on camera.

The Hotel Director and the captain made a pass thru the lounge to greet everyone. both employees have been with Royal for many years.

We wound up at a different table for dinner. We learned that they were using the dining room for one seating of main dining and then using it for my time diners. Depending on how quickly tables turn, or how many no shows there are for the main seating, determines where we might be seated. Regardless the specially requested savory bite rolls made it to our table. My sliced tenderloin was excellent as were the dishes served to others.  

Because of special procedures being implemented in the face of the covid pandemic, many activities have been curtailed. Food sevice in the Solarium has ceased. The very popular parade of flags for all the nations represented in the crew has been suspended. There is no Captain's reception and no photo ops with the captain. Many games just don't exist anymore such as crew vs passenger water volleyboard, the egg drop. and stair golf. Some day, things will return to normal.

The headliner entertainer tonight is vocalist Daryl Williams. Another headliner I do not remember from any previous cruise. He has an excellent voice. My guess is that the theater was 50% full, the most I have seen yet.

Thinking of entertainment. The piano player that usually rides up and down in an elevator as he plays has been sequestered in a little alcove between the two aft elevators banks where he can still be heard through much of the promenade.

Directly to bed at the conclusion of the show. Tomorrow we will spend the day in CocoCay, Royal's private island. we have heard that the Anthem of the Seas will also be there, adding to the competition for the best beach spot.

The seas remain calm as we head east during the night.

November 30, 2021

Nov 29, 2021 Independence of The Seas Day 1

I booked this cruise months ago as the cruise industry was trying to restore operations after a long disruption caused by the Covid pandemic. The hope was that covid would be history by now, but exactly the opposite is happening. This past week word of a new variant has emerged. Politics is interfering with public health policy to a degree never before seen is this country. But I digress.

I have added one item to my packing list since my last cruise. A pillow to fill up the suitcase. Desparately needed on such a short cruise when the suitcase is 30% empty. If I had thought of this years ago, maybe my old suitcase would not show signs of being crushed.

Royal is now using a system of scheduled boarding times. What an improvement from prior times.  We are scheduled for 12:00 to 12:30, the first time slot for boarding. I turn the water off, check the house and load the car by 9:30. A quick 15 minute drive to pick up my daughter and her husband and we are on our way to Port Canaveral. Two friends are to meet us at Radisson parking lot, the others we will catch up with on the ship.

Traffic is easy, one quick stop for a restroom break at McDonalds and we are at the parking lot 10 minutes before our planned time. A brief wait while the shuttle bus is loaded and we are on our way.

Boarding procedures are much different from years past. Masks are required in the terminal building. Proof of negative covid test, passport, sea pass, and vaccination status is checked. Security examines carry on luggage and most passengers pass thru the ever present metal detectors. I walk around.

The next step is actual check in with the cruise line. Lines are essentially non-existent. Passport, ID picture, vaccine status are verified.

Walking the final leg towards the gangway, seapass is all that is needed now. Probably it takes 15 minutes for the boarding process, and most of that is walking time.

There are 7 of us that are travelling together, 2 of which have never cruised before. First stop is lunch in the Windjammer. As part of covid protocol, seapass cards are scanned prior to entrance. everything is handed to you by a staff member,  including napkins and silverware. Another change that passengers would like to see become permanent.

We linger for awhile in the Crown Lounge as the cabins are not ready until 2:00. A tour of the ship is in order for the new passengers, it ends on the mini golf course. No we do not keep score, but the experience of the regular players is obvious. 

I update our dining reservations so we are all at the same table. As often can happen it takes the gal at the desk several attempts, including flipping thru a notebook of about 50 pages of notes. Obviously her cheat sheet on how to navigate the system.

Everything is unpacked and properly stowed. I again have a balcony cabin. Rare for me as historically I have booked interior cabins. The balcony door is nearly impossible to open or close. I place a call to maintenence.

Sail away is at 5:00. The Disney Dream departs just in front of us. A pretty ship with classic cruise liner lines. It is a little breezy and a little chilly on deck. Seas are very calm as we slowly, very slowly, make our way south along the coast of Florida, the sun soon setting over the mainland.

An  unintended short nap, and it is time for dinner.

Service is good. Everyone's food arrives at the same time as it should. Amazingly the butter is not frozen. Frozen butter is one of those little things that always bugs me. Spreading frozen butter is one of life's tasks that I never mastered very well, it always just winds up as gobs on the bread, instead of being spread in a nice even thin layer.

Minestrone soup, medium rare prime rib, and key lime pie is all good. Others enjoy shrimp, crab cakes and salmon. Menu items that I must avoid.

The piano player has already started by the time we arrive at the Schooner Bar, one of my favorite spots on every Royal ship. I failed to remember to bring my ear plugs from the cabin, but I survive.

When Timothy Boaz ends his set, we head to the theater for a comedian. Not usually one of my most favorites, he is OK. Comedians have been entertaining on cruise ships for years. Usually hopping from ship to ship every few days. Nate Weatherup  is booked here with a 7 month contract. Being on the ship for such an extended period he is considered part of the crew and has had to undergo the same safety training as all crew members.

Directly to bed after the show I suspect I was asleep within minutes.

The seas remain very calm as we head towards CocoCay tomorrow. Our speed is about 7 knots, the seas flat and the skies clear. Tomorrow is another day.

October 10, 2021

Day 8 - Disembarking and Drive Home

I am the first passenger to arrive in the theater. Passengers that are carrying off all their luggage are called to begin disembarking. Shortly it is our turn.

Again no lines, no crowds. One last scan of my sea pass card to account for me leaving the ship.  The gangway is a very long ramp that winds back and forth as we go from deck 5 on the ship to the second floor of the terminal and then down to ground level.

As we enter the terminal building masks are required. Our luggage is waiting for us and is quickly found. We head to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Historically this is the step that can take hours. Not today.

As I fish in my pocket to get my passport the agent says: "just put that away, please remove your mask".  Within 2 seconds the screen flashes a message and I am on my way. More technology. Facial recognition has compared me with an electronic record of my passport.

The shuttle bus takes me directly to my car, we load the luggage and start the long drive home.

Shortly one of the tire pressure warning alarms comes on. One tire is a few pounds low. Of course this appears after I have entered the Turnpike with limited service areas,  I watch it, and make the decision no action is needed unless it continues to drop. The pressure remains steady even if a few pounds low.

After several restroom stops, I am home before 1 PM.  Unpack, wash all the clothes and I am ready to go again.

Later in the day, hours after arrival at home, I learn the tire pressure really isn't low, it is a defective sensor. A task for another day.

Yes it was great to get back to sea again. I will be doing it again in less than 60 days. I expect the covid protocols will change again by then.

There were no covids cases this week. The entire crew and some passengers were tested on the third day of the cruise. Every day the captain reported on the health status of the ship - no one suspected of covid and no one testing positive. Just as planned.

Day 7 - Nassau

The Carnival Magic is already in port as we arrive and dock beside her. The skies are clear and sunny, but the temperatures are in the mid 80's, a pleasant break from the Florida heat.

Since my last visit here Nassau is adding another pier which I suspect will be capable of docking two more cruise ships, bringing the total port capacity to 9 ships at the same time.

Soon another ship arrives on the other side of us, the MSC Meraviglia. Nassau is definitely the busiest port in the Caribbean right now.

About 75 guests take the 2 hour boat ride in what are basically pontoon boats with outboard motors.

Some coincidences are beyond imagination. As I am communicating with my daughter in Orlando on Facebook, I get a message from the travel agent that I had used for nearly 10 years prior to the pandemic. I had tried to contact him several times, but he no longer worked for the firm. Hearing from him while on a cruise is just uncanny.

After lunch I start the sad process of packing. Many things I won't need again like my shaving mirror, and there are many others I gratefully never needed on this trip like all the emergency just in case travel stuff. Suitcases need to be out tonight between 6 and 10 PM. I will pack my carryon sutcase in the morning. 

We are scheduled to disembark in group 9 at 7:50 AM. I will probably regret saying this, but the process should be easy with so few passengers.

Without reservations for dinner, the app wouldn't allow us to make any, we elect to return to the greek restaurant. They have plenty of seating. another excellent dinner.

I catch one last show and then return to the cabin for the evening. The alarm is set for 6:45 AM. We agree to meet in the theater at 7:45 in the morning just before our scheduled departure time.

The seas are slight, with waves less than 2 feet. We move steadily and slowly at 10 knots toward Port Everglades.

October 08, 2021

Day 6 - At Sea

There was a shower just after daybreak this morning, but it quickly passed. The skies are hazy, the seas under 3 feet, and the wind is out of the east, nearly directly on our bow at 25 mph. Added to the 23 mph forward speed of the ship, the breeze on the open decks is substantial.

Our course takes us just north of Cuba as we head towards Nassau, our last port of call.

Restrictions for disembarking have varied at each port, Nassau being the most restrictive in that you can only disembark the ship if taking a Celebrity sponsored shore excursion. No doing anything on your own.

Because of this, Celebrity has given top tier customers the opportunity to purchase a 2 hour sightseeing boat trip at an alleged reduced rate. I don't bite, my plan all along has been to remain on the ship.

This ship is also a reflection of the technological times we are in. Everything incorporates a high level of technology with computers being used everywhere. I have no guess as to the correct answer, but I imagine if we were to count all the computers and micro processors in use on the ship it would total in the tens of thousands.

Just in each cabin the TV, lighting, door lock, refrigerator, AC, and safe are all controlled by processors of some type. Most of these items are also connected to wifi and can be controlled from your phone, and I am sure from other locations on the ship. 

Lighting, safety systems, navigation, propulsion control, elevators, entertainment, the list of systems goes on and on. Even the drummers cymbals and drums are just electronic sensors that connect to a system that generates the proper sounds. The sounds don't come directly from the instruments, they are generated with a computer.

The internet has been respectable, actually great when I compare it to a trip on The MS Amsterdam about six years ago when I had to get up in the middle of the night to send an email. A couple days ago there was no facebook, but I subsequently learned that was not unique to us here on the ship.

The day I boarded I hit a wrong button and installed an app that totally messed up my phone. For most of a day I couldn't find anything. There was the real possibility of no blog for this trip. Uninstall wouldn't work. Finally after sleeping on it I figured out the right combination to undo my errant keystroke.

Last night I tried to connect to my trainclub monthly meeting with zoom, but the connection speed was just too slow. A few years ago even attempting that would have been foolish.

Overall this has been the second least busy ship I have ever been on. Least busy meaning the smallest number of passengers in relation to passenger capacity. The only cruise that had fewer passengers was on the Monarch of the Seas during hurrican Sandy about 9 years ago. On that cruise, just a cruise to nowhere beause the ship was kicked out of Port Canaveral to make room for other ships, passengers numbered about 300, or less than 15% of capacity. But we did have 100% of the crew to serve us. It was a fun experience.

Tonight we are going to a speciality restaurant, Fine Cut Steakhouse, not because we need a better meal, but because I have a non refundable on board credit from being a RCCL stockholder. Either use it or loose it.

Dinner is exactly as I anticipated. One reminder that Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are owned by the same parent corporation. On Royal ships, Chops is their speciality steak restaurant. The Fine Cut is a near duplicate in menu and presentation. Both are excellent.

The production show is lacking. At it's conclusion I head to cabin to call it a night.

Tomorrow we will be in Nassau.

October 07, 2021

Day 5 - Cozumel, Mexico

During the night we cruise to our next port of Cozumel. No motion and no noise, this is definitely the smoothest ship I  have ever sailed.

I have no desire to go ashore. Adrienne and Steve plan to shop for some vanilla. Often a mission when in a Mexican port. 4 or 5 bottles? I will learn later.

This port is usually quite busy and often has as many as 8 ships in port. Today there are two, The Celebrity Edge and the The Celebrity Summit. 

The seating area on deck 4 in the Grand Plaza has become a popular spot for conversation, reading, and working. Did I say working? Yes there are at least 6 people here "working from home"  One gentleman has been conversing with people all morning, some sort of technical support I assume. Zoom or what I don't know. For privacy and respect for others he is situated in the most remote corner of the room.

Another gentlemen that looks to be 25 or 30 not only has a laptop but a second display and a foldable desk mechanisn that permits him to work seated or standing. He has two personal assistants at his side at all times. They adjust his pillows, set up his computer system, adjust his chair, etc. Drug lord, business executive, influencer, I have no guess and won't ask.

The beverage staff supplies a steady stream of coffee. A service I doubt most would have in an office building.

I often have observed people working from a cruise ship, but usually in the form of someone writing a book. No question that the pandemic has permanently changed the definition of working from home. Oh, me typing my blog, I do not consider working.

Cabin stewards are trained to do things certain ways and arrange things so there  is consistancy throughout the ship. My cabin has no less than14 pillows, 10 of which are piled on the bed, barely leaving enough space to sit.  Every day I pile all the pillows in one corner of the cabin. The next morning when he makes up the cabin, they are redistributed back to the bed and sofa. Repeated day after day.

Today I won! He only put two pillows on the bed, and left the rest piled in the corner. Easier for me and easier for him. Everybody won.

Adrienne and Steve return with 6 large bottles of vanilla. A successful shopping trip after a 3 mile walk in the hot muggy sun. About 5 pm there is a brief shower and a large rainbow over Cozumel. I suspect nearly all passengers had already returned to the ship.

The Summit leaves port 30 minutes before us. The captains have fun exchanging blasts of the ship's horns.

Cozumel fades into the distance as I head to dinner in the Tuscan dining room. Veal Cordon Blu is on the menu.

After dinner I sit in on a quiz game in The Club, listen to live music in various venues around the ship and call it a night about 11. There are probably 30 other passengers still scattered around the various venues. Definitely a more mature crowd.

Tomorrow is our last day at sea as we head to Nassau.

October 06, 2021

Day 4 Roatan, Honduras

We arrive on time at 8:00. I have been awake for 30 minutes, but still in the cabin. Not a sound! It is almost unreal. On every other ship there are usually the sounds of the bow thrusters and the winches as the ship is nudged to the dock and tied in place. Not here. The design really is different.

I elect to stay on the ship, as I probably will at every port until we return to Florida. It appears that about a third of the passengers are going ashore, about a hundred to 150 taking tours. Actually more than I expected. There are only a handful of first time passengers, and many of the seasoned passengers have been here many times. There are just a handful of international passengers, not surprising given the hurdles of international travel these days.

This is a special day for the Edge and the crew. Once per year every cruise ship undergoes a vigorous testing of the safety systems and procedures conducted under the watchful eye of an international safety inspector. The USCG does similar inspections for ships that call on US ports. Fire fighting simulations, evacuations, lifeboat launchings, and lots of alarms sounded. I wonder what happens if a ship fails this inspection? I am not concerned.

Having heard many announcements this morning I was reminded of another significant difference here on the Celebrity Edge. Other than the Captain's update in the morning, there are no announcements! No pitches for bingo, the art auction, or trivia. Just soft background music that is easy to ignore.

After the official inspection ends I head out on a quest to answer a question that came up during dinner with friends back home a week or so ago. What is the lifeboat capacity? 

An interesting find. The standard lifeboats exist in two configurations. Something I have never seen on a cruise ship. Four of the lifeboats have a rated capacity of 440 passengers, the ramaining eight, 223. Additionally there are at least 10 inflatable life rafts with a capacity of 150 passengers each.  There may be more that I didn't find. If I have done my math correctly, we have over 1500 extra lifeboats when the ship is at maximum capacity with passenger and crew.  Or for this cruise the extra lifeboats have a capacity to carry all the passengers with room for most of the crew.

I spend a few hours listening to an audiobook. I downloaded several just before leaving home, thanks to sharing a friends library card. It had expired a few days earlier, but still functioned properly. Probably like my local card, expiration dates were automatically extended due to covid.

Weather remains good. High temperatures in the upper 80's with lots of sunshine. Not much different than Florida.

With all of the crew, including the captain, wearing celebrity issued masks at all times, it is most difficult to recognize faces, but their smile comes through when they greet you. One of the bartenders still onboard was the only bartender during total shutdown. 86 crewmembers going nowhere and wondering when life would get back to normal. One benefit the skeleton crew did get was to use guest balcony cabins instead of the more compact crews quarters. A learning opportunity for everyone, the bartender learned many of the other functions of the beverage department like inventory and financial accountability. Make lemonade when you are served lemons.

Dinner this evening was in the fourth themed dining room, Cosmopolitan. I passed on any appetizer or starter and ordered a NY strip streak for an entree.  The steak itself was properly cooked, but the very heavy salt on the outside almost made it inedible. Adrienne ordered the same steak and found the same.

The show in the theater, "Uptown", four male singers accompanied by the house band, was very energetic and well received by everyone. The Captain and about 30 Staff were among the 400 or so guests in the audience.

A brief stop at the deck party on deck 14,. It was too loud for me, time for sleep.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to be in Cozumel.

October 05, 2021

First Two Days at Sea

My body rewards me for taking it back to sea by sleeping nearly 11 hours. I can't remember the last time I slept that long. I guess all I can say is that the cabin was very comfortable and very quiet. I did have an issue with all four pillows on the bed being about a foot thick, and still 9 inches when crushed. Too much for me.  My cabin steward quickly found me a thinner one.

Two tiny chocolates on the pillow at bedtime is a nice touch that most cruiselines have eliminated in the push for profit.

Breakfast in the buffet finds more than the usual offerings. Eggs any way you would like. Many bakery items, an extensive fresh fruit section. Everything is served by the staff, not the passengers. A very welcome change for obvious reasons.

A unique feature on the Edge is the flying carpet. A platform on the outside of the ship that can be positioned at different deck levels, and used for different functions.  At deck 14 it serves as a bar with a fantistic view of the horizon, the side of the ship, and the ocean below. When at the deck 5 level it can be a restaurant during dinner time, or a bar. Probably because of adjustments caused by the pandemic, the restaurant function is not being utilized on this cruise

When we need to tender into port, the flying carpet becomes a loading platform on deck 2 for the tendering vessels. This should greatly speed up the tendering process compared to traditional methods of boarding the tenders.

No one can be on the flying carpet when it changes locations as it in not approved as an elevator. Capacity is restricted by evacuation standards, not weight or phyical space.

The flying carpet is a very popular destination  and with a limited capacity of 100 people, under normal conditions you will find it crowded. Not on this cruise. With such a small compliment of passengers I always find seating available.

On sea days there  is an enrichment program that consists of a series of talks on the discovery of the Caribbean, the various voyages of Columbus, naming of the islands, island history etc. The speaker is very articulate and knows his subject matter very well. A retired history professor. I have heard similar talks many times in the past. A disadvantage of not being a first time cruiser. 

A couple of offerings in the buffet at lunch time are worthy of note. Filet mignon, and rib eye steak. Grilled to order if you want to wait the few minutes, or ready to be put on your plate. Tenderloin in the buffet? A first for me.

The seas are only one or two feet as we head west 30 miles off the north coast of Cuba. The skies are clear with just a few puffy clouds, the sun hot, and the air humid. Exactly what one should expect in the Caribbean. The ship remains rock stable as we head to our first destination, Roatan, Honduras.  When I booked this cruise we were going to Costa Maya first, but that port of call was cancelled, probably due to the pandemic.

With an extra day to get there we are blasting along at about 10 knots, less than half of the  most efficient cruising speed. No one on the ship cares, they feel like I do, just happy to be back at sea.

The captain gave an interesting presentation this morning. Mostly things I already knew, but some that I didn't.

In recent years the captain usually works 3 months on, 3 months off. They are working towards changing that to 10 weeks on 10 weeks off. Not because of physical burnout, but because of mental fatigue dealing with all the information available to the captain on today's modern ships.

Unlike previous designs this ship is very stiff through the center of the ship instead of having its primary strength in the outer hull. This was dictated by the large expanses of glass on the outside walls. As a result the ship is nearly void of mechanical noise and vibration from mechanical propulsion systems. 

The radical  hull shape which was first proposed decades ago, but seldom adopted, has resulted in a 14% reduction in energy needed to propel it through the water.

The navigation systems can pinpoint the ships location within 1 or 2 cm anywhere in the world. That is within a half inch. What's the point with a ship that is a thousand feet long?

A large group of cabins on deck 8 are being set aside to quarantine crew members if neccessary. Deck 8 so they have access to lots of fresh air which may not be the case in interior cabins on the lower decks where crew quarters are located.

The captain said inside cabins were not being sold for the same reason. Someone forgot to tell someone, I am in an inside cabin. Oh well.

While the normal crew would comprise of about 1500, and we are currently sailing with about 1000, the ship is certified and licensed to sail with a crew of just 20. And that number of 20 provides backup as it really can be done with 17 people working normal hours. Over 90% of the normal complement of crew members is strictly to serve guests, not operate the ship.

Dinner in the French restaurant, Normandie, is again excellent. The service perfect and it is impossible to think of anything that could be improved. Baked brie cheese for appetizer, beef wellington for the entree.

My daughter has decided I don't like her anmore. After dinner I suggest we go to the buffet to see how busy they are what they are serving and then go to deck 3 in the Grand Plaza to listen to the entertainment. Having vowed to always take the stairs and not any elevators, I have just suggested an extra 20 flights of stairs. She sticks to her commitment.

The buffet is not busy, and I really don't notice anything extraordinary being offered, Not surprised as the dining rooms have been so good.

The production show is a combination of arial acrobatics and singing. A good show that makes extensive use of video projection. 

My sleep time is more normal the second night. A sound is never heard. The seas and the wether remain near perfect. We have passed or been passed by a couple other cruise ships in the past two days and a small cargo freighter. Too far away other than to be identified as a Celebrity ship returning to Florida and a Carnival ship in a hurry.

Dinner in the Greek restaurant, Olympus is again perfect. Saganaki and veal chop. Saganaki is one of those treats I make at home, but not recently. I have to vist Tarpon Springs, about a four hour round trip from my home to buy the greek cheese. 

I pass on the main entertainer and listen to a violinist and then a guitar player in Eden, another very lush entertainment area. With a capacity of probably 200 or more it was disappointing that there were not more than 5 or 6 passengers enjoying it.

Hidden out of the way in the stern of the ship, it wouldn't surprise me if 70% of the passengers didn't even know Eden exists.

We are scheduled to arrive at Roatan, Honduras at 8:00 AM. I will not be setting an alarm.

October 04, 2021

Day 1 - Boarding and Departing

As I enter the terminal building basic documentation is checked such as the fact I have a passport and a boarding pass. Lines are labeled as to boarding times. There is none for 12:00 to 12:30. We are directed to the shortest one. The guests in front of me have all the proper documents, but don't speak english. Processing still only takes a few minutes.

My boarding pass is verified. Passort, ID, vaccination card, proof of negative covid test - all is in order. While many of these items can be on your phone, it is much easier to have paper copies as they are much quicker to find, easier to read, and don't disappear when your phone dies.

Next step is carry on luggage X-ray and metal detector, not for me. Metal detectors are a no no. Go around the metal detectors and wanded by hand. Within a few minutes I am on my way to boarding. One more check of some of the documents. 

Officially I am on the gangplank, masks can be removed. No one that is not vaccinated and has not tested negative for covid can get this far. I am probably safer than shopping in Publix.

The Celebrity Edge was launched in 2018 making her 3 years old, but she sat idle for nearly a year and a half, void of passengers and staffed only by a skeleton crew. She shows no sign of use. A new design that in some ways has departed from tradition.

First impressions - the ship is georgeous! Very elegant. Design unlike any ships I have previously sailed.

There are four main dining rooms, each seating about 500 passengers. Each with a different theme and different menu. Italian, French, etc.

Each dining room is small enough so that everyone  has a view of the ocean. Small enough that the dining room remains quiet. Small enough that the distance from the galley to the farthest table is much less than on most ships.

The central area, Grand Plaza, is much larger and more spacious. Lounge chairs around the pool deck and solarium, are heavily cushioned and set out in pairs with several feet between each pair. The rooftop garden is lush with vegetation. Lots of seating is spread out around the ship. Inside, outside, in the sun, or in the shade. There is a space for everyone.

My cabin is pretty typical in total size for an inside cabin. What is different is the bathroom which seems much more spacious. An effect that was accomplished by smart design more than by adding more square footage.

Storage space in the cabin is abundant with every nook and cranny turned into storage space concealed by clever woodwork. Even the top on the footstool can be reversed to make an end table, and the space inside used for storage.

Of course all lighting is LED and controlled to different intensities by the simple tap of a button, or from the app on my phone.

For the engineering types, the outlets in the bathroom are on a GFI circuit, which they should be, and the circuit breaker is nearby. The most likely circuit to be tripped by a guest can be reset by the guest.

Power strips on the desk accomodate many power  system plugs and voltages used in the US and many foreign countries. USB charging outlets are built in at the desk and beside the bed.

In cabins with a balcony the design is such that the balcony space is part of the cabin space  when the balcony is not in use with the glass wall closed. This configuration also provides a floor to ceiling window at the edge of the ship with a view of the ocean.

Throughout the ship design elements make excellent use of space.

After a beverage at the pool bar, it is time to clean up for dinner. We  have a 6:30 reservation at the Tuscan dining room.

The edge has a rated capacity of just over 2900 passengers. On this voyage there are just 1100 passengers. The cruise line in conjunction with CDC guidelines is limiting capacity to 50%, and we are sailing at a much lower number than that. The service crew is also at about 50% of normal.

It is dinner time. Each dining room has its unique menu choices for each meal related to the theme of the restaurant along with several items that are offered in all four dining rooms, and 4 or 5 basic items that are available everynight in every restaurant. We are seated next to the window with a view of Ft Lauderdale in the distance as we head south. 

My turkey parmegan was excellent as was everyone elses meal. Service was impeccable, made easier by the obsservation that I doubt there were more than 75 guests in the dining room at one time while we were there.

As we headed south along the southern coast of Florida there was a slight roll to the ship caused by the remanants of Sam far to our north east. A motion I have missed. I think it only took about 15 minutes to adjust. Soon the stabilizers were deployed and the roll decreased to imperceptable.

Having the ship at only 35% of capacity has its advantages. No waiting for elevators, no lines, empty hallways. Abundant seating everywhere.

I end the evening listening to a comedian in the main theater. The first performance he has done in 19 months. It did not show. One line that was particularily enjoyed: "All these people that don't want anyone jabbing vaccine down their throat. I wonder how they will feel about having a ventilator tube jabbed down their throat?" A loud applause ensued.

We get an extra hour of sleep tonight as we turn our clocks back one hour in preparation for the next time zones.

October 03, 2021

Finally Heading Back to Sea

It has been about 20 months since I  have packed for a cruise, navigated the nuances of security checks and walked down the gangway of a cruise ship. At first there was little knowledge about the "pandemic". Some leaders in Washington insisted it would be gone in two weeks.  Eventually the truth bacame known. As of September 2021 700,000 Americans have lost their lives to this very contagious disease. Scientists and big pharma knew a pandemic would hit someday and they worked overtime to develope a vacccine, that as I write, is available to all those over 12 that want it.

It seemed that every week testing and vaccine protocols required for boarding a cruise ship  changed. Proof of vaccination, testing, no vacination. As the sailing date approached, proof of vaccination 14 days before sailing and negative testing within 48 hours of boarding looked like where things would settle for this cruise. 

After seeing that appointments for testing were scarce during the 48 hour period prior to weekend boarding of ships, I elected to take a virtually supervised home test ordered thru the cruise line.

The home test was a smart decision. Simple, quick, about 30 minutes, and certified results acceptable to meet CDC and cruise ship requirements. All in the comfort of sitting at my dining room table, phone in hand.

Packing could be a nightmare since it was almost two years since I touched a suitcase. Fortunately a practice I started a number of years ago made it very easy. An organized packing list that covers every possible item I may want to take, and enough description of how and in what order to pack it. Just one new item to add - KN95 face masks, required in some ports of call. During the past week I have worked on organizing stuff and replacing a few things that were too far past expiration dates, like my sunscreen.

The evening before departure, everything is packed in its place. The suitcase is not full, but is heavy.

The alarm is set for 6:45. My daughter and her husband are due at my house to leave by 7:30. The luggage is in my car, the A/C reset, and the water turned off. They arrive a few minutes late. Then an oops. Most cruise lines permit you to bring one or two bottles of wine on board in your carry on luggage. They were bringing one, but when the back pack was set down on the driveway a little too hard, it broke. Wine was dripping out the bottom of the back pack filled with broken glass.

I turn the water back on and they scramble to clean the back pack as much as possible. There could be worse odors permeating the car. Fortunately close by passports and other boarding documents remained unscathed.

We finally hit the road at 8:00 AM, 30 minutes later than scheduled. Not really a concern as our scheduled boarding time is 12:00 to 12:30 and the ship doesn't leave until 6:00 pm. Scheduled boarding times are more strigently enforced than in years past, again another consequence of the pandemic, spread people out, it is safer.

Traffic is lite as we head down the Florida Turnpike towards Port Everglades. The windshield time is used by everyone to update the Celebrity app. I can't say it is an absolute requirement for sailing, but highly encourage anyone considering a cruise to install the app for the appropriate cruise line. Nearly the entire checkin process is now done through an app.

After fuel and restroom stops it is time for a totally new experience. As I head down the road at 70mph, we listen to all the muster drill instructions including the ships horn emergency signal. My passengers also use the time to answer all the preboarding health questions.  Something that everyone must do before the ship can sail. Once on the ship we will have several hours to find our muster station and check in with the staff. So much better than having thousands of passengers standing under the lifeboats at the same time. This is a change that was in the works before the pandemic. Well appreciated by experienced cruisers, but not so sure it is the best for the first timer.

We pull into the parking lot, transfer to the waiting shuttle bus and are on our way to the nearby waiting ship. The Celebrity Edge.

July 30, 2021

July 30, 2021 Still grounded

There has been some progress is the past 5 months. A few, very few, ships have returned to the seas. The cruise lines are complying with CDC requests. Crew has been fully vaccinated, new protocols put in place and test cruises completed.

A few weeks ago it was nice to be having lunch along the pier in Port Canaveral just feet from several cruise ships in port for reprovisioning and boarding crew. I knew it was time to get back to sea, 

The Florida govenor has been in and out of court trying to block CDC regulations. Regardless, the cruise lines seem to be voluntarily going along with the CDC, they want passengers to be as safe as possible.

Unfortunately the incidence of covid has just recently spiked to the highest levels yet. Most jurisdictions are placing the desire to return to normal above the health and welfare of people. Less than 50% of eligible Americans have been vaccinated despite plentiful supplies. In some counties, less than 8% are vaccinated. Personally I find the greed and disrespect for others disgusting.

Despite the negavite virus environment I now have booked four cruises, the first being in October, on the Celebrity Edge, which at the time I booked was being sold as a cruise restricted to vaccinated passengers only. I hope that remains the case.

Of all people, just before I started looking for cruises to book I discovered I had allowed my passport to expire. I quickly applied for a renewal. The State Department indicatied it may be 18 weeks or more for the application to be processed.   Not much choice, and I don't like to do it, but I could sail with my birth certificate and ID. Retrieved from the safew deposit box, I was ready to go. OK as long as plans don't get disrupted and I need to return the country in an unplanned manner.

Well I was pleasantly surprised, my new passport arrived in about 6 or 7 weeks, The birth certificate gets returned to the safe deposit box, hopefully to never be needed. Only 9 weeks to wait to use my crisp clean new passport.

If you are not vaccinated, please do so for the good of all Americans and others around the world. It was one thing when vaccine was in short supply, but in America the vaccine is effective, safe, plentiful and free. There is no legimitate reason to not be vaccinated.

My next post should be from the edge. the Celebrity Edge that is.

February 25, 2021

Feb 25, 2021 A Year In Drydock

It was over a year ago in early 2020 when news of a new strain of virus (SARS-CoV-2) began to emerge. The resultant disease is known as COVID-19. Some described the virus as being very serious and potentially deadly while others dismissed the science and told people that it would be gone in a few weeks or worse that the virus was a hoax.

Now just over a year since I last stepped foot on a cruise ship we have a better idea of the truth - a full blown world pandemic is in progress. Over a half million Americans have died of the virus, and more than 2.5 million world wide. Many millions more that have recovered from the virus continue to exhibit serious long term effects. 

I am one of the lucky 2% of Americans that have been vaccinated. The pharmaceutical industry has worked hard to develop vaccines to prevent Covid-19 but it is estimated that it may take until the end of 2023 for vaccines to be available worldwide.

The cruise industry has been hit hard. Only a handful of ships have sailed in the past year. All of the cruise lines that operate in the US remain closed. Ships remain in ports or anchored just offshore, void of passengers and operating with a minimum crew. Several of my personal favorite ships have been taken to the scrap yards. Definitely a sad chapter in the history of the cruise line industry.

As I write this the earliest any cruise line will be operating is June of this year, but I wouldn't put even money on that date.

Personally I have only one cruise boooked, The Odyssey of The Seas. A complimentary cruise from Royal that I should have taken several months ago, but rescheduled to January 2022 with a few extra concessions on the part of Royal.

There definitely will be changes in the cruise industry product, changes that are still in a flux of design and change. Personally I am waiting to see exactly what the changes entail before I book any more cruises. Some of the changes I could care less about, others I will consider long overdue, and others possibly could diminish my love for cruise ship travel. Only time will tell.

I hope another year does not lapse before I update this blog, only time will tell. In the meantime, stay safe.