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.