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.