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.