November 05, 2022

2 Sea Days and Home

We spend the next 2 days at sea heading back to Port Everglades in Fort lauderdale.  The seas remain very slight with light breezes out of the North East as we stay on the Atlantic side of all the islands.  Temperatures rise to the mid 80's during the day, and cool to the lower 80's in the evening.  It is mostly sunny all day, the nicest days we have had on this trip.  The sun bathers are out in full force occupying nearly every lounge chair on the ship.

I immensely enjoy 3 more presentations about the "brain". All part of the Celebrity lecture series Beyond The Podium.

There is an officers reception for higher level captain's club members. Wine, Champagne and served appetizers. A scaled back version of what was offered every evening in the Sky Lounge on prior Celebrity Cruises.

In speaking with the IT manager, he confirms the ship will be switching to Star Link in March. Equipment installation is expected to begin in January.

Our table mate, Bob, is missing from dinner. We learn he is under medical care in the ship's hospital. Recovering, but will remain there for the remainder of the cruise. It has already been determined he will be transported directly to a hospital upon docking. A combination of dehydration, low blood glucose, and several other issues. He and his wife were scheduled to continue on the next cruise, but the medical staff told them no way.

We arrive in port just a few minutes late. The shuttle to parking and the drive home are uneventful and by 1:30 the laundry is underway.

Overall I was not impressed with this cruise. My expectations were for Celebrity to be like they were in the past, and to do at least a little bit better than Royal.  They fell short on both counts. The food quality was barely OK, and service was often with a short handed grumpy crew. Freshly made pasta was barely warm as were most dishes that shoud be served hot. Beverage service was lacking.

Home for three weeks and then 7 days on the Oasis of the Seas out of Miami.

November 01, 2022

October 31, St Kitts

We arrive in Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis under sunny blue skies about 7:00 am. the forecast for today is just a 10 percent chance of rain after 3:00 pm.  The best forecast the entire trip.

We are docked at the newer pier, farthest from the terminal buildings. I believe this pier was under construction the last time I was here.  A few minutes later the Celebrity Millenium pulls in alongside us.  She is smaller and the oldest of the Celebrity ships.

We  have a tour of the island booked thru our travel agent instead of with the ship. We are to meet just past the terminal entrance. Annies Carribean Tours is operated by a husband and wife team. He has been working as a tour guide for 16 years. It shows. The tour was excellent. Covering much of the island with interesting stops at an old sugar mill, a very large 17th century fort high on a hill overlooking the sea. A batik factory, and several scenic areas including a black sand beach, a spot where lava had flowed to the ocean recently and an area where the Caribbean sea mixes with the Atlantic.

Between stops, our guide shared a lot of history from the slave trade, pirate era, and modern independence. 

A very good tour, but a very long day.

Back on the ship by 3:30 it s time to clean up for the evening.  The usual Sky Lounge and dinner in the dining room. Braised short ribs were good.

The production show is "Broadway Cabaret". Personally more enjoyable than some of the other shows.

Exhausted after a long day I retire early. The next two days are sea days to travel back to Port Everglades. Hopefully we will not be stopping anywhere in between. The forecast calls for continued partly cloudy skies with a chance of rain.  Seas are expected to remain under 7 feet, barely enough to impart a slight roll to the ship.

October 30 - Martinique

As we arrive in the Port of Fort De France in Martinique the skies  are overcast. the water is brown from runoff from the island, and there are trees, much trash, and pieces of lumber in the water. They obviously have had heavy rains recently.

Being Sunday most shops and businesses are closed.  Only passengers with passports may disembark and masks are required while off the ship.  All combined. most passengers remain onboard. Showers dampen the decks periodically throughout the day.

The usual choices of trivia games, lounging by the pool, mindless TV and sitting on the balcony occupies most of the day.

Ian is a very good beverage server in the sky lounge, and he has become a favorite. The only appetizers, if you can call them that, are the tiny snacks coated in an egg wash. Mostly tasteless, but crunchy.

The show this evening is a comedian.

While the theater is filling with guests, there are two simultaneous medical emergencies in opposite corners of the theater. Staff, officers, the cruise director, fellow passengers and a nurse quickly respond. Both guests are stabilized and removed. The show gets underway 10 minutes late.

Our next port of call is St Kitts.

October 29 - Bridgetown, Barbados

Again we are the only ship in port. As I step out on the balcony the sun is shining bright with a slight breeze. The air temperatures are in the low 80's. We have a shore excursion booked thru Celebrity. A tour of Barbados and a dive on an Atlantis submarine.

We are to check in at the theater, and then board our bus just past the terminal.  Being a very slow walker, I check in and will head to the bus long before the others.  Just as I reach the gangway to the pier the skies open up. Thanks to complimentary umbrellas my walk is relatively dry.

The bus driver informs us that the tour will be first, followed by the sub dive this afternoon. The rain stops, and we are on our way. In summary the tour was pretty boring.

Some additional guests join us on the boat to the sub. We climb aboard and climb down the ladder.  I have taken Atlantis sub tours before in other ports.  The highlight of this dive is a quick view of a ship that was sunk to make an artificial reef and a few schools of fish. Essentially another disappointing tour.

We exit the sub and board the boat for the trip back to shore. The winds pick up and a heavy rains follows. Shore is not visible from the boat. I am sure the captain of the vessel knows where he is going.

Just as we reach the dock, the rain stops. Saved again form the rain.

Back on the ship we decide to forgo the dining room for early pizza and salad in the buffet since we never had lunch.

The pizza was good but very salty for some reason. It must have been in the sauce as differently topped pizza had the same characteristic.

After a stop in the Sky Lounge, the production show in the main theater. The early show was about 50% full.

I make my first stop at the hot glass venue. Formerly operated by Corning they would do many glass demonstrations to the education and enjoyment of many guests. Now it is a privately run revenue center where all they do is sell personal instruction classes to guests. This evening there is one glass blower working with one guest. There are only 2 other guests watching.

After the show, we listened to a Jazz set  for awhile. The noise level is very high.  Many passengers on this cruiese either have a beverage package, or an all inclusive package. Both offer unlimited drinks all day and evening.  Drinking is quite prevalent, unlike my memory of Celebrity of several years ago. 

Laundry has been returned. In putting everything away I find it impossible to remove the laundry tags from my shirts. Frustrating to say the least.

Seas remain calm, and we head to our next port, Martinique.

October 30, 2022

Oct 28 - Castries, St Lucia

The weather continues to be overcast with a few passing showers. No shore excursion planned for today.  The vegitation on the surrounding hills is lush green, the sea clear and blue with few waves. There are a few shops on the pier, and there used to be a nice park in back of the shops.

I don't know what is being built, but the park is gone and concrete foundations are being built for something. The workers were busy when we pulled into port, and still working when we left.

Lynn takes a brief walk into town and returns with a tee shirt for her grand daughter. I stay on the ship. 

Today is laundry day. Wash dry and fold, a maximum of 30 items. We have 20 something.

A couple of beverages in the sky lounge, a good dinner in the dining room, and we catch 90% of the 7:00 main show, Chloe Jones, a vocalist from England.  An excellent voice and a classy presence unlike Ashlie Amber that has the voice but is lacking in the rest.

Seas remain basically calm, the skies overcast with occasional showers as we head to Barbados.

October 28, 2022

October, 27, 2022 st. John's Antigua

Our ship pulls into port close to our expected arrival time. The Azipod propellers and the bow thrusters kick up a lot of mud. I can only speculate that we have very little water under the keel.

The skies remain grey and gloomy all day with no sun. The beachgoers and sunbathers did not have thier best day.

I remain on the  ship, as I often do. Lynn took a brief walk ashore. Most of the available tours were for a trip to the beach or snorkeling. Not much interest here.

Internet on this ship is something like $25 per day. I do get 90 minutes compliments of being an Elite member, and I give myself the challenge to make the 90 minutes last the entire cruise, knowing I can purchase more time if needed.

5 days into the cruise I have managed to only use about 6 minutes. While in port I usually can connect to my cell carrier which gives me free text and data.  Life remains connected.

I think it is official, definitely confirmed in the Sky Lounge, no more club soda on the ship, but I am able to get diet tonic instead. The quinine is good for malaria, but not in the quantities in a drink. 

We head to the dining room early and tell our waiter that we would like to finish in time for the 7:00 PM show.  He obliges and we are headed out the door at 6:35.

The show is a combination of two previous guest performers. NYC3 and Ashlie Amber.  the 7:00 show is not nearly as crowded. No club soda here, I just had to ask. The show is good, even better as I remembered to bring my quality ear plugs. 

I should have done this years ago. For years I used the foam ear plugs, and they help, but different frequencies are attenuated different amounts. The ones I use now attenuate all frequencies nearly the same so the tonal quality of the performance is not distorted like was the case with the foam ear plugs.

A dish of real ice cream ends the day. Yes they have soft serve here, but more importantly they have about 6 or 8 flavors of real ice cream made daily on the ship. Severed until 10 PM in the Oceanview Cafe.

The seas remain the same, and the skies still cloudy as we head to our next port of Castries, St Lucia, expecting to arrive at 8:00 AM.

October 27, 2022

2 Days At Sea

The next two days are spent at sea. The skies have been mostly overcast with some showers. A few rainbows brighten the sky. Temperatures are in the low 80's. Very comfortable for me.

On Tuesday we go to the Tuscan Grille for breakfast. A perk for Elite members. Coffee, danish and a few cold items to choose from. Nothing cooked to order. The danish was fresh and I was told the coffee good, something I know nothing about as I never drink any.

The shore excursion presentation was informative, not because I have never been to these ports before, but because I can't keep one straight from the other.

Most venues on the ship are cool, but not as cold as they were on the Harmony.  The cabin is very typical, and most notably the door to the balcony is the easiest to open and close that I have ever encountered.  It seems that I always get one that sticks or has a broken lock.

No wine, soda or even a glass of water on this cruise. Like I said, the perks are not the same.

Most notable was the "Beyond the Podium" presentation by a guest speaker. He is going to do 5 presentations about the brain, including one on aging. Very appropriate for the passengers on this cruise. I hope I remember to attend all of them. Yes, how the brain remembers is part of his talk.

The ship is less than full with about 2100 passengers. A few are first timers, and probably the number of passengers under 21 could be counted with your fingers. 

Historically there is a crowd waiting to get into the Sky Lounge for coctails between 5 and 7. Now that they are allowing passengers to enjoy cocktail hour at some (not all) of the other venues around the ship, the lounge is relatively empty. The bar service in the Sky Lounge is excellen as one expects. This will be my goto location before dinner for the remainder of the cruise.

Dinner service the second night was better, probably because we brought our drinks with us into the dining room. My steak was perfectly prepared and I splurged and had apple pie ala mode again for dessert.

The headliner entertainer is Ashlie Amber, a young singer with an excellent voice. I had seen her the previous day walking around the ship. Without a doubt the most outrageous hairdoo and dress of anyone on the ship.

Unimpressed with the offerings in the Tuscan Grille, and not wanting to fight the masses in the buffet, We order room service for breakfast the next day.

The seas remain slight, the skys mostly cloudy with passing showers. A  few passing ships are seen in the distance. One looked like a cruise ship, but it was too distant to identify.

Room service was prompt, and a call to the cabin seconds before arrival worked very well. This may just become the norm for breakfast on this ship even though as a rule I don't care for room service.

The skies remain overcast all day. A few showers are thrown in to discourage the sun worshippers. It doesn't seem to matter much. The chairs around the pool remain full. Many bodies are burned, their owners fooled by the overcast skies.

Back to the  sky lounge for cocktail hour just before 5. Our waiter, the same as the previous night, mixes my gin with some brand of sparkling water intstead of clubsoda. I try it, and decide club soda is really better so for my next drink I specifically ask that he use club soda. It is then that I learn that they are out of club soda. I don't know if that is just in this bar, of for the ship. I will know tomorrow,

Executive chefs for the cruise  industry are always trying to come up with unique menu ideas. One that I had not seen before is roasted duck on fried wild rice.  I give it a try.  Well I can see no indication that the rice was actually fried, but it was a good combination. Service continued to be good, and the head waiter almost had a smile tonight.

The production show this evening is the singers, dancers and acrobats in "Topper". I remember the name from previous cruises on this ship, but really don't remember much about the show. It is a typical production show.

The seas remain at about 3 feet, just under the point where there are white caps.  A quick check with the app on my phone reveals the ship roll is +/- .5 degrees, and the pitch is zero.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive in St. John's Antigua at about 10AM.

October 26, 2022

Oct 24, 10 Days on The Equinox

Home for a week then 10 Days on The Celebrity Equinox. A 10 day cruise that should take us from Ft lauderdale to Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, St Kitts & Nevis then back to Ft Lauderdale. A nice diversion from the often visited Nassau and private Islands.

In the week at home, everything was cleared for my sinus surgery except locking in a specific date and time.  I imagine sinus surgery is pretty low on the priority list for busy medical facilities.  The scheduling nurse knows how to get in touch with me, even on the high seas.

The drive to Ft Lauderdale is mostly uneventful.  The skies are cloudy, and there are a few showers. Well showers except during the mandatory stop for fuel, breakfast, and restrooms in Ft Pierce where the rain came down in buckets. 

"She", my vehicle GPS, takes us most of the way on the Florida Turnpike and then takes us over to I-95 for the last 60 miles. We slip into the Park-N-Go parking lot just before 1:00 and within a few minutes we are on our way to the ship.  Being a Monday the Equinox is the only cruise ship in port, there are 6 of us on the bus.

The usual process to check in, except there are no lines, and no waiting except for a 2 minute diversion because of my pacemaker. Passport is checked, and everything else is checked from my phone including a picture of a negative covid test taken at home on Friday. 

Probably within 20 minutes of arriving at Park-N-Go we are in our cabin dropping off our carry on items.  A quick lunch follows in the Oceanview Cafe, then check in at our muster station on deck 5. Today we listened to the safety drill and the safety horn in the car during our drive. This has become the new norm. Gone are they days of crowding under the life boats.

Phone calls to all three children to let them know I am safely on board. I have been doing this for over 10 years. This time one daughter forgot I was cruising this week, and I never was able to connect with my son. I leave him a voice mail.

More than the usual pallets of provisions to be loaded today. They are still loading the hold as our departure time comes and goes.  About 30 minutes late we back out from the pier, make a turn, and head to the open seas.

I don't have the perks here that I do with Royal, there are some, but they are limited in comparison and are given as a courtesty to high level Royal customers as both Royal and Celebrity are owned by the same company but managed as competing brands.

Getting a drink before dinner is nearly imposssible. One worker and many customers.

We have 6:00 PM dining reservation every night. We are promptly escorted to our table. Again ordering a drink was nearly impossible. Four people are trying to wait our table. A waiter, an assistant waiter, a beverage person and a wine person.  There is no visible or effective coordination. Not a single worker in the dining room has a smile.  We try to get our waiter, a young man that acknowledges he is here to escape from Russia to smile, but we are not successful.

Dinner food was good, and they served real apple pie, not the factory pastries found on Royal.  Before dinner is over, the captain announces that he is turning the ship around and heading back to Port Everglades.  This is getting to be a very bad habit, it is the third cruise in a row that turned around because of a medical emergency shortly after leaving port.

We have a passenger that needs shoreside medical care. Transfer to a Ft Lauderdale Fire and Rescue boat occurs about 3 or 4 miles off the coast between Miami and Ft Lauderdale. As the rescue boat heads to shore, we turn and head south again.

The main show tonight is "NYC3" a trio of male singers. Personally I felt they were OK but nothing special., probably because I don't know most of the music they sang.

The seas remain under 3 feet, ship rocking is barely detectable. Skies are mostly cloudy with passing rain expected.

We will be at sea for 2 days before arriving at our first port of St John, Antigua on Thursday.

October 19, 2022

Day 6, 7 & 8 - Days At Sea and Departure

We start our day as usual at Chops for breakfast. For some reason the obnoxious kids are appearing. Despite the large number of children, thier collective behavior has been excellent up until now.  I guess 6 days away from school is too long for parents.

Another Ice show, entertainment in the Jazz club and Schooner Bar. Another musical production in the main theater. The captains corner and time with a number of the various entertainers fills the time that isn't spent dining, napping, or watching the ocean pass by.

The Azithromycin, or the bacteria it is attacking, seems to be hitting me pretty hard. My ambition level is slightly above zero. I decide to avail myself of a service I haven't  used in many years. I request wheelchair assist on departure day.

The luggage is packed and put out in the hall. My pillow gets packed, so I have to use thiers. Five times too big for my comfort. Speaking of comfort,  the one thing lacking on this trip was a comfortable matress.  It was as firm as a sheet  of plywood covered with a sheet.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Chops would be serving our breakfast on the morning of departure. The windjammer is avoided again.

I meet at the designated area for wheelchair assist.  After a short wait I am whisked away to the awaiting shuttle to take me to my car.

Another successful cruise. I am home by 9:30 and start the unpacking process. Tomorrow morning I will resume the phone calls to various medical providers. A very busy week lies ahead until we leave for a 10 day cruise on the Equinox October 24th.

October 14, 2022

Day 5 St Marten

I don't plan well for breakfast.  Chops doesn't open until 8 AM. If we have breakfast there, we will not have time to meet for our 8:45 tour.

We head to the Windjammer, the food source of last resort. Cold cereal and then back to the cabin.

Running in to the others, it is learned that Nick cancelled at the last minute. I decide to give my tour ticket to Amie. We just enjoy the ship in the morning, I take the time to catch up on my blog.

After lunch the others walk ashore for some shopping. About 25 pounds of Gouda cheese to be more specific. OK some tourist buy rum, others diamonds, my children cheese.

We have an early dinner today, 5:00 at the Coastal Kitchen. The children were behaved well enough. Not perfect, but good for being 2 and 4.

The food as always was good, the service attentive.  Being a restaurant primarily for suites passengers, they get a few young children, but not many.

The main theater  show this evening is a ventriloquist. Entertaining and a good show.

No phone calls today. Can I tell if the Z pak is working? Probably not.

We continue to head towards Port Canaveral at just over 20 knots. The seas remain calm. Time for a good night rest.

Day 4 St Thomas

We arrive in St Thomas a few minutes early and are quickly cleared by customs.  We have almost an hour until our meeting time for our tour.

I seldom take shore excursions anymore. This time I booked thru the travel agent instead of the cruise line. The cost was 40% less. I will soon know.  The driver/guide easily finds us and checks our paper tickets, yes paper is required. There are 8 passengers on a 12 passenger van. I expect everyone was fairly comfortable.

Ali is native born to St. Thomas. His mother from Columbia, and his father from the West Bank in Palistine. Well spoken, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a good driver even though he drives on the left, the rule in St Thomas.  The tour is essentially the same as the equivalent offered by the cruise line. It was a good choice. The weather good, but hazy, caused by saharan dust.

Checking my email while waiting for the tour I find that I have a prescription ready to pick up at Walgreens. That is not going to happen until Sunday. An antibiotic written by the ENT Doctor. The pathology report must have identified a sinus  bug that needs to be taken care of.

Nothing I can do until I am back on the ship.

The tour is good, half the passengers leave the tour downtown to do some shopping. I head back to the ship.

A little research and the prescribed antibiotic is cipro, a first line broad sprectrum antibiotic.  Cipro did nothing for my sinus infection weeks ago, will it now?  How much worse will it be if I wait until Sunday when I am home?

One alternative is the ship's doctor, but he will be starting at ground zero. The results may not be what I need or expect.

I have a Z pak with me. Part of my boy scout training of 65 years ago. Be Prepared. A Z pak is generally more effective than cipro, but is overkill for some bacteria.

My best option is to just take the Z Pak, but my ENT is new to me. She does not know me very well, and this approach may get me off on the wrong foot. Not a smart idea when she is going to do surgery a few millimeters from my brain.

It will be best if I can call the ENT and lead her to make the decision for me to take the Z Pak.  Several calls later and I learn exactly what bug I have. A common bacteria that is not air borne or contagious. The nurse will talk to the doctor about my options and call me back.

Thirty minutes later she does. She still hasn't been able to talk to the doctor but tells me to go ahead with the Z Pak plan. Call if I don't feel better in 3 or 4 days.  Actually I will call Monday regardless. Day 1 of the 5 day Z Pak regime is consumed.

Doing some Dr Google research, this bug should have been eliminated by each of the previous rounds of antibiotics I have had over the past few months. I am doubtful it was. Hind sight is so great. Maybe this time I will be the winner. At least we know exactly what bacteria we are dealing with.

I have never made or received so many phone calls while at sea. I feel it prudent to see what the costs are with T Mobile. I am pleased to learn that all WiFi calls to or from a US number are included in our plan. There is no additional charge. An unexpected bonus.

Dinner and service in the main dining room is excellent again. Eliza has discovered the kids program and is taken there while the rest enjoy desert.

The show tonight is the Aqua show. We sit in the center about 3 rows back from the splash zone. Another status perk. The little kids are in total awe of the high divers and the acrobatics. The outdoor theater is nearly full.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive in St Marten about 8:00 AM. I have a tour booked thru Royal that leaves at 8:45. the others are meeting with a friend, Nick, for a personal tour day. The seas remain calm, and skies fair.

Day 3 at Sea

The seas remain calm. Through the day there are a few passing showers. When the sun and clouds are in just the right position there are bright rainbows that at times seem close enough to reach out and touch.

I return the call to the ENT office. Scheduling needs a release from my cardiologist before they can schedue the sinus surgery. Standard process for nearly any medical procedure beyond filling a tooth cavity.

A call to my cardilogist office. No problem, but they have not received a request from the ENT. I get the needed fax number, and call the ENT scheduling office again. This sounds simple, but getting to the correct person in a large health organization can be a challenge. She insists she has faxed the form, and will let me know if they don't have it back in a day or so.

One of the perks of being a Pinnacle member is that we can have breakfast in Chops Grille. Always prepared to order, excellent service, and not very busy. A restaurant for at least 100, there are only 57 pinnacle guests on the ship, and not all of us eat breakfast at Chops, and if we do, not all at the same time. Usually there are only 6 or 8 guests there for breakfast.

An interesting tidbit that I learned at the Top Tier party this morning is that during the covid shutdown, Royal had cutback to about 2000 employees worldwide. To get back in full operation they had to ramp up to over 42000 employees. Definitely a major undertaking.

The top cruiser on this cruise has almost 6000 points. Definitely many years on a Royal cruise. Generally 1 day on a ship translates to 1 point,  with extra points for suites and some special promotions. You may think I cruise often, but that is over 7 times as much as I have cruised.

Grease is the main show in the theater this afternoon. I have seen it several times before, but each production has its own character based on the performers. The theater is nearly full.

Back to the main dining room for dinner. Again excellent service and good food.  After dinner we all go to one of the ice shows. The little kids are in complete awe of the skaters.

Seas remain calm and sailing smooth as we head to a noon arrival time in St Thomas.

Today was my birthday, in addition to the usual towel animal, I have a large towel cake on the bed compliments the room steward.

October 13, 2022

Day 2 Coco Cayy

The seas remain calm throughout the night despite a few passing showers. Coco Cay, one of Royal's private islands,  is our destination for the day. Coco Cay was built to handle 2 Oasis class ships at the same time, 12,000 passengers.  We are close to that today with two ships and 10,000 passengers. Lots of activities for the young and not so young. Surprise, I elect to stay on the ship and enjoy the peace and quiet. The grand kids, parents, and others have a great day at he beach.

Throuhout the day there are light showers. The outdoor shows have been cancelled and rescheduled for later in the week. The clouds and showers were probably a good thing in keeping the sunburns to a minimum.

We leave Coco Cay late in the afternoon and head south towards St thomas, Cruising at just over 20 knots, the voyage will take almost 2 days.

Late in the afternoon I have a missed call from my ENT doctor's office. This requires a little background. For the past 3 months or so I have had multiple, or one long, sinus infection. Often attributed to allergies, at one point attributed to Covid, and at several points declared cured, I have come to feel otherwise. Fought with 3 rounds of antibiotics and steroids, it gets better to varying degrees and then returns.

Feeling like it may be returning again, a week ago I get a referral to an ENT. I was able to get an appointment the next day, last Tuesday. Prodding, probing, cleaning, swabbing and cutting, there is no question I have a sinus issue.  Next step is a CT scan which I am able to get the next morning. Another appointment on the Friday before this cruise, to review the CT scan and it is definitely determined I will need sinus surgery. I am cleared to sail on this and my next cruise, and surgery will be scheduled after I return. 

Too late to return any calls today. There will be future chapters of this part of the story.

After a cocktail in the suites lounge, Lynn and I have dinner this evening in the Coastal Kitchen, a dining venue reserved for suite guests and pinnacle club members if there is availability. Yes suites come first. The service is excellent as is the food. They are busy but not full. I decide to try and push the envelope and see if I can invite the rest of my family to experience the coastal kitchen some evening.  The hostess isn't enthusiastic about the idea, but the manager is totally supportive and tells her to do it.

I have a reservation for 8 1/2 later in the cruise. Yes we count Nathaniel, at 2 years old, as half a person.

Entertainment tonight is at the comedy club. A very small venue considering the popularity of comedy. Probably 150 at max, most passengers will never be able to get a reservation.

Both comedians were good. Eliza spent the evening in the kids area. Nathaniel, or tiger as he is often called, slept through most of the show. At 2 he really isn't old enough to understand comedy anyway.

The moon  is nearly full the skies mostly clear and the seas calm as we coutinue southerly towards St Thomas.

October 10, 2022

Day 1, Oct 9 - Symphony of the Seas

The drive to Port Canaveral is uneventful. We park at our favorite offsite parking location, hop on the shuttle and we are soon working our way through the various steps of check-in.

Two of my children, their spouses, two grand children and a close family friend are all on this cruise with us.

I avail myself of the special line for Pinnacle members.  It takes longer than the others in the group that use the regular lines.  Within 30 minutes we are on the ship finding our way to the Windjammer to await cabin access.

I forgot how crowded this becomes on the Oasis class ships. A challenge to walk between tables and chairs. The Mac and Cheese actually had lots of cheese and good flavor.

Our cabins are available at 1:00 and our luggage is already in the hall outside our door. Everything finds it's proper home, and vacation begins.

A stop to make reservations at the Coastal Kitchen is the second stop after the muster station. No luck, the computer isn't working. The concierge takes my information and will take care of it when the system is restored.

Time to chill in the Pinnacle/Suites lounge on deck 17 awaiting sailaway. Plenty of seating and a good view of the kids pool and the port area.

The ship leaves the dock a few minutes early. The MSC Divinia is still at dock behind us.  We slowly turn down the channel towards the open sea.  Within about 500 feet, the ship comes to a standstill. Not a common procedure in any channel.

As everyone is becoming aware af this unusual manuever, the ship reverses direction and heads back to the terminal. Without question the shortest distance I have ever travelled between dockings.

The captain informs the passengers that a crew member needs immediate hospital care. An ambulance arrives, the crew member is transferred, and we are soon on our way again. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Dinner in the main dining room is good, the service excellent. The grandchildren properly bahaved. My daughter Adrienne and her husband are celebrating thier anniversary. Life is great.

The welcome aboard show has a brief set from the two comedians on board.  Some passengers feel the first was the best, others think the second.  Strictly personal opinions.

There are a few showers through the evening, the seas calm. I think everyone sleeps like a rock, I know I do.

Tomorrow we stop at the private island of Coco Cay. The youger portions of our group will be going ashore. I will stay on board.

August 28, 2022

Day 5, The Drive Home

We are all ready to disembark the ship. Elevators are packed. I finally ride up to go down when I see a space for two on an elevator going the wrong way. The younger passengers lug suitcases down the 4 flights of stairs.

We all get to deck 4 at the same time. It is a madhouse. The line to the gangway winds all over the ship. Around the staircase, through the art gallery, back to the lobby and then through the dining room, back to the lobby then finally outdoors.

When we finally get in the terminal, passengers without passports, and there are hundreds, are being held aside. Those with passports pass through a facial recognition stop and are quickly passed without even a glance at our passports.

As always the shuttle bus to the parking is as far away as possible. We wait about 10 minutes for other passengers, there are only 3, then we leave.

The drive is short and quick, directly to the parking lot avoiding the residential tour we took on departure. I take Alyssa and James home, and then continue to Clermont.  Glad to be home I slowly begin to unpack. Another cruise in a little over a month. Seven days on The Harmony Of The Seas.

Day 4 At sea

The skies are partly cloudy and the seas calm as we head north towards Port Canaveral. Back to Giovanni's for breakfast. At most there are 4 people in a dining room that can hold 150 or more.  The food and the service is perfect.

The Captain's corner is well attended. We learn a few more details about the medical evacuation several days ago. Our course was determined to avoid several patches of heavy lightning, not a good air space for helicopters. A return to Port Canaveral was in the plan as option B if there were any issue in executing a helicopter transfer. Most decisions were made by medical and shoreside teams.

The ship is full with about 4200 passengers or 110% of double occupancy capacity. Since many cabins hold 3 or 4 passengers, sailing at over 100% is very common in the cruise industry.

Yesterday I had the misfortune of having to deal with customer relations. I was due a $50 on board credit, but it did not show on my account. The front desk person had copies of the  email confirming the credit, but was not empowered to make the correction herself. That needs to be done by the finance team.

After typing away on her keyboard for 20 minutes I was told that the credit should be applied by midnight. Yes, she was correct. In fact they called my room at 11:30 PM, awakening us, to tell me the oversight had been corrected. 

The broadway show Greece is playng in the theater this afternoon and again this evening. The afternoon show is well attended, surprisingly by many people bringing plates of food into the theater. A new experience for me on a cruise ship. Other guests eating pizza and various other items while watching a show.

To help put this in perspective, the beverage staff does not even push drinks in the theater like was common pre pandemic.

Dinner food was good, the 3 cheese tortelini was actually served warm. Of course my drink order was incorrect, but some things never change.

After dinner we head to the photo gallery to pick up our free photo. Ordering is easy, but it won't be ready until after 10:30, unlike most ships where they are printed and available in minutes.

The group has elected self assist and will carry all of our luggage off the ship instead of waiting for an assigned disembarkation time. I was promised someone will help me with mine.

Packing here is much easier than at home. Just keep putting things into the suitcase until the cabin is empty. No decisions to make. Luggage is packed, and tomorow it is back to reality.

The seas remain calm, as they have been all week, as we head north at 8 knots. A Carnival ship has been shadowing us since we left Nassau. Obviously headed to t he same port.

August 25, 2022

Day 3 Nassau

We dock at the extreme outside pier. The Disney Wish is next. A Carnival ship fills a third berth.

The weather forecaset is for temperatures in the mid 80's but a "feels like" temperature in the low 100's. A trip to several breweries and a distillery is planned. I have no interset and will enjoy the empty ship more.

Breakfast in the dining room as Alyssa wants eggs benedict. Surprisingly the room is nearly full, the service and food good.

Others head for town. A few walks around the ship with stops at the Solarium and window shoping in the shopping area. A review of pictures taken the previous evening reveals at least one good image. Within a few hours it is time for a nap.

A message from those ashore reveals the heat and humidity is higher than anticipated, eliminating any guilt I might have had for not going with them.

Everyone gathers for cocktails before facing the dining room for dinner. Not to make it more difficult for our waiter, but just to give everyone a different view, we mix up the seating. Surprisingly it does not phase the staff, well not apparently anyway.

An old fashioned had to be made 3 times before it was anywhere near correct. I had to send back my drink because it was wrong. My Chicken Cordon bleu was slightly above room temperature. It obviously has sat somewhere for 25 minutes before being served. Again the head waiter stepped in to help address the issues. The beverage  manager was required to fix the old fashioned problem.  For the third night we were nearly the last to leave the dining room in spite of many others arriving after us.

Our guess was the dining room was about 70 percent full. Other than a staff that did not work together as a team, it was not obvious what the shortfall was, but there definitely was one. Our waiter is nearing the end of his fourth contract, so lack of experience should not be the problem, but there definitely is one in this part of the dining room.

After dinner a set of Jazz music, and then some latin music before retiring for the night.

Tomorrow we head back to Port Canaveral. A four night cruise is so short.

Day 2 August 23, 2022

I am awaked by an announcement from the captain. Our arrival at Coco Cay has been delayed several hours due to the medical evacuation the previous evening. We are cruising at 20 knots in an attempt to reduce our late arrival as much as possible. He also shares the transfer was successful and the passenger is recovering.

By 10 AM many passengers have left for the beaches, but the Windjammer is still packed. We head to Giovanni's for breakfast. An area reserved for Pinnacle guests. Historically just a seating area during breakfast hours, but now a full service breakfast area just for me.  Food and service is excellent, and the room is nearly empty. Probably undiscovered by other priority status members.

I elect to remain on the ship. Somehow in the past few days I have twisted my right knee. Extra walking is not the prescription for quick healing.

With nearly everyone on the prvate island, the Windjammer is nearly empty for lunch. I put together the ingredients to make a ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich.

Temperatures are in the mid 80's, cooler than back home in Florida.  Some time on the balcony, more time in the Crown Lounge, and some time sitting by the solarium pool and the day quickly passes.

Tonight is formal night for dinner. I was even convinced to wear my suit, a rare event. I drew the line at flip flops though. My flip flop bow tie that is, compliments of Marilyn a number of cruises ago.

A short conversation with the head waiter as I get to our table. He is very aware of the problems the previous night before a word is spoken. He was observing as he should, that is part of his job.

Everyone is nicely dressed. Top award goes to Greg in his Army dress uniform. Very sharp.

Both the food and the service was much better tonight than the first.  With about an hour before the production show, many group pictures are in order. Face it, it is rare that I wear a suit.

The singers and dancers were good, but I will concede I may have dozed once or twice during the performance.

It is a short hop to Nassau, our port of call tomorrow.

August 24, 2022

August 22, 2022 Independence of the Seas

This started as just a simple 4 day cruise for Lynn and I with my eldest daughter Adrienne and her husband Steve. By the time we boarded, my youngest daughter Alyssa and her husband James and family friends Stephanie and Greg also joined us. Other friends are on the Disney Wish and will meet us in Nassau.

5 homes, 8 people and many suitcases requires multiple cars and some planning to all arrive at the ship on time. We all arrive at the McDonalds near the parking lot for a coffee and rest room stop within a few  minutes of each other. First hurdle mastered. 

Parking is painless and we are soon on the shuttle bus. The shuttle from the parking area to the ship takes us through residential areas near the port that I had never seen before. We have to make a stop for some Carnival passengers first. That explains the unfamilar route.

We arrive at the terminal precisely at our designated boarding time. The process is quick and easy. Such an improvement now that everyone has a scheduled boarding time and much of the checkin process can be done by the passenger. There is some good that came out of Covid.

Speaking of Covid, I was a victim about 5 months ago. A very mild case but covid none the less. Recently I have gone through a series of sinus infections and a stuffed up head, three rounds of various treatments and my doctor shares this is another common long term effect from covid. Congestion and non descript sinus infections that just won't clear up.  So be it, life could be worse. Breathing may be over rated anyway.

We are soon enjoying lunch in the Windjammer and await the opening of cabins so we can stow our carry on luggage.

Lunch and luggage out of the way and we take a tour of the ship. The busiest of any ship I have been on in two years, but still not at 100%.

The first stop is at the dining room to try and change from early dining to mytime.They are willing to do it but warn us about the ramnifications of some recent changes.  MyTime dining is now from 6:45 to 9:00, a much later starting time than historically, and a much shorter duration.  The lines are usually long. I elect  to keep our table in the main dining room despite others wanting a later dining time. I decide the early time is the lesser of the various evils.

Royal has never fully endorsed the concept of "My Time Dining" and this is probably their next step to kill it.

Dinner is so so at best. Food fair, service less than attentive. I should have seen the warning when the head waiter gave me his card as soon as Lynn and I were seated still awaiting the arrival of the other 6. A card with the mesage to call him if there were any problems. He Knew.

At the conclusion of diner we become aware that the ship is headed north instead of south. Not a good sign. No announcement had been made about pirate attacks, mechanical issues or other emergencies.

Soon we learn that we are enroute to meet with a coast guard  evacuation helicopter from Jacksonville. We head North as the helicopter comes south, an attempt to reduce the meetinging time as much as possible. A passenger needs immediate medical attention.

From personal experience I know the cruise line wants to get rid of any medical liabilites as quickly as possible. How and why the decision to airlift a passenger instead of just returning to port for transfer I can not figure out.

The passenger was lifted to the helicopter about 10 PM and still needed to make flight and land somewhere.  Had we just returned to Port Canaveral we probably would have been tied to a dock by 8:00 or 8:30. Of course I don't know any other factors that are considered in the decision. Definitely above my pay grade.

Major entertainment tonight is the ice skating show. I still find it amazing how skilled they are at performing on such a small peice of moving ice. The theater is nearly full but not overcrowded. The show is excellent.

The cabin  is quiet and a good nights sleep concludes the first day.

May 15, 2022

May 14 - Return to Seattle and Home

The MS Eurodam returns to Seattle before sunrise. By 7:00 AM luggage is being unloaded, provisioning trucks are lined up with food, beverages and all the staples needed for the next cruise.

With the space needle not opening untill 9:00 we delay our disembarkation until 8:30

When other passengers start to disembark about 7:30 there is a light rain.  The facilities here are small and crowded compared to the ports in Florida. The terminal building is shared by two ships on opposite sides of the pier. Baggage areas and passenger processing for both ships is all in one shared space.

No facial recognition for CBP here, just old fashioned visual comparison of passport with the person presenting it. The process is quick and we are soon headed to the line of waiting taxis.  Being next in line, my carryon is placed in the trunk. When the driver learns of our destination he immediately becomes irritated. He was expecting a $50 fare to the airport and instead has a fare only going about 2 miles.

The taxi meter does not get turned on, the second indication of a bad choice.  We get to the space needle and he demands $20, more than double what the fare should be.  Of course when I try to pay with a credit card he claims the reader doesn't work and wants cash. When I ask for a written receipt he ignores me.  I have just been ripped off by Yellow Cab in Seattle.

FYI. App services like Uber and Lyft are not permitted near the cruise terminal and likewise are restricted to an inconvenient location at the airport. Taxis have an unfair monopoly here like in many cities.

The rain is stopping and the clouds lifting as we enter the space needle. There are lockers to store my carryon. Just not allowed in the building. The first two locker hours are free, then billed at $10 per hour.

The Space Needle has recently been refurbished and is in great condition. The elevators, smooth and swift. The glass surrounding the observation deck clean and unscratched.  The revolving glass floor looks like it has never been walked on. The view is great. The rain has stopped, and the sun is trying.

A girl about 5 or 6 is crying and scared to walk on the glass. Prodding from her mother is ineffective. Lynn goes over to the girl and calmly talks to her for a few moments. The girl then goes to her mother's side and walks out on the glass floor with a big smile as she looks down over 500 feet to the ground below. One of those moments that becomes the highlight of the day and makes the entire trip meaningful.

Having seen enough of the sights, we decide it is time to head to the airport. The locker won't open to retrieve our belongings.  It must be something left over from Friday the 13th as the worker tells us that none of the lockers have been reopening this morning, and she has had to override the system for everyone.

We catch a cab at the front entrance and head to the airport, probably a 40 minute drive with no traffic.  TSA takes about 30 to 45 minutes, and we still have hours to wait.

A sandwich and beer at one of the airport restaurants. The best hot pastrami I have had in a long time. We nurse the beer as long as possible.

Our plane  has been sitting on the tarmac for hours. About 40 minutes before liftoff, boarding begins. I take advantage of early boarding, something I very rarely do.  Our plane is an almost new 737 Max, yes the same plane that was grounded as a result of several crashes.  Comfortable seating, and extra large overhead bins that will hold full sized suitcases, a capability that many passengers greedily take advantage of. AC and USB power at every seat along with free WiFi and movies for your device that is perfectly held on the seatback in front of you.

Just before liftoff, the sun is bright. The brightest sun I have seen in days.

The flight to Orlando is long. There are frequent periods of turbulence. Beverage service is interrupted. I spend some time texting my daughters back home. I always say I will sleep on the plane, but I don't think I have ever been able to do it.

We arrive in Orlando a few minutes early at what must be the farthest terminal. The airport is nearly empty. My luggage that I last saw on the ship before docking in Seattle is on the carousel. Almost as far as possible from the arrival gate.  The parking lot bus is called. He will be there shortly at A34 to A36. Of course at the opposite end of passenger pickup from where our luggage arrived.

By 2:00 AM I am home. The AC, water, and water heater is turned on. Too tired to immediately sleep, and my internal clock still on Alaskan time, I just chill for a few minutes and enjoy an ice cold Bubly.

The end of an enjoyable week in Alaska. I currently have cruises scheduled for October and November, but of course that is likely to change.

Friday May 13 - Mostly at Sea

Our clocks were set forward 1 hour last night so we are on Seattle time when we dock Saturday.

The seas are slight, the skies mostly cloudy with an occasional patch of sun. 

Like many of the cruise lines, Holland has a program to transfer luggage directly to the airline. They print boarding passes for the flight, and luggage tags for your luggage. Place your luggage outside your cabin, and hopefully the next time you see it will be in the luggage carousel at your destination airport.  What is most surprising is that Holland does not charge extra for this service. Subject to acceptance by the airline, and I must assume CBP, our approved paperwork arrives this morning.

During a Q & A with the entertainment  manager I learn that we have 1400 passengers on this trip. 1600 were anticipated, but for whatever reasons about 200 didn't actually board the ship. Total crew is at 700.

Interestingly a question that I have heard asked many times but never answered is: "How much fuel does the ship use?" Well the captain shared that for our 7 day Alaskan cruise we will consume 700 tonnes of fuel.  That is less than one third the ship's fuel capacity, and at today's elevated oil prices, about a $700,000 fuel bill for the week.  Even sailing at our reduced capacity, that translates to about $500 in fuel per passenger for the week, or 27 cents per passenger mile including the cost of electricity for all the hotel operations. This is an older, smaller ship, newer ships are much more fuel efficient.

Several pods of whales are spotted throughout the day.  Listen to several lectures, start the packing process. The last day is always a letdown.

I banged my wrist pretty hard on arrival in Seattle a little over a week ago. From the middle of my arm to the middle of my fingers my skin is a rainbow of colors from near black and dark blue, to red and yellow. A byproduct of taking blood thinners is that I bruise very easily.  Confident nothing is broken, I should heal completely in a few weeks. In the meantime it looks pretty gross and I just need to avoid hitting it again. The other good side effect of the sore wrist is that I haven't noticed the tendonitis in my ankle very much.

Before cocktail hour I make a trip to guest services to collect some envelopes for gratuities for the dining room and my room stewards. The line is not long, but very slow. Lots of complaints about various charges. Why they don't just have a stack of envelopes available for passengers to pick up escapes my common sense. 

Stopping back at the cabin on the way to dinner, more news.  Our tour of Seattle in the morning that would drop us off at the airport has been cancelled. "Credit on your account will be forth coming."  No alternative is offered.

After some Google searching it is decided to just take a cab from the ship to the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, it is Seattle's number one attraction. From the space needle it will be a cab to the airport.

Our last meal in the dining room is again good. The staff is appreciative of the extra gratuity. I have not seen a single passenger offer a gratuity once the entire week. Why, I am not sure, but I find it disgusting at minimum. A sad commentary on our society.

The suitcases are packed and put out in the hall. I hope mine makes it to Florida. I say that not only because of the logistics involved, but the poor design and quality of the suitcases I just bought. Maybe that we teach me to just expect that the zippers are properly located and will function on a $450 set of luggage.

Very few passengers get off the ship in Victoria. With an 8PM arrival time and disembarkation commencing just before dusk, there is not much incentive to visit the city.

The alarm is set for the first time, but I really doubt it will be needed. A week isn't long enough to adjust to a four hour time difference.

May 13, 2022

May 12 - Ketchikan

When I awake we are already tied to the dock. It is raining. My good luck has come to an end.

After breakfast I decide it is time to test whether the application of water proofing on my jacket has worked.

Off the ship and wander some of the shops.  No, I purchase nothing.

Back at the ship, I shake off all the water beads on the outside of my jacket and carefully inspect the inside for any sign of water. None is found. The water proofing not only chased the rain gods away for many days,  it also seems to work on my jacket.

Our stay in Ketchikan is very limited. All aboard is 11:30 AM and departure is scheduled for 12:00 PM.  About 10:00 there is a medical call to one of the cabins. Fortunately the only I have  heard this entire week.

At  11:45 several passengers are called. More are called at 11:55. Not a good sign. This usually means they are not back on the ship.

12:00 comes and goes. 12:05 then 12:10. The passengers are called again. At 12:15 we leave for Victoria, BC, probably without 4 or 6 passengers.

About 1:30 the skies clear and the sun returns. The seas are calm as we head back toward the North Pacific. The captain tells us that we will be cruising at over 20 knots in order to make our scheduled docking in Victoria at 8 PM on the day after tomorrow.

The sun comes and goes during the day. The Tamarind bar remains a quiet place to watch the sea pass the time. Periodically we pass a pod of whales heading north.

Dinner tonight is in the Tamarind restaurant, compliments of Alex, the food and beverage manager.

It is very obvious that we are special guests, starting with the reaction of the hostess when she reads the note attached to the printed ticket that is used when seating us at our table.

The food is excellent as is the service. Spare ribs for an appetizer, tenderloin, asparagus and brown rice for the main course. A mango flavored desert.  Of course on the menu these items carried much more exotic names.

We are entertained by the passing of several pods of whales. The restaurant is nearly at capacity, probably with the last few tables reserved for a later seating time. 

Almost as expected, Alex joins our table just before desert is served. He looks like he has had a rough day. He is thanked and assured that the staff here is excellent and works together very well as a team. Truthfully he did everything he could to make up for the  short comings of the Pinnacle Grille.

An hour of piano music instead of the production show tonight. Tomorrow is basically a sea day as we don't arrive in Victoria until 8:00 PM

May 12, 2022

May 11, Sitka

Rain was initially forecast for Sitka, but as we arrive there is some sun and scattered clouds. We were unable to book a shore excursion here, so we take the free 15 minute shuttle ride into town.

Sitka is very small, with a year round population of 8,000. The visitor center is very modern with clean facilities. There are the usual vendors selling tours outside. We settle on a 3 hour tour duplicating the tour we wanted but was sold out on the ship.

Having almost two hours before departure, we walk the town. A few stores have not survivied the pandemic. The local merchants are selling mostly local merchandise. None of the Diamond and Jewelry merchants here. We look for a place to grab a bite to eat. Not an easy task.  Stopping at something similar to a convenience store selling mostly candy and cigarettes we learn that next door has good food, and they open in about 15 minutes. You would never guess from the signage that they sold food.  

We decide to give it a try. The beef dumplings were delicious, and everything was very reasonably priced. In conversation I learn that the convenience store does about $100 per day from local residents. When there is a cruise ship in port his revenue jumps to an average of $2000 for the day. He obviously is in favor of cruise ships, a debate that occurs in many ports.

A short walk back to the departure point for our tour. Everyone is there before departure time, 11 people packed into a 12 passenger van.

The first stop is the Sitka Raptor Center where they help injured raptors, mostly bald eagles and owls, recuperate after being injured. Some become permanent residents as they will never be able to fend for themselves, most are released back into the wild.  The majority of the birds are here as a result of encounters with humans or human activity. Well done and interesting. Maybe a total of 25 people. Much better than a couple of tour buses.

Our second stop is a bear sanctuary built in the waste water processing tanks of a closed paper pulp mill. Both brown and black bears are nursed to recover from injury. Unfortunately state laws prevent the bears from being reintroduced into the wild, but there are efforts underway to change that.

Our last stop is at a National Park featuring totem poles. As with most national parks, very informative and well done. I can only guess, but the massive pole if front of the building must reach 75 feet in height and be 4 feet in diameter. All totem poles tell a story, but of course I am unable to read them.

The driver takes us back to the ship at the end of the tour. Another day with no rain.

Many crew members remember us from our cruise to Panama about a month ago. Our waiter spotted us in the Lido during lunch time, remembering not only which table number we sat at but what beverages we usually had with dinner. A command of memory that I can only dream about.

Nearing the end of the cruise I have yet to see a single passenger give a tip of any kind. A sad statement on society that I personally find very disappointing.

Dinner is again excellent in the dining room. It seems much busier tonight, whether that is fact or not I am not sure.  I am on Holland's "Open Dining", but have a reservation for most nights at 5:30 at the same table. The exceptions are the night we arrived in port at 6 PM, and the nights we went to or are going to go to a specialty restaurant.

The production show tonight is a combination of a singer from the group playing most nights in BB-Kings, the two piano players from "Billboard" and the team of dancers. A good show.

Tomorrow we are docked in Ketchikan.  The official docking time is 7:30, but have been told by the cruise director that the gangway will most likely be open just after 6:00, he just isn't allowed to make an announcement until 7:30.

A night to retire early.

Tuesday May 10, Glacier Bay & Icy Straight Point

Again the forecast is for rain and cloudy skies. The Helipad is being opened for guests. The Crows Nest Lounge on deck 11 is the popular spot for viewing the ships progress. I elect to go to the Tamarind Bar on deck 11 midship. With seating for about 50  and panoramic windows all across the ship, it is an excellent viewing place, but unknown by most passengers and never talked about by the staff.

After a quick breakfast I select prime seats where I can see out both sides of the ship.

Slowly the clouds begin to thin and the sun peaks thru. A whale is spotted about 100 feet from the side of the ship. First a water spout, and then he dives with his tail high above the water. The first sighting of hopefully many to come.

The glaciers are small, smaller than I remember from the last time I was here. A few sea lions, or seals, wildlife is scarce, but it is very early in the season. As we cruise Glacier Bay, the clouds get heavier and the sun sparser.

Just as we turn towards Icy Straight Point the rain starts. The clouds are so low and so thick visibility is cut to a few hundred feet.  
In the distance there appears to be another cruise ship, or is it just an island shrouded in the clouds.  Anyone's guess. Ten minutes later the image becomes a little clearer, most likely a cruise ship. Shortly we pass The Serenade of The Seas leaving the dock that we will soon occupy.

By the time we are tied up and cleared for disembarkation about 6PM, the rain has stopped and the sun is out. The air temperature is in the high 40's. We have tickets for riding the gondola to the top of the mountain. Maybe the rain will stay away.

One cable gondola, called the transporter, runs to the the base station of the mountain gondola and to the second pier. It has been open for about two years. The mountain gondola is the tallest in Alaska and goes to the top of the mountain. Only completed in January of 2022 the ride is smooth and the views spectacular from the gondola and from the viewing platform at the top. Not recommended if you are afraid of heights. 

The sides of the mountain are nearly a vertical slope. The pine forest very dense, the snow deep. Installing the gondola towers and cables must have been a challenging project, most likely built by the lowest bidder.

Back to sea level walking along the boardwalk to the museum, a whale continuously puts on a show for the tourists. Every few minutes a spout of air and water spray, then breaking the water and flipping it's tail as to say watch me silly people.

The zip line is another popular activity at Icy straight point. Long and fast it is in continuous use with half a dozen riders at a time. Not for this visitor. 

There is another very small ship at the second pier. The Regent Seven Seas Mariner, promoted as a luxury cruise line.

The rain stayed away and we have enjoyed another great day in Alaska.

Back on the ship, a quick change of clothes and it is time for another show by the comedian. BB-Kings's is packed, we find a seat at the bar. Not the best seat, but at least a seat. His show is excellent.

We are scheduled to leave port sometime after 10. As darkness falls, visibility drops as rain clouds move in again.

Tomorrow we will be in Sitka.

May 10, 2022

A Sea Day then Juneau

Heading Northwest toward Alaska the seas are less than 12 feet the entire way to Juneau.  some passengers find the gentle movement of the ship too much. Based on a show of hands at one of the theater production introductions, nearly 50% of the passengers have never been to Alaska, and many of those have never been on  cruise before.

There are a handful of young children, the only group to frequent the pool.

I check during the day to verify dining room reservations that had been made weeks ago. No they don't have them, but that is quickly rectified. 

A stop at shore excursions to see if there is any hope for my waitlisted excursion. Not a chance, but I learn that one of my other excursions has been cancelled but I can still book a similar but less expensive tour. I do it.  Alaska has suddenly become very busy.

Serveral "executive" talks by the Holland America Spokesperson for Alaska, or by Ryan the cruise director takes up much of the day.

Dinner in the dining room is excellent. I am sure I made some of the staff nervous as the food and beverage manager sat with us for half an hour while we had a cocktail and our appetizers. Genuinely concerned and apologetic for the Pinnacle Grille manager. She is leaving the ship, and obviously her duties, and he would like us to have dinner in one of the other speciality restaurants as his guest. Yes I would appreciate that, but need to check when that would fit the schedule. He promises to find us again tomorrow.

A production show and some piano music ends the evening.

We arrive in Juneau about 30 minutes early despite our late departure from Seattle. We are soon joined by the Koningsdam and the Celebrity Solstice.  Up to an hour before docking the forecast was for rain all day with a high temperature of 48. We dress appropriately.

Our first stop is the tram ride 1800 feet to the top of a nearby mountain. Having just openend this week, the nature center was still closed, but the views and native american presentations were superb.

Maybe a snowball was made.

A slow stroll past the dozens of jewelry stores and then a stop at the Red Dog Saloon. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, and the same piano player that was here 5 or 6 years ago is still playing at the young age of 83.

Never a drop of rain, but instead bright sunshine and temperatures that reached the low 60's. My travels are definitely blessed.

Having over dressed, I arrive back at the ship hot and sweaty. Quickly freshen up for dinner and head to the Ocenaniew bar.

"Sorry, we don't have any Bamboo Saphire gin." What gin do you have?  "There is no gin anywhere on the ship. We did not get a container of provisions, and there is no gin." I settle for a glass of wine.

Another question for Alex?

I try again at dinner to get gin. No problem, they have my gin. Alex comes in the dining room shortly after we start our appetizer. Directly to our table. We settle on Thursday at Tamarind. He makes a phone call and it is done. I elect to ignore the no gin issue. He has enough to deal with and is doing a very good job at it.

The group of dancers just joined the ship this week. Some of the shows are the same as a month ago, others are new, but similar to the shows of my last cruise.

I do have to digress a moment, when I boarded Saturday, the carpet in the elevator said Friday. Oops. The clocks around the ship are now working properly. None of the elevators are continuously turned off. Holland is trying to keep the ship in good shape. With the exception of the Pinnicle Grille and the Manage, the staff of the Eurodam is doing an excellent job.

After the production show, the comedian in BB-KIngs excellent. The piano players are new. Older music and popular piano songs are good. When they play music of the 80's and 90's I find I don't recognize any of it. 

We leave Juneau about 10:30, long after I am asleep. My body hasn't yet fully adjusted to the 4 hour time difference and probably won't until the day I head back to Florida.

Tomorrow we cruise Glacier Bay to view the Glaciers and then dock at Icy Straight Point at 6:00 PM for about a three and a half hour stay.

May 08, 2022

March 5 Seattle and then Alaska

Alaska has finally opened up after being closed to travellers because of covid for two seasons.

I am booked on Holland America's Eurodam, the same ship, and coincidently the same cabin as my last cruise. Available flights to and from Seattle are getting scarce and expensive. More than 2 months before traveling, I was unable to get 2 adjoining seats on the return flight to Florida. Some of our first choices for shore excursions are already sold out.
As we prepare to leave Florida the weather forecast is for rain every day. In preparation I give my outer jacket an extra coating of water proofing.

Then the first positive news. While checking in for our flight online, 1 seat has opened up on our return flight, adjacent to one of the two seats we have booked. A few quick clicks and we have adjoining seats.

The trip to the airport is uneventful. The weather is supposed to be in the high 90's this week in central Florida, our first hit of summer heat. It is a good time to be leaving Florida.

Park N Go, my favorite parking location in Ft Lauderdale now has a lot serving the Orlando airport.  Very easy and we are at the terminal in a few minutes. Bags checked and grab a sub sandwich to eat on the plane. 

Our plane leaves a few minutes early. Six hours later we touch down in seattle. As expected it is raining.

There is no wait for a cab. Traffic is slow, but we are soon at our hotel.  A few surprises. There are no rooms ready. Lack of staff. The restaurant and bar are both closed. With no where to go we patiently wait at the desk. Finally an available room.

The elevators require reading a room card before a floor button can be pushed. A secure but slow process. In the process I manage to hit my wrist on the edge of the door. A large "goose egg" soon appears. 

While unpacking I see that the zipper on my brand new suit case has pulled open. Fortunately the contents are undamaged. It is time for dinner.

After consultation with Google we decide on nearby Zeek's Pizza across the street. Bundled in jackets to protect from the rain we make the short walk. "Yes we are open, but the chef won't be here for another hour".

Happy hour time as we wait to get some food.

Self serve breakfast at the hotel is acceptable, actually better than many. Next task is to take our covid tests. Couldn't do them in Florida as that would have been too early. Making a suitable workspace in the room is quuickly accomplished. Less than a hour later we have both tested negative for covid. The last hurdle in paper work to board the ship.

With the forecast remaining gloomy, we Uber to the Seattle Aquarium, a mostly indoor facility that is the most highly recommended thing to do when it is raining in Seattle.

The Aquarium is nice, clean, and not busy. We even have lunch in the aquarium cafe.

Time to call Uber to get back to the hotel. Shortly after I complete the request, my phone totally dies. The battery went from 30% to dead almost instantaneously. Uber should be on the way.

We wait, and wait, but the Uber driver never shows up. Too far and too wet to walk. After numerous attempts to restart my phone, Lynn installs Uber on her phone and we try again. The app keeps telling us the car is on the way, but then the progress map shows it heading away from us.  Finally the driver arrives even though the app still shows the car several blocks away.

After getting my phone working I can see that the first Uber driver cancelled the ride a few seconds after it was confirmed. I must assume if my phone had worked I would have known that.

It is back to Zeek's for dinner. No desire to venture out in the rain. A different bar tender than the previous day, we are carded before we can enter. Washington law. Chicken wings, cheese sticks, and adult beverages were good.

The next morning as we exit the hotel to call a cab to get to the cruise terminal, there is a shuttle bus loading. He is headed to the pier and he has room for two more passengers. Maybe our luck is changing.

Boarding is typical. Passengers that don't have required paperwork or can't find it on their phone is the biggest holdup.

Prepared with paper copies, processing is very quick. The terminal empoyee even compliments and thanks us for being so organized. We are on the ship enjoying lunch 90 minutes after checking out of the Hyatt.

A lazy afternoon as we await our 3:00 PM departure. In recent weeks this was moved forward an  hour or so and other adjustments were made in the week's schedule for unknown reasons.

3 PM comes and goes - we finally cast off just after 4 PM. Go figure.  As we leave, the rain stops and the sun tries to peek out.

It is rare that I stay in the same cabin on different cruises. My travel agent did it, and I wasn't even conscious of the fact until long after booking. It gives the opportunity for comparison. All good, the TV control seems to work, and the sticky balcony door latch has been replaced.

Dinner tonight is in the Pinnacle Grille. We are propmptly seated. The temperature is much more pleasant than a month ago. The food was good, the service absolutely horrible. No one ever checked back on the table, I waited for over a half hour to get a second beverage, and the food took about an  hour after we finished appetizers before it was served. My steak was excellent, the baked potato hardly warm enough to melt butter.

We were told some truths, and probably some excuses. Confirmed was the fact that they reassigned one of the staff taking care of us to go to another area of the ship and clean up a bar.

The  restauant manager's resolution. Give me a free drink.  You can guess how that was received as I alread had paid for a package with unlimited drinks for the entire cruise.  After a long conversation and apology from the food and beverage manager, I am sure there will be more to this story.

Dinner took too long to catch the main show, but we did get to listen to Ryan talk about Alaska.

Tomorrow is a sea day in the north pacific as we head towards Juneau. The seas are generally under 8 feet, and there is some rocking to the ship, but nothing excessive.

March 31, 2022

Days 9 & 10 - Sea Days

As we progress north the seas build as  the winds have increased to 30 to 35 knots out of the East. Due to the long distances covered between most ports on this itinerary, we spend most of our time cruising at 19 or 20 knots. As our speed varies slightly, different areas of the ship vibrate because of harmonics from the engines and propulsion systems. Sometimes the vibration is significant in the dining room, aft on deck 2, other times the vibration is apparent in the Crow's Nest bar on deck 11 forward. Change the speed a fraction of a knot and the harmonics move to a new location. At times the vibrations are so intense I would question whether we have a damaged propeller blade.

Overall this ship is in excellent shape. Without question there is more comfortable seating here than any other ship I have ever been on. The theater seating is especially comfortable. Seating in all the dining areas is spread out and not crowded as on many of the larger ships.

Temperature control is a different story. It is a problem in many areas. The cabin system works fine, but most of the public areas are way too cold. Probably 65 or 67 at most. Complaints by many guests have fallen on deaf ears.

Of course service has been excellent with 85% of full staff and only 30% of passenger capacity.

It was a surprise for me to learn that tips for cabin stewards are pooled amongst all ships and divided between all cabin stewards equally. Just as surprising most workers have little input on which ship they will be assigned to when they start a new contract, but due to the pooling system, they will not suffer financially if assigned to a ship with less generous passengers.

This ship is expected to return to full staff levels in a few weeks, in time for the Alaskan season. I probably can safely conclude that this is my last cruise with such a low passenger count.

The entire ship is spotlessly clean and shows little sign of her age. Well except for clocks. There are no two clocks on the ship that show the same time, and none show the correct time. I hope not an indication of the maintenance of more critical ship systems.

We dine at Tamarind, one of the other specialty restaurants for dinner. The decor, the food, and the service is excellent. Only my beverage is wrong, actually for the third time in less than an hour. Unusual, but mistakes do happen. More often when you drink gin and club soda instead of the much more popular gin and tonic.

Many of the mixers come in 7 1/2 ounce cans instead of from a bulk dispenser as many ships use. A choice that should reduce errors.

The pool areas remain crowded during the last two days. The sun is bright and many people want their last sunburn.

Leaving the ship is a little different than most other lines. Passengers gather their own numbered luggage tags. Only 3 to choose from, which implies luggage will be divided into 3 piles in the terminal. Luggage does not need to be out until midnight. Easily the last chore of the evening.

As we near the west end of Cuba the seas begin to calm and it is smooth sailing the rest of the way to Port Everglades. We pass several cargo ships, a Princess cruise ship and a Carnival cruise ship enroute.

We dock on time. Being a Wednesday, the only other ship in port is the Queen Mary 2. A rare sighting in Florida as she often cruises out of New York.

Our group is called 15 minutes early. We walk off the ship directly to level 2 of the terminal. Once in the luggage hall, our bags are easily spotted and we continue our walk towards customs. Facial recognition works flawlessly, and there is no more than a 10 second pause in our walk out of the terminal. We are soon on the shuttle to the parking lot. About 30 minutes from cabin to entering the entrance ramp of the expressway.

Traffic is easy, and by 12:45 I am starting the first load of laundry in preparation for the next cruise in about 6 weeks to Alaska, also on Holland America's Eurodam.

March 29, 2022

Day 8 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

The alarm is set for 6:00 as our excursion is scheduled to leave at 7:15, as soon as the ship is cleared. Awakening before the alarm, and finding the ship still heading northerly at 19 knots I soon realize I missed the message that clocks were to be set back another hour during the night. Attempt at another hour sleep is useless.

Buffet breakfast and head to the theater. Bus number one, one of three headed for the excursion train, eco canal boat ride and bus tour of the countryside. Eight other buses are headed in other directions.

As we leave the pier, vaccination cards are checked, not passports. A sign of the times with covid still a worldwide threat.

I had taken this same tour many years ago. The train track was in such poor condition that the train could only move about 2 miles over the course of an hour. I'm not sure what to expect today.

Our tour guide is excellent and shares a lot of information about his country. All wildlife in Costa Rica is protected. Even areas where squatters have settled are clean. Roads appear in good condition, and there is construction activity. Employment taxes support health care and a retirement pension system.

The new shipping port is busy with ships loading containers. Prmiarily bananas and pineapple but also general cargo that is trucked across the country and then reload on ships. a small competitor to the panama canal.

On the eco boat tour we spot numerous wildlife including iguanas,  birds, monkeys and sloth.

Back at the dock and a free snack of ice cold water, a fresh banana, and chips  made from yucca are delicous.

Another half hour or so on the bus to the train. We board from the bus on the road directly onto the waiting train. No station platforms here. It is quickly obvious that the track has been replaced with new rail and concrete ties. A much needed multimillion dollar improvement.

The cars  have lost the old charm by being recovered on the inside with white plastic sheeting and new plywood floors. The original seats have been recovered, the worn out seat back flip hinge mechanisms remain.

We travel for about 20 miles past plantations and scenic coastline. Children are frequently seen standing by the tracks waiting for the train and waving at the tourists.

Back on the bus and in another 30 minutes we are at the pier.

In all, one of the best tours and tour guides. I have heard more about banana growing than I ever wanted.

Returning to the ship, about half a dozen crew members are painting  the scratches that resulted from the locks in the Panama canal.

Time for a shower and a late lunch, but first a stop at the spa. I know that those of you that know me are probably wondering what has happened to my mind that would take me to the spa.

My hand became covered with black spots. Paint spots from the gangway railing caused by drips from the painting crew.

An immediate attempt to clean off  with an alcohol wipe was fruitless as was a vigorous attempt with soap and water.

Next a stop at the spa and asking for a cotton swab soaked in nail polish remover.  The staff was a little perplexed at my request, but shortly returned with several cotton swabs and a container of what was basically acetone.

Within seconds I had removed the black paint. The spa technician was impressed and now had a story to share with her coworkers about her strangest customer of the day.

Safely on the ship, rain storms can be seen over the mountains several miles inland. We leave port and head north on a course that will take us past the  Grand Caymen Islands, west of Cuba, and along theh south edge of Florida towards Ft. Lauderdale for an expected arrival in two days.

Another average dinner in the dining room followed by a production show with the dancers in the theater.

One set of piano music and it is time to call it a night. Tonight I don't miss the fact that I need to turn my clock ahead one hour.

The seas are slight as we leave port, but are expected to build durning the night.

The next two days will be sea days.

March 28, 2022

Day 7, Panama Canal & Panama City

The alarm is set for 5:30 AM, dress quickly and walk out on the balcony. We are passing  under the new highway bridge. Way ahead of schedule. No time for breakfast, the first stop is the helipad just down the hall from our cabin. Already occupied by many passengers, we find a good viewing spot as we approach the entrance to the first lock.

The locks work as smoothly today as they did over 100 years ago when the canal first opened. I don't see any ships heading west in front of us, but there is a steady stream of vessels heading east. Considering they are exiting to the caribbean at 6 or 7 in the morning, they must have made the transit in darkness.

The new locks have been open for several years, Much more efficient from both a labor and water conservation viewpoint, able to handle much larger ships, but only able to transit 15 ships a day. Some of the largest container ships pay over a million dollars to transit. A lot of money, but still a great savings over sailing around South America. Just helps to give perspective to the cost of ships waiting for days to unload at many ports.

The old locks can handle just over 40 ships per day. Conversations have already begun on adding another set of even larger locks.

We complete our transit over an hour ahead of schedule and move to a holding area in Gantun lake to await our return to Colon later in the day.

Our shore excursion to Panama city is about an hour late in departing despite our early arrival.

As is customary on Holland America, all excursions first gather in the theater to get number stickers, and then each group leaves the theater together to either go to the gangway or board a tender.

Today we tender to shore, board a bus, and are driven over one of the gates of the new locks. A very large container ship is in the lock as we pass by.  Probably the scheduling of gate closure for the lock is what determined our excursion departure time.

The countryside is what one would expect. Hilly with lots of vegetation, and very sparsely populated.

We arrive in Panama City and drive through several sections of both the new and the old cities. View ruins of the oldest bridge and remnants of ancient buildings.

Panama City is nothing like what I anticipated. Yes there are modern skyscrapers, all built since the US returned the canal zone to Panama just over 20 years ago, and a lite rail system still under construction. What I did not expect was the dirtiest city I have ever visited. Garbage and trash everywhere. In the streets, the alley ways, in the few open spaces, and even on the balconies of apartment buildings. Trash and garbage is just strewn everywhere. The filthiest cities of medevil times, when there was no sanitation may have been cleaner.

Just to disappoint me a little more, Holland described part of the tour as "a leisure 45 minute, half mile walk" thru the old city, a UNESCO site. Well the half mile was more like a mile and a half, and the 45 minutes wasn't even close. The guide kept changing his mind about where we were going. Oh well you win some and you loose some.  For sure though, I have zero desire to ever return to Panama City, Panama,

The tour ends in Colon at the pier of our awaiting ship.

In a process that makes no sense, after the customary walking past all the shops, Panama customs makes a copy of our passport and photographs evey passenger as we prepare to leave the county. It appears they are more concerned about who leaves Panama than they are who comes into the country. There was no check at all as we entered the country. Strange, but thier country thier rules.

With returning so late, we skip the dining room and head to the buffet. Many other passengers have the same idea.  We finish in time to catch a new comedy act. Good, but not as good as the previous comedian.

At the beginning of the cruise we were given notice that there was a film crew from London on board. A young group of of about eight with at least three cameras. The first time I spotted them was as we were going thru the locks, yes, I avoided them, never had any desire to be on TV or film.

Our next port is Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Our arrival time is scheduled for 7:00  AM with a shore excursion leaving at 7:15. The alarm is set  for 6:00. The seas are very slight as we leave Colon and head North after a long day.