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.