This cruise, a 10 day back to back on the Brilliance has been planned for about six months. It was a replacement for a cruise on the Vision which was cancelled by Royal when they moved the ship to another market.
In the weeks leading up to our departure, the covid variant Omicron ran wild across the country. The variant was very contagious, and even the vacinated were susceptible to infection. Fortunately for those that were vaccinated the symptoms seldom led to hospitalization or death.
A group of seven are booked in four adjacent cabins. About a week before departure Amie is admitted to the hospital. After being kept in intensive care for several days to deal with multiple issues, she reluctantly, but wisely, makes the decsion that she must cancel the cruise even though this cruise would bring her to Diamond level and was one of the primary driving factors for this particular cruise.
Fortunately Royal currently has a liberal "cancel for any reason" policy in place. A move to deal with the uncertain nature of the public dealing with the ongoing pandemic. She will get 100% future cruise credit despite the last minute cancellation.
A day or so later Adrienne is very concerned that she may have contracted covid. Working in a high risk environment in the hotel hospitality business where many of her coworkers have had covid, she nervously waits the prescribed waiting period and then begins her testing.
Too sick to work, and anxious about the possibility of having to cancel, she has no alternative but to wait for the results of the more sensitive PCR test. So far her husband has no symptoms. I just avoid any contact with her beyond text messaging.
Finally the results come back, Negative. Now just to recover from the sinus congestion, sore throat, cough, etc.
48 hours before departure she feels well enough to return to work, and is greatly relieved that she has escaped Covid again. The pollen levels have been very high recently in Florida, probably a big contributor to her not feeling well.
Pann and Terry, traveling from Cinncinatti test negative for covid before departing home, and then need to test again at the hotel in Tampa. The rest of us test at home on Saturday. Requirements this week are to test negative for covid 48 hours or less before boarding the ship. The six of us have cleared the covid testing to board.
The usual hour and 30 minute drive to the port takes two hours due to an accident and heavy traffic on I-4. a very frequent issue on this overloaded highway.
Once at the port, boarding is smooth and quick. Less than 30 minutes and Lynn and I are facing our first abundant choice of food while we wait for the four others. They arrive about 30 minutes behind us as after dropping all the luggage and us at the pier, Adrienne picks up Pann and Terry at thier hotel and then parks the car.
The brilliance is a 20 year old ship, and the cabins reflect the design of that era. Shower curtains instead of glass doors, adequate storage but not nearly as well designed from an efficiency standpoint. During boarding there are indications that the ship is full, while at other times quite the contrary. Time will tell.
Adrienne tries to switch her cabin to the one that was just cancelled by Amie, but find's it is already occupied by someone else.
I often learn of passengers eating so much that thier clothes no longer fit, but today's observation in the Windjammer buffet is a first. A young couple that I would guess to be no more than in thier early 30's is sitting at a nearby table. He consumes a large plate of food, and goes to get another. After sitting down, he unbuckles his belt, and unbuttons the waist of his slacks. As I wait for the others, and for our cabins to be ready he consumes 2 more plates of food. With the amount of food he is eating, he is going to be in real trouble by the end of the cruise.
The Serenade of the seas is also in port. She is not boarding passengers. We learn that she is being used as a hospital ship for any crew members that become ill, and for quarantine quarters for returning employees. Part of Royal's current protocol is that any crew member that shows any symptoms that may be related to covid is immediately quarantined.
She leaves port just in front of us. The decks and bars are not crowded during sail away, another indication that the ship is not full. I should learn the exact number tomorrow at the top tier party.
Our reservation is for 6:45 in the main dining room. During a tour of the ship in the afternoon, the Maitre D suggests that we not arrive until 7:00 and that will better assure us that we will have the same table and waiters all week. We make it by 7:15. I swear we walked by every table before he was able to find our table. Eventually we were seated in the center of the dining room not far from the galley entrance.
The food was good and the service very attentive. Not the servers whose names were on the table block, but still good service. We arranged for savory bites for later nights. Savory bites were always a favorite of the passengers, but royal stopped making them several years ago. Passenger outcry resulted in them being returned, but only on request. It provides the opportunity for the staff to do something "extra" for the guests.
The entertainer tonight is a comedian. He is OK, nothing special. Comedians are not usually my favorite choice of entertainment, but it is about the only game in town.
After the show, we listen to "Upbeaat Music with the 12 Bar Band" from a small seating area on deck 6 in the Centrum. Very enjoyable and relaxing at the end of a long day.
The seas are probably six to nine feet as we head into the gulf from Tampa Bay. You can tell there is a little roll to the ship, but not much.
Tomorrow will be a sea day as we head to Coco Cay, Royal's private island in the Bahamas.