December 07, 2023

Curacao and Aruba on The Odyssey

Normally I add to this blog on a daily basis during the cruise. This time my plan was foiled by failed technology. I was unable to pair my keyboard with my phone. I was convinced that the old keyboard had just given up after many trips and thousands of keystrokes. It was only after I returned home and was ordering a replacement that I discovered the instructions printed on the back of the keyboard were incorrect. No wonder multiple attempts to pair the keyboard with my phone produced no result.

So, despite the technical issues, or I should say because of the technical issues this will be a brief blog instead of my usual more detailed blog.  We are headed to Curacao and Aruba with an additional stop at the inevitable CoCo Cay, Royal's private island.

The trip to Ft Lauderdale, or Port Everglades, whichever you prefer, was uneventful.  We borrowed my old van from my youngest daughter so that the 6 of us could ride together. I even enjoyed the luxury of not having to drive.

Once on the ship reservations were quickly made for those few shows and dinners that were important.

The weather remained near perfect for the entire voyage. Mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the mid 80's and only a few sprinkles at most. The seas were never able to rock the ship. Honestly, not an easy task considering her size. 

Seating in the main dining room was near chaos, but mostly avoided by wearing my Pinnacle badge. Yes sometimes being a good customer does have benefits. As soon as I was spotted by one of the staff, we would be whisked to the front of the line. Well that is what it looked like to other passengers while actually it was a separate, but very short line, for their best customers.

Most evenings Lynn and I ate in the Coastal Kitchen. Excellent service and food. They were gracious enought to allow me to bring the rest of our party on Lynn's birthday.

The headliner shows were good. The magician Martin Brock from Denmark I had seen recently on another ship. The first production show, The Effectors was so loud no one was able to understand the music. Even with ear plugs, the sound was deafening.

Showgirl was much better. Updated from two years ago the costumes were spectacular and the performers excellent. The first production show I have seen in a long time where passengers were turned away at the door as the theatre was at capacity.

There are always a few incidents that provide for humor or disbelief. The routine on boarding day is similar to the process in an airport when headed to a plane. All luggage is scanned and all passengers must pass through some type of scanner. Simply empty your pockets and put your carryon on the conveyor to be x-rayed.

The passenger in front of me didn't get it. His bag didn't pass the x-ray scrutiny and he set off the alarms when he tried to go thru the body scanner. He suddenly discovered he forgot his phone in his pocket.  Try again, still failed. Next pass it was his keys. Security wasn't amused. They had thousands of passengers to check.

I was waved on to go in front of him, and as I walked on his carryon was going thru for the fourth time. Was he just so oblivious? Or was this all a plan to smuggle something on to the ship? I don't know, but I am convinced if it was a deliberate plan that it didn't work.

For about 15 years I have been keeping an eye on a stand of trees on the sandbar at the port in Aruba. Unfortunately I sadly must report that warming ocean temperatures and the increased pollution have finally taken their toll. The stand of trees is reduced to a few shrubs. A sad day for our planet.

There are about 45 pinnacle members on the ship. Previous communications made no mention of us having access to the coastal kitchen, but we were, and I never saw the restaurant 50 percent full.

Most of the group, but not me, enjoyed a short lesson of simulated sky diving in IFly.  They enjoyed it very much. Somebody had to take pictures so I am glad it was me.

Jenn and Brett took a submarine dive expedition, Adrienne a scuba dive. Lynn did a little Christmas shopping for her grandchildren, and I verified the beverages were still being mixed properly at my favorite watering holes on the islands.

Back in port at Port Everglades one of the boarding ramps was broken, and something held up luggage for nearly an hour. Despite the hic cups we were still in the car and on our way home by 8:15.

I managed to come back with a cold. Out of caution it was confirmed that it was not Covid. By 5 PM all the laundry was done and put away.

Several months ago I found a perfect itinerary for the Greek Isles, a 14 day transatlantic followed by 12 days on the same ship. Unfortunately all suppliers indicated the ship was sold out for both cruises.

Brett mentioned on the way home that he found cabins available on the Transatlantic voyage. This is going to need further investigation.

In January we are headed to New Orleans, no not a road trip but a cruise from Tampa.

October 22, 2023

Coco Cay and Port Canaveral

We are the only ship in Coco Cay. The skies are overcast with sporadic showers, not a nice day for those looking forward to a day at the beach. I could care less as I am not at all a beach person.

A major activity of the day is to pack the suitcase, a dreaded task that pyschologically indicates that return to land is imminent.

We depart CoCo late in the afternoon to head back to Port Canaveral. As they have the entire 9 days, the seas remain slight. The skies are mostly clear, the air temperature cool, in the low 70's.

I skip the dining room and instead make dinner of the chicken wings, meatballs, and other appetizers in the lounge. This will make it possible to catch the farewell production show, an hour of "Big Band" music, and time to see the Ice Show "Under the Big Top".  Earlier in the cruise we had tried to make the Ice show, but dinner took too long and the theater was full before we could get there.

All three shows are good, and well worth the sacrifice of dinner in the dining room.

The alarm is set for 6:20. I am awake long before this, probably the disappointment of knowing it is the end of the cruise. 

Shortly after 7:00 I head to Boleros, the meeting point for those like me that need wheelchair assistance to disembark.  I am the first passenger. Many of the self assist passengers are still disembarking, I am the only passenger in the luggage terminal. Lugggage is still being moved into the terminal in large cages. Dozens of porters are waiting to help.  My  luggage is quickly spotted. 

A brief stop for passport verification, a fast process where facial recognition is used to find an verify that my passport is valid and not flagged for closer scrutiny.  We are soon onboard the shuttle bus to parking.

The drive to Alyssa's house is smooth. Unlike the trip to the port, the conversation is almost non existant. Nothing wrong except this is the end of the vacation, not the beginning. Transfer luggage to my car and head on to Clermont. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Adrienne will be home in plenty of time to get to work by 3:00.

Turn the water on, set the AC, start the laundry. By early afternoon I could be ready to leave again, but unfortunately I will need to wait 5 weeks. 

Sea Day and Nassau

Sea days are sea days. Usually quiet times on the ship. Trivia, crossword puzzles, music, belly flop contests, and many other activities to choose from. The war in Gaza has a few passengers concerned about future travel plans. It is learned that one of Royal's ships, the Rhapsody of The Seas, is being used to evacuate civilians from Israel. A friend has cancelled a long planned trip to Egypt after strong warnings from the state departement. Our world is in sereious turmoil.

A decision is made to cruise on The Wonder of The Seas in October of 2024 to celebrate a multitude of family events. I see a batch of printed tee shirts in the works. Probably a dozen or more travellers.

The seas remain under 5 feet for our entire passage to Nassau. There are some periods of light rain to interupt the sun bathers. I think we only pass one small freighter the entire trip. Our scheduled arrival is 11 AM. 

As we approach the island, at least 3 ships can be seen tied to the docks. Quick research reveals there will be 4 in port today. Probably 16,000 pasengers crowding the docks.

We enter the harbor, make a 180 turn on a dime, and glide into the pier behind The Oasis of The Seas. Two carnival ships are tied to other piers.

The weather is perfect, high 70's or low 80's with sunny skies and a nice breeze off the ocean. We are docked the furtherest from the terminal. A brand new terminal I should add.

The entire port area has recently been renovated at a cost estimated to be $300 million, a cost that  will be quickly recouped by the $75.00 per passenger port fee from each of passenger. The new dock can accomodate 6 ships simultaneously, 3 of which can be Oasis class ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each.

The 22 x 45 foot 3D digital display on the side of the terminal plays some amazing short clips of sharks, turtles, and a giant octopus. This alone makes the long walk from the ship worth it. I find a bench just past the security checkpoint while Lynn checks out the newly built shops.

Our stay here is short. We leave port at 5:15, a few minutes late. It really doesn't matter as we only have about 75 miles to our next destination of Coco Cay, Royal's private island. 

Again the seas remain slight. We move into international waters and cruise at a speed about equal to a brisk walk. We will be at Coco Cay before 7:00 AM

Oct 17 - Second day in Bermuda

Our tour today is a trip on glass bottom boat to view some of the underwater wildlife and a sunken ship.  Glass bottom boats and submarines are good alternatives for former divers that still enjoy under the sea.

Our boat loads on the opposite side of the pier from our ship. One could not ask for it to be more convenient. The skies are heavily overcast, and a few sprinkles fall during the first 15 minutes of the ride to the ship wreck location.

Again a very knowledgeable guide points out many of the sights on land including the smallest draw bridge in the world which we drove over yesterday. The part that opens is a mere 18 inches, just wide enough for a sailboat mast to pass through. Currently the bridge is only opened once per year so it can maintain its place in the record books.

The site we visit is where the  HMS Vixen was deliberately sunk to protect access to the island from potential invaders. Unfortunately the explosives were improperly detonated and half the ship sits on one side the channel, the rest on the other, leaving a clear path between the pieces. To further aid any invaders, the bow of the ship sits just above the water's surface, clearly marking the exact location of the reef, the wreck, and the clear channel.

The coral here lacks the color we see in the Caribbean or Australian coral reefs. The only species that can handle the wide variation in ocean temperatures are generally brownish in color. 

The seas were pretty calm, but unfortunately a passenger became sea sick. Often a trigger for others, but not today. Other than the one brief shower the weather was delightful with mild but not cold temperatures, probably 75.

Two passengers are missing when we are ready to leave port. The ship waits a few minutes, unties and then we start our 40 hour journey to Nassau. It is unknow if the two boarded the ship, or decided to stay in Bermuda.

As bermuda fades in the distance, and the sun sets to our west, we speed along at about 20 knots. The seas remain under 5 feet, and the ship glides smothly through the waves.

Tomorrow will be a sea day.

Monday Oct 16 - Bermuda

I begrudgingly have set an alarm for 7:00 AM. The ship docks just after 9:00 and we need meet off the ship, past the terminal for our shore excursion before 9:45. 

After breakfast I gather what I may need for the day and head to the lounge on 14 to watch our arrival. We are soon cleared by local agents and allowed to disembark the ship. Amazingly the elevator arrives in less than a minute and whisks us from deck 14 to deck 1 in a matter of seconds. Unheard of speed when literally thousands of passengers are getting off the ship at the same time.

We quickly find our tour and 21 of us board a 22 passenger Toyota tour bus.  A common tour vehicle in much of the world that offers very tight seating and limited leg room. 

Before any vehicles leave the pier, the ambulance leaves with a passenger that broke his hip, most likely from a fall in his cabin. At last word it had not been determined if he would be treated in Bermuda or flown to New York. Have I ever mentioned why it is so important to have a good travel insurance policy? Or not, if you are filthy rich.

Our tour guide is excellent, a native of Bermuda. He shares much of the history and customs of the island during our 5 hours as well as taking us to many of the popular tourist sites.

A few details of interest. Fuel is currently $9.00 a gallon, and expected to rise 1 or 2 dollars in the next few weeks. Food is very expensive by US  standards. $10.00 for a half gallon of milk. Vehicles are restricted in engine size, and limited to 1 per household regardless of the number of people or families living in the home. There is no income tax, property tax is similar or less than in the US and is based on the square footage of occupied space in the building. A room storing a shovel is considered occupied for taxing purposes. There are many restrictions on who may own or buy property as well as who may become a citizen. Most government income comes from fines assesed for not obeying local laws, and import duties. If you do not pay any assessed fines within 7 days, you will be incarcerated, no exceptions. The major business is tourism and reinsurance with over 85% of the world's reinsurance companies based here.

Overall the tour was excellent. My most significant takeaway is how clean the entire island is. No comparison to any other place I have visited. At one point I observed a local worker sweeping dust from a parking lot with a broom and dustpan.

The weather remained good all day with no more than a few drops of rain. Temperatures remained in the low 80's at most.

My big purchase for the day? A dish of homemade ice cream and a donut from a locally owned ice cream shop. Franchises are banned except for one KFC that has existed since before the ban was enacted. Oh yes, I should mention this is one of the few remaining countries that drive on the left. Scary when you are looking to cross the street and not used to which way traffic goes.

There is another cruise ship here,  the Scenic Eclipse. She has 114 cabins and starting fares starting at about $1500 PP per day. A little above my budget. and I am sure taxes, port fees, etc. add to that number.

Next week "The World" is due to arrive. A 20 year old condominium cruise ship that I have seen previously in Hong Kong and Barcelona if I remember correctly.  

We are returned to the ship just a few minutes before our scheduled return time. A much needed shower to prepare for the evening, cocktails, dinner and the evening show.

Tonight we remain in port overnight and are scheduled to leave about 3:00 PM tomorrow.

October 18, 2023

Oct 14, 15 - Sea Days

The skies remain cloudy and overcast. The humidity hovers just under 100%, and the temperature in the mid 80's. The seas are under 3 feet, and have no effect on the ship. A  cold front is moving through the area, but should pass Bermuda before we arrive.

One Pinnacle benefit that has not been taken away is breakfast in Chops Grille. My french toast tastes excellent, however they are the thickest slices of bread I have ever seen, easily over 2 inches.

I often attend the shore excursion talk to just learn a little about the port and where we are likely to dock. It appears the docks are fairly close to the terminal area in Bermuda.

Sea days are very lazy days. I take some time to write this. On this ship, my comfortable writing place has turned out to be in the lounge on deck 14 at a hi top table between the bar and the entrance to the Diamond Lounge, or I should say what used to be the Diamond Lounge as it has now been renamed "Crown Lounge".

There is a message from the shore excursion desk. Our excursion departing time has been changed. After the new tickets arrive in the cabin it makes sense why. The original tickets were printed with the excursion departing before the ship arrives in port. A difficult if not impossible feat. Actually the original excursion time was correct, but the ships arrival time has been delayed by local authorities. The local officials do not let commercial vessels of any type to enter or leave the harbor except in bright daylight hours. The channel is rather narrow and they don't want anymore sunken ships.

Our wait staff is good, but they don't have the hustle that the Celebrity crew showed. We attend the production show in the theater and probably are asleep by 10.

By the next morning the seas have risen to about 5 or 6 feet and the wind increased to 25 and 30 mph. Fortunately the winds and waves are on our stern and are just giving us an extra push, the ship remains rock solid stable.

After breakfast the next activity is the top tier party where Royal recognizes the most cruised passengers. On this cruise there are 55 Pinnacle members 300 Diamond Plus and 423 Diamond passengers. The top cruiser has 5356 points. Royal passengers earn a point for each day sailed plus extra points if you book a suite and extra points were issued during some special promotions. Regardless 5356 is a lot of cruising. Of course 10 years ago I never dreamed of some day attaining Pinnacle status.

Immediately following the the top tier party, there is a special lunch with the officers for the Pinnacle passengers. Probably about half of us attend. The surf and turf was excellent. The filet was more than I could eat, and of course being allergic to fish and seafood I gave my lobster to Lynn. The wine bottles were bottomless.

Seven hours later I still am not hungry for dinner. A portion of the fettucine alfredo serving is more than enough.

The main entertainer is very talented, but the presentation of his act was lacking in organization. He jumped radically from one thing to another without any obvious thread or flow to the show. No late entertainment for me. Our clocks have been moved an hour ahead and early Monday morning we have a 5 hour tour of Bermuda. The seas remain about the same, and the ship still very stable.

Mariner of The Seas

Three is a charm. This is the third time I have scheduled a cruise that would take me to Bermuda. Covid cancelled the last attempt, and medical issues caused cancellation of the first attempt. Maybe Friday the 13th will be better.

Preparations are easy, with both of my daughters also on this trip, we all ride together to the port. To start the week with a blast, there is a scheduled launch of a Falcon Heavy to carry a mission to a metallic asteroid about 4 years away. Only a fifteen minute deviation in our plans to be able to see the launch. After having seen many over the past 35 years, they are still fun to watch.10...9...8... only seconds to go. "Liftoff"!

The skies are clear enough for the rocket, but too overcast for anyone on the ground to witness anything.  The cameras  at the launch site recorded little to share on the internet. Oh well, we tried.

On to port parking. It begins to rain just as we arrive at the parking lot. Fortunately it lasts only a minute. Not even enough to put on a jacket or grab the umbrella. Within a few minutes the shuttle bus is loaded  and we are off to the terminal, one of the oldest at Canaveral. There are lots of passengers boarding, but lines move very smoothly. We are on the ship within about 45 minutes of parking the car.

The Windjammer is packed as usual. We luckily find a table in Chops Grille and grab a bite for lunch.

It has been a number of years since I booked an inside cabin. This one seems awful small. It really isn't, it just seems that way as this is an older ship and the cabin design is not as good as in some of the newer ships, nor as spacious as on some others.

We find a spot in the Crown Lounge for sailaway. We are joined by the others. It is hot and humid in Florida today, but a cold front is coming which will result in a high temperature of 68 on Monday. Cold for mid October.  The seas are slight, less than 3 feet as we head into the Atlantic for our 2 day passage to Bermuda.

My key doesn't work on the private lounge door, after being admitted by a crew member, when I talk to the host about the key malfunction I learn that the Pinnacle level passengers are not allowed to use this lounge on this cruise as there are too many of us. A special lounge has been established on deck 5 for Pinnacle use. I do note there are about 30 empty seats at 5:00 PM, usually peak occupancy time.

Our dinner reservations were messed up by the travel agent, and we didn't catch it until today. Despite the times being correct we were booked at two separate tables. Easily taken care of at the dining room, and fixed for the duration of the cruise.

There is  another rocket launch just after we sit down for dinner, but again the skies were too overcast to be able to see it. Is it a curse? Technically we haven't entered the Bermuda triangle yet. 

We are seated at a private table just inside the dining room entrance. Our wait staff introduces themselves. The NY strip steak was OK, but not as good as it was on Celebrity a few weeks ago.

After dinner, we all head to the first night welcome show in the theater.  The house orchestra was so so, an opinion probably influenced by all the excellent live music in the Orlando area. Dan Dan is our cruise director, a face that I have seen many times over the years. The obvious change other than age, he now wears glasses.

The comedian was good. Picked on  by a group of disrespective kids in the front row he held his own well. Finally after numerous requests for them to stop and be quiet, security removed one of them. Not another word from the others. 

There is little motion to the ship, more from engine vibration than from the seas. The next two days will be sea days.

September 14, 2023

September 10, The Drive Home

We are awake and up long before the alarm goes off. No desire for breakfast, but Lynn grabs a coffee in the buffet.

We arrive at the gathering place for wheelchair assist departure 20 minutes before our scheduled time exactly as instructed. I would have been earlier, but getting an elevator was impossible. I finally carried my small suitcase down the 5 flights of stairs.

I was the first passenger called when a "pusher" arrived. A crew member that volunteers for helping push wheelchairs. I am whisked away towards the terminal. At the elevator in the terminal I am handed off to a dockside worker. After a short wait for the elevator we are on our way.

Facial recognition for passport inspection. We soon find our luggage. There is a several minute wait for a porter.  Soon we are on the shuttle bus to the parking lot.  The driver collects our car tag and his computer tells him exactly where in the lot the car is parked.

Probably within 25 minutes of walking down the stairs I am sitting in my car setting "home" as my destination on my GPS. This is good as we have concert tickets at Blue Bamboo, one of our favorite venues in Orlando this afternoon.

The drive home is easy. I open the garage door a minute before noon. Time to unpack, start the laundry, shower and head to the concert. The conclusion of another great week at sea. All that is left is to book another cruise to St Marten so I can repay Nick the $10 he loaned me.  Isn't that reason enough for another cruise?

September 9, A Sea Day

The sun rises over the horizon. Skies are partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 80's, the week has been a relief from the hot Florida summer. The seas remain slight with minimal roll imparted to the ship.

This is the last day. Decide what clothes to keep out for the ride home as everything must be packed so luggage can be whisked away during the evening.

The last day of served breakfast. Lunch of pizza in the buffet, very good as is the glutten free version. 

Gratuities are prepared for our staff.  Last time for trivia. I never play but enjoy listening to the questions and answers to realize how little I know. A bad attempt is made at making some Oragami boxes. The final presentation about Buddha. An afternoon improv comedy show, a final evening show with the production cast. The last day, but a busy day.

Some final thoughts on the Celebrity Equinox. Despite the ship being understaffed, the attentiveness of the crew was excellent. Open dining has been modified from previous years. Essentially guests are assigned to a serving team, not a table.  Therefore as you arrive in the dining room at various times throughout the week you may be seated at a different table, but always with the same staff. An excellent approach that is much more efficient than always being assigned to a single table. The dining room food has been excellent and always served at the proper temperature.

Appetizers have been eliminated during cocktail hour except for the evening the officers joined us. Just another cost cutting measure.

Personally I found seating around the ship much less comfortable than on other ships and on previous trips on the Equinox. Generally the seating is way too deep, and too low to the floor for the vertically challenged like myself. I suppose many would say my maturity is also a factor.

The internet I feel is slower now that it has converted to Star Link, but of course that could be because so many more passengers are tuned in to the Internet today.

Overall the ship is clean and has been well maintained. Next April she is going in for a refurbishment. I expect more upper class cabins to be added. Port Canaveral will become her home port in the fall of 2024.

For the first time in weeks I set my alarm as we are expected to vacate our cabins by 7:30. I have luggage tag group 1, expecting to disembark about 8:00. I will use wheel chair assist.

September 8 - Puerto Plata

We arrive in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic right on time. It is the normal process that trainees man the helm under the supervision of senior officers. How else will new staff ever get experience and give the officers time to mingle with the passengers? Well that is not going to be the case this morning.

As we approach the harbor winds are gusting to 35 mph broadside to the ship. At 36 mph we either could not dock or would need the assistance of tug boats. This is not a situation for trainees, one minor error and the ship could smash into the dock taking a heavy toll on both the ship and the pier. Today the captain will be at the helm of the ship.

As passengers, we woud never know the difference. The ship snuggled up to the dock without the slightest bump, the skills that only come from experience. 

Puerto Plato is a small town on the water. The streets today are as they were laid out by Columbus in the 1400's. 

The walk from the ship to shore is quite long and the local authorities provide free shuttle service. Free, but a tip is always appreciated. On shore there are many shops, restaurants, bars and swimming areas. Even a free Lazy River for those that are so inclined. The area looks like it has recently been rebuilt. I soon find a shady spot to enjoy a beverage as Lynn continues her conquest of all the shops. Surprisingly a purchase of some coffee is made. A purchase that was planned for San Juan but never materialized.

Back on the ship and my last opportunity to enjoy the Solarium pool without crowds.

Tonight is the dinner menu that many have waited for, lobster. Since I can't eat it, the waiter offers mine to Lynn. Most of the major cruise lines charge extra if you want a second one, but the waiter can get away with this just by putting the second lobster under my name. I enjoy another New York strip steak.

Tomorrow is a sea day, our final day on the ship. We are again cruising at 21 Knots, very near top speed for this ship. Seas remain slight with waves under 5 feet. Ship motion is essentially nonexistant.

September 7th - Tortola, BVI

Despite a late departure from St Marten, we are docked and secure long before our scheduled 7:00 AM arrival time. The gangway opens shortly after 7:00 and over 500 passengers immediately get off the ship for early tours. By 9:00 probably 60% or more of our 2801 passengers are ashore.

Other than around the pool, an area I could care less about, the ship does not feel crowded even though she is sailing very near full capacity.

The dining room is doing a good job with breakfast, and we go there again this morning instead of the buffet.

The walk to the small group of shops is short, so we meander off the ship for an hour or two. Nothing purchased as usual.

Back on the ship we find the Solarium pool nearly empty. In the shade with a little AC, it is very comfortable. Not so comfortable is the seating. The only seating available is recliner lounges, while padded and soft they are very low and difficult to get in and out of. My memory says there used to be some chairs around the pool areas, no more.

It is time for lunch just as the Mast Grill opens. Good Hot Dogs and Hamburgers with all the fixins and optional fries. We are lucky and grab the only table in the shade.

We are scheduled to leave at 3:00 and start heading north.

The seas remain under 5 feet. A cat 5 hurricane has rapidly formed in the Atlantic to our east, but we will be back in port before it has any affect on this part of the Caribbean.

I think Celebrity only has about 5 dinner menus for this cruise. Historically for an 8 night cruise the menu would be different every night. Whether deliberate, an error with our server, or just the way Celebrity is doing it, but there are three different steaks listed on the menu on different nights. A New York strip, a sirloin steak and flank steak. In reality I have only seen them serve new york strip regardless of what a guest orders. No complaints from me, it is very good and perfectly prepared.

Tomorrow we will be in the Dominican Republic. Skies are mostly clear and seas fair as we head northerly at 21 knots.6

September 07, 2023

September 6 - St Marten

The ship is tied up before our 8:00 AM scheduled arrival time. The temperature is supposed to be in the mid to upper 80's today. Any chance of rain is less than 10%.

The Lazy Lizard opens at 11:00 so we wait until after 10 before going ashore. A shuttle takes us right to the water taxi. My bad, I forgot that the water taxi is cash only, I have exactly enough for the two round trip tickets.

I would like a few bucks to tip the taxi and the shuttle on my return trip so I google for an ATM. In luck within 50 feet of where we exit the water taxi. Well that is the end of the luck, my pin number does not work. Or more correctly what I remember as the pin number does not work. I almost never use a pin number with this Visa card, and obviously it has changed from what I though it was. Most likely when the card was replaced at some point.

Nick has completed the patio, and the interior wall opposite the bar is now finished. It looks very nice. He still has much of the same staff.

Chicken wing appetizer serves as lunch. I ask Nick if would give me $10 cash back on my credit card. He is reluctant because that would mess up his books. Instead he just hands me $10 and says pay him back next time. It is nice to have good friends.

His business is doing well. Nearly every group of customers while I am there are people that have known Nick for years. He is working on plans to extend his hours and do additional marketing to the locals so he is not so dependent on the tourist trade. Probably a smart move as only 8 ships are scheduled for this entire month.

The weather in St Marten so far in September is the hottest ever recorded, a tidbit shared by the water taxi spokesperson.

There is always someone. As I waited for the water taxi there was a couple that did everything they could to get on the taxi without buying a ticket. Distraction by the wife while the husband tried to walk on. Claim of not understanding. Etc, Etc. No it did not work. The staff has seen all the tricks before.

With good cell service through my T Mobile plan, back on the ship I take some time to catch up on my email and post my blog. Yes the days are out of order in the blog.

Two ambulances visit the ship today to take passengers to the local medical facilities. The first was in mid afternoon, and the second just after our scheduled departure time. No word on the cause or outcomes.

Dinner was a perfectly prepared New York Strip steak. The same menu as several days ago.

Performing in the theater tonight is James Cielan, one of the best magicians I have ever seen. A regular in Vegas, probably the third time I have seen him on various ships. His slight of hand card tricks are amazing.

The seas remain calm as we head to Tortola, BVI. We are scheduled to dock at 7:00 AM.

September 4 - Labor Day

Again we enjoy sunny skies as we head to San Juan. The temperatures are in the mid to upper 80's. The pool is packed with sunbathers.

The Equinox has been fairly well maintained, but in places she is showing her age. The power shades in the sky lounge are being replaced. Much of the external glass is fogged or discolored. Our balcony floor is covered with old paint chips.

The casino is smoke free, a relief to many passengers. Public areas are kept meticulously clean, but the shortage of  workers is apparent. Most often there is no beverage service in the theater, only 1 server in the sky lounge and many of the crew are working on extended contracts, essentially forgoing vacation time and staying on board to work.

In general, the crew is excited about the ship coming to port Canaveral next year. Partially because it is a new port for them, and partially because they  have a dream of being able to visit Disney at some point.

Everyone scrambles to the outside decks to watch our arrival into San Juan. The skies darken, and just as we turn the corner and the fort comes into good view, the gods respond with a heavy rain. Fortunately I have a nice dry seat in the sky lounge.

The showers continue on and off for the next several hours. I could care less, and stay on the ship.

Several passengers arrive with suitcases in tow. They missed the sailing in Port Everglades because their flight from NC was delayed. Why would you fly a day ahead of time?

A tour bus provided some excitement for those of us remaining on the ship. As it departed and moved about 75 feet from where passengers boarded, something happened and the back of the bus dropped to the ground stranding the bus and blocking the main road for all traffic in both directions.

Traffic had to be rerouted, and after several hours no progress had been made despite many people looking at the problem. I have experienced tour busses breaking down, but never within the first minute of starting the excursion.

Dinner is an excellent strip steak with cherries jubilee for desert. A comedian provides the main stage entertainment tonight.

We leave San Juan about 10:30 PM, an assumption on my part as departure is long after my bed time. 

September 06, 2023

September 5 - St Thomas

During the night our ship slowly moves to our next port of call, St. Thomas USVI. Again a lovely day with temperatures in the low 80's with an expected high of 88.

We wait until most of the passengers have disembarked for their excursions, then wander off the ship for an hour. No real purpose or destination other than to say I did got off the ship at some point.

Back on the ship  I spend time in the adult pool and hot tub. The pool water temperature was perfect and it was enjoyable with only a few guests still onboard. The hot tub seats were too low for me to be comfortable, so time there was limited.

The Sky lounge has become my go to place. It is a comfortable place to write, watch the ocean pass by, and enjoy cocktails before dinner. For some unexplained reason tonight it is also popular with many other passengers. The lone server is kept very busy, but as regulars we are well taken care of.

Just as we are headed to dinner, the shore excursion desk calls to inform me that the one shore excursion we have booked for the entire cruise has been cancelled. Plans for tomorrow have been changed. I wasn't sure I would get to see Nick at the Lazy Lizzard, but now we will. A purpose and mission for St Marten.

The dining room is very busy this evening. Of course we have the same staff every night, but they have been shuffling the guests between different tables depending on what is open when we arrive at our reserved time.  Actually I like this better than having the same exact table every night.

The entertainment tonight is the production show "Topper" which has been running since the first time I cruised on the Equinox, probably over 10 years ago. 

The seas are very slight as we make our short journey overnight to St Marten. Yes, we plan to get off and have lunch with Nick at the Lazy Lizzard.

September 3 - A Sea Day

The skies are mostly sunny with an occasional passing cloud. There are some swells in the ocean which constantly roll the ship from side to side about 2 or 3 degrees despite the best efforts of the stabilizers. The adult pool is closed all day, either because of the sloshing water or some other cause.

Breakfast in the main dining room is good. Two pancakes are enough.

During the day the usual assortment of trivia, archery, golf, pickleball etc.

Just as the officers enter the pool for the officers vs, guest volleyball game, the skies open up with a brief but heavy downpour. Everyone scatters except the officers in the pool. The match is cancelled until a future date.

Celebrity often has a lecture series. On this trip the subject is Buddhism - the life of Buddha. A subject I know little about.  The speaker is not only knowledgeable but very articulate. An excellent speaker with an interesting subject. The series continues with 4 different presentations throughout the cruise.

Unlike Royal, there are no appetizers during cocktail hour in the sky lounge. The only option is a combination of corn, pretzels and other salty snacks. A combination I haven't encountered before.  The corn kernels taste very good, but we have concern that they may be rancid and will resist them for the remainder of the cruise.

Dinner is pasta with apple pie for desert. Yes real pie not the substitute Royal has.

The ship continues with a slight roll, the weather near perfect. A little cooler than Florida has been in recent weeks. Since leaving Port Everglades we have been cruising at just under 21 knots. About as fast as they can run this ship, barring an extreme emergency.

Tomorrow afternoon we are due to arrive in San Juan.

September 2 - Equinox

It has been many months since I have been on a cruise, and I am finally headed back to sea. The covid pandemic wrecked havoc with the cruise industry. Several of my favorite ships have been sent to the scrap yards. New ships that were in the process of being built have been delivered, even if later than expected. With the tremendous financial hit the cruise industry took, many permanent changes have been implemented. 

Ships are operating with smaller crews, entertainment has been cut back, if not in frequency in financial expense.  Bargain cruises are almost non existant, the cruise lines would rather sail with some empty berths.

The Equinox, always a favorite ship is headed to the eastern caribbean on this 8 day itinerary. Celebrity as a cruise line, and the 8 day itinerary pretty much ensure that the passenger manifest will be mostly mature passengers, that means few under 25.

The drive to Port Everglades was painless. We arrived at Park N Go and were immeadiately whisked away to the ship terminal.  No lines, no waiting. Boarding pass is checked, twice. Passport checked, and carry on luggage scanned, I get a quick pat down and we climb the long ramp to board. We are on the ship less than 30 minutes after arriving at the parking lot.

We are told we can take our carry on luggage to the cabin even though they aren't officially open yet. Just can't remain in the cabin. I hope this is a new standard policy, it will make boarding day much nicer.

As aways the buffet is crowded. A slice of pizza is enough for lunch. A brief conversation with each of the children to let them know we are safely on board. We watch sailaway from the aft of deck 14. The skies are partly cloudy and the temperature in the upper 80's. There is only one other ship in Port Everglades today. I had forgotten that many of the ships are in Europe, Australia or Alaska during the summer months, returning to Florida in November for the winter season.

A set of music in the atrium before dinner in the main dining room. Prime rib, always a favorite was excellent. The service was prompt, proper, and efficient. Lynn was served an extra shrimp cocktail appetizer. Gluten free was a breeze and handled in stride. A nice window table provided a excellent view of the passing ocean 25 feet below.

No free cocktails on the first night. At about $15.00 per drink they just want us to be reminded how much the freebies are worth.

The main entertainment is "Take 3", a trio of classical musicians. A pianist, violin player, and cello player. The three gals, all under 30 have 14 musical degrees between them. Absolutely superb musicians. 

The seas are probably 3 or 4 feet. There is a slight rock to the ship, but most passengers are handling it just fine. The ship constantly creaks, like me, an indication of age. Tomorrow will be a sea day as we head to San Juan with a scheduled arrival late Monday afternoon.

The ship has been using star link since spring. My first impression is that overall speed is slow compared to previous service. But that can be heavily impacted by number of guests using the intenet and other factors controlled by Celebrity.

I have 90 minutes of internet for the 8 days. It took 19 of those minutes to download a handfull of emails. I will write my blog and post it when I get home or have cellular service in port.

March 11, 2023

Back Home

The ship is secured at the dock before 5:00 AM. My scheduled departure is at 7:30 with wheelchair assist. We arrive in plenty of time. There are about 20 passengers waiting. I am one of the first to depart. The wheelchair is in very poor condition.

By 8:00 we are sitting on the shuttle bus ready to head to the parking lot. Just as we are about to leave a passenger gets off the bus in an attempt to find her traveling companions.  The bus driver asks her to get back on the bus, he is ignored and leaves without her, but with her luggage and the luggage of her friends. Too bad. Why would you board a bus when the rest of your party isn't even there?

After a quick stop at WalMart I am home by 10 AM. By 1:00 all the laundry is done and I return myself to a land locked life. Mail to sort, emails to deal with, prescriptions to order etc.

I think I need to spend some time looking for some other cruises. No, not need to, WILL!

Day 8, Coco Cay

During the night the seas calm as the captain had predicted. When we dock at Coco Cay, the seas are flat, the skies sunny, and the air temperature a cool 70 degrees. A Norwegian ship can be seen at their private island a mile or so distant, tendering passengers to shore much as Royal did years ago before making a very large investment in building up Coco Cay to what it is today. Bars, cabanas, fresh water pools, restaurants, a water park, a tethered ballon ride and dozens of water activities to spend your money on.

I learn that Pann and Terry spent four and a half hours in the medical center after they abruptly left during the show.  Some of the classic signs of a heart attack, but the medical staff assured Pann it was not a cardiac event but just rib cage inflamation. Certainly relieved, and knowing they made the right decsion last night, she will follow up with her own doctors when she returns to Ohio.

We are the only ship here with about 2500 passengers. The last time I visited Coco Cay I think there were two ships with a combined ten or twelve thousand passengers. We wait until most passengers have gone ashore, exit the gangway and board a shuttle tram within seconds. The driver asks where we would like to go. Oh just to the tram terminal and we will take a tour around the island. Well the important part of that registered. He drops his other passengers and then proceeded to give us a narrated tour of the entire island. A frw tidbits. 500 local residents live and work on the island. Their contracts are usually 3 months and then a months vacation. All he does is drive a tram, every day. Shared housing is provided, much as berths on a ship are for the workers. He has been doing this for 4 years, Nassau is his home.

He takes us back to the ship and drops us off at the gangway. One of my more enjoyable visits to Coco Cay. Paved walkways are limited, and I find it very difficult to walk in the sand. From the ship we watch the balloon make one ascent. Not many paying passengers today.

I decide to splurge on a tenderloin steak for dinner in the dining room. The upcharge is probably only about a third of the cost for the same steak in Chops.  Honestly, not worth it. Most butchers would have used that piece of the tenderloin for hamburger meat not a steak.

No show tonight, just packing. Our expected arrival back in Port Canaveral is about 4:00 AM.

March 10, 2023

Day 7, A Sea Day

The skies remain clear and sunny. The temperatures are expected to be in the low 70's for most of the day. The seas are running 12 to 15 feet with large swells hitting our starboard bow.

Apparent winds across the deck are 45 to 50 mph. Pretty brisk to be outside. The solarum pool has been drained for safety reasons, the water was sloshing out and flooding the solarium deck. Spray from the waves keeps the outside walking area on deck 5 starboard side very wet.

The main pool remains open, but few dare go in it.  Three very young children, at least wearing life jackets, attempt to enter but are chased back by the sloshing water. Where any parent was is a mystery. I think eventually the lifeguard told them to leave the pool area but not sure.

Adrienne and Steve had bid up to a Grand Suite. The coffee pot did work, but was replaced. The replacement's cord was too short to reach the outlet and had the wrong type of electrical plug. When they finally got it to work, it only produced about an ounce of coffee. The drain for the tub broke when an attemt was made to open it.

With the more active seas, the sliding doors to the balcony would first open and then slam closed. The bathroom door would swing wildly, and cupboard doors and drawers would open and close. They laughed and chaulked it up to a unique experience. There was a conversation with the concierge host to arrange repairs.

The Pinnacle cruisers are  served a very nice lunch in the main dining room. I have the turf without the surf.  The tenderloin was perfect, one of the best meals of the cruise.  The few lobsters that were served looked quite large. There are 29 Pinnacle members on this cruise, I think everyone attended the luncheon. The captain and the other officers said a few words but did not join us for lunch as they have in years past.

I had often wondered, but had never heard, a fellow passenger relates that there are now just over 8000 Pinnacle members world wide in the Crown and Anchor Society, Royal's loyalty program. Since members are never dropped, I can only guess that the active number count is probably substantially less.

The seas are expected to remain the same until about midnight when we reach the west side of the Bahamian islands.

With lobster being served in the main dinng room tonight, they are way behind in seating my time dining guests. To the astonishment of us and our regular waiter and assistant waiter we are seated at a different table on the far side of the dining room. Three in our group have the lobster, myself and the others have a cheese tortellini dish.

We gather in the Vortex lounge, or Crown Lounge as it was formerly known, for an after dinner drink and to await the start of the production show. Much to my amazement the bar is rotating. I probably haven't seen the bar rotate on any Royal ship in over 10 years even though many were so designed. They have either been turned off, or broken.

But it didn't last long, by the time we left, it was stuck and the bartender was trapped in the center.

The production show was a tribute to West End and Broadway shows. Not spectacular, but OK. Unexpectedly about 5 minutes before the conclusion Pann and Terry leave without a word. 

The seas are begining to calm as the captain had predicted. Tomorrow we will be at Coco Cay, and fortunately the only ship there. I may actually venture off the ship.

March 09, 2023

Day 6, St Croix, USVI

Passengers are already disembrking the ship before I even head to breakfast. St Croix is probably the least spoiled of any islands that cruise ships stop at in the Caribbean. Any shore excursions that we would have an interest in have been sold out for weeks, probably since before we booked this cruise.

I elect to stay on the ship, others are going to walk into town for a little sight seeing and probably a beer. The water here is very clean, many turtles and fish can be seen beside the pier. Diving and snorkeling are popular activites.

Today is another day of practice for the crew. A fire to extinguish, flooding in an engine room compartment, and loading of some of the life rafts. All a drill of course, but the more they practice the better and easier it will be when it is for real. Fortunately it has been years since I have been on a ship with an emergency.  That was a fire in the laundry room directly under the theater. I shouldn't tell you that many passengers refused to leave when they were told to evacuate. They insisted it was just part of the show. Of course the fact that the show was halted, the curtains drawn and the house lights turned up before the announcement was made several times from the stage didn't seem unusual to them. Anyway I digress.

It is a short stay in St Croix and we are underway at our scheduled departure of 2:00 PM.  Yesterday we were missing 2 passengers in St Marteen, I don't know for sure whether they eventually made it to the ship or were left there. Everyone is accounted for today.

As we leave, the seas are almost as flat as glass. The captain tells us to enjoy ourslves as the seas will be increasing over the next day and a half, partly from strong NorthEast winds, and partly because of a very strong storm in the Atlantic east  of new england producing 30 foot swells which travel unimpeded towards the Caribbean.

Several humpback whales are spotted  by a few passengers mid afternoon. They migrate thru this area this time of year.

There is a georgous sunset today, with some passengers catching the elusive green flash as the sun sets over the horizon. The seas continue to build as the captain predicted, and by dinnertime sloshing of liquid in your beverage glass is apparent. It is prudent to watch where you walk, and be prepared to grab a handrail should the ship suddenly roll to port while you are expecting it to go to starboard. Stabilizers greatly reduce the roll,  but impart more sudden unexpected movements to  the ship.

The show tonight is a couple of comedians. Not bad, just plain fun, they were enjoyable.

By bedtime the ship  is rolling and pitching a fair amount. Most passengers are having no difficulty walking, some are beginning to complain while others are enjoying the feel of actually being at sea.

Tomorrow we will be at sea all day as we head to Coco Cay, Royal's private island in the Bahamas. The skies remain clear, and the temperatures in the lower 70's.

Day 5 Phillipsburg, St Maarten

We arrive and are cleared to disembark by 10 AM. There is a plan to meet at The Lazy Lizzard 2 for lunch. But first a little background is appropriate.

Nik had owned and operated The Lazy Lizzard for many years until the facility was destroyed by a hurricane and the ensuing looting. I would visit every time I was in St Maarten to have a few adult beverages and often lunch. Devastated at his loss Nik floundered for a few years including a 3 month stint in central Florida before deciding his true passion was the bar and restaurant business.

This year he decided to reopen, not far from his old location. With a temporary sign, and a half decorated space, he started a soft opening this past week. Many of his previous staff have returned, but today he is without a chef.

It has been several years since I took the water taxi in St Marteen. Today I took the wrong one. There is a large one which only goes to the two larger docks along the beach, and a smaller one which also goes to the marina dock where I wished to go.  I get off as close as I can to where I think the new restaurant is. I thought I should walk to the right, but Google maps keeps telling me to go to the left. A quarter mile later and I know Google maps is wrong and turn around.

Eventually we  make it to the new location. Had I taken  the correct water taxi it would have been a few hundred feet instead of a mile or so.

It is good to see Nik, a cold Diet Coke is the first order of business.  Adrienne and Steve have been waiting for us since I boarded the wrong ferry. Pann and Terry have been at the beach and soon join us for lunch.

Steve helps Nik get the location corrected on Google. Several rounds and we order lunch.

After a large basket of BBQ chicken wings and the hottest fries I have had in months we head back to the ship. A short walk to the correct water taxi, hop on the  boat, walk 25 yards and get on the shuttle to return the the ship. The shuttle drops us off at the gangway and we are back at our temporary home mere minutes after leaving The Lazy Lizzard 2.

A TUI ship is at the next pier, much larger than us, probably came form Europe. Royal previously had  an interest in TUI, but divested that interest several years ago.

The usual cocktails in the concierge lounge and dinner in the dining room. I have yet to see the lounge at capacity, a good thing for the passengers as we can always find seating.

The seas are very slight as we depart St Marten heading to St. Croix.

The show tonight is "Tango Buenos Aires". An excellent performance performed to a nearly full theater.

By bedtime the seas have picked up slightly, the skies remain clear and the temperatures a balmy high 70's.

March 08, 2023

Day 4 San Juan, Puerto Rico

The seas remain slight, the skies clear to partly cloudy and temperatures around 80 as we head south easterly toward San Juan, Puerto Rico. Our expected arrival time is 2:30 PM.

Chops is fairly busy this morning. There are not a lot of children on this cruise, but one very bratty 5 year old seems to appear everywhere I go.  Today she grabs several knives off the table and challenges her younger sibling to a sword fight. Knives clash... The baseball capped father ignores them.

The ship arrives and is cleared about 30 minutes early. There is one other ship in port.

Lynn takes a shore excursion, the others go ashore to visit a brewery. The reports are excellent, everyone had a good time. I stayed on  the ship and took the opportunity to write and answer emails form the real  world.

I can't say that this is the problem, but this ship switched to Star Link recently for internet service. When it works, it appears to work OK, but keep in mind my heaviest usage is retrival of a handful of emails, not exactly a demanding application.  The annoying issue is the the internet connection drops frequently,  but fortunately reconnects within a few minutes.

RCCL chat app has its own issues. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes or more for a sent message to appear. More annoying I get the impression they use a random number generator to attach the time stamp.  The time stamp has little relation to the actual time sent. Oh well....

Many guests spend the evening ashore, and the dining room is not very busy tonight. No  show, just a movie. Many of the wait staff are wearing exactly the same tropical shirt as I choose tonight. We all have good taste.

I retire before our 10:00 PM departure time. The skies remain clear, the seas slight. Tomorrow we are headed to Phillipsburg, St Maarten.

Day 3 Labadee, Haiti

Labadee is another private island owned by Royal Caribbean. We arrive before 8:00 and most of the passengers depart the ship to spend the day in the sun and sand. Lynn and I stay on the ship, the others head to the beach.

Today is life boat training day. Many of the lifeboats are launched and the crew practices loading, launching and driving them. The exercise concludes without incident.

I don't know what the specific cause is, but cigarette smoke from the casino manages to finds its way into many areas of the ship where it shouldn't be. The balcony of the Theater, and throughout the Centrum on nearly all decks for example. I have been on this ship before and don't remember this being an issue in the past. It is almost like the exhaust fans for the casino area have been turned off or are not functioning for some reason.

Speaking of the casino, one of my favorite venues on Oasis class ships, Jazz on Four, is being converted into non smoking casino space. So much for live Jazz music.

All aboard is 3:30. I spend some time at the railing on deck five and watch the lobsters return to the ship. About 1 in 10 returning passengers are visibly very bady burned. Some on large areas of skin, others where it is obvious that they missed a spot with the sun screen.

We all gather in the Diamond lounge before heading to the dining room. Cheese sticks are excellent again and are consumed rapidly by the guests. Beverage service is slow because servers don't have a bar here, but have to go to a nearby bar to fill orders. Guests are supposed to sign all drink purchase tickets. This is the first time I have been asked.

Only a slight delay to get our dinner table. While waiting for dinner to arrive we learn that our assistant waiter is the same man that was our assistant waiter on the Brilliance of The Seas in March of 2022. He not only remembers the six of us together, but the table that we were seated at. Keep in mind that this was the Cruise where I contracted Covid so we only went to the dining room four times.  I can only dream about having such a good memory.

The entertainment tonight is the Las Vegas Tenors. Three gentlemen with excellent voices. They sang a variety of songs ranging from the 50's to today, most of which I didn't know. Unlike most performers, their second show of the evening was mostly new material that they did not include in the first show.

Tonight we put our clocks ahead an hour. The seas are slight with nearly a full moon almost directly over the ship. We  head towards San Juan, Puerto Rica at about 18 knots with an expected arrival at 2:30 PM.

March 06, 2023

Day 2, March 4, 2023 at sea

We are headed southerly in the Atlantic towards Labadee, Haiti The seas are still about 6 feet  but are expected to drop throughout the next 24 hours. There are some clouds, but basically the skies are sunny.

Breakfast in Chops is the first order of business. I order buttermilk pancakes. A little tough and barely warm enough to melt soft butter. The Jewel being a smaller ship does not have a Coastal Kitchen for the Suites passengers so both Pinnacle guests and Suite guests may avail themselves of Chops for breakfast.

A magician,  whom I assume will be doing a show later in the cruise, holds a class in the Centrum on how to perform some card tricks. Well attended by many, the children especially.

The Jewel is about 20 years old and one of the smaller ships in Royal's fleet holding about 2500 passengers.  No giant water slides here for kids, most of the manifest is more mature passengers.

The pool deck is quite busy with many working on future skin cancer. Nearing the peak of the day there is an "accident" in the main pool. I can only assume an accident of biological nature not physical nature. The pool must be drained, cleaned, and refilled. The only issue is where the ship is located.  Water can not be discharged, and water can not be taken from the ocean. A slight diversion in course and slowing the ship to 10 knots solves the location problem. The pool is expected to be in operation by 2:00, delaying some of the pool activities by a few hours.

Again both the Diamond Lounge and the Concierge Lounge have plenty of seating when happy hour starts at 5:00. Tonight is a formal night, one of two on this voyage. Most passengers are appropriately dressed. We stop for a few pictures on our way to the lounge.

The dining room is a madhouse when we arrive at 6:45. We are diverted to a waiting area as no tables are available. We are called within a few minutes  and tell our waiter we would like to make the 8:00 show.  He hustles and we make it.

Tonight was one of those menues with 4 or 5 excellent choices. I settle on the chicken condon blu. Except for the serving size being way too large at about 12 oz, it was excellent.

The production show was, well a production show. Not bad, nothing special. It wouldn't surprise me if the show has been playing here since the ship was launched in 2004. The theater was nearly full, and most significantly the seating very comfortable, unlike that on most of the newer ships.

After the show we are entertained in "The Suite" with Adrienne's stories and Terry and Steve's jokes.

While cleaning of your cabin historically has been done twice a day, now it is only once a day, but you have the option of morning or night. Our cabin is made up in the evening while we are always at dinner. Tonight there definitely was an elephant in the cabin. A towel elephant that is. The obvious driver of this is labor cost. Our cabin steward is responsible for 32 cabins. I remember many years ago when they were expected to service four.

The seas  have calmed to about 3 feet, and the skies mostly overcast. Except for our slight diversion to deal with the pool issue we cruise at about 20 knots.

Our expected arrival at Labadee is 8:00 AM

March 05, 2023

March 1, 2023 - Day 1 on The Jewel of The Seas

The past several weeks at home have been very busy. The weather at home in Florida has been its normal dry for February, but abnormally warm with many records being set.

There are six of us traveling on this cruise together, Lynn and I, My daughter Adrienne and her husband Steve, and Pann and Terry, friends from Ohio. To save the $100 cost of parking for a second car, we are all riding together.

Scheduled departure time is 9:00 am. We are ready and waiting outside. Steve manages to get all the luggage in the back. A quick stop to pick up Terry after he returned his rental car, and another stop at the eye doctor to get Steve's contact lens.

We are on our way. A severe accident has closed the Northbound lanes of the turnpike, fortunately the Southbound lanes are flowing freely.

After  the usual quick stop at McDonalds we get to the parking lot and immediately get on the shuttle bus to the terminal.  Being the smaller of the two RCCL ships in port, we are relegated to one of the old terminals.

The process is quick and efficient. We agree to meet in the Windjammer for lunch while waiting for our cabins.

We all purchased guaranteed cabins for this trip, a practice I basically abandoned many years ago.  In hind sight maybe I should have this time. We are located about 4 doors from the extreme aft of the ship on deck 9. Adrienne and Steve are located right above the Schooner bar on deck 6. Pann and Terry have a decent cabin location on deck 9.

About 3 weeks ago Adrienne offers to swap with me so I will be closer to the elevator. I never reply as I also don't want to be right above the Schooner bar as it can be quite noisey late into the night. Unknown to me Adrienne had bid on an upgrade to a grand suite and got it. Now she refused to accept my agreement  to swap cabins with her. I don't blame her, but she will be reminded of her earlier offer.

Lunch was edible, my weiner snitzel actually quite good. All gathered in the Windjammer we spend the next hour trying to figure out how to use Royal's chat app which permits chatting with other guests on the ship without going thru the internet. There used to be a daily charge, but it now is free to all guests. I am sure anybody watching and hearing us found the whole process quite entertaining. By the time we left, I think everyone successfully sent one useless message to someone else in our party.

Cabins were ready just before 2. Our luggage already had arrived so unpacking was the next order of business, shortly followed  by a visit to the "Grand Suite". 

We were instructed to ring the door bell on arrival.  About twice the size of a normal cabin with a thickly padded lounge chair on the balcony in addition to a table and 4 chairs.

A large bathroom with tub and shower, plenty of storage space, and lots of room to walk around. Now I am glad, no I should correct that and say everyone should be glad that I had not swapped cabins.  The shower was in the tub, and the side so high that there way no way I could safely get in and out to shower. I imagine after a week I would be pretty ripe with no shower access.

A few cocktails and appetizers in the concierge lounge. Surprisingly there were a few empty tables. The appetizers were hot and tasty. Some of the best in a long time.

We did get our dinner reservations consolidated to 6:45 every night. Nothing new on the menu. I choose spaghetti bolognese.  Simple but good. The pasta was prepared just right. The accompanying rolls very fresh but absent were bread sticks. Savory bites are more rare as the waiter had no idea what we were asking about.

Dinner finishes too late for the early  show, and there is no way I can stay up for the 10:00 PM show. I pass on the comedian and call it a night.

The seas are about 6 to 7 feet which is just enough to impart a little motion onto the ship. The skies are partly cloudy with little chance of rain. We are headed almost directly into a brisk southernly breeze.

Tomorrow is a sea day as we head to Labadee, Haiti, another of Royal's private islands.

February 09, 2023

Day 7 At Sea, then Home

It is raining when I awaken at dawn. The seas are moderate at 3 to 6 feet, the wind is almost directly on our bow and whistles at the balcony door. Temperature is just above 70. Cold for the Caribbean, but nothing like they are getting in the northern states where windchills are reaching record lows of -60 degrees. Everyone is glad to be here.

There is a gentle rock to the ship as we head northerly at about 20 knots, almost top speed for this big girl.

The cooler weather and lack of sun does not stop many of the sun worshippers. They gather around the pools wrapped in extra towels to block the cool winds. Unlike some of the smaller ships, all the pool areas on this ship are exposed to the elements.

This afternoon I will see Cats for the XXth time. But not the Broadway Cats of the past. Royal has produced a special 90 minute production for presentation on the ships. Actually probably a good idea because historically many guests would walk out before the end of the show, the Broadway version just being too long.

The show runs until 5:15, just the right amount of time to get to the Coastal Kitchen for our last dinner. Food and service is again excellent. We have had several different waiters during the week. This is going to force me to start tipping waiters at the time of service instead of at the end of the week. I have been doing this for years with the bar service. Time to print many more $2.00 bills for future travel.

The fact that Cats is shorter is a good thing, but I only found a few musical numbers recognizable. If there was a story being told in this version, I missed it. Conclusion. Not a winner.

Before heading to the cabin to pack we take in another Ice show. Gppd as always.

The luggage is in the hallway by 9:00, the alarm set for 6:30.

We arise before the alarm goes off and make a last minute decision to head to the buffet. This is tough as I had [lanned to not set foot in the buffet this entire week. Absolutely packed at 6:15 AM. Eventually two seats to be shared with another couple are found. The pastry was stale, the ice water cold. My expectations were low.

We soon head to the meeting  place for wheel chair assist departure. After a brief wait I am within the first dozen passengers with assistance to head to the gangway.  It is a long walk to the baggage claim room. Thousands of suitcases for as far as the eye can see. 

Both of ours are spotted, porters are abundant. We are on our way again. Probably only the second time in a week that Lynn is able to walk at her normal pace instead of needing to walk slow for me. Mere seconds to pass facial recognition for reentry, then whisked up to the 5th floor of the garage.  This whole process only takes only about 15 minutes.

I exit the garage and am welcomed back to Miami.  The signs lead me to be heading the wrong way on an exit ramp. Fortunately no traffice here. Get to the right road and then another misplaced sign takes me into another garage instead of the tunnel entrance I am looking for. The clerk collecting payment to let me out of the garage sees it all day long.

Exiting the tunnel there is lots of construction. The road is flooded to a depth of about 5 or 6 inches. I have no choice, I slowly creep across to the other side. I make it.

Once on the Florida Turnpike it is nonstop back to Clermont, stopping for gas only once about 5 miles from home. Traffic moves well despite the sometimes very heavy rain.

Laundry is washed and everything is promptly put away until our next trip in less than 4 weeks.

February 04, 2023

Day 6 Costa Maya, Mexico

We arrive in Costa Maya about 8:00 and the ship is quickly cleared. Lynn is taking a tour to see some Myan ruins, I am staying on the ship.

There is only one other ship here today, the 200 passenger World Voyager.  The weather forecast indicates a threat of a passing storm, but otherwise pleasant with temperatures around 80.

Overall the Oasis of the Seas remains in good shape and generally is not showing her age. Having said that a water main broke about 10 cabins down the hall a couple days ago and fans have been in use since to dry out the soaked carpet, and for a period of time during the night there was no water. Hopefully a planned shutdown.

Other than a few guests in the Coastal Kitchen the first night, my observation of guest behavior has been good. Not true for the rest of the ship. Three passengers were given a one way trip down the gangway in Roatan, Honduras, not to be allowed back on the ship.  How they get home is their problem.

The daily compass has it's usual problem of listing events that just don't exist. Most likely a product of cut and paste by the production team. Wi Fi has actually been good. I don't know if they have made the conversion to Sky Link or not. WiFi has become more important as there are a number of passengers "working" from the ship. More and more all the time.

There have been a few medical emergencies. One passenger with a massive heart attack that was transported to a hospital in Cozumel. Reported by the captain as doing well.

Last weekend the marathon in Miami disrupted our boarding and delayed departure over two hours. Three passengers didn't make it to the terminal until 9:00 PM. Yes, they missed the ship. It was not clear if they caught up with us along the way.

Today we learned both exits from the port will be hampered by construction projects as we attempt to leave on Sunday. Have I ever said I do not like sailing from Miami?

I arrange for wheel chair assistance to the terminal. Not mandatory for me, but I have found it to be a big help especially when the path winds back and forth around the ship and the walk becomes long.

Chops for breakfast has been great but I sometimes think they have a different chef every day. Buttermilk pancakes come out differently each day. Sometime one, sometimes two. Sometimes with fruit, others not. Always a surprise. More importantly, always better than fighting the crowds in the Windjammer.

Lynn had an excellent tour guide and enjoyed the temple very much. Presently the only way tourists get to this part of Mexico is by cruise  ship. Construction is underway on a rail line to bring the masses. Hopefully running in a couple years.

Another good dinner in the Coastal Kitchen. Tonight is lobster night in the main dining room. Do you want more than one? Each additional will  cost $16.95. In the coastal Kitchen it is poached lobster tails, quantity unlimited. I'm not sure the difference between poached and steamed lobster other than the words.

The quartet in the Jazz club is excellent, I take in one set before sleep time.

The seas are a little choppy as we head north, the skies overcast with a forecast of rain showers. Tomorrow is a sea day with our next port of call Miami on Sunday morning.

February 03, 2023

Day 5 Roatan, Honduras

Roatan is an island off the coast of the mainland of Honduras. It boasts two ports and is often a destination for western Caribbean cruises.  We arrive about 10 AM and are greeted by a band and drummers on the pier. The NCL Getaway, another large ship is already in port when we arrive and a Carnival ship soon docks at the other dock several miles away.

With a tour at 12:45 we wait until after 11 to get off the ship. The port area is very small and it doesn't take long to see it all even when it is jammed with people.

Our tour is to a botanical garden where we, as guests, will make chocolate after a tour of the grounds.

The drive to the gardens is what you would expect in Honduras. Very poor and run down. Driving past their hospital it looks like a falling down condemed century old wooden building. With the siding falling off and parts of the roof missing we would think it very risky to enter such a building. Broken windows were boarded up. Be thankful we live as we do.

The gardens are nice. Mahogoney, teak, spices, etc. the chocolate making experience was a slow process from removing the shell of the beans to grinding them into a fine paste. The hand grinder was very difficult to turn. Making one cup of chocolate this way would easily take 2 hours.

The end product was definitely chocolate, but grainy as we skipped the third and fourth grindings, and despite sugar being added, still a little bitter for my taste.

Our tour took us around the entire island. Back on the ship, it is time for a shower and then off to the Coastal Kitchen. No time for cocktails first.

The braised short ribs were excellent, as has been all the food in the Coastal Kitchen, A change in my medications has left me with little appetite. So far a good thing. I usually lose a few pounds on a cruise, I expect no different this time.

After dinner is is directly to Studio B for the ice show. Without question one of my favorites. Busy but not full, The best part was watching some very young children in the first row. In total awe of the skaters.

Again the weather remains excellent. The skies are partly cloudy and the seas slight as we begin our trip north with our next stop in Costa Maya, Mexico.

Day 4 Cozumel

I have no idea what time we docked, but it was long before our scheduled docking at 7:00 AM. Again the skies are partly cloudy, a nice breeze and temperatures in the low 70's.

The ship is cleared by 7:30 and passengers start heading ashore. We leave the ship about 9:00. No specific destination, just some shopping. Initially I had considered purchasing some vanilla, but recent news articles have pointed out that labeling of such products is most often fraudulent, and more often than not the ingredients are not what the label says. The conclusion: just buy in the US, at least you know you are for the most part getting what you pay for.

By the time we come back to the Celebrity Constellantion has pulled along side of us. There are now 5 ships in port.

We try El Loco for lunch. The line is long, the nachos and the cheese sauce tasteless. Probably not again. 

After a much needed shower, off to the Suites Lounge to write and answer emails.  Surprisingly I have yet to find the lounge full either during the day or early evening when appetizers are served.  Unlike on other ships in the past, the bar is open here nearly all day long. A nice quiet retreat overlooking the pool decks.

Royal has increased pricing substantially for a number of items. The "all access tour" which was free about 10 years ago is now $250 per person. Giovanni's cover charge is $50, Chops $65. and Johnny Rockets is $15. I have yet to see any of them busy. Royal may have exceeded the breaking point for surcharges. There are some deals, but they no longer are pushing 2 for 1 in the specialty restaurants, ar least not on this voyage.

After dinner we have reservations for the Aqua Show. The theater is full with only a few of the standby guests able to find seats. The high divers and the aquatic performers are excellent as usual. Even though the show has been on all the Oasis class ships for years, each show is a little different, and the shows have evolved over time.

Our next port is Roatan, Honduras. The weather remains excellent, low 70's partly cloudy to sunny with a light breeze. The seas remain under 3 feet.

February 02, 2023

Day 3 At Sea

The seas remain 3 feet or less. The skies partly cloudy, temperatures in the high 70's. Breakfast as usual in chops. A goal has been set to never set foot in the Windjammer buffet for the entire cruise. It will be an easy goal to attain wth Chops for breakfast and the Coastal Kitchen for dinner.

The usual activities are offered today. Lots of trivia, pool contests and the never ending art auction and bingo. I attend the top tier party. I am always curious as to the the number of frequent cruisers. 

There are 459 Diamond,  301 Diamond Plus, and 67 Pinnacle members. Among the Pinnacles is Royal's most frequent cruiser Mario, often referred to as Super Mario who has 10,649 points. He has aged a lot since I last saw him, but I better be careful what I say.

Other than introducing the top cruisers and having free champagne or fruit punch the top tier was pretty boring. No new information, no introduction of officers, no stories from the captain. Probably less than half the invited passengers attend.

Despite the great weather, I am still able to find seating in the solarium pool area. Of course there are many chairs that are obviously being "saved" with carefully placed towels.

Again another excellent dinner in the Coastal Kitchen, grilled New York Strip. I was disappointed to find that the "apple pie" is not fresh baked apple pie as in the past, but the same factory pastery served in the dining room. at least in the Coastal Kitchen it is heated before being served.

Long before boarding I made reservations for all the main entertainment. Tonight it is adult comedy. Never a favorite of mine, but entertainment none the less, I was surprised I was able to leave the comedian speechless for an uncomfortable few seconds. That wasn't my intention, but when he asked how many years we were married and I told him we wern't married he had no comeback. Not what he was prepared to hear.

After comedy, across the hall to Jazz on 4. The venue is full, well as full as it will be with half the seating facing away from the stage. Why they don't better arrange the seating boggles my mind, but then agian I am only a customer.

The seas have calmed to less than 3 feet as we head towards Cozumel, Mexico. We have been warned several times that Mexico has banned smoking an vaping in all public places. Good for them.

February 01, 2023

Day 2 Coco Cay

The skies are partly cloudy, the temperatures in the upper 70's. there is a slight breeze. Despite our late departure it is a short cruise to Coco Cay and we are tied up at the dock before 7:00. The ship is cleared by 7:45

Shortly the Serenade of the Seas pulls alongside on the other side of the dock. The majority of passengers start heading ashore for a day of sun and sand.

Chops Grille is reserved for Pinnacle guests for breakfast. There are at most a dozen passengers. The service is fast, attentive and the food excellent.

A stop at the future cruise desk to check on pricing for a fall cruise to Bermuda, A few hours in the Solarium, some time on the balcony. A lazy day in port.

In addition to 18 cans of diet coke, we have three bottles of champagne in our cabin. We ask the concierge host is we can exchange the champagne for wine. He obliges and it is taken care of within an hour. Only afterwards we learn the one bottle of champagne, sent by the Coastal Kitchen manager, is sold on the ship for $86.00 per bottle! It doesn't matter, we didn't care to drink it.

Future cruise pricing is no different than what I can do directly on line. Making cabin selection here is very difficult in that the all the deck plans are squeezed onto 1 sheet of paper. Even with a magnifying glass it is very difficult to read.

We hear many stories from other passengers trying to get to the port Sunday. The taxi fare for one couple was over $110 for what would normally be a $10 ride. Another Uber driver was furious because he had accepted a fixed fare, and it took him hours. Another knew the back alleys and parking lots to drive through and made it to the port quite quickly. Just the challenges of travel.

The Coastal Kitchen is at about 50% of capacity for dinner. Again the food is good, and the service exquisite.

The Oasis has been around for a few years, and has seen several makeovers. The seating in the main theater is comfortable as are most of the chairs in the Suites  Lounge and Diamond Lounge. Overall she is in good shape and not really showing many signs of her age.

We waste a few minutes listening to karaoke, then catch the headliner production show. A vocalist, Lou Gazzarra, with an excellent voice and a very good show. Unfortunately the theater was only about 50% full. 

After the show, one set at the Jazz club. The musicians are from Eastern Europe and do a good job. Soon it is bedtime.

The seas are about 3 feet, the skies mostly clear, temperatures in the upper 70's. Tomorrow will be a sea day as we head to Cozumel.

January 31, 2023

Finally on the Oasis Jan 29, 2023

I was scheduled on the Oasis at the end of November, sailing with my children.  As happens in life, things happen.

I needed sinus surgery, itself not a difficult procedure but the only date she get an OR scheduled at ORMC was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Sailing was scheduled for two days later on Sunday,  but doctors felt best that I not travel for several weeks after surgery.

Less than 14 days until departure Royal was kind enough to bend thier rules and allow me to change my sailing date, of course for a $200 change fee. Much better than canceling and dealing with the travel insurance.

Sailing out of Miami with just Lynn and I traveling, we decided to stay in the Ft Lauderdale area the night before. We will have a leisurely drive to Ft. Lauderdale then drive to the port Sunday morning.

The night before departure I receive a mesage from Royal that there will be difficulties getting to the port because of a marathon race Sunday morning. I am so glad we have made the plans we did.

I spend considerable time trying to figure out which roads will be the best to get to the port. In the eternal wisdom of local Miami officials they say the port will remain open, but there is no suggestion on how to get there. The list of closed roads is extensive, but without local knowledge, of limited value.

Google searches on the subject reveal how to get there normally, not with most streets closed.

A route is mapped out. Only about 8 blocks on local streets that are NOT listed as being closed.

We have reservations In Pompano Beach. The drive in uneventful, the traffic easy. As always we do those last minute check in of items that can be done on the way to the ship.

McDonalds for breakfast. This seems to have become the norm on the drive to a cruise ship. The only time I ever stop at one.

Traffic moves well until the exit from I-95. It appears nearly all the traffic wants the same single lane exit we do.  The delays being.  Bumper to bumper cars and trucks, most of the time progress is slower than I walk, and I walk pretty slow.

After over 2 hours of very little progress a sympathetic officer understanding our plight, removes a barricade and allows vehicles headed to the port a shortcut leading to the port tunnel. Police traffic control was actually the biggest part of the problem. This one was the only I saw and traffic was a total gridlock.

Over two hours for eight blocks.  The consolation, I knew it was going to happen, I am not the only one stuck in traffic, and I still have 4 hours to navigate the last mile to the ship.

The entrance into the port is easy, then it happens again. Roads are blocked and all traffic  is directed into one big traffic jam.  The normal traffic pattern doesn't work because all the passengers that are trying to leave the port can't because of the traffic problems in Miami Proper.

Finally I can escape the logjam and head to terminal A, home of The Oasis of the Seas. 

Quickly directed to luggage dropoff,  I unload the two suitcases and drive into the garage over the terminal.  There are plenty of spaces. Just out of principal I head to one of the upper levels and find a parking spot very close to the elevator.

The elevator down is next to the terminal entrance. Staff is waiting to direct Pinnacle passengers. Escorted up a special elevator, literally seconds to go through security check. I really need a restroom, spot one nearby and make them wait. The journey resumes. Passport is checked, onwards to the ship. Not counting the restroom it was less than 3 minutes from locking the car until being on the ship. Impressive, especially after spending so many hours getting thru Miami.

After a quickly downed cocktail, one of the next stop is to make reservations at Coastal Kitchen.  I am booked for My Time Dining, but due to my own negligence don't have any reservations. Royal has changed My Time to begin at 6:45, later than my preferred dining time. A 6:00 reservation is booked for tonight, additional days will be on a day by day basis. Fair and understood as the Coastal Kitchen is reserved for Suite passengers first.

The cabins are ready just before 1:00. We are located midship, closer to the aft elevators on deck 7. Unpack and head back to the Suites Lounge for cocktails and sailaway. Coctails are definitely needed after this day.

4 PM comes and goes. Still in port, no word from the crew or captain. No one is surprised that we don't sail on time. Besides passengers, new crew and trucks with provisions faced the same transportation debacle we did. 5:00, 5:30, then 6:00 still no update and still tied to the dock.

No other ships have left, it is time for dinner. Finally two Carnival ships depart, then  an NCL.
About 6:30 we depart. Never a word from the captain or cruise director.

The coastal Kitchen is about 70% full. The filet was absolutely perfect and the service just as good. I wish I could say the same for a group of 6 passengers several tables away. Very drunk, loud and offensive. They disrupted the entire dining room and adjoining Suites Lounge. The MaitreDe spoke to them several times, but his words were effective for only a few minutes. And of course the servers continued to fuel the behavior by pouring many more drinks.

Yes I, and independently other guests, had converstaions with the manager on the way out. Of course I understand the difficulty of his position, but this was some of the most disruptive behavior I have ever seen in any dining room, and certainly a clear violation of RCCL passenger conduct policy.

I am assured  the offending parties will not be in the Coastal Kitchen for dinner during the remainder of the cruise, and I am able to secure reservations every night at 5:30.

After dinner a brief stop at Schooner bar. definitely not a Kelly. Quiet time in central park listening to piano music then a set of jazz at Jazz on 4.

The seas are very calm the skies clear with the moon directly overhead as we head to a 7:00 AM arrival at Coco Cay tomorrow morning.