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.