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