April 29, 2024

Day 8 - Ponta Delgada

With all the diversions we have had in the past week, we arrive in Ponta Delgada only 15 minutes lates. Local authorites quickly clear the ship and passengers begin to disembark.

The weather is great, partly sunny with skies expected to further clear thru the day. The temperature as we disembark is in the high 60's, definetly jacket weather for a Floridian.

We do not have an excursion here and have elected to just walk the water front and local shops near the port.

We spotted a local shop with lots of chocolate choices and decided to pick up a few on the way back to the ship.

The dock itself is quite old, but the small stone walkways are in good condition. Many crabs are spotted on the rocks, several locals are swimming in the harbor. Fishing boats, whale watching boats and rental houseboats occupy many slips in the harbor.

Many small shops, restaurants, and bars stretch out along the harbor. On the other side of the street there are many high rise buildings which appear to be condos, scattered among some structures that date back 300 years. None of the pushy salespeople like in much of the Caribbean.

With a local population of about 60,000, the 4000 passengers form the ship definitely have an impact on the city for the day.

Headed back to the ship, we do not go past the chocolate store. Our loss.

Back on the ship, it is very quiet in the afternoon. Our dining table mates have an excursion that will not get them back to the ship until 6:30, too late for their 5:00 pm dinner.

The "kids" are absent again tonight raising speculation if they will return to the dining room at all. 

At 7:00 PM we set sail for Malaga, Spain. Two sea days way.  Everyone returned to the ship on time. A good sign.

Tonights entertainment is provided in the context of a talent show for crew members.  Many crew members have auditioned for inclusion and are competing for a first prize of a new IPad.

Simply put, most of them are better than the paid performers. Two native dance groups, two solo singers, a concert pianist and a magician.

The magician won with a mind boggling card trick that had everyone scratching thier heads as to how he did it.

Yes the captain sang also, but not as a competitor.

The head waiter has been working on his phone problem. Someone has given him a phone and he hopes while he is in Italy next week he can get the needed sim card.

The next two days will be sea days. The weather is cool but otherwise great. The seas are expected to remain under 2 meters, or 6 feet.

April 27 - Last Sea Day in this stretch.

At one point the seas were 12 to 15 feet, but have now subsided back to 6 feet or less. the rolling of the ship is negligible in these seas.

The skies vary from bright sun to overcast, but there is no rain.  We continue to be in a high pressure area with the storms hundreds of miles behind us. The air temperature is expected to reach a high of 64 today which will keep nearly everyone off the pool deck.

I am not sure that I mentioned this earlier, but I have started using Facebook, not so much for a narrative of my journey, but a place to easily post images.  If you care, you can find me at "Steve Raiford".

Possible one of the worst things that can happen to a crew member happened to our head waiter last night. He accidently dropped his phone, the screen smashed, and his phone is totally non-functional.  No repair facilities on the ship, and we don't stay in any port long enough to facilitate a repair.

Other crew members have let him use thier phones, but unfortunately he doesn't remember the phone numbers of many of his relatives that he kept in touch with back in the Phillipines. He is very sad and frustrated.

Gary Lovini, a violin and fiddle player that did a production show in the theater, is doing a matinee show today. We pass. Interestingly he is from England, he built his career there, but now resides in Celebration, Fl.

The only entertainment in the theater tonight is a 2 hour movie. Jumangi. Probably 20 years old. I remember the name, but not the movie.  It is something to do that keeps me out of the Schooner bar.

Tomorrow we will be in Ponta Delgada in the Azores, our first scheduled port since leaving Florida last Sunday. Many transatlantic cruise stop at one of the islands here just to break up the trip. I only have heard a few passengers complaining about being away from land, hopefully they will soon feel better.

Every venue is packed most of the time. Even though we are sailing at 75% of capacity there are not enough seats for everyone seeking one whether it is the Two70, the main theater, the Schoooner bar, The pub, the Solarium, or Boleros.

April 27, 2024

April 25, 26 - Sea Days

This is getting a little tiring. Again at 2:00 or 3:00 am, depending whether or not you had just turned your clock ahead an hour, the ship slowed and made a sharp turn. Thankfully we are NOT headed back to Bermuda.  This time a saiboat was signaling SOS by flashing all of its running lights. When we approached, they said nothing was wrong and they needed no help.  This is the second cruise I have been on where this has happened, sailors in small boats thinking it is funny to send a false SOS. Yes society is out of control.

The seas remain relatively calm, under 5 feet, the skies vary from overcast to full sun.  The temperatures remain in the mid 60's for the most part, keeping most passengers off the main pool deck, but packing the enclosed solarium.

The dining room food and service continues to be good. The other night though we did have a total disruption by 4 children sitting on the other side of the room. Usually the table is occupied by 2 adults, assumed to be mom and dad, and 4 children probably in age from 5 to 9.  The youngest 2 may even be twins. Previously always well behaved. If you didn't see them you wouldn't even know they were there.

Last night it was just dad and the 4 children, no mom present.  There were sword fights with the table knives. Sling shots made with the rubberband holders from the menues. Food thrown across the table, kids running around screaming and the dad just sitting there basically ignoring them. The staff tried the usual ploys of quickly giving them food, but that just became more ammunition.

I don't know if the staff spoke to him, or the dad was too embarassed to return, but the following night the table was empty. The rest of the guests did not miss them.

It was just before this incident that I asked if we could have the same table for the next leg of the cruise. I hope that wasn't a mistake.

Many cruiseships have bar tenders that can juggle glasses, drinks, and bottles. Here we have two that no only do these antics as they work, but put on a demonstration for the guests in the promenade.  Their juggling skills are definitely on par with the professional juggler headliner in the theater. A little later in the cruise various volunteers from the crew will put on a show for the guests in the theater.

The demonstation of the technology in 270 has been updated, and  they are showing how the video segment was filmed live for presentation of the robot controlled display screens.

Tomorrow is our last day at sea before the Azores. We are cruising between 20 and 22 knots, and the captain is still confident we will reach Ponta Delgada on time or a few minutes early.

Yesterday I did a first. I made a phone call from the middle of the ocean.  So simple today, just set your phone to make calls over WiFi and dial the number. Since I was calling a US number, there are no additional call fees incurred with my cell provider, T-Mobile. So much different than when I first started writing this blog years ago. Emails were slow and sporadic at best.

April 26, 2024

April 24 crossing the Atlantic

Usually my ramblings begin midmorning or breakfast time at the earliest.  Today I must start shortly after midnight.  There is the first Alpha call heard throughout the ship.  Alpha is the code word for medical emergency on Royal and most other cruise ships. No details, there seldom are. 

At 3:00 AM the ships speed changes, and we make a sharp turn. Shortly it is announced we are headed back to Bermuda.

This time it is a passenger needing hospital attention. The process will be different. The parties will be loaded into a lifeboat and transferred to shore.  The operation is completed by about 8:00 AM and again we resume our course to the Azores.

The ship is now travelling in excess of 21 knots, very near the top speed for the vessel. The captain is still confident we will arrive on time.

By mid day the seas have grown to 12 to 15 feet. The stabilizers are out, and the ship is rolling about +/- 2 degrees as the waves are directly on the the side of the ship. The worst direction for a smooth ride.

It appears there was a last minute substitution for the presenters of the enrichment program. They have advertised one person, but another has been giving talks.  Public speaking is definitely not in the tool box of the presenter.

A murder mystery movie in the theater turns out to be a good choice for the afternoon.

Yesterday I noticed my account was blocked from making any reservations. I have been thinking about "The Book", but haven't booked it yet. Most likely I won't. But I digress.  Even the usual of logging out and logging back in wouldn't fix my blocked account.  Guest relations wasn't busy, and they were able to quickly fix the problem.

Speaking of "the system" we had received several notices on our door from security and houskeeping about leaving our scooter in the hallway. A definite safety hazard as the hallways are barely wide enough for two passing people.  The problem with this is that we don't have a scooter, but the system says we did.  Turns out the scotter belongs with a cabin several doors down the hall.  Our cabin steward was able to rectify it. We stopped getting messages, and the scooter wasn't being left in the hall any more.

The entertainer tonight was Kevin Johnson a ventriloquist. A delightful show. I had seen him several years ago, and without a doubt he is probably the most entertaining ventriloquist I have ever seen.

By the end of the day the seas are beginnning to subside some. The skies are partly cloudy with no rain forecast. Hopefully tonight we can continue on our course without any further emergencies.

I you are believer in the myths of the Bermuda Triangle, maybe that is why we had to stop in St. George's twice.

April 24, 2024

Tuesday April 23

It has rained during the night, the decks are wet, the skies heaviliy overcast with an occasional shower. The forecast is for clearing skies as the day progresses. the temperatures are in the low 70's.

Lunch is the special roast beef sandwich at 360 Cafe. 

At about 2:00 PM the captain interupts the afternnoon with an unexpected announcement. We are changing course and heading to Hamilton or St George's, Bermuda to disembark a crew member that needs immediate hospital care.  He will be accompanied by medical staff to the hospital. There are no helicopters available to make the transfer so this is the only option. 

The captain expects to stop the ship outside the harbor, to be met by local officials to complete the transfer. We will then wait for the ships medical staff to be returned to the ship.

Our arrival in Bermuda is expected about 7:00 PM and the whole process should take about three hours resulting in us being on our way by about 10 PM.  So far we have been fortunate, and there have been no other medical emergencies that we are aware of.

Today was  the top tier event, split into two sessions as there were too many participants to fit in the theater.  There are 176 Pinnacles, 595 diamond plus, and 860 diamond passengers. About 10 passengers are becoming Pinnacle on this voyage, the most I have ever seen at one time. The top cruiser has nearly 4000 points.

Dinner is excellent, Jamaican Chicken, rice, beans and plantains. Our table mates join us for the first time, Roxanne and Kent from Houston. They dined at Chops and Giovanni's the first nights.

The headliner entertainer is a repeat from last week. Tony Tillman does an excellent show played to a packed house. Immediately following his show it is off to the other end of the ship to listen to the Symphony Orchestra. A virtual orchestra I must add, but good none the less.

Our stop in St George's is shorter than anticipated, and we were back on our way about 9:00 pm, again headed to the Azores.

With a change in wind direction, the seas have grown to 10 or 12 feet, and there is a gentle roll to the ship.  The skies are almost clear and the near full moon is bright, reflecting over the ocean. The captain says he will have no difficulty making up for the lost time.

April 23, 2024

Monday April 22 - At Sea

The weather is ideal. High 70's. The seas are following at less than 5 feet. Motion of the ship is negligible. In reality it takes pretty rough seas before ships of this size begin to roll or pitch.

Breakfast in Chops since many Pinnacle members  are barred from the Coastal Kitchen for this cruise because there are too many of us. Overhearing instructions to the crew yesterday, there are about 4000 passengers on board, about three quarters of capacity, and about 175 Pinnacle passengers, 3 1/2 times the  number last week.

Chops does not normally serve breakfast, and staff is pulled from many different areas for breakfast service. I don't want to say non functional as a team, but they need some practice. Or looking at it the other way, for the first day for the crew dong this, they manage.  I expect it will get better after a few days.

I can really tell the difference in the manifest of passengers. Pool chairs are not occupied by ghosts, and there is plenty of pool deck seating. The dance floors quickly fill with adults dancing, not chidren running around. Manhattans and old fashions seem to be the most popular drinks instead of a pretty concoction of many flavors, or bottles of beer.

The Royal Lounge instead of being empty all day is nearly full, mainly with groups of passengers playing cards or talking on cell phones with people back home.

Again we have our table to ourselves. I have no clue as to where the others assigned to table 6 are dining. Maybe in one of the specialty restaurants, or possibly one of the fortunate dining in Coastal Kitchen.  I do not say that disparagingly as the selection in the dining room is much larger, the portions much smaller which is more in alignment with how much I eat, and the service good, only slightly below what the Coastal Kitchen offers.

After dinner an hour or so in Bolero's and then to the main theater for the "Effectors". We get an excellent seat, center stage about 5 rows back. The theater is packed by showtime. Obviously the word spread quickly that this is a good show.

At bedtime the skies are mostly clear, the moon is near full reflecting off the ocean. Showers are expected later in the night.

April 22, 2024

April 21 - Reprovisioning

Technically today is the end of one cruise and the start of the next. As a passenger having combined 3 cruises into one, it is just another day.

Just to be sure, the alarm is set for 7. Totally unneeded as we are up long before then.  The ship is tied up before 6:00 and by 6:45 passengers are beginning to disembark.  We have breakfast in the 270 lounge as that is where all the back to back passengers are to meet by 9:30.  We get special treatment to be processed by customs.  There are about 60 of us, 40 of which are Pinnacle members.

As we gather we are given special tags identifying us as "consecutive cruisers" We are given new sea pass cards in an envelope, but given very strict instructions not to open them until we are asked for them as we reboard the ship.

At the last minute I accept wheelchair assistance. It is probably nearly a mile nonstop walk to get off and back on.  We leave the ship, scanning our cards for the last time. The ship has to get to a zero passenger count before any new passengers are allowed on board. The crew member can go no further, and I am handed off to a shoreside worker despite the crew member being told earlier not to leave me. There is confusion and discussion among all the parties. I just sit there silently and play dumb. (An easy task.) This is not the place to raise questions.

Once settled that the crew member would wait for my return to the transfer point, I proceed to customs. Facial recognition works flawlessly. We wait for the magical zero. The wait is short, and we start back to the ship.

First step is to read our new cards. They are not activated to allow our boarding.  With 60 people people behind me they let us on anyway, but ask that we go to guest services when you get aboard and have them fix the problem.

Probably 20 of the 60 cards didn't work. The one staff member at guest relations is initially overwhelmed as he couldn't figure out why any replacement cards he made wouldn't work either.  Eventually after a conference huddle the cause was found and they were able to make new cards for those that needed them.

The perk for doing a back to back, as the cruise line calls them,  is lunch in the dining room. The only problem, I don't think anyone in the dining room knew about this, well at least not the people near the entrance. They just kept telling everyone that the lunch was just for "Key" members.  Eventually solved when we just went in the dining room and spotted several waiters ready for guests and none present. They were eager for our arrival. Less than half the back to back passengers attended.

After lunch we go to see our new cabin. Basically in the same section of the ship but 2 decks higher with a very large balcony. A result of the cabin being located on a corner. A few minutes to put everything away. 

Many pallets of provisions are being loaded into the hold. Supplies for 4,000 passengers and about 2,000 crew members for 2 weeks plus extra just in case of an emergency.

As a Pinnacle member I get extra amenities. The only thing I possibly could use is soft drinks, 18 cans  are waiting on the counter.

A stroll to the Solarium finds it closed for a private function. They are setting it up for a welcome aboard reception for Crown and Anchor members. We will come back on our way to dinner at 5:00.

At 4:30 the Solarium is already packed. The majority of the passengers are here. Royal did a nice job of having appetizers for the guests. Drinks were the usual Champagne, wine, mimossa, or fruit juice. If you want anything elese, it is on your dime.

All of the officers and many of the upper staff are on hand to greet the passengers.

By 5:00 we are on our way into the dining room. Our assigned table is table 6 in a small dining area adjacent to the main dining room. Smaller and much more quiet, our table is by one of the few windows.

Despite numerous attempts, the staff is unable to close the shades half way. They either go all the way up, blinding many guests with the afternoon sun, or all the way down blocking the view. Only resolved after we leave port and the ship turns so the sun is no longer an issue.

There is the usual disorganization of the first night. It is obvious the staff has been warned of the many Pinnacle passengers that have been delegated to the dining room. I have fried chicken, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes. It was excellent. 

The first nights show is a comedian. The biggest joke is that not more people walked out before he finished. To say he was not very good would be and understatement.

The seas are slight, the skies clear and we are on our way to the Azores. Six days away at 20 knots. I am sending my children, and therefore grandchildren, our polar coordinates every day so they can look up on a globe exactly where I am located. A basic lesson in map reading. Good training for future cruisers.

April 20 - CoCo Cay

We share the pier with The Freedom of The Seas. Passengers begin heading to the beaches before 8:00 AM. The weather is absolutely perfect making the slogan accurate, a perfect day at CoCo Cay. The seas are flat, temperatures in the upper 70's, winds very slight.

The helium ballon rises up and down all day long. The zip line is busy, and the youngest kids are having a ball in the water park. Royal has increased the number of shuttle trams and greatly increased the staff to assist passengers with directions.

We take a ride around the island, take a few pictures and head back to the ship. I should say a nearly deserted ship as most passengers have gone ashore.

Tonight we have our last meal in Coastal Kitchen. there are so many Pinnacle passengers on the next voyage that all of us can not be accomodated. Honestly I am looking forward to a change. The service and food presentation is very good in the CK, but the menu is limited when compared to the main dining room. The final show for this leg is a comedian. Again good entertainment.

It has been many years since I had to change cabins mid voyage. Every ship and every port may be different.

We need to pack everything except hanging clothes by 9:00 AM. Our room steward will then move everything to our new cabin while we are dealing with customs and immigration procedures. We complete the majority of packing before retiring for the evening.

The voyage to Port Everglades is relatively short, and we cruise at a little over 10 knots. A number of other ships are on the same course.

April 20, 2024

April 18 and 19 - Sea days

The Caribbean seldom fails to deliver on great weather. Sure once in awhile she kicks up a hurricane that had its birth closer to Africa, but not this week.

The seas remain quite tolerable. I doubt the captain has even elected to deploy the ship's stabilizers. An action usually taken when the roll exceeds +/- 1 degree. The skies are more sunny than cloudy, and temperatures are in the low 80's most of the day.

The coastal kitchen is getting a little busier at night. 150 guests then 160. If required I suspect the Coastal Kitchen is capable of serving 300 per night. The Maitre D is leaving in just over two weeks to move to the Utopia. Not his choice by any means. He and his family had summer vacation plans, but Royal took those away, giving him little choice but to return to work on his next contract after less than a month of vacation.

The pools have been packed. Putting towels and other objects on chairs to reserve them for later in the day has always been a problem. Occasionally the staff will clamp down on the practice by sweeping the deck chairs of towels with no people. Not so much so this week.

To give an example of how extreme the practice is, I was sitting in a deck chair early in the morning. The group of 12 chairs had one occupant - me.  A woman came along and dropped something on 8 of the chairs and then continued on!  I wanted to gather up the stuff and turn it in at the towel station, but didn't, and doubt that Royal did either.

We are headed roughly North West towards Coco Cay at about 18 knots.  The captains corner is well attended, and surprisingly there were no stupid questions. The captain did share that all refueling for the Odyssey has been taking place in Florida. Years ago it was common to refuel in southern ports when fuel was less expensive there.

During her regular trips around the Caribbean she only refuels to 3/4 of maximum. Next week she will be fully fueled for the transatlantic voyage.

The headliner shows and production shows have been excellent despite have seen many of them before. The musicians are a mixed bag. Unfortunately the location seems to have a big effect on how they sound. The piano player in the schooner bar, well is not so good. Kelly Goodrich doesn't need to be concerned about the competition.

Tomorrow we will share Coco Cay with Freedom of the Seas. Our last stop before Port Everglades where we will reprovision and take on many new passengers. Nearly all of the 50 Pinnacle cruisers are staying on for the transatlantic like me.

April 18, 2024

April 17 Aruba

We go past the port and then back into the channel to our pier. I looks like the the other end of the channel is too narrow for a ship our size to easily navigate. 

After a leisurely breakfast we head off the ship. We actually have a mission. More toothpaste. We probably do not have enough to last for another 39 days.  Again being the only ship in port, it is not overly busy. The first stop is to wait for the trolley which makes a round trip to the city center. It has been many years since I have ridden this trolley as usually there are too many people waiting. Today less than a dozen.  

The trolley was completely rebuilt with new cars and new track within the past 5 or 7 years. An enjoyable 45 minute trip with a good conductor and tour guide.

For years I have always gone to Pirrana Joe's for lunch and an adult beverage when visiting Aruba. Not going to happen this year, and maybe never again. The complex, which was the first shopping plaza in Aruba, has been sold and is being converted into Rental condos.

After completing our shopping mission we head back to the ship. Tacos again for lunch. Often an overpacked venue, on port days it is not crowded.

After lunch it is time to check on "my tree" on the sandbar along side the channel. It has seen better days. Probably 20% the size it was when I first saw it about 12 or 13 years ago. I was unable to discern any "green". It just might be dead, but I won't give up. I already have a cruise scheduled in December to check on her. 

Surprisingly we were able to make a reservation for Lynn on IFly for later this afternoon.  She did this for the first time in her life on our last voyage on the Odyssey and decided to do it again.

The winds were blowing in excess of 30 mph on deck 15 when we arrived for checkin. Rock wall climbing and the bungee jump were closed because of the wind. When the staff attempted to open the sliding doors to the checkin counter for IFly, the wind blew one of the doors off its track. 3 workers and 20 minutes to get it back in place.  Lynn had a blast, I watched and took pictures.

IFly made us a few minutes late for dinner, but I had told them at breakfast that this may happen. The roasted chicken was excellent, but as always the portions are too large.

The headliner entertainment tonight is Randy Cabral. Part comedian plus talented juggler resulted in a fabulous show. One on the best headliner performers I have seen. Unfortunately with a boarding time of 10:30 PM very few passengers were on board and the theater was mostly empty.

The weather remains great, the seas slight. Tonight we start a 2 day passage to CoCo Cay, our next port.

April 16 - Curacao

As usual I sleep like a rock. I will admit to 9 hours, but it may have been longer. Corn flakes and a glass of juice for breakfast. Exactly what I have most days,

We are secure at the dock and cleared by local authorities by 8:30. We elect to head to town early to avoid the worst of the heat.  We are moored at the new pier built especially for the mega cruise ships. I would say we are the only ship here, but I need to be more precise. We are the only cruise ship tied up at the cruise terminal. There is an empty oil tanker tied up at the other cruise ship terminal. Something I have never seen before.

As we are walking towards town the oil tanker leaves and heads to sea. I haven't the slighest guess as to why she was tied up where she was. Maybe to transfer some crew members? Or someone taking a freighter cruise?

I really can't drink early in the morning so I forgo my usual watering hole and instead settle for a few pictures and then we head back to the ship. It is warm and humid, but not as hot as predicted. Probably being on the coast so close to the water helped keep the temperatures down.

After a quick shower, we are able to make reservations on the North Star, free while in port, and take some aerial pictures of Curacao.  Pictures are being posted on my facebook page "Steve Raiford" at the request of my children.

The coastal kitchen is getting busier each evening. I learn this is the usual pattern. Few reservations early in the cruise, getting busier as the cruise progresses.

All aboard isn't until 7:30 this evening, so there is no show in the theater tonight, but plenty of music in various venues. Boleros usually has good music. The accustics are so poor in the music hall that none of the groups sound very good.

Our next port is Aruba, about 70 miles away.

April 16, 2024

April 14 and 15, Sea days.

We are cruising at about 20 knots, and will reach Curacao after 2 days. The seas picked up a little as we passed east of Cuba, but then subsided as the day progressed. Temperatures have remained in the upper 70's with partly to mostly cloudy skies. We have encountered no rain.

The pool deck remains packed, many are getting unexpected sunburns, fooled by the cloudy conditions.

There are quite a few young children here, apparently related to schools in the north east being on spring break.

The top tier party is sparsely attended. There are 51 Pinnacle passengers, 427 diamond and 211 diamond plus.  Held in the 270 lounge, Lynn and I were the only guests to sit upstairs, hardly keeping the server busy.

Yesterday's production show, Effectors, was spectacular not so much for the story line, but for the special effects with scenery changes, lasers, and drones that fly over the audience.

A few passengers and some of the staff were confused in the Coastal Kitchen this morning as the "day" signs in the elevators did not get properly changed. Most were changed to "Monday", but several were left on "Sunday". For many passengers, this is the only way to know what day it is.

So far the "Royal Lounge" as it has now been named remains sparsely used, and it is becoming my go to spot to write.

The elegant suites lounge on deck 13 aft likewise is not used very much.  Probably because of it's inconvenient location. I will enjoy while I can. I have heard there are four times as many Pinnacle members on the Atlantic crossing.

We attend a back stage tour. By far the most spacious backstage I have ever seen on a ship.  The lighting in the dressing rooms is so much better than the lighting in the cabins. The production manager can run the entire show from a laptop control panel, but he usually uses a larger console backstage. Everything is timed and automatic, be he must clear every physical movement before it can take place.Primarily for safety reasons.

Dinner is NY strip steak. Excellent as expected, but the porton is too large.

There is a family at the next table in the Coastal Kitchen with two very young children. We may have just passed a couple of ducks to the mom. The children were estatic.

The main show tonight is four singers from Vegas singing a tribute to Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons. the house was packed long before showtime.

Early in the  morning we arrive in Curacao. The weather the past two days has been pleasant with partly sunny skies. Curacao has an extreme heat warning for tomorrow with the heat index expected over 100 by mid afternoon. Many sun burns for sure.

April 14, 2024

April 13, 2024 35 Days on The Odyssey of the Seas

8 or 10 months ago I looked at doing a transatlantic cruise followed by the Greek Isles. I was greatly disappointed to find it alread sold out. Periodically I would run accross the listing again, and then suddenly there was space available. I suspect a large group had been booked and then cancelled to open up some cabins. We only hesitated a few days before booking The Odyssey of the Seas first to Curacao and Aruba,  then Transatlantic to Rome, followed by 12 days to the Greek Isles ending back in Rome.

The portion of the trip that I am not looking forward to is the flight from Rome back to the US. I looked at multiple alternatives in an  attempt to cut down plane time, but ultimately settled on a nonstop flight from Rome to Miami on ITA Airlines.

I'm not sure but I think ITA has the most restrictive carry on baggage rules in the  airline industry. My trusty carry on that has served me well for years is a couple inches too big, even though it is accceptable on most US airlines. Amazon to the rescue.

After an extensive search I order a new carry on. It arrives in a couple of days. The advertising and description indicate the measurements are within ITA requirements. I guess they use a special tape measure. It is really is too large.

Return and try again with a different product. Same result. Finally on the third attempt I find one that actually measures as advertised.

We spend hours working on the logistics for the rest of the trip now that the decision is to fly back to Miami.  Brightline, drive and park, shuttle bus, all are considered. Ultimately it is decided to rent a car, leaving it at Ft Lauderdale airport and taking a taxi to the port. On the return trip we will rent a car at Miami to drive home.

Excursions are researched and decided upon. A hotel is found in Rome near the Vatican and sights we want to see. My children have talked me into sharing pictures on facebook, an impossible task when I started writing this blog years ago as the internet service was just too slow and too sporadic.

April 12 arrives and we pick up the rental car. The luggage is packed and we are on our way.  A 37 day trip calls for a few more items than I would take on a 7 or 8 day cruise. I use my large suitcase for the first time. I think it is 20% empty, but that is OK as I hear something about space to pack purchases.

Boarding the ship is a breeze. No lines, no holdups. Just a long walk through security, boarding pass check, and the long ramp up to the ship. Our cabin is ready at 1:00, our luggage arrives about 4:00. and everything is stashed somewhere. Unfortunately even though we remain on the ship for 35 days, we will change cabins for each leg. We had no choice.

On the pier below there are no less than 8 semi loads of provisions being loaded aboard. The logistics of running a cruise ship is a monumental challenge. As long as they remember the gin and limes.

Many of the staff is the same as when we were here a few months ago. We are able to secure reservations in the coastal kitchen for the next 8 nights at 5:00 pm. The coastal kitchen is restricted to full suites guests, not junior suites, and some Pinnacle guests depending on availability. We will see what happens on the next leg when there are 4 times as many passengers that may want to be in the coastal kitchen.  Being honest, I don't do well dining late, and also realize that 5:00 is the least busy for the venue, improving my chances of being able to secure a reservation.

We appear to be ready to sail at 5:00, but don't. We head to dinner and have a perfectly prepared filet of beef tenderloin. About 10 after six the ship begins to move. We learn the delay was caused by a passenger that had to be removed from the ship with the help of local police authorities. Fiurther details are not shared, but I expect the passenger is now having a bad day.

The welcome aboard show is good. The usual introductions of the cruise director, some of his staff, the captain and the band. followed with a comedy routine by a guest performer. 

A long walk back to the cabin and it is lights out.  The skies are clear, the winds light, and seas slight. For the next two days we be at sea headed to Curacao.