Enchantment of the Seas -- Feb 27 -- March 10, 2012
February 25, 2012 -- Travel Day
Well, here I am at a restaurant in LAX waiting for brunch followed by a flight to Baltimore. Today is Saturday and the cruise leaves on Monday. So first let me give you a little basic information about myself. This is my 19th cruise overall, my 7th cruise with Royal Caribbean and my first cruise on a Vision class ship.
The prior cruise left on February 18, or at least it was supposed to leave on the 18th. It actually left the following day because of some engine problems. Supposedly the problem was fixed in Port Canaveral and we were advised that our cruise would go as planned. However, we have since learned that the engine is still not at fully repaired and that our last stop, Labadee, has been replaced by a day at sea so that the ship can cruise at a slower speed. However, we are staying an extra four to eight hours at three of the five stops plus we are getting a ship board credit (we don't know the amount yet). I actually like this new itinerary better (not a lot better -- but a little better). I do like Labadee, however, I've been there twice and not having to rush back to the ship at the other ports is a big plus (I do have the late dinner seating).
Now I just hope it does not rain in St. Maarten. The first time I was there I wanted to go to Orient Beach, but it was raining and I didn't want to travel all the way across the island in the rain. The second time I was in St. Maarten I went to Maho Beach where the landing jets are just a few feet overhead. So, I have my sights set on Orient Beach again and this time I've got a lot of extra time.
Since there is a lot of interest in how the ship is doing I am going to try and post updates while on the ship. I have only done that once before. Since I write my review will on the ship that should work out. I'll also try to post some pictures; we will see how that works out.
The taxi arrived in time to pick me up, but because the dispatcher did not provide the special instructions I provided in the e-mail, it took him a while to get to me. Nonetheless in less then ninety minutes I am through security (the lines were very short) and I am wondering what I am going to do during the two hours prior to boarding. Already something strange happened. I paid for the taxi with a credit card. When I tried to add the tip the driver refused. He had already input the amount and could not change it. Next time he'll know to ask first. So I end up having brunch and then working on this. In about 6 hours I should be in Baltimore.
I choose this flight because it is a non-stop into BWI. When I booked it, it was scheduled to leave at 10am. United pushed the time back two hours which means I'll arrive in Baltimore at night. Oh well, a non-stop in the winter is still safer than a stop over in Denver or Chicago (I will end up stopping in Chicago on the way home -- but I don't care if I am late getting home.
Well it is a half hour until we begin boarding, so I'll be back at you in Baltimore.
I made it to Baltimore. Nothing special about the flight except that we flew over two other jets. I would guess that they were two thousand feet below us. I've never had that view before (usually I am looking up at the jets).
Well, it is time to just relax I'll be back at you tomorrow.
February 26, 2012 -- Baltimore
Today I went out around 10am to see if I can find an inexpensive replacement watch (the band on my watch broke). Apparently they don't unroll the sidewalks around here until noon on Sunday. I can't believe that everyone is wearing jackets. I'm from Southern California and all I had was a polo shirt, and I was quite comfortable. However, inside they have the temperature dialed up too high. My thoughts, what a bunch of wimps.
There are three small malls around the inner harbor that are all related. There is the Light Street Mall, the Pratt Street Mall and The Gallery. Light Street has nothing. Pratt Street has a high end store that looks like that if it has what I want it will be four times the amount I want to spend. Nonetheless it will be about ninety minutes until I can look inside. So I go to The Gallery. Another possibility but all I see are high end watches. So I go upstairs for brunch.
I find an Oriental wok that is open. I've always felt that Oriental fast food restaurants should be called run, not wok, but that is just my opinion. At any rate on the way back out I looked in the watch store and this time I found they also have Timex watches. An hour later for $20 bucks I had my replacement watch. Then it was off to the National Aquarium. The first thing I quickly realized is that I was not the only person who decided to visit the aquarium today.
It is a nice aquarium; however, I like the one in Long Beach, California better. For a little extra one can attend a dolphin show and a 4D movie. I've seen dolphin shows before, so I skipped that. But the 4D movie experience seemed interesting. It is a 3D movie, including the special glasses, with other effects added, such as squirting water, blowing air and something in the chair that would poke everyone in the back at just the right time. The effects were something else. Well worth the five dollar charge. Add in the fact that I was sitting between two girls and I had a 5D experience in stereo.
On the way back to the hotel stopped off at a very tall World Trade Center. For five bucks I got a ride to the 27th floor with a fantastic view of Baltimore, including the cruise dock which was currently occupied by the Carnival Pride, and hopefully the Enchantment of the Seas tomorrow.
Back at the hotel room I looked out in the direction of the dock. Though I have a great view of the Inner Harbor, I was unable to see the cruise ship dock from my fourth floor room. Speaking of the hotel, how come the more expensive the room, the more they charge for Internet use. I paid thirteen dollars for 24 hours of use. So I'm paying thirteen times what I pay at home for one tenth the speed. And they call this high speed Internet?
After a long day I figured I would go to the in house restaurant. It was even more expensive than I thought it would be. Fifty dollars for something that I pay $35 for back home.
Well, it is late and tomorrow is embarkation day. So, good night for now.
February 27, 2012 -- Embarkation Day
This morning I learn that the hotel delivers the bill the same way the ships do. They slipped it under my door early in the morning.
My plan is to get ready to leave around 10am and that should get me out of the hotel by 10:30am and to the dock by 11am. So the next time you hear from me I'll be on the ship.
Well I made it on board. But first a surprise, the taxi's credit card machine is not working. I made it very clear to him that that was something he should have mentioned before I got in the taxi. I left the hotel a little after 10:30am and I was through security and checked into the priority boarding area by 11:10am. While I'm waiting I read the handout. Its says ...
Dear Enchantment of the Seas Guest:
We would like to provide you with important information regarding modifications to your scheduled itinerary. We attempted to reach every guest with phone calls on Friday, February 24, and we apologize if for any reason you did not receive our message.
On Saturday, February 18, while Enchantment of the Seas was docked in Baltimore, Maryland, we became aware of a mechanical issue with one of the ship's two port propulsion motors. We were able to bring technicians onboard that assisted us in making repairs that restored partial power to the affected motor. However, despite the repairs to the second propulsion motor, the ship is cruising at a reduced rate of speed. It should be noted that this issue has no impact on the maneuverability of the ship or on the safety of our guests and crew.
After reviewing your scheduled itinerary and taking the ship's reduced speed into account, it is necessary to make some adjustments. We apologize for this development and regret its impact on your scheduled itinerary. We have made every effort to minimize the disruption, and have also extended your stays in several ports of call. Your revised itinerary will be:
Monday -- Baltimore, Maryland - Departure 4:00pm (no change)
Tuesday -- at sea (no change)
Wednesday -- at sea (no change)
Thursday -- at sea (no change)
Friday -- Tortola, B.V.I. - Arrive 8:00am - Depart 6:00pm (depart one hour later)
Saturday -- St. Johns, Antigua - Arrive 8:00am -- Depart 1:30am (depart 8 Â½ hours later)
Sunday -- Philipsburg, St. Maarten -- Arrive 8am -- Depart 12:30am (depart 7.5 hrs later)
Monday -- Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas -- Arrive 8am -- Depart 6pm (depart 1 hr later)
Tuesday -- San Juan, Puerto Rico -- Arrive 7:00am -- Depart 5:00pm (depart 4 hours later)
Wednesday - at sea (skipping Labadee)
Thursday -- at sea (no change)
Friday -- at sea (no change)
Saturday -- Baltimore, Maryland -- arrive 7:00am (no change)
As a gesture of goodwill, and to thank you for your cooperation, Royal Caribbean International will provide your stateroom with an onboard credit of $300. The credit will be applied directly to your onboard account and may be applied to any onboard purchases. Any unused portion of this will be refunded to you. Also, as it is necessary to cancel your call to Labadee, Haiti, guests who purchased shore excursions for Labadee will have those funds automatically refunded to them in the form of credit to their onboard account.
Again, we apologize for these developments and their impact on your scheduled itinerary and your vacation. Our entire onboard team will do its very best to make your sailing as enjoyable as possible.
Signed Captain Gus Andersson, Master, Enchantment of the Seas
Boarding began shortly after 11:30am. The first thing I did was drop my carry-on bags in the room. I made sure the room steward knew I had dropped off the bags; I took my camera and then got out of his way.
The next thing I did was take pictures around the ship. Then I grabbed lunch, a mixture of lunch meat, sliced cheese and pasta. While looking for a table I ran into a couple of people from the roll call, so we chatted a bit. We have agreed to meet in the Viking Lounge after muster.
After lunch I walked the ship some more as the cabins were not ready yet. I found my dining table, it sits four. Rats, I wanted a large table. Oh well. I do remember the last time I had a four top my only other table mate only showed up half the time.
I returned to my cabin shortly after 1:30pm. My bags have not arrived yet. However, luggage did arrive outside my door before 2:00pm. I found a couple of issues with my cabin and went looking for my cabin steward. The two issues are: 1) if I want ice I have to request it and 2) the sink stopper is down and I can't get it back up. I found out the room steward would return around 3:00pm. So I left the cabin door open and started to unpack. My plan worked to perfection. My room steward saw my open door and can in. Soon I had ice and the sink was unplugged. Life is good.
Just as I finish packing there are seven short blasts on the horn followed by one long blast. Time for the muster drill. We do not take our life jackets. Roll is taken at the muster station. This was the shortest drill I have ever attended. There was a demonstration on how to put on the life jackets and then the captain announced the drill was over. It was so quick I thought the captain was kidding, but that was in fact the end of the muster drill.
So I headed up to the Viking Lounge to meet the rest of the roll call group. 81 signed up and 50 -- 60 showed up, including a couple with three young active children. I know the parents though the kids were bothering me, but they were not. At any rate the kids noticed my belly stuck out further than the rest of me. I told them it was because I eat little children. For some reason when I asked, they all denied tasting good. I'm sure they keep their parent on their toes, but I though it was kind of fun.
Soon we left port and soon after than we sailed under a bridge. It sure didn't look like we were going to make it, but there was likely at least two to three meters clearance. By this time it was after 5:00pm and I went back to my cabin and found what I call the Travel Channel. It is actually the ship information channel. It provided heading, speed and position information. Then I uploaded my photographs, 155 from the prior two days and over 220 today, too the computer for better viewing (fortunately for me, digital pictures are free to develop). Then I started on this.
It is 8:00pm and I head down to dinner. The buffet is in the front of the ship and the restaurant is in the rear of the ship. I am in a rear facing junior suite. I'll make diamond about half way through the cruise.
I get to the restaurant and I'm the first to arrive at the table. Naturally the waiter wants to know if my friends are coming. I have no idea, so I say I don't know. After a while no one shows up. My waiter asks again and I explain I'm cruising alone and have no idea who is assigned to the table. I order and as you can imagine I'm the first one finish. I don't mean the first one at the table; I mean the first one in the section. I finished dessert and I am out of the dining room in less than one hour.
So I come back to finish this, which I have now done. So now it is time to edit the pictures so that I can upload them. We will see if I can make this work.
February 28, 2012 -- Day at Sea
I wake up around 6:00am. I check outside and there are no clouds, so I'm not getting dressed for a sunrise picture if there are no clouds to make it look good. We are out in the Atlantic Ocean now moving along at 19 knots according to the Travel Channel which is acting very strange.
First, just as we left Baltimore the Travel Channel showed that we had traveled 144 miles (in less than one hour? I don't think so!). Then it showed a graphic that indicated we were 90% of the way to our first port of call (we will not arrive until next month). I later figured out that this was a useless graphic to show that the blue line shows how far we traveled and the red line shows how far we have to go. Personally I think it would be less confusing if this graphic was eliminated completely. Finally it seems there are three or four different programs all competing for screen time. After each gets its twenty seconds of fame the display suddenly changes, sometimes right before the information I want to see is displayed. And finally, yesterday it kept pointing out that there will be a lifeboat drill at 3:30pm. If it wants to be accurate it should have said the lifeboat drill was held at 3:30pm today (at least after embarkation day that screen does not pop up anymore).
The bathroom could do with a few design changes. There is about an eight second delay from turning on the bathroom light until it actually comes on. Also, there is only one light in the bathroom, which makes the shower a little dark with the curtain closed. I'm in a junior suite, so I have a tub/shower combination. Finally the back of the tub does not end at the wall. Instead there is a two inch flat space that drains onto the bathroom floor. After I'm done in the shower the bathroom floor is flooded, forcing me to dry off in the bedroom area (at least from the ankles down). And finally there is one strange quirk. The knob that controls the water temperature has button that much be pushed in (sort of like the button one must push to move an automatic transmission out of park) to get the hottest water temperatures. That is a safety issue and I understand it. However, there is a similar button on the knob that controls the volume of water. What, did someone drown in the shower because there was too much water coming out of the shower head?
My balcony is half covered and half open, so even if it rains I can still use my balcony. However, just above me is the spa, so no going out in just my underwear this cruise. The weather is very nice. The expected high is 66 degrees and the ocean surface has small waves. I would guess no more than three feet high.
I head over to the Windjammer for breakfast. All of the food serving stations are in one central area. I don't think this is such a good idea as it could create some real crowding. However, I did not experience any problems this morning, so we will have to see how this works out. My cooked to order omelet request was taken as soon as I got in line. I was able to grab a few other things with no problems and then I headed back to my cabin so I could eat breakfast on the balcony.
And now it is time to see if I can upload everything and post.
Well, this morning's attempt to connect to the Internet was a complete bust. It was so slow that I never got connected. So I'll try again this afternoon. I signed up to meet with the loyalty ambassador tomorrow at 5:30pm and went back to the cabin. At noon the captain made his noon time announcement. He has quite a sense of humor. At any rate, we are at 34 degrees 34 minutes north and 74 degrees and 90 minutes west, or about 70 miles from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. We have sailed 313 nautical miles and have about 1109 nautical miles to go. The seas are five to six feet and the water temperature is 72 degrees. So, if we have to travel 1422 nautical miles in 82 hours, then the ship has to average 17 1/3 knots.
Meanwhile I've got a Meet & Mingle coming up on just under half an hour and I have a few things I don't really need, want or plan to use, such as the welcome back gift from Royal Caribbean (I'm sure the kids will enjoy the sweets more than I) and coupons for coffee (I don't drink coffee) or tattoos (again for the kids), sea pets (kids) and the casino (I don't gamble). Nonetheless there are plenty of coupons I can use (discounts on the Internet, laundry, the gift shop and wine).
The M&M was great. Lots of prizes and lots of people (over one hundred in my estimation -- I know we were well over one hundred in registered guests). I didn't win any prizes -- boo! Sure enough the kids took care of the sweets. And the parents accepted the coffee, tattoo and stuffed pet coupons (apparently this is their first cruise, so they didn't have any coupons). I found some gamblers to take the casino coupons off my hands.
After the meeting we sat and talked a bit, then I decided to grab a late lunch (one of the big advantages of a late dinner is you can eat a late lunch and still have six hours until dinner). I should add that the parents told me that their children are really enjoying Adventure Ocean (the kids program). I would estimate the children's ages as being between five and seven.
I am kind of surprised at the small selection in the onboard stores. Almost everything I want either they don't have in my size or I already have it.
I took my good camera out to get some pictures, but some clouds showed up and there are very few people on deck or in the swimming pools. I brought three cameras with me, a DSLR a travel sized point & shoot camera that fits in my pocket and an underwater camera. Basically I only use the DSLR on the ship and on photo excursions. Otherwise I use the travel P&S camera unless I'm going in the water, then I use the underwater camera.
So I'm back in the cabin, uploading my photographs and working on this. Then I'll try connecting to the Internet again.
Well I still have not been able to remotely (wireless) connect to the Internet. I'll try again tonight.
All this running around (Saturday, Sunday, Monday and today) is starting to get to me. A cruise, especially days at sea, should be relaxing. There is a production show tonight at 10pm and I am going to try the Internet again after that, so suddenly a nap sounds like a good idea. Besides, tonight we have to set our watches ahead one hour, so an hour and a half nap fits nicely into the schedule.
After my nap it is too early for the captain's party (formal night) so with nothing better to do I decide to look at watches. I'm getting a fairly good sized OBC and while I don't have to spend it, it will not hurt my budget if I do. I have been interested in Citizen Watches for a while and decide to check them out. The only problem is the only ones I am interested in have a date function that is too small to easily be read. The salesman sees me and I tell him I like some of the watches I see, but the date is too small. He shows me an Invicta which seems to be pretty close to what I want. It is not too big (some of the watches I saw could double as an exercise weight). I have not verified my credit yet, but it is at least $175, so I buy the watch. I should be able to verify the amount of my credit tomorrow. One bad thing, while I'm watch shopping the sun sets (oops -- I wanted to try for a sunset picture). I could shop for watches any time, there were clouds in the sky, might have been a really nice sunset -- I'll never know.
So I dress (nice pants, shoes, shirt and tie, but no jacket) and I get to meet the captain and have my picture taken with him. There are free drinks and toward the end the captain gives his little speech (great sense of humor) and he introduces the senior staff. Then it is time for dinner. On the way out I meet four people from the roll call. I sit and chat a while, but I don't want to be too late for dinner. Still, it was nice to chat a bit with people from the roll call.
It is just me at the table again tonight. The head waiter comes over while I am eating my shrimp cocktail and is concerned that I am all alone, a concern my waiter seems to share. Both of them are going way above and beyond to make sure I'm having a good time. So I end up with a second shrimp cocktail and I have the beef for dinner. Both very good and I'm finished with dinner before 9pm.
So, with a little time to kill I go to the C&A lounge and read the instruction for the watch and then look over the 167 page Worldwide Cruise planner for 2012 -- 2013 (my Crown & Anchor appointment is for tomorrow at 5:30pm).
By this time it is 9:40pm and I head over to the Orpheum lounge (the main show lounge) and find a nice seat. The show is called, "Can't Stop the Rock". It is a tribute to great movie music. The show was okay -- I prefer a little more energy.
To my surprise we are told no flash photography and no recording. That used to be restriction at all the shows. However, as cameras have gotten better the new restriction is no photography of any kind (meaning with or without flash). My little travel camera (the one that fits in my pocket) is okay for non-flash photography in dim lighting, but my DSLR (which is back in the cabin) is great at it. I take some pictures and they turn out okay. For the next production show I attend I'm bringing my DSLR.
I try connecting to the Internet again and again I can't. Okay, I head over to guest services (there is no Internet manager) and ask what the problem is. Apparently Royal Caribbean doesn't like Firefox, so I have to use IE, and I'm connected. There are signs that warn that this is not broadband. Well, it is even slower than dial-up. It is painfully slow. I am going nuts. I don't think I will be able to continue to post pictures. Even reduced to just 100K each, the pictures took a long time to upload. With that size picture even dial-up is fast. At least the cut and pasting of the text into each post went fast.
It took 67 minutes to upload 18 small pictures (so I could post the pictures) along with my three cut and paste posts. This little experiment is not going well picture wise. I'll have to consider carefully my choice to post pictures. Now granted some of the issues are related to this being the first time I took this computer on a cruise. I need to download a program (when I get home) to make uploading to Photobucket faster. Also I installed Works but had not registered it yet, and for some reason could while at the hotel (Firefox issues again?). The main problem this causes is I can only use Word 50 times before I register it. So to be safe, while at the hotel, I downloaded Open Office which is compatible with Word (and it is free). It took more than an hour and a half at the hotel, but it allows me to continue with this until I get home and get Works registered.
And now, since we had to move our clocks ahead one hour, it is 2:00am. Good thing tomorrow (well actually today -- actually today and tomorrow) is a sea day. Good night!
February 29, 2012 -- Day at Sea
I'm up in time for sunrise (after only five hours of sleep). However, I have to go on deck because we are headed more or less toward the sun and I have a rear facing balcony. The sunrise is not that good because while there are some nice clouds overhead, there is also a line of clouds on the horizon, which means the sun will be higher in the sky when it rises. This means more light which means faded colors. I get a few good pictures.
Since I'm here at the front of the ship, as is the Windjammer, I decide to grab breakfast which I take back to the cabin to enjoy on my balcony. It is supposed to get to be 80 today, so I guess the fun will start for those that like to lie out by or in the pool.
There is a welcome back party at 7:15pm and I have my C&A appointment at 5:30pm, so I guess my early evening time is full. So my plan is to shower, go to guest services to verify the amount of my OBC, check out the stores to give the room steward time to do his thing and to see if they put anything new out that I might want. Then I don't know what.
Well, first I go to Guest Services. I get a print out of my account, but the credit is still not showing. Then I go to the store, nothing new inside, but out in the hall there is a nice jacket that will fit me. The one in the store is white, too small and $50. The one in the hall is black, fits and is $90. I'll consider it later. Next I go to the photo shop and purchase a couple of photographs from last night (one at a 50% discount via the coupon) and a picture of the ship.
When I return to my cabin I realize I made a big mistake. Talk about best laid plans. I put the card upside down, so that "do not disturb" was up. As a result my room has not been cleaned. Well, nothing I can do about that. I turn the card right side up and go inside. I upload my morning pictures and I hear a knock on the door. I apologize to the room steward, grab my computer and go to the Internet Cafe to continue this.
Then back down to Guest Services to turn in my form to have the gratuities charged to my room (I always do this so that I don't have to bring so much cash).
I am working in the Centrum on this and choosing which photographs to upload when suddenly I hear the captain giving his noon time announcement. Unfortunately the speaker is not very good and I can barely understand half of what he is saying. I have no idea where the morning went. The last five hours seems more like three. I guess time flies when you are having fun and not trying to connect to the Internet, which is exactly what I am going to do once I go back to the cabin and get my other battery. The last thing I want is for the battery to run out of juice while I'm trying to upload things on the Internet. It is slow enough without adding problems of my own.
Well, I managed to get six more photographs uploaded to Photobucket. I also managed to answer a few questions and start my fourth post. Then the connection went down. I couldn't even log off. I went to guest relations and I could hear someone else explaining the same problem I was going to tell them about. So, there is a special website we can log into to see how many minutes we used, and sure enough while I could not do anything, including log off, the timer kept running and I had no time left.
Maryna Maksimuk helped me get running yesterday and gave me $20 credit today. I felt was fair and told her so. There have been three people who have really stood out so far, my room steward, my waiter and Maryna. But I have only one wow reward card. I may end up giving that to my waiter (Antonio) and finding some way to make sure Frederick Carpio (my room steward) and Maryna both get some credit. After all, this is only day three of a twelve day cruise.
I realize there are all sorts of issues providing Internet service to a moving ship at sea, and I don't blame Royal Caribbean for the problems. But the cost is high (anywhere from 30 to 65' per minute, depending on how you buy your minutes), the speed is so slow that dial-up would be considered an upgrade and this is frustrating. I'm on vacation. If I want to be frustrated I'll go back to work and get paid for it (I like my job, but it is frustrating at times).
At any rate, it is time for a new plan. I'm going to make sure today's post survived (when the Internet comes back up -- it is still down) and if not, recreate it. Then tomorrow I post today's comments without pictures, and that will be it for the rest of the cruise. I'll continue to write my review each day and will post my full review with full sized pictures when I get home. That is how I normally do it. It is quick, easy, much less expensive and far less frustrating.
Well, since writing the above I note a lot of interest in JS cabins. Since I am in one I'll attempt to upload six more photos and post them with my final post (that being today's review). Whatever happens that will be that. I'll check for questions later, but posting to the Internet has lost its fun factor.
The travel channel has turned into the forward cam view channel. So now I don't even know where we are. Since I am not driving I guess it is not real important that I don't know where we are, but still it would be nice to have the information channel and the forward view channel be separate channels. This morning I noticed that we were also almost half way to Tortola. Noon today would be the halfway point, so I guess we are on schedule. Therefore, after my hot dog and ice cream lunch I'm heading to the pool to cool off.
Well, I said I wanted to cool off in the pool, but I was not counting on the water being as cold as it was. The Travel Channel said the pool water was 84 degrees. I would say the pools are closer to 72 degrees and the hot tubs might be 84 degrees. So, I went into the hot tub. There is quite a strong wind blowing across the pool deck. The wind is strong enough that when the water is forced up by the bubbles in the hot tub the wind catches it and blows into the face of anyone sitting downwind.
Soon I'll head over to the C&A lounge for my appointment and then later will be time for the welcome back party.
I purchased a future cruise certificate at the C&A lounge and then bought a couple of shirts at the store. I returned the cabin and the lack of sleep clearly is catching up with me. I half doze off until 7pm when it is time to get ready for the welcome back party. I'm so tired I forget my camera.
The captain's speech and the loyalty ambassador's speech end early and I decide to head out to dinner. The captain was standing there and nobody was talking to him, so I decided to talk to him. I told him when I was gold I had a gold SeaPass card, when I was platinum I had a gray SeaPass card. Now I'm emerald and my SeaPass card is not green (I showed it to him -- it is silver). He was caught completely by surprise. Then he pulled out his card which was green (the room stewards have the same card -- it gets them into the cabins they service). We had a good laugh. I thanked him and went back to the cabin and retrieved by travel camera.
When I tried to take a picture in the MDR the travel camera didn't work. Apparently I have one bad battery (I brought six rechargeable batteries and the camera requires two at a time). I start to review all the little things that have gone wrong:
1) United pushed back the departure time of my flight causing me to arrive at night.
2) The problems with the ship meant I need to pay for Internet access at the hotel which is expensive. However, to be fair it allowed me to download Open Office which is allowing me to type this without worrying about how often I access the word processor.
3) The ship's engine problems result in a modified itinerary. Admittedly I like the modified itinerary better (plus an OBC to boot).
4) My broken watch band.
5) When I sign up for Internet access the computer changes my choice from the 250 minute plan to the 100 minute plan. Again this ends up being beneficial as I am so frustrated with the slow Internet access that I don't want to go much beyond 120 minutes (about half the time I originally was going to sign up for).
6) I put the make up the room card in upside down, so my cabin is not made while I am out.
7) The many problems with the Internet access.
8) Having a table all by myself (though I must admit, my waiter and head waiter are both making sure I am having a good time -- which I am).
9) Forgetting my camera at the welcome back party -- which would not have matters because of ...
10) The bad battery.
11) The wacky ship information channel. I really do pay a lot of attention to the information on that channel. If I want to see what the forward view is, I'll walk there myself.
12) Having to use IE instead of Firefox.
13) The light in the bathroom takes too long to come on.
14) Forgetting to register Word before leaving home.
15) When I was packing I accidentally packed a Carnival shirt.
All minor to be sure, all taken care of (in one way or another) and none having a negative affect on my cruise. But still, what is next (it better not rain in St. Maarten)? And of course there are a lot of positives:
1) I'm having a great time.
2) I met some very nice people.
3) The crew is one of the most helpful I have ever had the pleasure to sail with.
4) I like the modified itinerary better.
5) $300 OBC.
Though lesser in number, the positives easily outweigh the negatives. At any rate I order the chicken for dinner and my waiter says it is very good. He is right, it was very good. We also talked about the empty chairs. I asked if others had been assigned to the table -- yes. My waiter wondered what happened to them. I said I did hear a big splash. That got a laugh out of my waiter.
After dinner I head over to photography to look for the formal night photographs. There are fewer photographs than I am used to seeing and thus I find all my pictures very quickly. I buy two. Then I head back to the cabin to finish this and then I'll try the Intent again. I actually have access in the cabin. The connection is not as good as it is at the Internet Cafe, but it does work. Then after that I'm going to catch up on the sleep I missed last night. So until next month -- good night.
Oh wait, the travel channel is showing information again. As of 10:48pm we have sailed 906 miles from Baltimore and have 516 miles to go. With 32 hours until the scheduled arrival in Tortola, the ship will have to average a little over 16 knots to make it on time, so we should be okay.
March 1, 2012 -- Day at Sea
OMG -- I uploaded six photographs and posted in only 12 minutes last night. Perhaps the access is faster at night when no one else is using the computers. At any rate -- good morning!
I didn't wake up until 8am. Sure was nice to get caught up on my beauty sleep. Dolphin Tale was on TV. It was a very good movie. Finally around 10am I go to breakfast. Good thing today is a sea day. I've been at sea for 2 Â½ consecutive days going down to Acapulco, so this will be the longest time I've spent at sea, three full days plus an extra sixteen hours (eight on each side of the three days). It has been very relaxing, other than when I'm trying to upload photographs to the Internet via the ship.
I head out to breakfast, making sure to put the please make up my room card right side up. Then I check for questions on the Internet. There are a few. I've got time, so I decide to do the necessary research. I had to get creative and sneaky (translation -- don't try this at home). I went to the spa and the MDR and asked the questions that were posted. Then I went back online to provide the answers.
After that I went to guest relations to get a printout of my onboard account. Finally, confirmation of my OBC, it is $300. When I get back to my cabin confirmation of my Chops reservation is waiting for me. I told my waiter last night that I would be at Chops tonight. Soon there is a call from the shore excursion desk. My Antigua Stingray Swim has been moved back two hours. Okay by me. I will not have to be one of the early people off the ship.
The captain made his noon time announcement. We have traveled 1152 miles (I compute that as and average of 17.2 knots) since leaving Baltimore and we have 272 miles (I compute that as needing to average 14.3 knots) more to go to reach our first port (or starboard -- depends on which side of the ship the dock is on). We are expecting moderate seas (7 to 9 feet). The air temperature is 77 degrees and the sea temperature is 79 degrees. And, we are only a little over three miles from land (though that land is covered by over three miles of saltwater).
It is turning out to be a really nice day. So I'm going back on deck, take a few pictures, grab a quick lunch then perhaps try out the pool again. So, until later.
Well today the pool water was perfect. For some reason the rear pool is warmer than the forward pool. Too bad there aren't more kids on the cruise. The water is really sloshing around inside the pools and I know the kids would love it. Though there are a few kids around the pool deck, there were never more than two in the pool during the time I was in the pool. I would guess there are about 50 kids on the cruise, most of who seem to be enjoying the kids program. After a nice dip in the pool I spend a few minutes in the hot tub talking to one of the other passengers from Canada. Then back to the cabin to relax and get ready for Chops.
Chops was good. Was it better than the MDR -- yes. Was it $30 better -- not in my opinion. Still, it and the buffet are the only other options, and I eat breakfast and lunch in the buffet, so Chops offers a nice change of pace.
After dinner I take my camera up to the pool deck for some night time photographs. Then it is back to the cabin to update this, upload my photos and check for more questions on the Internet. After that it is time for bed, as tomorrow I have an 8am sightseeing tour.
So good night for now.
March 2, 2012 -- Tortola, B.V.I.
Well, after a full three plus days at see we finally found dry land. Well, it was a little wet around the edges, but the middle was dry. I had a power breakfast -- one banana. While putting my computer away I discovered I packed a mouse. While typing I can't help but accidentally touch the touch pad mouse which causes all sorts of strange things to happen -- none of them good. Fortunately I can turn off the touch pad mouse on this computer and use the hand held mouse.
My tour was at 8:00am. We were supposed to meet on the pier at 7:45am. We docked on time, which meant there was no way I could be on the pier at 7:45am. So I was suck with the group that likes to get off first. This is the first time I've had to join the first group. After all the pushing and shoving and scratching and biting I made it off the ship. I'm glad I will not have to be one of the first off the ship for the rest of the cruise.
I signed up for a tour of the island with several stops for pictures and a stop at a resort on the beach. The first thing I did was go to the Internet Cafe, which is only $5 for fifteen minutes (which is one third to one half of the ship's price). The Internet speed was okay, but the computer, it was slooooow! In fact it was so slow that instead of an hourglass to show that the computer was working, there was a calendar. I would have through it was a 486 except it was running Windows XP. Then after picking up some shirts for me, a shot glass for a friend and coffee for my sister and brother-in-law, I rented a lounge chair for $5.00 and just relaxed. I choose this tour for the photo opportunities and thus took my good camera (not my travel camera) with me. As a result I had no plans to go anywhere near the saltwater. Besides, tomorrow I'll be swimming in it, along with a few stingrays.
Speaking of which, the pools on the ship are not saltwater. I though only Freedom class and up had freshwater pools, but this ship's pool was not saltwater.
At any rate the tour returned at lunch time, so I headed to the buffet. There I found two officers having lunch. So I asked about the engine. The ship uses several combustion engines to turn generators which power the ship. Each screw (the propellers on a ship are called screws) is turned by one electric propulsion motor. One motor is working fine and the other motor is able to reach full RPM, but not full torque. Thus the engine cannot push the ship at full speed.
Has the engine been repaired yet -- no. Is there an estimate on when it will be repaired -- no. The parts they need have to be manufactured. Then they can finish the repairs. The two men I spoke to spoke with had a Norwegian accent, so I am sure they knew what they were taking about. Actually, I believe I was talking to the Staff Captain and one of the other bridge officers, so I am very confident that this information is accurate.
After lunch I'm back here updating this. Then I'll go on the Internet with the information about the engines, and then off to the pool. It is turning into a very nice day, which means sunny, very warm and humid. I'll return when the pool starts to fill up with people returning from their tours.
A correction on the pools, the rear pool is heated and is freshwater. The forward pool (the kid's pool) is not heated and is saltwater. The rear pool is actually too warm now and the forward pool is just right. However, I didn't bring my goggles with me to the pool, so I had to limit my time in the saltwater.
The captain made an announcement shortly before 5:30pm. He said everyone was on board early and so he was getting ready to leave. We have 177 miles to go to our next port which only requires a speed of around 13 knots. We were schedule to leave at 6pm. By 6pm we had backed out, turned around, and we were moving forward toward our next port. Of course during the short time we were backing up my rear facing balcony became a forward facing balcony.
Now, while I wait for the sun to set (we are currently moving directly away from the sun, so I guess we are headed east toward Antigua) I am bringing my spreadsheet up to date, so that I'll have all the information I need for the custom's form in a little over one week. Plus it is a good way to keep track of how much I am spending and make sure my onboard account is correct. Unfortunately the sun set behind an island. But I brought my spreadsheet up to date.
I only brought enough clothing for ten days. I bought some shirts (both on land and onboard) but other things need to be cleaned. Got my wash & fold bag today and filled with most of my dirty laundry. As long as in comes back in less than three days I'll be good for the rest of the trip. And I get a slight discount from the coupon book.
I guess I was more tired than I thought. After dinner I returned to the cabin, turned on the computer, got distracted and went to sleep. Dinner was good as usual and I slept well.
March 3, 2012 -- Antigua
Well, I'm up in time to see us approaching Antigua. No good sunrise photos, but there is a beautiful rainbow behind the ship. I'm ready to take a picture just as some lady walking by sees the rainbow. She stops right in front of me, with my camera in hand, and says do you see that? Yes. She is smiling and I'm not. She seems puzzled. So, if you are that lady and wondering why I was not smiling -- it is because you are blocking my shot!
Just as we dock the captain gets on the PA system and announces what a beautiful day we are in for. Five minutes later it starts to sprinkle. As is typical for the tropics, it lasts only a few minutes and the rest of the day was very nice indeed.
After lots of pictures I head to the Windjammer for breakfast. There is no one in the omelet line but I've had plenty of eggs, so I opt for French toast and waffles. There is a lady in front of me trying to get some French toast. However, she keeps pulling her had away as though the French toast is going to bite her. Finally she makes some mention of the heat lamps.
I don't say anything, mostly because I don't want to be rude, but also because this is entertaining. She kept reaching for the French toast that is in the back of the pan. Finally she is fast enough to get her French toast is now it is my turn. I go for the French toast that is in the front of the pan. My hand never gets under the heat lamp. I get my French toast in only one try. I must confess, I sometimes wonder how some of these people manage to earn enough to afford to cruise. Same with flying, is there anyone who can afford to fly that does not understand how to operate a seat belt?
Well, the little bit of rain we had does manage to get most things wet. However, as half my balcony is covered, I am able to enjoy my breakfast on the balcony.
So now it is time to get ready for my stingray excursion. I was here in 2008 and did this same tour. It is almost as good as Stingray City in Grand Cayman plus they provide more food than the tour operators in Stingray City do. And now my run of little things going wrong pops up again. I have two water wallets. A small one for the ship, when all I need is my room key (I use it to keep the receipts dry -- the room key can get wet with no problems) and a bigger water wallet for off the ship, when I have to carry my room key, photo ID, credit cards and money. Well, the bigger water wallet did not survive the trip. The hinge is broken. Why do they have to make these plastic things out of plastic?
I know the store on the ship is closed, but considering how long we are going to be in Antigua, I am wondering if it will open tonight as I'll need a water wallet for tomorrow. Sure enough the store is closed all day today and tomorrow (we are in St. Maarten until after midnight also). Okay, I'll make due with the small water wallet today and go into town after the tour to get a water wallet.
I notice that there are about ten or so small kids on the tour. I've been to Stingray City three times and this one once before. The name and the strange shape along with the warning about the tail don't sit well with small children. Even my then nine year old nephew was not willing to get in the water with the stingrays in 2007 in Stingray City, even though his mother was having a great time. Well, the same thing happened here. It didn't matter if Mom or Dad was holding them, one look at those funny shaped things with the long tail swimming in the water and the last place any of those kids wanted to be was in the water, and they were not shy about making that clearly understood. Meanwhile all the adults thought this was great, as did I.
Back to the ship and I shower off the saltwater and change into some clothing for shopping. Everywhere I look I see water wallets for sale, except in Antigua. Finally I find one and it does not seem well constructed. I even find one that is broken. However, my options are limited, so I buy the best looking one I can find.
This shopping trip did produce one good thing, I found an Internet Cafe offering free Wi-Fi. Well, actually it is a bar and while the Wi-Fi is free, you have to buy a drink ($3.50 for a can of Coke). Since I have been unable to remotely connect on the ship, and since I cannot upload pictures from the ship's computers, this turns out to be a really great deal. Fortunately I have two batteries, one of which is almost double the capacity of the standard battery. I'm able to do everything I wanted at the Internet Bar.
Back to the ship for dinner, which I finish really early, giving me time to go back outside and take night time photographs of the ship, which I cannot upload to the Internet because the bar is closed and I still cannot remotely connect via the ship's Internet. However, upon my return to the cabin I see my laundry has been returned. 24 hour service - can't complain about that.
The magician is supposed to be something else, so I decide to catch the 9:45pm show. He is good, but magic is magic. Sawing a woman in half is sawing a woman in half, using a sword instead of a saw doesn't really change anything. He only did about half a dozen routines because he spent a lot of time telling us what great people we are. Was he good? Yes, but as I said, magic is magic. Are you more impressed that a colorful bird can fly versus an all black bird? Once you have seen a bird fly, you've seen a bird fly. It doesn't matter that is comes in a different looking package, even if the colorful bird is more impressive.
So now its 11pm and I've either been in the sun a lot or I'm really embarrassed when looking at myself in the mirror. So I'm off to bed. See you tomorrow.
March 4, 2012 -- St. Maarten
We are headed west toward St. Maarten and since I have an aft facing balcony, I can catch the sunrise from my balcony. Its 6am and sunrise is supposed to be around 6:30am. However, someone forgot to tell the sun. No matter, there are clouds on the horizon and that pretty much ruins the sunrise anyway. So I throw on some clothing and head over to the ship's Internet Cafe (I still cannot remotely connect) and update what I can. Then up to deck ten to get pictures of us approaching St. Maarten. I spoke to someone else who is also having trouble remotely connecting to the Internet. Then I grab breakfast (no cheap entertainment this morning) and then go back to the cabin to eat breakfast on my balcony, upload my pictures, back everything up and work on this.
What is it with St. Maarten, Orient Beach and rain? Another rain storm on a day that I want to go to Orient Beach? At least I can finish breakfast on my balcony. Then the captain comes on the PA system and says it will be windy, there may be a few more sprinkles but it should be a nice day. My plan is to head over to Orient Beach around noon and return around 5:00pm (the time we were originally scheduled to leave. That will leave me six hours to make it back to the ship (three hours if I want dinner).
But first I'll head into the port to see if I can get what I want in one of the local stores. Also, it will give my room steward time to clean the room (if I get the card in the slot with the right side up). And if I find an Internet Cafe great. Otherwise I'll just continue to swear at the ship's Internet and kiss my cable modem when I get home.
I did find an Internet Cafe and was able to upload a few pictures and update the Internet. Then back to the cabin to change into my bathing suit, and then it is off to Orient Beach. It doesn't look like rain.
But first there is a cruise ship coming in. I can tell from the yellow funnel that it is a Costa ship -- the Costa Luminosa. I get several pictures, and then I head over to the taxi stand. It is $18 for one person to go to Orient Beach. It is also $18 for two ($9.00 each). It is just me, and I'm ready to pay the $18 when five or six Italians show up also wanting to go to Orients Beach. Wow, my fare just went from $18 to $6. I'll have to send a thank you note to Costa.
The taxi dropped us off between the clothing optional beach and the top optional beach. For anyone interested, there aren't any twenty somethings running around nude. On the other side I noticed about half the people where topless.
Orient Beach was nothing like I expected. Perhaps because of all the wind it was not showing its true beauty. The waves churned up the sand. I found some friendly fish, but the more pictures I took the harder it is to see the fish because of the sand. To kill some time I rented a Wave Runner for half an hour ($60). It was only my third time on a Wave Runner I just went up and down and got a feel for riding a Wave Runner. However, soon I got in between the wrong yellow buoys. I was about a quarter mile from where I should have been. Well, I didn't hit anyone or anything, so no harm no foul. Originally I planned to go back around 5:30pm. However, I decided to join the Italians and go back at 3:30pm (which again cut my fare from $18 to $6).
Before heading back to the cabin for a freshwater shower I stopped at the Internet Cafe and asked how long they would be open. I was told they would be open until 5pm. So I came back at 4:30pm with computer in hand and they were closed and all locked up. Okay, back to the ship to see if I can connect to the Internet via the ship's Internet service. Negative. So I went to Guest Relations to see if they could help. They confirmed all my setting were set correctly and suggested I try again later or I could try to use the computers on deck eight. Yes, the computers on deck eight work, but I can't upload pictures from the ship's computers. So I decide to drown my sorrows in a chocolate milkshake at the Ben & Jerry's on the ship.
Back at the cabin I get a call that my tour on San Juan has been canceled do to lack of participation. So there is another $96 credit to my onboard account (it was the only tour I was interested in).
Now I can see that the Costa ship is getting ready to leave, so I grab my camera and head to deck ten. I get some good pictures of the ship leaving and then head back to cabin to work on this. My timing is pretty good, as dinner is in twenty minutes. Nothing exciting in the Orpheum Theater tonight, some musical comedy, perhaps Rosanne Barr will sing the national anthem again, that was pretty funny, all though I'm not sure you could call that music.
After dinner I'll probably come back to the cabin and either rest, play my favorite computer game, sit out on the balcony, get on the Internet for a few minutes, watch something on TV or fall asleep. Of course it is possible I'll do more than one of those things.
March 5, 2012 -- St. Thomas
Well, last night I did spend a few minutes on the Internet. I also channel surfed the TV. But mostly I just feel asleep. I guess I'm doing the early to bed early to rise routine, 'cause I woke up at 4am. Given the four hour time difference from home, that is about the time I would be going to sleep.
At any rate I turn on the TV to see where we are. We are 35 miles from St. Thomas doing just under 18 knots. At this rate we are going to be really early. I go back to sleep and wake up at 6am. Now we are three miles from St. Thomas and just now slowing down. We are going to be early. For the past three ports we have been right on time. This time we are going to be way early. In fact we are cleared to go ashore before 7:30am (we were scheduled to arrive at 8am).
As we are coming in off in the distance I see another ship and soon a third ship. We are first into port (if you don't count the two dozen yachts that are here -- must be some sort of a boat show). The Carnival Victory docks behind us and the Adventure of the Seas docks behind the Carnival Victory. The Enchantment of the Seas and the Carnival Victory are both facing forward. So the Adventure of the Seas has to be different and backs in.
Just as we reach the dock it starts to rain. So I head back down to my cabin where I can get pictures of the Carnival Victory and the Adventure of the Seas coming into port. And just over the hill I can see the top of another cruise ship. That of course would have to be a Princess ship, as Princess does not dock in the same place as everyone else. Of course with only the top ten feet of the ship visible I cannot tell which Princess ship is in port. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that there are more than 10,000 visitors here today. The rain has stopped, so it should be a nice day, if a bit crowded.
My sightseeing tour leaves at 9:15am, about 45 minutes from now. So I'm going to get ready and I'll be back at you later.
The sightseeing tour was great. At our first stop we could see St. John and Tortola. I got some pictures and a bottle of cold water. At our next stop we had a great view of the Harbor. I got some great pictures and a bottle of cold water. Our third stop was the top of Crown Mountain, the tallest point on St. Thomas. There I got some good pictures of Magens Bay and a cold banana daiquiri. Then we stopped in town for those that wanted to go shopping and then back to the ship.
There is an Internet Cafe in the port area, so I went there next. 45 minutes cost me six dollars. This is about one fourth of what it would cost me on the ship and the connection was faster. On a side note, after two days of no remote access the ship's Wi-Fi is finally working again.
I return to the ship, put my computer in the cabin and go back out to do some shopping. I pick up a couple of bottles of two different alcoholic drinks, a shot glass for my friend and a couple of small items for me, then back to the ship. Of course I have to turn the two bottles in, but the person to turn them in to just walked away. I stand there like an idiot until an elevator becomes available and head up to the cabin. I'm not planning to drink in my cabin anyway. But really, how can you enforce a rule when the person responsible for enforcing the rule is AWOL?
At any rate it is mid afternoon and I am in danger of melting. So I hop into my bathing suit and head for the pool. I see the Adventure Ocean kids are sitting in the shade eating ice cream. I wonder how many arms the counselors had to twist to get the kids to agree to that activity?
After cooling down in the pool it is back to the cabin to change into my casual formal wear (it is formal night). It's just like my formal wear except I've got a Caribbean shirt on instead of a white dress shirt and tie.
As I'm working on this I notice the Carnival Victory is getting ready to leave and it is raining again. It raining when the Carnival Victory arrived, it rained when the Carnival Victory left and those are the only two times it rained today. Seems to me someone or something is trying to send the Carnival Victory a message.
The captain has just announced that all passengers and crew are aboard, so as soon as he finds the key we will be going. I see that the pilot boat has just returned from the Carnival Victory, so we should be going soon. It is a quarter to six and we are schedule to leave at 6pm. According to the captain, a speed of eight knots should get us into San Juan at 7:00am tomorrow.
The Adventure of the Seas leaves just before we do, and I do mean just before. Since the Adventure of the Seas backed in, all it has to do is move out into the channel and head out to sea. Meanwhile we are backing until we are clear of the pier and the captain can spin the ship. Then we two head out to sea.
Tonight is our second formal night and I'm going casual formal. First I find a couple of photographers for some portraits and then I head to dinner. I order two shrimp cocktails and one steak. I should have ordered two steaks. It was good, though a bit small.
Then it is back to the cabin where I get quite a scare. There is an alien wearing 3D glasses sitting on my couch watching my TV (the glasses are not mine; I don't know where the glasses came from).
Well, there is nothing terribly interesting going on, so I get up to date on everything (this, the accounting and my photographs). It is a good thing I upgraded my backup flash drives to 16GB, because I now have over 1700 photographs taking up over 8GB of space.
March 6, 2012 -- San Juan
We are early into San Juan -- too early. We pass the fort and it is too dark for any good pictures. Soon we make the turn toward the docks in Old San Juan and it looks like the Captain is going to back in. Great, my cabin will be overlooking the city and it will be facing north, so it will not heat up. But no, we just sit a while and then head in. Later the captain makes an announcement and explains that he was just waiting for the wind to die down before docking.
My tour was canceled do to lack of participation (what, I wasn't good enough?). I looked at the other offerings but none interest me. I did the city tour last time I was here. So I'll just walk around and see how much trouble I can get into. Perhaps I'll find an Internet Cafe and have a little fun.
All I did was take a few pictures and buy a few souvenirs. Someone else from this cruise went to Starbucks and posted that the Internet at Starbucks was slower than the ship. I returned to the ship in time to see the HAL Eurodam arrive. After lunch all the sun, heat and humidity over the last five days gotten to me and I took a nice long nap.
However, I was up in time to get some picture as we left San Juan. Next stop Baltimore. We are doing 19.2 knots uphill (look at a globe) and based on the information from the Travel channel, we only need to average 16.25 knots. The captain says that we will pick up the pilot at 8:30pm on Friday. We are scheduled to dock at 7am on Saturday.
Soon it is time for dinner and my waiter is taking good care of me. I order one shrimp appetizer and he brings two. I order one chicken dinner and he brings me a second one from off the menu (he wanted me to try it). For dessert I cannot decide between two desserts, so I order both.
Turns out I missed one important item in the captain's announcement. Apparently the show times were changed. I showed up for the production show at the published time of 10:30 and discovered that the movie War Horse was playing. Apparently my show time had been moved up to 6:30pm. Disappointed I returned to my cabin for some much needed rest. Then I have to get up at 3am so set my clocks back one hour. Why can't we have the time change at a more reasonable time?
March 7, 2012 -- Day at Sea
I am up in time for sunrise, but once again the horizon is covered by clouds. Sunrise was a big bust. I couldn't decide what I wanted for breakfast, so I finally settled for pancake sandwiches. They are just like regular sandwiches except instead of bread I used pancakes. I had cheese, ham, bacon, salami and of course pancakes.
I was planning to have breakfast on my balcony, but that idea literally went flying out the door. Just as I stepped outside I watched as two salami flying saucers took off. I went back inside, replaced my airborne cold cuts and ate inside the Windjammer. The one good thing about the forward Windjammer location, it has great views over the bow while eating.
After breakfast it is time for a shower and since I am running out of clothing, I break into the laundry bag that came back from the cleaners a few days ago and put away my now nice clean fresh clothing. Assuming that we don't hit an iceberg, I should be good until I get home.
After updating my onboard accounting spreadsheet I decide to celebrate the $396 OBC I got by attempting to upload some more pictures to the Internet. Apparently even these one third sized pictures (I have to keep the pictures small so that they will upload in a reasonable amount of time) are being well received by those that read my posts.
There is an announcement that they are going to stage a crew only fire drill. A few minutes later we hear Bravo, Bravo, Bravo (the code for fire). The announcement includes a zone number and it is repeated that this is a drill for the crew only. Personally I think that if they want to make it realistic, they should have the passengers run around yelling and screaming (in other words, acting normally).
After that I head out of the cabin to give the room steward time to clean. Apparently he is not part of the fire drill. First I head to the Internet Cafe to actually post the pictures (I only uploaded the photos from my computer, I did not post them). Then to the store to see if there is anything new (there is not).
Then I decide to search for one of the passengers. I first saw him at embarkation. He was greeting all the shore side staff, so I assumed he worked for Royal Caribbean. However, as I saw him walk around the ship I realized that he was one of the passengers. Nonetheless, he knows everyone. Finally I overheard one of the crew members ask him how his birthday party was. He said what a great time he had and that the captain was there. At the past guest reception it was announced that they were recognizing an Elite couple who had the second most points on this cruise. Why the couple with the second most points? As a side note, apparently out of the millions of C&A members, only about 140 have made it to the Elite level.
At any rate I began to put together the puzzle pieces. This might be a very famous passenger that I have heard about. So I decided to hunt him down. I found him by the pool, saying hello to one of the crew members. I asked him if he was a famous passenger that I had heard about and he replied, "Guilty as charged". His name is Jack, he is from Canada, this is his 152nd cruise, he cruises once per month, so he has been cruising for about thirteen years (as have I, but I am only averaging 1.5 cruises per year) and he knows all the crew members and Captains on all the ships. We talked briefly. It was nice meeting him.
I went back to my cabin, but the room steward was still working in the cabin, so I walked around deck five (the promenade deck) a bit, then headed up to the Viking Crown Lounge to enjoy the view for a while. While up there I suddenly noticed that EVERYONE was getting up from their pool side lounge chairs. There is only one thing that could make everyone leave their poolside lounge chairs at the same time -- it's raining.
So I head back to the cabin to update this. Last time I checked we had four to eight foot seas. Right now they are showing that stupid forward view cam which is showing lots of water drops, so I can't get the current information which is far more interesting than watching water drops slide down a glass window. At any rate the ship is rolling enough that it is hard to walk straight, except for the drunks, they are having no trouble walking straight (HA HA). I was really challenged this morning as I was walking in the hallway and one of the crew was bringing a tray full of food to one of the cabins. That was someone I definitely did not want to accidentally bump into.
Well, the captain just made his noon time announcement. The closest land is about 3.4 miles away; however it is covered by 18,071 feet of water. The closest dry land is Grand Turk, about 195 miles away. We are 377 miles from San Juan and 1004 miles from Baltimore. We need to average 15.3 knots to be on time to pick up the pilot. We are currently going about 19 knots in an effort to put this wind behind us. Our starboard is being hit by thirteen foot waves which are expected to increase to eighteen feet by tonight. The air temperature is 77 degrees and the sea temperature is 81 degrees, which is the same as the pool temperature (which is being hit by my estimate of twelve to fifteen inch waves).
Things are starting to really rock and roll. A drawer opened all by itself. I had to lock my sliding door to keep it from opening. Every once in a while we get hit by a really big wave and the entire ship shakes.
So I decide the best thing to do is take some ginger, lie down and watch the Green Lantern on TV. Having seen it for free on the TV I am glad I didn't pay good money to see it in the movie theater.
The captain made another announcement at 6pm. There are 40 MPH winds coming from the east. Current sea conditions are twelve to fifteen foot waves reaching fifteen to eighteen feet at night. We can expect rough seas until around noon tomorrow.
I've been taking ginger and knew the dangers of working on the computer while the room is moving. Motion sickness is caused by a conflict between the ears and eyes. While I am inside my eyes do not detect motion while my ears do. Looking at a computer screen on a rolling ship is like trying to read in a car. And sure enough, for the first time in nineteen cruises I got seasick. It was mild; I took some ginger, laid down and rested until dinner. At dinner I went heavy on the bread, two main courses of noodles and steak and no appetizer or dessert. After dinner I went back to my cabin and watched a little TV and then went to sleep.
March 8, 2012 -- Day at Sea
Good morning. I don't see any fish swimming past my bed, so I assume we survived. Last night was not as bad as I expected. This morning's sunrise would have been perfect if the clouds were not on the horizon. The cloud cover overhead was perfect for a picture perfect sunrise. On some cruises I get great sunrise pictures and some, like this one, I don't.
I'm going to take it easy this morning, as this afternoon I have been invited to two C&A events plus the Captain's Corner is this afternoon, right after one of the C&A events (which means I should be able to get a prime seat).
Hopefully today I'll be able to edit this and start picking out the pictures to include with my review once I get home and publish it. However, I have to be careful or I'll get seasick again (and yes, I have already taken some ginger).
On the way back to the cabin from breakfast I saw Jack. I told him the bad weather was his fault, as the weather had been good until he told me how great it was. Five minutes later it started raining and the wind picked up. We had a good laugh after that.
I then went back to the cabin, grabbed my computer and went to the Internet Cafe to pick out pictures to post and give my cabin steward time to do his thing. At 9:30am I went up to the pool deck to check out the shirt sale. The two dozen people around the table were not as intimidating as the three dozen people in line to pay. I don't mine a few accidental elbows to the ribs, but I'm not standing in line for half an hour afterwards.
So I sit down at one of the tables by the pool, in the shade and work on this. Yes, the sky has cleared up, the wind has died down, and it is looking like it is going to be a nice day.
I've returned to my cabin as it is hard to see the screen in the bright daylight. I finished picking out over half the pictures I'll be posting when the captain made his noontime announcement. We have sailed 782 nautical miles from San Juan and we have 599 nautical miles to go to reach Baltimore. We have to average 13.9 knots to be on time. The reason for the slow speed is that he was going faster then needed yesterday to put the strong winds behind us. We are experiencing eight to ten foot seas now and he expects that to drop to five to eight feet tonight. There is over three miles of water below the ship.
Currently the weather is great and on my way to lunch I noticed the pool deck and the pool were full. In a few minutes I get to meet the stars (a Q&A with the singers and dancers of the production shows which is a special C&A event). Then after that is the Captain's Corner. So, I'll see you later.
I just got back from the Captain's Corner. I asked the captain if there is an estimate as to when the engine would be repaired. He explained there are four engines turning generators which create the electricity that the ship runs on. Those four engines are working fine. However, the port side propulsion engine is only able to develop 70% of its maximum torque. As a result the ship cannot reach full speed. Thus, when traveling as fast as it can (under current conditions) some people will see a difference in the size of the wake from each propeller. There is an estimate as to when the repairs will be made, but it is not official yet, so he would not tell us what the estimate is. I also asked the hotel director if someone misses the ship, would they go into the safe to get the passport to leave with Royal Caribbean's port representative. He said no, there is too much liability if they did that.
There were a couple of strange questions. One was from a lady asking why the beds were made up all the time??? That is what the room stewards are supposed to do. She goes on to explain her question. For a moment there I thought she was going to say she got out of bed to go to the bathroom and when she got back the bed was made. But no, her complaint was that the bed was not turned down at night.
Another complaint came from a gentleman who was unhappy that his brand of sugar (the one that comes in the yellow colored packet) was often missing from his sugar bowl, so he (I hope you are sitting down for this) had to ask for it (OMG!). However, he turned this rather simple question into the most complicated question I have ever heard. In fact at one point the hotel director had to ask him what was the question? This must have been a two minute exercise. From my point of view, asking the waiter or waitress or his or her assistant for the sugar should take less than ten seconds, meaning he spend more time complaining about the issue than it should have taken to ask for the yellow packet twelve times.
Really, how do some of these people survive at home? Pulling the sheets down so you can get into bed and having to asks for your favorite sugar are such big problems that you have to voice your concern in front of 500 -- 600 people?
The show stopper came with the question about the lack of chocolates on the pillows at night. Apparently the company saved $1,000,000 by cutting out the mints and the hotel director pointed out that people sleeping on the chocolates were ruining the pillow cases. That is when the cruise director chimed in and said, "That wasn't chocolate." I wish I had a picture of the face the captain made upon hearing that.
After the Q&A I spoke to the cruise director regarding the missed production show because of the schedule change. He said the printer made a mistake and that there were several announcements about the schedule change. Okay, but I didn't hear any of them. No matter, it didn't ruin the cruise.
After the Captain's Corner I returned to the cabin to work on this and to pick out the pictures for posting with my review. Tonight is our third formal night, and I have a special guest party to attend prior to dinner, so it is time to get ready for tonight.
At the "Top Tier" event (platinum and above) the hotel director gave a brief talk about the history of Royal Caribbean International (RCI). RCI controls about 25% of the cruise market. While no names were mentioned, there is a bigger cruise line that controls 50% of the cruise market. Tomorrow at 2pm the cruise director will give a more detailed history of RCI. It should be interesting, so I plan to attend.
There are about 2,200 passengers on this cruise, few of which are children. The last cruise had over 500 children, as will the next cruise. Three of the passengers are Elite, about 50 are Diamond Plus, 200 are Diamond, 80 are Emerald and 300 are Platinum.
The loyalty ambassador made a big deal over the raffle we had for a bottle of Champaign. So after the event I suggested that she should have raffled off the ice sculpture also. She didn't get the joke. Oh well, I've had jokes flop before. That is why I'm not giving up my day job.
I had a light dinner, one appetizer, one main course and one dessert. I gave my WOW card to my waiter. My thinking went like this. My room steward it great, but basically is just doing his job. Maryna went above and beyond, but I only spoke to her twice. My waiter is not only doing a great job, but is going above and beyond, so I gave him the WOW card. He was very appreciative. I'll give my room steward an extra tip and write a letter to Royal Caribbean to let them know how great the others and the rest of the crew were.
After dinner I found a picture that was taken of me on the pool deck. The main reason I wanted it was because I was wearing my favorite cruise shirt. It shows a picture of a deer in a forest. Most of the trees have arrows in them. It says vegetarian, an Indian word meaning lousy hunter.
Then back to the cabin to finish picking out the pictures for posting. Tomorrow I'll prepare the pictures for posting (cropping where needed and reducing the picture size from sixteen million pixels down to about eight hundred thousand pixels (a typical monitor can only display about two million pixels).
So until tomorrow -- good night.
March 9, 2012 -- Day at Sea
Once again sunrise was a bust. The horizon was blanketed with clouds while there were almost no clouds overhead. So, I update this and then get ready for breakfast. After breakfast I'll return to the cabin to work on my pictures and charge the computer's battery. Then I'll leave the cabin with my computer to continue editing the pictures so that the cabin steward can do his job in peace. After that we will see where my whim takes me.
Wow, how fortunes change. At 6am I was looking at a clear sky while waiting for the sun to rise. It is now 9am and there is no sky in the clouds. It is raining pretty hard, hard enough in fact that no matter which direction I look, all I see is water and clouds.
Currently the captain and the hotel manager are having a cake decorating contest. The hotel manager is doing much better than the captain, yet for some reason the captain is getting more votes. There is quite a crowd and all seem to be having fun watching. This is all going on in the Centrum. I'm in the Internet Cafe which is on deck eight just off the Centrum editing my pictures.
I stop by the store again. The shirts that were not sold yesterday are on sale for the same price today, without the crowd. I find two that I want.
After the captain's noon announcement there is an International Parade of Flags. Each country that has a crew member on board has its flag represented.
After that I grab lunch. Soon it is time for the multimedia presentation of Royal Caribbean the early years (from 1968 to 1998). Basically it covers the formation of Royal Caribbean through the building the six Vision class ships (it ends prior to the building of the Voyager class ships). It is actually quite interesting.
After that unfortunately I have to return to the cabin and pack and fill out the customs form. This is where the spreadsheet comes in handy. It makes filling out the customs form a lot easier. Next I organize things. I'll finish packing after dinner. Packing to go home is a lot easier than packing to go on vacation. All I have to do is take everything and throw it in the suit cases. When I'm packing at home I use a check list to make sure I don't forget anything.
At 6pm I went to the photo shop to pick up my Cruise in Review DVD. I note there is a sunset with color, so I rush back to the cabin, drop off the DVD and grab my camera.
I got some half decent pictures. I'm sure that if I was twenty minutes earlier there would have been more color. At any rate while I was outside I noticed two things. One, we are no longer in the tropics. It is less than 54 degrees outside (about twenty degrees cooler than the last ten days). The second thing was that a Coast Guard helicopter flew over us. My first though was, what is a helicopter doing all the way out here? Then I remembered that the captain mentioned in his noon time announcement that we were 32 miles from Cape Hatteras, so I guess we are well within the range of a helicopter. We are supposed to pick up the pilot today at 8:30pm (I do not mean the pilot of the helicopter).
Soon it is time for dinner. I order one shrimp cocktail and one steak. My waiter recommends two shrimp cocktails. Good idea, so I order two. When the steak comes not only is it a good size, it is the second best steak I've had this cruise (the one in Chops was the best). So when my waiter asks if I want anything else, I order another steak. It was just as big (probably about ten ounces) and just as good. There is Key Lime pie for dessert. I ask what color it is. My waiters says it is white. I tell him if it is green it is fake (not really Key Lime) and if it is yellow it is real Key Lime. He thinks it is yellow. I decide to take a chance and order the Key Lime pie. It was yellow. My waiter also brought a second desert for me. I don't know what it was, but after one taste I decided it was too sweet for me.
So, back to the cabin, update this and edit more pictures. Then, since I have to get up early tomorrow (to find a good hiding place where they will not find me until after 4pm) it is good night folks.
March 10, 2012 -- Debarkation
I wake up very early and while lying in bed suddenly notice that the cabin is lit up by something resembling a headlight. After realizing where I am I decide to check it out. It is just a very bright stationary light on a bridge. I check out the travel channel, do the math and quickly figure out that we are going to be early.
When I wake up again I decide to get up and look out the window to see what is up. My first thought is that the ship passed very close to a buoy. However, I know we are moving and that buoy is not getting further away. I soon figure out there is a boat following us. I decide to get out my camera, go outside and take a picture. It is a tug boat.
Eventually I notice an orange glow toward the east. It is looking like a great sunrise except for one very important missing item, there are no clouds overhead.
We are scheduled to arrive at 7am. At 7am the captain makes the announcement that disembarkation will begin soon for those doing self disembark. So we are docked in Baltimore. The TV says the air temperature is 54 degrees; however the captain says it is 34 degrees. I believe the captain. I can handle 54 degrees with no problem and it feels cold even to me. Otherwise it is going to be a beautiful day (perhaps for those getting ready to sail -- not for those going home).
Unfortunately for me, I have about a ten hour wait until my flight leaves. Oh well, better safe than sorry, and besides, I don't have to go to work tomorrow (Sunday) so I don't really care how late I get home.
So now it is time to reflect back on a great cruise. Having spent most of my time on newer ships, I can tell this is an older ship. I am not referring to the condition it is in, it looks fine. But rather from a technical side, the TVs are not interactive, some of the public spaces are smaller than on the newer bigger ships, most of the rooms have the older and smaller CRT TVs (I'm in a JS and it does have a bigger LCD TV) and other little issues that don't really subtract from the cruise, but rather catch me by surprise compared to what I am use to.
The crew on the other hand had to be the most helpful crew I have ever had the pleasure to sail with. Any problem I had was solved by the person I spoke to. As I said, my room steward, waiter and head waiter were great. And even the people at guest relations were fantastic. I just cannot say enough good things about how helpful the crew was.
The cruise itself was great. The only negative is the first and last day which can be a bit chilly. However, that didn't bother me; I chose this cruise because it was twelve nights. The regular itinerary would be something I might try again in the future. As to staying really late in Antigua and St. Maarten, it didn't work out as well as it could have. The problem is that most of the places around the port close down around 5pm. So if the ship only stayed until say 10pm that would work out just a well. Not having to rush back to the ship was a big plus, but we were unable to take full advantage of the late departure.
Cruising in February has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that while still hot in the Caribbean, it is not terribly hot like it is when the sun is directly overhead and beating down on you. The disadvantage is that until you get south of Georgia it can be a bit cool. Of course for those that want to avoid the cold all together all they have to do is cruise out of San Juan. It is warm to hot year round once you get that far south.
I was a bit concerned about hitting six (scheduled) and five (modified itinerary) ports in a row. But by not trying to do it all at each port I had the chance to do what I wanted and was able to enjoy myself.
Well it is 7:35am and the announcement for those that are self debarking has been made. Unfortunately it will soon be my turn. Until then I'm in my cabin editing pictures and updating this.
Well, it is 8:15am. My room steward came in to thank me and I thanked him. There was another announcement and I have a feeling they are running a little head of schedule. Fortunately I just finished editing all my pictures. So I just have to finish proofing reading this and I'll be all set for when I get home.
Well, I was wrong; they were running about fifteen minutes behind. Nonetheless, once they called my number I just kept walking. There was no line. All customs wanted to see was my declaration. A cab ride to the airport and now I've got a six hour wait until boarding. This is the main reason I bring my computer, to give me something to do for long layovers. In fact the ship will leave before I do. Of course had I booked the earlier flight the ship would have been late and I would have missed my flight.
I finally made it home at 11:30pm (PST) on Saturday, March 10, 2012. Of course since I had been running on Eastern Standard Time for the last three days (and an hour earlier for prior nine days) my body thought it was actually 2:30am on Sunday, March 11, 2012, which of course it wasn't, because we are moving our clocks ahead one hour at 2:00am on March 11, 2012. So not only am I dead tired, I loose another hour of sleep to boot.
Well, after three hours of sleep I am wide awake because I have been getting up at 6am on the ship for the last two weeks, and my body thinks it is now 6am. I am currently uploading my pictures so that I can post the photographs with my review. From home it takes me less time to upload six full sized photographs than it did to upload one photo from the ship, and those photographs were one third the size of the photographs I'll post with my review. And for those that are interested, I took over 2200 photographs during the two weeks.
The full album (I'll add more photographs as time permits) can be found at ...