February 28, 2015

2015 Cruise Day Eleven

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:37 am by msweet42

And that’s it. A few more hours of cruising and we will be in port. According to the map thing on Channel 40 we just went by Cornwall in The Bahamas. 

All the large luggage has been packed full and set out into the hallway to await transfer off the ship. Guest Services is busy adding up everyone’s final accounts and printing up the bills that will magically slide under our stateroom door during the night. 

Another sign that this is pretty much done is that the head of Food Services interrupted dinner to introduce all the heads of the various food departments followed by the Dance of the Waiters. 

Last cruise at this point we were trying to work out how much to tip our waiter and assistant waiter. That was not an issue today. While the service was adequate, there wasn’t anything about it that inspired a desire to tip above the amount they are already receiving as their portion of the $12 gratuity per person per day. That works out to $264 we’ve paid. That should cover it. I think it was in Day Five that I covered the waitstaff. That pretty much covers why we didn’t want to tip. 

We slept in again today and when hit up the Windjammer for one more excessive breakfast. Spent some time laying out on Deck 10. 

There are shops on the ship. They sell clothing, jewelry, watches and what-not at amazing prices. That’s not amazing as in good amazing. More like you’ve-got-to-be-kidding amazing. However, they do have sales where things are on offer for reasonable prices. They also have sales where they sell watches or necklaces for $20. How could you go wrong if your expectations are for a nice looking watch that keeps the approximate time and works for a year or so? 

We wandered down to see what they had on their last day sale. Diane found a name-brand watch with a real guarantee for a decent price. They needed to take a couple of links out of the band to fit it to her so they gave her the receipt and said to come back at 8:00 tonight to get it.

A couple of hours later when we were back up on a very windy Deck 10 I took something out of my bag and the wind caught the receipt. I took off after it to no avail. I went back to check my bag to see if maybe it was just a drink receipt that flew away. Nope. Got that. Don’t have the watch receipt.

I went down and looked around on Deck 9 by the pool to see if it stuck there. No luck. I told Diane I’d go down to the shop to see if they could print a duplicate from their records. She said she would sit on the bench by the pool and wait to see how that came out.

I had just gotten done explaining to the clerk what had happened and he was getting ready to pull up the sale when Diane walked in. With the receipt. She had gone to the bench to sit down. She noticed a piece of paper stuck under the leg of a nearby chair. She pulled it out and bingo. There is was. We got a good laugh out of that and, bonus, her watch was already completed. 

With that excitement behind us we decided that packing up our stuff wasn’t going to get done without us. In a fit of brilliance, we took notes on what we brought and didn’t use. Things like too many socks, too many shorts (only wore the black nylon ones) and definitely didn’t need the flannel pants. We finally got everything packed.

Rudy the attendant stopped by with the coconut rum I bought in Grenada. Liquor purchased at the various ports is collected when you come back to the ship. Got to protect that alcohol monopoly! A little while later he was back with the Kahlua and vodka confiscated back when we started the cruise. 

Time to dress for dinner. The suggested theme was white. Diane didn’t have anything white so she went for comfortable. She looked lovely, though. I had a white RCI shirt I’d gotten earlier today so I went with that. I checked in the shops to see if they had any white golf shirts or other collared shirts. They did. And they were only a mere $69 or $76. Pass. 

We had a nice final dinner with our dining crew. Don and Carol brought and shared another bottle of Zinfandel. We all commented on how much we had enjoyed each other’s company. We traded notes on future plans, coming cruises, things like that. Coincidentally, Don and Carol are doing back to back cruises on the Serenade next February and are leaving the ship the day we board her for our next cruise. 

We all skipped the traditional “Oh, we must stay in touch” thing that people do where they actually end up never staying in touch. I thought that was pretty grownup of us. 

Diane and I both had French Onion soup for our appetizer. She had salmon and I had a cheese rigatoni. No dessert for her. I had three. Something strawberry, something chocolate and key lime pie. In my defence I’d like to point out they were all very small desserts. 

After dinner we went to the theatre to listen to a comedian. He was occasionally funny but not heart-stoppingly so. Afterward Diane went to bed and I went to go write.

I was thinking today about an old guy I’d overheard when we were boarding the cruise. He showed up where the location where they had put the luggage for his floor. He said he was looking for his luggage and his wife. They asked him which one did he want to find?

Odd….

Tomorrow night we should be in our hotel in Hollywood, Florida. 

We shall see what we shall see…

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2015 Cruise Day Ten

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 3:36 am by msweet42

Today was our first of the final two complete sea days. Which meant we had a full day of absolutely nothing scheduled. Which felt good after the last two days of having to be up too early. Since we had nowhere to go and no time to be anywhere, I celebrated by eating a full breakfast. I really like the scrambled eggs at the Windjammer. I had that, bacon, baked beans, two fruit danish and coffee. Loved every bit of it. Oh, and there was orange juice, too. 

Diane worked on being in the sun. I did that for a while then moved to the shaded part of the pool deck to finish reading the novel I was working on. I’ve read three books so far and have started on books four and five. I’m reading one on the Kindle and the other on the iPad. Multitasking and all that. 

The Legend of the Seas is briskly on course to Port Lauderdale. The ride has gotten a bit more bumpy again with a more noticeable roll. We jokingly refer to the more noticeable bumps as potholes.

The rolling contributes to that phenomena where you are walking and as you go to place your foot down the floor moves to a different place. You get used to it. Just like I’ve gotten used to the swaying deck that moves my keyboard as I write.

Another observation. Why is it when you are in a hurry to go down the stairs, the Geritol Express is in front of you? So you swing wide to pass them and one decides to pass the other. Like semi-trucks running with speed limiters trying to pass each other, this takes a very long time. Your only option at this point is to slow down and appreciate the pattern in the carpet. Clipping one of the old birds at the knees is frowned upon, I’m pretty sure.

Speaking of irritants, Diane drew my attention to four kids playing in and around the pool. A quick review of the pool rules: no running, no diving, no spitting into the pool, and all urchins under the age of 16 must be under the direct supervision of a parent. There were four kids spending the entire afternoon studiously ignoring all of these rules. Just to keep it interesting they threw in lots of cannonball jumps. By late afternoon, most of the adults had pretty much enough of their act and had abandoned the pool to the wee little angels.

I have to say I appreciate the trust the parents of these kids had shown by allowing the rest of the passengers to babysit their kids. I’m just wondering how we all will split up the six dollars and hour they owe us all. 

By the way, under the heading of Karma’s a bitch, one of the little guys slipped and fell hurting his shoulder in the process. Since there were no adults near at hand to help the poor dear he had to go looking for Mom. 

Diane spoke with Guest Services about the situation. They profusely apologized and said the Pool Supervisor should have addressed the situation. Pool Supervisor? Neither one of us had ever seen a Pool Supervisor on this or on our previous cruise. Maybe they are the Unicorn of the crew, only sighted on rare occasions by virgins or something. 

As long as I’m grinching about things, let’s talk about $10.75 Black Russians. Any bar I go to during the day charges me $10.00 for a Black Russian. Now you know why I was trying to get the vodka and kahlua on board. Some of the bars and some of the bartenders, in response to the simple request for a Black Russian, produce one and proffer a bill for $10.75.

The first time this happened was the evening of Day Six. The bartender was one I had observed pouring a shot and a half for a passenger who had ordered a double scotch. So I thought this was just a peculiarity of hers, upping the price of my drink. I asked her how she’s arrived at this inflated price. She explained that Smirnoff was a premium vodka. Smirnoff? Really? I pointed out I’d not asked for a specific vodka. She offered to pour it out and make me a new one. I told her not to bother and made a mental note to avoid this particular bartender. 

It happened again tonight. Different bar, different bartender. Didn’t bother calling the bartender about it. But it got to bugging me that there was an inconsistency to the drink prices so I went down to Guest Services. I prefaced my comments by saying I wasn’t looking for a refund or anything and seventy-five cents was not a lot to quibble about but I think consistency in pricing would be a good thing. The GS lady looked at my account and saw the charges I was speaking about. She agreed with my basic premise and said she would speak with the bar manager. If the customer does not specify a “premium” ingredient the price should be the same. 

As I was writing this Sandy and her husband stopped by. They are a couple from Ottawa. We’ve gotten to know each other because we haunt the same smoking venues at the same time. They also sit at one of the three tables at dinner being serviced by our head waiter.

We compared notes on ways we felt various crew members had fallen short of our expectations. I’ll go into that list in a later post. Suffice it to say that we are having a different experience with the crew on this cruise than we had on our previous cruise. One of the things I’ll be looking for on our next cruise will be this. Which cruise, the excellent one on Grandeur or this less than stellar cruise on Legend, is the aberration? Will we see service closer to what we saw on Grandeur? This would lead me to believe that is the standard we should expect. If the Serenade service is like this one maybe we need to adjust our expectations regarding RCI.

More on all of this later. Tomorrow is a new day. 

We shall see what we shall see.

February 24, 2015

2015 Cruise Day Nine – Part 1 – Updated

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:38 pm by msweet42

I won’t have a chance to upload blogs until we get back to Florida on Friday.

Just wanted to say we got to our beach with no problem. It is exactly as promised. Happy Dance! I’m at Tony’s Water Sports and Bar right on the beach. Do stop by if you’re in the neighbourhood.

More later. 

Anyone who has ever been with us to the beach in Sea Isle City will appreciate this. We surveyed the available chairs and settled on a suitable pair.

They are down just at the high tide make. To the left of the lifeguards. We did not do the same thing we do at Sea Isle on purpose. It just worked out that way.

There was a lot more to this post. It got lost. So it goes.

We shall see what we shall see.

2015 Cruise Day Eight

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:35 pm by msweet42

Good Lord, 6:30 comes early when you’re trying hard to not be responsible. In spite of that we managed to get going and meet up with our group for our 4 x 4 Escape, There were eleven of us that climbed up into what was essentially a stretched version of an open topped Jeep. Shortly after leaving the port we were heading into the hills. Lots of hills. 

As was the case with the last couple of islands, St. Lucia drives on the “other” side. Since all the roads are winding and hilly, the locals are given to passing in places one would think were collisions waiting to happen. They’re used to it so we didn’t see any carnage. 

The guide did a great running commentary on the passing scenery. The harbours and resorts of St. Lucia have appeared in several movies and “The Bachelor” series of shows. Because we were crossing the island through the rural parts we missed all the glitzy places. I liked this because glitzy is pretty much the same where ever you go. I was more interested in where people actually lived and how they lived. We got more of a sense of that. At least, whatever you can get whizzing by on the roadway. 

Trivia bit. Cattle are put out to graze using long ropes, not fences, to keep them in place. Occasionally, cows being how they are, they chew through the rope and wander into the roadway. When there is a collision, the driver has the right to keep the cow carcass. If the cow’s owner can be determined, which is not often, the owner is liable for the damage. 

We arrived at La Tille Waterfall. Notice the singular. One waterfall. Getting from the jeep to the waterfall was an adventure in it’s own right. The path was a trail that switchbacked several times on the way down. The rustic handrails were a necessity. I was concerned for some of the older members of our group.

Having made it to the bottom of the gorge, the next thing (optional) was to crawl out on the rocks to the base of the waterfall and leap into the pool. We both did it. Something to tell our grandchildren about.

I went back and sat so the water was actually falling on me. Loved it. I amuse easily. 

When we were back up out of the gorge we were introduced to the man who owned the property. He’s been hand planting and tending a tremendous number of herbs for 30 or 40 years. One of the drivers took interested parties for a tour explaining the uses for each of the herbs and flowers. Sour Sup is one that is supposed to help ward off or cure cancer. 

Back into the Jeep for the trip back to the ship. Yesterday was their Independence celebration so most of the shops were closed. We found an open bar and after several attempts were able to set up a wifi connection to check in.

Before we found the bar, some local gents were suggesting we go to another place, either a bar or a beach, not quite sure. They weren’t really interested in taking no for an answer and one especially was getting a bit too loud, insistent, and in my face. I started to get a bit testy but Diane helped me understand going up to the bar we found was the best course of action. As we headed in that direction I noticed a security guard watching our would-be guides. Good luck to ’em. 

Back on the ship we rested and caught up on the sleep we’d lost in the morning. Dress for dinner was Smart Casual so we got sort of dressed up and met with our dinner partners. Deb and Dave reported catching the bar staff at the bar we visited trying to add something extra to their bill. I don’t think they did that to us. 

Diane ordered two shrimp cocktails as appetizers. She got one with three shrimp instead of the usual five. About the time she figured she was only getting that the other one appeared. She had coq au vin for her entree, I had a mozzarella salad and vichyssoise for appetizers and ravioli mare monte for the main course. No dessert for her and a warm low-fat french apple tart and crema catalana for my dessert. 

My usual haunt for reflecting on the day and writing this was disrupted by a Mardi Gras dance party happening on the pool deck. I was doing my best anyway when “Anita” happened. She was this woman who came out of a nearby hot tub to ask if I had a match for her cigarette. I gave her my lighter. She insisted I help create a wind break so she could get it lit.

She then launched into how this ship was garbage. All of them – garbage. Except the Oasis and Allure. Just garbage. And the service? Don’t let her started. Then she informed me she’d joined the ship in Barbados. For her girl. I’m not sure if she meant daughter or partner. More to the point, I didn’t care. Joining the ship was the worst mistake of her life. And they screwed up her cabin giving her an Ocean View Suite instead of an Ocean View Suite with a Balcony. And she’s having one of those installed (pointing at the hot tub) upstairs at her house because she can’t be bothered to go down to her pool. And she just had back surgery.

Really? 

I excused myself telling her I wanted to be with my wife and went over to where Diane was watching the Mardi Gras thing.

Diane went off to bed and I went back to my writing. The two ladies at the table next to me asked me if I knew anything about this lady that had left her stuff asking them to watch it for five minute – fifteen minutes ago. Somebody named Anita? We compared notes and worked out that we’d all had the same reaction to her. The ladies were worried Anita was going to be gone a long time and then claim the women had stolen something from her purse or something.

Ultimately, Security was called to come take possession of the items. Just before the Security guy showed up a busboy came and took away the empty drink glasses. Right after Security showed, Anita returned. With a new complaint. The busboy had taken her $15 bottle of water. Security asked her where she had paid $15 for water. She pointed to the nearby pool bar. RCI doesn’t have a $15 bottle of water. 

With Anita preoccupied explaining her version of reality to Security, the other two women and I made good our escape. I went down to Deck 4 to see about writing there. Too cold and windy. Went back to Deck 9. Whoops. Anita is still there. Finally located the Library on the ship.

All in all, just an odd day. 

Tomorrow is our last island, Antigua. What’s on tap? Something simple: “Relax and unwind at one of Antigua’s premier beaches, located just 10 minutes from the pier via air-conditioned taxi. Enjoy your 3-1/2 hour break at your pleasure and pace: sunbathe on your reserved chair, stroll the long stretch of white sand, swim in the azure waters, or take advantage of nearby water sports and other optional activities. Enjoy a complimentary drink of rum and fruit punches.

Highlights – Millers by the Sea at Fort James Beach: Enjoy 3-1/2 hours on a popular beach, famous for its length of white sands overlooking the sparkling sea. Beach Amenities: Relax on a reserved lounge chair at a bar/restaurant with easy access to optional water sports and activities. Relax and Enjoy: Savor the flavors of the Caribbean served with rum and fruit punches.”

That’s what it says. 

We shall see what we shall see.

2015 Cruise Day Seven

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm by msweet42

Barbados. Finally. I was really looking forward to this. Didn’t know it was almost going to kill us!

Woke up. Did the usual morning things. Watched it rain. Was happy the rain stopped before we needed to disembark. Did the backwards math and figured when we would need to be on the pier in order to make our excursion.

Took off to do a little shopping. Found a nice Barbados hat I’ll enjoy wearing as well as a t-shirt that matched my sense of humour. “When I die make me look like I was doing something cool in Barbados.” Diane was in the market for a larger beach bag and found one. 

Then we started looking for our tour. The ticket said to go on the pier. Through the terminal, On the pier. Or something like that. Not clear at all. We went back to the ship and worked our way back through the terminal until we found our group – with minutes to spare.

A short ride later we were at the beach. Chairs, umbrella, and rum punches provided. We dropped our stuff and headed out over “the white sands” to “cool off in the refreshing, crystal-clear waters.” Right. 

The sand part was okay. But it only extended some ten feet into the water and then there were rocks. Not little rocks like gravel, hard to walk on, not flat rocks, but big knobby rocks where you can get your foot caught and break your ankles. And did I mention the nice, big, strong waves?

I quickly found myself lying down in the water pulling myself forward looking for one of the wee patches of sand where you could stand. I looked back to see how Diane was doing. About the same. I called out to her and told her where the sand patches were and we finally met in the middle. We worked our way out a bit further to see if the rocks would eventually go away. They didn’t. We basically body-surfed our way back to shore muttering unkind things about whoever had decided this was a good place to be,.

I spotted a life guard and asked him what was the deal. He pointed out some yellow flags about 100 yards down the beach that marked where it was sandy all the way out. Ahh… 

 We settled back to work on our sun. It’s a bazillion below zero back home so we have to enjoy this while we’re here.

The Tiki Bar right near the beach had free wifi so I could check in on Facebook,

I met a waiter, nice guy, who brought me a special rum-based something. Really good. Had another. Way really good. Had a third. Yup. That’s it. Hold my hand and walk me back to the ship. For that moment, right then, I was done being responsible, It was all good, mon, no worries. 

Time to head back. Figured out I had left my shirt on the beach. Bought a replacement. Boarded and went to the pool deck to let it all wear off.

Once reality and I had become reacquainted, we went up to the Next Cruise office. When we were done there, we were booked on a ten night cruise leaving Fort Lauderdale February 26, 2016, cruising to Tortola BVI, St, Kitts, Martinique, Antigua, and St. Maarten. There are two outbound sea days and two return sea days. Got a good price, And now we have something to look forward to. 

My plan for the next cruise is not only to prepay the excursions, the hotels and the airfare but also the gratuities. RCI adds $12 per person per day for gratuities. This is divided up amongst all the people who make you time on board pleasant. If everything is prepaid we only need to pay for our drinks and whatever we find of interest in the ports. 

Dinner. We got a bottle of white zinfandel to share with the table. Appetizers for us were shrimp cocktail for her and clam chowder for me. Diane had the salmon. I had a pasta dish. Very good. She passed on dessert and I had warm chocolate cake ( a scoop of cake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and the chocolate sensation. Conversation with our table mates was, as always, fun and interesting. 

Tomorrow finds us in St. Lucia at the ungodly hour of 7:00 am. Our tour leaves at 8:30 so the alarm is set for 7. We are set to do a tour of the island including finding a waterfall, an herb garden and trying freshly roasted cashews.

The official description is: “Visit a gorgeous waterfall in the center of a St. Lucia rainforest on a scenic island drive in an open-top jeep. The route takes you through Castries onto backroads that deliver charming glimpses of rural village life on the island’s east coast. Inside the rainforest, stroll the flower and herb-filled gardens of La Tille Waterfall & Garden. Swim in the pool below. Sample hot cashews, freshly roasted over a fire, before your return to ship.” 

As always, we shall see what we shall see.

Day 6 Shortened

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:32 pm by msweet42

A leftover thought from last night. What demented person decided playing the theme music from “The Titanic” on a cruise ship was a good thing? That makes as much sense as whistling “Take this job and shove it” when meeting with your boss for your performance review.
.

I had a lot more written. It got lost.

February 22, 2015

2015 Cruise – Day Five

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:07 am by msweet42

If it’s Friday, this must be Bonaire. This is also the day we could sleep in. We reached port at 7:00 am. We didn’t know this because we slept in until 9:00 or so. Since there was no excursion that required our attention or anything, we did the best possible thing. Caught up on our sleep.

I got up first and went up to Deck 10 to take pictures. Somewhere it is written that you weren’t really there unless you have pictures. I have pictures of Bonaire.

Once Diane was up she raided the Windjammer for breakfast and I enjoyed a coffee. With that out of the way, we headed off the ship to see if we could find free wifi.

I was wrong about North Korea and Starbuck’s. They’re not the only ones. Bonaire doesn’t have a Starbuck’s either. Truth be told, there are a few things Bonaire doesn’t have. Sandy beaches are another thing. More about the great beach discovery later.

I asked around and heard there was free wifi “over there… just before the white building.. in the yellow one.” Bonaire has approximately 4,325 buildings. Twelve of them are not yellow. Thanks for the tip. We went over there, by the white building. Saw a sign that advertised, among other things including laundry service, free wifi. With an arrow pointing to some unseen place some indeterminate distance from the sign.

Right after that was the Bonaire Tourism Office. It was small. Everything in Bonaire was small. We went in and inquired about wifi. Success! It was available right there – for fifteen minutes. This was just fine. It gave me time to upload the blog posts, check in on Facebook, and answer a couple of quick messages from Sister Mary Ann and Daughter Dominique. If I were writing this for Cruise Critic, that would be DS Mary Ann and DD Dominique. A whole special code there.

Having accomplished our social media goals, we set out to explore a bit. A little bit. Seriously. Bonaire is a tiny island as far as cruise ports go. You can check out the whole shopping area in a brisk fifteen minute walk. We walked slower. We were killing time.

Just for the heck of it, we tried out an ATM. It asked if I wanted US dollars. I said yes. It said too bad. It didn’t want to process either my debit card or Visa. Fine. See if I care!

Diane found a nice dress for $15. These people didn’t mess around with the whole local currency prices converted to USD. Everything was priced in USD up front. Works for me. I snuck a peek in the cash register and all the change was US, too. Diane now has a great beach dress she can wear in Sea Isle City that will make people wonder where is Bonaire.

We actually found a wee tiny little beach tucked between the edge of the breakwater and a pier. Not really a sand beach but something you could walk on barefoot. We took turns taking pictures of each other standing in the water at the beach. It was too small for both of us. But it was a beach and we found it. Score one for the good guys.

There was a bar at the end of that pier with a great ocean view. We stopped by for a Coke and a Mudslide and spend a moment or two just enjoying being there.

The water in the port was the first crystal clear water I’ve seen. Bonaire’s main claim to fame is fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving in said clear water where you can chase multicoloured fish. We didn’t gear up but got to see some fascinating big blue fish foraging in the water by the dock. What can I say. We impress easily.

If you drag out your atlas or check Google Maps, it is a relatively long way from Bonaire to our next port, Grenada. Go ahead, check. I’ll wait here.

Anyway, because of the distance, we left Bonaire at 2:00 pm. As I write this, we are under way scheduled to be in Granada at 1:00 pm tomorrow.

Leaving Bonaire at 2:00 meant everyone was to be back on board by 1:30. Right. The last people I saw boarding arrived about 1:40 or so. No true Dock Runners but getting close. The boarding crew was yelling encouragement to the last few stragglers.

Diane and I finally got to see the process of releasing the lines in preparation for the ship’s departure. Clearly this has happened before. We just never were at the right place and time to see it done. Kind of cool if you like that sort of thing.

We took some sun in the afternoon. Do I detect a pattern here? Mid-afternoon, we were by the pool and participated in helping to score a Belly Flop competition. All in good fun. Besides the passengers around the pool, there were members of the ship’s crew helping with the judging. It was a lot of fun. Lots of water was splashed. Somebody won. And the Entertainment Director was thrown in the pool. What more could you ask for?

We retired to the Solarium for some quiet and a quick bite. Diane had a sandwich and cole slaw. I had a Cuban (a panini with ham, mozzarella, pickles and mustard) and some Waldorf salad. We encountered Deb and Dave, our dinner partners, and chatted with them for a while.

The thing about the Solarium is that it has a pool and hot tubs, it’s adults only so it’s very quiet but it’s enclosed so the temperature and humidity are quite high. We finally reached our limit heat-wise and moved on. I noticed several elderly passengers sound asleep scattered about the place. It crossed my mind to wonder if you died in the Solarium, how long would it take them to notice?

We prepared for dinner. I read Diane the first two blog posts while she was doing her hair. She seemed to enjoy them..

We had our full complement of diners tonight. The four couples come from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. This kind of thing either be a really good thing or can go really wrong. We are fortunate that all eight of us seem to genuinely like each other. Conversation is spirited and friendly. We just have a good time with each other.

Our Head Waiter is a woman from Romania name Claudia. Take all the stereotypes you might have about former Eastern Block women and throw them out. No, wait. Keep a lot of them. I swear she tries but she doesn’t come across as the friendliest or the most concerned person.

Case in point. Pepper shakers. One can reasonably assume that when you turn one over and shake it, pepper will come out. This does not happen for us. Our (and by Our, I mean all eight of us) experience with Royal crew members has always been when a problem is identified, it is either rectified immediately or a reasonable explanation is given. According to Claudia, the problem with the pepper shakers is the pepper is too big. End of discussion.

Seriously? I surreptitiously uncorked the bottom of one of the reluctant shakers so as to liberate the pepper so we could have some.

Her assistant waiter is Yang. This is Yang’s first cruise. He’s learning. He’s learning about being an assistant waiter and he’s learning English. This works about as well as you might guess. I give the kid credit, though. His learning curve is quick. He’s getting the hang of it. I feel sorry for him, too, a bit. Claudia is not drowning him in the milk of human kindness. But hey, if you’re an assistant waiter, you learn to deal with all kinds of people. Including less than kind Head Waiters.

Remember Yang on Grey’s Anatomy? Always quick, witty, insightful? Our Yang is not that. But he’s working his way up there.

Diane had shrimp cocktail for her appetizer and beef bourguignon with no dessert. I had a cream of cauliflower soup with buttermilk battered fried chicken. The chicken was okay, not spectacular. Diane noticed the sauce for her beef tasted remarkably like the pot roast broth we get from M&M. I had a passion fruit meringue and a chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Both were tasty.

And that was pretty much the day.

Oh, there was one heart-stopping moment. I was sorting our excursion tickets into the order of the remaining ports. I noticed that the receipt for the tickets said $XXX on Seapass. Wait a minute. I remember seeing the charge for the tickets go by on my Visa statement right after we booked them. All things being equal, I’d like to pay for them only once.

I took the receipts to Guest Services. They looked at them and agreed the way it was written it looked like I was going to be charged. They reviewed and even printed out our account and verified we were not, in fact, going to be charged again.

Nice…

And with that, we close the books on the first two ports. Four more to go starting with Grenada tomorrow afternoon. Here is the blurb for tomorrow’s adventure: “Hop aboard a colorful, uniquely decorated vehicle for a lively, commentated drive around St. George’s, the countryside and beach that emphasizes photo opportunities. Discover the capital’s mixed Anglo-French heritage as you ride past the historic marina, colonial-era churches and up to hilltop forts that deliver panoramic vistas. Venture into Grenada’s lush interior, visiting a leading distillery along the way. At the beach, enjoy free time to swim, stroll or just relax with a cool drink.”

History? Photo ops? Beach? Did someone say distillery? Hmmm… this could be fun.

We shall see what we shall see.

February 20, 2015

Day Three and Day Four

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:46 pm by msweet42

This is being written on Day Four of our Caribbean Cruise on the Royal Caribbean ship Legend of the Seas, What happened to Day Three you ask. Funny thing about that.

Day Three was our second outbound Sea Day. Overall, a pretty good day. Seriously, it wasn’t snowing and it didn’t take fifteen minutes to get ready to go outside. It was, however, really windy and the sea a bit more choppy all of which contributed to a ride that was a bit more bumpy with more swaying that I would have asked for.

We did our time in the sun. The good thing about lying in the sun is you present less of a target for the wind. From mid-afternoon on I felt what, about two degrees off. Queazy might be a good word except it was more of a vertigo thing.

As the afternoon passed into early evening I was hoping this would subside so I could make dinner. That didn’t work out so well. Just before dinner I found myself umm… meditating on the throne. Educating my fanny, as Brother Tim used to say. and this didn’t feel like it was a one time thing.

But I really wanted to make dinner. More specifically, I did not want to miss dinner because of this particular set of symptoms. More about that in a bit.

So I gathered up my courage and worked my way into the dining room to table 42. Said hello to my table-mates. The missing couple finally arrived. Mim and Bob are their names. So we have Carol, Don from North Carolina, Deb and Dave from Michigan, Mim and Bob from Pennsylvania, I think, and Diane and I. For some reason, we ended up male, female alternating. Huh…

Anyway, I was sitting there sipping cold water hoping things would get better. The menu arrived. As I read each item, my stomach flipped. There were two appetizers I was found interesting when I read the menu earlier in the day. Now, I couldn’t even read them without feeling sick. Forget the entrees. If I can’t even read about them, how am I supposed to eat them?

I made my apologies and excused myself, all the time assuring everyone I most assuredly did not have that thing everyone fears the most on cruise ships. Though I did not say the word I think everyone knew I was talking about norovirus. The main symptoms of norovirus are dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. But I was pretty sure that wasn’t what was going on. At least I really hoped not. I was looking forward to our excursion in Aruba and I didn’t want to be too sick for that.

A word or two about norovirus. In case you missed hearing about it, noro is a nasty thing. As I understand it, if you get it, it won’t kill you. But you wish it would. It’s an intestinal bug easily transmitted. Usually when there is one case of noro, there will soon be hundreds. You can pick it up from railings, elevator buttons, the tongs you use to pick up your food, even the food itself under the right (wrong) circumstances

Cruise ships with noro usually make the news. The infection rate usually runs between ten and twenty percent of the passengers. If there are two thousand, four thousand, six thousand guests, you can see that’s a lot of sick people.

The Centers For Disease Control tracks noro outbreaks on cruise ships. You can go online and look up your favourite ship and see when their last outbreak occurred. And believe me, every cruise ship has had it at one time or the other. When it happens, they turn the ship around and bring her home, then spend the next three days wiping and disinfecting every single surface on the ship.

Because the news outlets love a good barf story (500 people explosively ejecting material from both ends simultaneously! Film at 11!) people think this is a cruise ship thing. It isn’t. Anywhere you get a group of people, some of whom see fit not to wash their hands, you will eventually see noro. Schools and nursing homes are other hot spots. But since you don’t have the element of poor innocents TRAPPED ON BOARD at these sites, the news folks don’t cover those outbreaks.

That being said, the very last thing you want to even hint is that you might have is noro. Especially to any crew member. You’ll be locked in your cabin before you can even remember how to spell quarantine.

I didn’t have noro.

After a brief rest in my stateroom I ventured out to Park Cafe for pizza, brownies and cookies. I had to eat something and that was what they had.
Back to bed for a good night’s sleep.

Day Four found me good as new. Whatever it was passed in the night. We went to the Windjammer for breakfast and then went to get ready for Aruba.

We signed up for the Aruba Cruise and Beach excursion. When we got off the ship, a brightly painted old school bus took us across the port to a large catamaran. I think there were twelve or sixteen of us. However many there were of us, the cat carried us comfortably.

There was a bit of a speech from the captain to the effect that if anything fell off the boat or blew off, it was gone. No going back for stuff. When we got to the beach don’t touch anything living. Oh, and the cat had an open bar. Whoot!

I was introduced to an Aruba Ariba. Rum, vodka, and punch. Adult kool-aid. Yum.

Diane and I went forward to sit on the port side hull beside the netting between the hulls. The netting was just too attractive. After verifying it was okay, I flopped out on my back in the middle.

So I’m lying on my back looking at this achingly blue sky. I’m running across this insanely blue water. I’m in Aruba.

Over a year in the planning. Slogging through the snow to catch a flight to Florida. A relatively cold weekend in Florida. Two and a half days at sea. And here we are. This was the point of it all.

After a wonderful forty-five minute cruise, we arrived at Palm Beach. Diane and I set off in search of a couple of beach chairs. We finally found a couple but I looked around and worked out they belonged to a resort. Sorry Playa Linda. Didn’t mean to move your chairs.

We worked our way back to where all the chairs had blue Royal Caribbean towels on them and located two unoccupied ones.

Note to self. The sun is really, really hot in Aruba. It did my cold bones good to just lie there and soak it in. Actually, we soaked a bit more of it that we should. Diane’s back was very red this evening as was my nose. Small price to pay.

All good things must end and at the appointed time, we were back on the catamaran for the return voyage back to the dock. We boarded the ship to take a bit of a break and then headed back to the town to see if we could find some wifi.

Smart me, I asked one of the ship’s crew as we were heading into port and he told me about a Starbuck’s. We window-shopped as we went down the main street. We saw a sign for Hard Rock Cafe and thought maybe we could eat there. Nope. All they sold was clothing with the Hard Rock Aruba logo on it. The restaurant was some ten minutes away by foot.

Spotting a Pizza Hut, we decided to eat there. The menu prices were in Aruba Florins with $1 USD = 1.75 AWF. I received a couple of Aruba coins in my change. Interesting.

We finally made it to Starbuck’s. I’m pretty sure North Korea is the only country that doesn’t have Starbuck’s. I connected my trusty mini iPad and checked in on Facebook so folks would know we were still alive. Just for the heck of it I tried to place a FaceTime call to Sam. Surprisingly, she was home and answered. I think she was as surprised as we were. We had a great chat. She sent me a screen grab of the current weather in Ottawa and we played confuse-a-puppy with Alfie. Cool.

Waling back to the ship, we ran into Deb and Dave from dinner. Diane fell into talking with Deb and Dave and I compared notes about life, the universe, and nothing in particular. Dave had discovered rum while they were in port. Lots of it. He had achieved that really mellow state that rum can impart. Among other things, Dave told me his son had developed kidney cancer when he was seven. Surgery, chemo and radiation eventually cured him. Sadly, the son died when he was 35 of an unrelated medical issue that had also taken his mother, Dave’s first wife.

Back on board, Diane and I took a break for a while. I took a shower and then went up to Deck 9 to take pictures.

I made it to dinner with no issues. Everyone was happy to see me healthy. I had a crab cake appetizer and a Manhattan strip. Dessert was creme brûlée and cherries jubilee.

When we got back to the cabin, Rudy, our attendant, had set up the towel creature he’d previously made in a sitting position on the couch. The towel guy was wearing my backpack. Terminally cute.

Then it was time to retire to the pool deck to put this together.

Tomorrow is Bonaire. We don’t have anything scheduled there. We ran through the list of excursions again to see if anything looked attractive and still nothing. This is probably a good thing for our skin. We’ll probably get off the ship and bum around the port a bit. Rumour has it there isn’t much.

We shall see what we shall see.

By the way… Aruba is 14 miles from Venezuela. Who knew (besides everyone in Aruba or with a working knowledge of geography).

Day Two or One or Whatever

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:45 pm by msweet42

Today is our first full sea day. So that makes it Day One of Two Sea Days. But it is the second sunset, so that makes it Day Two. Or something like that.

As I write this, we have made The Turn. After leaving Fort Lauderdale we headed south by southeast and skirted along the coast of Cuba. Close enough to see the high rises of a city during the day and the lights at night. Just before dinner at 8:00 pm I saw the flash from a light house that I’m pretty sure was the eastern end of Cuba.

We’re now steaming (do modern cruise ships steam?) to the southwest through the straight between Cuba and Haiti. I’m pretty sure we have made the turn because the smoke from the stacks which had been blowing straight back behind the ship is now being blown at a right angle to the ship.

Also, the wind on the deck has dropped considerably. Earlier today we went up to Deck 10, the highest point accessible to the passengers, to get some sun. The wind was really strong in the late morning. By mid-afternoon it seemed to be at gale force. We were receiving the benefit of the current weather conditions augmented by the speed of the ship. The ship is doing just a hair under eighteen knots. The net result was a heck of a wind. At one point I was sitting talking to Diane and watching a pair of deck chairs moving on down the deck. One of our dinner mates lost a sandal to the wind, Oh, the tragedy.

Our day started a little after 8:00. We wanted to attend the Meet & Mingle made up of people who participate in the online forum Cruise Critic cruisecritic.com But first, some breakfast at The Windjammer.

I had every intention of sticking just to coffee since breakfast tends not to stay long in my system. Diane got her usual favourites and I got… I got tater tots, scrambled eggs, pancakes, syrup and coffee. So much for good intentions. As usual, everything was delicious. Some of the people on Cruise Critic decry the terrible food at The Windjammer. I’m not sure which Windjammer they visit because I always enjoy everything I find there. Oh, and for what it’s worth, breakfast stayed with me.

After breakfast we made our way to the Anchors Aweigh lounge for the M & M. I had anticipated a setting along the lines of an open room, maybe something like a bar, where we would oh, I don’t know, maybe meet and mingle? Turns out it was a setting like a small theatre with rows of fixed seating. Not much of a chance to mingle.

The promised Free Gift turned out to be a wee notebook thing with slots inside for your Sea Pass and your Driver’s License and a small pen to hold it closed. We are the proud owner of two of these. There were draws were for prizes such as a free dinner at Izumis, free Internet packages, bottles of wine and t-shirts. We didn’t win anything. The Cruise Director who was the MC stressed how important Cruise Critic was to RCI, that they do actually read it and have made changes based on issues that have been discussed there.

I find the whole Cruise Critic thing to be very interesting. This is a site with separate discussion forums for each of the various cruise lines, departure ports, ports of call and pretty much everything else associated with cruising. So far as I know there is no connection between the site and any of the cruise lines. Clearly, though, the lines cottoned on to the possible effects of thousands of people bitching about and complimenting the products the lines offer.

Come to think of it, CC is a marketing department’s dream come true. Every company wants to know how they are doing, what do people think of their service and their offerings. Ergo all those “take our survey online and win a free burger” or whatever. RCI can introduce a new service or tweak an existing one and CC will give them all the feedback they could ever want and more. Good idea? Expand it. Bad one? Pull it. Massive marketing data without having to spend a penny.

After the M & M we retired to Deck 10 to work on our tans and do battle with the winds. For some reason, I started feeling just a touch of vertigo, the precursor to sea sickness. This came as a surprise. I made it through the entire first cruise, all ten days of it, with nary a twinge. I rested in the sun for a while but it didn’t get better. Decided to go take a nap. Diane eventually joined me and we enjoyed the total darkness and soundproofing of our inside stateroom.

When we got up, we were both a little hungry. The only thing open was Park Cafe so we each had a salad and some lemon cookies.

Diane’s been fighting a throat that hurts when she swallows. She’s been treating it with honey and hot water. At breakfast I liberated a handful of honey packets and stashed them in my Everything Bag. She would slip one out during the day and find some hot water. She had that again at Park Cafe while I had coffee.

Tonight was Formal night at dinner. There are those who insist Formal night requires a tux and ball gown ensemble. At the other end of the spectrum are those who maintain it is their vacation, they paid their money and they’ll wear whatever they damn well please. I wear a black suit, white shirt and dark tie. Diane wears a nice dress. We try to stay low if a bun fight breaks out between the two “how do you dress” factions.

Seriously, if your whole cruise is “ruined” because someone wore a t-shirt on Formal night, I would suggest you are wound just a hair too tightly. Fortunately, the two couples with whom we share dinner are of the dark-suit, nice dress school of thought. No one broke into tears at the lack of a tux.

Dinner is fun. The menu always has things with which I’m very familiar, some of which I especially like. There are also items with which I am not familiar. In a normal restaurant setting where you are paying $20 to $40 for an entree, you’re going to want something you know you will enjoy. Here, since it already paid for in your fare, there is the chance to try new, exotic dishes. Don’t care for it? Ask for something else. I’ve not seen it yet but it is not unheard of for someone to ask for and receive two or three entrees.

Tonight, Diane had broiled salmon substituting rice for the chopped veggies and I had medallions of beef tenderloin with a special mushroom sauce and whipped potatoes. Delicious. Don and Carol received a bottle of wine when they came on board and, as promised, shared the bottle with the entire table. Very nice of them to do so.

Don had a shrimp cocktail Diane found enticing. Turns out it’s not on the menu but if you ask for it, they will prepare it for you. But you have to let them know in advance. Diane spoke with our head waiter and, I believe, will have one waiting for her tomorrow evening.

Diane passed on dessert but I made up for it by ordering a strawberry cheesecake and a sort of lemon meringue pie, Bit too much crust on the pie but otherwise delightful.

The only downside of an 8:00 pm dinner seating is that it is pretty much 10:00 pm by the time you get done. That is Diane’s bedtime. She retired for the evening. I found an open bar and snagged a Black Russian and took a table on Deck 9, the pool deck, port side, where I can sit, smoke, sip my Russian and write about the day.

Pretty much the entire ship, myself included, keeps thinking we are arriving in Aruba tomorrow. We are not. Tomorrow is the second sea day. Aruba comes the day after. The big thing between tonight and tomorrow is the ship’s time advances an hour to Atlantic Standard Time. All six islands are on AST so we will spend the next week in that time zone. I changed our alarm clock and my watch. This iPad indicates we are on Havana time which is interesting because I’ve not connected to the Internet since we left Fort Lauderdale. I’m curious to see if the time changes on this by itself. If not, I’ll change it when I get up.

My accomplishments for the day today have been getting a bit more tan and finishing the last of the Outlander series of books. Now I have to find a new book to read. Oh, the work I do!

We get to sleep in tomorrow. Nothing is scheduled, just a day to relax. When we get to the islands, we have to ensure we’re up in plenty of time to be ready for our excursions. The last two, Saint Lucia and Antigua, have excursions scheduled for fairly early in the day about an hour after we dock. That will be a challenge. The Barbados excursion is in the afternoon so no problem there.

I’m really looking forward to Barbados because Diane has such good memories of Barbados from her life before I came along. I hope to make some good memories for us there.

Before Barbados is Bonaire. Nothing scheduled there. We will probably just tour the port area.

But before Bonaire is Aruba.

Here is the description for the Aruba Fun and Beach Cruise for which we signed up: “Enjoy panoramic views of Aruba’s gorgeous beaches, then cruise to Palm Beach – dotted with high-rise hotels – for a day of beach time and shopping. After docking at Pelican Marina, sunbathe or beachcomb on the pristine sands, or take a dip in the Caribbean Sea. Enjoy complimentary drinks and lounge chairs. Sightsee at the busy beachfront, peppered with shops, casinos, and sports concessions before returning.”

We’ll see what we shall see.

2015 Cruise – Embarkation Day

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 8:45 pm by msweet42

We are on our way. Diane wanted to have breakfast at the hotel but they stopped serving at 11:00 and we didn’t get down until just after that. We found her some orange juice and cookies to tide her over. I checked our account on the TV and found we owed the hotel $20. Ah yes, the port transportation fee. Checked out of the hotel with no surprises.

The transfer from the hotel to port went smoothly. Handed off the large luggage to the handlers at the terminal along with $5. The handlers rather unsubtly suggested an honorarium. Inside the terminal we located the Crown and Anchor Gold line and did not have any wait. Checked in, got our pictures taken and proceeded to security.

Bearing in mind that for our license and passport pictures we are forbidden to smile, I asked the woman taking our Sea Pass pictures if we could smile. She said we’d better. We’re going on a cruise, right? We smiled.

The security people had no difficulty detecting my carefully hidden vodka and Kailua as well as our legal bottles of wine. They took the contraband and assured me I would get it the last night of the cruise. On my way out, the security lady suggested next time I put the contraband in a wine bottle. So I need to figure out what she meant by a “cutter” to seal the wine bottle. Helpful lady.

We left the hotel at about 11:45 on the “noon” shuttle. Everyone was there so there was no point in waiting. What with security and checking in to get our Sea Pass we were on the ship before 1:00 pm. I know it was before 1:00 because we were going to head to the Windjammer to finally get some food and found it wasn’t going to open until 1.

So off to our stateroom. Found it with no difficulty. Were surprised to see Diane’s suitcase in the galley way just before our room. Took a quick look out by the elevator and bonus! Mine was there, too. No trekking down to the Naughty Room to claim a bag with alcohol. Got the bags into the room. Our stateroom attendant, Rudy, stopped by to introduce himself and ensure everything was to our liking. It was.

Windjammer opened, we went in along with 500 other hungry folk. Got some food, found a nice couple willing to share their table. Were happy to discover the Windjammer is still making good serviceable foods.

We wandered around a bit to familiarize ourself with the ship. Legend of the Seas is very similar to Grandeur of the Seas so we had a pretty good idea where things were.

Back to the stateroom. Diane continues to tire easily so she laid down and supervised while I unpacked both bags. I enjoy the game of finding a logical, easy to remember place to put each item utilizing all the drawers, shelves and hidden cupboards in the stateroom. Again, having been on Grandeur and having a near duplicate of our previous stateroom helped because I already knew what was available. A new thing this cruise was the addition of three or four shelves in the closet. Come to think of it, the previous closet had a shelf running along the top. The smaller shelves were on the left side wall and because you can see what’s on them they are more useful.

Time for the mandatory Muster Drill. If one manages to make it on board without knowing what that is, there are announcements explaining what it is, where it is, and that it is Mandatory. The drill signal is given and almost everyone attends to their muster station. Actually, attending to the station promptly is a foolish thing. Foolish because you have to stand there. And stand there. And stand some more. You are waiting for the “‘cept you” people. As in “Everyone ‘cept you”. These are the people the crew has to go out and hunt down and herd out to the muster stations. These are the people who cannot be bothered or who feel that whatever they are doing is more important than whatever the other 2000 people were doing when they stopped to do the drill. So you are standing there, standing there, standing… and watching these people walk – slowly – to their station. A word of advice – leaping out of line to bitch-slap one of these people is generally frowned upon. Immediately satisfying but with negative longterm consequences.

We will get to see all these laggards again. Before we arrive at each port, there will be an announcement that “everyone” has to be back on the ship at 5:00 or 6:00. These are the people that will show up at the gangplank five, ten, fifteen minutes after the hour. You can also see these people by going to YouTube and searching “dock runners”. These are the folks who just – just – just missed the ship. And if they miss it, they miss it. The ship does NOT turn around to come back and get them. And all the rules-following people who had to stand there forever waiting for these people are the folks waving from the decks and cheering as the “‘cept you” people get left behind.

We found a good place to sit in the sun near the pool. I went to get drinks. RCI does a thing where there is a Drink of the Day with a special price. Departure Day’s drink was Sex on the Beach. I ordered one and got a Pina Colada for Diane. I noticed the bartender charged me full price for my drink. When I asked him what the drink of the day was he said it was a Bahama Mama. Ok. My bad.

Later on, I had a Black Russian.

We retired to our room. I checked through all the literature that had been left in the stateroom, verified the excursion tickets were the ones we’d ordered and generally had fun reading things to Diane. Hmm… in the Compass it said the Drink of the Day was – wait for it – Sex on the Beach for $7.95, not the $10 I’d been charged.

While Diane rested some more I went to Guest Services with the Compass and my drink receipt. Spoke with a very nice lady from Spain. She checked everything and said I was correct, the bartender didn’t know his stuff, and looked to see what she could do. She couldn’t refund the one drink because it was one of two on the ticket. Instead, she refunded the Black Russian. Sweet.

When we first boarded I spoke to someone about changing our dining arrangement. Because Diane is always telling me it is too late to eat this or that, I signed us up for the 5:30 seating. Oops, wrong, Should have been the 8:00 seating. Couldn’t change it online but I was sure I could change it when we boarded. I was right. Got it changed.

We went to dinner, found ourselves at a table for eight and sat in anticipation of who the other six would be. Two other couples arrived, Carol and Don, and two people who’s names both start with D. The other two seats were vacant. Carol and Don have done a great deal of cruising since 1992 but were pretty nice about it. The other couple have done a few cruises. We had a good dinner with good conversation.

Diane and I both had a caesar salad and striploin with baked potatoes and some chopped veggies. Diane was having difficulty swallowing so did not eat a great deal. I had a chocolate fantasy for dessert with coffee.

Other than taking some time to sit and write all this, that was pretty much Departure Day on the ship.

Tomorrow is the first of two sea days. We are planning to go to our Meet & Mingle at 9:45 so we hope to be out of bed at 8:00 am. The other thing I know about tomorrow is that dress for dinner is Formal. Right.