February 20, 2015

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.

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