February 28, 2015

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 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.