Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cruise 2017: Day 2, At Sea

In the elevator in the morning, we met a friendly woman our age, who said she was on her first cruise and had had a rough night. There was a vibration in her room that prevented her from sleeping, she was feeling queasy, and spent much of the night wandering the ship, watching the nocturnal thunder storms. Later in the week would we meet her again!

As previous Royal Caribbean members, we could transfer our reward points to Celebrity and already be "returning" customers. The points do not transfer back to Royal. At the first level, you really don't get much. The free scoop of gelato was nice...but it was pretty dang similar to the ice cream in the Oceanview Cafe. One thing that was fun was special invitations to events, such as meet crew and officers on the helipad at departure. This tour of the galley though, was open to all. We made sure to be there early because our waiter said it fills up quickly. Rob wasn't sure he wanted to do this, but I did! What a chance to get behind the scene pictures!

 When you break it down, there's really only two styles of ship decor. Flashy, bright and modern, or dark, woodsy and elegant. The dining room on the Equinox is flashy and bright. A nice change from the Royal ships. Sometimes I felt like I was in the midst of a pipe organ though. We all gathered in for our pre-tour slide show, enjoying our complimentary drink. Our tour guide was not the easiest to understand, and our group was really too big. It was hard to hear him at times, in the noisy galley.
 Everything for the dining rooms and a couple of the small food venues happens here. There are two levels of dining rooms, and this ship has two galleys. Some ships don't--waiters much run up and down stairs to retrieve food. Each of the specialty restaurants has their own galley. Much of the Oceanview Cafe is made here too. This area above was the pastry area. Man, I wish I had those big, narrow ovens for giant cookie sheets!
 Lamb shank, already roasted and waiting to be braised, I believe.

 Another prep area. Maybe this was the special section where they prepare food for guests with allergies. They talked about that, how meticulous they are  to avoid contamination. It does take a bit of the spontaneity out of food selection, but knowing they are really concerned with customer safety, is reassuring!

 There were a few activities on in the afternoon, but I really don't recall going to any of them and I have no pictures. There was this picture though. I had forgotten my little speakers for my mp3 player. Rob fashioned a redneck speaker using our ice bucket. It wasn't too bad!  I think we spent some time in the hot tubs, watching an incredible rain storm come across the ocean and cross the ship. No wonder the pools were so cold. Just because it's the Caribbean, doesn't mean the rain is all that warm. At least, not yet.

 
The weather was a little rough later in the day. Not terrible, but a bit noticeable.
This model ship is hysterical. There are no ginormous pools on this ship.
 It was "Evening Chic" night. That's the new formal night. Some people still get really dressed up. Rob didn't even put on a tie :(

 Frog's legs were on the appetizer menu, so we made sure to try them. They were quite good, just like chicken wings. I didn't care for the cold pea puree (follow the link to see the menu). We realized we'd be able to see the beautiful Caribbean sunsets from our table, at least until we hit the "turn around" point. However, the windows are good for viewing out of, and the evening weather was pretty much overcast most dinners.
 I wish I remembered what else I had that night!
 Rob had some sort of apple crisp, I think, and mine was a pastry with lemon curd, I think, and "various fruits". Well, it was a little skimpy on the fruits. But yummy.
After dinner, we  went to the theatre for "Elysium" which is one of those acrobats, dancers and strange plot type shows. I suddenly started feeling queasy when we sat down. We moved to more centre-stage seats and tried again. Nope. With every slight movement of the ship, my stomach moved. I had forgotten my SeaBands, and knew there wasn't time to go back to the room for Gravol and have it take affect (which would make me sleepy anyway). I felt so bad I had to leave and miss the show. I mean, I really wanted to see it and was disappointed I couldn't. We found out at the end of the trip during a back stage tour that it was actually one of the roughest nights the show cast has had and their main actress couldn't perform due to seasickness. I felt a bit better hearing that, because I'm not usually that affected by the sea. I guess being at the very front of the ship, down low, and in a closed in space, all contributed to my queasiness.

We were looking forward to the next day, and being back in Grand Cayman. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Cruise 2017: Day 1 (Miami Departure)

We went to the breakfast buffet at the hotel (link in previous post). Not as nice as the one we go to in Fort Lauderdale, but it was okay. I insisted we stay at a hotel with a hot buffet as the places with just a cold buffet never have things I can eat. After realizing the senior woman I had seen at Denny's the night before was a hurricane refugee, I noticed there were quite a few others that probably were too. The TV was on to a news channel and there was some big police chase in Miami and the suspect had jumped into a pond/water catchment area.  (Do not have your sound on when you click the link. The website is not very good and an ad keeps starting up. It's the BMW ad over on the right side of the screen, not a popup window, so it's hard to figure it out). All these cops on land and in a (big) boat with their guns pointed to this guy treading water and trying to hang onto a concrete wall.  Apparently at some point after we left, the cops shot and killed the suspect. 
Even though I had gotten and email saying our embarkment time was pushed up to after 1pm, we took the early shuttle to the port. While waiting in the lobby, we started talking to others waiting. Or, rather, one woman started talking to everyone. Her name was Erika which we thought was funny because she reminded us of our daughter's friend Erica's mom, who is also super friendly. This Erica was originally from the west side of Toronto but had been in the States for a long time. Her and her husband were going to be surprising her sister and her husband who were going on the cruise with another couple from the Toronto area that they had met on a previous cruise. Even though the ship isn't really all that small, it's fascinating how some people just seem to show up everywhere...more on them later :)
                                           
We pulled up infront of the Celebrity terminal, which I believe is the old Royal Caribbean terminal. At least looking at these pictures, it's the same roof. The driver unloaded everything and put it over with the luggage the porters were taking. Rob had to rush over to get our documents. We used to keep one carry on, but since we didn't have any wine this time, we just took my tote bag. I don't remember if it was when we got there or when we were leaving, but one porter said something along the lines of "First give me $20 and you'll get the best treatment for your bags" (I don't remember exactly; he was just calling out to all the people, not addressing anyone in particular). That really put us off, since there were signs, very clearly saying that tipping porters is optional.
There were already a LOT of people there for check in. It was a little slow, but the staff was great towards people with mobility issues. We soon noticed how young we were, though there were still lots of other young people (like Erica and her husband, Bobby).  We were expecting to have to wait before getting on the ship, but there didn't seem to be a large lounge area and we walked right on. I noticed an older couple with matching t-shirts from Carnival Cruises "I survived Hurricane Irma". LOL. 
They offer you a drink (Mimosa? Wine?) when you board. And then they come at you asking if you want to upgrade your drink package. EVERYWHERE you go, "Have you upgraded your drink package yet?". At first, we said we didn't have a drink package, which prompted them to start selling us a drink package. So we smartened up and just said "Yes, we did".  Then there was the raffle outside the art auction place. We decided to find the buffet, I think. Or maybe we headed outside first.  According to my pictures, it was a little under an hour between the picture above and this picture below, so I suspect we headed up to the grass right away. Maybe the buffet wasn't quite ready?  We noticed as we went up the elevator that the hallways to the cabins had doors closing them off. On other ships, you could at least go down the hall to find where your cabin was, but not on the Equinox. They open the doors once ALL the rooms in that hall are ready.

 
So one of the marketing highlights of this ship is that it has "a lawn" of real grass. Yes, it does.  Did we use it like in the website? No. Every day a portion of it would be closed off. You can't take chairs on it. So unless you're taking part in the organized croquet or other activity, what can you do? Oh, get a blanket and have a picnic? Never saw anyone do that. Don't even know where you'd get the blanket or picnic basket. Maybe the upper categories. Never saw anyone sunbathe though it's not something I do so I wouldn't go looking. I was often looking for a chair (not a lounger) in a shady area, yet you can't take the chairs onto the lawn. The glass blowing studio is at one end of the lawn, so it isn't always peaceful there. There are also two strips of lawn on either side of the ship, but one of them is a smoking area. The chairs are right up against the path alongside the lawn. Cough cough. While we found the lawn "pretty" and it was cool (temperature and fun) to go barefoot on it, it was a huge area of the ship that just didn't get used. 

If you go to Google Maps (as of today) and look at Port of Miami, you will see a Celebrity ship. I don't know which one, but it looks like it has cabanas or something along the back sections on either side. That would have been nice!
                              

 Not sure if he wore that shirt  on purpose, LOL. It was quite humid and hot, though very overcast. I think it rained overnight.
 
Some Miami construction. It's a pretty neat looking building. Want to see it when it's done!



 I believe this was looking through a window in the Sky Lounge, hence the strange colours.

 We wanted to see the solarium. It's adult only and it's location makes it pretty good at keeping children away. The loungers are nicer than the main pool. The first thing we noticed though was that it was air conditioned. That felt so nice, at first. Before long though we got cold! We checked out the pool and were horrified to find out how cold it was!!


The vine wall is pretty, but artificial. On the left side you can see the AquaSpa Cafe. It's adults (16+) only. Though with only 7 children on the cruise, that wasn't an issue LOL. It's open for "healthy alternative breakfast" from 7:30-10am and "healthy alternative lunch" 12-2pm. Now, their idea of healthy and mine (low carb, high fat) are totally different. They had some interesting nut and seed bars but they were so sweet and a little bland at the same time. This corner though is the only place in the Solarium (and really, around the entire pool deck), with actual chairs! So I started coming here towards the end of the cruise so I could sit and crochet and read. However, it gets busy with all the adults who want to play cards or games. I really found that there were not enough chairs on this ship! On the Royal ships we've been on, there are chairs and tables on the pool deck, maybe because it's close to the buffet.


We found this hanging bed just before you go into the Solarium. It was neat, but I didn't come on a cruise to lay in a bed on a hot, humid pool deck. You'd also get a blast of cold air every time the Solarium doors opened. I also didn't feel very dignified trying to get on and off!




It still wasn't very busy, so I set up the camera and self-timer.

Rob had no problem getting on though, LOL!


Blogger is giving me a hard time right now. I asked it to center this picture and it makes it disappear. This was a floating billboard. It just kept going back and forth through the harbour with different ads on the screen. Didn't they realize we were about to leave for 10 days? LOL.
Walked by the library and saw this magazine on the stack!
Then walked by the stores and saw this sculpture. Ummm. Yeah. It's a potato with legs.

The Quasar is on deck 4, across from Celebrity Central. This is different than the layout in the Celebrity book which is off course, generic to that class of ship, not individual ships.

It really felt kind of out of place amidst all the wood and rich colours of most of the ship. And, who goes to a "disco" to sit in a cocoon chair by themselves?

Next, we found the theater, which seemed to be a really good size for the size of the ship. Though narrow aisles!
Next we went to find the dining room, to see where our table would be and confirm our dining time. We had asked for a large table. Instead, we found out we were at a table for two! Ugh. Ten dinners with only Rob for company? Kidding. The staff said we could see if anything was available at a large table, but we thought we'd give it a try anyway. And we were thinking about doing the upscale dining package too (never did).  I was really surprised by the dining room. It's totally different than the ones we'd been in on Royal ships. You can see it's all white, glass, and chrome!

Back up to the pool deck since our hallway wasn't open yet. There's an hour difference between the dining room photo and this photo, so I think we went to the buffet. These cocoon chairs were really popular. Quite nice, though not much air flow. The faced looking out the windows so sometimes it was hard to tell if they were occupied until you peaked around.

This is one of my most favourite pictures from the trip! (Thanks, Beautification filter on my phone!). We stayed snuggled up in this chair for quite a while! In fact, this picture was taken at 1:40 and the next picture I have was at 3:38. Maybe we went to the buffet during this time? Nah.

We saw this boat getting towed in. Assume it was hurricane related. That's all dirt and algae along the hull.


Finally we were leaving. This Royal ship was also in port. At first it looked big, but as we went past it, it seemed much smaller.  Enchantment of the Seas has about 2 076 guests, compared to the Equinox 2850-3420. It's Royal's second smallest class of ships, with tiny inside cabins (136sq ft compared to 150sq ft in the Freedom Class and about 174 sq ft on the Equinox). It does 3 & 4 nights Bahama cruises.  Probably fine for that.

 
 Next in line is the Carnival Victory.  It has 2758 passengers. 

 
 Next up was NCL (Norwegian) Sky. It was headed for a 3 night Bahama cruise with open bar. Yup. It has 2004 guests.
I noticed as we past that they were doing their Muster Drill on the decks at the life boats. That how we did it on the first few cruises, but then it changed and our assembly stations were inside the ship in various lounges. My FIL questioned this (he was in the Merchant Marines for a long time) and was told that this way, the whole group could be guided to where ever would be safest. Previously, if your Assembly Station was on the side of the ship that was heading underwater....would you know where to go? 



 We past this British air ship carrier. I believe it might have been the HMS Ocean. In town to head towards the Caribbean for hurricane relief.

 
We saw the Fisher Island ferries and noticed that the ferry "heading home" was full of luxury vehicles. The ferry heading off the island was mainly work vans and older vehicles. I love seeing these little snips of social-geography.
  

 
 Some more big boats in Miami. Don't know anything about them.
We noticed the boats in a marina were all lifted. 
 Not sure the Thriller boat ride is as exciting here as it would be in the Niagara Gorge.

The Port of Miami is fairly pretty.


We were at the aft and saw the pilot boat. Then we noticed a little fishing boat just like ours! About to get hit with the wake of a cruise ship...and Rob doesn't want to take his boat in Lake Ontario!

Look at that little thing! Ours is 16ft. Tiny! And in an ocean!
Bye bye Miami!  It looked so stormy, but it didn't rain while we were in the area. I believe it did rain overnight though!

We finally got to our cabin. This picture was obviously not the first day, but it shows the overhead storage and bed.
This shows the dresser/vanity. It was adequate. I really missed having a couch though. The mini fridge in in the big door on the right of the drawers.

The bathroom. Again, lots of storage, more than enough. No hanging line in the shower though. And mind the step up into the bathroom.

 
Another shot of the bed area. There is a closet parallel to the side of the bed closest. We had to ask for more hangers and they were just wire ones. I think on the next cruise, I might be tempted to pack a couple of those fold down cubes, to help organize things in the closet.

We were excited to go to dinner. A little disappointing. Our table for two was separated from the next table by about 4". It was an elderly British couple who weren't very talkative. The service was very good, and the food was excellent. We were always in and out very quickly--perhaps partly because we had no one to talk to besides ourselves.

After dinner we went to the first show, which was Jim Colliton and "December '63" (a preview of their show later in the week). I'm not a huge comedian fan. He was funny. Just not really my favourite type of show. But "December '63"? What a fabulous show. I'm a little confused as to who's in the group though LOL. Their website shows five members, but only four are on stage, and two that were there when we saw them are not in those current pictures. Their Facebook page is great and there are pictures and videos from our cruise.

After that, I think we just wondered around a bit and went to bed "early". Cause, you know, we were on the "old people's cruise" :)