Friday, December 3, 2021

November 21, 2021 – Ft Lauderdale – Mostly Cloudy – Showers – 80F

We both slept Ok – the room turned out to be comfortable and quiet.  We are in the second unit from the end on the second floor.  There were no people walking up and down outside our room at all.  Perhaps, the units on either side of us are unoccupied, and the elevators are in the other direction. Always, a bonus.

I went down for breakfast, which was served from 7:00 AM to 10 AM (I think).  The grounds looked nice and peaceful this early in the morning.

I got a booth far away from everyone because, again, mask compliance (despite a sign on each door) was “voluntary”.  I got in line for the only waffle maker (the kid that was monitoring the breakfast said they used to have two but one broke and hadn’t been replaced).  I did get my waffle along with some cereal and milk and some scrambled eggs.  The eggs were dispensed by that kid and looked like real scrambled eggs – maybe they were prepared in the restaurant kitchen.  The waffle and eggs were pretty good – missing was something sweet – maybe a muffin or sweet roll.  In any event, the breakfast was acceptable.

Ellen went down for breakfast after I got back to the room. 

Needless to say, it was a zoo around 10:45 AM, when we went to the lobby to catch our airport shuttle.  There were people going to the cruise port to catch various ships and there were some folks, like us, headed to FLL for their flight home.  Ellen is very good at “negotiating” these kinds of things and she talked to one of the drivers who included us in his next run to FLL.

It's only a 20 minute ride to FLL.  Bag checking at the curb is not free at FLL (maybe $5 a bag) but the bag check-in process at the kiosks was very straightforward and simple.  We printed new boarding passes and baggage tags, tagged our bags, dropped them off, and we were off to security.  There was no one in line for TSA precheck so that took basically no time at all and we were off to our gate, E1.  Our plane, a 737-800 (AA2396) which had come in from Chicago, was already there waiting for us.  

We had over an hour before our 1:35 PM boarding time so we went looking for something to eat.  Our concourse did not have any restaurants or food stores so we went to the neighboring concourse where we picked up passable tuna sandwiches, chips, and drinks (for a kingly sum).  We ate them at our seats at the gate. 

We boarded on time (even though people from all groups rushed the line before their turn).  I could tell the AA desk agent was annoyed but there was nothing she could have done.  We had the same bulkhead seats on this flight (8B/8C) which gave us the legroom and physical distancing.  There were some huge bags being stuffed into the overhead compartments but the flight attendants got it all worked out and we pushed right on time at 2:04PM.

There was a lot of weather activity in the area so the pilot told the flight attendants to stay seated during climb out.  The pilot actually did a great job of maneuvering around the clouds and the takeoff was pretty smooth.  I should mention that this plane had no seat-back screens and that all the in-flight entertainment is accessed via the AA Mobile App.  I actually used the app to watch a few minutes of a football game.  Maybe next time, I'll give a movie a shot (there were some good ones on the list).  The flight itself, about three hours, was also pretty smooth with only a brief period or two of mild chop.  I was able to get to the rear washrooms with no trouble despite the fact that most passengers’ feet were blocking the aisle.  There were no incidents on this flight and the flight attendants were all friendly and pleasant. We snacked on some baked goods we had taken from the ship and along with the cookies supplied by the airline, that would be enough to get us to Chicago.

The plane used a different vector to ORD this flight. It didn't cut across the tip of the Lake near Gary but flew over Chicago and over the lake and then made a big turn that took it over Evanston and straight into the airport.  We landed on time, got our bags, and waited for our American Taxi to arrive.  It was about 40 degrees colder in Chicago than in Florida so we waited inside by the window at 3G.  He showed up - automated texts kept us informed on his location - and this time he was masked.  We went to Dova’s house for dinner before Amelia gave us a ride home.  It was a nice ending to two very nice cruises.  

We had survived our first pandemic era cruises.









November 20, 2021 – Fort Lauderdale FL – Mostly Cloudy – 85F.

Up on time and in the Oceanview Café by 6:00 AM.  They had their regular menu available so I had my delicious usual breakfast in my usual corner location.  Not really crowded this early in the morning. I brought Ellen her breakfast as usual – no need for her to deal with the folks up in the Café.  I watched the sail in to an early morning Fort Lauderdale.  

We went to the Normandie Restaurant and we were indeed the last people called.  On the way out, we had a chance to say goodbye to Lauren and Darren (I had left them a thank you card as well).  We walked the long mile to the facial recognition booth – this time, the cameras didn’t recognize either of us so we had to speak briefly to an immigration officer. 

Once out of the terminal, I called our hotel and asked them to send the shuttle.  The shuttle actually came when promised and we were off to the hotel where we would hang out today.

The hotel, Ramada by Wyndham Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruise Port (State Route 84) did look familiar – turns out we stayed here on the last trip before the Pandemic.  The place was a zoo with the lobby full of people waiting to go to the port and the few of us, who were waiting to get a room.  We were at the hotel about 9:30 AM and the rooms wouldn’t be ready until around noon.  The hotel required masks indoors but since this was Florida, compliance was 50 percent at best.  We went out by the Tiki Hut and pool to get fresh air.  There were a couple of smokers out there and we tried to avoid them; there were also intermittent showers so we tried to get under a pool umbrella to stay dry.

While waiting, we made reservations for an 11:00 AM shuttle ride to the airport tomorrow (complimentary).  Eventually, we got our room, Number 202, and we put our stuff in the room.  We basically stayed in the room, which was comfortable and away from the smoke.  The room, on the surface, looked decent but there were a lot of things that needed repair and touch up.  Yet, the room did not smell and the beds (we had booked a King but took two Queens to get into a room sooner) were comfortable.  An added bonus:  I was able to watch the UCLA-SC Football game (on mute, of course).  

In the evening for dinner, we ordered takeout using suggestions and menus from the front desk.  We ordered from Doughboys Pizza (delivery) – Pizza and two sodas plus delivery plus taxes plus tip - $28.90.  The pizza arrived sooner than 45 minutes and it was really good.  We put the rest in the fridge for the airport tomorrow.  The hotel does have a restaurant of sorts but we just didn't feel comfortable eating there after checking it out.

When we were here last, the place was really noisy.  This time, the place was quiet - perhaps, there weren't as many people staying near us on the second floor or perhaps, people were just being considerate.  Anyway, that was a bonus.

November 19, 2021 – At Sea – Gulf of Mexico – Partly Cloudy – mid 70s

Another early morning as my last talk is this morning at 9:15 AM.  I was up on time and had a nice peaceful breakfast up in the Oceanview Café. It was the usual, of course, but it has been excellent the entire cruise.  Very nice day out there.  The ship is taking her time getting back to Florida as the current speed is about 9 kts.  This way, passengers get an extra sea day to enjoy the ship.

I got to the “Club” early and there were a few people already there.  The turnout for “Forensics and History:  The Search for Jack the Ripper” exceeded my expectations.  I’d estimate that the whole floor area was filled as were parts of the sides and there were people up in the balcony.  My voice (strained from a lot of coughing and throat clearing) held out for the whole talk and I even stayed to answer some questions – I also got some interesting alternative theories about my Jack the Ripper suspects.

From the Club we went to the Normandie Restaurant for our complimentary COVID Antigen tests – I just want to make sure that what I have is an ordinary infection and not the dreaded C-19.  We both got tested in less than five minutes and the results that came within the hour indicated that we were both NEGATIVE. This should satisfy our doctors during our appointments next week.

We went to the Rooftop Garden to try and finish “Black Widow” but wound up not seeing the end. Today is the Grand Buffet in the Oceanview Cafe – mostly highlighting the cakes and pastries.  I had my usual salad bar and pizza – I also tried the veggie Asian Noodles and they were pretty good.  I did finish the lunch with a mango frozen yogurt waffle cone (the waffles cones, which are made fresh, are really good).  The afternoon was spent in the Solarium, where again, we had to battle to keep the windows open.

While there I noticed a small boat out in the water and I could tell there were people on board.  

Then, the ship altered course and got closer to the boat.  The Captain said there were 16 people on the boat (maybe from Cuba) – at this point the boat was halfway between Havana and Key West.  The boat wasn’t moving.  The Captain said the ship would watch the boat until the USCG arrived (2-3 hours).  That’s what we did.  The USCG took more like four hours to get here; once on site, the very large cutter dispatched a Zodiac to see what was going on – we never found out because Apex continued on to Fort Lauderdale.  

This was the second time since we've been cruising that our ship has investigated a small boat in the water.  The previous time, the boat has capsized and there were no people present - not good.

We also cancelled our reservations at the Normandie Restaurant for tonight.  Neither of us wanted to dress for dinner so we will take out chances with the Oceanview Café.  I had the pasta guy make me spaghetti alfredo but it wasn’t as good as usual (didn’t add any veggies).  I also had some pizza and some of their fresh bread and butter.  Not a great meal but it will do.

We passed on the final show – “Crystallize” and spent the evening in our room getting packed.  We are almost in the last group to leave the ship (Tag 26).  Ellen did her usual magic and the bags were outside our room before 10 PM.  We have to be out of our room by 8:00 AM and then wait in the Normandie until called.

It took the entire cruise but I finally found my talks on the Cabin TV.  Very high tech.

One more interesting statistic, because of the size of this ship and the location of major venues (Theater - Forward; Oceanview Cafe and Restaurants - Aft) getting around requires a fair amount of walking.  I was averaging over 6,000 steps/day just getting to where I needed to go.  That, effectively, burned off the calories consumed at breakfast.  So, the Apex Fitness Program in action.

We don’t fly on Saturdays so we are going to stay in FLL tomorrow and fly home on Sunday.

November 18, 2021 – Caribbean Sea – Enroute to Ft Lauderdale – Mostly Cloudy/Showers mid 70s

My remaining two presentations are scheduled at 9:15 AM in the Club.  I was up early and in the Oceanview Cafe when it opened.  It's an ugly day out there so the view is not great.  Another wonderful breakfast - I guess I have simple tastes.

Today’s presentation was “Forensics and History: The Lost Dauphin of France”.  Yesterday, I modified this talk to consolidate some slides to shorten its running time.  The changes worked and the talk finished right on the nose at 45 minutes (the OJ Moment piece worked very well with the crowd as I got lots of positive feedback following the session).

After the talk, we went to the Rooftop Garden to watch (or finish) “Black Widow”.  We didn’t quite get through the movie but while up there I scheduled the two of us for departing COVID antigen tests.  First of all, I wanted to make sure that whatever bug I had was not COVID and secondly, we both have doctor’s visits scheduled when we get back and they always ask whether you have been out of the country.  We would have to say yes but then we would show our test results.

I had my last veggie burger of this cruise – for future reference, I will get my veggie burgers in the restaurants not on the grill shared by who knows what.  It was OK, though and we ate lunch on the back deck of the Oceanview Café (until it got too windy).

We spent the afternoon in the Solarium, where we kept opening the window for fresh air and staff kept closing it.  I went through my final talk to make sure it was going to fit in the allotted time. 

We are in the Normandie Restaurant for the final time this cruise and we are here primarily for the crispy fried mushrooms.  We got them but they were two tiny mushrooms compared to the four huge ones we got before (maybe that was for lunch).  I actually got spaghetti marinara off the veggie menu and that was pretty good – big chunks of tomato and a sauce that wasn’t too sweet.  We shared an apple pie a la mode and a chocolate covered cheesecake to wrap up our culinary experience in the Apex’s Restaurants. The food has been very good overall.

Tonight’s headliner was the Las Vegas based group “Divas 3”.  

Three immaculately dressed diva like women (from California, Kentucky, and Nebraska), who put on the best vocal show of our cruising career.  

With perfect voices and harmonies, they did songs from the 60s (“My Boyfriend’s Back”) 

"Be My Little Baby"

through the 90’s - “Midnight Train to Georgia”, 

"It's In His Kiss",

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” (no pic but a personal favorite), 

"You've Got a Friend", 

"The Wind Beneath My Wings",

"I Will Always Love You"

and beyond (“My Heart Will Go On”).

They had stage presence, terrific choreography, and knew exactly what they were doing up there. I could have sworn we had seen them before, but a check of the logs said that this was the first time we had encountered them.  I was so impressed that I put a comment on their Facebook Page, which they answered.  I am also sure that there are several “Divas 3” ensembles circulating worldwide but the one we got tonight was perfect.

Back to the room for the night.  On the way, we did get to see the Chandelier do its thing.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

November 17, 2021 – Cozumel, Mexico – Mostly Cloudy – 83F

NOTE: Cozumel was our last pre-pandemic port of call back in February 2020.  Today, we are at the International Pier.  Usually, when we dock here, people are disembarking in droves and heading for the vendors and restaurants.  That is not the case today, even though there are several ships here today (though not as many as usual).

The rain we experienced on our last two stops followed us here – it was raining as I went to breakfast in the Oceanview Café.  I had one of my usual choices – plain pancake with cottage cheese and sour cream plus orange marmalade. The scrambled eggs looked good so I had a small scoop of that, as well.  Breakfast continues to be the best meal of the day (as unchanging as it is).  I was up early enough to see a beautiful sunrise - 

I also saw the pilot boat that had dropped off the person bringing in the ship.

When Ellen got up, we both went to Eden for their breakfast – I had a small bowl of their steel-cut oatmeal and a slice of banana bread.

We had a good time last cruise watching a movie in the morning up in the Rooftop Garden – today’s movie was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl”.  I watched the whole movie without realizing that 13 years ago, I saw this movie.  I simply didn’t remember much of the movie – just little scenes that looked familiar.

We had lunch in the Oceanview Café – the Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Eden are closed for lunch on port days.  We even saw the Cosmopolitan Hostess, Olga, working as a “suit” in the buffet.  I had a salad and some tuna salad and a slice of pizza (OK) and Ellen had some trout and salmon that could have been warmer. 

After lunch, we went back to the Rooftop Garden but when the shade started disappearing and the music became too much, we went to our stateroom to relax before dinner.

We had set up three reservations in a row for the Normandie Restaurant mainly because it has good standard items and some nice rotating items.  Don’t have to list meal items anymore since we have gone through the available items several times.  For the record, the Lavender Halibut is probably the best fish item on the menu of any of the restaurants; the crispy fried mushrooms, the potato and onion “knish” and fried brie are good starters along with the triple blue cheese flan.  Apple pie a la mode and NY cheesecake are winners every time for dessert.  And if you have time remaining the coffee is very good.

Tonight's headliner is comedian Rich Aronovitch – a Canadian born Southern comic (now based in New Orleans.  Rich was terrific- one of the best acts we’ve seen on a ship.  He sparred with audience members who came in late and people who were on their screens during the show.  But, when not doing that, he was genuinely funny.

Lauren gave me a great plug after the show – she is the best cruise director in that regard.  She is very supportive of the Enrichment Program.

We didn't catch all of the Art and Music Show in Eden last cruise so we went a second time - this time, we sat on the second level so we could see everything.  The acrobats and aerialists did their thing - all very interesting.  We stayed almost to the end.

After the show, we went up the Oceanview Café for some dessert, which we want to have on the back deck.  It was drizzling so we couldn’t do that.

Back to our super comfy stateroom.

Whatever scourge I have is getting somewhat worse (coughs and super sneezes). 

November 16, 2021 – At Anchor of Belize – Mostly Cloudy – High 70s.

Somewhat fitful night – ship was rocking and I could hear noises from the Café through my earplugs.  Did get some sleep, though.

The ship is running tender operations to Belize City and by 10:00 AM, the tenders were wide open to all passengers.  We are staying on board as we are continuing our “no port” COVID protocol. 

We did something very unusual this morning – we went to breakfast together at 7:30 AM.  We went to the Cosmopolitan, the only restaurant that serves breakfast.  I asked Olga the hostess if she worked 24 hours a day and she said she did.

We both started off with oatmeal (Ellen had Apple Cider Oatmeal) and I had my usual brown sugar and raisins.  That was followed up by pancakes (two plain for me and an apple pancake for Ellen).  We both had two fried eggs.  The breakfasts were good and the service fast enough.  I still like the buffet better even though it is louder (the screaming lady is very quiet in the restaurant).  Still, it was nice to be served and the food was good.

We stopped by Guest Services to tell them that we did not get a final bill for Cruise 1 and that I had some question about the accuracy of the drink prices I was paying. The agent said she would send over that final bill and correct the drink bills. 

I’m in the Aqua Spa Café drinking coffee, writing this log, and shortening the “Titanic Child” Lecture.

Lunch was in the Aqua Spa Café – again I brought a salad from the buffet and Ellen had her usual tuna.  It was also focaccia day in the Oceanview Café – at least six different kinds of focaccia – tried them all but the best ones were the simple ones.  One quirk about the Aqua Spa Café is that it doesn’t have iced tea – only lemonade and guava passion fruit cocktail.  I guess tea is too “stimulating” for this venue.

We got some good seats again in the Solarium and the open window provided some fresh air so we stayed there as long as we could.  We headed to the room to get away from people and noise.  We also decided not to try and do walk in at one of the restaurants.  Why dress up if we weren’t planning to go the show (“Tree of Life”). 

Dinner in the Oceanview Café tonight consisted of spaghetti alfredo with tomatoes and onions for me (not as good as usual – a new cook) and a slice of pizza.  Finished off with some watermelon.  Ellen had butternut squash soup and some of the fish on their grille. 

We tried to sit out on the back deck to watch the sail away


but it started to rain so we went inside.  We went down to the Grand Plaza to see the famed “Chandelier Show”.  For about a minute and half the huge chandelier lights up with different colors to the beat of pre-recorded music.  I thought it would be a bit grander and maybe it is on other occasions. 


That ended the evening (we waited over an hour for the Chandelier Show because we got good seats).

Seas are smooth.

November 15, 2021 – Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico – Cloudy and showers – 70s

It was a little bumpy – more like shaky – last night as we made our way to Mexico.  The shaking actually woke me up at around 5 AM or so.  I then proceeded to oversleep until 7:30 AM which meant that I would not have a peaceful breakfast up in the Oceanview Café.  I did get sour cream on my waffle today along with cottage cheese and strawberry jam.  I got some scrambled eggs but did not finish them.  I did get a decent and distanced window seat but the view of Puerto Maya was, at best, dismal.

I used Google Maps to get the location of Celebrity Apex.  The screenshots were quite interesting.

Ellen and I wanted to try the breakfast in Eden this morning.  They are only open from 7:30 – 9:00 AM.  We got their fifteen minutes before closing.  We both had a bowl of steel cut oatmeal (brown sugar, almonds, and raisins in mine).  The breakfast sandwiches were all premade and had some kind of meat included.  The only other items available to us were the bear claws and sweet rolls (so we tried those and took the rest back to the room).

We went back to Eden for the morning Trivia Contest.  Today, the topic was “decades” – when did a certain even take place.  Pretty good turnout for trivia as always.  We managed to get 8 or 15 correct – the winner got 9 so it was a tough contest.  Still, it was fun to be in a group sort of.

Lunch involved my getting a salad from Oceanview Café, some tuna and egg salad along with some guacamole to the Aqua Spa Café where Ellen was having their signature tuna patty and some kind of salad.  The salad was good as was the tuna and egg salad but the guacamole was super salty to the point of inedibility.  Still, that was enough food. 

After lunch we found some window seats in the Solarium and were going to be there for the rest of the afternoon.  I cracked the window a bit to let out some of the chlorine.  One of the crew wanted to shut it because it was pouring outside and making the area wet.  He eventually left it open.  Our seats gave us a clear view of the ship parked next to us today, the Serenade of the Seas.  


Serenade is an older and much smaller cruise ship than Apex.  It sailed on a four day RT from Tampa FL; Costa Maya was the only port of call.  I also noticed that many of the passengers were wearing masks outside and that the crew was all masked.  When passengers weren’t wearing masks they were carrying them.  I looked up the COVID rules for RCL – fully vaccinated passengers and crew; masks indoors and only off when eating or drinking.  Masks optional outdoors except when distancing is not possible.  More stringent than current Celebrity protocols (which I also double checked in case some changes had come along since we departed). 

The rain continued all day 


so there was only one way to stay on Deck 14 and move between the Solarium and the Café.  At 4 PM, Ellen and I went to the Oceanview Café to get afternoon “tea” and ruin our dinner.  I had a couple of plain scones with butter (in the morning, the little brother of those scones serves the roll of “bisquits”.  They had quiche and other goodies but I was happy with the scones.

We have reservations tonight at the Cosmopolitan and our current favorite Hostess, Olga from Ukraine.  She had been seating us at tables for four but with no tablemates.  Once again, we had great window seats to watch the rather non-descript sail away.  Ellen ordered two mushroom-based starters but one of them turned out to be a roasted veggie tart (which I finished).  I had the Cesar Salad, which was good but so large a portion that I was unable to finish it.  I decided to try the Pan Seared Hake (after determining that it was kosher – I had had Hake before as Fish and Chips in Buenos Aires).  This fish was undercooked and a bit chewy.  I ate the mashed potatoes that came with it and I told the concerned waiter it was OK.  Ellen had the terrific trout and a mushroom-based starter which she liked.  We both had carrot cake. The carrot cake was layered but good.

We got to the theater early because we tried to hang out in the Grand Plaza but it got too loud.  We got our usual seats and were worried that now that the ship had more people that passengers might actually want to sit next to us in these seats.  That never happened since the turnout for this show was quite a bit smaller than most evening shows.

The headliner tonight (and a neighbor of ours on Deck 12) was Anthony Salci, pianist and promoter of a concert called “A Concert for Unity”.  I was positive that we had een him in the past but I couldn’t find him in my logs.  He was backed up by the always loud Apex Orchestra and started his set with the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean” which was arranged by Hans Zimmer, the proponent of thunderous movie sound tracks.  He then played a familiar song (whose title escapes me) by Pink. His third number was the obligatory, “Fields of Gold”, which has been done several times on these cruises.  The music kept getting louder even on such mellow songs as “Amazing Grace”.  

I was dealing with both a headache and sore throat so we went back to the room for Tylenol and Advil.

I watched a little bit of Monday Night Football on mute. That was a first on a ship for me.

The ship is still rocking as she makes her way to Belize City.