Tuesday, January 23, 2024

December 28, 2023 – Miami, Florida – Raining – 60F

Disembarkation Day

Up early again this morning so I went to the Windjammer for my usual breakfast and was also able to get a picture of pre-dawn Miami.  The Cafe was not the chaotic place I thought it would be.

I brought Ellen her breakfast even though it was disembarkation day.

We were out of our cabin 8 AM and hung out in the Promenade until 9:30 AM – 

The Promenade was a comfortable place to wait until leaving the ship.  The chairs were comfortable and there weren't a lot of people crowded into a small room.  I was able to almost punch out my coffee card – maybe one short – by getting an iced mocha this morning.

We waited until the Promenade was deserted and then took off for the gangway.  

Because of the size of the ship and the number of bags, the bag retrieval area used carousels like an airport.  We waited by our designated carousel (Group 33 was on Carousel 11, I think) but our bags did not come off that carousel.  After going back and forth through the carousels (I think there were 11), we finally found our bags. 

Immigration was simple since the Port of Miami has facial recognition.

We were going to take a cab over to the MSC Terminal (per instructions from Guest Relations) but the cab driver told us that she couldn’t do that but that there was a free shuttle between cruise terminals.  Ellen got us into a short line for that shuttle – another Jedi power – and soon we were at the MSC Terminal.  This would be our last cruise of three.

The short cruise on the Independence of the Seas turned out to be a pleasant surprise with good food, good entertainment, and good service.  It was a good call.

December 27, 2023 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Partly Cloudy – Breezy – 70s

Smooth ride but rough sleeping night. 

Got up at 5:30 AM – so early that I could shave and shower and still have plenty of time until I had to go to the Windjammer for breakfast.  I was up there before it technically opened but the place was already full of people.  I got a nice table with a window this time around.  Today, I had a nice waffle with cottage cheese and jams.  The scrambled eggs were a little overdone.  I did start off with a nice bowl of oatmeal, the first on this cruise.  My server brought me three cups of coffee so I didn’t have to worry about losing the table.  Nice service.  Breakfast has been a good meal on the ship and the service and attitude of the service staff has been excellent.  I brought Ellen her breakfast but she also tried the lox sandwich in Espresso and said it was very good. 

There is literally nothing for us to do on this full sea day except to read our books.  We are going to that on Open Deck 4.  

This is the first time we have been on the open deck, which had odd loungers (they are comfortable enough) and very few people.  At any one time, there might be less than 10 people on the non-smoking side.  The smoking side has more people obviously.  I finished Robert Crais’ “Racing the Light”, which I’d forgotten that I’d started and then had to return to the library.  When I got it back, it was 79 percent finished. It took a few pages to realize that I had been reading the book.  I started another one of his books, “The Promise”, which I am pretty sure I had not read. 

While on Deck 4, I noticed one of the CCTV cameras used to monitor the deck and look for possible man overboard situations.

Junk food, but good junk food, was lunch. We had pizza from Sorrento’s – in addition to the delicious cheese pizza, I tried their veggie pizza.  This was a white pizza (no tomato sauce) and I’m not a big fan of white pizza.  From there, we went to Espresso to pick up another iced white chocolate latte.

Our afternoon wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Fish and Ships.  The fish and chips have been consistently delicious the entire cruise.  Then it was back down to Deck 4.

We had a final wonderful dinner in Dining Room 3 - we told our waiters that we were going to give them a perfect 10 rating - they deserved it.

After dinner, we went out on the open deck 4 to catch a wonderful sunset and actually got a passenger (or maybe a cast member - she didn't give off a passenger vibe) to take a picture of the two of us.  She caught us in "silhouette" mode, then in more standard lighting.  She messed with my camera settings like she knew what she was doing.  And, of course, the wind had blown Ellen's hair across her face.  Standard pose.

Tonight was the big show - Royal Caribbean's Broadway Night - Grease.  

The sets were great, the costumes and makeup perfect, and the performances spot on.  

All the big numbers were there, "Summer Nights", 

"Greased Lightning", "Hopelessly Devoted to You", 

and "You're the One That I Want".

The actress playing Sandy had he own take on the character but did a good job on her songs - they didn't quite capture the Olivia Newton-John version, though.  And I wasn't sure I liked the ship's version of "teen angel" during "Beauty School Dropout".  

The troupe did a wonderful number featuring the "hand jive".

The show ended with the big time finale.

It was a very enjoyable show and it was clear that the cast put a lot of work into it.  For this show, we sat in the second row from the stage on the aisle so I could get some good pictures.

The theater was full so we waited until almost all of the people left before venturing out.

Our disembarkation information was in our room when we got back.  We have two sets of luggage tags and we are going to use the ones that have a later disembarkation.  We will need to be out of the cabin by 8 AM but can stay on the ship until 9:30 AM. 

We hadn't unpacked a lot of clothes for this cruise so putting back a pair of pants and a shirt or two didn't take long.  I put the suitcases out in the ball before 10 PM.  I can't imagine the work involved in moving probably around 6000 - 8000 pieces of luggage off the ship and into the terminal.

Monday, January 22, 2024

December 26, 2023 – Falmouth, Jamaica – Mostly Sunny – Warm 85F

I don’t know how it happened but I actually “overslept” and got up at 7:20 AM. I hurried up to the Windjammer because I knew it would be difficult to find a seat. I was not able to get a window seat but I did find a seat. There was only a little strip of land that you could see from the ship.

I tried something different this morning – a plain pancake, a chocolate chip pancake and two fried eggs (they mass produce them like Princess does).  The breakfast was good even though the eggs were a tad overdone. I put together Ellen’s lox plate and brought it to the room.  Hot tea came via room service but it took a bit longer to arrive today. 

I also finally got a picture of our long hallway on this ship.  This is what I deal with when going to the aft end for food or bringing food back to the cabin.

I went up to the Solarium to try and get phone signal.  I had to change a doctor’s appointment – I got signal but the medical app wouldn’t open correctly so I decided to call the doctor’s office at 25 cents a minute.  The call went through but was put on about $2 of hold before being told that I couldn’t change the appointment.  Being on hold was made a bit easier by a White Chocolate Latte (on my coffee card).  I checked emails, made sure the world was still in one piece, finished Wordle quickly and waited for Ellen so we could get off the ship.

I had been to Falmouth or rather Falmouth Bay in the past (don’t recall when) and today, we are planning to walk around the pier area.  

Today, we are joined by a single ship, the Explorer of the Seas (a friend from the past and on the right in this picture).  

I thought Explorer was a massive ship when I lectured on it years ago but with 3000 or so passengers, it is in the middle of the scale now.  Still, the two ships could theoretically offload about 7000 passengers today.  If they did, they must have been on excursions because the port area was not crowded. 

The walk to the port complex was short – about half the length of the ship.  The port of Falmouth consisted mostly of shops – there was, of course, Diamonds International (with a menorah still hanging over the entrance) and its clones.  

There were souvenir shops galore – the baseball caps were running $15 - $30 – and that really the only item I was looking for since I don’t have one from Jamaica.  There were some restaurants in the complex, which is a large rectangle, shops lining the perimeter and pretty much open in the center.


I am always on the lookout for coffee.  The big coffee in Jamaica is “Blue Mountain Coffee”.  I had heard of it and it must be amazing coffee because it was selling at $60 - $80 per pound – even more expensive than Kona Coffee (or maybe the same as these days).  One store was offering a 10 percent discount on the large size but that wasn’t going to make it worth it. The coffee came in 2, 4, and 16 ounce sizes.  Amazing.  You have to be a coffee fanatic to pay that much for coffee. 

We walked over to the entrance to the port – lots of security there and went out to the actually “historic district” of Falmouth.  Within one block of the Port Gate, the city became authentic and we didn’t think it would a good idea to explore the neighborhood.  We went back through the gate and spent a little time listening to the island music being played by a live band and trying unsuccessfully once again to get a decent selfie. Ellen looks good and I look like I can't find the shutter button.

Then, it was back to the ship.  Security at the port included metal detectors, which saved time on the ship (no detectors just a scan in).

We had a very familiar lunch – two slices of pizza from Sorrento’s, two mini tuna sandwiches from Espresso and a Strawberry Kiwi drink and ice water.  We ate all of this in Sorrento's because the pizza is better hot.  After “lunch”, I picked up an Iced White Chocolate Latte (they charge you for two drinks for the larger iced versions, a fact not disclosed when I bought the card) and went to the Solarium shady side (Port side today).  Ellen joined me on the couches near the pool entrance.  These couches, in addition to being in the shade, are also closer to the washroom – a bonus. 

Using the phone signal, I download two more Robert Crais books – one of them said it was 70 percent read but I don’t recall reading the book.  We’ll see.  I didn’t do any reading – too tired – instead catching up with Facebook and the news. 

At around 2 PM, we walked over to Fish and Ships at the end of the pool deck to get some Fish and Chips.  The fish is really good and almost to hot to eat – it’s that fresh.  We walked over to the other side of the deck and got two soft serve swirl cones. And that was our lunch today – a progressive lunch of sorts. 

It was a short day in Falmouth with departure at 4 PM.  I think the two RCL ships were leaving together or they were playing a duet with their ship’s horn.  They went back and forth like the UFO in Close Encounters.  The Independence OTS pushed away from the pier and was instantly in open water.  The ride was smooth.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of Cesar Salad (too wet and no dressing), Vegan Green Lentil Soup (in San Marzano tomato base – very good).  Ellen had the Vegan Tofu Avocado Salad w/o Tofu (good). We both had the Pesto Tafliatelle (pasta pesto with mushroom and sundried tomatoes), which was really good. Ellen also had some Tilapia from the Windjammer (not so good). We both had the Carrot Cake (very good).  Ellen had a scoop of vanilla ice cream because the only ice cream otherwise available is soft serve.

The headliner tonight is Vargus Mason, a comedian, who did an adult show the other night that was too late for us.  

We moved around a couple of times because, even though it is a mammoth theater, people will always choose to sit right in front of us (and we were in the last row in the upper balcony).  Amazing.  I really wanted him to be funny but he was not – and he was also hard to understand (he had this screechy voice he used with his characters that was tough to make out).  We were 0-2 on comedians on this cruise. 

We thought of going to Bolero for live music but it was too loud so we went to the Star Lounge for “Jazz Cabaret”.  On stage with a full band were two of the Royal Caribbean Singers doing jazz – they had started at 7:15 PM so we caught about a 20 minutes of their act (Vargus’ show was mercifully only a half hour).  

While we were there, we found another "cruise duck" at our table - left by another passenger.  We took this one home, as well. 

Our next stop was the Library for some P and Q and photo organizing and reading. I mentioned the Egyptian motif on this ship. Here's an example.

At 9:00 PM, we went over to the Schooner Bar to hear Anthony on Piano. 

Anthony is the conductor the Grease Musical scheduled for tomorrow.  We sat in the back to get away from the Casino Smoke so we couldn’t see all that well; we eventually move to bar seats to see.  Anthony sang “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and did a great job.  He was then joined by the Royal Caribbean Singers, who did both show tunes and Christmas songs for the next hour.  

They were really good and we would have stayed after their break (the entire show was supposed to run for 3 hours and 15 minutes, which would have had these people singing after midnight) but it was 10 PM.  Still, this was the best thing we had seen on the ship so far (the Jazz session was good, too).  I was surprised that it wasn’t better attended but that worked out for us because we did eventually get good seats.

We went to the room.  When the elevator door opened there was a guy with a full size piano in there playing.  I took his picture and waited for the next lift to show up.  

No idea what that was all about and how they got that heavy piano into the elevator.

The seas are smooth and the room is quiet.

December 25, 2023 – At Sea – Caribbean Sea – Partly Cloudy – 70s

Happy Birthday to my sister out in LA.

Smooth ride but not much sleep – earplugs interfere with my sleep.

I was up really early this morning – so early I could take a shower – wash out some things – and still make it to the Windjammer soon after it opened.  I did not get a window seat but I did get a table across from the windows.  It looks like another beautiful day at sea.

I had my waffle, cottage cheese, jams, and scrambled eggs.  They were all good but the coffee had run out.  It was back on line in a few minutes.  The biscuit was better today than yesterday.  Again, all in all, a good breakfast.

I was also getting familiar with the location of items so I put together a plate for Ellen – lox, cream cheese, fruit, and a chocolate pastry.  I carried them the half mile to our cabin.  Ellen ordered a hot tea, which came in five minutes instead of the promised 30 minutes. 

I picked up a Chai Latte and a White Chocolate Coffee on my card along with a chocolate donut (which are very good) and we are enjoying those in the incredibly welcome quiet of the library.

This ship is not that Christmas-y.  They did have a gift giving event this morning and while we were in the Library, two crew members walked in with gifts.  They told us they were for kids that didn’t believe in Santa Claus (they might have come up with a better description).  Well, they decided to hold that event outside of the library so the quiet continued in our little Fortress of Solitude.

At 11:30 AM, we went to the Windjammer to see what lunch was like today.  We did get a table near a window so that was a plus.  Ellen tried all sorts of things including some breakfast item and I requested a veggie burger.  This time out, I was told that it would take five minutes – well it took a little longer than that but it was still pretty good.  It’s a huge patty so I can’t see how it could be a standard Beyond or Impossible Burger.  Yet, it does taste like the latter – maybe RCL has their own source of veggie burgers.  It’s still noisy and hectic up there so tomorrow, we are going to try something different.

We went back to the Solarium and found some people leaving their nice couches so we should be set for most of the afternoon.  

We are, unfortunately, on the sunny side so even though the UV doesn’t make through the windows, the heat does.  I finally finished “Wanted” by Robert Crais – it was a slow developing story but ended, boom boom boom, within the last dozen pages.  Out of books – will need to pick one up tomorrow when we have phone service. 

It got to be a little too much on the sunny side of the Solarium so we went downstairs to the Star Lounge (Deck 5 Forward).  I used to lecture in that lounge on similar RCL ships and on one of them, the venue was called “Cleopatra’s Needle”.  There is a lot of Egyptian motif in that Lounge as well as in the Library.  This afternoon the Lounge was hosting Bingo and also had a very loud techno sound track going on in the back – we escaped, at that point, to our nice quiet room.

We went to our Table 350 right at 5:30 PM in Dining Room 3.  I should mention that our two waiters, Tushar and Gaurav, are excellent.  Tonight is Italian Night in the Dining Rooms so I had Minestrone Soup (was more like a lentil soup but tasty), the Vegan Garden Salad (mostly baby spinach – not a big fan), and the Crispy Parmesan Arancini (deep fried ball of mushrooms, rice, and provolone – pretty good).  For my entrĂ©e I had the Vegan Meatless Spaghetti Bolognese (I asked them to hold the tofu but the marinara sauce wasn’t very tomato-y.  The waiter brought me more of the sauce but the vegan version of the sauce was just not my kind of marinara sauce).  Ellen had the Dover Sole.  I had the lemon tartlet for dessert and Ellen had the chocolate hazelnut cake.  We were running late so we had to scarf down our tea and coffee.  This wasn’t the best dinner of the cruise but the service was good. 

Tonight’s headliners in the Royal Theater were juggler/comedians Wilde and James.  We had never seen them before and hope to never see them again.  

The theater was nearly full and a significant percentage of attendees arrived after the show started.  I had never seen so many late people.  Wilde and James must have fancied themselves as comedians but all of their jokes fell flat and some were simply offensive.  The show was just a little over 45 minutes long and the juggling part of the show was less than 10 minutes.  They were decent jugglers but that clearly was not their focus.  I don’t know how they got this gig.  I wouldn’t give them a positive rating. 

We got out of the theater as fast as we could. We wanted to go to the Solarium but the elevators were slow and the crowd was big and pushy so we walked up two flights of stairs and went to Guest Services.  We wanted to know how to get from one Terminal to another when we join our third ship – the associate didn’t know – maybe a taxi.  We also wanted to know more about the port tomorrow but he didn’t have much information on that either.

A personal observation:  The ship just feels really crowded – always getting bumped into and feeling like there is no place to walk or stand.  Maybe, it has something to do with the large number of kids on board and the fact that the parents are not really keeping them in line.  Why did so many people show up late to the show and then make other people move so they could sit down? Who knows?  This ship clearly has its positives and negatives.

After the theater experience and elevator experience we decided that the best place to end the evening would be in our cabin.