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Daily Log, Explorer of the Seas, Jan. 16-27

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Well, this will probably be a bit too much detail for many cruisers... but for those (like me) who enjoy reading along with someone else's trip, sit back and enjoy!

 

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Daily Log: Explorer of the Seas 11-night cruise, January 16-January 27

Mon. Jan. 16

Woke up at our friends’ house in South Orange, NJ (they picked us up in NYC last night so they could drive us to the port today at our leisure). Enjoyed a hot cup of PG Tips tea with milk and honey, caught up on my email and last check of Cruise Critic. Lovely breakfast of homemade bread, eggs and bacon (cooked in the oven on a rack, non-greasy, evenly cooked, just perfect). Talked with friends, then drove to Port of Bayonne.

Very clear signage from the highway all the way to the port entry… and then NOTHING, ended up driving well past the port entry, having to make a typical Jersey right-hand U-turn to get back to the entrance to the Cape Liberty Cruiseport, drove 2 miles out to beautiful Explorer of the Seas. Luggage handlers quickly moved our three very heavy bags from the car to the luggage carts (gave a $5 tip) and we promptly moved into the boarding area.

Bags went through scanners (though thank heavens we could keep on our shoes and coats, given the frigid temperatures!). Line moved quickly, and we were into the terminal, where we went to the Priority Boarding line (my daughter is Platinum, I am diamond)… but our cards showed her to be Gold. We were told to go to Guest Services to have this taken care of (more on that later).

I also noticed that we had early dining; my travel agent had assured me that we had confirmed late dining. Once we boarded, we walked up the stairs to deck 5 to go to Guest Relations (my daughter carrying my rollaboard as well as her backpack!). After waiting on a short line, they looked up her account and said she was still showing as Gold, and advised that we go to see the Loyalty Ambassador from 5-7pm that night (of course, with the spa raffle at 5:15 and dinner at 6, that was virtually impossible, and indeed we did not get there the first day). We also pointed out that our dining time was wrong, and were told to go “over the bridge” to have that straightened out… but that was the “My Time Dining” desk, not the Maitre D, for that we had to go downstairs to the other restaurant.

There were DOZENS of people waiting to have their dining arrangements changed, fixed, etc. – probably many who had late dining or My Time dining who wanted to move to early seating. After waiting about 10 minutes, we decided to stay with early dining, just so we wouldn’t end up so hungry by 8:30pm. We’ll see how it goes.

From there we headed up to the Windjammer, and made ourselves a lovely light lunch (after our heavy breakfast): baby spinach, honey mustard dressing; green beans with red onions; baked wahoo; I picked out 2 shrimp and 2 mussels from the Paella; and I picked up an orange, a red apple, a green apple and a kiwi to take back to the room. We drank water and found a shared table fairly quickly. There were wall-to-wall people in the Windjammer, many standing and eating from plates held in their hands, with many requests from the loudspeakers that people move along so others could enjoy their lunch… until the announcement came that the cabins were open, whereupon the place opened up quickly.

We proceeded down the stairs to deck 7; the hallways were packed with people, as apparently some of the cabins on decks 9 and 10 were not yet ready. We walked through the library and found our (TINY!!) Promenade cabin. I think it is even smaller than the cabin we just had on the 20-year-old Monarch of the Seas. However, we managed to fit all of our overpacked clothes, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, water sports items, books, music, and more into the space.

Once we finished unpacking, we headed up to the gym to introduce ourselves to the fitness center staff (SJ and Bea) and sign up for some classes. We got a deal on 6 classes for the price of 5 (I’m taking all 6 spin classes offered, and they allowed us to “combine” our 6 yoga classes as one package, even though we’re each taking 3 classes together). Then I stayed in the gym to sneak in a quick workout, while Ariel headed up to the spa to put in raffle tickets for us.

I did 10 minutes on the treadmill, trying to get my legs back into shape after their 11-mile run on Saturday. I moved the incline and speed up and then back down, pushing myself to move at 4 mph (a 15-minute mile, just slightly ahead of the 16-minute mile required for the Disney half-marathon). While I was on the treadmill, the announcement came that it was time for muster drill, and that all customer areas would be closed. I said I’d get off in 3 minutes (after cool down), then took a few photos… and realized that the staffer was waiting for me to exit, since the exterior doors were in fact closed!

I went down the stairs to deck 7, met Ariel in the room and picked up my fleece jacket (my faux fur was packed into my suitcase under my bed already) and we headed down to deck 4 to our muster station… outside in the frigid air, of course, with me in capris and still sweaty from my time on the treadmill. I had wrapped a bath towel around my neck to keep out the cold, but it was still mighty chilly! Muster went very fast, and the captain dismissed us. We returned to the room, where I hung up my jacket before heading back up to the gym for another 10-minute session with a 3-minute cool down.

The ship started to move, and I realized it was 5 o’clock. I got off the treadmill and ran the length of the ship, on the open solarium/pool deck, to reach the aft where I could go up 4 flights of stairs to the chapel on deck 15, for the Friends of Bill W. meeting. There were just 3 of us, and I explained I would have to leave in 10 minutes to meet my daughter at the spa raffle, but at least we got to introduce ourselves. A nice start.

I then ran back downstairs, back across the freezing pool deck in my once-again sweaty workout clothes – JUST as we were passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge!! – and arrived back in the gym right on time for the spa raffle. Ariel and I were not lucky tonight, but it’s always fun to participate and cheer on the others.

Then it was back to the room, where I showered and changed for dinner (Ariel had done so while I was working out before), and we then rushed down to our 6:00pm seating. We are seated with a party of 6 friends, all in their late 60s and early 70s, with grandchildren in college, from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, very nice people overall.

The restaurant management was a bit haphazard: there was no one to seat us as we entered the dining room, we had to wander around to find our own table. The assistant waiter made one bread service throughout the entire meal, and did not offer iced tea or lemonade (although he quickly provided it when requested). As is the general focus these days, there is a push for the for-pay items (bottled Evian water and sparkling Pellegrino as well as sodas and bar drinks; cappuccinos and lattes over coffee and tea; more description of the Chops steak than the regular menu items, etc.).

Dinner was delicious; I had a spicy Thai shrimp soup, a fruit plate with thumbnail-sized bites of strawberry, kiwi and pineapple, and Ariel and I shared a spinach salad with balsamic vinegar (no, not vinaigrette, just vinegar poured over the salad by the assistant waiter!); “Catch of the Day” which was sea bass, over lentils and green beans with 3 cherry tomatoes – and I also ate the mushrooms from Ariel’s mushroom alfredo!

The staff must be under a lot of pressure; when the waiter had to delay delivery of one person’s dinner, he explained, “When I was there it was in the oven. It’s not my fault.” Surely they are instructed that this is NOT the right thing to say? In any event, when I requested a cheese plate be at the table when we are seated for the rest of the week, the waiter assured me it would be in place for everyone, and when we requested a fruit plate and cheese plate for dessert, they were delivered very quickly so we could make the single-seating welcome aboard show.

Cruise Director is Jimmy Rhodes – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before on either the Majesty or the Monarch. The orchestra was in fine form and the dancers all look great – and most of them are VERY TALL! Can’t tell about the singers yet, but they did fine in the brief “Zoot Suit” number tonight. Comedian (Max something, an Italian name) carried most of the weight for the show, and was pretty funny.

After the show, we walked up to the Promenade, wandered through the stores, tried to pick up an extra Compass (they were all out), then walked up to deck 7, browsed in the Library, and returned to the room to look at tomorrow’s Compass and bring this log up to date.

 

Ariel read magazines and we listened to ipod music on the idog speaker until 10:30 when the Promenade parade started. Ariel and I watched from the windows, wearing our “blinkie” buttons… but then I rushed downstairs to guest services while the parade was on, and indeed, there was NO ONE on line!! I quickly took care of Diamond internet discount (so I can check my email and post these notes) and purchased a announcement in the Compass for the Labadee port day (a $25 fee), congratulating Ariel and thanking her for her two years of service with AmeriCorps.

Then I walked back up the Promenade after the parade was over, through piles of confetti and RC staffers clearing up and clearing out, picked up a couple of kiwis, a banana, a knife and a spoon from the café, and walked back up to the cabin. We dressed for bed, and I purchased the internet package, after pre-writing a couple of emails to send.

And there’s our first day at sea! More of a diary than a trip log, I know, but hopefully some of the detail will be of interest to other cruisers.

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Once we finished unpacking, we headed up to the gym to introduce ourselves to the fitness center staff (SJ and Bea) and sign up for some classes. We got a deal on 6 classes for the price of 5 (I’m taking all 6 spin classes offered, and they allowed us to “combine” our 6 yoga classes as one package, even though we’re each taking 3 classes together). Then I stayed in the gym to sneak in a quick workout, while Ariel headed up to the spa to put in raffle tickets for us.

 

Thank you for your blog, I am on EOS for the first time and will enjoy reading and getting ideas. What were the prices for the fitness centre, I am sure my wife is interested

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Well, this will probably be a bit too much detail for many cruisers... but for those (like me) who enjoy reading along with someone else's trip, sit back and enjoy!

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And there’s our first day at sea! More of a diary than a trip log, I know, but hopefully some of the detail will be of interest to other cruisers.

I am thrilled to be along on your cruise, looking forward to your updates.....and I love the details. I'll be on EOS in a month! I'll save my questions for when you return....ENJOY!

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Sounds like you are off to a pretty good start. i am sure the loyal ambassador will get your status fixed.

 

Did your travel documents from your agent and royal caribbean show that you had confirmed second seating? Very unusual for the restaurant operations manager to miss many requests. I know on our Allure cruise last month many people were in line to change times and change tables after seeing the location of the table. Some said they didn't realize that second seating dining at 830 meant you weren't starting to dine until then. they actually thought they could just show up and be out by then.

 

Glad you are having a great time with your daughter. Enjoy the Explorer. She is a great ship with a great crew.

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If you get a chance to talk to the Cruise Director is Jimmy Rhodes, can you ask him if he will be onboard for the February 27th sailing and if not who will be the cruise director then.

 

Thanks

Jimbo:)

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Enjoying your daily log. Hubby & I will be on the EOS in May. Can't wait to continue reading. Thanks for taking time out and doing this!!:D

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Thanks for the daily report. We're cruising on the Explorer for the first time in April, your timing is perfect.

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Thanks for posting the live thread. I will be following it as we will be boarding as you are getting off. If you would, can you please find out who the CD will be on our cruise. Our roll call has been wondering. Also let us know where the M & M was held. Thanks again for taking the time and posting.

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Enjoyed your detailed first day.....Will be reading and looking forward to your posts due to the fact we are on right after you, s you will be our guide to the Explorer.....

We are going with friends who wanted me to ask the question if Shrimp Cocktail is on the MDR menu every night.

Happy and safe cruise.

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Hi Putercents – here are some fitness centre prices: General access to the gym is free, to use all free weights, weight machines, treadmills, etc. (Spin bikes are only for use in spin classes.) There are several short (25-30 min.) free classes offered each day, generally early in the morning (7am vitality stretch, 7:30 abs buns and thighs or something similar) and on some port days a 5pm conditioning class.

In addition, they offer “Pathway to Yoga” (i.e., this is not a real yoga class, but does practice some postures from Yoga), Pilates, and Spin classes at $12 per class. As someone who has been cruising since before for-pay gym classes were offered, I have seen these classes rise in price from $6 to $8 to $10 and now $12 per class. (Note that these classes have also dropped in length from 60 minutes to 55 to 50 and now 45 minutes!) In the beginning, as they would raise the price, they offered a package to keep it at the previous price (i.e., $12 per class but if you book 3 classes it would be $30, keeping it effectively at the old price).

I asked if they would do that on this cruise, and the fitness center director said their package special was if you booked all SIX classes of any one offering, they would only charge for five (so in effect they would be $10 each)… and since I was doing all six spin classes I qualified for this, and they kindly offered to let me and my daughter split a package for six yoga classes between the two of us.

They also offer a 4-session body sculpt boot camp for $120, making it $30 per 30-minute session. (This is actually a relatively good deal, we paid $75 for a 2-session boot camp on the Monarch in December, or $37.50 per session.) We did NOT do this on this cruise, as it was outside of our budget, but it is a great, VERY high energy program.

(Let me add that I feel the prices charged for these classes, as for many items onboard, are WAY out of line. As I have repeatedly written on these boards, and in my comment cards onboard, we already pay a premium to be in this floating city. While a small upcharge may be in order for certain premium items – specialty restaurants, top-shelf drinks, intensive workout classes, etc. – the prices charged are much too high. I noticed that there were only two people signed up for Yoga today, whereas there were a dozen people at the free stretch class. Surely if the classes were five or six dollars, instead of twelve, there would be many more participants, much more energy created – and much more revenue (and good will) generated for RCI. Furthermore, they have now started to impose an AUTO-GRATUITY on top of these class fees!! I used to tip the gym staff quite handsomely at the end of the cruise – often $20 to $50, since I used the facilities for several hours a day, and was always grateful for their (free) guidance and assistance. Now that I am paying a (too high priced) premium for their classes, my budget does not allow for this kind of tipping – and I am really appalled that this tip has been imposed on a per-receipt basis. I may look into having it removed before the end of the cruise.)

(May I add one more comment: I REALLY miss the old Vitality (formerly ShipShape) programs that Royal Caribbean used to offer. I think it really encouraged people to stay active onboard and think about their health. For those of you who only started cruising recently, for all the programs now marked with a “Vitality” symbol offered by the sports and the cruise director’s departments, such as both the free and for-pay classes, walk-a-mile, line dancing, rock climbing, etc., RCI used to give out “ShipShape Dollars” and later “Vitality coins” which you could trade in at the end of the cruise at the sports desk for actually useful items: sports backpacks, visors, towels, T-shirts and more. If you only had a few chits you could usually at least get a keychain. Similar to Trivia prizes, which used to be nifty things like purses and wallets and now are just highlighters or even the free pens lying around, the giveaways have been drastically reduced. Such a shame; I really can’t believe these were such big revenue-eaters that they had to be removed, and they did add such good spirit and fun to participating in healthy activities, and to playing Trivia and other fun games onboard.)

(Okay, one more speech from my soapbox, then back to my daily log: I would strongly suggest that RCI look into developing sports programs for their actual customers. In other words, instead of being happy with 30-50 people out of the 3600 on board using the gym, why not create programs that will serve more people? Wouldn’t it be great if they offered a “gentle stretch” class or “easy aerobics” for older, less fit, or overweight people who want to begin to get into shape without feeling like they have to bend themselves into pretzels to keep up with the very fit people? Likewise, wouldn’t it be great to offer some really challenging classes for the younger and more athletically inclined, outside of the for-pay boot camp and spin classes? On tour day, instructors could give demonstrations of what people could expect in the various level classes, and that might improve participation… not to mention if some of the classes were offered later than 7:00am. On many cruises, by the third or fourth day, I have been the only person at these early-morning events! I am also a living example of the positive impact of cruise exercise: I have lost over 80 lbs. and am currently training for a half-marathon, and I did my first-ever spin class on a Royal Caribbean cruise nearly six years ago! I have learned a lot from the various trainers I have met onboard over the years, and I would love to see other people reap the same benefits that I have from my experience in cruise exercise classes.)

Tues., Jan. 17 – At Sea

Okay, so back to the daily detailed report! I’m so glad to read that this minutiae is of interest to at least some others. I know I LOVE reading minute-by-minute descriptions of other people’s cruise holidays, even (or especially) if their interests are completely different from my own; it’s a great way to plan what to do (or what to avoid), and to cruise vicariously when I can’t get out from behind my desk! I remember reading along with a South Seas cruise on Princess and nearly crying every day the pictures and stories were so amazing.

Sorry about no pictures; my digital camera died on my 3-day Monarch cruise in December… I may actually replace it on this trip! I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime my daughter has been taking lots of photos, and I have a bunch on my cell phone I may try to upload on another day… when I don’t start writing my notes at nearly midnite!! (After all, I have to be up in about 6 hours to get ready for my 7am stretch class.)

So… that’s how today started! I had laid out my clothes last night so I could basically get dressed in the dark, hoping not to disturb my daughter (who also went to bed while I was typing up these notes, as she has again tonight, wearing a sleep mask and listening to a sound machine with ocean waves). At about 6:30am my travel alarm went off, and I put on my workout gear, took along my metal water bottle filled with ice water from my melted ice bucket (and infused with my wonderful Isagenix want-more-energy, a healthy sports drink), my room key, and my sneakers and socks.

I walked up to the gym in my flip-flops and pulled a mat out onto the floor, along with the eight or so people who were already there; a couple more came in after me. We did a nice basic stretch class with instructor SJ – different from any I had done before, he had an interesting focus of having us identify which side was looser and which was tighter, and after stretching each side equally for 20 seconds, we then stretched the tight side for 30 seconds and the loose side for only 10. I liked this personalization, because of course everybody is different whether the left or right side is tight, and it changes day to day. Nice touch, SJ!

After that, some people left, some people stayed, and we did the abs, buns and thighs class. Sadly, the warmup for this class was the same as the warmup for the previous one, so having done both classes in a row I was a bit bored. (Don’t get me wrong, they were nice warm-ups, just boring to repeat the same movements so close together. Makes me a little worried about the repetitiveness over an 11-night cruise. Oh well, we’ll see…) The class was basically squats, lunges and crunches, solid basic moves, well led but nothing special.

I then returned to the room to wake up my daughter so we could go to breakfast before attending our first event: a destination lecture about Labadee. I was so excited to see something other than the “Port and Shopping” lecture, which I have attended many times and found to be little more than a shill for stores which apparently either pay to be promoted or kick back to the cruiseline for promoting them… and which encourage me to purchase a coupon book (which I have done more than once) which further encourages me to buy stuff I don’t need and can’t afford! Yeah, I don’t do that one anymore…

But anyway, we didn’t really get to attend this lecture because, once again, the dining room management was really poor. I remember reading in another recent thread about the Explorer having major dining room problems, and I’m afraid I have to continue this theme. While the individual servers are really wonderful – friendly, kind and attentive – my exposure to the upper management, head waiters and Maitre D’s, is really problematic if not actually poor (more on that later). I’m afraid that their hostile attitude is affecting the staff, and their poor administration of the dining room is truly reducing service. (I am too Pollyanna to believe that this is a mean-spirited ploy on the part of RCI itself to drive people out of the poorly-managed MDR into the pay venues; I’m just afraid that there is a lack of excellent leadership from the top in this area.)

So, what was the actual experience? When we arrived at the dining room for breakfast at 8:45am, the line was out the door – 24 people ahead of us, I counted – and not moving. At all. I went to the front of the line to see what was holding us up. They were not letting anyone come in. Why? I was completely confused. There seemed to be no reason; could they possibly want people to use the Windjammer instead of the dining room? Again, why? It took 15 minutes for us to be seated for breakfast (9:00am), and another 15 minutes (9:15am) before we saw our waiter so we could inform him we wanted to make a 9:30 event! (I should note that when we left the dining room, the line was TWICE as long… it looked like nearly 50 people waiting to be seated for breakfast. I have never encountered this before on any RCI ship.)

In the meantime, NO water was served… a tray of sweet pastries was brought by the table, no muffins or bread… and while coffee and tea were brought around, and a tray of orange juice was offered, the menu juices (including prune, tomato and V-8) were not mentioned, though when I requested V-8 it was brought promptly.

(As an aside: I have repeatedly requested grapefruit juice on RCI cruises, but could not get it anywhere, and have been told that there is no grapefruit juice anywhere on the ship, even in the bars. As a former drinker, I remember a favorite being the Sea Breeze, with cranberry and grapefruit juice in addition to the alcohol – do they not serve these onboard? Interesting. In any event, my own solution to this is Jack Nicholson’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest solution to not having any toast for the chicken sandwich: I order the breakfast grapefruit, and an empty glass, and squeeze my own – for free!!! Yeah, it’s a bit messy, but at least I know how to treat the customer – me – right, and make sure that I get what I want.)

As usual, our dining companions were delightful: two older women, clearly longtime friends, who were traveling together. They were both well-cruised and well-traveled, and had a lot of stories to share, including years of sailing the Caribbean in rented sailboats with their late husbands, living in Italy for many years, etc. I really love the conversations and the friendships that grow from meeting with my fellow cruisers!

Well, I ordered eggs benedict and kippered herring, and heard the waiter repeat the order. I received the eggs and they were wonderful, but the herring was never delivered; maybe it was on the station, but I had asked him to bring everything together, because we ran out the door as soon as we wolfed down the eggs so we could at least catch the last half of the lecture…

…but of course, just as we arrived in the PACKED Schooner Bar, the speaker was wrapping up the historical part of the lecture, and moving into a description of the resort section of Labadee. I have been to Labadee twice in the past, and it is one of my favorite “private island” destinations, so green and lush and different from other ports. I also love being able to support residents of such an economically depressed, long-war-torn and recently ecologically devastated country. I have bought clothes, artwork, jewelry, music CDs and more from the local vendors when I have visited, and I am glad that RCI has contributed much to the local economy. I have traveled widely with timeshares and hotels and have never found any promotion of tourism anywhere else in Haiti, due to its many problems. I am excited to see the new dock in Labadee, which was built to accommodate the mammoth Oasis and Allure, and will benefit all the other RCI ships which call at this port. How nice not to have to tender this time!

(An interesting aside: I have a friend who has worked in Haitian relief work for many years, long before the earthquake and subsequent devastation, and she said that the real name of this area is “Labadie” – pronounced like our “Julie” – but apparently, because of the word “-die” at the end, the powers that be decided to change it to “Labadee” so no one would say it the wrong way, or think of the word “die”! Odd that that there are no such worries about the mispronunciation of “Coco Cay” – which should, of course, be pronounced “Key” – but I digress…)

So, having arrived at the lecture late, we had to leave early, because the Meet & Mingle was beginning in the Chamber at 10:00am! We ran downstairs into the amazing faux-stone two-level disco (what is this called on the Mariner, the Dragon’s Den or some such? I remember closing it down more than once with some rowdy dancing CC friends of mine!!) – and it was packed with all of our great roll call members! We’re scheduled for a slot pull on our first returning sea day… and we were supposed to have a mini golf tournament, but I don’t know what happened to that…

Anyway, Frankie from the CD’s department led the event; there were some nibbles plus iced tea and lemonade available and we got the nice little hanging notepad/pen combos as our free gifts. We all stood and introduced ourselves by table, giving our names, screen names and home town, and a little info about our cruising history, a great way to put faces to names. Then we put in our chits for the raffle. Prizes included a baseball hat, umbrella, Bingo T-shirt, and the most valuable prizes: 2 free in-cabin movies, and $50 worth of internet time! My daughter Ariel was thrilled to win the movies… and even more thrilled when the most-cruised member (with 91 cruises) gave her his internet prize! She made me take photos of her with her prize certificates… and with the lovely man who gave her his prize, too. We met and mingled with many who had been so friendly on the boards, just a great event, so nice to have many familiar faces to run into throughout the cruise.

From there, we returned to the Schooner bar to play progressive trivia at 10:30am. How I miss my usual CC crew!! We managed to come up with 12 out of 20, pretty sad… but it’s just the first day, hopefully we’ll become competitive by the end. We’re trying to convince one of our dinner companions to join our team tomorrow; he’s a former high school principal and apparently a trivia whiz. I’ll let you know how we do next time!

I dashed out of there early (can you tell I like to do a lot when I’m cruising? Not me for sleeping in and relaxing!) to get to the Digital Camera seminar at 11:00am in the Aquarium Bar– and I was thrilled to discover that it was an actual enrichment seminar, not just a promotion for digital camera sales. It was very interesting to learn about a lot of the recent technical advancements over just the past few years… well, maybe it was a promotion for the camera store after all!

Okay, left that lecture early to return to the Schooner Bar for the Cyber Security lecture at 11:30 – again, thrilled to have yet another actual enrichment seminar! Learned a lot of disturbing and helpful information about how to protect the personal information on my home computer (main advice: password protect your computer!).

Whew! By 12:30pm, we did not want to run around anymore, so we stayed to hear about the digital photography scavenger hunt (which we would have had to play using my daughter’s camera – sounds like fun, you run around the ship to take pictures of various items and get back within 25 minutes) – but then we left and wandered down to have lunch at the café in the Promenade.

What a great idea! We each had one of the three sandwiches on offer: ham and cheese on a mini-croissant; tuna salad on a seeded roll; and brie cheese with red-leaf lettuce on a sunflower-seed studded mini whole wheat bagel. Yum! We shared an orange and a banana (which I cut into nice slices) for dessert, and I had a coconut ranger cookie and a cup of coffee. (I don’t know what a ranger is, but it is delicious!!) My daughter has really been enjoying the Lipton green tea on offer in both the café and the dining room; it also has jasmine tea in it, and it’s quite delicious. (We bring our own stevia to sweeten our drinks; it is not yet available onboard.)

After lunch we decided to continue to relax and read, so we went to the Aquarium Bar and took over a comfy couch by the large porthole-style windows, with a lovely garden just beyond. It was nice to sit and read (actually I played word games on my Kindle while she read) while looking out at the really quite rough seas. The rocking of the boat put me to sleep more than once! I guess all that running around caught up to me.

At 2:00pm we headed back to the Schooner Bar for Interactive Trivia, which was quite fun: we used these gizmos to record our answers (basically looking at photos of celebrities and movie stars and saying who they were). We got the highest score, along with two other teams (mostly thanks to Ariel), but we came in second place because speed of entry also counts in this game, and apparently the other team pressed those buttons more quickly than we did.

(Okay, it’s nearly 1am… I still have some other note-taking to do, so I am going to sign off for now… I promise to catch up on the rest of the afternoon and evening… maybe with fewer asides so it won’t take so long to write!... but I really must get some sleep so I can get up for stretch class in five hours… don’t know if I can slip in a nap tomorrow, the compass is jam-packed with great activities once again…)

Re: Questions – don’t know if Jimmy Rhodes will be staying on for the next cruise, but he is the current cruise director (I would trust the comment that he will be on thru March) – I don’t think shrimp cocktail is on the menu every night, but I bet if you ask your waiter you could get it every night! – keep ‘em coming, I’ll do my best to answer!

The Explorer is truly a beautiful ship. I enjoy walking around and looking at all the little touches, the artwork on every hallway, stairway, alcove… Annie Liebowitz photos of famous musicians and performers, original tribal art, soaring sculptures, humorous items, all so lovely. Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the ship’s godmother, a great inspiration to me as I prepare to run my first half-marathon at the end of next month. I am just having a great time on this cruise, and it’s only day 2 of 11! Can’t wait to tell you about what happens next.

A demain (till tomorrow)

-D

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......After waiting on a short line, they looked up her account and said she was still showing as Gold, and advised that we go to see the Loyalty Ambassador from 5-7pm that night (of course, with the spa raffle at 5:15 and dinner at 6, that was virtually impossible, and indeed we did not get there the first day). We’ll see how it goes.

 

Can't wait to hear about Ariel's C&A status screwup. ;)

 

 

--- JUST as we were passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge!! –

 

I love that sight!

 

Cruise Director is Jimmy Rhodes – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before on either the Majesty or the Monarch.

 

Denise, he was our CD on the Majesty in 2008.

 

 

(An interesting aside: I have a friend who has worked in Haitian relief work for many years, long before the earthquake and subsequent devastation, and she said that the real name of this area is “Labadie” – pronounced like our “Julie” – but apparently, because of the word “-die” at the end, the powers that be decided to change it to “Labadee” so no one would say it the wrong way, or think of the word “die”! Odd that that there are no such worries about the mispronunciation of “Coco Cay” – which should, of course, be pronounced “Key” – but I digress…)

 

Denise, I think that RC calls its area "Labadee" simply to distinguish it from the already-existing Haitian town of Labadie. :)

 

At 2:00pm we headed back to the Schooner Bar for Interactive Trivia, which was quite fun: we used these gizmos to record our answers (basically looking at photos of celebrities and movie stars and saying who they were). We got the highest score, along with two other teams (mostly thanks to Ariel), but we came in second place because speed of entry also counts in this game, and apparently the other team pressed those buttons more quickly than we did.

 

You are just like my students! Give them a new gadget or toy, and the same old-same old seems new and exciting! :D

 

 

Keep on having fun, my friend!

Edited by Merion_Mom

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Enjoying your blog,A great way to start my day with morning coffee,I will be boarding the day you return,have a great cruise.looking forward to more great posts.thanks for sharing.

Joe

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Thank you very much for the well written and infomative reply to the fitness classes. I really appreciate learning from those more experienced, allowing me to avoid the pitfalls, and join what otherwise I would not have known about.

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I was on the Navigator Of The Seas in march, and the breakfast in the MDR was a very pleasant experience, no lineups, quick service and interesting tablemates. It must be a ship specific issue, I really enjoyed the whole MDR experience for breakfasts and dinners on the Navigator.

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Thanks for doing this as I will be boarding when you return and thank you SO much for the gym info! I'm trying to prepare my schedule now so I don't completely fall off track.

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We will be on the next sailing and I'm curious who the CD will be. Keeping my fingers crossed, hoping it will be Richard Spacey!!

i had posted the cd question on one of adam goldsteins monthly chats and he said that it was richard spacey. i have not been able to confirm that anywhere else but that is what the c.e.o. answered to my question. keeping my fingers crossed. heard he is one of the best!!

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I, too, am boarding the day you disembark and can't wait! Am truly enjoying your experiences vicariously.

 

How was dinner on this night? My biggest concerns are centered around the timing issues with service. We like sitting with 8 other people we don't know, but also hate having to miss shows because the wait staff or kitchen is too slow to get us out on time. Sounds like the waitstaff is either over-worked or over-stressed or both.

 

I know what you mean about the old Shipshape program. I still have some Shipshape momentos from our first cruise back in 1984 on the Nordic Prince. It was great that all those programs were included. We just went from free activity to free activity, interspersed with wonderful dining experiences. Yes, it seems like now we're being nickel and dimed for everything.

 

But are we really? In all fairness to the cruiselines, I have to say this. I paid less for my Junior Suite on the 10th deck for this coming sailing than I did for my inside cabin on the very bottom passenger deck on the Prince almost 30 years ago. :eek: They've kept the prices much more reachable for many more people by keeping cabin prices down and charging for the specialty services that are used by fewer folks. It's certainly made the difference for us. If prices of cruises escalated at the same rate as the general rate of inflation that we've seen over the last 30 years, there's no way we could have pulled off as many as we did.

 

I do mourn the "old days" when food and service in the dining room was unequalled, and when all the enrichment and exercise was included. But the industry had to make a decision... do they continue to offer all the services and raise prices, or do they hold prices steady to attract more customers and charge more for specialty services? Wouldn't want to be the one to try to make that decision.

 

Obviously, this is just my opinion, and I grumble as much as everyone else about paid exercise and drink prices. But I try to keep it in perspective. If I did a land vacation, this would have cost me FAR more, and I would receive far less. It's still a great value.

 

::::climbing off soapbox::::: Looking forward to your next entry. I know how much time it takes, and I for one, enjoy and appreciate your efforts. Keep 'em coming!! You're doing a great job.

 

Question - are the shrimp cocktails made of good size shrimp, or little salad shrimp? Thanks in advance!

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(Tues. Jan. 17, at sea – Continued!)

So… after Trivia, we decided to go use the big hot tub in the gym (the “Thalassotherapy pool”), the sauna and the steam room. We used all three, twice each, and met a lovely young woman who was traveling solo from Ireland on her first cruise. A former jockey, she was excited at being pampered and being able to eat all week long (as are we all!).

Ariel then worked out while I had my spin class… and we discovered what a BAD idea it was to sauna, steam and whirlpool BEFORE exercising! We were both exhausted and lightheaded, and spin class was a real challenge, especially since I haven’t taken a spin class since September. Bea led a tough, challenging, exciting and fun class, with plenty of hill climbs and speed races. Whew!

I made another quick run to deck 15 at the back of the ship for 10 minutes of my Bill W. meeting (just great to see a big crowd there today, lots of good fellowship and support) – but I had to dash back to the room to shower and get dressed up for our first formal night! Ariel looked gorgeous in a cream-colored satin dress covered with black lace netting and a black ribbon belt, with black high heels and pretty gold jewelry; I did my best in a subtly sparkly mid-calf black dress, black satin slippers with beaded bows, 3 gold and crystal necklaces, large chandelier earrings, and my hair up in a bun with a fancy hairpiece.

Dinner was delicious… but before we got to enjoy it, the story about the difficulty with the headwaiter. After we were all seated, the headwaiter approaches the table and demands our seapass cards. That’s right, demanded. Doesn’t apologize for interrupting us, doesn’t speak nicely or explain what’s going on, simply demanded our room numbers and that we give him our cards. It turned out that the party of 6 with whom we were seated (3 sisters, their dear friend, and two of their husbands) had not all originally been seated together, despite (obviously) their having requested to be so; 4 of them were placed at the table next to ours. When they boarded, they spoke with someone in the dining room who said there was no problem, and they could all be seated at one table, and the other party of four would be moved to the adjacent table. Well, the first night there was no problem, because the other party of four didn’t eat in the dining room (we noted the large vacancy at the other table)… but tonight, apparently they had appeared and were trying to hand the headwaiter his head for not having room for them at their assigned table!

 

Of course, this issue was not about the mix-up; that could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime; the issue is how it was handled by the headwaiter. Which is to say, abominably. I truly have never been addressed in such a hostile and surly fashion by any cruise ship staffer. (This didn’t affect me and my daughter directly, since we were indeed assigned to the table; but the four people who almost got moved were really hurt by the event. I daresay this will end up on their comment cards, and it should.)

So… back to the amazing dinner!!! Everyone looked gorgeous; how I love formal night and seeing everyone with their beautiful dresses and fine jewelry. (Indeed, after dinner Ariel and I walked the Promenade and later admired all the dressed-up – and a couple of dressed-down!! – people from our Promenade cabin window at the Captain’s Welcome Aboard reception.) I ordered three appetizers: Lobster bisque (delicious, creamy, a hint of sherry and red pepper sauce), the escargots (which were actually too buttery for me now) and the shrimp cocktail (which did not arrive, thank goodness, because after those two appetizers – and the following two main courses – I was stuffed! But to report for others, my daughter ordered the shrimp cocktail, too, and hers did arrive, and they were nice sized shrimp. Not those GIANT oxymoron shrimp that are as big as your curved thumb and forefinger, but not tiny salad shrimps either). And then the two mains: the filet of beef, which was buttery and tender, and the seafood skewer, which had two shrimp, two scallops, and two pieces of fish. (You may note that while I eat the protein and veggies I am avoiding the rice/pasta/potato portions of the meal… well, except for the bread to start and the dessert to finish!!! Oy…)

Speaking of the bread course, we started with four cheese plates for the table – much too much for us all to finish, even with all 8 of us working on it, so I had a lovely cheese plate to bring back to the room. And speaking of the dessert course, I the bittersweet chocolate soufflé with coffee custard (not as wonderful as in times past)… and the COFFEE ICE CREAM!!! (Those who have cruised with me in the past know that I have requested this many times in the dining room and been disappointed; I’m so happy to finally have it!!)

After dinner we went to our cabin to put the cheese plate in the cooler (I hesitate to call it a “fridge”), and as mentioned above, watched the Captain’s reception from our window. We then went to the theatre for the production show “Wild, Cool and Swinging,” about various U.S. cities that are adult playgrounds, including Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York (although as I just commented to my daughter, leaving out New Orleans was a mistake, that would have provided a lot of material for a great musical number). As usual, the four singers were exceptional, and the dancers were amazing… and while I have long enjoyed RCI set design, I felt that their musical arrangements were weird and their costume designer must be on drugs. However, great news! For the first time, the musical arrangements were actually very good, and the costume design was (mostly) pleasing to the eye!! Either they have replaced their old arranger and/or costume designer, or someone other than me had commented about these issues and someone higher up listened to those critiques. It was really a great show, and we enjoyed it tremendously.

(Another quick aside about less-than-stellar service: while we were waiting for the show to begin, Ariel ordered a Shirley Temple from the bar server, and used her 10% off Platinum drink coupon. We were both startled that this server seemed almost hostile when taking her drink order and later delivering her drink. Could it be because it was such a small order? Because she used a coupon? Very strange. As Ariel said, “Oh well, maybe he’s having a bad night, could happen to anyone.” It’s so nice to see another generation taking things in stride, although still noticing what’s going on and not pretending that something that’s not great is anything other than what it is.)

We once again did not attend the multiple musical events that night (a quartet in Dizzy’s jazz lounge; Music in the Pub; Piano bar in the Schooner Bar; Latin Music in the Aquarium Bar; Karaoke in Maharajas; and a Dance Party in the Chamber) and went back to the room, where I typed up yesterday’s notes through 2pm… and got to bed by 1am!

 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 – At Sea

Once again, set my alarm for 6:30am, did my best to turn it off quickly (always hard with the tiny buttons on my travel clock) and dress quietly so as not to disturb my daughter too much. I made it to the gym just at 7am, and was surprised not to see the trainer on the floor… so I looked at the schedule and it said that class today started at 7:30!!! ARGH!! Do you have ANY idea how much I would have liked to sleep in until 7:00? Well, the good news is that ALL of the classes start at 7:30 on this trip (except for our day in San Juan, which I think I will skip, because I have a morning spin class that day at 10am, and I have learned the hazards of working out too hard before a spin class).

Well, with half an hour till class started, I decided to use the weight machines in the gym. I did the leg extension, leg curl, lat pulldown, chest press, incline chest press, bicep curl, and when the tricep extension didn’t fit my frame I used the lat pulldown as a tricep machine. Nice to get this unexpected workout in, but I bet I’ll be sore tomorrow! Ah well, great day to work out the kinks snorkeling and laying out in the sun on Labadee.

Bea led the stretch and conditioning classes today. Her style is quite different from SJ, also effective, and perhaps a bit more lively. Her warmup included a lot of toe tapping and arm movements, and surprisingly heated up the body quite quickly to get it ready for stretching. After a PACKED stretch class at 7:30 (nearly 30 people were there!) the room emptied out, leaving less than 10 for the conditioning class – which again started with the same series of warmup moves (oy), but then continued with some interesting exercises, including modified pushups, crunches, reverse crunches, and more.

After my morning workout, I went back to the room to change and head down to breakfast. Today I let Ariel sleep in, and I went to the Diamond breakfast event – free cappuccino, whoo-hoo! (Uh, free with the price of the cruise, anyway…) Well, once again, I passed a line snaking into the dining room that had over 40 people in it, stretching all the way from the dining room doors to the elevators. I went into the Diamond breakfast room, which was very small and not very full. We had a couple of servers, but service was still a bit slow. I had to ask three times to get water (and my tablemates told me they had asked for it twice before I arrived). I also asked them if they had ever seen anything like the line outside, and we all agreed that we had NEVER seen anything like it on any other Royal Caribbean ship, nor had they ever seen it on other sailings of the Explorer.

(I think there’s something going on here with the restaurant management. I remember reading the posting about the previous sailing, by a young man of 23 who was traveling with his girlfriend, and had asked the ship months in advance to be seated with other young people – and they were seated with a large party of older folks. Now, my daughter and I enjoy that; I lost my parents quite young, so we both miss the company of seniors. But I totally respect that these young people were not in the mood for that, and wanted the company of their peers – and that they had been told to expect that once onboard. Others then posted on their thread about other dining issues they had. Hmmm…. I was kind of prepared to have a less-than-ideal dining experience. Those who know me are aware I’m not whining or complaining here, I’m just telling it like it is; I always have a great time on a cruise, and believe me, my daughter and I are in 7th heaven… it’s just a fact that the dining room has a long line waiting outside for breakfast on the past two mornings, and that the headwaiter spoke to our dining companions in a harsh manner last night. ‘Nuff said. Other than that, the personal service by the individual waiters and assistant waiters is attentive, friendly, and fun.)

Mmm, breakfast: Eggs benedict again, with kippered herring (which arrived along with the eggs!), V-8 – and CAPPUCINO!!! Ahhhh. My dining companions were Diamond Plus members who will be staying on for THREE SAILINGS!! How I love talking with highly cruised people. This is the main reason I am sad that Diamonds are now excluded from the Concierge lounge; I don’t drink, so I don’t miss the free cocktails (although those free cappuccinos would’ve been nice!) – what I really miss is being able to sit in a pleasant atmosphere with those amazing Diamond Plus folks who have been all over the world and can share terrific stories about their travels, hints for future plans, packing ideas, horror stories, and more. It was a real pleasure to talk to – and mostly ask questions of and listen to – my companions during this breakfast.

From there, I went up to the Schooner Bar, where I pretty much spent the rest of the day. First was Napkin Folding class at 10:00 (amazing, they now have to collect everyone’s seapass card before they hand out the napkins to fold – not because they charge anything for the class, but because they had too many napkins walk away in the past! They returned the seapass cards at the end when you handed back the napkins). I learned the pyramid, the candle, the rose, and the crown (which actually looks like a fleur-de-lis). They were easy and lots of fun. Apparently if we attend the second session, we will also get a brochure to take home so we can remember how to do them. (I remembered several hours later, and I demonstrated the candle fold to my dinner table mates – the waiters had already provided us with the pyramid!)

Next up in the Schooner Bar was 10:45 progressive trivia. Our previous team didn’t show up, so we annexed another team and shared info, although we each submitted our own forms. We moved up from 12/20 at our first session to 15/20 at this one. Still not very impressive, but I’m hoping if we keep showing up we could still do all right at the end. We’ll see; there don’t seem to be any super-duper teams in the mix.

After that we had the Destination Lecture “St Maarten, Antigua and St Kitts,” by the same speaker who had talked about Labadee yesterday. Well, as I said, I only heard a few minutes of his historical speech, but I don’t think that I mentioned what little I heard wasn’t very impressive… and today’s lecture bore that out (emphasis on bore). This was really a bad lecture, period. Virtually no historical or cultural information of interest… presented randomly… slides that could not be seen by the majority of the folks in the Schooner Bar (apparently this lecture is usually given in a conference room, but that was booked by some group on board)… he kept referring to “over here” meaning where his laser pointer was shining – but it was invisible! And then, he had virtually no information about where to go, how to get there, or what to do. When asked how far the Batik factory was from the pier in St. Kitts (one of the major attractions on that small island) he didn’t know about it. Vague information about the various beaches, transportation options, etc. It was truly a waste of an hour’s time – and the room was PACKED!!! People were trying not to be rude to one another, but it was tough; many had sat down early on the side of the bar, and then asked people who came later and were standing by the chair rail to move – and those people said no, because truly there was no where for them to move. Probably would have been better to hold this in Maharajas or another venue rather than the Schooner…. And to hire a different guest lecturer! I’ve been to St. Kitts, St. Martin and Antigua once each, and I know more about them than he did. Really disappointing.

Next up was the Sudoku Challenge at 1:00pm. Ariel and I brought up sandwiches from the Promenade Café: today was ham and cheese on a mini-croissant (again), and mortadella with olive tapenade on a whole wheat bun. We also each had a banana, a coconut cookie and green tea; we shared an orange (which I cut into slices), and I ate a kiwi, too. Yum! I didn’t win Sudoku; think I might have come in 4th or 5th, but keychains were only given to the first 3 finishers (although all those who didn’t finish before the time cutoff had to dance the chicken dance). Sudoku is not a great cruise ship game, because it’s so solitary, but I do enjoy it.

After that came Afternoon Trivia at 1:30 – and this was a DISASTER!!! Never have I gotten less than 5 right (we only got 4)… and indeed, had we trusted ourselves, we could have gotten another 6 correct, and tied the highest scoring group, who only got 10!! Yeah, it was a hard trivia. Okay, here are some examples: the length of the longest bat permitted in the major leagues? (42” – we guessed 40”, although 42” was on our list of possible numbers) The name of a baby eel? (An elver) The name of a pregnant goldfish? (We said “Mommy!” – but the correct answer is a twit). Where is Olympus Mons? (On Mars… one of our group guessed the Moon, but we put down Greece. We were all pretty far off on that one.) How long was the 100 years war? (I remembered 116 in the far recesses of my brain, but we put down 100 anyway. Yeah, it’s 116.) Who was offered the role in Chicago ultimately played by Richard Gere? (John Travolta. I knew that, but didn’t remember; we put down Hugh Jackman. Sigh.) What is the most common first name in the world? (I argued for John. Others suggested a Chinese name, such as Chin or Lee. Ariel insisted it was Mohammed, since the character McLovin, in the movie Superbad, said that it was the most common name in the world and that’s why he had put it on his fake license. Well, guess what? McLovin was right!) Yeah, it was an AWFUL game of trivia.

With our tails tucked between our legs, Ariel and I retreated to our cabin to change for our 3:00pm Yoga class. We hoped to get a few minutes out on deck by the Solarium pool before class… and that’s about all we got. After a few seconds of sun, the clouds pulled overhead, and a few raindrops started to sprinkle down. We headed into the gym and set up our Yoga mats.

Bea led the Yoga class too, and as I have commented here and elsewhere, this is not a true Yoga class, but “Pathway to Yoga,” a selection of yoga-related moves taught by a gym teacher/fitness instructor/personal trainer. It’s very nice and I always enjoy the challenge of doing Yoga on a moving ship. We didn’t do any traditional series such as the Sun Salutation, which other cruise ship yoga instructors have done, rather a variety of somewhat unusual combinations, including warrior poses, triangle, downward dog, upward dog (or modifying into cobra or sphinx) and a range of leg and back stretches.

After that, Ariel went to work out on the treadmill/elliptical/bike and I had my second spin class, this time led by SJ. This was a real workout, as always, and SJ follows the cruise ship standard of really mixing up the class with pushups, side-to-side swaying, jumping up and down from the seat, in addition to the more standard hill climbs, speed racing, and intervals. Whew! I always look like I’ve been swimming when I finish spin class.

Ran back to the room – not even a minute to run to the back of the ship and say hi to my Bill W. friends today, alas – a quick shower and dress, and we made it to the 5:15-5:45pm Welcome Back party in the theatre by about 5:30. (Sadly, we had to miss the 5:15 pre-dinner Trivia to enjoy this event.) We picked up drinks at the bar at the back of the theatre (champagne for Ariel, fruit punch for me) and enjoyed one number by two of the exceptional singers from the Royal Caribbean crew, then Jimmy Rhodes introduced the captain, and we saw the “behind the scenes” movie about the development of the new “The Sea Is Calling” commercial campaign, and had a few questions and answers about new developments by RCI, including the Sunshine project, which is apparently building a ship that is as tall as the Explorer, but a bit longer, with more tonnage, and incorporating many all-weather features requested by passengers and crew (in answer to a question from one audience member about why the Solarium wasn’t covered or had a sliding roof so the pool could be used in cold weather). A former navigator for the Navy asked about fuel consumption, saying that he read the QE2 went 50 feet on a gallon of fuel; the captain said he believes the Explorer goes 60 feet on a gallon of fuel. A request that the captain comment on the recent Costa cruise tragedy in the Med led to a very measured and sincere response that his heart went out to those who had lost family in the accident, but until he knew more about what actually happened, he didn’t want to speculate (this elicited a round of applause from the audience).

After the reception we went straight to dinner – well, we took a couple of photos on the way. Ariel and I are dressing for dinner every night, whether it’s casual, smart casual or formal, so we’re taking advantage of looking good to document the fact! Our dining companions were already seated, and the cheese plates were on the table… and a NEW headwaiter came to our table to make sure that everything was all right and that we were happy. Very interesting. Apparently the hostile headwaiter has been assigned to new territory. We’ll see if this begins to make a change in the overall dining room performance.

Dinner was very good tonight: Ariel ordered the Samosas (fried Indian dumplings) and the onion foccacia with chive cream cheese (which was amazing), followed by Vegetable Pad Thai; I had the shrimp ceviche (Yum!!) and cream of cauliflower soup, grilled tiger shrimp, and we shared a beefsteak with béarnaise sauce and crabmeat!! We enjoyed lively conversation, sharing about our horrors with Trivia today (and chiding our dining companions for not being there to help us – at least they would have gotten Elver!!) and hearing about their activities and plans for the next day.

We had originally planned to go see the show (an impressionist) and then to the 10pm showing of “African Cats” which is playing in the Alaska Conference Room… but ultimately we decided just to browse the shops on the Promenade and then return to the room so I could catch up on these notes (!!!) before I forgot everything that has happened so far… and that we could watch one of the pay-movies on TV that Ariel won in the CC Meet & Mingle raffle! We’re probably going to watch “Drive” as soon as I post this (right now Ariel has been watching Lion King, which she has loaded on her tablet – her favorite gift from Santa this year)… and she just shrieked with delight when she discovered the message I posted in tomorrow’s Compass: “Congratulations Dear Ariel for your two years of service with AmeriCorps. America thanks you!” She was really excited; it was such a treat, and she has worked so hard, I was thrilled to be able to honor her in this small way. The cruise is the real treat, for both of us!

(Rats, it’s now so late we’re probably going to skip the movie rental and just browse the free tv stations until we go to bed.)

 

Now, to comments:

Carol, how great that you’re following along! You know you are my role model for happy cruising. Thanks for reminding me that Jimmy Rhodes was indeed the CD when we were on our B2B on the Majesty, I knew he was familiar. Interesting speculation about RCI changing the name to differentiate the resort from the town; my friend who worked there is the one who had told me about the reason for the name change, and I think she was just curious and perhaps a little offended that they didn’t use the real name of the area. Personally, I’m more upset that Coco Cay is not pronounced Coco Key, but that’s just me!!!

Oh yeah, Ariel dealt with the C&A status issue herself, making an appointment to meet with the Loyalty Ambassador at 5pm yesterday (while I was running back and forth to my meetings). They corrected her status, put a platinum sticker on her card, and gave her the platinum book (as you may recall, she received her pin on our December sailing). As a nice aside, the LA was busy, so she was helped by one of the two male singers on the ship who was working alongside the LA that day – he was very cute, and asked her to attend the show, so we made sure to sit in the front row, and sure enough he winked at her and sang in her direction more than once. Ah, to be a beautiful and vivacious 25-year-old young woman!

(I’ll reply to other questions quickly when I go back online, I lost my CC window so I can’t see the other postings.)

Looking forward to telling you all about Labadee tomorrow. Thanks for cruising with us!!!

Best,

Denise

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I know what you mean about the old Shipshape program. I still have some Shipshape momentos from our first cruise back in 1984 on the Nordic Prince. It was great that all those programs were included. We just went from free activity to free activity, interspersed with wonderful dining experiences. Yes, it seems like now we're being nickel and dimed for everything.

 

But are we really? In all fairness to the cruiselines, I have to say this. I paid less for my Junior Suite on the 10th deck for this coming sailing than I did for my inside cabin on the very bottom passenger deck on the Prince almost 30 years ago. :eek: They've kept the prices much more reachable for many more people by keeping cabin prices down and charging for the specialty services that are used by fewer folks. It's certainly made the difference for us. If prices of cruises escalated at the same rate as the general rate of inflation that we've seen over the last 30 years, there's no way we could have pulled off as many as we did.

 

I do mourn the "old days" when food and service in the dining room was unequalled, and when all the enrichment and exercise was included. But the industry had to make a decision... do they continue to offer all the services and raise prices, or do they hold prices steady to attract more customers and charge more for specialty services? Wouldn't want to be the one to try to make that decision.

 

 

Hi Birdnutty, I agree, much more is offered today than in the past, and I prefer the individual pricing structure where you can pick and choose what you want to add to your cruise cost and what you can live without... I just question some of the approaches, as I said, especially about the prices for the fitness center classes going up and up and up, and now tacking on a gratuity. I thought the class fee WAS the staff gratuity, much like the upcharge at Portofinos! Apparently not...

 

It's a tough call indeed. I know that the old cruise prices were higher overall, and we can indeed cruise today for much less without all these "extras" that simply didn't exist then... but I hate feeling "forced" (or at the least, goaded) into purchasing these extras because the baseline service just doesn't stack up. I've heard about this on NCL for years, and it's one of the reasons I simply won't cruise with them; I don't want to have to go to a pay restaurant to receive decent food or service. I like having that choice, but I want to make sure it is that -- a choice.

 

I have had friends who were so disappointed with MDR service and/or food that they simply book a table at Portofinos or Chops for the balance of the cruise. Think about it; a $40-for-two per day upcharge for the balance of this cruise would bump our cruise cost by $400!! Nice for the cruiseline, perhaps, but disastrous for our budget -- in fact, simply out of our reach.

 

Anyway, it is an ongoing question, I just point it out where I feel it's excessive.

 

So glad you are enjoying my postings overall, and I hope some tidbit in and amongst all the details will be helpful on your upcoming cruise! As I've said, the Explorer is just beautiful, and we are having an AMAZING time! I'm so grateful to have this opportunity to enjoy myself, share special time with my daughter, and meet so many wonderful and diverse people from around the world, guests and staff alike.

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Denise once again thank you for your live post. I'm loving it!!! Can't wait to board the EOS on Jan 27. I'm glad to hear that the MDR problems are being addressed. Sounds like the MDR has been having some issues!!!! I told my husband about your thread and he asked me to ask if they have $5 tables for craps in the Casino. I said I didn't think you talked about going to the casino, but would ask anyway.

Please enjoy the remainder of your cruise with your daughter. And a big "thanks" for her service in AmeriCorps. It sounds like your are having a ball and spending quality time with Ariel.

Oh I forgot to ask, is there a fee for the stretch class?

 

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I absolutely LOVE your review, especially all the details! Please keep them coming and enjoy the cruise!

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Love traveling along with you and your daughter. I also plan on working out on my cruise but I think I will do it every other day. I'm exhausted just reading about all the workouts you do! Congrats on the weight loss. I have lost 68 pounds but stupidly gained back 50 pounds! :eek: I am back on track and I have lost 25 and hope to lose the rest by my cruise in April. I'm doing P90X and im only on day 18, so far I'm doing pretty good. It's tough but I feel like I'm improving and that's all I can ask for.

 

Can't wait to read the rest.

 

Loralie

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You sure are busy aren't you!? Loving your review! Hope the rest of your cruise is as great as it has been so far! Thanks for keeping us in the loop. :)

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I cannot believe how busy you have been.:eek:

 

I am exhausted just reading about your activities.

 

Having done the EOS 9 day, just about everything you have done, I never did anything you did. (gym, excercise classes, FOB, lectures, trivia, breakfast in MDR, etc.)

 

Just goes to show you how much there is to do (or not do).

 

I am waiting for the 2013 schedule to come out, as we have done EOS twice, once in June and once in July, and both were incredible.

 

Thanks for posting, love reading (and writing) about the EOS cruises.

Edited by johneeo

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Didn't get to proof this today before posting, hope it's all okay!!

 

Running off to spin class; more tonight (or tomorrow, we're in port till 10pm!!)

 

---------------

 

Wed. Jan. 18 – Labadee

So last night at dinner, our waiter, Jackson, told us to set our clocks forward by one hour, and that we would get that hour back on our sea days on the way home; there is no daylight savings time in the Caribbean. The ship’s clocks would be re-set at 2:00am. I re-set my watch and my travel alarm clock, and Ariel and I went to bed early (after a couple of hours of working on my posts last night to bring them up to date, reading and watching TV and nibbling on my cheese plate that I had brought home from the previous night’s dinner).

I thought I would feel rested even with the lost hour, since I learned that Vitality Stretch started at 7:30 am (not 7am), so I set my clock for (the new) 7:00am, again got up and dressed as quietly as I could so as not to disturb Ariel, and headed up to the gym. I was a little disappointed to see what I thought was a grey and overcast sky; an inauspicious beginning to a long beach day. When I got to the gym, there were only one or two people; ah well, normal after the clocks are set forward. However, by 7:35 there were no instructors, and I noticed the gym clocks read 6:35. I walked up the circular stairs to the spa to see if anyone there could find the gym staff, but the spa was closed.

Then I went behind the desk at the entrance to the gym and called the front desk, explaining that it was 7:40 and the trainers still weren’t there for the stretch class. “Oh, no, ma’am, it’s 6:40.” Oh. My. God. I had gotten up at SIX A.M.!!! AGHH!!! I then decided to walk around the Solarium and look out at the ocean; it had been pretty cold on our way down, and I really hadn’t had much time outdoors. I noticed a light on the horizon, and it looked like the sun was shining on a large ship… I started to move around the ship so I could see the sun on the other side… until I realized the ship was getting bigger and bigger, and that I was actually watching the sun rise over the ocean!! Well, that was worth getting up for, even if unintentionally. (And what a relief that it wasn’t overcast and dark… I had just gotten up before the sunrise!)

I ran back down to the cabin, got my kindle and a nice breakfast snack (a banana and some nut clusters from home) and came back up to the Solarium, where I read and relaxed until the REAL 7:30, when I went back into the gym for my morning classes.

Bea led them today, Stretch and Abs Attack – interesting standing abs series, including standing crunches, where you essentially just bend over on yourself, but still quite effective even without the extra pull of working against gravity. (I’m writing this the following morning, so it’s hard to remember details about yesterday’s class when I just finished today’s!) Same warm-ups as the day before, pretty clear that this will be the pattern for the entire cruise: alternating heel taps swinging opposite straight arms; twice on each side with double arms; alternating toe taps lifting alternate bent arms; twice on each side with double arms.

During the abs class we were sailing into Labadee, one of the most beautiful island approaches anywhere. Haiti is SO GREEN!!! We just absolutely love this port. So unusual to see the green hills running right down to the ocean’s edge. I could barely focus on the class, my eyes kept straying to the windows and the beautiful scenery floating by as me moved slowly to the new (to me) Labadee pier. (We hadn’t been here since 2008, before they built the pier to service Oasis – and now all the other RCI and Celebrity ships which stop at this island paradise.)

After my morning workout I headed back to the room to wake Ariel and get ready for our day on Labadee. The captain’s announcement came on about Labadee, and he explained that it had been a French settlement, but that RCI changed the spelling of the resort to assist native English speakers with the correct pronunciation. (Gee, then why don’t they change the name of the other RCI private island to “Coco Key”??? I’m jes’ saying…)

So we packed our bags: towels, sunscreen, two water bottle carriers (one with water, one with my wonderful Isagenix energy drink; we later filled them with ice in the Windjammer so they would stay cold longer), hats, pareos, a book for Ariel and my Kindle in a quart-sized baggie for me! (Yep, fits perfectly.) Plus our seapass cards for any drinks and some cash for the marketplace and tips. We were looking forward to contributing our little bit to the devastated Haitian economy. I also brought my snorkel gear, although I couldn’t find anywhere to use it on Labadee. We put on our sundresses and headed up (rather than down) to breakfast (easier to get ice for the drink bottles in the WJ than in the MDR).

(Okay, let’s have an aside on the towels now: Yes, I’ve been cruising long enough that I remember when room stewards brought beach towels to your room on port days… and then when you had to get them yourself from the self-service piles on the pool deck… and now when you have to check them out with your seapass. Ugh! There’s nothing I hate more than being treated like a child or a criminal. And yes, they now have big signs in the gym saying that gym towels are for use in the gym only, and that you will be charged $20 if you take them out of the gym. Oh, please. I walk out with one after every gym class with one wrapped around my neck, and no one has stopped me – and let them try! I’m not about to stuff one of these faded old RCI towels into my bag as a souvenir; I’m perfectly happy to purchase a new one from Gifts and Gear if I’m so inclined, but I hate being controlled like this. Anyway, Ariel and I did bring gym towels to the beach at Labadee, and no one said a thing, even though we were the only ones without the current turquoise pool towels. Sigh. Don’t worry, rule-following-sticklers, we are highly responsible and always return them to the gym towel bins. Back off my soapbox…)

We ate up front in the WJ, and I wish we’d gone to the back, to the “Island Grill” section; there was very little variety up front: no smoked fish, no Asian selections, no veggies, cold meats, etc. – just the basic ham, bacon, turkey and pork sausage… pancakes and other sweet things… fluffy (probably reconstituted) scrambled eggs… ick. I had some carved ham, a turkey sausage, two hard-boiled eggs, and some oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar… and a bowl of indifferent melon (watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew), pineapple, and two prunes. We were fortunate to get a table for two right by the window, so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery, and we were well attended to by the WJ headwaiter, a lovely gentleman from Turkey who made conversation with us, brought coffee, cream, spoons, and even offered to fill our water bottles – and then commented on my patience as I put one ice cube after another individually into the small mouths of the bottles.

Soon we were on our way down to deck 1 (first time I took an elevator on the cruise!!) to walk off on to the “new” Labadee pier. What a treat not having to tender in! But what happened to Labadee Luc? Is this another case of no one knowing how to pronounce “Luc” (French for “Luke”)?? He was cute, kind of looked like Johnny Depp, a nice character. Sigh. Well, Labadee is gorgeous, much more built up and manicured than in the past… but I was horrified to see that our favorite beach is now for suite guests only (and virtually uninhabited). You know, even if I spent that kind of money, I would enjoy being with a crowd! I have friends who only sail if they can get the largest suite on a ship, and knowing the cost of cruising at that level, I asked why they didn’t cruise on the more exclusive cruise lines rather than the mass-market ones – and they said they were too stiff, dry and boring, didn’t have any nightlife or provide a nice atmosphere for children – they preferred to stay in deluxe accommodations on Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean, rather than go on Renaissance, Seabourn, Silversea, etc. Interesting thought, no? They like the mixing and mingling, despite having all the money in the world. RCI, don’t wall off our suite guests; let them enjoy the hustle and bustle!

Anyway, we proceeded on foot to the next beach over, got a couple of beach chairs, and settled in. During the course of the day, we carefully basted ourselves front and back every ten minutes in the hot Haitian sun. cooling off in between with a dip in the lovely cool water, where we would walk out till it was at our shoulders, then swim to the barrier (where there was a lovely view of the ship at the dock; I have pictures from years past where you could see it at anchor and the tenders ferrying back and forth), then back to shore to roast a bit more. My daughter wanted to get a good tan, so she applied the sunscreen sparingly… and sadly, despite her natural olive coloring, got quite a burn. I, on the other hand, even with my fair complexion, put on 70 spf sunscreen very liberally, and managed to avoid burning (except for a few small spots the spray must have missed).

We walked over for lunch at about 12:00 (a first for us, usually we get there at 1:35 and have the cold leavings once the buffet is closed). Nice spread, a variety of salads and fruit in addition to the usual burgers and dogs – plus some good local fare, rice and beans, corn on the cob, barbecue chicken and ribs. Ariel had been coveting a burger and that’s just what she had, along with some salad, a brownie and the same indifferent melon and pineapple we had for breakfast; I covered my plate with 3 salads (greek salad with tomatoes, red onions and a hint of feta cheese; a light cole slaw; and some romaine lettuce with Italian dressing), then topped it with one of each of the meats on offer (no buns): a hot dog, a hamburger (with a tomato, onion and pickle on top), a chicken thigh, and a rib. Yum! I also had a fruit plate (to which I added a sliced banana). They had run out of water at the drink station, so we had very watered-down fruit punch instead. Good thing we brought our own water! Water in the bathrooms is non-potable. I went to the bar to get us water, but they were out, too, although they gave us a cup of ice.

After lunch we wandered through the market; we love to shop here, and have bought things in the past that we still use and enjoy. I was wearing the sundress I had bought here years before (although since my large weight loss, my daughter complains that it is too shapeless on me, that this is the “old me” – I doubt I will wear it out again). She had a heart-shaped wooden bowl she bought here on our first trip. This time, I purchased a top for a friend of mine, and beautiful jewelry made from recycled materials, plus a triangular wooden box with “Haiti” carved into it; my daughter bought a number of handmade bracelets as gifts for friends and for herself.

 

Then we went to the folkloric show in the small outdoor amphitheatre right next to the marketplace. After a few minutes with the musicians, the MC/dancer/fireshow man announced that the show would be starting soon, and that they would pass a basket for donations, and any tips for the individual dancers and gymnasts could be given to them directly. We had a few dollars left after our shopping spree in the market, and gladly gave them all to the performers by the end of the show! It was quite a spectacle, with the dancers doing a variety of moves that were reminiscent of belly dancing, hula, and traditional African dance, with some real original movements unique to Haiti, that we had never seen before. The gymnasts threw themselves into the air, jumping over ropes held six feet high, and through tiny hoops at the same height (that probably wouldn’t even fit over my hips!) Then the MC/fire dancer came out, started a fire on the ground, stuck his foot in the fire – and clearly he had some kind of flammable material on the sole of his foot, because when he pulled it out the foot was on fire! He lit his fire sticks from the fire on his foot, and then put them out in his mouth, blowing smoke afterwards. This was quite a show all by itself – but then he got several members of the audience to participate, imitating his dance moves, and then giving them a firestick to put into his mouth… and one of the participants was my daughter! Yeah, I got a lot of great photos.

After the show, we walked back to the beach and continued to roast and toast in the hot sun and cool off in the beautiful blue and green water. At about 3:00pm, when then were calling “last call for Labadoozies” we shared a virgin Labadoozie – wow, was that delicious, frozen papaya, pineapple, coconut, orange juice and grenadine. I’ve never had a frozen drink quite like it. One last dip in the ocean, and we headed back towards the ship, walking slowly on the beautifully landscaped paths (past our former favorite beach) and onto the ship’s pier. Then huffing and puffing (well, me huffing and puffing, my daughter skipping and dancing) up 7 flights to our cabin, where we showered, changed and relaxed, and my daughter tended to her unexpected and very rare sunburn. Fortunately I had packed some aloe vera gel for just such an occurrence.

We got dressed up for 70s night (I was wearing rainbow eye makeup and put a tie-dye headband on – plus my new Haitian jewelry; my daughter was wearing a black outfit with a paisley wrap) and headed down to evening trivia. I brought green tea down from the Café and joined Ariel in the Schooner Bar for another round of Interactive Trivia, using the handheld devices, for Logos and Mascots. We actually did very well, and I was one of a dozen second-place finishers to receive the holographic luggage tags (“I love baggage handlers!”… a little sketchy if you ask me…)

Then we sat in Boleros, playing word games together on my Kindle, until dinner at 6pm. We went to join our dining companions and share stories about Labadee; they had taken the tender straight over to Columbus Cove, where apparently the vendors are very aggressive, and they did not enjoy this experience, although they loved the beach and the lunch buffet. They also had set their clocks forward and had gotten up an hour early; one gentleman had been so sleepy he got onto an elevator, pressed a button, and then walked off the elevator, thinking he had already arrived at his destination! Our waiter was profusely apologetic (although apparently the same misinformation had been provided at the previous evening’s show in the theatre!) and assured us that he felt terribly guilty when he realized his mistake.

Dinner was delicious once again; we had our cheese plates, I enjoyed a savory bite, and ordered the crab and shrimp salad, and chicken consommé, sharing a small green salad with Ariel (who had a beef and veal ravioli appetizer). Main course was Tilapia over ratatouille (Ariel had the seafood penne), and we shared the brie and asparagus tart, which was the highlight. For dessert, I had a light Mango mousse with mango salsa; Ariel had the coconut cake with pineapple sherbet. Our fellow diners had also noticed the announcement I put in the Compass, congratulating Ariel for her service with AmeriCorps, and they loved it, too.

After dinner we wandered the Promenade, and picked up some great folding sunhats at the Bijoux Terner $10 sale. I also stopped by the Café to pick up a banana, a kiwi, and a couple of cookies (sugar-free peanut butter and another coconut ranger cookie). We had decided to forego the shows and music and return to our cabin to watch one of Ariel’s free movies. We selected “Drive” which was a really strange movie – odd pacing, we knew to expect the excessive violence, but not the bizarre emotional tone. We watched part of the 70s parade and show from our Promenade cabin windows, but mostly just burrowed into our beds, Ariel recovering from her sunburn, me nibbling on cookies, and fell asleep as soon as it was over.

 

I’ll try to answer questions quickly:

ETSki, it seems like they’re trying to address the MDR issues. The new headwaiter, Janet, stopped by again, and was just lovely. Our dining companions told her about the negative interaction with the previous headwaiter, and she promised to address it. We also asked her about the availability of soy milk for Ariel, who has lactose intolerance, and she assured us it was available in all venues upon request, and that she could help with any special menu requests.

I have not been in the casino, and only took my first craps lesson in December on the Monarch, so I don’t often check that table out… if I get a chance, I’ll peek in later today to answer your question.

Yes, the 20-25 minute stretch and abs/conditioning classes are free, generally offered first thing in the morning (7 or 7:30am); there is also sometimes a late afternoon free abs or conditioning class, around 4 or 5pm depending on port day/sea day schedules, and when they fit around the for-pay classes. The trainers keep busy!

Loralie, congrats on your weight loss! Indeed, as we keep being told, lifestyle change is the only thing that lasts, otherwise it all comes back with a vengeance; I’ve been there and done that more times that I can count. P90X is fierce!! Wow.

Johneeo, I have followed along on many of your travel postings, glad you are along for the ride with me this time. I have often commented that one of the things I love most about cruising is that there are dozens of different vacations going on simultaneously in the same space. Other people have NO interest in theatre, fitness, pool time, etc… I go around and see people playing basketball, rock climbing, playing ping pong, mah-jong or dominoes by the pool, watching sports games on TV (I’ve never done any of those)… although even as a non-drinker I have joined in CC pub crawls, having a non-alcoholic drink in every venue!... There is just so much to do on a cruise, and I love meeting new people and being exposed to things I otherwise would never see. After all, I could go on a theatre trip, or to a fitness resort, and then we would never meet; others could go to a casino, or to see a professional sporting event, and then they would never meet me. How nice that a cruise brings us all together, and we get to learn from one another and broaden our experiences and our horizons, as we travel the world and enjoy new ports of call.

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Johneeo, I have followed along on many of your travel postings, glad you are along for the ride with me this time.

 

It is good sometimes to see things from a different perspective.

 

You and I are complete opposites, which is good for you.

 

The most exercise I get is when I cannot find a waiter at the pool and have to get up and walk to the pool bar to get a beer.:eek:

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I saw a cruise director schedule, stating that Jimmy Rhodes will be CD until March.

 

Until or through March.....He may be getting off the day we board? Does anyone know for sure?

 

Jimbo:)

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Until or through March.....He may be getting off the day we board? Does anyone know for sure?

 

Jimbo:)

 

I just called Crown & Anchor and they said that Richard Spacey is getting on the Explorer on 1/16/12 through March. I asked if he was on through the end of March and they said they would think that's what through March means.

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Shame about having to get up so early! At least you got to see a beautiful sunrise and relax in the Solarium! Thanks again for these updates, I love reading them! Have a great day! :)

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I just called Crown & Anchor and they said that Richard Spacey is getting on the Explorer on 1/16/12 through March. I asked if he was on through the end of March and they said they would think that's what through March means.

 

Just realized that OP says the Jimmy Rhodes is on this cruise and it is past 1/16/12. Apparantely Crown & Anchor does not have the right info and I have not had enough coffee yet to notice:o

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Thanks EmpressofPurple for your time and effort to keep up this running account of your cruise!

 

Much appreciated!:p

 

 

 

Gonna be cruisin' on Explorer soon! :cool:

 

... Dave

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