The trip started out as usual for us a poor nights sleep. I awoke at 3ish alarm went off at 4 AM. Showered and a quick breakfast of mangos and cottage cheese, grapefruit and V8. Loaded up the truck and headed to LAX. 4:50 AM 5 minutes behind schedule. Trip on freeways is good at that time of the morning. The Shuttle bus at the C lot was another matter. The bus took 20 minutes to show up, there was a huge crowd and of course we all piled on. A fore-shadow if there ever was one. SRO and all the luggage spaces full. I got disoriented and almost missed the American Airlines terminal. Baggage check at the curb was one stop with boarding passes issued. That was efficient but security was not long line and wait. Took an hour and fifteen minutes from C lot to gate. We left early and we're glad of it. Big plane 767. They start boarding early 45 min before departure. Initial looks good for empty seats to spread out but by the time the close the door it is packed. The girl setting next to Berni is wiped out from all night partying with sisters and cousins. She sleeps most of the flight which is fine with Berni. American has to offer food on long flights but this is the first time I have seen them selling it to you. I can barely tolerate airline food as is , I refuse to pay for it. I have 4 navel oranges in my back pack. Will probably go with reduced calories on the way back. Air gets bumpy about 30 minutes from Miami and girl next to Berni wakes up and gets real scared. Adrenalin will probably help her hang over. Miami airport has not changed much since I was here last. Long walk to luggage. A minor celebrity was on our flight Robert Kline the comedian. He made some sarcastic comment to his limo driver about luggage inconsistencies and wandered off to find his party. We got our luggage and call the Hotel. They say if we hurry we might catch the 3:30 Shuttle. We hurry and get there at 3:28 if there was a 3:30 Shuttle, which I doubt, we miss it. We see several shuttles for the Hampton Inn West. We are Hampton Inn South. Van finally arrives at 4:10 we get to Hotel and check in. Berni is traveling light and when she is checking in she calls to me and I assume she wants my credit card which I plop on the counter. Turns out she wants my AAA card for the discount. My JPL Credit union card has a Mars scene on it which blends in perfectly with the red counter. I of course leave the card behind. I discover it's missing. I call down to the front desk and they see NO card!!! This of course makes Berni frantic. We have only one card with us and if we cancel it due to loss it will be a disaster. When I ask the harried desk clerk to really look she finds it. It really blended in and is hard to see. The next time we travel we will probably bring 2 cards just in case. Berni checks her cell and we find 3 messages. My Mom has had a stroke and is the Hospital. We have known for some time she has a blockage in an artery to her brain. The doctors think it is in-operable and have her on blood thinners. She has exhibited some temporary symptoms before. Greg my youngest brother has 4 days of in a row off and thinks he can handle it. It looks like Greg has some help and it looks like there is very little I can add on the home front so we decide to continue on the trip. I have been arguing with my Mother to get more help with the care of my Father. It will force the issue. On a conscious level this news does not upset me too much. We go to dinner at the 94th Aero Squadron. An exciting 3 blocks down the street from the hotel. Exciting because of lack of sidewalks and crossing some freeway off ramps without the aid of stop lights. Dinner was good. Typical for this type of chain restaurant. The rest of the party was on a tour of the Everglades and Miami including South Beach. We went to the hot tub after dinner and waited for the crew to return. We hooked up about 9 PM. They all seemed to enjoy their tour. The men all commented about the scantly clad young women at South Beach. Everyone seemed to enjoy the Cuban Restaurant they went to. It was especially good to see Gary and Grainne. Jeff dropped out at the last minute but seeing Gary gladdened my heart. We talked shop and Science Fiction. We agreed to meet at 8 to 8:30AM and headed to bed at 10PM. I took Excedrin PM and we went to sleep at 11PM.
We slept 8 hours. Very good for us. Made breakfast about 8:30. Cereal, juice, sausage and a very good fruit salad. Oranges, Grapefruit and Pineapple. I start to feel un-well so I return to the room. My snake brain is telling me I have some cardiac problem ether a heart attack or irregular heart beat. My logical brain is telling me this is my hypochondriac coming out and this is nothing more than a reaction to my deeply buried feeling about my mother’s health problems. I rest in a dark room for a couple of hours. Berni is freaked out by this. One of these days I will actually be sick instead of brain fried. Not today, by 11 AM I feel well enough to continue. I'm sorry I put her through this every once and a while but there is very little I have been able to do about it. We load the luggage and head off to the boat in 2 vans. $10 a head plus tip. Our Shuttle bus Karma has finally improved. I get to ride shotgun and the trip is painless. More tipping at the dock when luggage is turned over to the baggage handlers. I don't do this enough so tipping always makes me feel uncomfortable. Thousands of people are boarding and considering the crowds they do a very good job. We take about an hour and a half from the Hotel to getting to our staterooms. All in all very good time indeed. Gary, Grainne, Fred, Carmi, Berni and I are on Deck 3 in three staterooms in a row. We all have very large port holes (over 3 foot wide) to look out at the sea. This is a first for all of us. We explore the ship it is Very Large. We have a late lunch. We have the late dinner seating 8:30 PM most nights and 9PM tonight. We check out the Gym. Berni and the girls claim it is very nice after seeing it when they sign up for massages. They are right this gym has almost as many machines as my gym in Tujunga. There will be no excuse for me not sticking to my lifting schedule. We go to the welcome aboard show and see the cruise director, a Hungarian roller skating team and a Comedian. He is pretty good and Berni wants to see his Midnight show on Sunday. We go to dinner and meet our waiter for the week Oliver he is from the Philippines. He is personable and recommends the Onion tart which I try. Very good like a Quiche. I also have Prime Rib. Berni has Cod which she says is great. I try the apple pie but it has to much ginger for my taste a minor disappointment. The ships entertainment people dress in colorful Mardi Gras costumes and provide an 11PM parade down the main promenade. This is an open hallway in the middle of the ship. It is about 500 feet long 80 feet high and 30 feet wide. This is a very big ship and this space is lined with shops and bars. The whole ship reminds me of some Las Vegas casino like the Billagio. The parade is impressive the ship is the star. I shower again and off to sleep at 11:30 PM.
We woke up around 7AM. I made it up to the gym and did arms and walked 1/2 mile. Showered and of to the dinning room for breakfast. Breakfast in the dinning room is free seating but they bring you meal it is not buffet style. The buffets are always good but I tend to over eat at them. A very good mushroom omelet. It is a quite day at sea. I investigate the library. A good place to read surprise surprise. Late lunch at the buffet restaurant the Wind jammer. We all get naps. This is one of the 2 formal nights. Shower and into the dark suit. Showers twice a day are the norm. Humid and hot in the Caribbean. Pictures tons of pictures. The woman look great and the men acceptable . What more can you ask for.
Dinner takes a little longer than usual because the have ran out of duck which Gary ordered and so the entire food convoy is slowed down by the duck. I have beef filet. They actually do medium rare what a surprise. Off to the Broadway style show. Lots of singing and dancing. We hang around for the late night comedy show which starts at 12:15 AM . The show is good and we get to bed at 1:30 AM. Berni leaves a coffee and fruit order for 7:30 AM delivery.
6:15 AM PHONE RINGING!!!!!!! The Steward is calling to tell us our 7:30 AM order is 5 minutes away. We fake it for about 30 minutes then we get up. I eat some fruit then go up to the track and walk a mile. We have breakfast at the Windjammer the buffet place. Trying to keep to the high protein and fruit my nutritionist would approve of. This is our day in Haiti. Considering the country is under UN control and on CNN appears to be in total chaos this may seem strange. The truth is this is way in the back country and the rich live around here. The cruise line has obviously bought the beach lock stock and barrel. They provide security and employment for almost everyone in sight. It has to be safer than downtown Glendale. We disembark with launches. A twig from one of the rich family trees in the area takes us to a private beach which we think his mom owns. Looks like a nice little cash cow to give him a taste of business and see if he can move up to bigger things. He is very personable and has a different perspective on the troubles in Haiti. He thinks CNN is not quite honest. I'm wearing my big hat for the first time. Berni's dermatologist has given her this catalog of sun blocking garb. She bought me a wide brimmed hat which actually fits my head. Works great. The beach is great the snorkeling is very good. Lots of coral not lots of fish. Very easy swimming with no strong currents. A fun time had by all. We get back to the ship. Using launches you can really see how BIG the ship is. It is very big!! We all take naps. This is the ICE SHOW Night!! They do have an ice rink on this ship. We arrive early and get front row seats. The rink is on deck 3 the same as our rooms. Not much vibration swaying but still very impressive that these young people can skate so flawlessly. Most of the male skaters look very Slavic and that is confirmed when they announce their names at the end of the 40 minute performance. The female lead is a small oriental. One of the tall Slavic female pairs gives me a big wink we are that close and anyway I think it is to me. There is a Russian pair which does a fun number with hula hoops. Our dinner seating is very close so off to dinner casual Hawaiian shirt and jeans for me. Tiger shrimp. The head waiter Oliver’s boss, de-shells them with great flourish at the table. I'm sampling several appetizers but trying to stay to one dessert per night. We go see a Canadian singer impersonator he is from Montréal. He is very good and has a tremendous range. He does both me and women some times in the same song. My lack of interest in popular music makes it hard for me to recognize all the voices. But Cher, Rod Stewart , Tom Jones and Louis Armstrong are just a few. We are to bed around midnight. This is about standard. With dinner starting at 8:30 we need a couple of hours to let dinner settle.
Berni left out coffee and fruit request but her karma has improved. They show up at 7:20 AM much more civilized. Breakfast at Windjammer again. Scrambled egg again and more grapefruit. We are docked in Jamaica mon. Looks like a full day Bremmer Hall plantation, Duns river falls and dolphin cove. We walk off the boat and with some slight confusion find a small Toyota bus sits about 15 people. Air conditioned thank God. It is HOT in Jamaica mon. The deck 3ers end up in a different bus than the deck 6ers. The Brimmer hall plantation is the highlight of the day as far as I'm concerned. It takes 45 minutes to get there on winding pot hole filled roads. Berni is a trooper and fights car sickness all day. They grow sugar cane, allspice, bananas and plantains. They haul us around in a trailer pulled by a tractor. The driver describes the different techniques used to grow each crop. Bananas are the most interesting with this tear drop shaped head that leaves rings of baby bananas behind as the stalk grows. We are a little time constrained and I'm the only one of the 3ers who tours the main house. Big open 4 bedroom affair with large formal dinning area and large living room. Everyone else shops. Another 45 minute windy drive to Dunns River falls. There are thousands of people there. I can find crowds like this in LA who needs them on vacation. The falls are more like 8 foot high stair steps which descend 600 feet to the sea than a real falls. You can rent water shoes and walk up the falls with a guide. All of the 3ers pass. Most of the older 6ers on the other bus go for it. We are off to dolphin cove after waiting for a Chinese family who can't tell time. Buffet lunch and lots of ICE water did I mention the Jamaica is HOT. Even our tour guide is complaining about how hot it is. The dolphin cove allows swimming with the dolphins. The impression was that this is included. Not so, extra fee and next opportunity is when the ship is supposed to leave. We watch the demo, then bus back to ship through very crowded shopping area. Fred gets off the get a paper. Did I mention the ships TV system makes it very easy to keep in touch with Europe but hardly anything from the USA? ESPN is Latin. I am able to find baseball scores on the CNN Europe scroll at the bottom. Well we came to cruse not watch TV. More naps. Grainne has come down with some sort of foot infection. Ether allergy or infection. She spends time in the infirmary with an antibiotic IV drip. Slippers and no shore time for her for the next few days. Because Berni is a frequent cruiser on royal Caribbean we get a private invite to the Crown and Anchor reception hosted by the Captain. He is a Norwegian, dark haired with full beard. They talk up the New Ships and coming cruse opportunities. We end up setting across from a couple who are from just outside Bangor Maine. Turns out she is a travel agent and may work with somebody Berni knows from her days in Brownville, Julie Farrah. Kind of twilight zoneish. I have Jerked chicken for dinner. The evening show is a take off of the newly wed game hosted by cruise director Ken. Berni wants to pass and we head up to the bar at the top of the ship for a drink with Fred and Carmi. Great view but I get tired of the smoke and head to bed, Yes we are spoiled in LA as far as smoking is concerned. We read a little bit and end up watching the married game on replay on the TV. It is actually quite good and very funny.
Grand Caymans. A more relaxed day. Coffee at 8:15 AM for Berni. She seems to have figured out how to keep them from calling at 6:15 which I am eternally grateful for. This place used to be part of Jamaica but decided to stay with Britain in 1962 when the Jamaican plebiscite split Jamaica away. It seems to be working for them. They have one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. Fred and I are going to Snuba. Since I don't have to be there till 12:50 PM I have a leisurely morning of reading and I do shoulders and back at the gym. We are back to launches today and I arrive at the pier at 12:20 PM. Fred wanders in at 12:45. He has been at the 7 mile beach. A guide meets us at the pier and takes us about 1/4 mile up the beach to an open air bar. Hammerheads looks like a happing place. Behind the bar is a dive shop. Snuba is Scuba without the tanks. The tank is on a small inflatable raft. They give us the 15 minute lecture and have us sign that if we kill ourselves it is not their fault. We climb down a ladder and into the water. The only problem I have is getting enough weight to make me neutral from a buoyancy standpoint. After some more lead I'm ready to go. Fred and I slide back into it pretty well and do not gulp too much air. We swim out about 1/4 mile and spend 35 minutes over a wreck. The ship went down in 1952. Lots of sea life. Our cute South African guide girl leads the way. Lots of fish and a pair of spiny lobsters. We eventually swim back to the original start point. A great time had by all. We had mentioned that we were old expired scuba divers and they tried to pump us up into getting back in to it. In So Cal you need to be in good shape and it is not obvious ether Fred or I want to put in the conditioning I think we would need to be safe. Back to the ship and meet up with Berni who took the semi-submersible to the see the underwater delights of the Grand Caymans. A late lunch for Fred and I. Naps and another formal night. Lots more pictures. Both Lobster and prime rib on the menu. I succumb to gluttony and order both for a surf and turf. I do leave the potato on the plate. So far my pants are telling me I have not gained too much weight, we will see what the scales say when I get home. Another Broadway type show. Berni did not like the music but I found it lots of fun. Berni went off to gamble and I went to bed.
This is Cozumel , Mexico . Mayan ruins day. The coffee and fruit shows up at 7:30 AM . Breakfast buffet style. This looks like a busy day. Fred , Gary and I are off to see Mayan ruins , and some sea caves. We are docked on an Island Cozumel. We get off the ship and take a twin hulled ferry to the mainland. Instead of props it has tow thrusters like a jet ski. Moves along at a good clip. We meet Saul our tour guide and mount an air conditioned bus. Thank God for the A/C this place is hot and humid. Saul says the Yucatan has 2 seasons hot and hotter. We have a rest stop 30 minutes into the ride which is a thinly veiled attempt to sell us stuff. All sorts of Mexican products including lots of stone carvings. Chess sets in stone to male genitals in stone and everything in between. I pass on all of it. We get back on the bus and Saul expounds the superiority of Mayan culture and how these are not ruins but still Mayan holy places of power. He also is moving a custom Mayan calendar for your fun and enjoyment. We arrive at the site. It is about a 1/3 of a mile walk to the actual buildings. Saul talks us all into taking the tram for an extra 2 bucks per person. I suspect Saul is getting a kick back for each extra. The ruin which is what they are no mater what Saul says, are post classical. This means they do not have as much decoration and are from a later era 800 AD. They are impressive none the less and the location is breathtaking. Beach front property and what a beach! We spend about 2 hours here then off to the caves. Well the caves are a very large modern water park that looks like it would be at home in San Diego. Hundreds of lounge chairs , lockers , Bars , restaurants , place to rent snorkels fins Snuba all sorts of water toys. After Grand Cayman Snuba I decide to pass on another snorkel experience . I watched the guys gear and read my book and people watched. I sat near a Canadian from British Colombia. He was a Lawyer on vacation for the week with his wife and Daughter. We meet quite a few Canadians on the trip. No surprise Winter has been brutal in the North and East. We got back on the bus at 5:10 PM. By the time everyone got back on the bus it was 5:23, 7 minutes after scheduled leave without you time. Obvious the late ones did not believe it. A spectacular Thunder storm lots of lighting and big drops heavy rain. The only rain on the trip. This is slowing down the bus. Fred and Gary the eternal pessimists are speculating about us being left behind. They know it’s B.S. but they like seeing if they can get a rise out of me. We get back to town and have about a 3 block walk through the rain back to the pier. The new sun hat Berni got me works great in the rain as well. Saul makes it clear that any stopping for shopping will make you miss the ship. We wait about 15 minutes for the last jet ferry back to Cozemel. The ride is rougher going back. Probably has something to do with the storm. Duh! They load us expeditiously but the ship leaves at 7 PM about 30 minutes late. Berni took a real submarine ride went down over 100 feet. 42 people on board. She had a great time and saw lots of fish. Sounds interesting would have liked to have seen the submarine. We are done with ports of call. The ship is on a speed run back to Miami so we are on the ship for the next 36 hours. This is the last formal night. More pictures.
Fruit and coffee at 6:30 AM when it was supposed to show up at 8 AM. The sporadic nature of the room service as far as time goes is the one disappointment on this cruise. A quiet day with reading and a trip to the weight room in store. Restaurant for breakfast. Berni , Fred, Richard and Gary did a hour and half in the golf simulator. You drive balls into a flexible screen and it calculates how far your ball goes. I decide to walk the ship up to the gym and do chest. Start on deck 3 up a flight then the length of the ship and up another flight. Neat way to get some aerobic exercise and see the ship. Go from deck 3 to deck 11 and walk about a mile , it’s a big ship! The art in the hall ways it very interesting. Some Mardi Gras mask on deck 9 are very interesting. Lunch at the Windjammer. I work on the trip log. We had a champagne party where Fred showed his digital pictures and we drank the champagne that Mindy( Travel Agent) sent to us. A grand finale Broadway type show with all of the entertainers taking a bow. International dinner night. Rack of Lamb for me and a very nice chocolate Brownie. Tips are handed out to waiters and such. Off to bed tomorrow is travel day.
Don't sleep well what else is new. Hear the pilot boat come up around 5 AM. We get up shower and off to the restaurant one last time. I load up on smoked Salmon and a cheese and mushroom omelet with plenty of fruit. They want us out of the rooms by 8:30 AM so they can prepare for the next group showing up as soon as 1PM today. They turn these ships around fast. It’s not making money sitting at the dock. We exit the ship around 9 AM . Customs is not onerous and they have baggage check in and boarding pass printing for American Airlines at the dock before we load up on the bus. We arrive at the airport 2 hours and 45 minutes before flight time. No where near the crowds we saw on Friday when we left. Our flight out is 1:40 PM so. I get myself a Coke and a sandwich so I will not have to deal with airplane food. We load up on our first leg. Miami to Los Vegas. Full plane ugh. Short stop over in Vegas then back to LAX. Full plane for both legs. Pick up the truck in the C lot and head home to dump our luggage. Meet up with Fred and Carmi for dinner in Montrose make some calls to see how Mom is then off to bed. A long day.
Post Script. Mom is recovering but it looks like they will need lots more help. When we do this again I will book no combination land tours, way too hectic for a vacation.