Jay's Internet Log

WC 2017 Day 1 – Boarding Regal Princess

by on Nov.17, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

At 16:04, with all pre-departure checks satisfactorily completed, Regal Princess slipped her moorings and maneuvered clear of the berth. After swinging the bow to Port we made our way through the channel and out of the harbor before disembarking out pilot at 16:31. We then began setting a North Easterly course across the Straits of Florida passing the Northern point of the Great Bahamas Bank as we began transiting the North West Providence Channel between the islands of the Bahamas.

We had a reasonably timed flight (8:30AM) to Fort Lauderdale today. It was early enough to get us here mid-day to board the ship. The problem came when we had to take the usually 10 minute drive from the airport to Port Everglades. There were EIGHT ships in port today, and traffic was a nightmare. It got to the point where our bus driver cut across the non-moving traffic onto a back-road and up a few blocks, where we hit some more traffic, but essentially cut off everyone where we were waiting previously. When we finally got to the entrance, a guard asked the bus driver if anybody had guns. He said “no”, and then got waved in. The whole trip from the airport to Port Everglades ended up taking about an hour.

We booked this cruise for the sole purpose of trying out Princess’s new Ocean Medallion, which is a small RFC device that is used to access your stateroom, order food to be delivered anywhere on the ship, and keep track of your family members, etc. About a month ago, we received an email stating that we were not chosen to participate in this, which rubbed me the wrong way. I got over it after about a week. They also have a nice, new terminal that is very technologically advanced with screens and a cool electronic underwater portal of sorts. It’s pretty nice.

Regal Princess is the sister ship to Royal Princess which we took across the Atlantic Ocean back in 2013. One thing I noticed was that Regal Princess appears almost spotless, even compared to Royal Princess back when she was brand new. This may have been because Princess Cruises’ senior management was onboard last week.

We boarded the ship and immediately went to Alfredo’s, which is an amazing little Italian restaurant with the best minestrone soup. Heather and I got some soup and a few small pizzas while Mom and Dad unpacked in their room.

A recent change is that you no longer have to take your life vest to the Muster Drill, er, Guest Safety Assembly, which it’s now called. This drill is required by law, and teaches you what to do in case the ship needs to be evacuated due to an emergency. They created a really nice video and instructions sung to the tune of The Love Boat. I could tell that everyone was enjoying it, even the crew.

This ship is so large that I couldn’t tell once we started moving. By the time we got up to the top decks, the ship was already almost out of Florida, and the crowd assembled on the top decks was the largest I’ve ever seen.

For dinner, I had prime rib and chili, but the best part was that our table was right next to the window. I was asleep about an hour after dinner. It was a long day, and tomorrow should be a nice day at the beach.

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WC 2017 Day 2 – Princess Cays – Eleuthera, Bahamas

by on Dec.12, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

In the early hours of the morning, Regal Princess transited the North East Providence Channel before altering to a South Easterly course as we passed North of Eleuthera Island. As we passed Palmetto Point 6 nautical miles on our Starboard side we began setting a Southerly course parallel to the coast of Eleuthera. In the morning we passed Eleuthera point 2 nautical miles on our Starboard side as we entered Exuma Sound and made our final approaches to our anchorage near Bannerman Town. We let go our Port anchor with 6 shackles in the water at 8:08 and shortly afterwards, with the vessel safely brought up, the tenders were lowered to the water and passenger tender service was commenced.

EDIT – (The following paragraph was almost omitted, but I wanted to keep it, as we didn’t have any navigation notes until the very last day.)

One thing that seems absent from this writeup are the normally-italicized notes from the Bridge, indicating where the ship was going to be. This morning, the Princess Patter arrived, and I noticed that the notes weren’t in it. I called the Purser’s Desk, and the people there had no idea what I was talking about. I guess it isn’t something they do on Regal Princess, and it’s something that is very much missed.

We met Mom and Dad at the buffet for breakfast, and then Heather and I took a small boat over to Princess Cays, which is a small private area that the cruise ship company owns. We’ve been here a number of times, and they seem to add more and more each time we visit. We walked around a bit and took some photos, shopped, and then went swimming. The water was amazing. As we were getting ready to leave, Mom and Dad arrived, so we swam some more. I may have gotten too much sun, but I won’t know about that until later on.

It’s later, and I didn’t get too sunburned. One of the boats broke down, and it took about an hour to get back onboard. Once we were, we had some burgers and pizza, then watched the movie Wind River in the Vista Lounge.

With all passengers and crew onboard and all pre-departure checks in place, Regal Princess recovered her tenders and began hoisting her anchor. Once anchor was aweigh at 16:52, we began maneuvering out of our anchorage and setting a South Easterly course through Exuma Sound and as we passed Rum Cay 6 nautical miles on our Port side, we exited the sound, setting a South South Easterly course across the Caribbean Sea and Great Bahama Bank.

It was Italian night, and I had pot roast and spaghetti, which was excellent. The headwaiters also prepared penne in a tomato, garlic, and chili pepper sauce. The smell of garlic made my eyes water a bit. You first tasted the garlic, then a few seconds later, your mouth started burning.

After dinner, we were going to go watch a comedian, but the theater was packed, so we just came back and went to sleep. Tomorrow is a sea day.

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WC 2017 – Day 3 – At Sea

by on Dec.12, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

During the night at around 02:00 Regal Princess transited the Crooked Island passage and followed a Southerly heading with the Crooked Island on our Port side. Before noon we left the Bahamas base line with Great Inagua Island on our Port side navigating through the North Eastern coast of Cuba and heading to the “Windward Passage” that is in between Cuba and Haiti. 

Through the day, after Regal Princess transited ‘Paso dos vientos’ Punta Maisi at 13:35 leaving Hispaniola Island on our Port side and Cuba on our Starboard side. Then we maintained the same West South Westerly heading, following the Southern Coast of Cuba Island, towards our next port of call, Falmouth.

When we awoke today, the ship was moving around a bit, which is rare for a ship this size. I opened the blinds up and it was raining pretty hard and numerous whitecaps were seen.

Heather and I had sit-down breakfast which was nice, then met Mom at the Excursion desk to change some things up for a port in a few days. We then shopped a bit, dropped Mom off in her room, and took a 2+ mile walk around the hallways. Walking the halls on a ship this large is a great way to exercise, but it’s best to wait until the room stewards are done with their morning activities. We were on deck 14 Forward and ran into a gentleman who we met on Pacific Princess last year. He may be the current most-travelled-passenger, and was telling us of all the upcoming cruises that he was doing. After about 5 minutes, Captain Stringer appeared and spoke with us a bit. He then told us that he had to steal our friend away, and they headed towards the bridge. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad jealous.

After having lunch at Alfredo’s, Heather and I went to the Art Auction. If we rewind a day, the Art folks had a contest to guess how much a specific piece by Peter Max was worth. We received a note saying we were in the top 10, so we felt obligated to go to the art auction, even though we weren’t planning on buying any art. They sure have changed the way auctions work on these ships. It used to be simple, but now they’ve complicated it so much that it isn’t really all that fun anymore. I was tripped up a few times because of the way they make you put your number up just to be able to bid on something. The art people are also very pushy, and it really turned me off. I miss Daniel from years back (Caribbean Princess 2007, Royal Princess 2013). He was an amazing auctioneer and I always felt like he had our best interests in mind. The art was also much more reasonably priced before. They now start the auctions at about 5% less than retail compared to ~30% less. It took about three hours and we didn’t win the contest. It was a learning experience though.

Tonight was formal night, and 1. We didn’t bring any formal wear because we planned on eating at the Crown Grill, but 2. The Crown Grill is totally sold out, so we had a conundrum. Our headwaiter told us that it was okay to come to formal dinner without formal wear, so we dressed up as well as possible and had a nice dinner, which included French Onion Soup. It was great. I got a few stares as I walked around the dining room sans tie or jacket.

After dinner, we watched Spider-Man Homecoming on the big screen up top. Mom and Dad had never seen it, and they both enjoyed it. We then all went to bed.

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WC 2017 Day 4 – Falmouth, Jamaica

by on Dec.12, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

During the night Regal Princess transited the Southern sea of Cuba called Cayman trench with a course of 251 degrees to arrive at 06:45 to Falmouth Pilot station where we embarked our pilot and where we started our berthing approach turned our bow to Starboard and then moved astern to Falmouth South Cruise terminal, where we were alongside Port side and all lines fast at 07:48.

I awoke as we were getting close to land, went out on the balcony, and watched as this enormous ship spun around on itself and backed up into port. I love this type of maneuvering. I had thought that we’d be the only ship here, but after breakfast, as Heather was lathering suntan lotion on me on the balcony, I saw Allure of the Seas coming in. That ship has 6500 passengers on board, and it dwarfed us.

We didn’t have a tour booked here, so we all disembarked and walked around the shopping area. We needed to get a small battery for Dad, and I needed a USB cable as the one I brought would power my camera, but not transfer any photographs. We had to leave the confines of the shopping area to do this, and boy was it sketchy out there. We found what we needed, Mom and Heather went back to safety, but Dad and I wanted some photos of the two large ships, so we headed off in the other direction. We couldn’t really get where I wanted to go, so we eventually turned around and headed back. Heather and I bought some small items including a carved Santa Claus, which we’ll put in our display case when we get home.

Clouds started rolling in, so we headed back to the ship and had burgers and fries. The burger cook was all alone, and he wasn’t in a good mood… probably because he had no help, and the line was growing longer and longer. He cooked a great burger though! There was a medical emergency near one of the pools, and a bunch of deck-hands surrounded the injured and put up little tents to block the views. He was taken away on a stretcher with his hand up, so we all knew he was okay. Kudos to the crew for taking care of him quickly, and keeping his privacy intact throughout. His little daughter was very scared.

After lunch, Mom, Heather, and I took a dip in the Retreat Pool for a bit, then headed back to our rooms to relax for a few hours before dinner.

We all had Southern Fried Chicken for dinner, and then went to see a new production show called Born to Dance. It was fantastic. They took little bits and pieces of different Broadway shows and displayed dancing from each of them. This was the last night of performances for this set of dancers, and they were very good. I guess tomorrow we’ll have new dancers on board.

This evening, with all pre-departure checks complete and all passengers and crew onboard, Regal Princess commenced singling up her mooring lines. With all lines gone, we lifted off the berth, moving ahead, making our way out of the harbor. [EDIT] – This navigation note seems very generic compared to the rest. We stayed in port for a good hour to avoid winds, but that wasn’t stated.

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WC 2017 – Day 5 – Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

by on Dec.12, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

During the night Regal Princess maintained a Westerly heading across the Cayman Trench. In the early morning, as we left the islands of “Little Cayman” and “Cayman Brac” on our Starboard side, we set a West North-Westerly heading, following the Southern Coast of Grand Cayman Island. As we were abeam of “South West Point”, we altered to the North, approaching our designated anchorage area. Once we reached our position in the anchorage, we let go our Port anchor at 06:45, and at 07:00 started to lower our tenders. With vessel brought up to the anchor, passenger operation commenced.

When we woke up this morning, we were the only ship here at Grand Cayman… a few hours later, there were four ships, including Carnival Breeze and Sensation, and Celebrity Equinox. We had breakfast and then boarded a tender to go walk around the shopping area.

When we arrived over there, we were bombarded by locals who wanted to take us on island tours. We almost took one, but decided to just walk around instead. We visited a church and found our way to a small craft market, where we were able to buy a magnet made on this island. This may not sound like much, but not a single gift shop had anything made locally.

When we returned to the ship, we had lunch at Alfredo’s and then took a swim in the Retreat Pool before taking a short nap. Mom called and said that she was making Mardi Gras masks, so Heather and I met her in Club 6 and Heather made one too.

Tonight we’re going to the Crown Grill for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a bit non-traditional, but they make great food there. I hope Mom and Dad like it as they’ve never been, and Dad’s tough to please.

At 15:55 with all passengers and crew back onboard, we commenced heaving up the anchor and to recover the tenders. Anchor was aweigh at 16:12, and once we cleared the anchorage, we set a West-North-Westerly course across the Cayman Trench towards our next port of call, Cozumel.

Something happened in the Crown Grill tonight. I think that they were training a new chef or something. Our French Onion Soups were excellent as always. We then waited for a full hour for our meals. When they arrived, everything was cooked well-done when we all ordered medium. It was a big disappointment. I felt bad because I had talked this place up so much to my parents, and we would have been better off just going to the buffet upstairs. The service was good, and you could tell that the servers were stressed out about something. It will definitely be a memorable Thanksgiving meal.

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WC 2017 – Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico

by on Dec.12, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

During the night Regal Princess followed a West-North-Westerly heading navigating the “Cayman Trench”. As we approached the Northern coast of Cozumel Island, we altered course to Port, setting a South-South-Westerly heading across the Cozumel Channel towards the Pilot Station. The pilot was onboard at 09:00 and with his advice, we made out way through the harbor, maneuvering alongside our designated berth, where we were all fast secured at 09:55.

Cozumel is our last port this cruise, and it’s the first time that I’m witnessing us actually dock here. We used to arrive on the mainland in Playa Del Carmen, then have to take an hour-long large jet-ski boat over to Cozumel. Heather and I were signed up to go to Tulum as she has never been, so we got to take the boat over to the mainland. In port today were Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, Carnival Breeze, and two other ships that were very far away; one of which was a large Norwegian ship. Needless to say, there were a lot of people here today!

Heather and I boarded the boat and headed off with about 500 other passengers, all going to Tulum. When we arrived at the other side, we boarded a bus with 20 other folks and had another hour drive to get to the ruins. The weather was great with a hot and bright sun. When we got to the parking area of Tulum, we had some tortilla chips with hot salsa and Heather had to pay a dollar to use the bathroom.

We took a small tram, which happened to be a tractor dressed up to look like a train, over to the main ruins site. These are beautiful Mayan ruins right on the edge of the water, on the second largest reef in the world. There aren’t many areas to go for shade, so we were out in the direct sun for quite a long time.

Our tour guide Martin pointed us in the direction of some free bathrooms, then we boarded our bus again for a short trip over to our next stop, which was a small Mayan village about a mile or two into the jungle. We walked a bit and came to a clearing with water. Much of this area is made up of reef material, and there isn’t much soil anywhere. If you dig into the ground, you may find about a foot of soil, then the ground becomes very hard.

There aren’t any aboveground rivers here, but there are Cenotes (seh-no-tays), which are large water passages below the ground. We got in a canoe and paddled about 10 minutes up through the water, which is fresh and very clear. I could see vegetation growing up through it. We then walked a little more to another Cenote, where people were jumping in and swimming. We didn’t swim, but we put our feet in and had small catfish come and pick at them. It tickled quite a bit.

We then were treated to a Mayan buffet, which was nice, albeit a bit scary. We ate off of clay plates and bowls, and had chicken, pork, rice, beans, salad, and vegetables. On our tables were small jars that had warm tortillas in them, and we rolled up our food in them. I mentioned to Heather that this was better than our Thanksgiving meal last night.

After lunch, which was at 4PM, we walked through their village. These people don’t speak Spanish. They speak Mayan, and they know a little Spanish, and only things like “chicken”, “rice”, etc in English. Oh, they also know “dollar”. I saw what looked like a nice animal enclosure, and thought it was for pets, but Martin told me that they keep their chickens in there, and our meal was alive this morning.

It was starting to get a bit dark out, and we boarded our bus, took the hour drive back to Playa Del Carmen, where I saw the Senor Frog’s which I remember from 1996. Back then, it was the only thing there on the beach, and now the whole area is a plethora of shops and resorts. We boarded the boat and made it back onboard Regal Princess at about 8PM. Heather and I had a burger and fries, then watched some of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie in bed, and fell asleep. It was a long day, but I think this will end up being the most memorable one, and I’m very glad that I was able to show Tulum to Heather.

At 21:42 with all passengers and crew back onboard, we let go the mooring lines, thrusting off the pier. As we were clear from the pier, we commenced our sea passage in order to set a North-Westerly heading following the West coast of Cozumel Island.

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WC 2017 – Day 7 – At Sea

by on Dec.12, 2017, under Vacation, Western Caribbean 2017

Throughout the night Regal Princess crossed the “Yucatan Channel” on her North-Eastery heading. In the morning, we approached Cuba, following her Northern coast at an average distance of 15 nautical miles, passing the Capital of Havana at 16:30.

Heather and I got to see our first sunrise this morning. As we’re on somewhat of a circular course, the sunrises have always been on the other side of the ship. Now that we’re heading back towards Florida, we were able to catch one.

Well, this is our last day, and as I write this, the heavy luggage mat is sitting on the bed waiting to be used. I really dislike seeing that luggage mat. Heather is getting her nails done, and we all just arrived back from a tour of the Bridge.

When we returned from our tour last night, an envelope was here inviting us to tour the Bridge. I’ve never seen a Bridge on a Royal-class ship, and boy is it enormous! We met up with about 20 other folks and were taken forward to the Bridge. Captain Tim Stringer was there to greet us, and he spent about an hour showing us various aspects of it. Normally on Bridge tours, the Captain isn’t present, but Captain Stringer took the time to personally answer questions and show us everything from navigation charts to the button they press to make the horns play the Love Boat theme. It was truly special, and I’m very thankful for the invitation. One of the members of the tour, I think, was one of the designers of this ship. He stayed around as we were all escorted off at the end of the tour. I got a photo with the Captain, but Dad was also taking photos, so I didn’t know which way to look.

Our plan now is to have lunch at Alfredo’s, and then I don’t know.

Alfredo’s was excellent as always. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with packing, which was much easier on this 7-day cruise than on one of the longer ones. We had dinner, watched the Parade of the Baked Alaska, and headed off to sleep.

At 22:30, we entered USA waters transiting south of Key West and then at around midnight at the same latitude of Biscayne Bay in the Florida Strait, we altered to a Northerly course, towards our last port of call Port Everglades.

One more cruise down, and many more to go. This was a nice break, though it again proved to us that we’re more aligned with smaller ships. With it being Thanksgiving week, the ship was overbooked with 4000 passengers, and you could tell. There wasn’t much space to relax onboard, but it was very nice to be with family in warm weather. When we returned to Hartford, it was around 25 degrees, and that shocked us all!

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