Wrapping it up…Tom’s packing…

 

The final “towel, pet” in our cabin aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.  Tomorrow morning we disembark.
The Gulf of Aden behind us as we head full speed toDubai, we are grateful for the incident free transit through these dangerous waters. 

Impressed with the manner in which the security of the ship and the safety of its passengers was handled, overall, we’ve been pleased with Royal Caribbean.

Without a doubt, we’d consider cruising with them in the future. Our favorite remains Celebrity which many passengers have also freely expressed in our endless discussions about the quality of various cruise lines. 

On CruiseCritic, there were a number of comments that this ship, Mariner of the Seas, is old and worn. We saw little evidence of that other than peeling paint on a metal brace on our balcony and a few signs of wear and tear in the Windjammer Cafe. Nothing major.

The service in the Windjammer Cafe each morning was exemplary, the dining room at night, a mish mash, sometimes great, sometimes not, depending upon the annoyance by the waiter of my “special order.” 

It appeared they were all overworked and overwhelmed by the number of guests that they had to serve each night, rushing our food to the table, attempting to clear our plates too soon and failing to take our drink orders.

I’d order two glasses of iced tea each night, knowing it would be impossible to get refills during dinner. Going to dinner at 7:00 pm most nights, we seldom stopped at the bar before dinner.

Tom hoped to order a cocktail during dinner. All in all, he was able to order a drink only 4 of the past 14 nights, unable to get a bar server to the table which is an offered service. 

Our cabin steward, Jing, was always friendly, warm and quick to respond to our requests, however few we had: ice twice a day, extra hangers when we moved in, handling our two bags of laundry.  Twice each day our cabin was cleaned and restocked with fresh towels.

Oddly, the only toiletries supplied by RC were the small bar soaps and body wash in a dispenser in the shower. Carnival had toothpaste, shavers, nail and sewing kits. Norwegian had few amenities, other than body wash in the shower plus we had to ask for bar soap. Celebrity supplied shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, plus all of the above. It speaks for itself.

None the less, sickness, service and food inconsistencies aside, we had a great time on this cruise, meeting many interesting travelers from all over the world, picking up some valuable tips and now, as we become more travel savvy (with much more to learn!), offering a few tips of our own. 

Tom is totally free of the illness. I’m still lingering, coughing, sore throat, hopefully turning the corner soon. Tom is currently packing with no help from me as I sit here hacking away.

Everyone at our table of six at dinner last night had been sick during this cruise with either Norovirus or this same respiratory illness.  I warned everyone that I was still ill. After five days, I doubt I am still contagious. No one at the table seemed concerned, they’d catch anything. After all, maybe as many as 40% of the passengers had some type of bug while on this cruise.

There’s nothing particular about cruising in itself that brings on illness. It’s the simple fact of lots of people in the same confined space, day after day, breathing the same recycled air conditioned air, touching handrails, elevator buttons, salt and pepper shakers, serving pieces, arm rests on seats in the theatre and on and on that creates a fertile breeding ground for contagions.

During each of our periods of illness, we’ve made every effort to be mindful of others, touching no common areas and washing our hands with soap and hot water many times each day. But as we ate our breakfast, the servers cleared our plates and with their bare hands clearing off our flatware and plates. Minutes later they were handing a guest a cup of coffee. No matter how hard one tries,there is no way to avoid transmitting illnesses.

The most annoying aspect of other sick passengers has been those coughing and sneezing into the air sending their toxins to everyone nearby. Certainly, carrying tissue, readily available in the cabin, is an easy alternative in addition to immediately washing one’s hands when coughing and sneezing into them or tissues.

Whatever precautions we may have implemented;  taking probiotics, vitamin C, staying healthy and active, and eating well, doesn’t seem to offer much insurance against our vulnerability. It’s the nature of the beast, much like being on an airplane, only to end up with a cold a day or two later.

Most likely in two days, I’ll feel well again, following the same course as Tom. In the interim, I’ve had little interest in taking photos, spending most of the past few days resting in our cabin, only leaving for breakfast to sit in our favorite comfy booth to eat and write our ongoing story and, for the few hours for dinner in the main dining room in the evenings.

Tonight, our bags will be placed outside our door for pickup between 7:00 and 11:00 pm. Breakfast will be served from 6:00 am to 9:00 am. Disembarking, a laborious process, will begin around 7:00 am. Again, we hope to be the last to disembark, resulting in less waiting time in Dubai to get into our condo at 2:00 pm.

Most likely, we won’t be writing tomorrow as we get situated in Dubai. But we’ll be back on
Wednesday with photos of our “home” for the next 13 nights, our trip to the market, views of the city and whatever other morsels we discover in our first 24 hours in the amazing city of Dubai.
Stay tuned, folks. 

 

Grand Turks and Caicos…Last port of call before Miami tomorrow…

 

The beach at Grand Turks and Caicos.

Today, as we spend our last full day aboard the Carnival Liberty, we’re unable to use our WiFi device while out to sea. With only minutes left on the Internet package we purchased on the ship, I’d contemplated not posting
today. Yesterday, we burned up 70 minutes trying to post the  blog and the photos with the ship’s poor signal.

If we were to purchase more Internet time from the ship, we’d pay $.75 a minute, outrageous considering it takes about four times longer to load anything than when using our MiFi when available. For one additional hour we’d pay $45. 
As mentioned in prior posts, Xcom Global MiFi works when we are close to land in most of the countries we’ll visit. The small island country of Grand Turks and Caicos was not one of them. We spotted a few towers but their signal was not sufficient for us to get online. 
The cruise line owned beach set-up with “pay for” cabanas.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll arrive in Miami at 8:00 am.  Once in port, we’ll be able to use our MiFi as we wait for our turn to disembark the Carnival Liberty. Our goal is to be among the last passengers to leave the ship.  Most passengers will have already gone through customs and the lines resulting in shorter lines.

With our next ship, the Norwegian Epic, docked at the pier next door, we won’t be able to get on board until noon, leaving us to carefully time the move from one ship to the other. Refusing to be left standing at the pier for hours with our remaining pile of luggage in tow, careful timing is in order.

 Many passengers got off the ship to bake in the sun. We opted to stay behind and enjoy the quiet time on the ship.

Once we’re situated on board, unpack, attend  the required emergency procedures meeting at our designated Muster station, and sign up for their largest Internet package, we’ll post again. 

Once the ship sails, we’ll only be able to use the ship’s Internet package for the crossing of the Atlantic ocean for a 15 day cruise ending in Barcelona, Spain (one eleven day cruise plus one four day cruise resulting in another back-to-back, same-cabin cruise).
With only one port of call in the first leg of this upcoming cruise in Madeira, Portugal, on April 28, 2013, we’ll have little use of our MiFi. While in Madeira for eight hours on April 28th, we plan to meet with the owner of the house we’ll be renting in Madeira beginning May 15, 2014, when we’ll return for a 2 1/2 month stay in her gorgeous house overlooking the ocean. Gina will give us a tour of the house and the island, a wonderful way to spend our day in port.
 The dock at the beach set-up.

Overall, the two Carnival cruises were fine, although not memorable. The two downsides were the issue with our vitamins and the need to move to a quieter cabin. The upsides, excellent service, extraordinary food at Diamonds Steakhouse, clean environment, no Norovirus and a smooth sailing ship.

Would we book Carnival in the future? Probably not, unless we needed to use it as a means of transportation when no other cruise line was available. Would we recommend it to others? If a party cruise is your style, this cruise line is ideal.  For us, we prefer a more mature crowd and more quiet environment.
Various boats that passenger charter for a number of activities.

Stop back tomorrow to read about our move to the Norwegian Epic, a bigger ship than we’ve experienced thus far, cruise #5 since January 3, 2013.

San Juan, Puerto Rico…Off the ship for new photos…

 

Tom took this sunrise photo yesterday morning as our ship was a few miles from Puerto Rico.

As we’ve become more experienced cruisers, we’ve learned to determine when it makes sense for us to get off the ship.  For example, yesterday, as our ship approached the port of Puerto Rico, the bustling city attracted our attention, offering plenty of places to walk to explore the nature of the area. 

I’m impressed! His photo taking is improving!

Now, as I write this, we are docked at the pier at Grand Turks and Caicos, a small island country.  All we can see for miles on this clear, sunny day, is once again, a man-made beach, pool, and shopping area, owned by the cruise lines. We are unable to use our Xcom Global MiFi as no signal is available from this small. As a result, we are posting today, using the ship’s WiFi at $.33 a minute for the package we purchased at the second leg of this back-to-back cruise.

Tom took this photo from our balcony of the captain on the bridge, as the ship entered the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico early yesterday morning.

With no respite from the blaring sun, we’ve decided to stay aboard,  use the self-service laundry on our floor in preparation for tomorrow’s packing. This will be the last cruise we’ve booked on which there is self-service laundry. Going forward, we’ll have no alternative but to pay the exorbitant fees to have the laundry done by each ship’s laundry department. 

 El Morro Fort on the island of San Juan.

Again this time, we have some serious rearranging to do, putting all of our vitamins inside the various suitcases,  using the duffel bag for clothing only.  There’s no way we’re willing to experience the difficulty we had boarded this ship as described in our post of 4/10/2013.

 San Juan appears to be a busy business and industrial city. Maybe someday we’ll experience this smaller ship with only 296 passengers with a crew of 207.  Intimate smaller ships are especially appealing to us.

Much to my dismay, my bum shoulder is acting up so much I can barely move my right arm. Taking two Aleve on a full stomach last night and again this morning, I’m hoping to get some relief after a few days of this regime. Moving to the Norwegian Epic in two days, leaves me worrying that I won’t be able to haul my share. 

The Silver Cloud, of Silversea lines, a 296 passenger, 207 crew members on the ship.

This morning, when getting the $14 of change needed for two loads of laundry plus two little boxes of laundry soap, we discovered that this ship will arrive at Pier D in Miami while the Epic will be loading at Pier C. If we plan to be among the last passengers off of this ship when disembarking, and we’re lucky enough to find a porter with a large cart, we’ll manage to move over with relative ease, once we go through customs.

 The busy port of San Juan.

Entering a ship preparing to sail doesn’t require a customs inspection, only a trip through security.  So far in all of our travels, customs had not been an issue. It was Carnival’s onboard security that gave us the difficulties with the vitamins.But we shall see. Nothing in our travels is a certainty. One can never relax anticipating any procedure to be a breeze. This, we’d anticipated and has been confirmed over and again.

As for Puerto Rico, it was a lovely city, clean, orderly, well policed. Modern US  and international stores lined the
boulevard. Vendors were in abundance with little of the expected hawking. A few beggars clinked their near-empty pop cans, hoping to attract a generous passerby, unfettered by the police.

Parrots posing for us as we walked along the boulevard.
Getting off the ship at various ports has been relatively easy, only requiring that we show our “Sign and Sail” card which they swipe through a  scanner revealing our ID and photo. Upon returning, both the card and driver’s license or additional photo ID is required. The lines to get off and on can be lengthy and slow.Our goal has been to leave later and return earlier, thus avoiding the rush of passengers.

In only an hour and a half of walking we’d seen the entire area, not wanting to get too far from the pier with the early 3:30 pm sail time. Content, that we’d seen everything in the immediate area, we returned with ample photos unloaded our stuff and made our way to the pool.

While trying to get a good shot of these parrots, the vendor kept moving the cart, readjusting the cart in the fierce winds, making it difficult for me to get a good shot. Nonetheless, they took an interest in my close proximity. Thanks, Parrots!
Within minutes of arranging our chaise lounges, towels and beverages, a movie began to play on the poolside movie screen, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. A few years ago, I had inattentively watched this movie with my precious granddaughter Maisie, too young to appreciate it at the time. I spent more time watching the expressions on her face than paying attention to the movie.
 Familiar stores lined the streets of San Juan.

As the movie began, I found myself entranced by its sweet story, unable to tear myself away. Tom, less interested in it, eventually wandered to a shaded area to read the latest book on his phone, while I stayed put until the movie ended. At one point, tears welled up in my eyes  not only for the tender story but the memory of the time spent with my granddaughter. Of course, we miss them all.

Equally familiar fast food restaurants were available.

Dinner was pleasant at another table for six in the Golden Olympian while lively conversation ensued among the three couples. My dinner was almost perfect except for the following: I’d asked for Caesar dressing on the side.  The salad was swimming in a thick dressing. I asked for non-starchy vegetables to include cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli and a small amount of carrots. 

 A replica of an old pirate ship.

Instead, my lamb was laying on a bed of puckered overly cooked green peas (starchy) with a single piece of broccoli and cauliflower. My cheese plate was decorated with several juicy pieces of fruit (I can’t eat fruit due to carbs from sugar). 

 Horse and buggy waiting for visiting passengers to partake.

Rather than complain, I scooped the peas onto Tom’s plate and moved the fruit onto my saucer asking for additional steamed veggies which I received  in perfect order. It’s not easy to feel  full and satisfied after a meal when one doesn’t eat bread, potatoes, rice, beans or dessert. Veggies seem to fill the bill for me when a remaining pang of hunger strikes when others are enjoying gooey desserts.

As we approached the  end of the boulevard, we spotted this fountain and began making our way back to the ship to ensure we’d arrive in plenty of time to depart San Juan.

Tom ordered the Seafood Newberg finding the flavor inconsistent from his same order only a few nights ago, liking it much less the second time. We’ve found many inconsistencies in the food on Carnival, although overall, it has been palatable. Of course, nothing so far, can compare to the amazing food on the Celebrity Century with their designated gluten free menu and gourmet flair.

 Tom pointed out the mud stirred up as the ship fired up to depart the port of San Juan.

Off we go, living on ships for the next two months, except for the 13 nights in Dubai. Tom asked me if I’m bored. Ha! First off,  boredom has never been an issue for me. I’ve always been able to find a way to entertain myself when alone and when with Tom, the idle chatter, laughter and banter never ceases, hardly leaving time for boredom.

 The sunlight view as we left San Juan.

For us, where we are is irrelevant, as we easily find ourselves wrapped up in the moment. We even got a kick out of doing our laundry together today. 

 

Food?…Problematic for me…

 

I stayed behind while Tom enjoyed the water slide.  We especially enjoy the quiet time outdoors by the pool and in the shade when many passengers went ashore. Many returned with sunburns from the ride on the tender or the time unprotected on the beach.  With years ahead of us in sunny climates, we are careful to avoid overexposure.

Without a doubt, we knew that my strict way of eating would be an issue to some degree as we traveled the world. In Belize, it was a non-issue, buying and cooking most of our meals. 

Aboard the Carnival Liberty, it’s a huge issue at dinner.  Breakfast is easy since I can have eggs,
non-starchy vegetables, meat without sauce or fillers, and hard cheese. Mostly I order real egg omelets as opposed to the “processed” mixture that is full of chemicals and gluten with a side of bacon. It holds me all day until dinner. 

The view of the tip of Half Moon Cay, the Bahamas, a small mostly man-made tourist attraction, owned by Holland Cruise Lines and shared with other cruise lines to enhance their revenue.

Protein eaten with few carbs tends to keep a person full, comfortable, and satisfied all day. I never feel hungry or am tempted to eat off the endless tables of sweets, burgers and fries, tacos, burritos, and wraps. Free
food. Everywhere you turn.

Our first two cruises on Celebrity, the Century, and the Equinox, dinner was a breeze. They had all the gluten and sugar-free items carefully marked on the menu. Once I made choices to be low carb, grain, and
starch-free, I was home free, able to enjoy a number of options. On the Equinox, the pastry chef made me a
special dessert, a sugar and flour free Creme Brule. 

The Carnival Liberty has no such options, no indications on the menu, few cooks with knowledge as to gluten-free. Last night they brought my usual cheese plate for dessert, the cheese atop a pile of bread. Anyone with a gluten issue cannot have bread “touch” their food since the size of a grain of salt of gluten, can trigger a response. They didn’t understand when I graciously asked them to throw the entire plate away and
start anew with just the cheese.

The tenders, preparing to take passengers to the manmade beach.

Moments later, they return with the cheese and fruit. I can’t eat fruit. It has sugar that has carbs. For 20 years, I had excruciating pain. Now, for almost 20 months since I began eating this way, I have no pain.  It’s a no brainer for me.  I’m never tempted to “cheat.”  I consider anything not included in my plan as poison. Why
would I eat poison? 

Am I specific enough with the restaurant staff?  I think so. They have noted our “folio” number that I can only eat meat, fish (any type), poultry, eggs, butter, hard cheese, and non-starchy vegetables.

The tender returning from the small island filled with sunburned passengers. Again, hanging over our balcony as we began to sail away from Half Moon Cay, we were able to get this photo of the officers on the bridge only eight doors from our new quiet cabin.
If one knew food at all, they put a plate of grilled fish, a large salad, and a large side of vegetables in front of me every night with a plate of nice hard cheeses for dessert.  I’d be content. 

But, it’s like pulling teeth, drawing way too much attention to my “condition” making me uncomfortable, treating me like an annoyance and a “freak”, as if I were some picky eater that was eating this way “for fun.”

Once we began this cruise on April 9th, they required that I placed the next night’s order each night at dinner.  What??? This lovely well-meaning young woman, Julia (pronounced Yule-e-a), approaches our table (often we’re seated with other passengers), handing me the next night’s menu, waiting while I place my order. Trying to be considerate of her time, I quickly place the order of salad, meat, and a large side of steamed vegetables along with a plain cheese plate, no fruit, now “no bread”.

Invariably, my dinner arrives with rice, potatoes, corn, peas with the meat unseasoned and overcooked.  Last night I ordered the flat iron steak, rare. My plate arrived with a pile of fried potatoes, a 3 oz. well done rubbery steak and two pieces of overcooked cauliflower. 

The Caesar salad with no croutons was a tiny plate of huge pieces of romaine lettuce, dressing on the side which I had requested since they’d previously smothered no less than 1/2 cup of dressing on those few lettuce leaves. (I can have small amounts of low carb dressings, usually blue cheese and Caesar).

We can see the bridge from our balcony.

So, last night, I asked them to remove the potatoes and bring more steamed vegetables. They
returned the plate minus the potatoes with the same tiny piece of leathery meat with the two overcooked clumps of cauliflower having added a single flower of broccoli. Oh.  I ate all of it.

Thank goodness for the cheese or I’d still be hungry after each
dinner.

A short while ago, we heard that an option for tonight’s formal night dinner is lobster tail which I can have and love. I wasn’t told this last night. It wasn’t on the menu. If I want it, we’ll have to go to the restaurant soon and order it; a plain lobster tail with butter, a side of veggies, a salad. How hard is that?

Most likely their lobster tails have a bread crumb topping. It may be too late to accommodate me. They
cover all of their meats in flour laden sauces and coatings. This way they can hide tough, overly cooked,
unseasoned cheaper cuts of meat with what may be tasty, creamy, or chunky sauces.

Today, we will be contacting Norwegian cruise lines in advance, unaware at this time if they are as skilled as Celebrity was in accommodating dietary restrictions with such ease and finesse.

The pained look on the face of the servers we’ve had when reading the “notes” on me has been more annoying than the food. They keep referring to “your food allergies.”

Through all of this, I remain calm and considerate.  I am not a difficult customer.  In each case, I’ve smiled and kindly asked for the items to be added or removed, without a negative tone in my voice.

We thought that if perhaps I had a small late lunch, I could get by with less in the evening.  As we perused all of the items in the lunch buffet, there wasn’t a single piece of fish, chicken, or meat that wasn’t swimming in sauces or flour coatings. Not one. The only items I could have had were the slices of cheese, lettuce, and a
few raw veggies. Not worth it.

After a lifetime of being a dessert fanatic, having something sweet every night after dinner, most of which I baked with fresh ingredients, I have since let this go.  No longer do I crave something “sweet” or snack at all after dinner. 

Perhaps, I need to rethink my current expectation of an enjoying meal at dinner and focus more on my enjoyable companion, my hubby, and the “table mates’ often sitting with us. Of course, there’s the big glass of ice water to savor since we can’t ever get a server to come to the table to take a drink order.

All in all, we’re content. We can sleep at night.  We have our vitamins back. The shower and sink drain properly (although this morning I had to pour water into the toilet to get it to flush). More importantly, we’re safe, we have our health, we’re staying on track on our budget, we continue to meet wonderful people, we have the world in front of us and, we have each other.

 

Getting into the groove…Photos!

 

See the baseball bat on the outdoor movie screen from a scene in The Natural that we watched while we were sunning and funning at the pool aboard the Carnival Liberty?

Our negative experience behind us, we’re finally wafting into the cruise mode. Overall, yesterday was a good day. 

Should Tom tackle this slide while I take a photo?

Breakfast was a disappointment. As a port day, every passenger on the ship, around 4000, was trying to eat in the buffet at the same time. Lines for “real eggs” were long and tables were at a premium. After roaming for a while, we decided to skip breakfast and have lunch instead.

Tom walked with me to the reasonably well-equipped health club waiting patiently while I did my usual HIIT workout. There were two other passengers working out. Not unusual.  In Belize, I had seen a total of five or six tourists working out in the health club in the two-plus months we were there. 

The dorsal fin is indicative of a Carnival ship.

Lunch was a disappointment as well.  Literally every hot food item was swathed in flour laden sauces, not befitting my GF diet. Frustrated, I had a plate of lettuce and a few fatty slices of leg of lamb.  Its only food, I thought. Dinner would be more suitable with hostess Julia, assigned to see to my nightly special orders.

Around noon we wandered out to the pool for our usual one hour of sunning and funning to discover the movie, The Natural, playing on the giant outdoor movie screen. 

Parking ourselves in two tightly arranged chaise lounges, we were excited to watch the already in progress movie, giggling over the peculiarity of watching a movie in the sun by the pool. Oddly, neither of us had ever seen this movie. In the bright sun, the screen was surprisingly clear. At one point, I meandered to the pool to cool off still able to watch Robert Redford’s then handsome face. 

Another of the three outdoor pools.

After the movie, we decided to tour the ship to get our bearings. Racking up over 5000 steps on my pedometer,
we roamed several of the eleven levels while looking for an ideal shaded outdoor spot with comfortable seating for reading and writing. 

Unable to find such a spot as we had on our two prior cruises, we’re now situated in the upper level of the dining area. With today’s clouds, heat and humidity, we’re content to have found a quiet spot indoors.

We’ve yet to go to the live show but we have another full week ahead of us.

There’s no question that we’re spoiled after our great experiences on the two Celebrity ships, the Century and the Equinox, both exquisite and well-laid-out. The Carnival Liberty is an entirely different experience;  less elegant, a confusing layout, more party orientated, noisier, and geared toward a much younger crowd although I’d estimate 25% of the passengers are over 60.  With spring break over in most countries, there are few children aboard.

The friendly staff aboard the Carnival Liberty is equal to the quality we observed on our first cruise through the Panama Canal on January 3, 2013, on the Celebrity Century. 

Hopefully, our new camera will take better photos when others take shots of us.

At dinner each night aboard the Liberty, servers memorize the first name of each guest at the table and uses them freely, creating a comfortable sense of familiarity.  We find this special touch unique and refreshing, as did our tablemates.

Again, we dined with our new friends Mary and Don while a new delightful couple joined us, Georgie and Rob.  Again, the staff danced the Gangnam around the dining hall twice during dinner service, including our waiter
Christian, dressed in a festive costume, quite the dancer to boot. We all clapped and cheered.  
 

Hoping to attend the comedy show after dinner, we were unable to find a seat in the overcrowded bar. Again, disappointed, we found our way to the main bar for a nightcap. I drank a pint-sized metal bottle of Michelob Ultra, a 4.2% beer. I was sloshed!  Guess I need to drink more often.

Noisy, noisy cabin! Sounds were emanating from the ceiling and the walls all night long. The loud thumping and thumping of the nightclub below us, once again roared from 11:00 pm to 3:30 am, resulting in little sleep for either of us.

This morning at 5:30, a peculiar clicking sound awakened us as we struggled to get more sleep. I’d love to move to a different cabin but with all of our “stuff,” it’s just too much work. So this is the way it will be until April
20th, when we move to another ship, the Norwegian Epic, for our ocean crossing to Barcelona. In the realm of things, a few bad nights sleep is no big deal, right?

Soon, we’ll return to our cabin to review the two bags we’re shipping tomorrow to my sister Julie in Los Angeles, lightening our load by 100 plus pounds. Tonight at 6:00 pm, we’ll place the tagged bags outside our cabin to be picked up in the for processing in the morning through customs in Miami.

Once we’re through customs, we’ll grab a cab making our way to the bank for cash, the CVSdrugstore for toiletries, and the UPS store to pick up our awaiting Xcom Global MiFi and other supplies we ordered at Amazon.com. 

Should we encounter a grocery store along the way, we’ll stop for more Crystal Lite iced tea. We hope to get back on the ship within a few hours, providing that customs goes smoothly. The bags only contain shoes and
clothing.  We don’t anticipate any issues.

I took this photo during dinner with our new tablemates, Georgie and Rob.

Although our worldwide travels give one the impression of a carefree life, I now believe that such a life doesn’t exist. Relaxation and ease are intermittent, as we all have responsibilities in daily life, whoever we may be, wherever we may land. There’s truly is “no free lunch” even when meals are included in the cost of fares on a cruise. 

In life, in one way or another, we “pay” for everything. It’s the manner in which we pay, the amount we pay, not only in money but in time, energy, and spirit that determined the value we gain in our experiences.

So far, we’re way ahead of the game and hope to remain so going forward.

Part 2…Harrowing experience…

 

Mahogany Bay,  Roatan, Honduras, an area developed by the cruise lines whereby passengers can spend money going on excursions.

Yesterday morning we ventured to the Internet cafe to use their computers to go online, find our receipts at the websites where we purchased the various supplements to begin the process of printing them.

We were determined not to use our thermal paper printer with our limited supply of paper. Each roll only prints twenty pages and our current stock had a remaining four rolls. Luckily, we’d ordered another six rolls which will arrive in our box of supplies in Miami on Saturday, hopefully lasting us through the next nineteen months until we get to Hawaii where we’ll be able to
receive mail.
No one was available until 4:00 pm to charge us the $1 a page for printing. Wanting to put this vitamin situation behind us, we succumbed, deciding to use our thermal printer rather than have this hanging over our heads all day.
Burning up Internet time at $.33 per minute based on the 480-minute package we’d purchase when we boarded, I managed to find all the receipts for vitamins and supplements that I’d purchased for our travels. 

Passengers leaving the ship to explore Roatan, Honduras.

Exhausted and frazzled from no sleep, my frustration level escalated as page after page of printed receipts spewed out of the tiny printer.  Satisfied we had exactly what the security officer requested, we marched to the customer service desk in hopes of putting
this matter behind us.

Approaching the customer service desk, we asked for an adjustment for the 20 minutes of Internet time we burned up printing up the receipts their security officer had requested.

Within minutes, the chief of security approached us at the desk, taking us aside. His suspicious demeanor was off-putting. I sensed my ire escalating once again as he justified how we were treated, blaming the entire scenario on US Customs regulations. Duh? 
“We’re just doing our job,” he rattled at us.
Rather than get into a lengthy tirade with yet another security person, I stated,  “Here are all the receipts as requested. They match every item in the bag. As you can see, this list of receipts is very lengthy.” I held up the five-foot-long single sheet of thermal paper.”

A shipwreck brought into the harbor to add to the ambiance of the excursions. It’s all part of the bigger plan for tourists to spend, spend, spend.

He looked at the paper, “Well, let’s go through this together,”

“No,” I stated firmly, “you go through this on your own. We arrived on this ship almost 24 hours ago and have yet to relax and enjoy ourselves. We’re not spending any more time on this. Take these receipts to your “people” and have them match them up to the vitamins in the
bag.” 

 

Doing so would be a time-consuming project with as many as 60 bottles in the bags,
many of which were duplicates.

He perused the receipts again, observing something I’d missed. For some unknown reason, some of the receipts didn’t print the total cost of vitamins at the bottom of this page. He brought
this to our attention, shaking his head as if we were “cooked.”

I snapped at him, ‘What we paid for these vitamins is irrelevant! The receipts show my name, address, the names of the items, and the dates purchased. That’s all you need!”

 

“How did you pay for these and why doesn’t that show?” he retorts.

“That also is irrelevant. But I’ll answer it. We paid with a credit card as one often does when purchasing items online. For security reasons, they don’t print the credit card number on the receipt.  Certainly, you understand that!”

He hemmed and hawed at a loss for his next comment. A wave of satisfaction washed over me.  We were getting somewhere.

“We will have theses receipts matched up to your medications and if approved, you’ll receive your bag later today,” he tentatively adds. “Check with the desk later today.”

Tom graciously thanked him.  There was no way I was about to say thank you. Around 4:00 pm, as we lounged on our balcony, a call came into from the customer service desk. They had approved a $15 credit on our Internet account. Tom thought this was adequate. Me, not so
much. We decided to let that go with no fight left in us. 

“Do you have our bag of vitamins ready for us to pick up?” I asked.
She called back five minutes later, “They will be delivered to your cabin shortly.”
Within a few minutes, another security officer appeared at our door, asking to speak
to me. He was pressing to come inside our cabin.  There was no way I was letting him inside.  With nothing to hide, I still felt a gross sense of invasion of our privacy. I stepped outside.
He handed me a pen and a form to sign, acknowledging our receipt of the bag. “Do you want to go through the bag and verify they are all here?”

Passengers returning to the ship after the excursions.

“I have no interest in doing that. They are just vitamins. If someone took a bottle, good for them.  We just want to be done with this.”  I signed the form after carefully reading each word. 
He left without comment.

Finally!
What did we learn from this?  Have a receipt for anything in a pill form?  Yes!  Don’t travel with supplements? Not necessarily. Or perhaps, disperse the vitamins throughout our bags rather than
carry all of them in a single bag?  Yep, will do prior to getting off of this ship on April 20th!

Tom tried another new dish, Seafood Newburg.  The first time he ever tried mussels. He raved about this meal.  He never ceases to amaze me.  When I’d cook a meal like this in our “old life” he refused to taste it.  I’m proud of him for trying new foods!

Ah, we live and learn. Whoever said we knew how to travel the world for many years to come, carrying with us all the supplies we’ll need until we can receive mail. That won’t be until we reach Hawaii in November 2014, a long time away.

As for the Carnival Liberty so far?  Great service, friendly staff, clean, organized, no Norovirus so far, a combination of great and mediocre food, not gluten-free friendly, noisy, and not for us, in the future.
 Heather and Paul, a fun couple we dined with last night. Mary and Don also dined with us. They were so kind and gave us two sets of earplugs to use from 11:00 pm until 3:30 am when the loud disco music was thumping in our cabin.
What will we do today? After finally falling asleep when the thumping ended at 3:30 am, we finally drifted off awakening almost at 9:00 am, unusual for us. Arriving late to Emile’s breakfast buffet,
with no less than 50 passengers waiting in line at the grill, we decided against breakfast, instead to return at noon for lunch.
Another lovely couple we met at dinner.
Currently we’re in port at the Cayman Islands. Most of the excursions included lots of shopping which obviously is not an option for us. Finally relaxing, I worked out this morning to an empty health club. Tom sat on a machine waiting for me.
 This was my dinner last night. The Salmon was overcooked.  I don’t eat peas (a starchy vegetable).

We opted to stay on the ship for a leisurely lunch, quiet time at the pool, and finally beginning our exploration of the ship, our home for the next nine
days. 

Tonight is a dress-up night. We’ll partake. We had a blast at dinner last night with the same lovely couple we dined with the previous night along with another adorable young couple.

Piano bar aboard the ship.

Twice during dinner service a “Conga” line danced through the formal dining hall, whooping and hollering. Perhaps tonight feeling more rested, we’ll join in on the Carnival “party
mode” and “Conga” right along with them.

 

On April 9th we board a Carnival ship…Should we be worried?…

 

This is the Carnival Liberty, the ship  on which we’ll embark on April 9th.

With the influx of news regarding the horrifying nightmare for over 4000 passengers on the Carnival Triumph, we watched intently, wondering what we should do.

The likelihood of another such incident on the two back to back Carnival Liberty Cruises we’ve booked is unlikely.  We’ll be staying in the same cabin on both cruises, sailing from April 9, 2013 until April 20, 2013.  Upon disembarking the Liberty around 10:00 am, we’ll change ships at the same pier, on the same day, to board the Norwegian Epic at 4:00 PM to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Barcelona on our first transatlantic cruise.

For the heck of it, we contacted our cruise guy, Joaquin at Vacations to Go inquiring as to what options are available, if and only if, a passenger wants to “jump ship” to another cruise line.  (Keeping in mind we’re cruising as a means of transportation as much as possible. Plus we love it as opposed to flying). 

Not to our surprise, Carnival is not offering refunds for future cruise passengers on other ships.  This would bankrupt them.  Based on the fact that we can’t get a full refund within 90 days of a cruise departure, diminishing on a scale the closer it gets as taken directly from our Cruise Confirmation documents.

Cancellation Charges If you cancel, the following charges will be assessed by the cruise line (per guest):

Cruise Length Days Prior To Sailing Cancellation Charge
2, 3, 4 & 5 nights 61 days or more

60 to 46 days
45 to 30 days
29 to 15 days
14 days or less

None (except for Early Saver, Easy Saver* and
Super Saver fares**)
Entire deposit
50% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
75% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
100% of total fare
6 nights and longer (including Alaska & Hawaii) 76 days or more

75 to 56 days
55 to 30 days
29 to 15 days
14 days or less

None (except for Early Saver, Easy Saver*
and Super Saver fares**)
Entire deposit
50% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
75% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
100% of total fare
Europe, Panama Canal and Transpacific sailings 7, 9 & 12, 14 and 17 nights in length 91 days or more

90 to 56 days
55 to 30 days
29 to 15 days
14 days or less

None (except for Early Saver, Easy Saver*
and Super Saver fares**)
Entire deposit
50% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
75% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
100% of total fare
All cruises purchased under the Instant Saver Fare Any time after booking 100% of total fare

Timetables and rates are subject to change, and exceptions may apply for holiday sailings. *Early Saver & Easy Saver fares: The deposit on bookings made using the Early Saver & Easy Saver Fares program is non-refundable/non-transferable. No name changes will be permitted. There is a $50 service fee per person applicable on ship and/or sail date changes outside standard penalties.**Super Saver fares: The deposit is non-refundable.

With 51 days until we sail, we’d lose our deposits, in these cases, over $1000.  Thus, the question posed:  Are we willing to lose $1000 in deposits to cancel these cruises?  Secondly, there are no specific dates that coincide with our planned dates of departure which would result in losing money leaving here early and paying for hotels and meals on the other end.  it makes no sense monetarily.

Does it make sense emotionally?  Not really.  When we decided to travel the world we knew there would be risks and bumps along the way.  Here we are, almost five months since leaving Minnesota and without a doubt, we’ve already had a few bumps.

1.  Our luggage going on the wrong van when we arrived in Belize City on January 29, 2013, to be recovered an hour later, after a lot of foot stomping after we had specifically stated several times that they ensure the luggage goes on the tender boat with us, not ahead of us.
2.  The ineptness of guest services on the Celebrity Equinox when they only arranged a one week visa for our stay in Belize when we needed 30 days (to be renewed soon when we have to go by boat to immigration in Mango Creek).  It was straightened out but again, only with observation of the error and persistence in getting it resolved.  Had I not checked our passports when the on board immigration officer handed them back to us, we’d have been forced to go to Mango Creek while we were living in that unsanitary water-free zone only 12 days ago.
3.  The water-free house down the road, Little Cottage, with an occasional dribble of cold running water, cold dribbling showers and a mostly non flushable toilet resulting in a horrible unsanitary situation.  Hot water and soap is a great sanitizer.  We had soap but no hot water.  We boiled it as often as we could accumulate it at a dribble’s pace in a huge pot on the dangerous gas smelling stove.  (Oh, listen to me go on!).

Yes, we are uninjured.  Yes, we are now safe from disease.  We ask ourselves, what have we learned? 
From comments above in order:
1.  Incompetency prevails
2.  Incompetency prevails
3.  Don’t rent a marginal house with only two reviews on the website, both of which were outdated and one of which referred to another property the owner rented.  I should have been more suspicious when booking the property.  Lesson learned.  (Bless Tom’s heart.  He never blamed me!)

None the less, we are grateful we found LaruBeya by a fluke.   We are grateful to have water and to be in a sanitary environment.  We are grateful that we are able to walk to or be driven to (for only a tip) to a total of five restaurant in our area.  Yes, we are grateful that Estevan picks us up every Wednesday to go to the grocery store for a $10 round trip (plus tip).  In addition, we are grateful that we find food we can eat, although the selection is limited and the fact that its grass fed, free range and organic.

As for the upcoming cruises, we’ll continue on as planned on the Carnival Liberty.  If something does go wrong, we have our portable solar charger that is powerful enough to fully charge our phones.  With our phones charged we’ll be able to use the Blogger app to continue to keep our readers informed.  As for Internet connection (which was not fully functioning on the Carnival Triumph, we’ll have our XCOM Global MiFi with us which works independently of the ship’s data when close to land). 

See…there may be a use for all the gadgets we’ve packed which are consuming space in our bags!