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May 25, 2012 / rafinmd

Day 9, Friday, May 25, Disembark and home

I placed a wakeup call today for 4:30. When I got out on deck about 4:45 we were just passing under the Chesapeake Bay bridge. We passed under the Francis Scott Key bridge just before 6 and put the first lines out about 6:55. I took about 6 laps on deck 10 between the Key Bridge and the port; finishing my walk just as we tied up. I did have a problem with my bill. RCI seems to have a problem with accounting for internet use; for the second time of the cruise I was charged for an internet session, even though I had ample time remaining on my package. A visit to guest relations quickly got the problem resolved.

I had opted for self disembarkation. When I stepped onto the Promenade deck after my walk people were crossing the gangway. I returned to my cabin for my bags, and was at the taxi stand about 7:20. A quick taxi ride took me to Camden yards (our baseball park on a former railroad yard which still serves commuter rail), and a 20 minute ride to the suberbs. After a connecting ride on my local transit system, I was home at 10:15.

Today’s parting shot deals with my relation with Royal Caribbean. I don’t really call myself a fan of the line. To me, it holds somewhat of a niche status with 2 things I see it doing well. First, it handles short getaways (under 7 days) very well. With more upscale lines the crew has a rhythm that works best with longer term relationships with the passengers and short cruises with frequent turnarounds tend to get very poor reviews. RCI handles short cruises very well. The other is that they are my line of choice out of my home port of Baltimore. In fairness, I haven’t sailed their Baltimore competition for many years but my perception is that Royal’s onboard experience is better. Where I know Royal is better is on itineraries. I looked at the competition and they serve a grand total of 5 ports from Baltimore. Despite my limited experience I’ve already done better than that on the Enchantment. Despite the weather, this was the best yet of my 3 RCI cruises. The crew is very good and the condition of the ship is excellent. I will be returning for a 3rd voyage on Enchantment in January and looking forward to an even better ship with the enhancements in drydock. There really is a cruise line (or perhaps cruise line-itinerary combination) for everyone.

Roy

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May 25, 2012 / rafinmd

Day 8, Thursday, May 24, At sea

When I went out just after 5 today we were roughly 80 miles South of New York, running along at a leisurely 14 knots. I finished my 5 miles on deck 10 about 7:15, with the foghorn going off intermittently throughout the walk. While it was not actually raining, the mist was heavy enough so my vest got quite wet. For a few brief minutes mid-walk the sun was strong enough to be seen through the fog, but that didn’t last long.

It was a busy sea day, especially the afternoon. I spent much of the morning packing, but the great cake decorating challenge came up at 10. Keith claims the Hotel Director had never been defeated, but that sounds like hype to me. Captain Anders did a surprising job of slicing the layers and was a fan favorite with his liberal use of the sherry. He was officially declared the winner, although I think the pastry chef really had the best cake. I found out afterwards that the Captain’s cake actually looked better from deck 8 than it did close up. I have enjoyed sailing with Captain Anders although I must admit I prefer Captain Gus. At his noon update Captain Anders reported we were then off Fenwick Island Delaware and will reach the mouth of the Chesapeake bay around 10PM. The announcement was followed by a crew presentation of flags in Centrum representing the crew’s 60+ countries.

The afternoon started off with a presentation by Timothy Calvert on Baltimore with a highlight on it’s many museums, particularly the Baltimore Visionary Arts Center and Museum of Industry, both close to the port. At 2 the production cast held a Q&A session discussing their jobs, the audition process and shipboard life. The Captain’s Corner came at 3 with Captain Anders, the Chief Engineer, and Hotel Director talking about all things related to the sea. There were a surprising number of questions relating to the sea. The enhancements to both Enchantment and Grandeur as well as the redeployment of the 2 ships were also major topics.

The farewell dinner came with an introduction of the galley team and sad goodbyes. The farewell show included a video of the weeks activities, comedy by Joseph Yannetty, and a closing number by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers who also performed a 10:15 cabaret in Centrum.

Today’s parting shot comes from the Captain’s Corner. I asked 2 questions there. The first was about Newport. Tendering there is difficult while there is a virtually abandoned Navy Base there. Captain Anders thought there were signs of possibility for eventual docking of cruise ships there. My other question was about the Promenade Deck 5. He replied that it was officially open “most of the time”, a change that was made a few weeks ago after being closed off for many years. I consider that a very positive change.

Roy

May 24, 2012 / rafinmd

Day 7, Wednesday, May 23, Newport, RI

When I woke at 5 the transition to daylight had begun but it was still very foggy with drizzle. The fog slowly dissipated as we made our way up Naragansett Bay, and we had clear visibility as we dropped our anchor about 10. Newport is a somewhat challenging tender port as we anchor about a mile off the shore and wake restrictions for much of that distance making it optentially a 4-hour process to get everybody off the ship. The process was helped a lot by using 2 shorside vessels as tenders, the Aquideck Ferry and the Amazing Grace. Our port time was also extended from 6 to 8 PM to give people time ashore.

Having booked an afternoon tour I opted to go on my own first. Tender tickets were to be given out at 9:15. At 8:45 there was a long line. I went up to the Windjammer, and the announcement that tickets were available came about 9:10. By the time I walked down to Centrum I walked right up and got tender number 5. Number 1 was called about 10:15 and my turn came just before 11. This is the first time I had used the roof level of the tender and it was a beautiful ride this morning. I was on shore about 11:30.

A trend seems to be developing that when I am on a cruise in New England I run into my next ship. On the Crystal Symphony last fall (Montreal-New York) I encountered the Jewel of the Seas in both Bar Harbor and Boston. That was actually the first time I had seen the ship in person and got me in the mood to set sail in January. As we were tendering into Newport today I was stunned to pass by a familiar vessel docked at Bannisters wharf. I will sail the tiny (96 passenger) Grande Caribe in July to several New England islands. Today it was nearing the end of a cruise from Jacksonville Florida to it’s home port just up the bay. I walked over to the ship and the Captain came out to meet me. He told me that they had been in Baltimore Monday. He will be in Command for my July 17 cruise as will the current cruise director, both of whom I know quite well. We chatted for about 10 minutes.

After lunch I took a short walk around Newport and returned to the tender pier at 1:30, only to learn that my 1:45 Rose Island tour had just departed. I was offered a seat on the land half of the land and sea tour, which took a drive around the Island. It was not my day for touring. Immediately after a brief stop at Fort Adams our bus broke down and the 5-minute stop became a half hour. The replacement bus took us on some very scenic streets past great ocean vistas and stately “cottages”, playgrounds of the super rich for the past century. We did not go past the Breakers but I’ve been there several times and the cottages we did pass were equally nice.

While the day started out pretty ominously, the weather turned beautiful by midday. My ride back to the ship was in perfect conditions.

As dinner ended today we were just leaving Newport with a perfect sunset.

Today’s headline show was the Happenings. This appears to be the original vocal group from the 1960’s singing sixties rock music, including some of their hits like See You in September and Go Away Little Girl.

As today’s parting shot, just being in Newport today is a reminder that money isn’t everything. Many of the families in the cottages lived rather tragic lives. As I recall, the builder of the Breakers died rather suddenly after living just a couple of years in the house. Several others were lost on Titanic, including John Jacob Astor, and several members of the Widener family, the benefactors of the Harvard Library.

Roy

May 23, 2012 / rafinmd

Day 6, Tuesday, May 22, Boston, MA, Smart Casual

I was up at 5AM but the repeated blasts of the fog horn had prepared not to see much after sunrise. We seem to have been 30-60 minutes past our arrival presumably due th the overnight fog. We tied up about 8:15 and were cleared to go ashore about 8:45. US citizens had no re-entry formalities but others had to meet with Immigration officials in the Spotlight lounge.

Boston has a rich history but I tend to think of it in educational terms. My brother and his son (my nephew) both were graduates of Harvard University, and I spent several weeks at an Actuarial course at Northeastern University. I had booked a tour to Lexington and Concord but learned about a month before the cruise that my brother (from Iowa) would be in town for his 50-year Harvard reunion. I boarded MTA’s Silver and Red lines to Harvard Square and did some shopping at the campus store, arriving about 10:50 for our planned meeting at Widener Library. While waiting I happened to notice an ironic connection. The library was dedicated to a graduate who perished on the Titanic, a gift to the University from his widow. The library overlooks what is known (or at least was 50 years ago) as Tercentenary Theater, a massive lawn that is filled with chairs for the graduation ceremony. Hopefully there is also some good news for us in this. The legend is that it never rains on the graduation, which will be Thursday, our last sea day.

We spent some time at the Museum of Natural History, a goal of Roger’s significant other, mostly looking at a collection of very delicate and ornate glass flowers. These flowers (I believe 8000 pieces) were ordered from a German father and son team as tools for teaching botany and are incredibly detailed.

A buffet lunch was served in a tent on the Harvard campus. There was no lunch program per se, but the marching band did come by and perform for about 20 minutes. Sometime during the lunch the morning’s drizzle became more of a steady rain. I left Adrienne and Roger about 2. I had planned to stop by the Northeastern Campus on the way home but between the limited time until our 3:30 all aboard and the rain went straight back to the ship, arriving about 3.

I was a bit surprised that the Walk for Wishes was scheduled for a port day, starting at 3:45. About that time Captain Andres reported that all were on board and we would be leaving soon. As we walked the ship backed slowly away from the terminal. With the rain, the walk was held on the Promenade deck, 4 laps cutting through the Orpheum Theater lobby. There were only 14 walkers; I hope a number of other people who didn’t walk made donations.

The evening entertainment was a comedy and magic show by Timm Metivier. There was also the Quest at 10:30 and a late night comedy presentation by Joseph Yannety at 11:30, both after my bed time.

Today’s parting shot actually starts with last night’s show. The first of the programs featured in “Stage to Screen” was West Side Story and on this trip it brought back special memories. The movie is just past it’s 50th anniversary. How do I know that? I saw the movie in Boston the week I was here 50 year’s ago for Roger’s graduation. It’s amazing how sometimes history, trivia, nostalgia, and coincidence all come together.

Roy

May 22, 2012 / rafinmd

Day 5, Monday, May 21, At sea, Formal

The day started quietly. I was up at 5, and on deck at 5:15. The scandisplay had sunrise after 6 but the conditions told me that was impossible, and my GPS indicated 5:15. At 5:30 there was still no sun under the thick clouds; I finally saw evidence of it through a small bright spot about 6. What was lacking in sun was offset by a very comfortable temperature and very little wind. I finished my 5-mile (21-lap) walk on deck 10 about 7:30.

Most of the morning was pretty quiet, resting up from the fatigue of the last few days. I did spend some time catching up on computer things and discovered that I am not a rock climber. I did get about half way up the wall but am past the stage in life where I’m suited to that kind of work.

Timothy Calvert gave a 1PM presentation in the Orpheum Theater on “The Great Cruise Liners of the Past”, talking about many of the great ships in our history including 3 legendary ships I have been on, sailing on QE2 and SS Rotterdam and staying on the Queen Mary.

After the lecture the belly flop contest was ending and I saw perhaps the last dive along with the announcement of a medical emergency. The last thing to happen before the deck was cleared for the evacuation was an ice sculpture demonstration next to the pool.

When I got back to my room after the evacuation it was time to prepare for formal night. We had my first ever Crown and Anchor “welcome back” party (on Enchantment last year I was not “back” and my January Jewel cruise was too short). This was apparently a big party with about 1200 C&A members, roughly 620 gold like me, 220 platinum, 100 emerald, 200 diamond, 55D+, and 2 pinnacle.

After dinner the featured entertainment was the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers with Stage to Screen, a presentation of music that made the transition from Broadway to Hollywood, including West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors, and (appropriately for a ship based in Baltimore) Hairspray.

Being somewhat lazy I do most of my internet posting from the Champaign Bar on deck 4 (can hardly wait for the ‘pervasive wifi’ promised for the December drydock). Today’s parting shot comes from my visit there to go online last night. My usual cruise line of choice is Crystal. Since I will be sailing with them 39 days this fall this trip was what fit my wallet and my schedule at the moment. There is nowhere else I’d rather be right now but some things can make me a bit “homesick”. The band in the bar played “What a Wonderful World” which is played on every Crystal sailaway and that is one of the things that sets off my homesickness. The same thing happened to me last summer on an Arctic cruise and I found the best remedy was to change the song a bit, so here goes:

“I’ve seen stormy seas, great howls of wind, all from the comfort of Enchantment of the Seas. Houses of many colors and pink sandy beaches. Heroes working bravely for all our safety, and I think to my self, what a wonderful world. Oh yea.”

Roy

May 21, 2012 / rafinmd

Evacuation at sea

At 2pm May 21 the bellyflop contest was just ending on the Enchantment of the Seas between Bermuda and Boston when the Cruise Director announced there had been a medical emergency and we would need to clear the decks later in the afternoon for a patient evacuation by helicopter.
The process of clearing the deck soon began and at 2:20 I headed for the Viking Crown Lounge. Deck 10 had already been closed off from entry and as the ice sculpture demonstration ended that deck 9 was also closed off. At 3PM the Captain came on the PA system and announced that the ETA of the helicopter was about 1 hour. By that time all guests had been cleared from the outer decks, all furniture had been stowed, and fire suppression teams were putting hose lines in service as a precaution.

The transfer took place on deck 10 port, above the space between the Oasis Bar and Windjammer Private Dining room. The helicopter arrived about 3:50, and dropped a guide cable to the crew stationed below. Then a basket was lowered, with the crew using the guide cable to controll the landing of the basket. The patient was wheeled out from the Adventure Ocean landing and secured in the basket, which was then lifted into the helicopter. The operation ended about 4PM with the helicopter heading back to Massachusetts with the patient, and finally the disassembly of all the precautionary equipment.

Privacy concerns prevail of course, but Keith Williams did seem optimistic in his showtime remarks about the outlook for the patient.

While this is not a regular posting, I will nevertheless conclude with a parting shot. Today’s operation involved the coordinated efforts of a number of people, but it started with the people on the ship. Today cruise ship crews train constantly to assure the safety and well being and today I witnessed the effects of that training. The LEAST we can do in return is to give them 10 minutes of our cooperation and undivided attention at the start of each cruise.

Roy

May 21, 2012 / rafinmd

Day 4, Sunday, May 20, Bermuda

I slept in this morning until about 6:30, and left the ship about 9. The 9:30 ferry into Hamilton was crowded, but I got one of the last seats and there were few people standing. I continued exploring the town on foot for about 45 minutes. I don’t know if it ever works with RCI schedules but Victoria Park has a Summer Sunday celebration periodically (always 1st Sunday of the month) that looks interesting. My morning in Hamilton concluded with the 11am service at Wesley Methodist Church.

The 12:15 bus took me to Somerset Bridge. This is billed as the world’s smallest draw bridge. The bridge spans a small cut between islands and has a tiny 32-inch opening. Sailboats must pass under the bridge but the opening is just wide enough to let the mast pass through.

Bermuda had a railroad which served passengers and freight from 1931-48. Once cars were allowed on the island, the railroad was abandoned and most of the right of way is now a trail. I walked the final 2 miles of the trail from Somerset Bridge to Somerset village before completing the trip to Kings Wharf on another bus.

After a bit of browsing in the shops my final stop in Bermuda was National Museum, originally the Maritime Museum. I did not find it much of a maritime museum but it was an interesting collection of things. There were exhibits in the Commissioners House, primarily relating to the slave trade and a great view of the harbor from the port. There was a Dolphin Quest section where people could get in the water with dolphins or simply watch, and an opportunity to walk the fortress walls all the way over to the former barracks/prison, now undergoing restoration, and eventually possibly part of the museum. I returned to the ship about 3:30.

All aboard was 4:30 with sailaway at 5. Several careless passengers sauntered up to the gangway about 4:50. We left the dock just a little after 5 for a smooth sailaway, with St. George passing by our dining room window about 6:30.

The evening show was the action comedy of Rick Novell. Novell was mostly a juggler, working from a freestanding ladder and unicycle and using a lot of humor and audience participation. I saw Novell perform on the Enchantment last May and the show was mostly the same, but enjoyable the second time around. We gain an hour tonight as we return to Eastern time for our arrival in Boston.

Today’s parting shot comes from tonight’s dinner conversation. Several of the tour personnel talked of living in Bermuda and loving it, but many having a feeling that they have to leave the island occasionally or else they start to feel a bit trapped. Apparently, we can even have too much paradise.

Roy