Friday, November 30, 2018

Royal Princess Last Sea Day

Geez, this week has just flown by. Can’t believe it’s our last sea day!
It’s a cloudy one today.
Going from our cruise earlier this month with 10 sea days to this one with just two sea days sure made for a different feel. A lot of activities were packed into those two sea days, activities we didn’t participate in.

One thing we did get to today was the Most Traveled Passenger Luncheon. We were pretty sure we made the cut since we didn’t receive the 72 hour laundry notification. (When we receive the notice about laundry taking 72 hours to be returned because of so many elites onboard we’ve never made the cut. No notification? We make the cut.) So I I checked with the Captain’s Circle host about it and she told us if we didn’t receive an invitation it meant we didn’t make the cut. Of course that made sense, but I asked her the cutoff number anyway. We were a bit above the number so she checked her system and said yes, we were invited. She was sure we received an invitation. Uh, no. At the luncheon another couple at our table never received theirs either, so there must have been some problem with the mail.

We had quite a nice menu today.
I went with the lobster and jumbo shrimp starter. Delicious.
Hubby had the papaya and raspberry starter. He said it was good.
For our main we both had the lamb chops. Is there a word stronger than delicious? If so, that’s how to explain these. Best lamb chops ever, if you ask me.
The chocolate and passion fruit mousse was beautiful.
Had to take off the lid to see what was inside!
We had the environmental officer at our table. I asked her tons of questions and learned so much about environmental issues at sea and in port. I even found out why we saw all the black smoke from the Royal Caribbean ship in Costa Maya the other day – it had to do with the type of fuel being used. In Mexico environmental standards aren’t as strict as in the US so ships can use the cheaper fuel, the fuel that causes more pollution.

This sailing also had the most traveled person on all of Princess Cruises. She has over 2500 days at sea. Can you imagine?

There are several things about the ship I never got a chance to mention, so I’ll do a wrap-up post tomorrow. Then off to San Francisco where we’ll be boarding the Grand Princess on Monday.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Royal Princess in Cozumel, Mexico

Hello from cloudy and rainy Cozumel.

Before I talk about what we could have done and what we eventually did, I need to be firm in this statement: DO NOT TAKE FRESH FRUITS OR VEGETABLES OFF THE SHIP IN COZUMEL!!!

We had the typical note in the Patter about it and we received the verbal notification while on the ship more than once. But people never listen. I tried to warn the couple in the buffet who were taking bananas off the ship; I've warned people over and over: DOGS WILL BE SNIFFING EVERY SINGLE BAG LEAVING THE SHIP.

Save yourself the embarrassment. The dog will catch you and you will get the stares from the rest of the folks behind you waiting to get out of port. Just look at the bags of fruits and vegetables already confiscated by the time we left the ship.
All by 11 this morning
Okay, enough of my public service announcement and back to today. We could have experienced any number of those things we’ve done in the past. (All photos, unless otherwise noted, are from previous visits.)

Today we could have:
*Taken a ship excursion to Playa Mia. Transportation, beach activities, some water toys, lunch, and unlimited drinks. If the waves are too rough, they close access to the water. So nope, don't want to chance it.
*Gone to a tequila tasting. You'll learn everything you’d want to know and come back to the ship quite happy. (Sorry, no pics on this one. Hubby and son-in-law went and came back very cheerful but without any photos.) My choice of alcohol is not tequila, so mark that one of the list.

*Had our first-ever visit to Passion Island, a private island off the coast of Cozumel. No such luck as bad weather caused those tours to be cancelled today. 

*Spent the day at the all-inclusive Nachi Cocom. Great views... 
great food, and delicious, strong, and unending drinks. The food comes in multiple courses and the portions, while delicious, are huge. Just not that hungry or thirsty today.
*Taken the ferry over to Playa del Carmen. With this wind it would have been a rough ride over. After last week's long and rough ferry ride to Dry Tortugas, it would be best not to risk it.
*Headed to the Tulum Ruins like my daughter I did last time we cruised together. Too much walking for hubby so take that one off the list.
*Gone snorkeling in the cenotes (underwater caves) with the stalactites and stalagmites and bats, but not today. 
Besides, last time I went I got caught in a flood. One flood a week is my limit.
*Gone snorkeling with turtles in Akumal Bay...
but last time I got caught in a storm. This was a ship excursion that definitely should have been cancelled. Or at least revised. When your tour guide takes you into the water when the sky looks like this you know nothing but trouble is headed your way. So thankful I was a strong swimmer.
*Stayed on the island of Cozumel and headed to where we’ve been going these last few times - to the Money Bar. More nice views and superior snorkeling. But with the weather as it was with a bit of “chop” (a term Captain Nick Nash has used several times over the past few years) conditions wouldn’t be ideal and could even have been somewhat challenging. I’ve already been there twice this year so I was okay to skip it. (Not really. If the weather was great, I would have been there.) It's such a good snorkeling spot that the snorkel boats drop off there, too.
Or we could stay close and hang out at our favorite place right near the pier, Pancho’s Backyard. Over the years I’ve spent countless hours at a table there with my computer open and fingers flying across the keyboard, all while looking out at the ship. While I didn't bring my computer today, we did sit there watching people,
Nice people viewing today, as usual.
drinking sangria and rum punch,
One sangria and two rum punches were consumed today.
and eating banana leaf wrapped tamales.
Oh so good. So glad they were still on the lunch menu today.
We also watched filming of a Carnival-Univision show called La Gran Sorpresa, The Great Surprise. According to Univision, “La Gran Sorpresa” uses the power of travel to reunite families who have been separated by illness, distance or borders. 

I'm not sure who this surprise was for, but we watched a concert of someone who appeared to be a popular singing star in Mexico. There were a few dozen pre-pubescent girls screaming and cheering. Truth be told, some of the girls had already hit puberty and were dressed so scantily that I didn't dare take a picture during the concert itself. While reality shows make things look seamless, I can tell you from this experience that it took no fewer than four takes of each song to get all the camera angles and the right amount of screaming girls. Afterwards all the girls waited for the singer to come out to see them, but he went a different way. I felt a bit bad for the girls. There was quite a bit of down time between the takes where they just had to stand around waiting to start up again. It took a full hour to film those three songs and then the singer just took off on the girls when the filming ended. 
Setting up the stage beforehand
It was another good day. It was the last port of our Caribbean cruising year and tomorrow will be our last sea day as we make our way back to Port Everglades. Boy, this week has gone by fast.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Royal Princess in Belize

Hello from Belize!

When we were here a few months back I was busy filming a tutorial onboard so we never left the ship. Belize is another tender port with a little longer ride than we had the other day in Grand Cayman. We didn’t have too many exciting plans for the day. Actually, we had only one plan.

Head to the Wet Lizard. It’s the sister bar to the Bearded Clam we visited in Nassau in September. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but we usually save our money for the islands. We usually don’t pay for drinks onboard, but we do drink onshore. And since rum is my drink of choice, the islands of the Caribbean are where I get my fill.

But wouldn’t you know it, thanks to yesterday we didn’t get to follow through on our plan. If you remember we got flooded out and soaked to the bone. While we’ve recovered, our clothes and shoes and Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts have not. While we could toss the clothes in the dryer, the shoes most likely won’t survive that high heat. My athletic shoes could probably make it through, but hubby’s suede shoes were already barely hanging on. Then my leather sandals I had tucked in my backpack were also completely soaked and definitely won’t go through the dryer. Since neither of us have any other shoes with us except slippers, we are spending our day with a very fun project. (Just kidding.)

We’ve found a new use for the hair dryer. In our cabin it’s called a shoe dryer. A few minutes with the hair shoe dryer running low on the shoes. A few minutes to let the dryer cool down. A few minutes on. A few minutes cool down. Again and again and again. And again. Here we are at almost 2 pm and we’re finally making some headway, but not enough to call them dry. I’m guessing house slippers wouldn't be considered fashionable on a tender so it looks like we won’t be going out in Belize. Even if they do dry in time, we would be worried all our work today would be for naught if we get caught in another storm. The clouds look like they might open up any time.
Carnival is in with us today.
On the plus side we are getting through several of the on-demand movies on our crooked TV screen.
I wish I had more exciting things to share, but sometimes spending a cloudy day on a cruise ship drying shoes with the hair dryer while watching movies is as good as it gets.

Tomorrow is Cozumel and we are crossing our fingers for dry shoes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Royal Princess in Costa Maya, Mexico

Hello from Costa Maya/Mahahual. Costa Maya, the cruise port, has exploded in the past few years. We were here several years ago when the infrastructure in the port area was just being put into place. Compared to then it’s almost unrecognizable. For those wanting to shop or sun or eat or drink, there are now plenty of places right within the secure areas of port. But we never stop there. We instead go outside the port where we have two favorites we always choose from: Almaplena or Tropicante.

Almaplena is quite a bit farther from the port. It’s an all-inclusive resort on a remote beach. Lunch is served on a patio and drinks are served on the beach (or patio). They limit the number of cruise passengers that can buy day passes so every one of our visits has been pretty quiet. Just the way we like it. If you’re looking for quiet relaxation with no watersports or kids running around or loud music, Almaplena is your place.

But today we went to our other favorite spot, Tropicante. Tropicante is a pay as you go restaurant/bar and is located within the town of Mahahual, just a short ride from the cruise port. You can either take the trolley or taxi to make your way there. Last time we took the very bumpy, rattle-your-teeth trolley. We had planned on going with the taxi this time, but since you have to walk even farther to get to the taxis than the trolley, we went the closest route and again went with the $4 per person trolley.

But the walk is far. If you’ve been to Costa Maya before you know the pier is long. They used to have a free pier trolley to get you from your ship to the end of the pier, but the last few times we’ve been here it hasn’t been running. Again today, no pier trolley. Now they are even adding more length to the pier.
We had a Royal Caribbean ship in port with us today. 
They had a crew drill where they were using their water cannons.

Costa Maya is definitely a port that is challenging for someone with mobility issues. Just to get from the ship to the place to buy tickets to the town trolley my app logged one solid mile. And that was with taking a short cut. You used to be able to exit between a couple stores but they have now closed that exit off. But…if you walk to Pan Dulce (across from the flamingos) you can cut through their store and shave some steps off your walk. Even with that store cut-through, it is still a mile. And to the taxis? Even farther.

With the boom of the cruise port, there has also been a boom in the number of hawkers and scammers once you get into the town of Mahahual. You will find them everywhere, trying to direct you to their establishment. Don’t follow them and don’t listen to them. Heck, don’t even make eye contact with them. This is a port where once you leave the secure area you have to know where you want to go. While we haven’t found it unsafe in town, we do know others who have felt taken advantage of by them.

So we always tell the trolley driver more than once we are going to Tropicante. So far, we’ve had good luck. An American runs Tropicante and so far we’ve had good luck there as well. (Do contact him ahead of time - he'll reserve you a table or loungers.) The servers are friendly and take great care of you. The drinks are strong and the food is good.
Rum punch? Yeah, I had more than one. So nice to get a straw again!
So we’re worried about straws but not this pollution put out by ships?
And the view? Just plain nice. I had an amazing day just floating in the calm, easy-to-access water. 
Until the storm came.

It was a doozy. Power went out. Wind came up. Rain came down. Torrential, unrelenting rain. Those of us on the beach took cover inside the dark Tropicante bar to wait out the rain. The rain that never ended. Flooded the walkways and flooded the streets.
That's our walkway out. Yikes.
After a couple hours everyone started filtering out of the still dark, no-power bar, braving the downpours. Us included. (Now here is where I’ve done something I’ve only done once before in my cruising lifetime. I promised I would never do it again, but I did. It’s not like I was the only one – the bartender’s little girl seemed so excited when the first cruise passenger let her have their completely soaked towel. Then another passenger put a smile on the little kiddo’s face. And then another. While I’d like to say it was peer pressure that made me give the sweet little thing my pool towel, it wasn’t. So for the second time ever I did not return a pool towel to the ship.)

When we were ready to leave a guy from Tropicante grabbed a huge beach umbrella to try and keep us dry on our way to the taxi. But that umbrella wasn’t enough to keep us from being soaked by the sideways rain. Didn't help with the ankle-deep water, either. Once we arrived at port the rain got even harder. I couldn’t even imagine how that was even possible. More flooding. More ankle-deep water. And that hugely long pier to walk to get back to the ship.

How bad and relentless was the rain?
  • For the first time ever, there was no security at the end of the pier. No one checking cruise cards at all.
  • We had to wring every item of our clothing out once we returned to the ship. I mean every single item.
  • I could have peed my pants without anyone ever noticing. 
  • Once onboard crew members were handing out pool towels. Warm, just out of the dryer pool towels. It was like getting a warm blanket in the hospital. It felt so good.
We’re now tucked away in our cabin with the privacy sign out trying to get ourselves warm and dry. I think we'll be calling room service for dinner. Boy, it was a great day.

Off to Belize tomorrow!

Make a Fabric Christmas Countdown Chain - Tutorial Tuesday

It's Tutorial Tuesday and today we're making a Christmas countdown chain. Remember those from when you were a kid?

For this project you need:
The written pattern contains step-by-step how-to directions, photos, and link to the video tutorial to make a Christmas countdown chain. 

Looking for more fun Christmas projects?

Check out some of my other patterns and tutorials!

Disclosure: Deb's Days is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to affiliated sites. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you new sewing and crafting content.

You can find the step-by-step how video directions for the homemade fabric Christmas countdown chain link here:

Monday, November 26, 2018

Grand Cayman

Hello from Grand Cayman!
Grand Cayman is a tender port and tender tickets are issued to distribute passengers into the boats. We had to go to the Symphony dining room, midship on Deck 5. As Elites we just had to show our card and head to the other side of the dining room and wait for the next tender. We were called less than five minutes later, along with some of the other numbers (I didn’t pay attention to how many numbers they were calling at once, sorry.) Our ship was the only one in port and I think we were anchored the closest we’ve ever been. It was a super quick tender ride.

But I have a strange story from those quick moments. The lady sitting across from me asked if we had been to Grand Cayman before. Of course, the answer was yes. She then wanted to know if we still had to get in the water when we got off the tender. I was quite confused by what she was asking. Only when I asked some follow up questions did she explain what it was she wanted to know. She told me the last time she was in Grand Cayman the tender operator dropped them off in the water and made them walk up the beach to get into port. My only answer was that there was no way that happened. That the tender doesn’t work that way. At that point she insisted. And I mean insisted, that it was the way it used to be in Grand Cayman a couple years ago. She even told me she had to wade in water up to her neck to get off the tender. I told her perhaps she had an excursion that did that, but no way does using a Princess tender mean you have to wade in water to get onto land. I could have told her I’ve been cruising for 15 years, and have been to Grand Cayman multiple times, and lots of other tender ports multiple times, and it has never, ever, ever happened. Tenders aren’t even set up to make something like that work. I finally gave up. I’ve learned when an old lady insists, just let it go. Everyone is an expert. Except when they aren’t.

Once on shore (surprise – by not walking through the water!) we only had to walk a few blocks from the port to find a salon/barber that would give hubby his shave. Although I’m pretty sure we stuck out like a sore thumb. It was clear this place catered to a different culture and clientele than us, but as he waited for his turn we found it interesting watching the happenings. You won’t find a sign telling customers not to eat fish in a salon/barber shop just anywhere.
Price on the ship for shave? $95. At this place? $5. Add in a dollar tip and hubby's white goatee is gone and he's back to looking baby-faced.

Since hubby was completely against taking the cane off the ship today we felt like it might not be best to then add additional walking to get to my snorkel spot. Just as well, I guess. I was going to have to rent equipment this time around as I didn’t bring my own since we needed the luggage space on our flight to Rome for other things. Plus my bum shoulder would make it a bit difficult to get in and out of a swimsuit, let alone having to get a backpack onto it. So instead of spending money on snorkel equipment, we spent money on drinks. The bar on the dock makes a mean Cayman Punch. With this much rum in one drink, how could you not have at least one? Or in my case, two...
The Green Parrot, the bar where we always stop, doesn’t serve frozen drinks when there aren’t a lot of ships so hubby couldn’t get his mudslide so he stuck with a local darker beer.
Since the Green Parrot is right there at the tender pick up/drop off we can watch the comings and goings as long as we want. Which wasn’t long because it was dead out there.
We made it back in plenty of time to get to ride in a half-empty tender, share a pizza at Alfredo’s, get a nice nap in, and get the blog posted while still hooked up to a Grand Cayman cell tower.
On to Costa Maya/Mahahual, Mexico tomorrow!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Royal Princess Sea Day

Today was a beautiful sea day. I could tell it was going to be nice when I woke up and saw this view out the door. I was way too tired to get up for the picture so this one was taken from the bed.
It stayed nice all day.
It feels so good to be back on a ship with on-demand TV and an absolutely amazing buffet. Yesterday at lunch we were like kids in a candy store when it came to the selections. There was oh-so-much to choose from. We went with healthy options and oh my gosh, there were tons. We knew we were missing the selections in the buffets these last few cruises but we really had forgotten how amazing it is here! For people who are buffet people we are in food heaven. Even at breakfast this morning the choices were plentiful and varied. Steak on the breakfast buffet? Oh, yeah. We also really like that the desserts have their own section away from the main line. It's going to make it much easier to stay away from all that sugar we don't need.

Knowing we were going to be coming off the two week transatlantic in an interior cabin and then had another week on land where we were with each other 24/7, we decided to book a balcony for this voyage. (If you've been married as long as we have you know your travel patterns and know when extra space is worth any extra dollars spent.) We had booked the cheapest guarantee obstructed balcony cabin they had on the ship. Lucky us, we were upgraded for free to a deluxe balcony with a sofa.
Our cabin is at the back of the ship, with the only cabins farther down being the aft-facing cabins. So far it's quiet down here. 

We love the on-demand system. Like I've mentioned before I don't watch TV or go to the movies at home so I'll get to catch up here. I got through a lot of them on our August-September month on the Caribbean Princess but there are new ones on the system now. Yay for that! Although you kind of have to tilt your head to the side just a little. I think someone needed a level when it was attached to the wall.

Movies Under the Stars has the same showings we saw on the Crown a couple weeks ago so we'll probably skip them. Here is the list of the rest of the entertainment for the week.

A note on the mini bar - we had the usual set up when we arrived at the cabin with one exception. Instead of tonic water (which we always return anyway) we had two diet Cokes in their place. Awesome. I always wondered why they added two Cokes but never two diet Cokes.

Tomorrow we're off to Grand Cayman. We usually walk down the road a bit for me to go snorkeling, but hubby has all of a sudden decided he wants his out of control goatee shaved off. So we'll be looking for a barber first  and then will base the rest of our day around how much time that takes.