Monday, May 29, 2023

Covid Isolation on the Island Princess

I didn't catch it over the last several years. I didn't catch it on the four cruises Ed and I went on last year nor on the cruise we went on earlier this year. With as sick as everyone was pretending they were not on last week's cruise it was bound to happen at some point on my solo summer adventure. And boy, has it happened. 

To all those people who have dismissed it as just a cold, or bragged about having caught it three or four times and weren't sick at all (I heard that several times last week), or think people should get over it, I'm happy for you. But please know it doesn't turn out that way for everyone. It has hit me and hit me hard. Based on the severity of my symptoms and my RA, the doctor is treating me with Paxlovid. It's a five day treatment costing me $700 out of pocket (charged to my onboard account) which I'm more than happy to pay. If I'm this sick on it, I can't imagine how sick I would be without it. 

Most of my days are spent coughing a pretty nasty cough and blowing my nose, drinking lots of fluids, and trying to eat a bit here and there. For the most part I'm not able to do anything but sleep. My energy level is next to nil, and I've lost all the strength I built up from swimming two hours a day. I've set up little stations in the cabin to force myself to get up out of bed so I don't completely turn to jelly. Here's a little tour:

On one side of the bed is where I have some of my essentials. Pulse oximeter (brought from home), thermometer (provided by the medical center), my regular daily meds and vitamins so I don't forget to take them, some lip balm, hand sanitizer, and the current bottle of water I'm working on. Notice the small post office shipping box - I picked it up at the PO in Fort Lauderdale and was planning on using it for something else, but this purpose has become a bit more important.

On the other side of my bed is where I have my meal ordering station set up. Dining staff slips a new menu under my door every day and calls me to get my breakfast, lunch, and dinner order. To be able to reach it from the bed I had to stretch the phone from the desk and sit it on top of my Covid kit (also brought from home as a just-in-case).

My mini bar area has become my Covid medication and rehydration station. One of one pill in the morning, one of another pill in the morning and night, and three of another pill in the morning and night. With my brain feeling all foggy I've found it best to pop the pills out of their packing each morning and evening and place them on the counter to I make sure I don't forget to take them. I have my instant Propel with electrolytes, shaker bottle, and plastic straws from Sonic (all brought from home, other things packed for the just-in-case) and have been using the tap water out of the bathroom. Room service keeps me well-stocked with ice.

Between my bedside and the bathroom is my hazardous waste site. All garbage has to go into the bag.

Near my door is the staging area. I'm not allowed to leave the room, but I do put a mask on when I grab my meals from outside the door. I put a desk chair inside my door because I've found it impossible to carry a room service tray from outside the door all the way to my eating area.

Like my clever use for the card that turns on the lights?
The Blue Princess bag is full of masks, bags for trash and dirty linens, gloves,
and cleaning supplies. I have yet to have enough strength to spray one surface. 
Table where they place the food 
outside my door is from my balcony

I have two different eating areas. One is on the couch as it's the nearest place to drop the room service tray.

If the weather is nice, the other is outside on the balcony. It requires some careful stepping for this disabled gal to get there. As it has gotten colder I've started covering up with towels out there in order to get the fresh air my body craves. 

Another wheelchair accessible cabin on
Princess Cruises without balcony access. Ugh.

Food has been hot and delivered on time. Unfortunately I can't taste or smell anything, but I can feel textures. The other day's Philly cheesesteak had tender beef, a crunchy roll, creamy cheese, and crispy fries. But as to the flavor? It all tasted like toilet water to me. (Or at least what I would guess toilet water would taste like.) 

The medical staff have been amazing, checking on me daily. The dining and room service staff have been outstanding. But guest services has just plained sucked. I could play the Elite card, the Suite card, the on the ship for three month card, the disabled card, or the Covid isolation card. I haven't played any of those cards, but maybe if I combined them all together I would have been able to at least get a roll of toilet paper without having to wait for five hours? I'm trying hard to keep a positive attitude but when you're sick, sometimes it's hard.

I still have several days of isolation to go, and based on how I'm feeling I'm just fine sleeping through it. Tomorrow we're in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I hope my cabin will face land so I can watch all the going ons or I'll at least have some sunshine to sit in. I'll take either one. 

Until tomorrow...

Apologies for any errors in spelling or mind is a little muddy.
Time changes so far: 4

Friday, May 26, 2023

Fort Lauderdale Turnaround Day and a New Cruise

I was up and at em this morning at my usual 6 AM. I watched us sail into port and scoped out the best way to get to the post office. Usually we would be cutting through the parking garage and making our way by the convention center. Not this time as the area is a construction zone.

Port Everglades new construction in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Did I find a Scooter-approved way? Yep.
Dodge the thunderstorms? Yep.
Mail the Costa Rican coffee home? Yep.
Pick up supplies at Publix? Yep.
Roll past a lizard? Yep. And yuck.

Move into my new cabin? Yep.

Pass go and collect $200? Nope. My first ever instance of catching Covid sends me straight to cabin-jail. A white collar suite life kind of jail. (FYI - once you have Covid the suite life doesn’t get you one bit of preferential treatment.)

Three sea days ahead until Halifax, Nova Scotia. Should be a great cruise once I get past June 1st, my first potential release date.
Goodbye, Fort Lauderdale. Until we meet again. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

A Couple More Days at Sea

Another couple warm sea days again found me either out by the pool or on the balcony. 

Since we'll be heading north tomorrow I'm taking advantage of every bit of warmth I can get. I even was around to see the ice carving demonstration, something we stopped going to long ago.

ice carving by the pool on Princess cruises

Since we're ending our first cruise tomorrow I thought I'd give a little wrap up of things I've seen so far. First, while cruising is back and ships are full, in many ways it isn't the same as it was before Covid. We saw it on the Royal Princess and I'm seeing it here on the Island. While the crew has been great as always, there just aren't enough of them to go around. While it hasn't impacted my experience too much, as a longtime cruiser I do notice it. 

The Medallion experience: The Internet has been pretty decent so far, but the Medallion ordering system is problematic. It seems to be one of the biggest service issues, especially for those with drink packages. Even with my little dinky room service orders I'm having a heck of a time. Again and again the app tells me the order has been delivered. A couple nights ago it took three phone calls over almost two hours for the order I placed on the app to be delivered. 

Speaking of room service…Every single order (except the pizza) has arrived cold - and many times wrong. How can an app order for a hot dog with mustard show up as a cold hot dog covered in salsa with pickles on it? According to crew delivering orders, the coldness has to do with where my cabin is. There is no bellbox for food preparation on this deck so it has to run through another deck and those orders are delivered first. (Pizza is picked up at a different location so it is still warm when it’s delivered.) As for the incorrectness of the orders? Who knows. I even had a hard time getting my mini bar and the bottled water package I ordered before the trip. It took multiple calls over multiple days to finally get any beverages in the cabin. I've hoarded some of my waters and Diet Cokes in case I wind up beverage-less in my new cabin.

The Buffet: It's where I eat all my meals and has been great. They are happy to see me in the early morning and are most helpful in carrying my plate while I'm scootering around. The breakfast chef lets me know when the second side is open and once he even went and ordered my omelet for me. Food choices throughout the day have been great as well and each night they have a theme like Italian, Bavarian, Brazilian, and French. While I don't like pasta, I do like that the crew member running the pasta station gives me some of his tasty garlic cloves for my meat. And the person running the carving station always makes sure I have the best of what he's cutting. Albeit sometimes he gives me way too much!
prime rib with garlic and horseradish on Princess cruises
Both guys went overboard on portions.
I must have looked hungry!
Passengers on board: As this is a longer sailing and falls during the time of year kids are just finishing up school the age skews older. Lots of canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters (me included), but there are a couple little girls (under 5 maybe?) and a couple teenage boys but no other kids that I've seen. The ship feels full with 2,087 people onboard so once we get the third and fourth berths filled and everyone is crammed inside because of the cold I'm sure it'll feel over-filled.

My Cabin: I figured out the reason my balcony feels so big is because it is the actual Promenade deck. Crazy to think we used to walk in this space years ago when we were on this ship. You can even see the outline of the previous windows.
There is some vibration in here, and clearly the previous guests took it upon themselves to address some noise issues.
All kinds of papers shoved in the metal piece in the ceiling
A wheelchair accessible cabin where you can't 
get out to the balcony but you can get back in?!
Accessibility: The age of this ship definitely shows when it comes to heavy doors and high thresholds. It's tough to get around the ship and in and out of the spaces. I've learned to get off the scooter, open the door, pull the scooter through until I'm clear and then climb back on. Sometimes a crew member is in the area and will hold the door, and most passengers are helpful as well, but it's those other times that have turned the outside of my lower leg black and blue from bumping the scooter and doors as I try and drag it through. I say most passengers because there have been a few instances where they just watch me struggle with it and wait until I'm done so they can use the door.

Movies Under the Stars: The screen definitely needs some panels replaced

but it hasn’t stopped me from being out there - even in the rain.
Tonight’s rainy feature

Covid or something like it: The first part of the cruise I only saw two other couples wearing masks, but this second part of the cruise the number has increased. Yesterday and today a few crew are wearing them as well. Passengers onboard right now are coughing and sneezing all over the place. If you remember a few days ago I accidentally ran into the Covid wing on deck 8. I had someone tell me yesterday they ran into a row of tables on deck 10. Then today I heard from another they have several near their cabin, too. I don’t know how many we’re talking in quarantine, but I’d guess at least 25% of passengers are sick and still running around the ship pretending they aren’t. I’m spending all my time outside but even with that it’s getting more difficult to not be downwind from a cougher or sneezer. 
This morning’s sunrise

Tomorrow we're in Fort Lauderdale for turnaround day. Several us on staying on for the next leg but most are heading home. If the weather holds out (no rain, please!) I'll get off the ship early and head to the post office to mail off the box of coffee to hubs, stop by Publix to stock up on some supplies, and maybe even make a visit to Ross or grab some lunch. Or not. Then back to the ship where I'll head to a new cabin. It’s a special one.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Cartagena, Columbia

Welcome to Cartagena!

Cartagena, Columbia

The first time we ever came to Cartagena I have to admit my mind went to the cartels. It took a few trips here before my mind automatically didn't focus on the bad. (Although years back we witnessed the most aggressive and largest groups of pushy vendors at every one of the Hop On Hop Off bus stops.)

I was up early watching as we docked and as the busses were given the okay to start filling the pier. Busses down one direction...
tour buses lined up on cruise ship pier at Cartagena, Columbia
and down the other. 
tour buses lined up at cruise ship pier in Cartagena, Columbia
Wonder how today's HOHO guests fared
Update: I spoke to passengers who rode the Hop On Hop Off today and they told me stories of the aggressiveness of the vendors. So nope, no change.

No tour bus for me today, though. I knew exactly where I was headed - to the aviary in the port area. The Port Oasis EcoPark was oh-so-close to the ship. It's an easy walk but there is also a free shuttle provided.
Port Oasis EcoPark in Cartagena, Columbia
It was quite a lovely experience. It's like a zoo, but more of a sanctuary. And it's free! I saw lots of animals. The birds were free range so they flew (and landed) all around.
flamingos at Aviary at the Cartagena, Columbia cruise port
Flamingos were in an enclosed area
So was the Collared Peccary, thank goodness
Being I can't stand monkeys I'm glad I didn't come across any. They also have sloths but I didn't see any of those, either.
But I did come across beautiful birds who were free to go wherever they wanted. At my feet, in the trees, and flying overhead. 
white peacock at Aviary at Cartagena, Columbia cruise port
macaws in Aviary in Cartagena, Columbia cruise port
I even had one investigating my scooter.
I spent a couple hours there just looking at everything. They have a nice store and I was able to pick up some new bling for Scooter. 
Just big enough to hold hand sanitizer and lip balm
But the time I was ready to go back, I was sweaty. Like clothes stuck-to-you sweaty. A cool beverage from their little cafe (menu at the end of this post) helped to cool me down just a little, but I would probably need half a dozen to bring me much relief. 
house cocktail at Cafe Del Puetro Cartagena, Columbia cruise port
Even the vultures knew I was about done
Before I left I came across one last picture I just had to take. The simplest and sweetest of all.
I wheeled my way back to the ship..
cruise ship as seen from Port Oasis EcoPark in Cartagena, Columbia
went to the cabin, peeled off my clothes, and got dressed for the pool. Swam for a couple hours, had an ice cream cone, a free 5 minute shoulder massage from the spa gals, and had my nightgown back on before dinnertime. An exhausting but full day in Cartagena.

This was our last port of this cruise. Folks I've talked to are ready to get back home while I'm ready to really get my trip started. We have a couple sea days and then will be in Fort Lauderdale on Friday. See you then!

Cafe Menu. I thought the prices were great.