Carnival Cruise Lines
February 14, 2012
Valentines Day Cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy
February 14, 2011
Welcome to my review of our Valentine Day Voyage on board the Carnival Ecstasy. My wife Pat and I are retired and discovered the joys of Cruise Ship life about 10 years ago.
This Cruise came about as a result of me looking at 4 inches of Frozen Ice and a Thermometer that has set a new record headed downward. I picked up the phone, called Lyndon our Faithful PVP. Two weeks later we are headed to a warmer clime.
Before I continue, I do need to inform you readers that this missive is being compiled real time while underway. So I do apologise for anychanges from present, to past, to future tenses. I have been out of School for many years and did not do all that well in English Composition even then, so please bear with me. We are now on Sea Day 1. I am eating a chocolate chip cookie and sipping a Caffe Late on the Prominade while watching the calm (lucky for us) waters of the Gulf of Mexico flow past the ship's window. I also appolgise for any typographical errors that may be caused by the 4 (or was it 5) Gin and Tonics happily consumed by the Author while soaking the warm sun beams on the Lido Deck and listening to a very good Calypso/Ragae/Country Western group entertaining a festive audience recovering from the Hairy Chest Drunk'in Bubba Contest.
Our trip begins in San Antonio where we visited our Daughter and her family on our way to Galveston. Hence 'killing two birds with one stone"; a family visit and a voyage.
We left San Antonio for Galveston bright and early Monday morning on our drive to meet our Ship. A quick review of the trusty Droid Smart Phone GPS showed our trip to be 4 hours and 6 minutes door to ship. So away we went trusty GPS chirping away. All was well until we found Houston (which is about the hardest city to drive in except for maybe Tokyo). Right smack drab in the middle of traffic all buzzing along at Mach 1, your intrepid driver lost, and with 5 different options suddenly presenting themselves as to which way to take, my Trusty Electronic Copilot and GPS Navigator Nastily announced with a Mornful moan that it QUIT. So as I naturally chose the Wrong exit and we sped toward oblivion, I tossed my dear wife a folded up Map and yelled for help! She promptly rapped me up the side my head with folded map, and announced a 2 word command, that while rather fun to do is also impossible to do. Finally. after a some what heated discussion regarding both my driving and navigational skills, my wife plotted a course out of oblivion and back towards Galveston and our awaiting ship.
We pulled into the EZ Cruise Parking Lot at 1214 PM after a 4 hour and 26 minute drive (of which 20 of those driving minutes were spent completely lost in traffic!) There awaited the Ecstasy in all her Glory. After a quick and painless ride in the EZ Park Shuttle Bus we arrived at the Cruise Ship Terminal. A $10 gratuity to the Baggage Porter was tendered in hopes that we would one day see our suitcases again. perhaps even in our Cabin.
This is our 12th (I think) cruise and we are exhulted Platinum VIP Status Guests. One of the nifty perks of being Platinum is one by passes the Huddled Masses as they wait forever in long, never ending, winding lines to board. With noses in air we headed towards Bright Red Signs beckoning (Snobby) VIPs. We were escorted to the head of the Security line and Xray machines. A with nary a Buzz, Siren, or Body Search we convinced the Guards we were indeed just innocent cruisers and we exited security relatively unharmed.
Another Bright Red VIP Sign Beckoned us to an office where we were processed. Within 1 minute our name was called, our passports examined, and most importantly our Credit Card Scanned. We were then issued our Sign and Sail Cards, and told to board and have a great cruise. So once again as the great multitude of our fellow passengers wound their way through the never ending meandering lines, we happily sped past them and headed toward the Photographer and Gang Plank. I must say the Embarkation Process seemed to go well for everyone as folks moved along at a steady pace through the Boarding Process. We were on board the ship within 15 minutes of our arrival at the Cruise Ship Terminal.
As we stepped off the Gang Plank and into the Atrium big smiles appeared on our faces. Let the good times Roll!
We headed up to the Lido Deck with was crowded with happy fellow cruisers. All of the tables were taken on the Smoking Side (Yes...my wife is a Dreaded Smoker), however a very nice couple, Rick and Linda, also fellow smokers, invited us to join them at their table. We were soon approached by a waiter offering Foo Foo Umbrella Drinks which we happily accepted (after, of course, my Silver Sign and Sail Card was proffered, accepted, and signed) and we had our Traditional Boarding Toast with the Umbrella Foo Foo Drink of the Day.
The sun was warm and life was good as we visited with our new friends Rick and Linda, who were on a birthday/anniversery/valentine/escape from the kids for a 5 day cruise. Several Jimmy Buffet songs and Foo Foo Drinks later it was time to find our stateroom and enter the "wonder where my suitcase is" lottery. (Note earlier reference to $10 Gratuity to Baggage Porter).
We found our state room Ocean View U160. Opening the door we greeted our new home for next several days. Carnival, in all of its Marketing Genius, had left us each a Welcome back Platinum Cruiser Letter signed by non other than the CEO Himself. These letters addressed to both Pat and I, listed the various perks we would receive as VIP Guests. I kind of thought it was a very nice gesture. There was also a very nice plate of Chocolate Covered Straw Berries for us to snack on. Pat had a special letter addressed especailly to her which I am not so sure is a good thing. You see this letter was from the Casino Operators, Players International, welcoming her back as a Very Important Player (Not good for me or my Wallet) with a gift and an invitation to cocktails in the casino before it opened to the commoners and more conservative gamblers. Again, a very nice gesture. Then not to be out done, there was a knock on the door and another letter from Carnival Management arrived, informing us we had been awarded a $50 credit to our on board account since we are Stock Holders in the Corporation. Next, Pat was very happy to receive (I thought) a very nice Bouqet of Flowers delivered by Bon Voyage. These Lovely Flowers had been ordered from Her Very Generous and Handsome Husband as a Valentine Present to her. (Fortunately she did not see all of the Red Roses that were on the way to other Lucky Wives/Girlfriends/Mistresses that had been ordered as Valentine Gifts from shall we say more generous spouses/boyfriends/customers who "sprang" for real Roses rather than Common Flowers.
We found the safe, locked up passports, cell phones (that had been turned off), and Casino Cash. We then decided it was time for a pre "Safety Drill" Cocktail.
So off we went. Being the safety conscious type we are (you never know if you are on the next Titanic) we eagerly awaited the call to muster station. The only thing I can say is The Muster Drill/Safety Briefing can only be describe for us as "Quite Civilized". Our Station was located on the Lido Deck. We sat down with a libation (obtained just before the Bars Closed for this all important event) and were happily surprised to see chairs being arranged. Yes, we all sat comfortably as the drill began and the "in case we sink" instructions were given. Everyone paid "rapt attention" in comfort, while happily sitting down. No more standing at attention while some junior ship's officer who thought she was still in "Her majesty's Royal Navy and we passengers were Sailors from HMS Bounty, gave us a verbal Cat o Nine Tail Ships Brief, which would describe my very first Carnival Cruise 10 years Earlier. And Yes, before we knew it that wonderful Sound we all were awaiting Blasted our ears; the Ships Horn Announcing we were Underway! As the Ship slowly made her way down the Galveston Channel, Pat and I rapidly made our way to the nearest Bar for a post departure Libation.
We returned to our Stateroom and were happy to find that our luggage had arrived. My Ten Dollar Investment had Paid off. Our two suitcases were in our stateroom and not on their way to Bombay! I happily retrieved my 6 mini bottles of Crown Royal that had not been confinscated by the Whiskey Police and was quite relieved that I would not have to make the walk of shame to the Naughty Room where whisky smugglers are paraded in front of their fellow "law abiding" passengers.
Our State Room Steward Tomas introduced himself and asked us to please let him know if we needed anything at all. As is my usual custom, I slipped Tomas an extra (pre departure) gratuity which has always insured impeccable service from our State room stewards. Tomas seemed to be quite happy with his "Windfall".
As Galveston Island disappeared below the horizon, Pat happily headed to her waiting wagering machines of chance. As Bells Rang, Wheels Whirled, and Handles were pulled the Casino came to life and happy cruisers and Pat prepared to part with their money.
We had late dining and headed to our 8:15 seating with visions of fine food. My poor wife Pat is Celiac Intolerant (meaning she is allergic to Wheat). Carnival does an excellent job of catering to guests with Food Allergies. The hostess went over the evening menu with Pat and the picked out her dinner. She then went over the following evening's menu and took Pat's Special Order. Once again we are quite pleased with the manner in which this was handled. We enjoyed our first dinner on board and are anticipating the dinners to follow
After dinner Pat headed to the Casino and Slot Machines. I head to bed. I enjoy sleeping while the ship is underway and as usual was out like a light. Sometime during the night my eyes opened and I realized our cabin door was wide open. I have no idea how long it had been open. The door had not been properly closed. I was shocked! I consider myself very lucky that a group of cheerleaders did not sneak in and take advantage of me while i slept!
Day 2 at Sea
The next morning our alarm clock went off at 7AM on the dot with a knock on the door by Room Service delivering our morning coffee. A quick glance out of our porthole window confirmed we were out at sea somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. The morning dawned bright if not just a bit chilly. After a nice breakfast prepared at the Panorama Omelet Station I explored. I discovered a lovely (quiet) dining area at the very aft part of the ship where one could enjoy one's repast while watching the ship's wake and see where we had been.
One level down was the New Serenity Adult only area. This is a very nice area with 2 hot tubs, chaise lounges both in the sun and an area with ample shade. I am certain that Bar Service is of course Available. The fact that Children are Banned ensures the peace and quiet we old folks enjoy. Bar Service is of Course Available.
Speaking of Kids, there are more on board than I would have thought considering School is in session. It is a good thing there are no Truant Officers Allowed on Board Carnival Cruise Ships. Although one sees kids one does not necessarily hear them. The kiddos are kept busy by the various Ship Board Activities designed to keep them out of everyone's (especially their Parent's) way.
After a nice breakfast we decided it was time for Bloody Mary's. The morning special ($4.95 until noon) were enjoyed as we sat at the Pool Bar (Smoking side) on the Lido Deck. After the Morning Libations, Pat headed to (where else the Casino and her beloved slot machines and I explored the ship.
I really enjoy the days at sea. I pretend I am Horatio Hornblower as I walk the decks in search of a Wench and CatoNine. (Oh wait, wrong character) :) It is nice to enjoy the fresh air and warm sunshine. They have entertainment such as Raggae Music, Drunkin Bubba Hairy Chest Contests, etc. at the Swimming Pool area on the Lido Deck. Or one can remove onself, with Kindle and iPod in hand, to the Serenity Deck.
We had a nice lunch in the Main Dining Room where we shared a table with an interesting couple who winter in Texas and Summer at their home in the United Kingdom.
Pat returned to (where else) the casino and I headed up to the Pool area to check on the temperature. The morning started out a bit cool but as our Ship Steamed Southard the day warmed nicely. The Calypso/Raggae/Country Band was playing again and the music was great. The next thing I knew I was in a Lounge Chair sipping a Gin and Tonic with the warm sun shining on me, and enjoying the tunes. What a great way to spend the afternoon.
As the evening approached I headed up to have an afternoon coffee and cookie while working on this missive. Carnival issues color coded Sign and Sail Cards. First time cruisers get blue and red cards, 2nd to 9th time cruisers get gold cards, and 10th on up get the platinum (silver) cards. As I sat and people watched I realized I was seeing a lot of blue cards and first time cruisers. As a Stock Holder in Carnival Corporation I was happy to see smiles on all of these first time cruisers.
Pat and I enjoyed our pre-dinner cocktails at the Deck 9 (Dreaded) Cigar Bar where smoking is permitted. All I can say is I am sure all of the Rabid Anti Smokers were/are quite unhappy to see all of the people there having fun. I would like to point out, that there are a few smoking lounges where smoking is permitted and others where it is banned. (For instance, smoking is permitted in the Casino, since it seems most of those dreaded smokers are also gamblers.) However smoking is NOT permitted at the Casino Bar or in any of the public area where people tend to congregate.
I made the mistake of visiting the on board duty free where a nice shiny new Citizen Watch jumped out and made me purchase it. I decided that instead of tossing a couple of hundred bucks away at the Crap Table, I would wear my shiny new watch around. I must say it looks good on my skinny wrist.
The second evening at sea is the "Formal Night". Since many of our fellow passengers were well so dressed, I decided to join in and donned a nice pair of slacks, neck tie, and sport coat. I must admit I looked quite spiffy with my new Citizen Chongraph strapped to my wrist. We were joined by a couple of thousand Lobster Tails at Dinner. I am not sure why but for some reason the service at ort table is way below par. Everything seems to be moving quite slow and I noticed the folks at nearby tables eating while we were waiting. I generously slipped our head waiter a $20 bill on our first evening, and am now wondering if my generosity was in vain? We shall see.
After a nice dinner Pat of course headed to her beloved Slots and I to the Piano bar. One thing about cruising, whenever you get a lot of people together one sees a lot of different behavior. Most good, some dumb, and some bad. Here we are in a Piano Bar; the piano player singing, the patrons enjoying. Some Bozos at the rear of the room were carrying on a loud conversation and disrupting the performance. What **** Heads! They knew exactly what they were doing and couldn't care less. I guess those must be the "low class folks" my snobby neighbor refers to whenever talking about typical Carnival Cruisers.
My rocking bed beckoned. I am sorry to report that the door stayed closed and locked all night so no cheer leaders were tempted.
Day 3 – Progresso (Merida) Mexico
As you know the Yucatan Penninsula was the home of the Mayan Indian Population. So Pat and I decided to broaden our Horizons on this cruises and we signed up for a tour of the Xcapa Mayan Indian Ruins. We were up at 5:30 AM to prepare for our trip back into time.
Our ship docked at Progresso bright and early at 7AM. Passengers (us included) streamed off the ship with smiles and with water bottles in hand we headed towards awaiting buses. Some folks were off to tour the various Ruins, some headed to the beach, some into Merida, some to explore, and some to drink Mexican beer.
We boarded our bus along with 60 other fellow amateur archeologists and away we went. It was about a 45 minute ride and all along it our trusty tour guides kept us informed of different minituae along our route. I must admit it was quite informative; I now know why Flamingos are pink! The ruins are quite interesting. One must stop and reflect that this was a culture that was extremely advanced. Their Mathematics and Astronomy rival that of today. The city we visited was founded 200 years BC.
After our visit to the ruins we visited a Cemetery where we learned why there are different colors on the crypts. It seems if the deceased were Pure Mayan his new home is painted a bright blue, green, or yellow. We then proceeded to a small town inhabited by modern day Mayans where we visited a big (surprise) Catholic Church built back in the 18th century. Last but not least, was a stop at a 'modern' resort on the beach where 'lunch' was served. We all agreed that the "lunch" we were treated to made everyone really appreciate the fine food we are enjoying on board the Ecstasy.
As we were waiting in line to re-board our ship I noticed lots of smiles among our fellow passengers. We visited with one lady and her daughter who had just visited the local Rum Factory. I know why they both wore big smiles. We headed back to our cabin. Awaiting us was another nice gift from Carnival to their Platinum Cruisers. We both received a nice Logo Notebook along with Ecstasy Pins. As I recharged my batteries ship was underway once again, now on course for an overnight sail to the Cozumel. There was a knock on the door and there as a plate complimentary hor de vours, a welcome snack, complements of Carnival (I think).
Dinner this evening was quite good (well for everyone except poor Pat). I am happy to report that our servers seemed to be doing a bit better this evening. As I mentioned earlier Pat has food allergies and Carnival does an excellent job (usually). Pat's dinner that had been preordered the prior evening was Gluten Free Pasta and Chicken that is specially prepared. Her dinner was very late in arriving but alas it tasted just great! (More to follow)
Pat returned to her beloved Slot Machines after dinner, and I just kind of wandered around. I became enamored with the Crap Table but am proud to say I left with nary a wager and headed to bed with visions of 7's and 11's dancing in my head.
Day 4 – Cozumel
We awakened on this 4th day with the sun shine beaming in through our Porthole Window. Our ship is headed towards Cozumel where we are scheduled for an on time arrival at 8AM.
Alas my dear poor Pat had been a-wake, and ill all night long. It seems that the "Gluten Free" pasta that had tasted so good at dinner the evening befoe, had "Glutened" her. She (correctly I think) has decided that somehow her Pasta was not Gluten Free.) Since Carnival does such a good job with special menu's and prepared food, we decided the failure was at the lowest denominator, perhaps the server or junior cook. That is why it tasted so good (you see gluten free food tastes bad!) Somehow Carnival has blown it. I am not sure if the problem was the kitchen or the server, but somehow they missed the mark! Poor Pat is Sick as can be as our Ship pulled into Cozumel. She will remain in the cabin until the gluten is out of her system. You see this food allergy causes her intestines to become inflamed (yep it is painful) and swollen closed. This is what Poor Pat is dealing with.
Me? I shall enjoy a quiet ship while in Port and the rest of my fellow passengers are off at Senior Frog's drinking Tequila Shooters. It sure is a good thing I have visited Cozumel before. So I shall go by myself and have a quiet shot of Tequila as I salute Cozumel.
I decided to spend some time pool side while Pat hopefully rid her body of the Toxins from which she had been poisoned by the prior evening's dinner in the Main Dining Room. Actually, it is quite nice to have the whole ship to oneself while 1,782 fellow passengers are ashore. I assumed the "moniker" of Aristotle Onassis as I enjoyed Gin and Tonics Pool side in the warm Yucatan Sun (while Jackie was ashore entertaining the Governor of the Island. Wow did that guy have it made, even if he did have to purchase Jackie)
Pat joined me for lunch at the Panorama Buffet. She seemed to be feeling a bit better but did not eat very much as her internal system is still on tilt. (Last time it tilted this badly she spend 4 weeks in a Hospital and we "prepared for the worst") I have to admit I have wondered if the value of my Carnival Stock will drop very much after we file the 'lawsuit'. After Lunch Pat repaired back to our stateroom as I returned to Poolside with my Kindle Electronic Book in hand. Mr. Kindle and I watched the Lido slowly fill up as my fellow cruisers returned from their various shore bound excursions. I suspect some of them had sampled tequila shots!
I had a nice visit with the lady lounging next to me. We discussed the joys of a Cruise Ship Vacation. She has cruised on both Cunard and Carnival and had some interesting reflections on the different types of cruisers the various lines attract. We both agreed that Carnival does indeed offer good product for the value. Oh, by the way, Cunard has a very strict dress code in their Dining Rooms. The British do know how to dine properly.
Finally the Carlos Santana Noise (I mean music) drove me away as we sailed away from this Island Paradise and our ship turned to a North West bound heading towards (sob) Galveston. So with ears ringing, I headed do to the cabin to check on Pat.
One thing I have noticed on this cruise and on all of our other cruises is the how clean and well kept the Ship is kept. Empty glasses, plates, and assorted flotsom seem to be instantly picked up by personnel armed with brooms, mops, and containers.
I must leave soon to meet Pat in the Atrium for Cocktails while a Piano Concert is scheduled in the Main Atrium. I think it is a good sign that Pat is up and about and considering a libation. Hopefully the Crohn's Toxins have not done too much damage to her delicate insides. I shall return to this missive soon, perhaps tomorrow. While I am gone I would like to ask that you readers bid me good luck as my anti-gambling at the Crap Table (re: my fancy new wrist watch) resolve has crumbled.
Pat decided not to eat in an attempt to help her recover from her health problems caused by the dinner she ate had eaten the night before. She did visit with the hostess in the main dining room to let her know that somehow her dinner the night before had caused her problems. Of course the Hostess, and Maitre d' assure her that was impossible. She just wanted them to know that there had in fact been a failure. I have no doubt that they checked into what/when/how Pat's Gluten Free meal had been prepared, and realize they could never admit that they were at fault. (Read Lawyers) We just wanted them to be aware that there had been a problem.
We had (my) pre-dinner cocktails at the "Society Cigar Bar", which, you guessed it, allows cigarette smoking. While there I had a very interesting conversation with Alan, the Bartender, who is from Lima Peru. He is a very knowledgeable fellow and we discussed Carnival and the company's different Policies. I suspect Allen will go places within the company. He is very representative of Carnival's Personnel and their good attitudes towards Guest Relations. It made me feel good about being a Stock holder (sadly my holdings are quite small) and my future value of my investment. I think I shall increase my holdings, as they say on Wall Street.
I dined alone, since Pat was off food. Our table mates were missing as well, so I had the table to myself. The group of eight next to me very graciously invited me to join them for dinner, but I declined. The Hostess, Maitre d' and even the waiters all inquired about Pat's well being and wished her a speedy recovery. I must way that my solo dining table service was impeccable and I enjoyed a nice dining experience.
After dinner I stopped by the Casino to wish Pat good luck and headed to bed. I find I usually sleepy by the time the late dinner seating is over, which is usually around 10PM. I think next cruise we may try the Any Time Dining which everyone who says is great.
I thought about how our ship was sadly steaming homeward bound as I fell asleep.
Day 5 – At Sea Homeward Bound
Our last day at sea dawned beautiful. Blue skies and bright sunshine has warmed the day as our ship steams steadily northwest ward.
I grabbed my trusty Canon Camera, which has been giving me trouble this whole voyage, and headed up to the Lido deck. Although I have 2 batteries for it, I have decided both are worn out and need replaced. Sometimes my camera will happily snap way, other times it goes on strike. I am happy to report that this morning it decided to work and I was able to get some nice shots of the blue waters as we chugged along. I enjoyed a lovely breakfast outside at the aft area of the ship while enjoying the warm sun shine beaming down. My fellow sea borne sailors all seemed happy as we greeted the new day.
I returned to our Cabin to find Pat feeling better as she announced she had recovered from her recent Gluten Poisoning. We were both quite relieved. (One cruise she ended up spending 2 days in the ship's infirmary, had an ambulance ride to the hospital where she spent 2 weeks on our arrival in New Orleans. ) I must point out this is NOT the Cruise Lines fault. She had experienced a Crohn's attack and in those days no one was aware that Wheat (Gluten) seriously aggravates the condition.
We happily headed up to the Lido deck and the Luncheon Buffet where she could hand pick her meal, insuring that it was gluten free. She chose Fish, Salad, French fries, Sushi, and some sort of Jello for dessert. Our friends Rick and Linda, the nice couple who invited us to share their table on the sail away day, joined us and we enjoyed a nice meal.
Afterwards, with Kindle in hand, I headed to the Serenity Area where I spent the afternoon reading the Latest Nikki Heat Novel while watching our ships wake disappear over the horizon. Sadly this is the last day and our cruise will soon be over. I am not sure if it is me or if the temperature really is getting steadily colder as we steam along.
Tomorrow is debarkation day and as Platinum Concierge Guests we are offered Priority Debarkation. Being lazy, I have decided to pack my "Steamer Trunk" sized Suitcase tomorrow morning and after lowering its "Landing Gear" we will wheel our stuff of the ship. Stay tuned to find out how that goes. For now I see a Martini in my future and am looking forward to dinner.
After retrieving Pat from the Casino, we headed to the Society (smoking permitted) Lounge for our pre-dinner cocktails. We again had a nice visit with Alan before heading off to our final dinner. I did tip both the Maitr 'd and the Jennifer our Hostess because they did go out of their way to insure that Pat's Gluten Free meals were provided. It was not their fault that the one gluten failure occured and I am sure they took steps to prevent future mishaps. Our two table mates missed dinner again. I suspect they decided they preferred the more relaxed upstairs dining venue. I gave our cocktail waiter one last gratuity which he was so very happy to receive. Just before our dinner was delivered a nice bottle of wine was presented to Pat with compliments from the Casino. Gosh we were sure showered with nice little gifts. I can only wonder why? ($$$)
Our two waiters wished us well and thanked us profusely for the extra gratuities. My theory on gratuities is to tip generously. These folks that provide the service are not well paid. So extra is very highly apprecitated. I have also found that these generous offerings I make do indeed (usually) pay off handsomely. For instance, if a $1 bill is laid down on the bar along with ones sign and sail card one will almost always find that an extra large pour is added to ones libation. In other words almost a double for the price one. That works for me!
GALVESTON ARRIVAL AND DEBARKATION or EXTRA FREE DAY AT SEA
I awakened early on Saturday Morning. There was a beautiful full moon shining down on us. I felt the ship was barely moving. A quick peek outside the Port Hole Window confirmed we were barely making way due to heavy fog. I would estimate the visibility as less than ¼ mile. Every 2 minutes the ship's Fog Horn would sound.
I headed upstairs and using my nifty new chronograph determined the fog horn would sound for 5 seconds at 2 minute intervals. I used my Droid Phone Recorder Application to record the Horn from outside as it sounded. So hopefully I will have a nifty new Ring Tone for my phone. (Yes folks my Droid Phone ring tone is now the Ships Horn!)
Pat and I have decided to lug our suitcases off with us when we disembark. The jury is out as to whether or not we made a good call or a major blunder since our wheel along steamer trunks are heavy and clumsy. I am certain there are elevators in the Cruise Terminal, I HOPE!
As I was having my breakfast, timing the fog horn blasts, I noticed the ship and stopped, and the fog horn was no longer honking. Shortly thereafter our Captain came on and advised us that the port was closed due to zero visibility and we were anchored at the Pilot Station. And as ATC used to advise me when I had to enter holding awaiting for weather the 'delay is indefinite".
It is now 8:30AM and we are still awaiting for the visibility to improve. I am not sure just how much RVR (Sea Visual Range) these guys need to navigate but I suspect they need a bit more than the 600 foot runway visual rangne I could land my Jumbo Jet in. I feel sorry for the passengers on shore awaiting our arrival so they can depart on their Cruise. My guess is we will arrive at the Galveston Island Cruise Terminal between 10:30 – 11:00AM. Boy am I worng on that ETA!
The Captain just came on and said we were still holding awaiting weather minimums to improve so we can make our approach into the harbor. He said he will make another announcement in an hour, which tells me there is not much improvement in the forecast. This is weather and no one can control it. February is Fog Season in this part of the world. I remember 3 "zero zero" landings in a row all in Houston one year.
Around 4 PM the ship got underway. The electronic map along with the Mornful Moan of the Fog Horn showed we were proceeding toward Galveston. About 5 minutes later we came to a screeching halt (well OK, we slowed to a stoop). The Captain came back on and annouced that the visibility improved somewhat, then it went back down.
Shorty there after the Captain informed us all that we would in fact remain out at sea overnight and would proceed off shore to a point where they could open the Shops and Most Importantly, The Casino. We all enjoyed our extra night at sea as everyones Luggage was returned to them.
My FaceBook friend Mach (of Cruis Critic fame) sent me this map of the Ecstasy's Travels while awaiting the fog to clear. You can see where we left and went back out to sea completing a large Triangle Course which returned us back to the achorage where we awaited the Fog to Clear. Thank you Mach!
I must admit I did feel a little guilty eating dinner in the Main Dining Room that would was really intended to be enjoyed by the poor folks stranded on shore in Galveston awaiting our non-return.
AN EXTRA ½ DAY and FINALLY HOME
I awakened this morning to the feel of an idle ship. A quick peek out of the porthole window confirmed that we were still fog bound. Since the fog horn was not blowing I assertained that we were at anchor.
Around 9AM the Captain came on to inform us that the Port of Galveston was still closed due to zero visibility caused by the sea fog. Finally around 10AM a quick peek out of my porthole window showed the visiibilty rapidly increasig. It was really amazing seeing all of the ships that we were anchored among as they slowly became visible.
We went up and had a nice breakfast on the Lido Deck and I did notice a bit of excitement among my fellow sailors at the notion of going home for real.
By 11 we floating were under blue skies and warm sunshine as the ship began to make way towards port. We were informed that there were 3 ships all headed in at the same time and we would be mooring at Pier 10 instead of the Cruis Terminal. The Cruise Director came on and gave us a briefing on how disembarkation would be handled. After docking they would call ½ deck at a time to proceed to the forward showroom where we would clear Customs and Immigration on board the ship. We would then return to our rooms, pick up our luggage and self-disembark where buses would take us to the Cruise terminal.
As Platinum guests, we were called in the first group to clear customs and disembark. It worked quite well for us. As we waited in the fast moving line to meet with Immigration I learned there were only 39 Platinum guests on board. I must say this did surprise me. After clearing customs and immigration, we lugged and rolled our wheeled suitcases down to level 3 and were soon off the ship where we boarded an awaiting bus. From the time we were called to clear customs to the time we were in our Car at the was 2 hours, which all things considered was not too bad. I have read that some of the later passengers disembarking that day encountered a horror scene. We did not.
So with smileS on our faces we pointed our Rav4 toward home.