Western Caribbean Cruise, April, 2008
Today is .
The weather is beautiful in the Caribbean!

Click for Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands Forecast

Getting Ready...

March, 2008...

Wow, I cannot believe I’m so lucky!

Nearly two years ago Susan M, one of my Cushie friends, invited me on a cruise to Bermuda. I was delighted and excited to go. Then I found out I had kidney cancer and had to bow out at the last minute - the cruise embarked the day I left the hospital. My surgeon said that there was no way I could postpone my surgery for another 5 or so days so someone else went in my place.

So, that was it for my first Bermuda cruise.

A couple nights ago, I heard from my friend again, asking me if I wanted to do the cruise now! Of course, I said yes… She said she was celebrating and upgraded the whole cruise to the Western Caribbean. We’re going to have a superior balcony stateroom! I can wear some of the clothes I got for the non-cruise (if they still fit)!

I am so excited and blessed. What a wonderful gift!


April, 2008...

I can't believe that in only 3 days I'm going to Florida for my cruise. The ship leaves - I can't really say "sails" because there aren't any - on Sunday afternoon.

I plan to do a journal like I did for Alaska but I probably will upload it all after the fact so I don't waste cruise time online posting a day-by day.

I am getting so excited - I cannot believe I got this second chance to do this. I've been kind of afraid to jinx this trip since last time I announced I was going on a cruise, I got the cancer and couldn't go. But I don't think - I hope! -that nothing will come up at this late stage of the game.

I am so lucky!

Here's where we're going:

Getting Ready, April 5, 2008: Flying to Orlando, Florida

For some reason, I was nervous on the way to the airport and had a panic attack. I haven't had one of those when flying for the longest time, so I don't know what that was about at all.

Tom delivered me to Dulles Airport for my JetBlue flight to Orlando, Florida. We departed on time but there were lots of thunderstorms on the way and the Orlando airport had been closed for a while. We landed on a runway quite far out but couldn't get to the gate because all the backed-up planes took preference.

Finally, we took some back route and got to the gate. Hooray!

Susan and her niece were waiting for me by baggage claim. My luggage actually arrived! Amazing.

We went for a very late dinner at Perkins, went back to the villa that Susan had rented and, finally, sleep.

Day One: Mariner of the Seas, Port Canaveral, Florida. April 6, 2008, 4:30 PM

We got up early, loaded up Susan's rental car and checked out of the villa. Susan dropped off her niece so that she could fly back to Chicago and we returned her rental car.

Susan and I had breakfast at the airport's food court and then we loaded up on a shuttle to Port Orlando. We were lucky - were the only ones on it.

Boarding(Click for larger image)

We had a very easy boarding, and well organized. We were on the ship by about 11AM. I waited in a long line but finally got a dial-up internet connection (CyberCabin) at Guest Relations (Deck 5). Little did I know that I'd be back to Guest Relations about every day.

The cabins weren't going to be ready for a couple hours so I hauled the CyberCabin - a big box with a new phone for the cabin, directions and cables - and my carry-ons to the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11. I called Tom to let him know that we were on our way!

Heading outWe found our cabin (Deck 6). Being Cushies we took a short nap then it was time to put on lifejackets for muster at 4:00 (Deck 4A)

We were in cabin 6526, a number I had trouble remembering. This was a forward balcony cabin on deck six, portside. There was lots drawer and closet space with shelves everywhere, even hiding behind mirrors. We probably didn't find all the available space during our cruise.

A hanging shoe bag would have been useful as well as a hanging laundry bag. I had a packing cube from the trip that I emptied and used for laundry but it kept getting buried under other clothes. Something hanging would have been easier to find.

The shoe bag would have been good for housing all those incidentals that take up valuable counter space (i.e. suntan lotion, combs, lotions, brushes, etc.). I'll have to remember that next time.

The cabins have excellent sound insulation. When I turned off the announcements, we could barely hear them out in the hall. Hearing about bingo from "Anna Banana" got old fast.

RCTV provides numerous movie channels, as well as cartoon, music, sports, and news channels. Closed circuit TV also provided a view from the bridge, and televised shipboard activities. Those were nice so we could see shows we missed. For some reason, we also had an all-Ozzie and Harriet station. We mostly watched movies on Turner Classics or TNT. Booking of shore excursions, and onboard credit activity can be accessed directly from the TV. I ended up checking my online balance nearly every day - then heading to Guest Relations to get credits on something or other.

The bathroom is a good size for a ship. I have been on ships with much smaller bathrooms aka heads. The shower is small but its curved glass door is great and makes it seem bigger than it really is. The shower door had an interesting etched pattern that was pleasing to look at. The shower also has a retractable clothesline which I discovered the very last day. Shampoo was available from a pump in the shower. Next time, I'll take my own and cream rinse.

Having the balcony added greatly to our relaxation and enjoyment. It also increased the living space in our cabin. We were able to use it for starting the day with our room service breakfasts, my coffee and it offered a nice quiet place to sit and read a book or knit. We also took lots of pictures from the balcony.

Adjustable reading lights above the beds were very handy. In addition to the main light by each bed, there is a smaller built in reading light. The provided hair dryer (I found it in a desk drawer!) utilizes its own special outlet, keeping the other 2 electrical outlets free for other use so I could keep my computer, iPod and phone charged. A full size privacy curtain separates the sitting area from the beds could be drawn across the entire width of the cabin. We only used that a time or two but it was a nice feature.

We went to the Solarium (Deck 11) for embarkation rather then out on deck because it was raining outside. We took pictures anyway (one of them at left) then had a snack at the 24/7 Promenade Cafe (Deck 5) and looked at some of the shops on the Royal Promenade.

We went to the first show at 7:45 PM. It was a "Welcome Aboard Show Spectacular" with a comedian, Robbie Printz, comedy juggler, Paul Demuzio and the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers and highlights of upcoming cruise.

We went to dinner at The Sound of Music on Deck 5 at 8:45. We had the second seating, normally at 8:30 but later this evening because of the one seating show. The Sound of Music is the top of three connected dining rooms. The other two are Rhapsody in Blue and Top Hat & Tails. The Sound of Music has a huge chandelier and a nice curvy staircase that goes through all three restaurants.

At our table were 2 couples from Atlanta. One of the couples works in aviation, maintaining private planes for Waffle house. The other man is school bus driver (Harry). Harry's mother was secretary for the founder of Waffle House when he used to work for Toddle House. Small world!

I had wonderful prime rib, horseradish, baked potato, onion quiche with red pepper coulis, chocolate cake with cherries.

Back to our cabin and our luggage hadn't arrived. Back to Guest Relations at 10:30PM. They didn't know where the bags were. They gave us 2 tshirts for the night and toothbrushes, razor, etc. Tamara, the Guest Relations person who was stuck with us, promised to let us use rental gowns for formal night. AACK! The Island A-Go-Go Bon Voyage Parade was going on during all the paperwork and I only saw a bit of the end as the parade participants were going down the stairs.

In the parade there were clowns, stilt walkers, dancers, members of the show in various costumes, a couple of singing groups and much more. Amazing on a cruise ship!

A couple hours later someone else went back to their cabin and they had all their luggage plus ours. The guy at the dock had transposed the inner numbers on the luggage tags. Always check the luggage tags!

So, all was well and we were unpacking at 1 am.

What a peaceful sleep at last.

Today's Stats:
Forecast: Partly Cloudy 83 degrees
Sunrise: 7:06 am
Sunset: 7:40 pm

Day Two, April 7, 2008: At Sea

I slept really well, only got up once. The beds are really comfortable with nice blankets and big pillows. Susan got up early (for me!) and was showered and dressed before I got up. We'd ordered room service for breakfast and that arrived and Susan went out to get tickets for ice show. I got dressed and by then she was back so we had our in-room breakfast. Yummy!

We sat out on the balcony for a long time, just relaxing, drinking coffee, Susan knitting, watching the sea go by. It's so peaceful except for the occasional intercom announcement about bingo, art auctions, port-of-call deals, Inch of Gold and other stuff. I found how to turn those announcements off.

Then another nap. Today was a very lazy day.

Mariner of the SeasThe ship (definitly not boat!), the Mariner of the Seas, is amazing - huge, clean, exciting, fun and much larger than last year's Celebrity ship for my Alaskan cruise. Everywhere there's something to look at, something happening.

The Mariner of the Seas has a total length of 1,020 feet, a weight of 138,000 tons and a capacity to hold 3,114 passengers. Our trip was full, and 900 of those 3,114 passengers were children! The kids had a 1 am curfew and weren't supposed to be in the elevators alone but we often had kids with no parents sharing the ride.

Ship Statistics Name: Mariner of the Seas
Registry: Bahamas
Builder: Kvaerner Masa-Yards
Country Built In: Finland
Ship Completed Date: 11/16/2003
Christened By: Jean Driscoll
Call Letters: C6FV9
Capacity: 3114
Number of Crew, Nationality: 1185, International
Gross Tonnage: 142,000
Average Speed: 22 knots
Maximum Speed: 22 knots
Length: 1021 feet
Beam: 155.5 feet
Number of Passenger Decks: 14
Number of Inside Rooms: 480
Number of Outside Rooms: 1077
Number of Restaurants: 5
Number of Pools: 3
Number of Elevators: 4
Voltage: 110/220 AC
Non-Smoking Dining: Yes
Non-Smoking Ship: No

Here's what the deck plans look like.

We did a bit of shopping on the promanade and Susan got an evening purse for only $15.00 and I got some earrings.

It was formal night for dinner so I took a shower and dressed up. Susan was ready first so she went to have her picture done.

Johnny FaevelenI got to the Royal Promenade in time for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception. In the center of the Promenade deck was an overhead bridge that reached across to both walls. The captain, Johnny Faevelen, gave his speech from there and then introduced his staff. Captain Johnny told how many people were from each country and other stats.

Johnny Faevelen is very personable with a great sense of humor and you can tell he enjoys it when he is introduced like Ed McMahon introduced Johnny Carson. You remember..."Heeeeeere's Johnny!" That's the way Captain Johnny was introduced throughout the cruise and that's the way he introduced himself when he made an announcement over the P.A. system but with his Norwegian accent it sounded like "Here ist Johnny". Each announcement would start with "Good morning, Good morning, Good morning," or "Good afternoon, Good afternoon, Good afternoon" and so on.

Captain Johnny grew up in Sandnessjoen, a small town on an island off the coast of northern Norway. As a boy, he devoted all of his free time working on his father's 50-foot shrimp trawler where he developed a love for the sea.

After completing his military service in the Royal Norwegian Navy, Johnny joined royal Caribbean International's Song of Norway as an Ordinary Seaman. He later joined the Norwegian Navel Academy to study navigation and ship's handling. After spending a period of time sailing around the globe as a Navigation Officer and Captain on oil, ore, car and lumber carriers, Johnny returned to Royal Caribbean International and was ultimately promoted to Captain in 1994.

In 1998, Johnny was appointed to the position of Start-up Captain for all of the Voyager class ships. Captain Johnny's biography, "From a Fisherman to the Captain on the Biggest Cruise Ship in the World," was published. In 2002, he also wrote "The Captain - Johnny Faevelen". I bought a copy of this book on amazon.com. It hasn't arrived yet, but I think it will be fascinating reading!

When he's not being Master on one of the world's largest and most beautiful cruise ships, Captain Johnny enjoys spending time with his family, riding his Harley Davidson and playing golf.

To read the article shown at left about Captain Johnny, it's on page 14 of this PDF file

My formal picture(Click for larger image)
Getting into dinner was slow as photographers took pictures of people going in. Sometimes there were several different poses taken. I ran into Harry and Bobette and we finally decided to skip the line and go eat.

I had duck and the assistant head waiter cut the bones out for me! During dinner, it was revealed that both the men made handmade pens. Harry had some of his with him - absolutely beautiful! A discussion about wood and lathes ensued. What are the odds that at your table will be two couples from Atlanta and each of them includes a penmaker? This was the last time we saw the other couple at dinner.

We went to the 10:45 show, Front Row, starring the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. They did Hollywood, Las Vegas and Broadway songs and dancers. Neither Susan nor I recognized most of the songs.

Back in the cabin, I tried and tried and could not get the CyberCabin working. Very aggravating. It appeared that the wireless would work in our cabin but I didn't yet have a user name or password.

We were going to go to the late night show with the comedian from the first night, Robbie Printz, but we were too tired by 12:15 am and didn't make it.

Today's Stats:
Forecast: Partly Cloudy 80 degrees
Sunrise: 6:51 am
Sunset: 7:13 pm

Day Three, April 8, 2008: Labadee, Haiti

We had room service for breakfast again - this is getting to be a habit. The only problem today was that they tried to foist off instant coffe on me. Major Yuck!

I tried one last time to get Cybercabin working. Susan tried. Nothing. Off to Guest Relations for a credit. I gave them back their big box and extra phone.

Labadee, HaitiWe went on the tender to Labadee. Labadee is a port located on the northern coast of Haiti.

Labadee, HaitiAttractions include a Haitian flea market (didn't go - we were told we had to bargain and I didn't feel comfortable with doing that), at least three beaches that I saw from the ship, watersports like parasailing (left), as well as a waterpark for the kids, and the popular zip-line aka Dragon's Breath Flight Line.

We were told that the zip-line was very expensive, something like $60 each and you had to pay for a taxi ride to the top of the hill. Looked like fun but not at that cost.

We pulled some reclining chairs under an almond tree and watched people do the zip-line, swim and get sunburned. We had some lovely drinks of mango and other tropical fruits (mine had a shot of rum!) in a reusable souvenir cup. Other people pulled chairs into the nice shade so we were trend-setters!

We were right by the First Aid Station. Lots of people cut their feet on coral and had jellyfish stings. It seemed that, no matter what the accident, the cure was vinegar spray. I wonder if that would work for Cushing's! LOL. I'm so glad we were napping and watching only!

There are provisions for the handicapped to enjoy this port of call. Sand wheelchairs with huge rubber wheels are readily available for use.

After a so-so barbecue lunch, we took the tender back. The tender hit the side of the ship coming back - oh, well! No Lloyd's Open Form!

Small nap - of course! Dinner was "smart casual" and Italian food. I had lamb shank that was wonderful. The meat fell right off the bone - no outside help required. The waiters and staff marched through the dining room to the The Godfather Waltz (Connie's Wedding Dance) by Nino Rota then lined up on the stairs through the three dining rooms and sang O Sole Mio. No actual Italians in the group!

We talked to Doni, our waiter, quite a bit after dinner about life on the cruise ship and how it compared to life in India. More on that later.

Bobby ArvonTonight's entertainment was before dinner, at 7:00 PM. We saw singer / impressionist / pianist, Bobby Arvon, the man who sang the original Happy Days Theme. He was wonderful and put on a very professional show!

Bobby is a high energy performer who captivated the audience-singing, rollicking at the piano, doing comic impressions and performing some of his original songs. We found ourselves caught up in the excitement of Bobby’s show singing along, clapping hands, stomping feet, and just having a great time. Bobby's wife, Judy, was also in the audience.

We went up to the library. No books that I wanted to check out since I wasn't getting very far with the first of the three I'd brought. The library is a fantastic place to sit and watch the Royal Promanade from comfortable leather seats.

Susan knitted and I finally got online. Amazing!

Today's Stats:
Forecast: 92 degrees
Sunrise: 6:37 am
Sunset: 7:10 pm

Day Four, April 9, 2008: Ocho Rios (eight rivers), Jamaica

We got up early and went to breakfast in Windjammer because we were going on a tour today and didn't have time for the luxury of eating on the balcony.

We got off the ship and down the long pier and on to our "air-conditioned" bus for tour of island. We did what was called the "Ocho Rios Flavors and Highlights Tour". The description of this tour reads:

"After departing the pier aboard air-conditioned buses, guests will enjoy a scenic drive through the resort town of Ocho Rios and out into the countryside...stopping at Fern Gully, where guests will have an opportunity to gaze at the former course of a rushing river of old...Shaw Park Gardens is the next stop and here guests will be provided with panoramic views of the Ocho Rios are and sea...Explore the many attractions to be found along the winding pathways or sit by one of the cascading waterfalls, numerous wonderful photo opportunities to be enjoyed at Shaw Park Tropical Gardens...Then its on to climb the falls at Dunn's River or may watch others do so from one of the many viewing platforms located along the climb. Transportation is then provided back to the cruise ship pier or optional shopping within walking distance of the pier."

Well... it was 83 and very humid. The air conditioning on the bus didn't keep up. In the Fern Gully it was much cooler, I think 30 degrees cooler, and so our guide, Shereka (sp?) said we should open the windows of the bus. We could smell marijuana burning somewhere. At the little craft shops along the way we saw stilt men and/or donkeys covered in flowers, a way to attract attention for the vendors. The were probably also the ones burning the marijuana.

Shaw Park GardensShaw Park Gardens is situated high on a hilltop overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea. It was beautiful but many steps down that hilltop - and many back up. It was very difficult in the heat. One woman had a cane and another had a knee replacement within the year. I had trouble with my arthritis and Susan had adrenal insufficiency issues. She got back up the stairs first and they gave her water and a fan but she felt like she might pass out. Not good :(

A sparkling waterfall cascades down a rocky course with luxurious tropical flowers and plants everywhere. We took lots of pictures here, all of which are available in the sideshow.

I was all set to buy the DVD of this trip but the guy didn't take credit cards. He suggested I go back to the ship, get money and bring it to the end of the pier at 2:30 - no way! When I get back onboard, that's it!

The exchange rate here is $1 US to 65 Jamaican dollars. Shereka passed around some Jamaican money on the bus so we could see what that looked like and told us a bit about Jamaican culture. Like Barbados, the kids wear uniforms to school. That brought a cheer from others on the bus.

Shereka taught us some Jamaican phrases such as Ya Mon. "Mon" can represent every person in Jamaica—man, woman, and child and they say this like it's one word - yamon. No problem...they only have 'situations".

Aside from the Arawak Indians, the original inhabitants of Jamaica, all residents were exiles or children of exiles. Most of the people living in Jamaica today are descendants of slaves brought from western Africa by the British. When the Jamaicans are talking amongst themselves, they often speak Patois which was developed as a mixture of African, English and Creole. Patois was used by the slaves so that they couldn't be well understood by their masters.

We were advised not to buy or rent anything from independent vendors due to "unfamiliar environments, questionable personal protection devices and unknown maintenance of equipment". This will be a recurring warning throughout the trip.

Dunns River FallsDunns River Falls, a short bus ride from Ocho Rios, had huge stairs, too. Susan stayed outside the entrance in the shade but I thought I'd give it a try.

This is a beautiful waterfall but it is way too commercialized and way too many people everywhere. I got separated from our group somehow very early on and never found them again until back at the bus. There were so many people there, some climbers in a human chain, some watchers like me.

I went to the first photo op vantage point, took pictures and a short movie then started back. It seemed so far back up those stairs and it was so hot. I allowed half an hour to get back up just in case I had to stop a lot. I also took extra cortisone "just in case". I got back up early and it took the driver and guide a while to get there so we were standing around in the sun / little shade for a while. Some guy tried to give us carved wooden turtles. I'm sure that there would have been an eventual cost!

Dunn's River Falls empties into the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the very few rivers in the world that actually fall directly into the sea. The waterfalls are staggered and span some 600 feet, several small lagoons exist interspersed between the vertical sections of the falls. Parts of the James Bond movie Dr. No were filmed at the Falls, including a scene of Ursula Andress walking onto the beach.

Later, back in Florida, Susan would ask me my favorite part of the trip. She laughed when I said "Leaving Jamaica!".

Finally got back on the Mariner. Air conditioning - yay! Lunch at Windjammer followed by a nap, of course.

We went to dinner and were thinking about going to the 10:45 Love & Marriage Game Show hosted by cruise director, Drew Devine, but were just too tired from the day and knew that we could watch that later on RCTV. The first group sees the ice show tonight so there is no music/comedy show.

Dinner dress was "smart casual" again or "colorful Caribbean attire" and I never had a clue what these designations were so I wore a black culotte outfit with bright flower pattern and some sequins here and there - kinda "colorful Caribbean", I guess!

I tried several times to get online with my new user name and password on my laptop in the cabin but got nowhere.

Susan says:

"As Captain Johnny says every day......Good evening, good evening, good evening!

Mary and I are here in the Western Caribbean having a wonderful time. This is a very special cruise: first, I retired as of Monday, 3/31/08 and secondly, this is my gift to MaryO as a thank you for all of the work that she does. If it were not for her, I probably would not be around. Her website brought me medical care after 27 years of facing the challenge of Cushings. HOORAY for MARYO!

Today we were in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Interesting. It was so hot and humid (UGH). We took a tour called 'Flavors of Jamaica'. The guided tour took us through the rain forest (fern gulley), the Shaw Park Gardens, and then to Dunn's River Falls (the main attraction in Ocho Rios). I had a bit of a challenge at the gardens with all the stairs and sat out at the falls. We were zonked out for a couple of hours back at the ship after all that activity!

Tomorrow we dock at the Grand Caymans and plan to just walk a round a bit. No formal tour or activities. Probably just as hot and humid! The last stop is Friday at Cozumel, Mexico. Looking forward to it.

This is an amazing trip on the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas. We have a balcony and one could find us there quite often enjoying the sea breezes and breakfast in our cabin. Most passengers try to fit in as many ship activities as possible....not us! We are trying NOT to fit in any ship activities and we haven't! Lots of rest, lots of sunshine to improve those vitamin D levels, and lots of good conversation with other passengers."

Today's Stats:
Forecast: Partly Cloudy 83 degrees
Sunrise: 6:54 am
Sunset: 7:26 pm

Day Five, April 10, 2008: George Town, Grand Cayman Island

More breakfast in the cabin - this is getting to be a habit! Real coffee again, all is well with the world.

Mary's legWe decided to take the tender to the pier George Town, Grand Cayman Island, right in the center of the Grand Cayman shopping district. Getting on the tender, I scraped my leg on one of the metal seats. Susan took a picture (at left), but I'm claiming that I was stung by a stingray. Don't tell my secret, ok?

George Town, Grand CaymanTwo Carnival ships are docked here today and there are lots of small boats in and out of the harbor. I took some pictures of container ships for Tom since those always interest him.

George Town is the capital of the Cayman Islands and offers Duty free and souvenir shopping with a vast selection of items to choose from. Several restaurants like Jimmy Buffet's Magaritaville and Hard Times Cafe are also nearby.

We went in several stores looking at Swarovski Crystal, sunglasses, Del Sol tshirts (they turn different colors in the sun), a bookstore where we got nice books with photos of this island that we could never have taken on our own. We ran into people we'd met on the ship. It was very crowded on the streets with the three ships in port.

After tendering back we went to the good old Windjammer for lunch. I had some form of Asian food every day for lunch and was in heaven. Yummy!

We decided that we didn't want to go to tonight's formal night - we were just too tired from the day, and the upcoming ice show, so we ate at Johnny Rockets about 5:00 and had burgers, tuna sandwiches, wonderful onion rings, fries and shakes.

Ice Under the Big TopTonight we got to use the tickets Susan got for the ice show - "Ice Under the Big Top". It was absolutely wonderful and amazing, especially on a cruise ship. 12 skaters performed a whole circus right before us, including a clown train with kids from the audience, "animals" and different types of flying. Each performer represents a different nation with different costumes. The show has a bit of everything and the costumes are incredible! This show was as good and as professional as any land ice show I've seen. This was the last show for this particular cast - the next cast is already on the ship and has been training for two weeks.

Pictures from this show can be seen at this website.

Since we weren't going to the formal dinner we went to the early show with The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers called "Pure Energy". This show features hits from the 1980s and was better then the first show.

I found that all those failed attempts to log in from the cabin were billed to the tune of $194.00. Back to Guest Relations for a credit. They're getting to know me too well there.

We finished up the evening with sandwiches, pizza and the nightly cookie from the Cafe Promenade.

We went up to the computer area so Susan could log on. I took my laptop and tried to log on there but couldn't. Guess what? I found that the attempts to log were billed to only $55.00. I went back to Guest Relations for a credit the next day. From this time only, I only logged on with their computers.
We saw that Love & Marriage Game Show on TV. One of the questions was "What is the first thing your husband reaches for after the alarm clock?". One answer that got lots of laughs was "Little Alex" from the 4-days married newlywed wife.

Today's Stats:
Forecast: Partly Cloudy 81 degrees
Sunrise: 7:11 am
Sunset: 7:47 pm

Day Six, April 11, 2008: Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, MexicoWe decided we probably should get off the ship just to say we were in Mexico. This was an interesting picture with the 4 boats of varying sizes. Next to us it the Holland America Vandeem, a Mexican official boat and a smaller white boat.

We went shopping in several of the stores in the terminal area. We both finally got better sunglasses than those we had brought. Those, and a new, colorful totebag came from a duty free shop. The tote was only $10 but a small bag Susan wanted was about $90.

We also got vanilla, tshirts, an small statue, earrings and another book in the various shops.

When having cool drinks in Senor Frogs, we saw Big Alex and his wife from the game show but didn't say that we heard about Little Alex.

We had thought about finding another Del Sol so Susan could do some shopping there but it was a cab drive away and we decided against that.

Even in the terminal, vendors were very aggressive. There was a drug store there that advertised, among other things, "estrogens" and Viagra. We didn't go in there.

Back on ship, we had lunch - you know where. More napping, shopping, the usual.

We skipped the before dinner show. It was with Ed Alonzo who bills himself as the "Misfit of Comedy". No thanks!

After another great dinner Harry, Bobette, Susan and I went to the Enchanted Nights Parade. Also, Tiffany and Ken sang songs. Both are singers with The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. Interestingly, both female singers are named Tiffany!

I got a notice on my bed that I needed to return that CyberCabin, the one I returned several days ago, or face a $200.00 fine.

Susan says:

"Good afternoon!

Here's our Thursday / Friday report out from the Western Caribbean. Yesterday we were at The Grand Cayman island and today we docked at Cozumel, Mexico. Both were interesting, but in different ways!

At the Grand Caymans, we did a bit a shopping, but not much more. We learned the hard way not to take the excursions as they can be physically challenging.

Towel dog!Our daily picture for Thursday is with a bit of humor. For those who have cruised, you already know that every evening the cabin steward takes the towels (clean ones) from the bathroom and makes "a towel animal". We chuckle every evening when we come in and wonder what the next animal will be. For Thursday's animal, he was wearing my sun glasses!

Today at Cozumel, Mexico, it is for the water-sports oriented. Parasailing, scuba diving, visits to the Mayan ruins (been there before), etc. We walked from the boat down a lengthy pier, browsed some shops where we made some modest purchases, had a cool beverage at Senior Frogs, and then walked back. We never left the boat terminal!

Did you know that the carribean is known for it's vanilla? They produce the dark verison that we all are aware of for cooking, but did you know there is a clear version as well? I saw it for the first time today. We both bought vanilla to take home to family and friends --- so inexpensive here!

Senor FrogsHere's Friday's Cozumel's picture. It's the place where we enjoyed that tall, cool beverage! With weather everyday in the mid-to-high 80's, we needed that!

Happy Friday, everyone. We have another two days and are getting ready to come home. It's been a long, relaxing trip and one that we will remember for a lifetime. Look for tomorrow's picture!

PS: We ran into the pirates at Grand Cayman. MaryO had her picture taken with them, but we survived!

Today's Stats:
Time: Cozumel is one hour behind ship's time. We stayed on ship's time for the entire cruise.
Forecast: Partly Cloudy 86 degrees
Sunrise: 7:30 am
Sunset: 8:05 pm

Day Seven, April 12, 2008: At Sea

The Mariner CrewThere were so many things to do onboard today. I wanted to learn steel drums but it coincided with Mariner Live: Captain's Corner, so we went to that and Susan even asked a question about what the crew did for fun. It was a fascinating session and we learned several things.

One question was about anchoring the ship. It seems that in Grand Cayman we were just staying put due to GPS and azipods. This is called dynamic positioning. The captain just entered in the longitude and latitude of where he wanted us to be and we stayed put.

Dynamic positioning is a computer controlled system which automatically maintains the ship's position and heading by using her own propellers and thrusters. Position reference sensors, combined with wind sensors, motion sensors and gyro compasses, provide information to the computer pertaining to the vessel's position and the magnitude and direction of environmental forces affecting its position. A most amazing feat!

Another question was about fresh water production. The ship has three ways in which to produce fresh water: Two Alfa Laval Desalt Flash and Energy Recovery Evaporators and one Pall Rochem sea-water desalination unit (reverse osmosis) "Rosmarin". We learned that laundry is done with condensation from the air conditioning unit.

Other questions were about how acts got on the show, crew living conditions, how crew was hired, how hard it was to dance / skate onboard.

We learned that the dancers dressed the ice skaters and vice versa.

A question was asked about a man who was rumored to have missed the ship in Grand Cayman. Turned out that was true and he hitched a ride with a Carnival cruise on the same route and met up with us again in Cozumel. A good thing - there was no flight between the two countries and without Carnival, he'd have had to fly to the states at his own expense.

We next went to the Bolero's Latin Bar. Susan knitted and I did some errands. I went back to the photo gallery to pick up a photo I'd bought, the one near the top of this page of us embarking the ship. Then back to Guest Relations to remind them that I had long returned the CyberCabin and wanted no $200.00 fine.

Susan knitted some more and I watched the towel folding demonstration. The professionals and volunteers from the audience made monkeys, elephants, sting rays, lobsters, pigs and more from towels. I got a brochure so maybe I'll try this sometime - or not!

During lunch - you know where - and Bobette and Harry joined us. There was a helicopter circling and circling. Captain Johnny said that someone had gotten hurt in Cozumel and was being airlifted by Coast Guard to Key West for more fuel and on to Miami for possible surgery. He said he'd update us on her condition but that was the last "official" word we got.

After lunch, I went on a guided backstage tour of the Savoy Theater. That was most interesting. They answered lots of questions, showed us lights, how the rigging and backdrops moved, and how the floor moved up and down in different areas. The stage manager has quite a difficult job keeping track of everything. He said he had a computer but it wasn't reliable enough for a live show.

Finally, I put on one of the bathing suits I'd brought and we went up to the Solarium (no kids allowed). I went in the hot tub and Susan knitted. After the wonderful hot tub, I finished the first of my three books. Hooray!

We went back to the cabin to pack. We got that done, and the stuff outside the cabin by 7:00 although we had until midnight.

At dinner, Harry said that he'd heard in the casino that the airlifted young woman had been riding a motor scooter in Cozumel and had been hit by a taxi. It was said that she had a broken leg and pelvis. Sounds painful, if true.

The tipping thing was weird. Susan had prepaid so they gave us vouchers that we put in envelopes and handed to each individual staff member.

There was so much we didn't do but we had a nice, relaxing time and did enough for our energy level. This was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime gift that I'll never forget. Thanks again to Susan for making this happen and inviting me along for the cruise!

Sunset at SeaService on the Mariner was consistently outstanding from our cabin steward (Steven) to wait staff. Onboard crew remembered names, preferences. At dinner, our assistant waiter, Suterman from Indonesia, automatically brought me coffee. The first night I'd had medium rare prime rib. Near the end of the cruise our waiter, Doni from India, remembered the "medium rare" part when I ordered strip steak.

The Mariner of the Seas is a one of the newer "Voyager Class" ships. It was commissioned in November of 2003. Mariner was very clean and with a very colorful décor, sort of an art deco or retro look. Our area of the ship had railroad murals and artwork.

Despite its size, Mariner of the Seas just didn't feel that big although the elevators were often a longish-wait. Often the buttons were sticky thanks to all those kids onboard. The ship's design makes every effort to create a smaller-ship feel. What was fun about discovering Mariner was that you could pretty much divide the ship into neighborhoods, such as the Royal Promenade and the shows / dining area. Except for the elevators, we never really felt crowded.

Susan says:

"Greetings, everyone! This is our last post from the cruise.

We were at sea all day which is my favorite part! Around noontime, there was a young woman taken by helicopter to Key West and then Miami for surgery. My understanding is that she had an accident in Cozumel, Mexico and broke quite a few bones. The ship stopped this afternoon in the ocean while the helicopter came onto the helipad and then lifted off. Hope she is doing well.

It's been a bit hectic today as we are trying to get in as much as we are able to today. MaryO attended a towel-folding class this morning so she can learn to make those animals we see every evening. She then attended a guided backstage tour of the Savoy Theater ---- this was quite interesting. Our last session this morning was a Q&A with Captain Johnny. I asked the last question of the session --- What does the captain do for fun on the ship? This evening we saw a video of the session and it was fun to see the replay.

There was a hot tub visit (for MaryO), a soft desk chair for me, some reading, and some knitting. We started packing this evening and finished before dinner. There ought to be an olympic sport for packing luggage. Somehow, I gained another suitcase while on this trip; I have never had so much 'stuff' with me on a trip.

Tomorrow, MaryO flies back to Virginia and I stay over in Orlando, FL for one more night. I leave Monday around noon and look forward to being home after being away so long. MaryO will post the Saturday picture after she returns home. (We have had many technical difficulties with her computer aboard ship.)

It's been great to share our trip with you. It was a trip that we won't forget for a long time to come. Take Care ---- signing off. SusanM

MaryO says:

"Susan about said it all for today!

What an amazing gift she has given me - I just cannot thank her enough for this wonderful trip.

I haven't been keeping up with my travelogue like I'd planned - I'm a couple days behind - but it will all be online sooner or later in addition to a sideshow of all the pictures. There are a couple short videos, too.

Thanks so much for making this happen, Susan! WooHoo!

Today's Stats:
Forecast: Partly Cloudy 83 degrees
Sunrise: 6:58 am
Sunset: 7:44 pm

Day Eight, April 13, 2008: Port Canaveral, Florida...and Home

Disney docked next doorFor a ship of this size, the debarkation process was relatively seamless. We had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 am so we went to the Windjammer for breakfast and hauled our carry-on luggage. I waited with our stuff while Susan got her food. I was looking out the window and noticed rain...and remembered my raincoat in the closet. So I went back to the cabin and got that.

After breakfast, we could go to any public area or on deck so we went to a quiet deck and sat. There was a Disney ship next to us, as seen in Susan's picture, and a Carnival ship across the way.

We wondered why we couldn't hear all the announcements and it turned out that some were for Carnival people not us!

They called out luggage tag group and we were off the ship by about 9:30, cleared customs and found our shuttle back to Orland Airport.

The shuttle dropped us right off at Susan's Hyatt Hotel that she had booked for the night. It was right in the airport.

We did a little shopping and had lunch. Back in Susan's room I took a nap while she watched a movie. We had an early dinner and I went to catch my flight back to reality. Much more pleasant than hanging around the airport waiting area.

Post Cruise:

April 16 2008 Susan says:

OK, I fess up, those were my feet (in the sideshow). I was attempting to do an 'artistic' picture, but didn't quite turn out that way. Oh, well!

LisaMK, you are absolutely correct. I was sick on the boat on Saturday with a fever, came home on Monday with 101 fever and body aches. Tuesday, I couldn't get out of bed, and today going to see the doc. I haven't been this sick in quite a while.

My optimism gets me in trouble sometimes when I think I can do more than I really can. I did too much on this trip and now paying the price. The only thing I would do differently is not go into the port cities. I try very hard to be normal, but wasn't so successful this time!

Take care everyone.

PS: MaryO, love the slide show. THANKS for putting it together.

April 16 2008 MaryO says:

Oh no! I hope you got good news from the doctor!

When I got home on Monday and started doing the mountains of laundry, the washing machine and kitchen sink overflowed and there was that to clean up, I dumped a lot of Liquid Plumber in there! I'm assuming that I'll have to call in for professional help from Roto Rooter.

In the afternoon, I was checking my online banking - something I do every day, but not on this trip because it was an unsecured network - and found that someone had used my debit card for games in England. I was on hold with the bank for 2 hours.

Now all the police reports start.

Then, Tom was finishing taxes. My part, and printing troubles, took until 4 am. So... yesterday I had a massive headache, upset stomach and I overslept my nap and missed bell rehearsal last night. Apparently one of the groups I ring in is ringing Sunday and they had lots of trouble with me missing.

I thought I was maybe catching what Susan had because I was feeling so hot yesterday afternoon. Today seems better, though.

So - this is real life LOL I'm just not used to it anymore.

I have started putting up my cruise experience one day at a time on my blog and when it's all done, it will be on a single page, too. (this is it - you're reading it!)

There are about 20 bios to catch up on, 10 PMs, other email and a new doctor or two so I'll be busy for a while!

I was supposed to see my counselor today but she's in the hospital so I'm catching up on the iTunes / podcast stuff from last week's VoiceChats, working on this cruise review page. I did a bit of laundry after the Liquid Plumber and that seemed ok so, maybe that worked.

I'm feeling so behind on everything and so overwhelmed with real life.

Feel better soon, Susan! Thanks again for this wonderful gift.

Thanks for reading!
For those who said they were interested, here's the journal of the cruise. http://www.cushingsonline.com/cruise/cruise.htm

If you're just interested in the pictures, those are here in slideshow format: http://www.cushingsonline.com/cruise/cruise2008.html

The couple who we sat with at dinner sent along 3 other pictures that I haven't yet added to the journal.

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