Jim & June's Odyssey 100111 - Miami, FL
About this blog
MIAMI, Florida - Our ship was berthed at Port of Miami on Dodge Island. So were six other cruise ships! The other side of the island is where freighters and their container yards are located - the whole area is a beehive of activity - thousands of vehicles leaving, others coming, offloading passengers, luggage and cargo. And yet, the check-in process was a breeze - very friendly and cheerful AND, we didn't trip over any of their legendary huge wharf rats.
About the Ship: · Our 11 night trip was called the "Ultimate Caribbean & Panama Cruise" aboard Royal Caribbean Line's "Jewel of the Seas." At 105ft wide and 962ft long, it's a floating resort - it has 13 decks with ultra-modern, ultra-luxury, ultra-innovative features - an 8 storey high atrium, 5 glass-bubble elevators, solarium, mini golf course, fitness center, jasmine baths, message spa, basketball courts, rock climbing wall, hot-tubs, whirl pools, water park, casino, theater, 20 bars/lounges, 12 restaurants (classified as casual, smart casual & formal), shopping boutiques and, elegance. Lots of leather couches/chairs, massive chandeliers, lighted glass staircases and oak/maple/mahogany trim everywhere. · For kids, adventure themes include an aquanaut program, explorers group, destination art/history/culture/jungle science, meteorology, theater, whacky Olympics, pirate/buccaneer nights, treasure/scavenger hunts, pool parties, arcade challenges, movie nights, dance lessons, karaoke, and disco. They even have a fast food burger joint. · Every day, the staff publishes a brochure called the Cruise Compass. It's delivered our suite and outlines the activities for that particular day. Of course it is full of sales promotions of "Don't Wait", "Get Yours Now", "Special Offer", "Captains Club", excursion packages, etc, etc.....but it also informs its guests of its dining locations/schedules, beauty/therapy/demonstration/treatment sessions, activities, fitness classes, sports, TV programming, theater shows, dances, list of entertainers at various bars, seminars on photography, buying cameras, art collecting, jewel buying, casino games, playing bridge, bingo/trivia/bean bag games, Wii tournaments and health matters (on & off the ship). Once in a while there's even a bartenders recipe for a fancy tropical drink. Mmm-Mmm! · The evening dinners are staffed by too many people - there is a head waiter, a waiter, an assistant waiter, wine guy and the water guy. One of them will flap open the cloth napkin; place it on your lap and then take away the large plate that the napkin was laying on. If you drop a crumb on the table, someone else comes along with a flat piece of metal and scritches it off the tablecloth. Seems like somebody with a strong foreign accent is always doting over you or (politely and cheerfully) asking you something - they call it pampering. · Due to recent pandemic scares, everybody has to cleanse their hands with antiseptic soap before entering any restaurant. During photo-ops, the captain and his crew do not shake hands; all employees wear rubber gloves. · There are at least 8 bars where every bartender ensures that you remember their name. "Hi, my name is James - like James Bond." "Benjamin - like Franklin." In their spare time, they juggle stuff and they're very quick with a witty comment. One day, a liquor license plaque fell off the wall behind the bar. The startled barkeeper quickly added "It must have expired." · There is a large liquor store on the ship but you can't have it in your room, it will be given to you as you depart in Miami. Bottled booze is cheap but bar drinks are very expensive. · The pool area always has a live band playing reggae, calypso, Latino to remind us that we're in the Caribbean - perfect. · Every night the decks are swabbed and scrubbed clean so everything is wet, for a while. · There are over 1400 rooms on the ship but 200 are never sold. They're reserved for performers, maintenance workers and temporary help. The full-time staff members work 7 days a week, are on board for 6 months at a time and stay on Deck Zero - below water level. They come from 45 various countries and all return home for their 2 month vacation.
About the Trip: · From Miami, we cruised at 19.2 knots (23 mph) for the first two days - first through the Windward Channel (between Cuba and the Haiti) and then towards Aruba, 1100 miles away. We set our clocks ahead 1 hour. · Most of the pier shopping facilities at various ports are owned by the cruise lines. · Throughout the ship, there are signs advising to "Save the Wave" - meaning, don't throw garbage into the ocean. · A New York couple (Josef & Rachael) couldn't believe that we live on the edge of wilderness and were absolutely astounded to discover that we have radio stations, TV, read newspapers, have several cities in excess of 1 million people, have a Canadian football league, raise our own chickens/turkeys/beef/buffalo/pork and that we typically hunt deer/elk/moose. Sometimes we track our prey several hours to get a clean shot and then pursue for several more if the animal is wounded. When they started eating their prepackaged Kosher food, I had to ask them "What makes it Kosher." He explained that the animal has to be slaughtered during a religious ceremony presided over by a Rabbi and the animal can not suffer during the process. Ooops! Their world is the Jewish community on Long Island, that's it, period. They sort of heard about Toronto (only because it has a pro basketball team) but know the exact location of every village in the West Bank (but they don't call it that, they use various biblical names). They're also terrified of being outside their community and constantly asked us if we were scared to be alone on the road or in a RV park - all of their travels terminate at a hotel in another city, they've never gone camping. Amazingly, they explained that if someone at our table was eating pork, they would have left the room. There was a lot to discuss, so, as usual, we were the last to leave the restaurant, again. · On our first day at sea, June and I commented about the short but significant "roll" of the ship at the precise moment that all of the lights went out for about 1 minute. Within minutes, the captain was on the ship-wide speaker system reassuring us that a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti just as were passing its shores - they haven't had one in 50 years. We were also reassured that a Tsunami was not expected - we were not going to capsize. Whew!! For the next several hours, CNN broadcast a special about the region we were traversing and explained potential rescue scenarios, if required. We were the closest ship.
June's Comments: Everybody is assigned a table for the duration of the cruise so our dining companions were a Jewish couple from Long Island NY, an Orthodontist from Tampa and her aunt. We laughed at his Nassau County accent and he laughed at ours, eh? Everybody says we sound Scottish. We had very interesting conversations with all of them and it is very interesting to see where they came from and how they live. I was concerned about getting seasick and sure enough, I was feeling a little whoozy when the ship started to move. I took a few gravol pills and put on the wrist "seabands" that the pharmacist recommended and instantly felt better.