Monday, December 27, 2021

Practice Cruise AAR

 So...There I was....* Galveston, Texas, Mrs. J and I, about to embark on Liberty of the Seas for a 7 day cruise of the Western Caribbean with port calls at Roatan Honduras, Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico and three sea days.  Just the two of us (and about 2000 other passengers, capacity is 3634, but still under WuFluLu restrictions), Mrs J had received 2 "free" tickets by signing up with a travel agent organization.  


Yes, Beans, "free" is a misnomer.  The tickets were free, but we still had to pay all the other charges.  Essentially it was one free ticket and one normal price when it all worked out. Still, not a bad deal.

She decided we needed to go on this so we could experience what ever WuFluLu** is in force on a cruise. We would be better able to advise the guests going on our two upcoming wine cruises Mid-January and Mid-February.  That goal was a success. 

And, other than a fairly rocky start, we had a good time and gained a lot of useful info on cruising under current conditions. 

We traveled to Galveston the night before departure.  Traffic headed towards Houston is always crowded, and unpredictable, so didn't want to arrive on the day of departure.  Had a nice dinner at Landry's Seafood and an early turn in.

Got up the next morning and headed towards the ship around lunch. That was when the festivities began.  I've got a silk neck gaiter on, covering my mouth and nose.  Haven't needed it much around the house, but that's my go to when I've got to play the game.  Well...I get stopped by one of the Port Authority people and told that my "mask" is not acceptable. Then starts the "gummint shoeclerk" rant and rave.  

I'm dangerously close to turning around and leaving when one of the Ship's crewmembers walks up and hands me a paper mask.  The crewmember leads Mrs. J and I to our next station leaving the shoe clerk sputtering behind us.  

That next station happened to be travel documents.  I've got my documents, including my credit card sized passport in my wallet.  I present them to the agent and get waved through.  Mrs. J is thumbing through her purse and wallet looking for something.  She can't find the special wallet where she'd placed her passport for the trip. I talk to the custom's guys to let me go back out and check if it's fallen out in the truck.  They OK that.

While I'm headed back out to the truck, Mrs. J is evaluating options.  Turns out, a Birth Certificate, even a photocopy thereof, is good enough to prove citizenship and allow entry.  Mrs. J calls my Sister who lives on our property and talks her through getting a copy of the Birth Certificate E-mailed to her.

Turns out, that was a good idea, as after close inspection of our truck, I could not find her passport.  So...Lesson Learned #1.  Bring both the credit card sized passport and the regular passport and a photocopy of your Birth Certificate, when exiting the country.  Don't put them all in one place. 

With Birth Certificate photocopy in hand, we complete the boarding process and make our way toward our room.  At the elevators, we encounter a sign saying elevators are limited to 5 guests or one group of people traveling together. There are 12 available elevators,  AKA 60 people at a time, 60 into 2000 people = 30+ trips per elevator to transport all passengers.   Fortunately, our stateroom was only 3 floors above the boarding deck.

That 5 person rule very quickly evolved into "Group traveling together".  I mean, we were in the same elevator which is a group, it travels up and down, and we are together, therefore....

Got to our stateroom, unpacked the bags and sat out on our balcony until sail time when we made our way to the Olive or Twist Lounge.  Get it?

Had to laugh at this Lady's Outfit.

  If you don't speak Fighter Pilot, well Sarge will have to relax the rules to explain what that expression is in non-Fighter Pilot-ese.  Suffice it to say the first two words are "What the...".   She hadn't known what the acronym stood for.  Mrs. J tactfully explained it to her. 
They ended up joining us for a couple of drinks laughing about it.  Saw her several more times on the cruise, never in that blouse however.

The next afternoon, the Captain gets on the intercom and announces that we are making an unscheduled stop in Cozumel to off load a passenger with medical issues beyond the ship capacity to handle. Ruh-Roh!  The ship docks, the passenger and her companion are disembarked and the ship sets sail again.

That evening at dinner, the maitre' d seats us at a 4 top and then comes back and asks if we'd mind moving to a 2 top right next to where we were sitting.  Pretty soon a guy is seated there by himself.  I overhear him tell the waiter that his table mates had been the two some that left the ship and were admitted to a hospital.

A couple of days at sea passed without incident. I read and worked on tanning my legs.

Finally we pulled in to Roatan, Honduras.  We didn't have any excursions planned, but per our mission statement, we got off the boat to see what the WuFluLu level was in this port.  Yes, this did mean visiting the duty free shop and checking out liquid refreshment pricing.  (Pretty good actually, however we couldn't get a straight answer on how much we could bring back with us.  Turns out it's a gallon each.  Important info for next cruises.)  Other than that, we didn't see anyone from Roatan wearing facemasks and not many of the passengers either.


Back on the boat, next stop was  Costa Maya, which is a Royal Caribbean built port.  Wandered about a bit. Prices were high, choice was limited, but they did have an interesting "floor" show.

They climbed up to the top of the pole, wrapped the rope around the top, got the platform rotating, then wrapped the rope around their legs and gradually lowered themselves head first to the ground all while playing their instruments.  

I got dizzy watching. And felt the need for an adult recreational beverage.

I thought the local limeade would be tasty.  I wasn't wrong.  Yes, Beans, they added something to the drink to kill any bugs that might be in it.    I think they named it after somebody named Margie or Rita or something.

Back on board, it's dress up night.  Even the crew got in on the game.

They also had a subtle way of thumbing their nose at "the rules".

The little button has a picture of him without a mask.  All the service crew had it.  Subtle way of communicating "I'll comply because I need the job, but this is dumb."

That evening at dinner, the maitre' d seats us next to the guy whose table mates had been the two some that left the ship.  We chatted with him for a bit and asked how his friend was doing.  He said "Not Well, she needs a transfusion, but there didn't appear to be any of her blood type available."  We asked and he answered "O negative".  

I glanced at Mrs. J.  She happens to be that blood type.  She mentioned that to him and offered to donate if needed.  He said he'd contact them.  However, we, not being related to her, could not get any info on where she was being hospitalized.  Unfortunately, before we got back into Cozumel, she had passed with a ruptured Aorta.

We didn't go into Cozumel, per se, just stayed in the port facilities, had a burger and margarita at Jimmy B's place (Yes, Beans, Margaritaville.) and watched the floor show.

Then we headed back to Galveston.  On arrival and clearing customs (no problem with Birth Certificate only), picked up the truck and headed out.  Hadn't reached Houston yet when we both decided  to swing by and spend some time with MBD, SIL and hold MG our Grand Daughter.  

Two months old.  

Good and Bad, Happy and Sad, Life goes on.

Taken from our back porch, Christmas Day.  I think I'll name this picture "The Lord's Eagle".

Have a Happy New Year, y'all!

Correction! I was wrong about vaxxed/unvaxxed passengers.  I based my assumption that there were unvaxxed pax on board by the "Vaxxed only" signs in some areas of the ship.  Mrs J, when she read this post corrected me.  The ONLY unvaxxed passengers were those under 5 years old.  I will ritually disembowel myself at my next opportunity.

*Standard Juvat Caveat

**Wuhan Flu Lunacy


  1. Seems that there is ALWAYS one "Where are ze papers pleaz?" types around not to mention the mask nazis everywhere. Looks like you folks had a good fact-finding mission. Your granddaughter has that "Who dat, juvat" (OK Mrs. J but the rhyme) look going........:)

    1. Nylon,
      Yeah, I've had several run-ins with the custom and immigration people over the years. Seems they tend to hire a specific personality type.
      As to MG, yep, we hadn't seen her in about 3 weeks, it was amazing how much more aware she is now than was then.

  2. Good day I'll have to let my better half talk me into a cruise.


    1. Barry,
      Thanks, Cruising is pretty much fun, but you need to go on a cruise line that is oriented to your preferences. For Instance, Carnival is pretty much oriented to the "How drunk can I get and for how long?" crowd. Royal Caribbean is a step up from that, Celebrity one above them and SilverSea is VERY nice. Course, that's also the same ranking for increasing prices.
      We do enjoy them however.

  3. Hey Juvat;

    Thanks for the AAR, My wife who is a hard core Cruise person wants to go on a cruise so bad, but she don't want to get"the jab" to deal with the extra drama and the covidKarens. I was on a cruise where the U.S. Coast Guard sent a Helicopter to get a person off the ship because of medical reasons, never saw that before.

    1. That USCG life flight is one of the many reasons to stay within the US territorial waters (or at least the range of the Coasties.) Seen it on TV.

      Surprises me that more ships don't have a designated flat space to land or hover a helo over, but designers are more interested in water slides and maxing accommodations than silly things like a helo pad...

      But then again, most nations don't have good helo pilots or reliable helos or both, so, well, mixed bag on that one.

    2. Mr G. You don't have to be vaxxed to go on a cruise (or at least Royal Carib out of Galveston). Vaccinated people got a green armband that allowed them access to non-mask required venues. Non-vaccinated could go pretty much all over the ship otherwise, but were supposed to wear a mask. I don't think that was all that strongly enforced however.

    3. Beans,
      There wasn't a specified helo deck on board, but there were a couple of places that one could touch down after moving the lounge chairs of course.

    4. When I was in Hawaii at USCG Air Station Barbers Pt we once sent a helo on a cutter that went max speed to get just close enough to pick up a guy who needed urgent medical attention. The helo left the cutter as soon as it was in range of the sick guy, they picked him up and flew to a close island where we had a USCG HC-130 standing by to fly him back to Barbers Point.
      In Hawaii he got off the C-130, declined the waiting ambulance and went to the airport to get on a commercial flight to go see his doctor on the mainland...
      Eventually the cutter got close enough to the helo's island to recover it and they returned to Hawaii.

    5. Rob,
      Well that's gratitude for ya'. Hope he made it.

  4. Thank you for the after report, Juvat. To some extent the personnel on board wearing the masks reminds me of our tour in Costa Rica: companies enforce it by (essentially) put the employee's job at risk if they are not making sure the rules are enforced.

    The carrying of all the paperwork is a good call - I might suggest going one step further and having a back-up paper copy (I do this when I go to Japan on the off case I lose my passport and have to go to the US embassy for a new one. I over plan that much).

    How did you find the tour with the "extra level of protection"? For myself - at least in Costa Rica, where they were pretty strict about it - I actually found it to be inconveniencing enough to make me think hard about doing another tour (even the plane flights at this point are old, and those are only 5-6 hours by the time I am done the both airports.

    Grandchild picture is welcome, as always. Otherwise, we are all stuck with our unlovely mugs, which is is never a good thing.

    1. TB,
      The only place we really "Had" to wear masks were in the passageways. But we had been vaxxed, so were given a special armband that allowed us unmasked access to virtually everywhere else. I'm definitely not a fan of masks, but the policies in place were much less onerous than I thought they would be.
      I really did appreciate the humor in the unmasked buttons. Subtle, but still conveying feelings.

  5. That's leadership. Being out front. Good on you both. And your wife's compassion. What an amazing young lady. You can tell a lot about people by their friends. Sad news about the lady. That's a tough one.

    Things like that remind me of a couple movie characters. Doc Holliday being amused at dying in a bed after the crazy, death wish life he lived. And the main character in Biloxi Blues talking about the Imperial Marines. I can understand wanting my death to mean something. To be spent on something that counts, not just wasted on myself. It's a romanticist type notion, I guess. My brand of cowboy ethics...

    That last picture, THAT day died gloriously. How beautiful, wow.

    1. STxAR,
      We didn't know what her health issue was until we got the news of her passing. We were under the impression that a transfusion would suffice. I'm not a Doctor, nor have I played one on TV, but I'd think a ruptured aorta would be "Bad", and would take a LOT of blood to pull the patient through.
      Still, you're right, my Wife is a Keeper!
      Speaking thereof, I'm trying to talk her into painting that last picture for me.

    2. Ruptured Aorta is pretty much a DRT event. Had a friend who was getting heart surgery and his aorta ruptured there on the table with surgeons standing over him and his chest cracked and everything ready to go and he couldn't be saved.

    3. Yeah, that's what I suspected when I heard and that may have been what the ship's doctor was trying to tell me without telling me when we tried to find where she'd been taken from the ship.

  6. I went to a Margaritaville for lunch once, had the Cheeseburger in Paradise as I recall.. I was not impressed.

    Sounds like you had a good time!

    1. Rob,
      Agreed about the burger. The margaritas however.....

      We did!

  7. Ah, purposely stuffing yourself into close quarters with thousands of other people and not being able to hit some of them. I just don't get it.

    Sounds like a good time was had by most. And funny about your AAR, what with the 3 cruise ships of fully supposedly vaccinated and boostered crew and passengers coming down with the dreaded OmniMech virus, which is just sniffles and a head cold if at that. Now the FedGov has its nickers in more of a twist.

    As to the passport issue, you're lucky they accepted the birth certificate and the minipassport. Have heard of some jerk Govpersonnel only accepting the actual full-sized passport or an actual certified copy of the birth certificate (on the birth certificate, even if you have a RealID qualifying ID, which requires you to go through a low-level security check basically to get and have a certified copy of your BC.) Kabuki security theater, as how much documentation are the 140,000 a month illegal aliens required to show? "Ah, Mr. Fuentes AlQueda, no ID, no BC, no Passport, no proof of anything? Welcome to the United States, here's a plane ticket, hotel accomodations, food stamps and $6,000 bucks. Don't forget to not show up at your hearing and don't forget to vote Democrat, and vote often!"

    Other than that, I've heard that due to the age of the average passenger, death is not an unusual companion aboard even in the best of times. How was the ship set up to handle the bad news? And how does Mrs. Juvat recommend how to handle such a situation.

    Great photo at the end. Life is always better than death. Well, kind of. Depending on who just shuffled off the mortal coil, and how. But still, life, better ending.

    And thanks for the update on all the maskrova bullsnickety. Stupid stupid stupidity. Enough said about that.

    Sounds like you had, overall, a good time.

    Oh, as to cruise pricing, I have "won" several cruise packages before. Nice accomodations, all the food I can eat, just have to pony up port accomodations and travel accomodations and this fee and that fee and the other fee and more fee. So, well, have yet to have all the associated scratch to have ever taken a cruise nor sat through the long-arsed winded timeshare presentations. Bleh. Fees and more fees. And timeshare whining. Bleh.

    1. Beans,
      Well, we stayed away from the areas of the ship that we knew would be problematic and stayed in areas of the ship that required an upgraded status. Fortunately, we have cruised on the Royal Caribbean fleet enough to have earned that upgraded status. Most of our evenings were in the upstairs bar which was restricted access. The requirements for the upgrade are such that the vast majority of people in that category are past the age of drinking to oblivion while dancing on tables.
      I don't know that the ship mentioned her passing. We knew it from our acquaintance. But, you're right, there were some "older" folks on board. Not as old as Sarge, mind you, but older than I. :-)

    2. Beans- "Ah, purposely stuffing yourself into close quarters with thousands of other people and not being able to hit some of them. I just don't get it." That's also life aboard an aircraft carrier! I never hit anyone onboard though, despite them deserving it!

    3. One of the benefits of cruising on an "older" pointed vessel is the need to hit someone is greatly reduced. Most are just happy to be upright. They're not interested in engaging in actions that might impact (get it?) that ability.

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed your cruise.
    I am reminded of (on an excursion) going tubing down some river, through a cavern, and reaching out to hold my wife's hand.
    Of course, imagine our surprise to find, in the sunlight, that it was not MY wife's hand I was holding. :)
    Beautiful picture.

    1. Ed,
      As they say on TV and regarding your rafting excursion.
      I bet "You has some 'splainin' to do!"
      Yep, I really am trying to talk my wife into painting it for me. It'll fit in nicely in my Man Cave.

  9. That's pretty funny about the T Shirt. Years ago my parents, returning from Italy, brought me one. Couldn't figure out why in shoppinkg malls these darker complexion Mediterranean types and grandmotherly types were looking at my shirt and breaking into big grins.

    Turns out translated it said "Please don't break my balls"

    Galveston - on my last riad trip, having read the book Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, I wanted to spend the night in Galveston and walk around the historic district. For those who don't know the book was about the 1900 hurricane that drowned from 4,000 to 10,000 people. Made Huston the seaport for TX and Galveston never really recovered.


    I found you can never go home.

    Afte passing the giant "Gentlemans Club" and realizing the cheapest room I could get in the historic hotel was $250, I passed. Drove around somewhat aimlessness - asking Garmin to take me back to Houston - stay3ed at a Motel in seemingly the middle of nowhere and woke up next morning across the street from a gigantic (several miles long?) chemical plant.

    Just took a friend to the SFO airport for a month-long cruise - what he was saying in re the preparations - getting COVID tested, etc - makes me pause. Do you have to walk around the ship constantly in a mask?

    1. BillB,
      Last first. Yes and No. In the passageways with the rooms yes, mask is required. On open air decks, no. In the Vax Only sections, no. Once you check in with the Matre' D in the dining rooms and are seated No. Also, I forgot mine several times. The crew were very polite in asking you to mask and usually had a new (sealed) one on them so you didn't have to go back to your room to retrieve. I probably ended up with 10 or so under those circumstances.
      Little J went to Galveston for his first year at A&M, visiting him was my first time there. It was kinda quaint back then but has,IMHO, taken a turn for the worst. We had a little extra time between hotel check out and our boarding time (everybody had a individual boarding time which made it much less chaotic), so we drove around the downtown area. Lots of graffiti and more run down than I remember. All of the "Big" historic houses were being renovated, so not looking their best. But the boarding facility for Royal Caribbean is pretty nice and they're building their own facility to fit their new "SuperDuper" sized ships, so maybe it'll get better. Having cruised out of both Galveston and Houston, Galveston wins IMHO.

  10. Re: the t-shirt: Decades ago, I worked out in a gym in Brattleboro. The gym was above where the co-op started out, one level down from Elliott St. There was a woman who I'd occasionally see there. Sometimes she wore a rust-colored tank that had a stylized black eagle on it and below the eagle was the word "Bundeswehr".

    One day, I asked: "Where did you get that German army tank-top?"

    She: "What are you talking about?"

    Me: "The Bundeswehr is the German army."

    She: "Oh, I thought it meant 'eagle wear'."

    I never saw her wearing it again.

    1. I'm pretty sure neither will the Lady in my picture. But to her credit, she laughed quite a lot over the next hour or so. It was fun getting to know them.

  11. Anyway, on cruising: I've seen enough blue water to last my lifetime. I don't like the idea of going to a resort hotel that can both catch fire and sink. I'd much prefer to go to a place where, if things go south, I can catch a cab or a shuttle bus to the airport.

    1. I spent quite a bit of time on Navy Command and Control ships while at CinCPac. (Not as much as most Navy folks, but certainly more than most AF folks). So I can understand that. But, being married to a travel agent, you gotta go where the folks want to go. We talked with a lot of folks on board this last trip that basically live on board cruise ships. The guy who's friend passed was one of them. He travels the same ship and the same route 3 times. Hits his apartment, in Galveston, for a week or so, then finds another ship/itinerary and signs on for another 3 sailings. I think I'd get bored out of my mind after about 3 weeks. Heck, I was in my book most of the time on this voyage and it's been since Pre-Covid time since we last sailed. That was 10.5 million years ago wasn't it?

    2. Comrade, but did you get to drink while seeing the blue water? Can't compare Navy cruises to cruise line cruises!

    3. Good point, Tuna. Although...Since I bunked in cabins where the real owner was on leave...My initial impression was that Navy ships were not as dry as some west Texas Counties.

    4. Tuna, I am not answering that question, statutes of limitations be damned!

    5. Da Komerade!!!! You nailed exactly why I stay on dirt. If that ship has a flat, walking home is right out. Thank you, NO! Not to mention petri dish accommodations.... Sometimes, I need to be far enough from a neighbor not to see them...

  12. You were not on the cruise ship that was denied entry to a Mexican port, because a passenger tested positive for COVID?

    1. Nope. Didn't hear about that until we got back. And both Costa Maya and Cozumel were virtually maskless. Well, except for the Mexican Marine patrols. They were pretty spooky, completely masked with sunglasses. Couldn't even see the color of their hair. Suffice it to say, "Wide Berth?" "Why yes I did give them that"

  13. Great recap! Thanks for all of it. We love cruising, but none planned. We could do a river cruise again, through Budapest this time. I also love Margie and Rita's lime drinks! You look quite the distinguished sommelier with that wine glass. The WTF shirt reminds me of something my Aunt was mistaken about. I told her that Mindi likes "Chick Flicks" and she was shocked, thinking this meant porno movies!

    1. Mrs J has been watching Christmas Chick Flicks almost contiguously since we got home. I'm good for White Christmas and of course Die Hard, and an occasional other Christmas Classic, but need to come up for air occasionally.

      The Lady, when asked about it at the start of the conversation, said she was a whiskey drinker and loved to dance the tango and foxtrot. I think that's when I snorted and asked to be excused to blow my nose. At which point, Mrs J led her to the path of righteousness. Fortunately she had an excellent sense of humor and handled it well.

    2. I would have snorted at that one for sure!


  14. Don McCollor..Are there any cruise ships around rather than those grand hotels pretending to be at sea?...

    1. Don,
      There are some. SilverSeas is the one I'm most familiar with. Most of their ships are in the 5-600 passenger capacity. So, they can put in to smaller ports and such. They also are very nicely laid out and elegant, which when translated to Texan means they're more expensive. We cruised the St Lawrence river on them and had a great time.
      There are also several "Adventure" cruise Lines. These were the top 10 for 2021 according to USA Today

      Adventure Canada
      Lindblad Expeditions
      Aurora Expeditions
      Quark Expeditions
      Star Clippers
      Abercrombie & Kent
      UnCruise Adventures
      Celebrity Cruises

      As to "Grand Hotels pretending to be at sea?" YMMV, but the storm we rode through on our last night which we watched from the bar on the top of the ship was pretty spectacular.

  15. Great post. Wheels up at 1015, touchdown at 1745. Traffic wasn't bad, okay it didn't completely suck and I have seen much worse.

    Back in my own AO, off to get root canal done at 1045 local on the 28th (Tuesday).

    Am I tired?

    Yes, yes I am.

    1. fingers crossed Sarge that all goes well with the root canal.

      Juvet sounds like you folks had a very nice time. And I totally understand about how quick the little ones grow and change. In the last 3 weeks my grandson went from humming the tune sorta to singing Jingle bells clear as a bell!! And on key!!!
      Pretty funny...he would sing a phrase then pause for a few beats, then sing the next one.

      Keep pestering the Mrs. That is a gorgeous sun set picture!

    2. Naps are good for "tired", Sarge. At your age, you're authorized at least one per day.

      Hope the Root Canal goes well.

  16. This was a very informative blog. Surely helpful for all the travelers out here. Read more

  17. WELL DONE!

    I haven't dared cross our borders fro a few years, not vaxxed, you see. But my boys are, they can visit Texas.

    But tell me, what are cruise ships like? I've never been on one but like the WTF alphanumeric on the one passenger :)

  18. Glad the trip went as well as it could. Sorry to hear about the lady passing, but that happens.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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