Saturday, January 8, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 7 (Sea Day - Christmas Day)


"Merry Christmas!" was the theme for today.  And many people were leaving their cabins to celebrate - in their Christmas Jammies.  If I had been wearing a new flannel nightgown, I might have joined some of the people in this activity.  Instead, I decided to get dressed in a "civilian" outfit, and get ready for tomorrow's Debarkation. 

I had awakened early, and knew I'd be paying a price for this later on in the day.  However, I got showered and dressed, then went to the buffet to eat breakfast.  While at the buffet, I met many people in their jammies.  And I found it entertaining how people would celebrate the holiday when they couldn't do many serious gift exchanges.  After breakfast, I decided to buy a couple of pictures.  At $25 each, they are way overpriced.  Since I get a 25% discount, the $37.50/picture is slightly more reasonable.  What galled me was the employee trying to sell me packages of 5 (for $125) and 8 (for $200).  There were no savings for buying them in large quantities, and I felt insulted that they were trying to call what they were doing as offering me a "bargain".

When I returned to my cabin, I chatted with the steward, and asked whether I'd be seeing him again, so that I could give him his tip.  Unfortunately, he'd be in a meeting when I was going to dinner with my friend from Oregon.  But he told me to leave money on the bed - which I did.  I then asked him about the cyst on his eyelid. He told me that the ship's doctor could lance it today.  But to do so, the steward would lose his last day with people he knew. (To me, I think he wanted to make sure he got his tips.)  Hopefully, he got the cyst taken care of the next day - and rested as the doc would allow him to do.

At dinner, my friend from Oregon asked me about my male name, as she tried to reach me by phone.  I explained that I was transgender, and usually travel this way.  Then, our conversation continued as if this wasn't an issue.  She noted that if it weren't for trying to reach me, that she'd never have known anything.  I guess my presentation (especially, my voice) is getting better than I knew. My new friend noted that she wanted to eat at the steakhouse specialty restaurant on Christmas.  Otherwise, we'd have gotten the free bottle of wine at our first dinner (she doesn't drink), and I could have consumed it on two nights.  (You can easily see why I want to reach "Platinum" status ASAP - I want the 2 "free" specialty meals and the "free" bottle of good wine.)

All too soon, the day had to end.  So I bid my friend goodbye, and went up to the cabin to finish packing.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 6 (Sea Day - Christmas Eve)


The above is typical of the views from the ship on Christmas Eve.  One could almost imagine someone reciting "It was the night before Christmas..." in the Gem's atrium to a bunch of young children.  However, none were on this cruise, as the ship was only accepting vaccinated passengers.  So, the only things that might have given away that Christmas was near were Christmas decorations like the tableau below found in the atrium.

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Since the cruise was about to end in two days, I decided to start bags.  It's too bad that I didn't take pictures of the mess that had to be fit into my luggage.  Luckily, I had no space wasting souvenirs to bring home.  Instead, I had clothing that could get wrinkled, as my dresses, leggings, underwear and socks would all be going in the laundry when I got home.  

Being that this was a sea day, I considered going in the hot tub one last time.  But I decided not to, as I wanted to bring home a dry swimsuit. Instead, I decided to do some reading and watch a movie.  One problem - the communications system for the rear of the boat (maybe just my floor) was out.  I couldn't watch TV, nor could I call my steward to get help.  So I went down to guest services and explained the situation.  On the way back to my cabin, I met another steward - and his phone was out. The problem was localized, and not of a critical nature.  Sooner or later, TV would be restored, and that was fine with me.  I could watch a movie saved on my iPad.

Walking through the halls, I noticed a lot of hang tags like the one below:

I never saw one on doors where I knew people occupied the cabins.  Therefore, I came to  simple conclusion: These cabins were unoccupied.  Given the number of these hang tags found on the second to last day of the cruise, I figured that the ship sailed at 40% (or less) of capacity.

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So far, this had been a wonderful trip.  I had a great time.  Yet, I could say that I did almost nothing but eat and sleep.  I'd miss the crew when I had to leave, as this was the first time I really noticed any of them - even if I couldn't remember any of their names.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 5 (Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas)


Great Stirrup Cay - NCL's private island.  It's a nice playground, but not one I wanted to bother with.  If NCL had bothered to build a pier, I might have gotten off the ship to enjoy a pristine beach.  But that was not the case for me.  

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This was another day that I decided to stay on the ship.  Most people had gotten off the ship, leaving the pool/hot tub areas relatively empty.  So I decided to take another soak, and got in the wrong tub.  No, it was not because there was anything wrong with the tub itself.  Instead, I was surrounded with Trump supporters.  One thing you can't do with people who have drunk the Kool Aid is argue with them using facts.  Instead I tried to shift the topic as best I could, so that we'd have more things we could agree on than get agitated about.  (When one of these people mentioned "voter fraud", there was no way that I was going to cite the Associated Press and its statistic regarding this crime in battleground states.  These people would never believe it.)  At least, I got deeper tan lines from sitting in this tub for an hour....

What I found most interesting about this stop was that Royal Caribbean's private isle was next door - Little Stirrup Cay.  Of course, they had to rename the isle "Coco Cay", so that there wouldn't be brand confusion between the two islands.

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Tonight's dinner was with the woman I met on the trip to Fort Sumter.  The specialty restaurant we visited was good as usual, and I continue to be impressed with what they can do with meat on a grill. Now if only, I could get their recipe for a grilled pineapple, I'd be in heaven.  But that's another story. After dinner, I went to the casino, and then to the lounge.  I had a good time, but was surprised to find out that the lounge singer didn't know (what I think are) well known standards, such as "St. John's Infirmary."  And there was another person in the audience who had the same feelings that I did.  Too bad that I didn't get the chance to meet her husband.  I'd have liked to meet someone who'd forget his wallet at home.  (He has to be worse at remembering things than I am, as I only forgot my jewelry before going on this cruise.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 4 (Port Canaveral, FL)


I'll bet all of my readers have seen "Fish out of Water" stories on the silver screen.  Crocodile Dundee is one of my favorites in this genre.  When we arrived in Port Canaveral, I tried to come up with a joke that fits this genre.  But all I could come up with was that NYC is testing out a new ferry route to remind our snowbirds where their home should be.  In reality, this ferry was one of 3 being built in Florida, and was on its 14 day journey from where it was built to where it soon call home.

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Why did I point out this ferry, and not other things found at this port?  Well, I was in this port with my former girlfriend, and was unimpressed with things to do here.  There is no downtown.  One has to be bused to get anywhere, and that includes 90 minute rides to Orlando's theme parks.  And, if one goes to any of these parks, one will need to leave early to make it back to the ship on time before it sails out of the country.

In my case, I decided to stay on the ship and soak in the hot tub.  This is the first time I got to wear my swimsuit in 2 years.  And I felt good about it.  (I think I look much better as a female in a swimsuit than I do as a male. A skirted swimsuit can hide a hell of a lot of things!)  The only thing I wish I could have done was to have better fitting swim forms.  But that's another story for another day.

At dinner, I met one of the two ladies I've dined with before on this trip.  We exchanged contact information and agreed to have dinner again in a couple of days.  (I had already made plans to have dinner with the other woman, and didn't want to have a scheduling conflict.)  When we were through with dinner, I moseyed over to the casino where I won some cash. So I took my winnings and went to the theater to see the comedian's scheduled performance.  He was good, but I had to leave early due to GI Tract issues.  Too bad this was the 9 pm showing, or I'd have gone back for the second show....

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 3 (Charleston, SC)


If this cruise stopped at Nassau instead of the port of Charleston, I'd have passed on taking this cruise.  Yet, if I had known it was going to rain, I wouldn't have selected this shore excursion.  Go figure....

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I decided to take the afternoon trip to Fort Sumter, even though it was drizzling all day.  I had paid for this trip before the cruise, and I didn't want to consider the $100 I spent on the tour wasted money.  This was a good thing, as I met a new friend who I'd dine with at the Gem's Specialty Restaurants later in the week, and that I got a much better understanding (in a 10 minute presentation by a park ranger) of the causes for the Civil War than I ever got from the history books I've read.

After getting back to the ship, I ended up dining in the main room with the same lady I dined with earlier in the week.  This lady is a former opera performer, and we seemed to hit it off well.  (Too bad I wasn't in Mario mode.  But then, just as well, as she had already been divorced 3 times.  I don't want to be number 4.)


There seemed to be fewer performers on the ship than in the past.  They may have been given easier duties, but required to perform longer than usual to keep staffing levels down.  But then, with lounge areas this empty, I'd expect that the cruise line would need to use gimmicks to make people feel like they were getting their money's worth of entertainment.  (No, this is not a criticism of the cruise line.  Instead, this is a recognition that they have to be careful with every dollar they spend until the ships are running at full capacity again.)  When I looked at the shows on the main stage, I noticed that one of the shows is the same as I found on the ship over 2 years ago.  I guess that they needed to get a show up and running quickly, and re-staging an old show might be the most efficient way of making sure that each ship has at least one "theatrical" prod


PS: You'll note that I've said nothing about being transgender.  With the exception of showing my legal ID when returning to the ship, my gender and presentation wasn't an issue for me....

Monday, January 3, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 2 (Sea Day)


I woke up early. only to fall asleep again.  By the time I was fully awake, it was lunch time.  This is typical for me when I'm on a cruise - such as going out in my female presentation.

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This was the slow boat to Charleston, and yet, it was already warm enough outside for some people to take a dip in the hot tubs on the Lido Deck.  I figured that I was going to get at least one or two days use out of my swimsuit this trip - and planned accordingly for it.

When I got back to my room, I noticed that my TV wasn't displaying my account status.  (I like knowing what charges are being applied to my account in real time.)  So I went down to the main desk and asked for help.  Too bad this may have caused a minor headache for my room steward, as the person at the desk had English as a second language and could not pick up the nuance in how I was describing the problem.  Eventually, I caught up with the steward, and he found out that the problem was with the remote control and not with the upstream software.  (I'll be sure to give him a good review when I participate in the after-cruise survey.)


As became my routine, I decided to eat in the Grand Pacific (main) dining room.  It was strange to see this many staff members waiting to direct guests to available tables.  When I had the opportunity to talk with the woman in charge of the dining room, I found out that the room has been this way since the Gem started sailing earlier this year.  This ship has been operating below 50% capacity for weeks, and there is no sign that things will change anytime soon.

I finally had the chance to do my nails.  No, the polishing wasn't so great.  But it did get me through the week with minimal touch-ups.  If I had thought about it and had the time before the cruise,  I'd have gotten a mani-pedi.  Yet, it's nice to have nails on which I could leave painted for a while.

As would be expected, I forgot something at home - my jewelry.  So I used the few items I brought with me when I went to the photographers on later nights....

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Bahamas Cruise - Day 1 (Embarkation)


I've recently hinted that I was going away on a cruise.  Sadly, there was no way that I'd consider writing about what happened in real time.  There are still too many people who'd figure out where I live and burglarize the place.  So, there is a longer than usual gap between the time I sailed on this ship and the time you'll read about my exploits.

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Day 1 - Embarkation.

It's been over 2 years since I've gone on any vacation.  So this trip would be both a chance to relax and a chance to see what has changed to keep passengers safe when cruising on this ship.  This would be a "new" experience for me, as I am accustomed to getting on board the ship "late" and leaving "early".

My scheduled arrival time at the pier was at noon.  So, I worked my times backward and decided that I had to make it out of my house by 9:15, so that I could catch a 9:45 train into NYC.  One problem - the cab service I usually use wasn't picking up its phone. I ended up having to call a cab service in Ossining (one town over from me), and deal with a man who didn't know the way to my apartment complex.  Luckily, he was nearby, and I told him how to reach my place with a few minutes to spare before my train.

I had time to kill when I reached NYC, so I looked around Grand Central for a few minutes.  One of the things I was looking for was a place selling OMNY cards, but none were there to be found. (I'll have to search around the GCT area for OMNY cards the next time I'm in the area.) Then, I killed more time by finding an unofficial place to sit, as the official waiting area wasn't yet open. Eventually, the clock struck 11:30, and I made my way to the cab stand to make it to the pier.


Once at the pier, I was directed to a station at Pier 90.  This was the place where NCL had contracted with another firm to do their Covid testing. The antigen test was not as accurate as the PCR test I did the previous Thursday.  But it showed the result I needed - NEGATIVE.  I was cleared to go, and given a pink band to indicate that I passed the test.  Now, I was off to Pier 88 to check in for my cruise.  At Pier 88, I was checked in and on the ship in 10 minutes.  So, after 30 minutes of arriving at the cruise terminal, I was onboard and in my cabin.

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The first subtle difference I noticed on the ship was that everyone was wearing wearing face masks. Although the card-key was still being used, the cruise line was also working with facial recognition technology when getting on and off the ship.  Since I mentioned the card-key, I might as well mention that it was always used in Tap-and-Go mode.  One didn't have to swipe their card-key to enter a cabin. One simply tapped the card-key on the door's reader, and you'd be able to open the door.

Another difference is the lack of selfie stations.  When I last cruised on the Norwegian Gem, there were several places around the ship where you could have your picture taken with a Norwegian Gem background and send it to your friends as free advertising for the line.  In the places where those stations were once found were holiday decorations.  Although the selfie machines could come back, I doubt they will.  They create a sanitary problem, as these stations are operated by direct finger contact.

A welcome change to standard operating procedure was the lack of a formal muster drill.  Instead of marching to a muster area with a lot of other people, one watches a safety presentation in the comfort of one's own cabin.  Once the video is viewed, one checks in at the muster station for a quick presentation on how to use a "Mae West". And that's it.  It's much easier than before, and much more effective.

I expected to see the serve yourself buffet replaced by a buffet where servers would put the foods you select onto your plate - as has been done by other cruise lines.  This limits the possibility of an infected passenger contaminating the food which others may eat.  I was appalled by seeing one teenager take his water carton, and refill it by putting the nozzle inside the water carton.  This is against the ship's rules, but the kid didn't care.  It was too inconvenient to refill the water carton another way.  Sadly, the buffet is one area where the cruise line could implement higher standards of hygiene.


Even though I expected to see a relatively empty theater, I was still a little bit surprised.  Based on what I saw, I think that the ship was sailing at 30%-40% capacity.  Although it was nice to have a little more personalized attention, I miss the energy that larger groups generate.  Yet, right now, I was glad not to be sailing on a crowded ship.

RQS went home, and I got keys made - a quick post

  One of the problems with going about as a female is that almost everything one carries around during a typical day is carried in a handbag...