Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 1:

 We awake on the 10th floor to an icy room at about 10am, having finally gone to sleep around 2am.  Becky's throat was razor-blades from it.  I had the AC turned off but the fan turned on.  Temperature dropped to the high '50s that night, though it was 82 degrees at 2am, but we were on the coast so anything's possible.  We gathered our belongings, showered, watched some Puerto Rican TV (the music videos are sassy) and ambled to the lobby.  I did a quick reconnaissance of the area and there was no food aside from a gas station to be had for breakfast, though the Marriott had a little restaurant called "Brasserie" which I was confused.  A restaurant called a "bra"?  I just checked now and in French, a "brasserie" is a casual dining cafe with an upscale setting.  Thanks wiki!  The waiter, a handsome young man with a sharp set of eyes and soap-opera-quality hair asked my order.  I gave it and he looked disgusted a bit and then took Becky's.  She explained he probably was expecting me to order for her first.  DOH!  Man, I'm already forgetting my etiquette!  The food was satisfactory and we decided to look around before hailing a taxi.
  Forgetting sun-block, we stop at a local store with surprisingly t-a-l-l shelves.

Top shelves contained simple items like cereal that you'd normally buy, so it's not like overstock or what-not.  Medicine isles were similar, with more narrow shelves.  The store was small, and a bit of a maze.  Some aisles eventually led to one-way spiral death-trap dead-ends (for those Qix Arcade fans) (like below)...

I'd like to mention of the random folks we met in Puerto Rico I was stunned at their cunning wit and sharp eye, as I strike up random conversations with people I don't know (as people who know me.. know)...The women and grudgingly the men were equally Hollywood-stunning and full of character and dressed all well.  All the men wore at least a collared shirt and spoke without the need for profanity and with strong lingual ability and passion.  I can't even say half that much for Americans I meet.  The living conditions seem to vary, however, mostly on the side of old poverty, as if it was rising well in the '60s and then stopped and started to deteriorate and became in disrepair like Mexico and much of the Caribbean as a whole.  There IS modern growth and nicely paved streets and highways (better than sh*tty Colorado, anyway.  Where IS that democratic-majority tax-money going to anyway?  Oh, I know!  For that medicinal-mary-jane "pain management" for people who can't afford health-insurance!  Thanks Obama!  I'm paying for pot for poor people who's kids steal it from their parents [and likely sell it for school supplies, since Colorado mandates students buy the schools' supplies now even if the kids aren't using it to fill the storage cabinets]).  I suspect it's a complicated issue with the poverty factor in PR.  The people look healthy at witty, as if almost a French Revolution sort of way, waiting.. ready.  These are not the migrant workers of New Mexico, no sir.  These people are made of FIRE!  I like 'em... Like.

At noon-thirty we took a taxi to the pier.  The Marriott staff warned us there'd be no food or drinks there until we were on the ship so we heeded that.  Got there about 1pm, an hour early than the earliest boarding time and there was already a line.  In Espaniol, the taxi driver lauded us for arriving when we did, "Dentro de una hora habrĂ¡ 3.000 personas!"  The ship held 3000 guests, there was about 50 or so waiting in line.  Several more were waiting to go through the mandatory photo shoot boarding routine junk, of which we had noticed a few were coughing pretty roughly (later a harbinger of DOOM, but more on that later, though I'm sure you read about it in the newspapers)  Check in was hot at 87 degrees but brisk enough and in 15 minutes we were handing over our passports for southern waters.  Becky was awarded a wheelchair which helped us bypass the all-cruise mandatory "We want an additional $20 from you for a bon-voyage cheap-ass photo with your not-yet-tanned faces" and got the our lowest-class-possible room yet-purchased, "Interior-stateroom".  Handicap-accessible gave us an additional 10 feet of space.  Becky wasn't sure if she'd need the chair or not but instead favored her prosthetic throughout the trip it turns out which was nice.  Room, despite no window on the 10th floor (a theme here it seems) was surprisingly good!  Old-school 19" TV with fridge.  We bought the "water" and "soda" packages at $50 each (a steal when you discover drinks ARE NOT free on a ship except for powdered tea/lemonade) so a Coke'll cost you $7 for ONE plus whatever you tip the bartender (drink servers are violently scarce, which is a shame because they're a HUGE money-maker for the cruise-line so it's just as well to go right to the empty bar).  We easily drank one soda each for 8 nights.  More like 4 each as they're 8oz micro-plastic cups, so 32 drinks x $7 + no tip = $224 > $50.  We win.  Water was vital.  Large Evian bottles (32oz?!) x16.  Wetbar prices (they fill your fridge up with them and some snacks in the hopes you'll use those instead of the onboard shops, M&M pack costs $9 for instance, Evian was $12 each).    We each drank 1 bottle each for the 8 days.  $12 x2(1 each) x8 days= $192 > $50.  We win x2.  That's again even if you don't tip.  It's encouraged to do so, especially for your room.  It's recommended $20/night.  Yep, you leave a $20 on your pillow for our room attendant Allister who makes our bed and might vacuum.  A few times he made some nice "towel sculptures" on the bed as for extra towels, like a puppy or a monkey.  We left the $20 in our own plush monkey toy we brought.  Royal Caribbean is a very good cruise line.  Their sister cruise-line, Celebrity, is also rated in the top 3 as well.  Only one better is the QE2.  Still, they play a fast one.  They give you a room card that you charge drinks on and what not:  in-room movies (over 60 Rated-R or lower), snacks, items purchased in the shops, spa services, you name it.  ALSO is charged without your choice and is mandated is ADDITIONAL 10% tip per day per a rate THEY determine based on your room size for 4 separate services:  bartending, waiter, assistant waiter, and room attendant.  Ends up being an additional MINIMUM of $200 or so.  You can't leave the ship until this is paid-up, even if you didn't use a bartender, or whatever.  Sneaky and mandatory.  Yeah, I tipped all these guys anyway AND I had to pay EXTRA.  I call the bullSHIP flag there.  Caveat Emptor !

So Becky mentioned we never get to see the ship set sail from port as we're always engaged in ship activities at that time and miss the bon-voyage so we make it a point to be on top-deck to watch Puerto Rico off in the sunset.  She seems to be coming down with a very slight cold but seems okay.  We had made a pact to only eat at the WindJammer Cafe which is the buffet.  Royal Caribbean demands you either eat there (at anytime you want) OR at a designated giant table where you're forced to sit with 8 other couples at a designated time and wear business FORMAL wear (tuxedo or full suit) for 2 hours eating smaller, slowly dished-out portions OF THE EXACT SAME FOOD of which you get to choose one item from a menu.  The WindJammer allows you to pick of the ENTIRE menu at your leisure.  Don't like the Pork Adobo?  Dump it and try the Fish Tempura, or the Ratatouille (brilliantly done by the way).  Dessert choices?  No worries, try one of each, instead of being SLOoOoooowly served something you might not like.  Oh, but you get to play DRESS up.  We heard more than one lament half-cruise about folks having to doll-up just to eat every night when they don't know Royal Caribbean's trick of the WindJammer which guarantees a 360 degree view of the coast (it's all glassed-in), the dining areas do not have any view, except for your couple number 7 who thought it'd be a good idea to bring 1 year old baby on the table and 3 year old Tessy the fire-child without her muzzle or tazer.

We took nice fotos de la San Juan.  Here's 2 you can click for hi-res:

Entertainment runs late on these ships, running into the 2am stage.  Becky and I always pre-purchase "shore excursions" or "things to do once you're in port, controlled by the safety of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines so you're not robbed or murdered much".  We picked one for each place, which lasts about 4 hours or so, except for St.Croix because those were in the $200+ each range and were bullSHIP (like going on a Jeep Wrangler ride into some jungle with the top down so you can be eaten by bugs).  We closed the evening by watching a comedy act, a pretty okay juggling act, and a big-band session.  Light's out.

1 comment:

  1. Your side-commentary through all of this cracks me up, a lot. Like.

    Like. Like. Like.