2018 SEASWEPT BREEZES

Oceania


THE SCENT OF THE CARIBBEAN
The warm kiss of the sea breeze brings with it the scent of nature’s wonders on this lighthearted jaunt along the western shores of the Caribbean.
* Lounge on the pristine white sands of Seven Mile Beach along the clear waters of Grand Cayman
* Learn how to prepare an authentic and elaborate three-course Mexican meal in charming Cozumel
* Indulge in chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick in eclectic Key West


In late November, 2017, Oceania announced a special "Winter Sale" with special prices for singles. I decided to do this cruise and even managed to end up with a Veranda prison cell. The ship is again that huge RIVIERA. It is only a 10-night cruise but it fits in nicely between the "Abominable Peasant" croooozzze and the February Olympics which are before the "Seaside Sojourn" cruise in April. Unfortunately, as I found out on the first RIVIERA cruise, internet access is doubtful for notes updates. At best, a brief note from the ship's internet kennel. We need the help from the SPCT (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Travellers). Horrors: many of my booked or planned Oceania cruises are on either the RIVIERA or the MARINA meaning limited (or maybe no) Internet.

Day 1, Sat, Jan 13 – Miami Embark (1PM)
Weather forecast: Low this AM in Houston: 33, but no rain. It’s going to be cold out front of the house while waiting for the shuttle at about 4:55-5:10AM for what is becoming the usual very early flight to Miami in time to meet the Cruise West rep at the airport for the transfer (pre-booked) to the oversized cattle barge, the RIVIERA. Forecast in Miami: Sunny and 76 (42 degree temperature change). At least I did get an upgrade to a Veranda cell at a special price. Again the early flight is to get me into Miami in time to get aboard.

The StuporShuttle driver arrived on time, had to pick up only one other person, then a quick trip to the airport. There, however, being in a stupor, instead of dropping us at Terminal E, departures, he dumped us at TERMINAL C, ARRIVALS. This resulted in having to climb stairs, a fairly long walk to check in there at Terminal C, then a horrendously long walk (it seemed half way to Miami) to get to the gate. At least the security check went quickly this time.

United UA 1641IAH – Miami7:35A – 11:02A2:27

Forecast in Miami: Sunny and 76 (42 degrees temperature change). After a nice flight, quite easily meet the Oceania agent and transfer to the ship. If I counted right, there are 8 large cruise ships here in the cruise-port area: 3 Carnival, 2 Norwegian, a gigantic MSC, the Oceania and one from the German cruise line, AIDA.

We get on board quickly to get lunch, then it is an almost 3 hours wait until my class of kennels is ready for us lower class characters. I'm in a veranda prison cell which was on sale and I got it at a special price. I had the usual excellent lunch (and a bit of “seconds.”) My cabin is a "B4", #7017 which is smaller than I had remembered but still nice. After the usual pre-departure rigmarole, it is time to depart. I was able to do the onboard booking of the two excursions (Caymans and Roatan) that I had wanted to do. Dinner was also excellent.

Day 2, Sun, Jan 14 – Cruising the Straits of Florida #1 of 2
It was a bit of rock-n-roll last night but where I am way down on deck 7 it wasn’t bad – in fact comforting and lulling. Since I’m in the 8th cabin from the bow (60 more astern of me) there is constant water noise but again, that was just some nice background noise and not a problem. But this morning when I walked a half mile towards the stern and went 5 decks higher (breakfast, and all meals, on deck 12), the rock-n-roll was very pronounced. We had to be very careful walking around, and also work hard to try not to spill our food as we went through the buffet.

Today, a whole day to stay down on my safe deck 7 just watch the water go by as I try to re-arrange what I hastily unpacked and dis-organized yesterday. But I do have to make two more trips up to rock-n-roll deck.

I still can't get the Veranda door open so I "don't have a Veranda." I'll have to get help/instructions on how to open the sliding door to get out onto my veranda but it turns out to be just jammed and a repair man was called. More on this tomorrow.

The only thing of notice: all day just over the hill, someone is trying to learn (so far, unsuccessfully) how to play the bagpipes. But the only two tunes he knows are "Roll to Port" and "Roll to Starboard." (Hint: the wind!) It gets worse later.

The wi-fi still works so maybe … but I won’t be holding my breath. About noon we make a sharp turn to port and pass fairly close by the western tip of Cuba. The weather continues to be very overcast and we still have very noticeable waves.

Day 3, Mon, Jan 15 – George Town, Cayman Islands (8AM – 4PM) Tender Port
Swim and snorkel with shy and gentle stingrays, see the underwater world from a semi-submersible sub, send a postcard from "Hell," visit a turtle farm where green sea turtles are raised, or just relax on miles and miles of white sand Uh, OOPS!

However, overnight we had almost constant howling wind and more rock-n-roll, plus rain. When we finally get to the Grand Caymans, we find that the authorities in George Town had closed their main harbor due to the high wind so the ship is diverted to a small harbor on the other side of the island where the wind is “only” 35-45 mph plus the solid overcast and continuing rain. Two other even larger ships (Carnival and the German cruise line, AIDA) have been diverted to this place also.

The dock here is very short/small and rough/uneven so anyone in wheelchairs or mobility problems is strongly advised (~ordered) to stay onboard. With three ships sending passengers ashore, the area is going to be jammed with long waits for the various tenders to dock and unload. Then once we get ashore, we are still several miles from George Town. We were also told that the local taxi union won’t allow the ships to hire transfer/shuttle busses so we would have to hire/pay for a local taxi each way to get to where things were to happen.

Since this was a very disappointing excursion the first time I took it, I had originally planned to stay onboard but since I could get it “free” using onboard credits and not waste money, I had decided to suffer through it once again so as to have something to do.

Then all this happened. Due to the weather, some of the excursions have already been officially cancelled and a couple more cancelled this morning due to the weather and taxi problems. For myself, considering the weather, the tendering (I saw a tender from another of the ships get tipped WAY over, not almost capsizing but …), the added requirement for taxis, and the fact that it would be a repeat of what I had found to be a very disappointing excursion the first time I took it, I “chickened out” and just stayed onboard anyway, listened to the howling wind, and had a chance to enjoy some good food – and have time for a couple of naps.

The weather did clear up some by noon (rain, and some of the wind) but that was too late. So much for today. Then although we were scheduled to be here until 4 but there was so little interest/activity that the Captain pulled up the anchor and we headed back out into the wind and rolling seas at 3PM. Maybe that is to give him more time to fight the weather on our way to Cozumel. It will probably be “another one of those nights.”

Here's what I "missed."

Cultural Express (GCM-003) 3½ hours
Enjoy (?) the cultural sights and sounds of two of Cayman's top heritage attractions in one customized excursion. Departing directly from the pier, you will first travel along the south coast of the island with your experienced tour guide and driver providing an interesting narration as to the history of the Cayman Islands and its people.

Veranda door problem: I still “don’t have a veranda.” This evening a repair man finally came and worked on the door. The latching mechanism is broken and he worked on it getting a lot done, but still has to come back tomorrow afternoon to do some more work. More on this to come.

Day 4, Tue, Jan 16 – Cozumel, Mexico (11AM – 8PM)
Enjoy a day snorkeling, diving to fabulous reefs, exploring the jungle with an ATV, relaxing beside the pool at a beach club, strolling a vast beach and visiting an ancient Mayan temple.

(PBk) Island Discovery And Chocolate Experience (COZ-019) 3 2 hours 12:150PM 1:20
NEW. I can’t pass up an excursion featuring Chocolate! Gain a greater understanding of the Mayan culture at the Mayan Cacao Company, where you will learn how the ancient Maya made chocolate from the cacao tree. After departing from the pier, you will soon arrive at the Mayan Cacao Company, an interactive attraction where you will discover the importance of the sacred cacao seed to the Mayan civilization. The Mayans were drinking chocolate made from cacao for ceremonial and medicinal purposes as far back as 500 B.C. They also used cacao as currency.

Chocolate was also essential to Mayan cuisine, and you will sample a local version of the sweet treat along with some traditional handmade tortillas. While touring the grounds, you will see flourishing cacao trees, a typical Mayan residence and a botanical garden of indigenous plants. To further your understanding of the ancient Maya civilization, be sure to stop at the replicas of a Mayan calendar and a stone stela adorned with hieroglyphics and carvings.

Following your immersion into the Mayan lifestyle and traditions, you will settle in for a panoramic drive around Cozumel. Much of the route will follow the beautiful coastline, which is rocky in certain areas and rimmed by great stretches of sugar-white beaches elsewhere. In time, you will pause for photos at El Mirador, a spectacularly scenic lookout where the pounding sea has carved a large stone arch out of the rocky shore. Afterwards, you will return to the pier.

Comments: The first stop at the chocolate location had some nice, well done presentations. A good stop. Panoramic drive: yes, we drove the entire loop around the island but there wasn’t that much to see, particularly since the bus had mesh sun screens over most of the windows making it difficult (almost impossible) to see anything outside. The one, and only one, stop did have some decent size waves breaking on the shore but it seemed that the main “attraction” was the 5 souvenir stands with almost nothing of interest; definitely nothing significant. The tour was also about an hour shorter than described. So, 1/2 good; 1/3 wasted, 1/6 missing. Still, good overall. No chance for decent pictures.

That Veranda door – I don’t know if the repair man came back, but I still can’t get the door open so still no veranda. The "Housekeeping Manager" called this evening asking if the door now worked but I had to tell her NO. She promised a repairman tomorrow morning.

Day 5, Wed, Jan 17 – Costa Maya, Mexico (8AM – 6PM)
The cruise port of Costa Maya in Mexico's developing Costa Maya region is surrounded by dense jungle and turquoise waters and blessed with radiant sunshine. No wonder the ancient Maya lived nearby, building ceremonial centers like Chacchoben, where you can climb among the ruins, many of which are still being excavated. Look for raucous toucans in the trees.

But after the usual great breakfast, with the excursion cancellation, it will be just another day doing nothing except eat. I’ll spend some time on the veranda, if they ever get the door fixed, because as we pull in it definitely looks like a very interesting place as I had remembered. Maybe I’ll even at least go ashore into the tourist trap area for a while. But that is just the usual mass collection of souvenir shops that are always gathered around any cruise ship docking area: lots of mass produced trinkets and “Made in Hong Kong” stuff – unless I wanted to spend a significant fortune on something I neither want nor need.

There are 3 other ships here, Carnival, Norwegian, and that German ship. The water close to shore is so shallow that we have to dock a long way away. It’s a long walk but I did go ashore – to the group of movie-set buildings disguised as Mayan houses, but instead hiding their actual identity as more of those fleece-the-tourist souvenir shops. Town is about a mile away - too far to walk. There is a large structure nearby that is made up to look like a Mayan pyramid, but is probably some kind of hotel or other tourist distraction, yes, distraction. I wish that I could have taken that excursion to see something “real.” But at least this was something to do. At least the veranda door now works (see below).

(XXX) Chacchoben Mayan Ruins (CMA-007) 4 hours 8:30 AM
I had hoped to see Mayan ruins once more but due to more problems with my right knee and the amount of walking on rough terrain, I had to cancel out of this excursion. Maybe I can just go ashore and walk around some … or enjoy the scenery from my veranda if I can get the door open.

Veranda door: A repairman came! It turns out that not only was the door latch broken (now repaired) but the big remaining problem is that too much salt residue had been deposited that the door frame track was blocked. He managed to get enough cleaned out that I can now, with difficulty, get the door open. To actually fix it, the entire door will have to be removed, cleaned, lubricated, and re-installed. That will be a major problem for them. But at least now, with the trip half over on the middle of the 5th day, I can now get out of my prison cell and see something.

Day 6, Thu, Jan 18 – Roatan, Honduras (8AM – 6PM)
Luxuriate on the magnificent beaches, snorkel or dive and explore the superb shallow reefs, or discover the island's other natural wonders on a horseback ride on the beach and through a tropical forest past spectacular volcanic rocks.

Time change – back onto Central Time. And we are docked rather than have to be tendered ashore. The forecast this morning is for showers and it did indeed rain or shower constantly until about 11 when the rain stopped but the wind and overcast did not go away leaving us with a very gloomy day. When the excursions were to be starting out about 8AM, 5 of them with lots of outside activity were cancelled due to potential storms. MANY passengers were VERY unhappy about that.

(onboard) Island Highlights (ROA-008) 3½ hours 8:00
This was a disappointing excursion the first time I took it. I would stay onboard but since I can get it “free” using onboard credits and not waste money. At least I will have something to do. Particularly as a repeat, I think it will turn out to be pretty boring. Maybe worth $8.90, not $89.

Enjoy tropical Roatan by observing iguanas in a protected zoo-like habitat and then visiting an eco-park to interact with butterflies and tropical birds. Depart from the pier and enjoy a leisurely narrated drive through Roatan's lush countryside, which supports a diversity of wildlife. Few tropical animals are as iconic as the iguana, which you will see in abundance at the Iguana Hideaway. It's an excellent venue to observe these prehistoric-looking reptiles, as iguanas are threatened on Roatan from loss of habitat and being captured for the pet trade. Watch them basking in the sun, lounging in trees and munching on vegetables. Some of the iguanas are over three feet long, and while they may look imposing they're really quite passive.

Continuing on, you'll make your way to the Mayan-Eden Eco-Park for a visit to the butterfly and tropical bird section there. Take a magical walk through an enclosed area that contains a wide variety of local butterflies. Learn about some of Honduras' most vibrant varieties of butterflies and about this delicate creature and its intricate lifecycle. The garden is also home to tropical trees, plants and exotic rescued birds and animals. Hummingbirds dart happily from blossom to blossom and you'll no doubt see colorful parrots flying free. On your way back to the pier you will pass through the small capital city of Coxen Hole, once home to the pirate John Cox. Don’t bother to stop and shop.

Please note: This tour includes approximately 1 hour of easy walking/standing plus any additional walking at the guests' discretion during free time.

Comments: As I had remembered, this isn’t much of an excursion. We did the Eco-Park first but there were so many people there and the local guide was so poor that almost nobody could hear/understand what he said. The good part - in fact the highlight of the whole day – was several young orange tabby cats who were very friendly and wanted to be petted / stroked. So I made some new friends and spent 80-90% of my time there being nice to my new little friends. One of them was even purring.

We then made an unscheduled stop and went to a resort called Paradise Bay and there we totally wasted about 45 minutes standing around just looking at the fancy facilities. The last stop was the iguana hideaway but I’ve seen so many of them on the other trips, that I just sat back on a bench and waited for time to go. Our local guide told us that many people eat the iguana so maybe McDonalds might open a couple of branches here serving McIguana Burgers.

We then made an unscheduled stop and went to a resort called Paradise Bay and there we totally wasted about 45 minutes Due to the disorganization onboard when we were to be starting out, and those REALLY AWFUL roads (no, not as bad as Kenya), by far the worst of the trip and which made it well over an hour longer (almost 2 hours) than scheduled were all the 2nd class cowpaths that are called roads (actually just one cowpath on the island since the island is long and narrow) but we had to travel it most of the time. The other parts of the "road" was/were a large collection of randomly semi-connected potholes. There might actually be about a mile of decent pavement. We also had to suffer through being on small 24-passenger vans which were actually barely large enough to hold 18 or 20 - VERY cramped.

Day 7, Fri, Jan 19 – Santo Tomas, Guatemala (8:00AM – 11PM)
Visit fascinating Quiriguá and its stunning Mayan stele. Take a boat ride along the Rio Dulce to Lake Izabal past riverside Mayan villages, lush tropical vegetation and Fort San Felipe. Or take a short flight to Flores for an unforgettable visit to incredible, mysterious Tikal, its soaring ancient temples rising from the jungle floor.

There was some semi-general announcement last night about possible bad weather overnight and today but Oceania doesn't consider such announcements important enough to broadcast to everyone - only those is some special areas so I didn't get to hear but just a few words of it. Sure enough, not only was there rain but all the children were screeching loudly all night (wind) and it is extremely foggy this morning which cleared up a bit but still heavy at building top level – and the light drizzle/mist is constant.

Then as expected, some of the excursions were cancelled including “mine” which was one of the two I most wanted to do. For most of us, the only alternative is to put on our rain gear and go into town and just wander around. I did go ashore briefly but again it was mostly junky souvenir shops and way overpriced other merchandise.

We haven’t had another "Hurricane Otto" on this cruise, but really have been hit by a bunch rainy messes.

(PBk) Countryside and Rio Dulce by Land (STC-004) 5 hours
NEW. Explore Guatemala's scenic beauty and storied past during this orientation tour through the Motagua Valley, and a visit to the 17th-century Castle of San Felipe.

Day 8, Sat, Jan 20 – Harvest Caye, Belize (7AM – 4PM)
Featuring an enchanting range of environments such as tropical rainforests, marshes and coral reefs, Harvest Caye offers both relaxation and adventure amid lush landscapes. This 75-acre paradise invites you to explore it’s incredibly biodiverse surroundings, witnessing exotic wildlife or perhaps discovering the world’s second largest coral reef. Gain insight into the region’s Mayan and Garifuna roots, discover traditional arts and traditions at the local artisans’ village or simply soak up the abundant Belizean sunshine and relax.

Rain is forecast and it did rain a couple of times but didn't cause any problems.

(PBk) Mayan Culture & Medicine Trail (HAR-021) 4½ hours 8:45AM
This one should be very good. NEW. Come join us for an educational tour of an authentic Mayan Cultural experience and watch a renowned Mayan Shaman conjure medicine from jungle plants. Board your air-conditioned bus for an approximate 45 minute ride to an authentic Mayan village, located at the entrance to the famous Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve. This quaint Mayan village is home to a very gifted Mayan Shaman, Aurora Garcia Saqui. Artist, herbalist and traditional healer, she is a direct descendant of the world renowned Mayan Healer, Don Elijio Panti. Don Elijio bequeathed to Aurora much of his knowledge while she served as his apprentice for many years.

Begin your traditional medicine journey, with a guided walk along a canopied jungle path used by the Maya to gather their medicinal plants and herbs. Along this tropical rainforest path, you will encounter many of the same plants Aurora uses in the traditional herbal remedies that she utilizes in her healing clinic. As you slowly walk along the trail, your knowledgeable Mayan guide will point out and explain many of these unique medicinal plants and trees.

You will have a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the making of a Mayan herbal remedy by Aurora, she will explain the herb and its medicinal properties as she prepares and grinds it with a hand mill. You will also see a "smudge house", various bark and leaves used in curing many different illnesses, traditional dance costume and much more. You will also have an opportunity to sample the renowned Mayan Cocoa drink. Authentic colorful handmade Mayan craft items will be available for sale. This unique tour affords you a glimpse into the secret life of the Mayan. You will return home with a greater appreciation for where many medicinal cures originated.

Note: Long sleeve shirts and long pants recommended during rainy season (June – Nov) but this isn't the rainy season, so???. Bring a poncho during rainy season.

Comments: Lets start off with something good. IMO I rate the actual activity time (a bit over an hour) as the best part of this whole cruise. However … the tour is listed as 4 ½ hours, and there is NO mention of all the logistics which turn it into over 6 hours.

Starting off at 8:20 to be to the departure point (end of the long pier) at 8:45, we find out that Harvest Caye is just another sandbar (with vegetation) with a couple of souvenir buildings, and that very, very, very long pier on one side (I tried to "measure" on the way back and it seemed noticeably over 1/4 mile) where we are the only ship, and a small-boat harbor is on the other side of the sandbar where we have to take a boat ride across to the mainland. After an unnecessary very extended organization time (which turns out to be worthless), ALL the morning excursion guests are packed into one standing-room-only boat and we depart for a “25-minute ride” (45 minutes one way; 42 minutes on the return) across to the mainland.

There we find 9 fairly nice busses waiting to take us to the various sites. Our bus is the next to last one to get loaded and depart. This starts out well but then the bus breaks down (jammed gears and the driver can’t get it out of 1st gear) and we have to wait for a 3rd-rate replacement. The ride which is also supposed to be only about 25-30 minutes also turns out to be about 45 or more, not counting the breakdown time. Unlike Roatan, the roads are decent, even the rutted dirt ones.

We finally arrive at the presentation site (it is now well after 11AM; a bit over 3 hours) but we do get an excellent set of presentations. After just over an hour (I could have spent more time there) we start on the over-two-hour-long drawn out return. We finally are back on the ship a bit after 2:30 … long after lunch hour is over.

I can’t decide which was worse, the so-called roads in Roatan, or the way-over-long travel logistics on this excursion, but that hour of presentation was excellent. As great as the presentation was, because of the logistics, I can't recommend this excursion.

Day 9, Sun, Jan 21 – Cruising the Straits of Florida #2 of 2

As we have had for several days now, we again had very loudly screeching children the first half of the night (very loud howling, screaming, screeching wind as it went through our superstructure sounding like screeching children at a store or on a plane) then quite a bit of rock-n-roll the rest of the night and it is still definitely rolling, and is felt as such even all the way down on my cabin (7th) deck. (The 7th deck is the 3rd passenger deck though we do occasionally embark and disembark one deck lower.) While at lunch, the Captain reported conditions: wind 40-45mph and 10-12-foot waves. There on the 12th deck (the feeding trough) the rolling was so severe that I almost fell a couple times.

Then if I can stay upright, today is the day to very carefully stagger around and do most of the repacking for the end of the trip.

Side note: now that I can actually get out on my veranda either the weather has been too poor to do so, and/or when in port, there is nothing of any interest to go out to see: just a) seaside open water, b) tourist shops, c) another ship opposite us at the dock, or d) a big commercial shipping area. Somewhat similarly, the outside seating for the Terrace Café where I eat has almost every meal almost every day has been “Closed due to Weather.”

Day 10, Mon, Jan 22 – Key West (8AM – 5PM)
Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which houses an impressive collection of flowering plants, cascading waterfalls and 50 different species of butterflies from around the world. Continue to the aquarium, Key West's oldest attraction, dating back to 1935 and home to hundreds of different species of local sea life. Don't miss the historic home of author Ernest Hemingway.

The day started out well with not too much rock-n-roll, partly cloudy, with a nice temperature. After another good breakfast we have to face the Customs/Immigration interrogation but that went quickly. Please Note: (Unwanted hassles!) The Riviera has been scheduled to dock at the Key West Navy facility. No photos are allowed in the pier area (Military Base). All tour will finish down town (not the cruise port). Guests may take the complimentary conch train/trolley tram at leisure to get back to the pier. My December Christmas trip here got cancelled due to airfare $$.

Then head out to the pier and wait for the provided shuttle bus to get us off the Navy base and into town. I’ve been here before so I’ll take just the 1-hour walking tour as a start to my own walking tour. There are three locations of interest I would like to visit. 1) The Shipwreck Treasure Museum, 2) the Aquarium, 3) the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. At least the excursion ends at one of the places I want to see.

Aquarium: 1 Whitehead St;
Shipwreck Museum: 1 Whitehead St;
Audubon House: 205 Whitehead St.;
Mel Fisher Museum: 200 Greene St.;
Butterfly Conservatory: 1316 Duval St.

(PBk) Key West Walking Tour (EYW-009) 1 hour 8:30AM
Meet on the pier to go and explore the historic beauty of one of Florida's most popular destinations during this scenic and informative walking tour in Key West. Formerly one of the richest cities per capita in America, Key West is immortalized by a storied past that has been shaped by wreckers, spongers, cigar makers and the U.S. Navy. This thriving center of art, culture and entertainment has also been the home, or second home, of presidents, movie stars and writers.

Depart the pier for a guided and narrated walking tour of Key West. During a stroll through its enchanting streets and lanes, you will discover the island's rich maritime history, wonderful architecture and relaxed lifestyle. Tropical foliage will shade the walkways as you make your way through the heart of Key West.

Your tour ends with a climb to the top of the 65-foot tower at the Shipwreck Historium, which offers wonderful views and photo opportunities of the entire island. Then you return to the pier.

Please note: This walking tour involves 1.25 miles of walking over mostly flat surfaces, and includes a number of stairs at the Shipwreck Historium.

Comments: We really lucked out on this tour. It was listed as only one hour but we actually got a bit over 2 hours and then an intro lecture and visit to the Shipwreck museum. The only slight downside – Hurricane Irma had damaged the Shipwreck Museum tower so nobody could go up it for now. But with the longer walk, the lecture, and museum tour, it all ended up over 3 hours, not just the one hour. I stayed around a little longer to visit the Aquarium and then made an easy connection with the shuttle back to the ship for a somewhat late lunch.

Tonight we have to have our checked luggage packed, labelled, and outside our rooms before 10PM for pickup and getting moved to the dock.

Day 11, Tue, Jan 23 – Miami Disembark (8AM)
After several expensive days at sea, get back to mainland US and fly home – But a BIG IF developed. After the usual excellent breakfast (6AM), I went back to my room, and my keycard wouldn’t work. So I went down to the office and got a new one – which didn’t work, so I went down to the office and got a second new one – which didn’t work. Back to the office where I was promised that a repair man would be right up. After about 45 minutes (no repair man) my regular “housekeeper/room stewardess” came by and her master key worked. At least I was back in my room and could get the last of my luggage. What if I had still been locked out of my room and couldn’t get my luggage when it was time to go to the airport? I stayed in the room for another 30 minutes (door carefully propped open) and waited for that promised repair man – who never showed up.

At 8:45 it was time to claim my checked luggage and get on the bus to the airport. At least that went very well. There is/was a flight just before noon but Oceania had told us to book flights AFTER noon. The early afternoon flight was so expensive that I decided to wait a couple more hours to save about $300. It is going to be a LONG wait (9:45 – 4:40) in the Miami airport – junk food time! I won’t be home until late.

United UA 2073Miami – IAH4:40P - 6:42P3:02

At least the flight went very well though a bit bumpy at times. Luggage came quickly and the shuttle wait wasn’t too bad. So … home by about 8:30.

EXCURSIONS:
Listed in rating order at the time I booked them:
Costa Maya(xxx) CMA-007 Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
Cancelled out
4 hours
CANCEL TERRAIN
Santo Tomas(PBK) STC-004 Countryside and Rio Dulce by Land5 hours
CANCEL WEATHER
Harvest Caye(PBK) HAR-021 Mayan Culture & Medicine Trail4½ (6++) hours
Awful Logistics
Cozumel(PBK) COZ-019 Island Discovery And Chocolate Experience3 (2) hours
Key West(PBK) EYW-009 Key West Walking Tour
Then do my on walk-about
1 (3) hour
Roatan(Onbd) ROA-008 Island Highlights3½ (3) hours
Cayman Islands(Onbd) GCM-003 Cultural Express3½ hours
skip weather



Selected pictures
Click to enlarge




A LARGE CATTLE BARGE, THE RIVIERA



Stunning Riviera was designed to be distinctive and special in so many ways. Featuring the magnificent Lalique Grand Staircase, Riviera showcases rich residential design and furnishings. Riviera’s refined ambiance truly embodies the unparalleled Oceania Cruises experience. Ideally proportioned, Riviera still embraces the same warmth and charm of renowned Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena. Designed with the travel connoisseur in mind, Riviera offers guests multiple dining venues. Notably, the onboard experience continues to exude that comfortable familiarity guests have come to cherish. We look forward to welcoming you aboard.

Ship Specifications
* Length: 784.95 feet
* Beam: 105.646 feet
• Cruising Speed: 20 knots
* Guest Decks: 11
* Cattle Capacity: 1,250 (Double Occupancy)
* Staff Size: 800

Our 282-square-foot Veranda Staterooms are the largest at sea. Featuring a comfortably furnished private veranda, our most requested luxury, each stateroom also includes a plush seating area, refrigerated mini-bar, spacious closet and a marble and granite-clad bathroom with a bathtub/shower and separate shower.

Prison Cell: Instead of a Category C room (large window but no veranda) which I would have booked, the Category B4 Veranda (lowest $ Veranda), 282 sq feet with private veranda were “on sale.” Mine is #7017, starboard side towards the bow. It will be a long walk/climb from deck 7 to deck 12 and “all the way” aft to the feeding trough. But the choice and the food in the buffet are very good. I won’t go to the main dining room.

Since we are “AT SEA” only two days to “watch the water go by,” the veranda may well get some good use on this cruise.

* Refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water replenished daily
* Full bathtub/shower and separate shower
* Private teak veranda
* Flat-screen television with DVD player and extensive media library
* Wireless Internet access but poor signal so virtually useless unless in the “Oceania At Sea” lab
* Writing desk and stationery



OCEANIA CRUISES:
1 Nov 16, 2016 - Caribbean Charisma, Regatta, 13 days
2 Dec 16, 2016 - Heart of the Caribbean, Riviera, 11 days
3 Jan 13, 2018 - Seaswept Breeze, Riviera, 11 days
4 Apr 22, 2018 - Seaside Sojourn, Marina, 17 days
5 Jun 15, 2018 - Panama Enchantment, Insignia, 11 days
6 Oct 3, 2018 - Cuba, Serena, 8 days
7 Feb 5, 2019 - Allure of the Islands, Riviera, 13 days
(booked through here)
~ Dec, 2020 - Caribbean Pearls, Riviera, 15 days
~ Jan, 2021 - Captivating Caribbean, Riviera, 12 days