April 29 – St. Maarten – Freedom
I’ve been thinking a bit about what I’ve found “off” about this cruise. One has to remember I sailed this ship just over three months ago, and thought it was a first rate cruise experience. The ship is still in pristine condition, so that hasn’t changed. However many of the staff and crew onboard has changed. Many have moved on because their contracts ended, and they went home on vacation. And others have left for a break, before joining the new Carnival Splendor. Cruise lines often take many of their top people to bring out the new builds, and that may indeed be a contributing factor here.
Today was our first port stop, St. Maarten, and also our last port of call in the Caribbean before we cross the Atlantic. Including the Freedom there are four ships mega-ships in port today, which means somewhere in the neighborhood of 16,000 visitors. Complicating things today; it’s Carnival in Phillipsburg, which is a major holiday, with parades on Front Street.
On the Freedom guests were warned about possible traffic woes caused by the holiday, and advised to stick with ship’s tours, or use the available water taxis from the pier, rather than local taxis or rental cars. This created unusually long line-ups waiting to board the water taxis to downtown Phillipsburg.
We left the ship around 10 AM, and walked towards the shopping area at the pier, and the spot to board the water taxi. Having been to St. Maarten quite a number of times, the last being just a few months ago, we chose not to stand in line, and just wandered the pier’s shopping area. Kuki Jr. and his fiancé, who are traveling with us, did sign up for a snorkeling tour that would take them to the French side of the island, and visit Marigot.
Kuki Jr. and his fiancé Shira returning to the ship.
As things turned out there was a bit of misinformation given to passengers. The parade in Phillipsburg was not scheduled to begin until 2 PM, so passengers could have rented cars or taken local taxi tours if they did it earlier in the day.
From the “you can’t make this stuff up department”, overheard on the pier at St. Maarten today in reference to the island being partially Dutch and partially French: “Is the island split lengthwise, or in half?”
We were scheduled to depart St. Maarten at 4 PM, with “all aboard” at 3:30 PM. However, there were 3 headline entertainers who were to join the ship today, to entertain during the crossing, and their arrival was delayed by late arriving flights (ah yes, another shining example of my favorite industry- the airlines at it again).
This morning an ambulance removed a passenger from the ship, then sadly, just prior to sailing another ambulance was called to take a passenger as well as their family from the ship. I certainly hope the ill passengers recover, and wish their families the very best. I also hope they had the absolutely CRITICAL travel insurance. I’ve seen this situation come up much too often, particularly on longer sailings (with more elderly passengers), but it can happen to anyone… even on a three day cruise. NEVER try to save money by skipping on purchasing travel insurance. I offer a word of advice here as well; do not buy the insurance from the cruise lines. More comprehensive and less expensive insurance can be purchased through third party suppliers. You can compare and investigate these at www.insuremytrip.com
After sailing away from St. Maarten with a beautiful sunset behind us, I was sitting on the balcony, when liquid started dripping from above once again. It wasn’t a deluge like the previous night, so this time I was able to spot where it was coming from, a sprinkler head on the outside structure above Lido, on Deck 10. I called Guest Relations, and they sent a maintenance man up right away. He looked at, agreed with me that it was leaking, and said he would tell his boss. It’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to hang off the back and top of a moving ship to fix this one… and how they’re going to attempt it.
Tonight I am happy to report I enjoyed the meal in the Posh Dining Room. The menu still strikes me as having odd choices; like only one salad choice or the always available Caesar Salad. But I enjoyed a very tasty, and tender, pork tenderloin.
Judd, Shira, Kuki
The show this evening, ventriloquist Gerry Goodspeed (who I’ve seen several times before) was held pre-dinner for late seating guests, to allow everyone to enjoy Todd Wittmer’s version of the “Carnival Fun Hop”. By dining room and section, passengers are divided into three teams; Red, White, and Blue, and instructed to meet in various lounges for warm-up fun. Then at 11:45 the party moves up to the Lido Deck for an energetic deck party.
Having sailed with Todd as Cruise Director before, this deck party is normally a great success on Caribbean sailings. However I have to admit to being surprised just how many people participated in the fun on this cruise. With a passenger demographic close to ancient, tonight they were acting as though it was spring break for seniors.