Independence of the Seas for the Holidays

Our Christmas Tree, Independence 2008

Barging through books at three to five a week, I needed a couple of breaks from the solitude and the holiday tourists aboard the ship, so I called Maggie – she and Kim and I went “boat shopping” at Target and Wal-Mart in Ft. Lauderdale for stuff we just can’t get in Panama. Kind of boring for a “girls’ day out” but boy did I feel like a millionaire hoarding the stuff we have been looking forward to getting! The only problem seemed to be getting off the ship and getting a taxi without ripping somebody a new one. I HATE crowds, and a turnaround day in Ft. Lauderdale is enough to turn me into a complete recluse. [Read more…]

Travel, Theft, Birthdays, and Thanksgiving…all in One Month

Aboard Independence of the Seas
Somewhere in the Caribbean

The big accomplishment this month was getting the engine put back together after it’s breakdown   The new manifold arrived just in time for Ole to get it put back together before he left to go back to sea.   Timing being what it is, he was able to fire up the engines and do a full test at 12:00 noon the day before he had to go back to work!

November 17 took Ole back to Independence of the Seas, with me again tagging along.

The unfortunate thing about flying back through Panama City was that our little digital camera was stolen from our backpack somewhere between Bocas del Toro and Panama City, where we had arranged an overnight to take care of  some banking and real estate business.  Bummer.  Had some great party pics gone… [Read more…]

October is Party Month in Bocas

Bocas Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

The second half of October was uneventful (save a couple of spectacular parties to be described later). We waited for parts. Ole has been down in the engine room dismantling the engine, cleaning up, and getting it ready for the hopefully soon arrival of a new manifold and adapter kit. I’ve been working on making new window covers for the outside of the pilot house, trying to protect the interior wood while providing much-needed shade. Thankfully there are just enough common sense fasteners to handle the just enough Sunbrella I have left.

Now to the parties: [Read more…]

Exploring Almirante Bay

On October 1, we cheerfully left the dock, picked up 100 gallons of fuel, and headed out with four other boats from the marina for a week to ten days’ worth of relaxation. In the group were Pamela Jean, a 50-foot Formosa cutter from Texas with Bill and Pam aboard; Mariah, a 63-foot Choy Lee sloop with Evelyn and Dave from Key West; Serenity, with Steve (who’s the staff captain on NCL’s Norwegian Jade); all following Guavi, with Ariel and Michelle from Puerto Rico out to some of the islands and anchorages in Bahia Almirante.

Cayo de Agua (Water Cay)

Our first stop was Cayo de Agua (Water Cay), where one of our marina-mates has property he’s hoping to turn into an eco-resort. The weather was fantastic – the sea flat as a table – which was a good thing, because Cayo de Agua is right up against the Caribbean. We anchored on the south side of the cay, off Daniel’s dock, where we were greeted wildly by his three mixed-blood hound dogs who have the run of the place when Daniel isn’t there. [Read more…]

Anniversary Party at Bocas Marina

Bocas Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

The work list continues…and so does the heat.

The highlight of the month was the fifth anniversary party of Bocas Yacht Club and Marina. With an expected turnout of 75-100 people, several of us opted to spend the Saturday afternoon of the party helping Sharkey cook, clean, and organize. I’m glad we did – everything was perfect for the expected 5:00 pm start time, with finger food, beer, wine, soft drinks, and killer rum punch ready to roll. All the cruisers were there, as were several folks from town, to enjoy the live music, a fire dance, a juggler, and general alcohol-fueled mayem. And during the evening, I got to discover why they call them “fire ants.” Sitting on a rock in the lawn I thought I had dropped cigarette ashes on my ankles!

Finally, tomorrow morning we’re going to head out in a convoy for a week or two (as long as the food holds out) with four other boats – Pamela Jean, with Pam and Bill from Texas; Mariah, with Evelyn and Dave from Key West; Serenity, with Steve Tepper (staff captain on Norwegian Jade); and Guavi, with Ariel and Michelle from Puerto Rico. Should be fun!

Back to Emma Jo in Bocas

Bocas Marina
Bocas del Toro, Panama

Getting back to the boat was fairly straightforward – Barcelona to Madrid to Guatemala City to Panama City to Bocas del Toro…with a stay in one of the sleaziest hotels never to be frequented again in Panama – Hotel Riande Airport. A dump of unworkability priced at about $92 per night, it’s the only hotel conveniently located five minutes from Tocumen International Airport. Stench of mould covered over with Lysol, irregular surging from the air conditioner, and a non-functional toilet. After coming from the state-of-the-art Independence of the Seas, the third world was an abrupt comedown. Eeesh. [Read more…]

First TIme in Ireland, Becoming a Certified Whiskey Taster

Aboard Independence of the Seas

This last cruise was a 4-day cruise from Southampton to Cobh (pronounced “cove”), the port city for Cork, Ireland, and the launching site of the great Irish migration to the United States. What a delight!

Docking in Cobh

I was able to watch the ship come into the port from the bridge, along with the Captain’s wife. The port of Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic, and it was eerie to see that the old White Star Line office building was still there, with remnants of the tender dock that Titanic used. The inner harbor, though deep, is fairly narrow. The Port created a “dock” alongside the town wall using two large rafts, and Independence had to turn 180° to come alongside. It got very interesting watching the bow of the ship swing nearly over the coast road as the azipods turned her on a dime like a tugboat. Hundreds of people drove into town and lined the hillsides to watch the turn, and it was quite emotional to see how the local community supports the port call. [Read more…]

Alone, at Last (with 4200 other people)

Aboard Independence of the Seas

It’s been a bit odd being just the two of us (along with 4200 other passengers and 1450 other crew) – the routine is beginning to settle. This will be the first time I will have been aboard for an entire 10-week contract, so it’s a bit difficult to find my place in Ole’s routine. He leaves the cabin about 7:00 each morning, except when there are early arrivals, when he’s up as early as 3:00 a.m. He works pretty solidly in his office until we meet for lunch – then he power naps until about 1:30, to go back at it until usually 7:00 p.m. or so.

He has official “duties” a couple of evenings each cruise, that require putting on the penguin suit and mingling among the guests, and some nights it’s quite the panic as he runs upstairs from the engine room, showers and changes at warp speed, and transforms from a coverall-wearing manager of 60 engineers, motormen, electricians, refrigeration specialists, into somebody out of the old “Love Boat” series, complete with cutaway jacket, cummerbund and bow tie. Probably three nights a week, we dine in the dining room or one of the specialty restaurants, and occasionally we’ll catch a show or an entertainer. The nights tend to be early, given his schedule. [Read more…]

A Few New European Ports with Friends on Independence

Independence of the Seas


Well today we bid fond and tearful farewell to Suzanne, our roommate for the last 28 days. She was probably glad to get away from the rollaway cot back to her own bed…

The second two weeks she was aboard with us, the itinerary was slightly modified, calling at Civitivecchia (the port for Rome), Cannes (instead of Villefranche), and adding Cadiz, the port city for Sevilla. [Read more…]

Cruising Europe on Independence of the Seas

Aboard Independence of the Seas

After cruising to Gibraltar, Barcelona, Villefranche (Nice, Monte Carlo) Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Cagliari (Sardinia); Malaga, Lisbon, and Vigo, we returned to Southampton today and said goodbye to Cason, Julia, Petter and Kristina. What a fabulous time – everybody went home a little plumper than when they left…here’s the short form of what we did… [Read more…]