Cruising back-to-back x 3

Hello again….as you know, we live in our RV full-time, except for the seasons we spend in our “slice of heaven” in Panama. Living in the RV is an adventure, and usually is just perfect for us. We are able to pick up and travel, without worrying about not packing something we may need. However, when your home needs service or repairs, it’s not so much fun. This is the story of one of those times…and how to make lemonade when you are “homeless” ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunday of President’s Day Weekend, Jim decided to conduct the regular monthly maintenance routine required when parked in place for extended periods of time. This includes, among many other items, disconnecting from shore power, starting the engine and generator, etc. This particular day, he discovered the RV was running neither on shore power, nor on generator, but solely on the “house” batteries. There was a problem with the inverter not functioning properly. This is a HUGE problem since the RV is completely electric, including heat; the refrigerator; stove and heck…even the master bathroom toilet has an electric macerator, therefore we couldn’t even flush it without running down the batteries (thank goodness the half bath has a manual toilet!) We turned everything off, and truly “camped” (instead of our usual ‘glamping’)

Being a holiday weekend, we had to wait until Tuesday to call the local repair shop, explain the problem and request an appointment. Good news is that they are an awesome shop, with a great reputation that is very well-deserved. Bad news: the first appointment available wasn’t until the following Monday.

We stayed in the RV that Tuesday night with the intention of sticking it out until we could get it in the shop. However, the weather did not cooperate. There was an unusually cold spell that arrived in “East Texas” that night…temperatures dropped into the low 30’s and we had no heat. Wednesday morning, we decided to drop off the RV and move into a hotel.

Then Jim had an idea. Galveston is only two hours from our home base in Livingston, with cruise ships departing almost daily. We penciled out the cost of a a five-day Caribbean cruise, that included all the food we could eat vs. the cost of staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Livingston and going out for meals three times a day. The cruise penciled out much more affordable, and when we called on a Wednesday to book a cruise on Friday, we got an even better deal. We called the RV Repair shop to ask if we could drop off the RV on Friday, instead of Monday – they said yes, of course.

The PLAN was to drop off the RV on Friday morning and then drive the Canyon pickup truck to Galveston, board the ship and enjoy the five-day cruise to Mexico. Upon our return to Galveston, the following Tuesday, the RV would be ready for us to move back into. However…the best laid plans often go awry…and when I say awry, I mean off the tracks!!

We spent Wednesday night in the RV and despite wearing sweatshirts/pants plus four blankets, we froze all night long, and got very little sleep. We got up Thursday morning, packed for the cruise, made reservations for that night at the Holiday Inn Express, and dropped off the RV.

After a much warmer night’s sleep, we got up Friday morning and drove the two hours to Galveston. I pre-paid for parking with the Port of Galveston, but Google was not up to date with construction in the area. After getting turned around several times, we pulled over and called the Port. They talked us through the construction area and eventually we found the parking lot entrance. We caught the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the cruise ship entrance, and breezed through the boarding process.

Our ship, the Enchantment of the Seas, is part of the Royal Caribbean fleet, with a capacity of about 2200 passengers. The ports of call on this five-day cruise were Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico. Of course, “researcher” Jimmy read all he could about the ship prior to boarding. It was one of the older ships in the fleet, and was due for refurbishing in the Fall of 2020. Nevertheless, we were both impressed with the condition of the ship – VERY clean, and absolutely beautiful. Because we were on a budget on this trip, we booked an inside cabin for the very first time. We discovered that we really liked the complete darkness of the cabin …and slept better than we’ve slept in several weeks.

The weather was more chilly than you would expect on a Caribbean cruise…although it was February. Nevertheless we managed to enjoy time on the Pool Deck, despite the wind and cold.

The first port was Costa Maya Mexico. We made a brief excursion ashore, but only visited the Port shops. They were the typical Mexican souvenir shops, with the traditional Mexican shopping experience. After starting off at $500 for a silver ankle bracelet, we bought it for $60. Since it was not the standard “Mexican Beach silver”, it hasn’t yet turned black!

We took a “Behind the Scenes” tour of the kitchens. Having worked for many years in a Nevada Casino, I was familiar with the operations of large scale food operations, but the unique requirements of being at sea were very interesting. The very best part of this tour was the Sunday Champagne Brunch served at the end.

The crew on board were definitely the highlight of all three cruises. We got to know the entertainment group fairly well, and spent a lot of time playing Bingo. In fact, we played nearly every session available, without winning a single one. Toward the end of the third cruise, they started incorporating some of Jim’s really bad “Dad” jokes into their routine (What do you call a bear with no teeth? A “gummy bear”… yuk yuk, yuk )

A big thank you goes to “Choo-Choo Tom” and Leah (pictured below with Jim) for making our time very enjoyable. And…as you might have guessed….we also developed great relationships with several of the bartenders, especially Glenn and Marsha. The staff in the casino was also very attentive, particularly when Jim began winning a lot playing Blackjack. It was a good thing he won, because the machines weren’t so nice to me…although I had a blast encouraging the whole row of slot machine players to chant and cheer for each other.

The next port was Cozumel. We again disembarked, caught a taxi from the Port to downtown, visited a pharmacy and a liquor store and returned to the ship. While we were lounging around the ship that afternoon, we called the RV repair shop back in Livingston to check on the progress of the repairs. It seems that the inverter is a very expensive part, and was completely shot and needed to be replaced. The good news is that it was under warranty, the bad news is that the RV would not be ready upon our scheduled return, causing our PLAN to change again. After a brief discussion, we decided to book A SECOND cruise, back-to-back, on the same ship to the same ports.

The last night aboard was a Mardi Gras Celebration and the ship was beautifully decorated for the party.

We arrived in Galveston early on Tuesday morning, and disembarked in order to go to Walmart to pick up some toiletries we needed for the unexpected extension of our trip. We let some of the crew know of our plans and were asked to pick up a couple of toiletries for them too, since there wasn’t enough time for the crew to go ashore. We were assured the re-boarding process would be very simple, since we were “back-to-backers”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Apparently, every person we encountered in the Port were not familiar with the process of re-boarding.

Finally, after a test of our already very tested patience, and several hours, we re-boarded. Since we booked our back-to-back at the last minute, we were unable to remain in the same cabin. We’d packed up everything the night before, just like the rest of the passengers, but left our suitcases in the cabin. Our Cabin Steward took care of moving our stuff to our new cabin, so it was waiting for us. After what should have only taken an hour or two, but ended up taking up most of the day, we were very glad to see our favorite bartender was again on duty in the main lobby bar!

The second cruise was even more enjoyable than the first cruise. We knew our way around and knew most of the crew. I took advantage of a couple of presentations in the Spa, including a “Ladies Pamper Party” and the “Hair Show”. We caught a few of the production shows offered on board, and really enjoyed the “late night” comedy show. I insisted on sitting in the front row and the comedian predictably picked on poor “chrome”-haired Jimmy by asking his age and how many colonoscopies he’s had ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course, the food was “off the hook. We really enjoyed the food at the Buffet, and the Dining Room experience was wonderful! Following are some random food and drink photos:

When approaching the Port of Costa Maya, the Captain announced that we would not be docking in Costa Maya at all, and would continue on to the Port of Cozumel, and stay there overnight. This change in our schedule was due to a mix up in the Port of Costa Maya with more ships arriving than they had room for at the pier. It made no difference to us, since we hadn’t planned to go ashore again, but several people were disappointed their shore excursions were cancelled (although everyone was reimbursed, plus another $50 credit for the inconvenience).

We decided to check on the RV again, having learned a lesson from the last trip. The part had been shipped out to a repair shop to be re-built and had not yet been returned to Livingston. This time, we received a discount when we booked OUR THIRD back-to-back cruise (another change in the PLAN).

We learned that passengers must disembark in order to clear Customs and Immigration, regardless of being on back-to-back cruises. This experience was much more pleasant than the previous re-boarding, as we were escorted by Royal Caribbean staff all the way through.

We spend a lot of time on this third cruise playing Bingo, reading and playing in the Casino (Jim was a big winner….I was not, although once we arrived back home, I found out I’d won a free cruise anywhere, anytime between Sept and Dec of this year). We again thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

When approaching Galveston, we again contacted the RV repair shop and the part still had not arrived. Because the next cruise was pre-booked with Spring Breakers, we decided to head back to Livingston instead of staying aboard. We moved into a hotel, never dreaming we would be in hotels another 20 days!! (Multiple changes in the PLAN).

One thing after another caused the unanticipated delay, including the owner of the original repair shop passing away and no one else knowing how to repair our part; the outbreak of the Corona Virus pandemic caused delays in shipping; and the necessity of going to the part manufacturer in order to receive the correct part.

Finally, just in time to celebrate my 60th birthday, we were able to move back into the RV. The next several days were spent settling in and recovering from hotel life. We, along with the rest of America, also spent time adjusting to the “Stay At Home” orders issued due to the Covid 19 virus. This caused us to cancel our Spring travel plans, and we are staying put for the time being in Livingston.

As soon as we are able, we plan to make travel plans again and will be updating you all with our adventures. Until then…wash your hands and stay safe!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Richard Tripp says:

    Glad you were next to a seaport!

    Like

  2. Missy says:

    What a way to spend with a break down in your RV.๐Ÿค ๐Ÿด

    Like

  3. Karen Brown-Wichman says:

    So how long did it take for you to get your land legs back?๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ The best laid plans โ€ฆ Always an adventure w Jimmy. ๐Ÿ˜. Glad to hear you are safe and healthy. ๐Ÿค“

    Like

  4. Marsha Parker says:

    So very interesting! I donโ€™t have the patience you both have exhibited. Admire all you did and your common sense about things that come up so unexpectedly. Good thing staying put! Am doing the same thing โ€“ well kinda sorta between my place and Billโ€™s place โ€“ but no where else other than the gas station with clorox wipes in hand. Spring is about to burst into bloom here and wish I could share โ€“ but wonโ€™t this year at all.
    Stay safe. Love ya both

    Like

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