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September 23rd, 2011 at 7:58:35 PM permalink
Click on any photo for a large, high-res version.


I posted my experiences about each day in a separate post. Some of these include my casino experience. However, a full review of the casino follows the last day's post. If you want to go right there, it's this post.


The wife and I and some of the family took a cruise to Bermuda. We had a lot of fun, and there were only two deaths on board.

How's that for an opening line?

To be fair, we're not 100% sure they died, but I'm getting ahead of myself...


My wife and I took our first cruise last week. If you have cruise experience, some of the stuff I'm writing about might seem obvious, but it wasn't to me.

We had a lot of fun, but the cruise also had some stupid little problems we had to deal with.

The cruise was my mother's idea for a family vacation. With her was me, my wife, my brother, his wife, two of their kids, my uncle and his wife, and two aides for my wheel-chair bound mother. Transportation options for my mother are limited, so our only real choice was to sail out of Bayonne NJ.

We chose September because it was cheaper, and there would be less kids, but it still would be warm enough to swim. That meant our only cruise options were for a 5 night cruise to Bermuda.

So we headed to the Bermuda Triangle, during the height of Hurricane Season!

FWIW: Until now, I didn't even know that there ARE passenger ship terminals ANYWHERE in NJ. Go figure. I did know that there was a Navy yard in Bayonne, but had no idea it had closed, or when (September 1999), or when it opened as a passenger ship terminal (January 2004).
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
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September 23rd, 2011 at 7:58:58 PM permalink
Day 1. Saturday, September 10th. Boarding, embarkation.

Several months ago, we visited the Bayonne terminal, just to see how wheelchair accessible it was. We made a few wrong turns trying to find it.

Based on the test run, I figured I'd prepare more this time. First, I got directions to the pier from the cruise line's website. It did not match the directions from Google Maps. Neither seemed to work with an actual map. My GPS was also confused. We ended up on a road on the adjacent pier. Realizing we were on the wrong pier and seeing the ship wasn't much help. When we turned around and went back to the main road, we still missed the road for the pier we wanted. It only cost us a couple minutes, but it was annoying.

Finding a place to unload the van was tricky as I got conflicting directions from the people directing traffic. However, once we finally started to unload, things went smoothly. The lines for processing and getting the Set-Sail pass was quick. FYI: The Set-Sail pass is like a boarding pass, but also used as a cabin door key and on-board credit card.

We got there at about 10:00 for a 2:00 posted boarding time and 5:00 sailing time, hoping they'd let handicapped people on early. While that was not the case, they did let us on before 2:00, but not as early as we hoped. They had a reasonably nice waiting area, complete with beverages (not soda) and cookies. As we stepped up, my brother remarked "And the 6 day buffet begins!" It didn't surprise us that there was no soda. As mentioned many times on the website, the cruise has all you can eat, and provides coffee and tap water, but soda and bottled water are optional. Only one person in our group, my nephew who also had never sailed, got the soda package. He later regretted it. I was very much undecided, because my drink of choice is Iced Tea. There was no mention of it, free or for pay, anywhere on the website. Although there wasn't any at this waiting to board area, Iced Tea was available, at no charge, on board.

Finally, we got on board around 11:30, although had a minor snag at security. My wife packed a travel set of poker chips. They're small, about the size of a nickel. But stacked in a plastic chip case, on the security system, they looked like explosives.

After that laugh, we headed up to the buffet, and spent the afternoon generally exploring the ship. Before exploring, I used the mens room.

I can't recall ever being in a mens room that had floor to ceiling windows.

For the record, this was the only mens room like this. On deck 11, between the buffet and pool deck, along the outer wall was the only logical place for it, so what not put in full length windows?

The coolest thing I saw was in a lounge on deck 14: this perpetual motion type thing. I could watch it for hours. OK, not hours, but it was very cool.

Yeah, I realize I should have taken the picture from the other side....

The stupidest thing I saw was the Skylight Chapel. The elevators only go to deck 14. The chapel was on deck 15. I.E. It's the highest point on the ship that a passenger is allowed to get to.

It was a nice chapel and all, seats about 40, but being so high, and called the "Skylight Chapel", you'd think there would be a window or two! I mean, without windows, it could just as easily been stuck anywhere - including someplace with direct wheelchair access. (Not to totally fixate on the handicap thing. They DID have a handicap stair lift thing, but that's not the point.)

At 4:00 we had our Muster Drill (lifeboat drill). All passengers are to report to their assigned lifeboat station, all of which were along the railing on deck 4. When it was over, I immediately discovered just how inadequate the elevator arrangement was, as everybody simultaneously wanted to get elsewhere. There were four banks of elevators. Two banks of three on either side towards the forward end, and two banks of four near the rear. We decided to avoid the crowd by staying on deck 4, and seeing what was going on, on the pier. At the end of the pier is a monument to 9-11, the Tear Of Grief. Since we left on Saturday 9/10, there was an event going on there. I'm sure there would have been something even more extravagant the next day on 9/11 where there was no cruise ship in port. The second photo was the best photo I got, taken when we were returning on Thursday 9/15.

The elevators proved inadequate at other times too. Generally, any time large groups needed to move at the same time, it was a problem. Take this floor plan.

My cabin is #7433, right behind the library. The library has a balcony overlooking the Promenade on Deck 5. The spots that say "Elev" are two standard elevators. There are two more glass elevators in each bank. So in this area, there are 8 elevators. The two elevator banks are close, but far. Close enough so that, as a team, when it wasn't busy, we were able to hit the buttons on both banks and catch the one that arrives first. But far enough apart that doing that was a pain in the ass - not to mention caused a needless stop for some other elevator.

Here's my sketch of the same area, as well as a sketch of how I would have set it up. Note that the rounded elevators are glass walled.

In my design, the two banks are now close enough so that they can be joined as one bank of 8 elevators, and you can get to any elevatorthat the elevators are a little bit bigger. There is still a central overlook, as well as space to pass between on other decks, but this design would be far more efficient, although at the cost of some of the view from the outer elevators.

The inefficiencies of the elevator design are my biggest overall complaint, and something that should have been considered during the initial design. Apparently, designers don't really consider these things because the website has the floorplans for all their ships. The plans for the Oasis of the Seas, the largest and newest ship in the fleet, shows the same type of double bank system, albeit, there are more elevators in each bank. Then again, it also has a much larger passenger capacity, so the extra elevators, while needed, doesn't alleviate the problem.


After the crowds left, we made our way back to our cabin. To our surprise, our luggage arrived before dinner. The website said that we should have a carry-on in case the luggage doesn't make it so quickly.

On a side note, there was a door at the back of the library. On our first trip to our cabin, we walked around, via the halls shown, only to see a door at the end of the hallway. When we left, I figured I'd try it. Sure enough, it connected to the library thru a tiny space just big enough for the door to swing in. We used it every time since. On our third day our cabin steward saw me using it and said nothing.

Our next problem came at dinner. The largest table they have in the dining room seats 8. We're 11, so we were assigned two tables of 6, next to each other. We knew this months ago and it seemed acceptable. The problem was, there was an aisle between the tables. How stupid was that? We asked if it could be changed. Even though that waiter had 3 tables, all with 6 seats, and the other table hadn't been occupied yet, they said they couldn't switch us. Why not? Sigh...

During dinner, at about 6:30, there was an announcement: "Alpha, alpha, alpha! Deck 10, forward, starboard, stateroom 1256." This was immediately repeated, twice. The clarity, volume, urgency, ambiguity and repetition made it obvious that "Alpha" is a code-word for a medical emergency. There was no further announcement about it. When I got home, I checked the website. 1256 is one of the deluxe staterooms. Not the most expensive, but up there.

After dinner, we went to the welcome show. It was typical song & dance stuff, but they also had a commedian from "Last Comic Standing." I don't remember his name. He was good and had two particularly funny bits: You know that old question "If your house is on fire, and you could only remove one thing, what would it be?" His response: "The fire!" He also had a solution for global warming: "Switch to the metric system. Temperatures will instantly drop about 50 degrees!"

After the show, we wandered around a little, during which time I discovered the Cafe on the Promenade. Just a little place that serves pizza until 3:00am, sandwiches, cookies and danish 24hrs, all free. They also had a free Ice Water and Ice Tea dispenser. They also sell Seattle's Best coffee and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I immediately started making regular use of the Ice Tea dispenser. I thought it was kinda odd to be selling Coffee and Ice Cream when everything else is free. For the record, on the pool deck, there is a free self-service soft-serve dispenser that was open most of the time.

On the subject of dining options, there was the main dining room, spread on 3 lower decks, the buffet, Johnny Rockets, and a fine dining room. Johnny Rockets charged $4 per person, but I think the food was no charge. The fine dining room was, I beleive, $30 per person. We had no desire to try either option. Why pay for it when you can get it for free elsewhere? For the record, Johnny Rockets had it's standard menu, and wasn't hear the other restaurants. Therefore, it may have had it's own kitchen, under it's own management. So it may have been worth the charge if you really wanted it. The fin dining room was right next to the main dining room. I.E. It was the same food, just had a better ambiance. I ain't payin' for no ambiance....

There were also a ton of bars and lounges. No wonder since they are a key profit center.

After grabbing my Ice Tea, we found our way to the casino. What were the odds? Full casino review and details are at the end.

At about 10:30, word started to filter in that because of the medical emergency, we were back at Bayonne. I checked the GPS on my iPhone to confirm. Note, I did this while I was in the casino playing poker. We were no longer in international waters, but they kept the casino open. I wondered if there was a loophole in the law, or if it was more of a look the other way type of thing.

At about 11:00 we were underway again, and you could tell, even in the casino, that we were moving at top speed.

A little while later, my brother comes in. He had a balcony cabin, and was watching the activity as the patient was wheeled out into the ambulance. He had the opinion that there wasn't any sense of urgency. It took forever to load the ambulance, and for the traveling companions to leave. That led us to believe that the person had died. Also, as soon as the person and companions were off the ship, we were pulling out - even before the ambulance door had closed.

All I played was poker. I finally left the casino at about 1:00, down about $25.

I went for walk on the pool deck, along the railing. We were really moving! It was windy, but not because of the weather. We were simply moving that fast.

When I went to the cabin, I was flipping thru the channels on the TV, and saw that the show I had seen earlier is now on TV. Cool.
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
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September 23rd, 2011 at 7:59:21 PM permalink
Day 2. Sunday, September 11th. At sea all day.

While getting ready to leave the cabin, we hear announcements. I crack the door so we can hear them better. Among other things, there will be a moment of silence at noon for 9-11 rememberence.

We meet the gang and head for the breakfast buffet. There is a long line for the omelet station, but we continue past it around and see a second omelet station with only one person on line. Sweet!

After breakfast, we're just wandering around when noon arrives. There are speeches about the pending moment of silence, but by the time the actual moment comes (after about 3 minutes), most people, including crew, lost interest, and the moment was mostly not silent. Whatever.

We decide to hit the pool. It really shocked me, for two reasons. First, it was filled with salt-water. I immediately realized, duh, of course it is! It was just unexpected. Second, the boat was rocking a little and the water in the pool was sloshing around only a little bit. But when I got in the pool, I was being bounced around like crazy, by invisible waves. It was really weird, but fun.

Late in the afternoon, with some time to kill, I did some exploring.

Primarily, I wanted to take a look at the Helipad. I know the ship had one, but why wasn't it used last night rather than turn the ship around? Before I found my way to the helipad, I found a spot where you could look into the bridge. There are a TON of signs to not tap on the glass. I was there a couple minutes and one guy turned around and looked at me. I waved and he returned the wave. Maybe that was his way of thanking me for not tapping on the "fishtank".

Looking thru the bridge, you can see the helipad. This was the only shot I was able to get of it, without actually being on it. I was on deck 11. As it turned out, the only obvious way to get there is via deck 4, then up a flight at the front end, a short walk, then up a couple steps to the helipad.

You'll note that there are benches bolted to the deck. There is also a railing all around, as well as that short mast at the front. All the railings are on hinged mounts. They can be lowered easily. Use a ratchet, and the chairs can be removed. There are a bunch of metal plates around that mast. I assume that if they're removed, there's a hydrolic hinge system to get the mast out of the way too. I figure a bunch of guys can make it chopper ready in about 10-15 minutes. So why the big turn-around last night? As expensive as a medical helicopter ride can be, it has to be cheaper than turning the entire ship around, and then traveling at top speed to make up time. I didn't ask, because I didn't expect to get a real answer.

Although there is black/yellow warning tape around that mast, there are no signs to stay off those plates. I.E. You can go the forward-most point on the ship and lean against the rail without problems. I'm sure that if you climed up the railing to do the "I'm the king of the world" thing like in the movie Titanic, they would have had issues. I didn't test that theory.

I also took a few pictures inside the elevators. The first thing is, all the elevators had the day of the week in the carpet. I guess on extended cruises, it's possible to forget what day it is. They could very well have put a little sign on every map with the day on it, but this was cool.

I also took a couple looking out the glass elevator, and one looking thru the roof.

For dinner, it was formal night. I really had no desire to get dressed up while on vacation, but my wife was insisting, so I had packed a dress shirt, slacks, tie and, instead of a jacket, a black swede vest. The alternative was to ditch the family and eat in the buffet.

I needn't have tried so hard. There were men in the dining room wearing short-sleeve shirts and not even tucked into their shorts. Sigh.

After dinner, we went to the ice show. That's not really my thing, so I thought it was kinda lame. Of course, the wife liked it, so there. One of the skaters fell and got an applause when she got up. Why do people do that? Personally, I would have been more entertained if she did a "Tonya Harding" and pointed to her shoelace....

After that, to the casino. The poker table wasn't open yet, so I played a little craps. It was a good day to play craps because it was double odds night. That's right, normally it's just single odds! After losing about $60, the dice came to me and I had a good run, bringing me back to even before the 7-out, just when the poker talbe was opening.

About an hour in, I had A-Q offsuit with a few limpers before me, so I limped. The flop was Q-Q-Q! Sweet! I checked, but one guy was betting it. Nice. Too bad I only had about $85 at the time. But, by the time the hand was over, it was all in, and he called. Sweet.

When I finally left, I was down about $20. Not bad.

I walked with my brother to his cabin. It seems the cabin steward left a gift.

Our own cabin steward left my wife & me a gift in our cabin too. I think my brother's steward makes better looking bats.
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
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September 23rd, 2011 at 7:59:41 PM permalink
Day 3. Monday, September 12th. Arrive at Bermuda at 10:00.

We wake up early, and hit the buffet before the ship docks. Because of the return to Bayonne on Saturday, we were late, but only by an hour. But that's good because otherwise, I would have missed the docking procedure. As I was eating breakfast, I was wondering how close we were to the docking, when I glanced out and saw another ship, very close, and passing slowly. It took a few seconds before I realized that it wasn't a close call, but the other ship was already docked, and we were pulling in behind, back to back, and were almost in. So I went to the railing to watch the docking procedures.

This was taken using a panoramic app I downloaded just a week beforehand. It does a decent job although you can see some of the stitch marks.

Six of us decided to go to Hamilton. We could have paid $4 x 6 for the bus or ferry. Someone told us a cab would cost about $30, so that's what we did. We were able to get right in and go. As we left, we saw a huge line of people waiting for the bus and ferry, so we think we made a good decision.

Except the ride, over 40 minutes long, cost $52. With tip, it was $60.

I took the passenger seat up front. Everyone else piled in back. In Bermuda, they drive on the left, and the roads are relatively narrow and winding. For quite a while, I was hitting the imaginary brake as we went around turns and there was a car coming. Mind you, we weren't going that fast. It was just nerve-wracking and opposite what I was used to.

The taxi driver was very talkative and informative. He mentioned that he's a licensed tour guide. I believe it. At one point, he started to talk about Bermuda's political connection with the UK. I asked how come, with such close ties to the UK, that their money is tied to the US. (FYI: There is no exchange rate. Bermuda money is equal to US money.) It was a lengthy but interesting answer. Part of the answer is that, at one point in the 1980's, the UK was trying to get Bermuda, and some of the other small countries, to become fully independent. One of the methods the UK used was to force a change of the money system. While some countries did go independent, the UK also required a majority vote, (or 2/3 majority?) and the Bermuda residents voted to stay in the UK.

One of the other things he told us, is that gas costs over $8 per gallon!

He dropped us off in the center of town, pointing out where we could catch the ferry back.

On this map, our ship is the boat shown in the upper left. The boat in the middle is the ferry in Hamilton. The point at the upper right are caves we were thinking about going to. The three points at the bottom are reported to be the best beaches.
Click on the map to see the original Google Map.

We walked around for a little over an hour, when the wives started to moan that they were hungry and wanted to go back. I'm thinking, there are plenty of restaurants right here, and we just paid $60 to get there. But I'm more of a "go with the flow" kind of guy, so we headed to the ferry. We had good timing, because we got there about 5 minutes before the next ferry left. It seemed like the ride back to the ship took less than 15 minutes.

We had lunch, then decided to check out the area where the ship was: Dockside / Kings Wharf. Among other things, there is a glass factory (very cool watching them make stuff), clayworks (also cool watching, as well as interesting stuff for sale), rumcake factory (delicious samples), Snorkel Beach, and the typical tropical tourist location type shops.

I had read some very bad reviews online about Snorkel Beach. For one thing, because it's man-made, it doesn't have the pink sand Bermuda is famous for. But the bigger problem is, there is a snack bar / booze bar there that does a very good nightclub business, resulting in a lot of broken glass in the sand. Either I was blind to the glass, or they learned to clean up every day, or just stop using glass, or something, but I didn't have any problems. I wasn't wearing a swimsuit, but I kicked off my sandals and went in up to my knees. It was nice. Very calm and warm. Not at all like the big waves and cold water I experienced last month in Atlantic City. The wife saw me test the waters, and decided to do likewise. Except she didn't stop at her knees. She wasn't wearing a swimsuit, but that didn't stop her. She went in all the way and frolicked around a bit. When she finally got out, we agreed that we should go there the next day.

I went to the snorkel rental shack to ask how much. Snorkel and mask were $10 for the day. Not bad. I wondered how they clean the rubber mouthpiece, but I assumed they had that part figured out. I'd rent one when we return the next day.

Then we headed back to the ship. The wife was moaning that it was painful to walk in the wet clothes. I said to her, "Well, duh! Why do you think I stayed out!"

We had dinner in the dining room again. It was at this dinner that I started to catch on that, just like the buffet, it's unlimited. I.E. If you want two apps, and salad, and soup, and two entrees and dessert, just order it! And that's what I did.

Note that I'm not really talking much about the food. Yeah, there were a couple items that totally missed the mark, but for the most part, it was very good, with many of the menu options changing every day. The most exotic thing I tried was Peach Soup. It was served cold, and tasted kinda like a thick version of the juice in a can of peaches. I liked it.

After dinner, we went to two shows. (The casino was closed since we were in port, so what else could I do?) The first show had two magic / comedy acts. I missed most of the first person's act. The second guy did two sleight-of-hand bits that were hilarious. First, he had a volunteer sit on stage, and he kept taking larger and larger balls of toilet paper, and doing the "Which hand" bit. But each time, he was throwing the ball over her head, but she couldn't see it. She never figured it out, eventually being told to turn to see all the paper balls behind her.

The second bit was with a male "volunteer." The performer held up a sign for the name of the bit "Do you see it?" Then, he positions the volunteer at the back of the stage, and returns to the front of the stage, showing the back of the sign "I just stole his watch." He then did a whole "follow me" thing of arm movements. It took the guy forever to notice that his watch was on the performer's arm. VERY funny stuff.

I then go to guest services to ask when / if / what channel the show I just saw would be broadcast in the cabin TV's like the Saturday night show had been. I couldn't find anyone who knew. Sigh.

We then go to the second show. It's modeled after the Newlywed Game TV show, but called "Love and Marriage." While introducing it, everyone was singing along with Sinatra.

They picked three couples, first looking for the couple married the longest. That turned out to be a couple celebrating their 56th anniversary. Then they picked the couple married the shortest. As it happens, there was a wedding on board before we sailed, so he asked if they were in the audience. They were. Last, a couple in the middle. He asked for couples married between 25 and 30 years to stand. Three couples stood. Then he had them each do a Tarzan thing, and by applause, one couple was selected to go on stage.

It proceeded in Newlywed Game style from there. The funniest part was the answers to "Where was the most unusual place you two made whoopee?" While the men were off stage, the woman in the 55-year marriage struggled to come up with an answer, but ended up with "the bedroom". When the men were brought back and asked this question, her husband had an immediate answer, "In my friend's house..." She spun around, looking at him, as if to say, "With who? Where was I?"

At the end of the show, the newlyweds were declared the winners, but all three couples got a basket with towels and bath products, along with being told that a DVD of the show will be in their cabin the next day. Also, the show will be broadcast on channel 14 for the remainder of the trip!

We ran into that couple several times during the remainder of the trip, each time saying something like, "It's the TV stars..." The last time was as we were getting ready to get off on the last day. I asked if many people recognized them. The husband remarked "It's like we're TV stars. A couple days ain't so bad, but now I know why those Hollywood types hate the paparazzi!"

We wander around a bit, then head up to the pool deck for the only Midnight Buffet of the cruise. At least I think it was the only one. If there were others, I missed them by being in the casino.

I could not believe the number of people on line to stuff their face at midnight! I hung out by the bar and band. Even though, as a DJ, I am tired of playing all the typical songs that the band was playing, I stayed on the dance floor and had a blast. At about 12:30, the band was replaced by a DJ who continued to play the typical party stuff for a while before switching to more club style stuff. On a side note, about 15 years ago, a buddy was a cruise DJ. After 2 years of playing Hands Up every night of the week, he became a bartender. Now he owns a bar in NJ. But I was thinking of him as I was dancing, as well as thinking of this band and DJ, playing these same songs all the time.

These people were partying and dancing in the hot tub!

Finally, exhausted, we went to our cabin. The cabin steward left another towel animal:
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
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September 23rd, 2011 at 8:00:03 PM permalink
Day 4, Tuesday, September 13rd. In port until 4:30

Our plans were to just stay near the boat so there would be no problem getting back on time. FYI: If you're not back, they don't wait.

So we'd go to Snorkel Beach, hang out, etc. My uncle and mother wanted to stay on board. My brother and his wife and kids had decided to wake up early, and go to the Crystal and Fantasy Caves. I knew that Hamilton was a little more than half-way there, so I knew it would be a long trip, plus the wife and I wanted to just hit the local beach, so we opted out.

Of course, because we were partying late the night before, we woke up late, and went to the buffet around 11:30 for breakfast. As we were eating, one of my nephews shows up. Apparently, they had screwed up reading the ferry schedule and rather than wait 2 hours, decided to take the bus. It took an hour and a half just to get to Hamilton! He bailed on them, taking the ferry back.

When the gang returned later that day, they said the ride sucked, but they were glad they did it. The caves were very fascinating and fun.

Anyway, so we're finishing breakfast/lunch, when the sky grows dark, and it starts to rain. We figure we'll sit there a little while, see if it clears up...

"Alpha, alpha, alpha! Dockside on the pier." This was repeated three times. Right away, we started commenting, "Uh, oh. Another one bites the dust."

We later found out that the person had just gotten off the boat, taken just a few steps, and dropped. It took about 10 minutes for the Alpha call to be made, and another 20 minutes for an ambulance to show up. By the time it did show up, he was very blue.

Because it was raining, hard at times, we never left the ship. My wife feels vindicated for jumping into the water fully clothed yesterday, since she really wanted to go in the ocean.

With little else to do, I head to the screening room. Outside there's a monitor showing trailers for the movie, except it's showing the trailer for the movie shown the prior day. The Compas (ship newsletter) said the movie was "The Tourist." I never saw it, so I figured, why not?

The theater has about 60 seats. They don't lean back much, and the floor is sloped, so the chairs actually kinda lean forward, making it somewhat uncomfortable.

In the middle of the movie, the captain makes an announcement thanking the passengers that were on the pier and helped during the emergency, etc. He also said that the guy was doing well. Frankly, not many of us believed that part.

What pissed me off the most was, the movie was still playing but without sound. If they could hook it up so the movie is silent during the announcement, why couldn't they make it pause and/or turn on closed captions? Fortunately, it seemed like there was no dialog during that portion. At least we didn't see any mouths moving.

It was lobster night in the dining room. I don't go for lobster, but nearly my entire family did. My wife had three which I thought was a lot, but looking at the other table, my uncle had eaten SIX!

After dinner, I went to one of the lounges for a Name That Tune contest. I figured I would ace it. Unfortunately, I got there late so I didn't bother to write down my answers. As it turns out, it was a lot harder than I though. I only got 6 out of the 15 song I heard. But it turns out that wasn't bad. The winner got 7 out of 20.

After that, I went to the casino. The poker table wasn't open yet, so I made a $50 donation at the craps table while waiting. Then it opened. There were no spectacular hands, but I left up about $150. Sweet.

We called it a day to see a new towel animal:
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
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September 23rd, 2011 at 8:00:39 PM permalink
Day 5, Wednesday, September 14rd. At sea.

Crummy weather all day.

My original plan was to hit the pool most of the day.

Instead, after breakfast, I went to the casino to watch the 11:00 poker tournament. Because I had been playing with the same people, and kinda knew their style, I was very shocked to see the way they were playing. But it all made sense when I saw the terrible blind structure: The starting stack was 1,000 with starting blinds of 25/50. Very short stack play. The blinds did not merely go up, but doubled every 12 minutes. Plus, there was unlimited re-buys for the first half hour. All those things are bad, so I had no plans to play in the tournament.

However, watching these guys, and with nothing else to do because of the weather, and that I won $150 last night, I signed up for the afternoon tourney. FYI: The buy in was $100. Rebuys were $50. There were 3 preliminaries Sunday and 2 today, with two people each going to the final later this afternoon. At the final, the winner gets a free cruise on the Oasis of the Seas. 2nd and 3rd get $500 and $200 in cash.

So in my tourney, early on, I got a string of three hands that I won with good cards. On the fourth hand, under the gun with K-3 off, I decided that it wasn't great cards, and that they wouldn't believe my bluff if I tried, so why bother? I folded. No pre-flop raise. King on the flop. No action. King on the turn. No action. King on the river. Finally, there's action, including an all-in. Sigh.

When we were down to 5 people, I was a little short-stacked on the button with pocket fives. I planned to go all-in, but a guy goes all in before me, so I fold. Small blind calls. They have A-Q and K-J. The flop is A-K-5, followed by two rags.

Man, if I had only played those two hands...

I'm out a few hands later.

I then went to see another movie in the screening room (Little Fockers). The monitor outside is advertising The Tourist. Fortunately, there were no announcements to interrupt us this time. Unfortunately, the audio was a little out of sync. It was distrubing, but, for the most part, I was able to ignore it.

Dinner in the dining room. It's my brother's birthday. We celebrated by bringing MORE food to the table: His wife had managed, without his knowledge, to get one of the cakes he had sampled at the Rum Cake factory, and we had it for dessert.

After dinner, we go to one of the lounges for a game of "Majority Rules". You have to answer questions like, "Favorite ice cream flavor". We submit the answer on a little paper with our team number, and they get tallied up. The teams that provided the answer that was most often given, gets a point. Although I wasn't in the winning team, it was a fun way to kill half an hour.

Back to the casino and poker.

Although there were no spectacular hands, I ended up about even.

However, there was discussion about the medical emergencies. Someone said "I wonder how often that happens?"

The dealer responded "All the time." When we questioned him, he explained, "Look around. You got a ton of old people, all being far more active than they normally are, eating way more food than normal. It happens all the time."

Eventually, I went back to the cabin.

I don't get it. I mean, a scorpion? If that tail were turned down, with a washcloth fanned out of it, it would be a far friendlier animal: A lobster. In retrospect, I'm kinda surprised that the animal wasn't a lobster on lobster night! Whatever.
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
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September 23rd, 2011 at 8:01:00 PM permalink
Day 6, Thursday, September 15th. Return to Bayonne, disembarkation.

I had planned on going on deck to watch the docking procedures before breakfast, but we were still slowly coming in when it was time to head to breakfast.

Although there was a thick attitude of a rush to get the ship empty and reloaded, breakfast in the dining room was the same type of relaxed meal it had been on other days. Oh, sure, lots of announcements to make sure everything went smoothly, but no rush. Our assigned disembarkation time was 10:45, so no need to rush during the 9:00 breakfast seating.

After breakfast, we go back to the cabin to get our carry-on (luggage had been placed in the hallway last night), and do the 'idiot search' before leaving the cabin.

We then go and meet the gang at about 10:30 at our assigned staging area. Less than 15 minutes later, we were heading out, off the boat, walking towards the warehouse with the luggage. We get it and, with the help of a porter, carry it thru customs and on to our car.

We were on the road before 11:00. A very smooth operation.
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
Joined: Nov 2, 2009
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September 23rd, 2011 at 8:01:16 PM permalink
A detailed review of the casino.

Reminder: Click on any photo for a large, high-res version.

Obviously, the casino is gonna be small. But what they did with the space was very nice. One entrance had a glass floor, with all kinds of chips, coins and jewels under the glass, and a jeweled roulette wheel as the under-glass centerpiece. Very cool.

As nice as that was, they had the worst looking Elvis statue as the centerpiece.

The table area was up two steps on one side. The cage was at the end of the table area. It had three windows, but I never saw all three open. In fact, I rarely saw two open. Then again, I never saw more than one person on line.

I was impressed to see that the chips had, not only the name of the cruise line, but the name of the ship. My last experience with a casino on a boat was a day cruise out of South Carolina. I forget the name of the cruise, but the chips said "Sun Cruise, Florida." So this first impression was a good one. Unfortunately, it went down-hill from there.

There were six BJ tables. One had a "Wheel of Madness" side bet. 4 others had the Lucky Ladies bet. One was a single-deck game paying 6:5. All others paid 3:2. All tables had the dealer hit soft 17. Most had 8 spots, but I'm not sure how many chairs. Single deck had 7 spots.

Three Roulette tables. Nothing special, so no photos. However, one had a chip sorter that wasn't being used. The hole in the table for the sorter had a cover. Another had a sorter hole, without a cover and without a sorter. The third had neither the hole nor sorter. All had typical history displays.

One Caribbean Stud table.

Two 3 Card Poker, one of which was at handicap height.

One Let It Ride table.

One Craps table. As mentioned above, it's normally single odds. Double odds on formal night. The limits were $5 to $100. You'd think that with such a low maximum, that the odds would be at least 2x with 3-4-5 on formal night. Whatever. Junk in the middle, as well as field bets, had a $1 minimum. Field paid double on 2 and 12.

The craps layout had something I never saw before: The C/E circles also had a circle for H - Horn. Except the dealers didn't use it. The few horn bets made, were placed in the middle, on the normal horn position. As near as I could tell, the dealers were fairly experienced. They picked up betting patterns and helped out players who were forgetting to place their typical bets. Of course, they weren't suggesting better bets when a newbie was asking about specific bad bets, and weren't telling them it was a bad bet either. However, I didn't really consider what they were doing to be hustling the bad bets. Just answering the questions without elaborating.

With exception of the craps table, all tables including the poker table, had cup holders set into the wooden border as seen in some of the photos.

At one point while watching the poker tourney on Wednesday, a passenger started asking me questions, and I'm thinking, maybe we got another fish for the cash game. Eventually, he hands me three $5 match play coupons and walks off. I never see him again.

The coupons clearly indicates that he is a frequent traveler with the cruise line, and has spaces for the cabin number and cruise date. These were left blank. I read the rules. They are only good for Blackjack and Roulette. It does NOT have any other specific rules. I'm wondering if it can be used for any Roulette bet, but I never bothered to ask. And, since I had no plans to play BJ or Roulette, I eventually gave them to my nephew who was playing BJ at the time.

He played them one at a time, without being asked to fill in a cabin number. And all three won. Sweet. I then ask, "No love for your favorite uncle?" So he hands me $5. I toss it back telling him I expected him to give me the 50¢ chip he has! He's a good kid.

Since everyone had played various games at one point or another, at our last breakfast, I asked them what they thought of the casino and the dealers.

Everyone thought the dealers were friendly and competent. No mistakes that they were aware of - except at the poker table.

There was only one poker table, $2/$5 No Limit, with a 10% $15 maximum rake! (For comparison, many normal casinos have a 10% $5 maximum rake. Some go as low as $3. Some do 5%.) Not only that, but they also have 50¢ chips, used only for the rake, so they don't have to round down so much!

Early on the first night, there was a hand where the pot got totally screwed up. I start to point out the dealer's error, when says he has it under control. I figure that since I'm not in the hand, my one comment should have been enough for the other players to pay attention.

When it was over, I whispered to the guy next to me, who got the majority of the chips, that the other player was shortchanged. He whispered that he knew. He also pointed out that the dealer didn't take a rake.

From that point on, I decide to watch the dealer closely, whenever I'm in a pot.

On the second night, when the table opened, I point out to the floorperson that there aren't enough $1 chips in the rack. There weren't enough 50¢ chips either, but since a shortage of those meant that the rake would be rounded down, I figured it was up to them to make sure there were 50¢ chips. About 20 minutes later a chip fill arrives. One stack of $5 (OK, they were kinda low), and TWO stacks of $100! Who needs any $100 chips at a $2/$5 game? And where are the $1 chips? Without a lot of $1 chips, people have a tendency of betting in multiples of $5, and alters the nature of the game. So I stood up, and purchased a stack of $1 chips from the roulette dealer next to us.

OK, they DO need a couple $100 chips, because one thing the dealers are trained to do it to get the player to chip-up when they leave the table. Even at the poker table - at regular casinos, they don't do that. But they don't need two stacks of $100 chips. And what about the $1 chips I asked for?

Their reluctance to bring a fill of $1 chips got me pissed off. So I was determined to watch the dealers very closely, and point out any mistakes in excessive rakes. I never bothered to mention the short rakes.

One dealer would consistently not take a rake when the pot was split. Another would guestimate, but usually came up short.

One dealer, who when asked, admitted that she had never dealt poker before, started by taking a 20% rake!

She, and another dealer, both heard from me when they turned over a mucked hand at the showdown. They weren't even my cards, but I will not stand for that sort of incompetence.

Mind you, overall, I won. Imagine my attitude if I had lost! On the other hand, I'm sure my winnings would have been higher if not for that high rake.

The other big problem that didn't affect me was how they handled a wait list with a secongd table. On Sunday night there were 7 people on the wait list, so they used a closed BJ table nearby as a poker table. You can imagin how awkward and uncomfortable that is. If I were playing poker at the BJ table, I would have wanted to move when a seat opens at the main table. As such, they should have offered open seats at the main table to whoever was at the BJ table the longest, and then fill the empty seat at the BJ table from the list. Instead, they always used the wait list to fill seats at either table.


The Casino Royale is billed as "Las Vegas theme". I'm thinking, duh, it's a casino. What other theme would they use?

It became obvious what they meant when you look at the fixtures above the slot machines.

What's weird is, some of these logos are the actual logos. Some are for trademarks that are still in use.

OK, the Dunes, etc. are no longer in existance, but Sands sure is. And the Flamingo not only exists, but is still in it's original Vegas location.

But what about these generic names? It's obvious that one is modeled after the Golden Nugget, one Caesars and one the Stardust. Why are these not the real trademark names?

Of course, I have a feeling that "Big Time Casino" was the weird locals casino Clark Griswald visited.

And what the heck is "You bet your ass"?

I didn't play slots at all, but I noticed this hand left on a machine, and noticed the paytable. Is it possible to get any crappier than this? Jacks or Better paying 6/5. And check out the progressive jackpot. You're better off betting LESS than max coin.

Edit: It's been pointed out to me that the jackpot is shown in dollars, and this is a quarter machine. Oops.

The slot machines are all coin dispensers.

Although I was never in the casino at closing time, my wife was. On the first night, at 2:00am, without warning, all the slot machines started to dump the remaining credits and shut down. At the same time, the tables shut down.
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
Joined: Nov 2, 2009
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September 23rd, 2011 at 8:01:43 PM permalink

We had a great time.

There are only a couple things I would do differently on my next cruise.

1 - Get a weather forecast each day for the next day or two. If we had a clue it was gonna rain in the afternoon of our second day in Bermuda, we probably would have juggled things around a little.

2 - Pay better attention to the activities in the daily newsletter. I had wanted to sing when they did Karaoke, but the did that the first night. I blew it off thinking I'd sing the next night. They never did Karaoke again.
I invented a few casino games. Info: 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧 Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
Joined: Jul 18, 2010
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September 23rd, 2011 at 8:19:53 PM permalink
Was the casino busy when you played? I'm surprised they had 3 roulette
wheels, were they ever all open at once? How was the food overall, you
didn't say.
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal

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