Accommodations, ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Embarkation Events

The gangs all here!

TRAVEL THERE: GETTING SETTLED ON CELEBRITY EDGE

Over a year of planning came to fruition.  We sailed through customs almost too quickly to believe, thanks to the Celebrity App.  Viktoriya was there to greet us.  We threw our luggage in our stateroom and started enjoying our cruise.

Embarkation Luncheon

With all my cruising, it was actually only a few years ago learned about embarkation buffets, but I’ve developed a love hate relationship with them.  My first, on Norwegian, was memorable.  We boarded too late for the Viking buffet.  Then on the Royal Carribean cruise in 2017, the buffet was so bad, I felt like I was supposed to finish up all left over of the previous cruisers.

I expected more from Celebrity and they almost rose to the occasion.  Concierge Class passengers on the Celebrity Edge are treated to a special luncheon in the Cosmopolitan Dining Room.  I confess it wasn’t exactly a culinary triumph.  I had Chicken Paillard, but the Home Chef version I’d made myself was better.  It was served with French Fries. French Fries?!? Then the chocolate something for dessert was unremarkable.

Melanie was glad to be there!

Deborah, Viktoriya, Bill and I took our seats around the table and had just begun to order our meals, when to our utter delight I received a text letting us know Jim and Melanie had arrived at the dock.  They weren’t expected for hours yet, but they’d decided to skip their morning excursion and join us on the ship instead.

I was so happy I was almost in tears as I sat at the table and observed the people who had paid so much and come so far to help me celebrate my special occasion.

A Whirlwind of Activity

The next few hours were insane, which means choosing to forego a tour of Rome had been a good idea.  We did some reconnaissance around the ship, went to our rooms to unpack, did battle with the reservations people, had a lifeboat drill, checked out the sail away and generally tried to get plugged into everything so we could leave early in the morning on our first shore excursion.

The unpacking proved to be fairly pleasant.  There was room to stow away all our belongings, even if my gown for the ceremony did take up an unreasonable amount of the room.  Surprisingly, we had all kinds of gifts waiting for us in our cabin – flowers, wine and tapas from Rick Eberst, the Dallas-area sales rep for Celebrity, and chocolate-covered strawberries from our travel agency, CTC Travel.

There was a problem with a special meal the Bagleys and Viktoriya had booked.  The evening of the meal had been changed for weather issues.  They’d also been put on separate dining times by the ship’s crew and that just wasn’t right.  Viktoriya nearly went ballistic on them, but Jim managed to calm her down and eventually everything worked out.

I imagined Concierge Class would include a concierge somewhere on our own levels who was available 24/7.  Au Contrare!  He had very limited hours and you needed a degree in spelunking to find his “office,” which was actually just a room of desks which were shared by several services.  We had dinner reservations for the first night, but I had hoped to make reservations for the rest of the trip with our concierge – obviously it didn’t happen.  My only other interaction with the concierge was daily phone calls to give us the weather, which might or might not be accurate, and to inform us of the hour (yes, hour) our concierge would be available to us up in that little room.  None of his times of availability ever coincided with a time I was able to utilize.

I communicated with someone named Ranee Tin, the event coordinator.  She wanted to meet me before dinner to discuss the arrangements for the ceremony.  I should have known to worry when she acted as if it was no big thing.

The Sail Away was a non-event.  Other cruise lines make a bigger deal of it and quite frankly, Civitavecchia is a pretty boring port.  Somewhere along the way we visited the Art Gallery.  It was the only visit I would make on this cruise, which is odd for me, because I usually attend several art events when cruising.  It just wasn’t that sort of cruise for me, but Jim and Melanie almost lived down there and came home with several pieces of art.

Bill slept through most of this.  Eventually, I returned to the room and got dressed for our 8:30 dinner reservations.  Come back next week and we’ll have dinner in the Cyprus Restaurant.

 

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Life Without Internet is No Life at All

selective focus photography of person holding turned on smartphone
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE:   ON BOARD INTERNET PACKAGES

Perhaps I’ve said it before, but I’ll mention it again.  This was probably our last big ship cruise.  River cruising spoiled us:  free wi-fi onboard, wine and beer included with meals, shore excursions included, docking inside a destination and a whole lot less people to deal with.  When we first started cruising, we liked having our room, the meals and the entertainment included, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that was a long haul from all-inclulsive.  We don’t like to get nasty a la carte surprises at the end of a trip.  On the Anniversary Cruise, here’s what we did about the internet.

Gotta Have My Social Media

For most people, having access to social media is about relationship.  I enjoy that aspect of it, but it’s also my job.  People pay me to post to their channels on a regular basis.  With the wonders of technology I can plan the posts, create the content and schedule the items to post long before they are needed.  In fact, for most of my clients I have weeks of posts all lined up.  Once all that is done, most items post automatically.  I don’t even have to think about them.  Most, but not all.  Our friends at Instagram require posting from a smartphone.  I still hate whoever came up with that.

To fulfill my obligations, I needed to be able to post to Instagram, from my phone, on a daily basis, throughout the trip.  Wi-fi on board a cruise ship costs an arm and a leg, and this was true on Celebrity Edge too, but that’s only part of the problem.  It’s also outrageously unreliable.  That may be OK for checking your email and posting your vacation pictures, but it won’t do for business.  We’d learned that on our cruise in 2018.  I hadn’t added social media to the services I offered yet, but the market blew up and Bill needed to do some trading on board.  We were on the brink of financial ruin if he couldn’t make the trades and he was only barely able to make it happen.  Imagine someone asking you how you lost all your money and you having to tell them you went on a cruise!

So, I was looking for Plan B.  Instead of depending on the ship for my internet connection, I’d rely on my cellphone provider.  That way I’d also have phone service, texting, GPS and all the rest.  The only caveat was that it would not work when we were out to sea.  Since there was only one day at sea, I knew my clients would forgive me one Instagram post on one day – if the rest of it worked and it almost always does.

So, we didn’t get a wi-fi plan, but we did use Verizon’s International Plan.  Warning, once you turn on the International Plan, you have it for life.  If your phone figures out you are out of the country it turns on the International Plan.   So if you don’t want it, keep that airplane mode on.

The Celebrity App

As to texting on board, the only people I wanted to contact when I was at sea would be the friends I had with me and thankfully, we didn’t need wi-fi.  Celebrity has an app for that.  The Celebrity app was one of our favorite things on this cruise.  We probably used it more before the cruise than we did during, but we loved it.  It’s all well and good to have a website and we used Celebrity’s extensively in planning, but once we downloaded the app we spent hours on the app.  We’d whip out our phones for ceremony planning, to remind us what was happening on what day, to discuss dinner options, to show other people what we were planning and all kinds of things.  On board, it allowed to stay in touch with our friends without them having to be in their rooms or hooked up to wi-fi.  The one drawback was that there were no notifications.  We just had to check our phones occasionally to see if anyone had tried to chat with us, but it all worked.

To tell the truth, if money were no object (but money is always an object) I would have gotten both wi-fi and the International phone plan.  Personally and professionally, my life is online.  I wished for my laptop.  I wanted to post more pictures every day, but we were always on the go when we were docked and I don’t do much posting on the fly.  We’d sail away about the time I got back on board and I didn’t have time to sort through all my pictures and post the ones I wanted.  Usually that early morning and end of the day posting is part of the fun, but since my internet was tied to the port, it didn’t get done.

Next week is Christmas and then we have New Years.  Let’s talk about another a la carte provision – beverages – after the holidays!