Monday, March 14, 2016

Cruising the Atlantic (and only the Atlantic) -- Part 2 - Anthem of the Seas vs a Hurricane

We woke up Saturday morning ready to get on the ship already! I'm the kind of person that vacation doesn't start until I have no more deadlines/times to worry about.  We were able to start boarding at 11:30, so we slept in a little, ate breakfast, packed up our stuff and called an Uber.  We had a great driver who was super talkative and kept us laughing.  He had never driven anyone to the Bayonne port before, but he figured it out.  We ended up being in a super long car line, so we decided to just go ahead and get out of his car and walk the rest of the way (less than a half mile).

Getting through the port and onto the ship was quite simple.  We did a pre-check before going through security which allowed us to just walk onto the ship. Last cruise we went on, it took us over almost 2 hours to get out of the car and onto the ship.  This time, it was more like 20 minutes.  We stepped onto the ship and vacation officially had begun!

(Our statemoom! Little did we know how much time we would spend in there!)

(View from the bed to the door/bathroom. I should've taken a photo of the shower.  It was a glass shower and really nice for a cruise ship!)

We chose this cruise based on the ship - Anthem of the Seas.  It's the 3rd largest ship in the Royal Caribbean family and had lots to offer.  It has a high tech lounge that offers one of a kind shows, roller skating, bumper cars, indoor/outdoor pools, Broadway style shows, and a pod that can take you out over the water.  Our first goal upon getting on the ship was eating, eating, and more eating :).  When it was time for departure, we donned on our winter coats and hats and headed up on deck to watch the ship pass under a bridge.

(First time being bundled up for a boat departure celebration!)

(As the boat sailed out of the harbor, it had to pass under a big bridge (not Brooklyn).  It was neat to watch the top of the ship clear the bridge by what appeared to be just a few feet!)

This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise and tried out some new things like the "dynamic dining".  The ship had 3 main dining rooms (there were additional ones that you had to pay for).  With dynamic dining, we got to pick which restaurant we wanted to eat at and reserve a time.  On our first night, we went to Silk which was Asian inspired.  The main dishes weren't anything impressive, but I fell in love with their sesame rolls and garlic butter.  Yummmm.  I could've just eaten those all dinner.  After dinner, we watched the welcome show and then went to bed.

The next day was Super Bowl Sunday!  I of course donned my Manning jersey all day to support my beloved Broncos.  Little did I know how memorable that Sunday would turn.  We made a reservation to see "We Will Rock You" - a Queen inspired Broadway show at 2:30.  On Saturday before we departed, the captain had warned us of potential rough seas on Sunday due to a storm brewing in the ocean.  He felt confident that he could outrun the storm though.  By 2pm, the ship was rocking pretty good.  We went to the theater and waited for the show to start.  Our cruise director came out before the show and made an announcement about how they were going to start the show, but with the rough seas, they may have to abruptly stop.  The show started and about 20 min in, you could tell that the actors were struggling.  Shortly after a couple dancers slipped, the director came out and cancelled the rest of the show.

We headed back to our room because we didn't have any other plans due to the cancellation.  It was hard to walk up the steps from the rocking.  We just figured it was rough seas mixed with the captain driving the boat fast.  We got to our room and looked out our balcony to realize how high the waves were.  There wasn't much to do other than read or pick something to watch from our 6 available tv stations - TBS (which was based out of Spain and didn't have normal programming, just mostly movies), CNN, ESPN, HLN, a channel like TruTV, and another channel that just showed episodes of The Middle (or at least that's all we ever saw on!).  Nothing was on and the rocking got worse. That's when the director came on and announced that for everyone's safety, they wanted everyone to return to their staterooms.

With that announcement, I started to get a little afraid.  I realized that things were worse than what we (or the captain) initially thought.  Life jackets aren't located in the rooms, but at muster stations.  Our muster station (place you meet in event of an evacuation) was the theater we had just left located on deck 5, we were on deck 12.  I freely admit that I had a slight panic attack at this moment.  Steve was calm and had no fear of the situation.  He immediately comforted me and stopped and prayed.  I quickly came to my sense and realized I couldn't think worse case scenario, but instead had to focus on each passing minute being 1 minute closer to it all being over.

The waves started to get worse and another announcement came on saying we were going through the worst of it.  Steve started feeling queasy as the waves really picked up.  He typically has no issues with motion sickness (ironically, I do) but he was really feeling it (I was fine).  I happened to have some Dramamine with me and gave him some.  He laid on the bed and was pretty useless for awhile.  His uselessness made me be the one that had to be levelheaded and in control.  I took care of his needs and just focused on trying to get him feeling better versus thinking about our real situation.  He just laid on the bed the rest of the time, but I would get up and secure things like glasses and our random toiletries in the bathroom.  You could hear them falling off the shelves and rolling around the floor.  Stuff in drawers and clothes hanging in the closet would shift left and right as the boat rocked.  I had to get up and pee a lot and there were times that I would have to crawl on the floor from the bed to the bathroom because it was too hard to walk.  When I would go to get back into the bed, I had to time the waves right so that the bed was in the high position as I got on.  If it was in the low position, I would continue to roll over the bed and would have to catch myself against the wall.  The scariest part to me was when the wind would hit our balcony door just right and it would pop the seal.  You could hear the wind screeching through and it would make our ears pop.  The director came on with an update and let us know that all pay per view movies would be free the rest of the day.  Despite Steve being sick and useless, we settled on a movie to try to pass the time.  By the time the movie ended, it was Superbowl time! The waves had calmed a little, and the last update from the director/captain said "just a few more hours."

Those "few more hours" ended up being more like 6+.  But at least they kept giving us hope that we were surviving and would be in calmer waters soon. The captain was very open with us over the situation.  He explained his plan of action and would update every hour or so on what was going on.  The storm was too powerful to try to navigate through.  So he had to point the ship in the direction of the wind and then power the engines to just hold position and allow the storm to pass over us.  So basically, the ship sat like a lame duck for about 10 hours (only at the time, they predicted the storm to be less severe and to pass quicker than it was).

The Superbowl was the perfect distraction! Steve was feeling better and we really got into the game.  We were shocked that we had such a clear picture of the game (after all, we were in the middle of the ocean in a hurricane!). I got to watch my beloved Peyton Manning lead his team on to a great victory over the Panthers!  We were getting a little hungry during the game (hadn't really thought of food much until then) and luckily, the director came on letting us know that we could raid whatever was in our mini-fridges for free.  I investigated and found a lot of useless booze, bottles of water, some soda, 2 cans of mini Pringles, 2 Snickers, and 2 packs of m&ms.  So we watched the game and feasted on our junk food.  I drank a diet coke for the first time since before getting pregnant.  Boy was it tastey :).

(Superbowl "feast"!)

(Had to take a shot of how we were surviving the storm! Go Peyton!!)

Once the game ended, we figured the waves would stop anytime soon.  However, the last update that came on around 11 said "a couple more hours" again.  By 1am, we were tired and gave up caring (the waves were significantly smaller).  The waves lulled us to sleep and we woke up the next morning around 8:30 to a very calm ship! Woohoo! We made it!  Announcements came on that food locations were up and running and to be careful while navigating around the ship.

(There was a channel on the tv that would show our boat's position and give stats - wind/direction/speed/temperature/etc.  During the storm, we would flip to this channel a lot to get an idea of how fast we were going - even though we were staying in one spot - and how fast the wind was hitting the ship.  The next morning I took a snapshot of the screen so you could see our "holding position" during the storm.)

We made our way to breakfast and saw lots of crew out and working.  I got a little chuckle out of all the barf bags hanging in stairwells for people to use (and yes we even got to see some barf that did not make it into a bag).  As we made our way to the lido deck, we had to walk some outside. The weather was actually beautiful out, but the damage to the ship was quite obvious.  The pools had been drained and were full of glass, random debris (pieces of the ship's outer shell came off the top, lawn chairs were mangled, etc), electric doors were either stuck open or stuck closed, lots of statue/decor were all in a huge pile on the deck as opposed to being in their right locations.  As we entered the actual buffet location, there was a big section of the ceiling that had fallen.  There were several workers already making good progress on it.

We got our food and ate and let it really sink in what we'd gone through.  We heard other people telling their stories and realized we had it really good! If you were in a decks 5 and below, the waves would crest up over the balconies, and enter through the door.  The water would then slosh through the staterooms and into the hallways.  Later when we walked deck 5, there were lots of air dryers being used to dry the carpets.  Others had stories of water coming up through their shower drains, or people puking in their ice buckets all night.  It really is a miracle that of the 6,000+ people on board, there were only 4 minor injuries reported (lacerations from broken glass).

After we ate, we made our way to the Solarium (basically outside deck with glass all around it, so you get the view but controlled weather).  We found a couple of lawn chairs and were going to sit and read.  However, we started to notice lots of people around us watching news stories of our ship on their tablets!  We quickly realized that the ship had gotten national attention and I started worrying about our families freaking out about us.  The ship had an internal wifi that you could use to access their app, but that was it.  I went ahead and put my wifi on just to see if maybe there was information on the app about what had happened.  But all the sudden, I started receiving emails and internet messages.  For whatever reason, the internet was working (about 30 min later, the director came on and announced they'd opened internet up for everyone to use at no charge).  I was able to chat with a friend and have her text my mom that we were fine.  I then sent out a mass email to our family to let them know what happened and that we were fine! We did see news reports from CNN on our tv in our room later that afternoon. Let's just say, Nancy Grace had it allllll wrong!

We were supposed to port in Orlando by noon on Monday; however, it was obvious we were way off course.  There were all sorts of announcements all day saying that we'd have a delayed port time in Orlando, but that the main office in Miami was working on the scheduling and figuring out what the rest of the cruise would look like.  It was obvious that no one knew what was really going on, but at least they were trying to keep us all in the loop.  Activities were planned and they were doing their hardest to get the ship back to normal.  There wasn't just the obvious clean up of the random debris on the outer deck, but I'm guessing they lost a lot in the kitchens/storage areas.  Coffee mugs were few and far between the rest of the cruise (they did have disposable cups to use, though).  I noticed some other "short cuts" like packaged butter vs. the butter being served in dishes like the first night.

Eventually, we were finally notified that the ship would not be headed towards FL as planned.  They used a ploy about another potential storm brewing off the coast and decided it best for everyone to just end the cruise and get back to Bayonne.  After we were off the ship several days later, did we get the information that one of the engine's system's had burned out all it's gears and needed repair.  Steve and I were still in good spirits.  Other than never reaching warm weather, we made the best of our cruise.  The director did a good job cramming the highlights of a 7 day cruise into 3 days.  We got to eat lots of great food (even though it took Steve a couple days for his stomach to stabilize and want food), enjoyed great entertainment, and most of all -- had a great kid free break!

(Steve was bound and determined to use our balcony, even if it was cold! The warmest it got was mid 50s one day the day after the storm, but before returned back north.)

(Once we were well on our way back to Bayonne, I took another snapshot of our ships's path from the beginning, through the storm, and our return.  The loop/squiggle is from the storm.  Then you can see how far south we went before the decision was made to return back to original port.  We did experience some choppy seas again on Tuesday, but nothing compared to Sunday!)

(This may seem lame to some, but I thought it was super cool.  Before entering the lido (buffet) area, you were funneled through a hand washing station! There was crew there encouraging you to use it.  I thought it was great!)

(One of the technologies highlighted on the cruise is the "bionic bar".  You order your drinks on a tablet which is then sent to the bar.  When your drink is being made, it is shown up on the screen. Steve wanted to try it out just to experience.  You can see the information of his "Green Lagoon" being made.)

(The drinks are made by robots.  All the different liqueurs are stored upside down on the ceiling.  The cups and carbonated drinks were located in those squares behind the robots.  They'd move around, grab the cups, put the cups up to the right liquor, etc and make the drinks.)

(Showing off his drink, which he only took a sip of. Ha.)

(This ship was all about technology.  Another big selling point was the 270 cafe - which offered a huge panoramic view off the back of the ship.  At night, screens would cover the windows and they could display scenes and all sorts of stuff on there.  We got to see the big show offered in this theater - Specter's Cabaret.  To me it was a trip fest, but it was a one of a kind show.  It had aerialists, robot screens, and the different sections of the stage would raise and lower.)

(One night we went to the "silent disco".  We knew about this going into the cruise. It was supposed to be one of the last nights and was disappointed that we would miss it with the shortened trip.  However, it was the director's favorite event and he squeezed it into the schedule.  Everyone gets a pair of headphones that toggles between 2 different music stations - green or blue.  You then only hear the music through the headphones.  So people around you are dancing and singing, yet they may be listening to different music than you.)

(Silent Disco Selfie)

(We stayed for a little bit. Highlight for me was when half were singing Rockin' Robin while others were dancing and singing to "Bye Bye Bye".  The crew who were in charge of the event were really going crazy. It was a fun time!)

(One night I needed to get some ice water before bed.  Steve didn't want to go with me so I went off on my own.  I went on a long circuitous route to find it and discovered this artwork in one of the stair wells.  I told Steve about it when I got back but he thought I made up there being "Mickey Mouse donuts".  I tried to find it later in the trip but couldn't remember the path or stairwell it was on.  Finally on the last day, we ran into it! He thought the donuts made up the Mickey head, and didn't realize I meant they were legit Mickey Donuts. There was all sorts of random artwork featured around the ship and hindsight I wish I took some more photos!)

There was more confusion about when we would return to Bayonne. The issue wasn't the ship getting back to port, but the port having space for the ship to dock.  We were told we could be back at port as early as Wednesday morning, when reality it didn't dock until 8pm on Wednesday night.  We had to option to get off the ship that night (had to be off by midnight) or stay the night and depart Thursday morning.  We took option 2.  However, we still had to "go through immigration" on Wednesday.  So we were corralled along with everyone else on the ship to go through a specific location and turn in our customs sheet.  The agent we handed it to didn't look at our paper work, our passports, or even our faces.  You could tell they were just going through motions because of legalities.  Whatever.  I got our stuff all packed up and we enjoyed 1 last night on the boat (even if it was docked).

And for those of you wondering how we were compensated:
-Drink package purchases were refunded
-Internet packages refunded (didn't apply to us, but we did get free internet the rest of the trip!)
-Free movies
-Free minibar "purchases"
-Free all you can drink "Happy Hour"
-Full refund of trip
-Up to $150 refunded for changed flights (we chose to keep our flight and have bonus days in NY)
-Parking reimbursed (didn't apply to us, we did submit our taxi ride from port to NY after cruise, but awaiting response)
-50% off voucher to book and sail on another cruise by March 15, 2017
-We also had lots of on board credit that we had to burn.  We didn't figure it out until the last day and didn't get to take full advantage of that credit, but we did come out with several free t-shirts.  Unfortunately, none of them said "I survived the Anthem of the Seas." Marketing opportunity missed!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. What an excellent recap ! The ship sure looked fancy. Who thinks of a silent disco?