Liberty of the Seas 3-night weekend Bahamas cruise review

Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas does a Friday-Monday cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas, which is a good introduction to the cruise lifestyle for kids who are in school in South Florida. The ship leaves at 4:30 pm on Friday, so they might have to leave school early on Friday.

Liberty of the Seas was the world’s largest passenger ship when completed in Finland in 2007, but of course it has been dramatically surpassed since then. Still, it is big enough to make staying on board interesting for first-time cruisers.

The itinerary is weak, stopping at Nassau and then Royal Caribbean’s private Coco Cay island (one day each). The price is essentially free if you don’t need a pimped-out room, about $100 per day per adult including 3-6 meals, entertainment, and urgent medical care at a reasonable price (maybe Americans who don’t want to wait 3 months for an appointment with a primary care doc should jump on a last-minute cruise?). Kids were free. Because of the reasonable price and weekend schedule, there is a truly diverse mix of passengers. A suburban Boston laptop class member would interact with more Black people on this one cruise, for example, than in five years of living, dining out, and going to events in Boston.

We were directed to park at the Heron Garage, not the Palm Garage right next to where the boat was docked. Shuttle buses were required to get between the parking lot and the ship. Next time: Palm Garage! It took about 15 minutes to get through security and check in (photos taken of each passenger). There is theoretically a “wellness check” required to get on, but apparently being able to stand and breathe was sufficient because we were not asked any questions.

The scale of the ship is epic:

We paid extra for a “key” that would entitle us to Internet connectivity for one device, a steak lunch on board before sailing, priority seating at the shows, and priority departure at tender ports (of which there are hardly any for Royal Caribbean!). We bought it because we thought it would help us escape early on Monday morning and get the kids to school, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Anyone who doesn’t need help with luggage can walk off as soon as the boat is fully parked/cleared. Also, it was never difficult to get a good seat at any of the shows. There are, apparently, so many other activities on the ship that people aren’t desperate to sit in a theater.

One of the big attractions for Royal Caribbean ships is a $1 million Flowrider surfing machine on the deck at the stern. People were using it even before we had cast off:

Go to Deck 4 and then up to the stairs at the bow to enjoy sailing away from Port Everglades (FLL):

The crew puts on a fun parade for the kids in the huge main shopping mall:

They’ve upgraded their coffee, but still can’t make donuts competently. The staff everywhere, including at the buffet restaurant, is very friendly. The dedicated avocado toast chef:

Or would you prefer Indian food for breakfast?

From the mini golf course on the top deck we were able to watch Brilliance of the Seas come into Nassau. She holds 2,500 passengers and is twice the gross tonnage of Titanic. She looks like a tender for the Liberty of the Seas.

Downtown Nassau is mostly disorganized and, considering that more than 20,000+ cruise ship passengers had arrived in port that day, not much had been built for them. The Pirate Museum is fun for kids and reasonably interesting for adults. The Bahamas scores pretty high in the PPP per capita GDP Olympics and yet there are dilapidated parts of downtown right next to the most important government buildings. Here are some examples:

I don’t think any of these were part of Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents’ real estate portfolio. Coronapanic was very much alive and well in January 2023, at least as far as signage was concerned:

Given that Bahamas has ocean borders, the idea of holding back the SARS-CoV-2 was not entirely quixotic. Nonetheless, most people seem to have given up and mask-wearing was uncommon among the locals. The downtown art museum was closed for the installation of a new show:

Local friends took me to Baha Mar (featured in this pre-coronapanic post: Baha Mar hotels in Nassau) where the attached convention center has a comprehensive collection of contemporary Bahamian art.

Back on board, it was time for a comedy juggling show by Wilde and James (delighted our 7-year-old) and then a group of Russian (I think) ice skaters/dancers who ended with a tribute to Elvis in Las Vegas (cue the exceptionally fit Russian ice skater in a fat suit):

(passengers can skate on the rink at various times as well)

The ship is so huge that it is difficult to make friends on board. We were seated at a table just for our family at dinner, so didn’t meet anyone there other than the waiters (first name “Rommel”, after the German general!). We had pleasant chats a few times with other guests, but never saw them again simply due to the ship’s size. There are a handful of specific meet-ups, but we didn’t attend these because of the imperative to hover over our children (intelligent parents dropped them at the kids’ club in the morning and said hello again at 9 or 10 pm; we noticed the 12-17 group enjoying basketball on the top deck sports court at 9 pm one evening).

Worried about getting COVID-19 at a 2SLGBTQQIA+ gathering? Apparently, hardly anyone else is because N95 masks aren’t available on board and the cloth masks in the shopping mall were marked down:

Speaking of COVID-19, what if you want to check in with whitehouse.gov to see how Year 4 of the state of emergency is going (first declared January 31, 2020, 7 days after the opioid public health emergency was renewed) or with cdc.gov to see what how Science has changed compared to the beginning of your cruise? Onboard Internet is about $15 per day and is supplied by Elon Musk’s Starlink (previously Viasat). You’ll be able to Follow the Science at roughly 4 Mbits down and 2 Mbits up. I was able to do an extended Zoom call from the ship, but the handoffs among the local WiFi access points were not seamless and Zoom was required to reconnect periodically as I walked around. Maybe Royal Caribbean needs TP-Link Omada?

The next day it was time for Perfect Day at Coco Cay. Royal Caribbean says that they want to keep the island “green and pristine”:

A “pristine” version of a Bahamas Out Island turns out to be one crammed with water slides, burger shacks, and zip lines. There is a free water park for little kids that our 7- and 9-year-olds rejected due to tameness and frigid water:

There is a huge unheated pool whose frigid temperature wasn’t an obstacle for those sufficiently lubricated via the unlimited drinks package:

If you get too cold… there is no hot tub. The ocean water is also cold in January:

We decided that it was better to go back on board.

Some folks who got married 20 years before the advent of no-fault divorce:

It was then time to watch the Eagles beat the 49ers in the ship’s movie theater (good sound, but a dim and miscalibrated projector that was mostly yellow). It was fun to hear a big crowd of Americans burst out laughing when the announcer mentioned “Doctor Jill Biden” watching the game. Finally, there was a 1.5-hour Broadway show (Saturday Night Fever) with great music, singing, and dancing.

Speaking of dancing, here’s a photo taken at 10:26 pm on the last night of the voyage. The dance floor next to the Latin band is busy (I refused to dance, however, because I was waiting for a Latinx band).

We woke up at 6:15 am to find the ship already tied up at Port Everglades. We went downstairs at 7:15 am, about 10 minutes after the possibility of exit was announced. A lady in front of us said that she’d tried this at 9:00 am on a previous voyage and waited 45 minutes to get past La Migra. On returning from a Cuba cruise in 2018 (now once again illegal) we just waved our (closed) passports at a friendly officer and strolled out. Robot La Migra is on the job in 2023, however. Every passenger has to show his/her/zir/their face to a robot, whose screen will turn green if he/she/ze/they is approved. It is unclear to me where Robot La Migra gets sufficient facial dimensions to identify one person out of the tens of millions who sent in small passport photos. Perhaps the problem has been hugely simplified by Royal Caribbean sharing the passenger list in advance (airlines do this with APIS) and, therefore, Robot La Migra just has to verify that a person matches one of the 5,000-ish records in the reduced database.

We were docked, I suspect, right next to the Palm Garage, but a shuttle was waiting and ready to go the Heron Garage so we lost only about 5 minutes in getting to the car and, because we escaped the ship early, there was no queue to exit the garage (see below). Despite traveling about 60 miles through the Miami-FLL-West Palm megalopolis at rush hour, we lost almost no time due to traffic and got the kids to school about one hour late.

Would I recommend this cruise? Yes, to people who live in South Florida or are visiting for an extended period and don’t have to take a plane ride specifically for this cruise. (That said, the first people we met on board were from the D.C. suburbs. It was this second on this exact cruise with their kindergartner and they had flown down specifically for the cruise, getting up at 0430 Friday morning to fly to FLL and planning to return to D.C. on Monday evening. The kindergartner loved the kids’ club, which our children refused to try.) No to anyone else because there isn’t much to do in the Bahamas, especially during the winter when people think that they want to go there. It is actually warmer, both air and water temp, at our own beach in Jupiter, than in the core islands of the Bahamas! The passengers seemed quite happy with their choice. I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Nobody was obviously drunk (that’s for Carnival?) even at karaoke night (our 7-year-old was a big fan, though he did not sing!). Speaking of Carnival, here’s their new spokesperson:

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Man admits that women are better, but nonetheless clings to power

Here’s a tweet from the boss of the United Nations, under whose aegis the World Health Organization was able to stop COVID-19 from becoming a serious problem for humanity:

António Guterres says that the world cannot be peaceful unless humans who identify as “women” are the leaders. My modest proposal:

If female leadership is essential to world peace, why not resign and give your job to someone who identifies as a “woman”?

Why won’t this guy quit?

(Separately, Jacinda Ardern, who ran the island fortress (against COVID) of New Zealand, recently had a child and quit, like 40 percent of female-identifying physicians in the U.S.. How is the world going to be peaceful if the number of female-identifying leaders is actually going down?)

Here’s a screen shot in case the original falls into a memory hole:

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The wisdom of juries at the Elon Musk trial

A lot of folks, including journalists, love to concoct ex post facto explanations for why the stock market moved as it did on a particular day. The Elon Musk trial has introduced us to a guy who sounds a lot smarter than most pundits and financial reporters. “Jury Rules for Elon Musk and Tesla in Investor Lawsuit Over Tweets” (NYT):

The federal judge in the case, Edward M. Chen, had already ruled that “funding secured” and Mr. Musk’s second statement were untrue, and that Mr. Musk was reckless when posting them.

“I thought he was crazy to try his chances at trial, given the stakes involved,” said Adam C. Pritchard, a law professor at the University of Michigan, noting the judge’s pretrial rulings. “You’re fighting with one hand behind your back in that situation — and yet he won.”

If he had lost, Mr. Musk and Tesla might have had to pay billions of dollars in damages to investors who said they had lost money when the company’s stock surged after his statements on Twitter and then tumbled after his plan fizzled.

One male juror said their arguments were difficult to follow and sometimes seemed disorganized. “There was nothing there to give me an ‘aha’ moment,” he said, later adding, “Elon Musk is a guy who could sneeze and the stock market could react.”

Let’s check in with the superpundits to see how they did compared to this juror. Dow 36,000 was published in October 1999 when the DJIA was at 10,000. The D.C. insiders authors predicted that the DJIA would be at 36,000 no later than 2004. They were proved correct… in November 2021.

Of course, inflation makes every feel smarter. Despite the higher nominal value (3.4X what it was when Dow 36,000 was published), a basket of DJIA stocks has less purchasing power, in terms of real estate in any part of the U.S. where people actually want to live, than it did in 1999. Let’s check Zillow for some houses in our MacArthur Foundation-created development:

  • overlooking a golf course: sold in February 2000 (before the dotcom crash) for $483,900 and now has an estimated value of $2.04 million (4.2X)
  • a simple townhouse: sold in October 1999 for $192,900 and now estimated at $621,500 (3.2X)

Inflation has actually been far worse than the above examples suggest since, of course, these houses are now more 20 years old and aren’t in the pristine condition that they were when new.

How about Jupiter Inlet Colony, where some migrants recently arrived?

(should be easy to find room for non-English-speaking migrants in the Jupiter Inlet Colony, described in this New York Post article!)

Let’s check in with the intersection of Efficient Market Hypothesis and coronapanic:

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Is the Chinese balloon in U.S. airspace?

The U.S. government is talking about shooting down a Chinese balloon that is reportedly high above the mainland U.S… “Suspected Chinese spy balloon drifting over U.S. has surveillance part as big as multiple school buses” (CBS):

The balloon was flying at an altitude of about 66,000 feet, according to a U.S. official. It can be maneuvered but it is also subject to the jet stream, which could eventually push it out of U.S. airspace, the official said.

The balloon is not going to run out of fuel, since it has solar panels. The official also said that the balloon steers by rudder and is corkscrewing around to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move it on a trajectory across the U.S. The Pentagon is still considering ways to “dispose” of it but has “grave concerns” about the damage it would cause if it fell to Earth.

It’s laterally above the U.S. so it is in our airspace so we can shoot it down if we want to? Let’s check “The Vertical Limit of State Sovereignty” (Journal of Air Law and Commerce, 2007):

Because there is no agreed delineation between a state’s territory and free outer space, the vertical limit of state sovereignty is unsettled and each state is left to define the limits of its vertical sovereignty. However, no state has explicitly done this.

U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said “the question of the ownership of upper air is a disputable question…. What the legal position is, I wouldn’t feel in a position to answer because I do not believe that the legal position has even been codified ….”, Later in the same news conference, Secretary Dulles answered a question by saying, “Yes, I think that we feel [that the United States has the right to send balloons at a certain height anywhere around the globe], although .. .there is no clear international law on the subject.””

Conclusion

There is no international agreement on the vertical limit of state sovereignty.

State sovereignty should be limited to a low altitude–I recommend 12 nm [73,000′]

In other words, at 66,000′ it is an open question whether this balloon is in U.S. airspace. The limit of controlled airspace, in which it is possible to get a clearance from U.S. Air Traffic Control, is 60,000′ (the Davos crowd may be found at 51,000′ in their various late-model Gulfstreams).

From Twitter:

And from a Facebook aviation group:

FOR SALE: 2023 China Aviation Industry Corporation II non rigid ballistic helium ballon, like new and low time with only 380 hours TTAF, no damage history. Equipment includes GPS, NAV/COM, extra large gas storage, and weather equipment similar to XM. Military designed but only for civilian use, honestly. Has complete logs. The aircraft is still in use so flight times will change. No special type rating or endorsement needed. Fly wherever you want, whenever you want. Be advised that interest in this unique ballon is at an all time high, so act fast as this one won’t last!

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Don’t throw out your masks (NYT)

“An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here” (New York Times, today):

Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic.

But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.

The U.S. government has a small H5N1 vaccine stockpile, but it would be nowhere near enough if a serious outbreak occurred. The current plan is to mass-produce them if and when such an outbreak occurs, based on the particular variant involved.

There are several problems, though, with this approach even under the best-case scenarios. Producing hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine could take six months or more.

Worryingly, all but one of the approved vaccines are produced by incubating each dose in an egg. The U.S. government keeps hundreds of thousands of chickens in secret farms with bodyguards. (It’s true!) But the bodyguards are presumably there to fend off terror attacks, not a virus. Relying on chickens to produce vaccines against a virus that has a 90 percent to 100 percent fatality rate among poultry has the makings of the most unfunny which-came-first, the-chicken-or-the-egg riddle.

Will no one rid us of this turbulent virus? (source) It’s Pfizer and Moderna to the rescue:

The mRNA-based platforms used to make two of the Covid vaccines also don’t depend on eggs. Scott Hensley, an influenza expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that those vaccines can be mass-produced faster, in as little as three months. There are currently no approved mRNA vaccines for influenza, but efforts to make one should be expedited.

The public, of course, doesn’t want to hear about another virus, and Congress isn’t even willing to keep funding efforts against the current one.

If you spend $20 trillion fighting Virus A your ability to grapple with other health issues, including Virus B, is impaired? Who knew?

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When did Americans begin declaring “cold emergencies”?

Joe Biden still has the U.S. in a declared Covid emergency. We’re informed that systemic racism is a public health emergency. Maybe the monkeypox emergency is still going on? And, of course, there is also the ongoing climate emergency. How could the situation get worse? Boston is in Day 1 of a three-day “cold emergency”:

Mayor Michelle Wu has declared a cold emergency in the City of Boston for Friday, February 3 through Sunday, February 5 due to the extreme cold weather that is forecasted for this time period.

How about the kids who missed 18 months of school? They’ll be at home getting reacquainted with all of their favorite videogames:

After careful consideration and discussions with our local partners regarding the safety of our young people, Boston Public Schools will be closed on Friday, February 3, 2023.

What’s the history of cold emergencies? I don’t remember hearing this term. Who can cite a “cold emergency” from pre-2020?

Mindy the Crippler never complained about the cold! Here she is enjoying a December 2016 snow experience:

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How the economy looks to a yacht broker

One of our neighbors refused to go to medical school and be like everyone else in the neighborhood. He needs to earn money without practicing medicine, so he sells yachts. I found him putting his new Porsche 911 GTS ($200,000 and 1.5-year wait) away in his garage and asked if the wind had gone out of the yacht world’s sails. “Yachts that cost under $2 million have taken a big hit from rising interest rates,” he responded. “They’re down about 25 percent from their peak a year ago. Anything over $5 million is steady. Those are cash buyers and prices haven’t moved.”

Let’s poke into the market for “mega yachts”… Here’s one whose price was cut by 10 percent in December:

Very few of the listings show price drops, however. Or the price drop isn’t enough to pay for floor mats:

The $1 million yachts for kulaks, however, seem to be trending down:

I sorted by “old to new” for listings and found a classic that had dropped from $2.6 million to $1.7 million:

(The ship was fully restored about 10 years ago.)

What if you want to buy a Porsche instead, just like our neighbor’s? There are none available within 500 miles of South Florida:

Maybe there is still some room for inflation, at least for Porsches.

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Did Elon Musk break Facebook?

We were informed that Elon Musk’s firing of more than half of the paycheck-collectors at a social media company would result in a social media company’s service melting down, coughing up errors, etc. At first, Twitter soldiered on, but now the prediction has come true… about Facebook.

Has anyone else noticed how poorly Facebook works when a discussion gets complicated? I’m notified that someone responded and I click on the notification and get taken to an unrelated part of the discussion. I’m notified that someone responded and the response is not visible until I close the browser window and restart my Facebook web page (i.e., single-page app). Sometimes I respond and the text never appears in my own view, though it has been posted to the thread and can be viewed later. What I initially see is whitespace.

Readers: Which site is performing better right now from a purely technical point of view, Facebook or Twitter? Also, how do people feel about the 50,000+ people that Elon Musk fired at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta/Facebook, and other Silicon Valley companies?

Separately, Facebook decided that I violated Community Standards by posting a reply that included the Web address of a local pinball dealer: https://www.thepinballdudes.net/

The pinball link was treated like content that questioned Anthony Fauci or the CDC or, even worse, one that expressed skepticism regarding the ability of a cloth mask to block an aerosol virus. Speaking of cloth masks, here’s the one that Dr. Fauci recommends wearing while playing pinball…

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Did vaccines or any other intervention slow down COVID?

Here’s a chronology of humans fighting SARS-CoV-2:

Let’s ignore for the moment that “excess deaths” might be a better measure because doubts have been raised about whether COVID-tagging of deaths has been done correctly in various states and countries. We’ll go with the statistic that we have on the “search for the keys under the lamppost” theory of #Science.

Especially for the U.S., the slope of the curve is remarkably constant. Why is that surprising? We had the miracle of lockdowns. Then we had the miracle of mask orders. Then we had the miracle of mRNA vaccines. If these miracles worked, but then the deaths resumed after the virus mutated, shouldn’t we see a more dramatic variation in slope?

Perhaps it is in Europe that we can see some effects. Humans did something in June 2020 that flattened the European curve until late October when hockey stick growth started again. But what did humans do in June 2020? The various coronapanic orders had actually been relaxed by that point. Once again in June 2021 there is a leveling of the European curve. Maybe that shows the efficacy of COVID vaccines? It seems unlikely. As in the U.S., the Europeans injected the old/vulnerable much earlier in 2021.

Related:

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How about decimation for the Memphis police department and city government?

The Killing of Tyre Nichols seems to be fading from the news. The New York Times thinks that pizza is more important:

There has been no coherent explanation thus far of why the police killed this particular guy, as opposed to all of the other people with whom they interact daily, but presumably no explanation could justify their actions.

We are informed that the problem is the culture/institution, not the individuals. See “The Myth Propelling America’s Violent Police Culture” (Atlantic, Jan 31, 2023):

This past weekend, as I watched the videos of Tyre Nichols being beaten to death, I asked myself, Why does this keep happening? But I know the answer: It’s police culture—rooted in a tribal mentality, built on a false myth of a war between good and evil, fed by political indifference to the real drivers of violence in our communities. We continue to use police to maintain order as a substitute for equality and adequate social services. It will take a generation of courageous leaders to change this culture, to reject this myth, and to truly promote a mission of service—a mission that won’t drive officers to lose their humanity.

The organization is at fault, in other words, and the problems extend to the city government as a whole because crime wouldn’t happen if there were “equality and adequate social services”. The author’s point that police officers’ behavior are primarily driven by peer expectations rings true and, therefore, merely imprisoning or executing a few rogue officers won’t stop the next murder by police.

What would happen in Roman times if there were serious problems with a military unit (and the police in the U.S. definitely qualify as “military”)? Decimation:

Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions.

The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning “removal of a tenth”. The procedure was an attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

A cohort (roughly 480 soldiers) selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten. Each group drew lots (sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot of the shortest straw fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning, clubbing, or stabbing. The remaining soldiers were often given rations of barley instead of wheat (the latter being the standard soldier’s diet) for a few days, and required to bivouac outside the fortified security of the camp for some time.

As the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in a group sentenced to decimation were potentially liable for execution, regardless of individual degrees of fault, rank, or distinction.

An authentic Roman-style decimation would presumably offend modern sensibilities, but maybe the proven management technique could be adapted for our kinder, gentler world (albeit not kinder or gentler for Tyre Nichols). In addition to individual punishments for the perpetrators (they’re charged with second-degree murder so they cannot be executed), why not cut the salary of every employee in the Memphis police department by 10 percent and take away a year of pension entitlement? The chief of police (“Memphis Police Department’s first Black female chief”) and mayor (“A Democrat, he previously served as a member of the Memphis City Council”) would be fired. These kinds of punishments would give institutions the incentive to reform themselves. Absent collective punishment, which of course will seem unfair to many, why should institutions bother to change?

Related:

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