Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day Five - St Martin

In:
30Jul2015

Toay we are visiting one of my favorite spots in the Caribbean, St Martin.

We set our alarm for 7:30am to get ready but getting ready seemed to take longer than we anticipated so we decided to skip breakfast on the ship and have it on the island.

For our tour of the island, we hired a local driver that we have used 3 or 4 times now, Leo Brown.  Leo is a taxi driver we found by chance one cruise to St Martin and he has proven to be extremely nice, reliable and knowledgeable.

We met up with him right at 9am and he was waiting for us where we had planned.  We told him about our breakfast "problem" and he asked if we wanted local cuisine or American food.  Knowing my daughter and wife, I said American food and off we went.

After a 5 minute car ride, Leo brought us to the Devis Resort, which is a time share resort on the Dutch side right on the ocean.  Leo brought us to the restaurant and we had a fabulous breakfast buffet.

There was fruit, omelette station, hot foods, yogurts, juice, cereal and some bread to choose from.  I was impressed by the variety and the quality of the buffet.  

The price was $18 per person and I thought it was a great choice.

We packed into his van and off we went to our next stop, Le Galion beach on the French side.

Le Galion beach is an ideal beach for kids because it is a small bay that has rocks that not only protect the bay from waves but it is extremely shallow too.  

My 4 year old spent the entire time in the ocean and my 6 month old fared better today than yesterday (thanks to a long nap on mommy).

The beach has no fee but it is $5 per chair or umbrella.  You can also rent things like kayaks or wind surf for an additional fee.

New since our last visit is a large floating platform that allows swimmers a spot to jump.  The locals tell us it was built for kids to learn to swim but it's there if you want to use as well.

Here's an example of why we love having Leo as our guide.  At the beach my wife realized as the baby was screaming her head off that she had forgotten the bottles back on the ship.  Instantly Leo shot up from his chair and without accepting any money from me, drove to a nearby pharmacy and got us a bottle.  

We spent a few hours here and as lunch approached, we decided that we would get my 4 year old daughter a burger at the beach and then venture further into the French side for something else to eat for us.

Once the burger was eaten, we drove to the town of Grand Case and Leo brought us to a place that offered fresh Caribbean food.

I had the Mahi Mahi and my wife opted for chicken.  Both tasted great and it was right on the beach too!

I wish we had a little more time but we had to get back to the ship, so Leo brought us to the port with a small tour of the French side along the way.

We said goodbye to Leo, hoping to see him again soon, and got back on Freedom of the Seas.

My wife took the baby back to the room for a nap while I took my 4 year old daughter to the H2O Zone for a quick swim.

Afterwards, it was back to the room for showers and getting dressed for dinner.

Tonight we have our "big night out", or at least we hope for a big night out.  We reserved time for both kids to stay until midnight at their respective clubs while my wife and I enjoy dinner at Sabor and some time  around the ship.

Quick tip, we had a reservation at Sabor at 8 but wanted to eat earlier.  If you are in a similar situation, feel free to go to the restaurant and ask if you can be seated now.  It never fails to work, especially since there seems to be open tables.   Granted, this tip probably works best with smaller tables.

Sabor tonight was quite impressive and I really enjoyed my meal there. Tonight's experience re-affirmed my love of this specialty restaurant.

As may you recall, we had Sabor for lunch earlier this cruise while it was really good, it was not quite what I remembered on Navigator.  Clearly, I did not order the right food.

This time around I asked for extra guac with extra lime juice (let's call this the Matt special) and opted for the ahi tuna tacos and red snapper.  The good was amazing and I wish I had just ordered the tacos a few times.

We asked for our same waiter, Juan, and when he saw us he commented, "Are you the guy that posted a photo of me on Instagram?".  Busted!

I also tried the horizontal tequila flight, which was phenomenal.   Add some hand crafted margaritas and you have a really, really good experience.

Essentially the food at Sabor is really good and if you try their drinks, I think you will find one of the better Mexican meals out there.   My wife and I really enjoyed our time there.

Following Sabor, we did a bit of bar hopping between Schooner Bar, R-Bar, Pub and Viking Crown Lounge.  

Proving we are older than we think, we got to about 10:30pm and decided to call it a night early.  The drinking caught up with us and we wanted to be rested for a full day tomorrow.

I am hoping to get a lot done tomorrow on our second to last day, so hoping for a great day!

Stray Observations

  • Someone asked about the new staterooms on deck 12. I stopped by and took some photos.  There is a door that lets out directly on deck 12 and there is access to the elevator lobby.

Live Blog Index

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day Four - St Thomas

In:
29Jul2015

We began today much like our other days, with a wake up around 8am and then subsequently getting the kids ready to get going.

We ate breakfast at the Windjammer, which was packed today.  I think everyone had the plan to sleep in given our noon arrival in St Thomas.

We dropped off our 4 year old daughter in Adventure Ocean and then went to the helicopter pad to watch Freedom of the Seas pull into St Thomas.  

As it turned out, we got in early and were cleared to go ashore by 10:30am.  That's an hour and a half early!  Thanks Captain Ron!

Our early arrival presented a small problem because we had just left our daughter in Adventure Ocean 30 minutes or so ago and if we went to pick her up now, she would have a mini-heart attack.

We decided to give her the choice of coming with us or staying and sure enough, she did not bat an eye about wanting to stay in Adventure Ocean.  She absolutely loves it in there and everytime we pick her up, we are the bad guys. 

With one less child, we headed back to the stateroom to get ready and then went ashore.  

Our first stop was the Sky ride to Paradise Point.  It is a gondola-style cable car ride up a mountain to the top of a mountain that overlooks the port area.

We booked the excursion through Royal Caribbean (About $20 per adult and $10 per kid. 6 month old was free).  It is really close to the port and is about a 5-10 minute walk.

We got to the base of the sky ride and got our wristband (your admission allows you to go back as many times as you want during the day).

I will have a more in-depth review of the sky ride in another blog post but we really enjoyed it.  It was a fun ride up the mountain and the view is quite lovely.  The whole thing took about 30 minutes, unless you spend time at the top at the bar or shopping more than we did.

Next up we took a taxi to downtown Charotte Amalie to do some shopping and have lunch.  

We walked by a few shops and found a nice pearl necklace for my wife.  I have been promising my wife jewelry for a few cruises but we never find anything we like.  This time, we found a nice piece at a good price and we bought it.

By now it was 12:30pm and we were getting hungry.   Since we had cell service in St Thomas (it is part of the United States), I took my cell phone out and pulled up the Yelp app to find a restaurant.

The #1 restaurant in our area was Cuzzin's Caribbean and we went there.  As the name implies, it serves up Caribbean food but there were also burgers and sandwiches. And it has air conditioning!

I ordered the curried chicken while my wife ordered the cheeseburger.  Her burger was good and freshly made but my curried chicken was really, really good.  The meat was falling off the bone and I really like it.

On top of that, a blog reader Michael from Tampa, recommended the lambada boomer drink and let's just say my day got a lot better very quickly!

Next up we took a cab to the beach.  I wanted to go to to Lindquist Beach on the east end of the island but the taxi driver we found convinced us to go to Emerald Beach instead.  He had a good point: Both beaches are quite lovely but this one is closer and cheaper.  He offered to let us scope it out first so I obliged and off we went.

Emerald Beach is about a 5 minute drive from downtown and there is a Best Western Plus hotel.  Once you get there, you can walk straight to the beach and there is no fee for the beach, chairs or anything.  Granted, there is no service either in terms of waiters.

The beach and water were beautiful and it was a quiet piece of beach to enjoy.  

This would have been perfect if not for my 6 month old losing her mind because she was over tired and refused to nap.  We fought it for a while but ultimately we had to leave and go back because if the baby was screaming, no one is having fun.

Overall, it was a fun day and we got a lot done in my opinion.  We spent far less money than I thought we would and it was good seeing a few different spots on the island.  I just wish the baby would have cooperated a little bit more.  C'est la vie!

You can see the piece of the top of Freedom of the Seas missing due to the fire

Back onboard, we rested up and got ready for dinner.  The kids went to Adventure Ocean and the nursery and we headed to the dining room.

Dinner was good, unfortunately not as good as last night but we enjoyed our time there and it was a pleasant evening.

After dinner we got out early enough that we got into the Once Upon A Time show in the Royal Theater.

This was the first evening show we managed to see and it's a mashup of classic fairytales to contemporary music.  

I really enjoyed it and thought the songs they chose were spot on and overall it was a really good performance.

Tomorrow, we are going to St Martin with all the kids and hoping they both can work in some naps!

Live Blog Index

Going curb to ship on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
29Jul2015

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 104 is available for downloading, where Matt discusses everything you need to know between when you arrive at the port to when you actually board your ship.

Matt and Michael talk about what guests can expect when they arrive at the pier for embarkation day and share tips for parking, porters, check in and more.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 104. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean asking travel agents to name the Bionic Bar bartenders

In:
29Jul2015

Royal Caribbean senior vice president of sales, Vicki Freed, is asking the help of travel agents to name the arms of the robotic arms that "work" in the Bionic Bar aboard Anthem of the Seas.

Freed posted the contest on her Facebook page and is offering the winner of the contest a chance to win a stateroom on an Anthem of the Seas inaugural sailing from New York.  

The contest is open from July 27 through August 3.  

Each travel partner is limited to one submission for one arm. The winner will be awarded a stateroom on an Anthem Inaugural sailing for the 11/8 sailing.

Vicki will announce the winners the week of 8/10 on Facebook as well as Loyal To You Always. 

The contest is only open to travel agents but what would you name the robotic bartenders?

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day Three - Sea Day

In:
28Jul2015

Our first sea day was today and we did not want to miss too much of it, so we set the alarm for 8:30am and started to get ready.

Except for my 4 year old, who got up, turned off the light my wife had turned on and went back to bed.  Clearly she is 4 going on 17.

We headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast and had a lovely table next to the window at the aft of the ship.  It provided us with an excellent view while we had our food.  My choice for breakfast today was build-your-own miso soup from the Jade section of the Windjammer.  Very tasty and something I have only ever seen on Royal Caribbean.

After breakfast I dropped my 4 year old off at Adventure Ocean for the morning and then my wife and I headed up to deck 14 to the Viking Crown Lounge for the Cruise Critic meet-n-mingle.

For those unaware, Royal Caribbean partners with Cruise Critic to offer a meet up onboard the ship, provided at least 25 people register for the event prior to your cruise.  Once registered, you will get an invitation to attend the event, which is usually on the first sea day.

We arrived right at 10am and found about a dozen or so people there.  It was by far the least populated meet-n-mingle we have been to.

The event is about meeting other folks onboard who cruise and there is also a raffle for some prizes, such as bottles of wine, Royal Caribbean keychains, pens and more.  We won a Royal Caribbean highlighter and box 'o office supplies.  Hey, it's free!

We enjoyed speaking with others about their cruising experience and it was a nice little event.

Next we headed down to deck 5 to take care of some "business".  

Our first stop was Guest Relations, where we confirmed our onboard credit amounts (it was not displaying on the televisions) and we also had them refund room decorations we had purchased that had never showed up.  Everything was quick and prompt.

Next, we went to the Shore Excursions desk and booked the Skyway Ride in St. Thomas.  My 6-month old was free and 4-year old qaulified for the kids rate, so the price overall was not terrible.  I was surprised the line for Shore Excursions was so short but was happy to get my tickets and be on my way.

There was also no line at the Next Cruise office so my wife and I decided to book a random cruise in 2017 so we could take advantage of the onboard booking credit.  

I doubt we will actually take this particular cruise that we booked but by booking it onboard, we can transfer the reservation to another sailing if we like and retain the onboard booking credit.  Essentially, it is free money.  

We also elected to save the onboard booking bonus for the upcoming cruise rather than take it on this sailing.

Around this time my wife and I started thinking about lunch and we decided to try and see if we can get reservations for our absolute favorite restaurant, Sabor.  

For lunch, adults only pay $15 per person for lunch and we figured why not go more than once this cruise.

I had no trouble making a reservation and we spent some more time back on the Royal Promenade doing some window shopping.  Did not buy anything but we do enjoy seeing what is on sale.

After a bit of walking around the Royal Promenade, we headed back up to deck 12 to collect my daugher. Adventure Ocean closes at noon for a quick break before reopening at 2. 

I had made our reservation for lunch at Sabor at 12:30pm but we were running ahead of schedule, so we stopped by Sabor at about 12:05pm and the staff were happy to take us in.

You may be wondering why I love Sabor so much and it is because we tried it on Navigator of the Seas last year and thought the food and experience were terrific.  

This time around for lunch, it was more of the same in terms of that great food, flavors and ambiance.

I will say if nothing else, go to Sabor for the chips, salsa, guacamole and hand crafted margaritas.  it is simply the best!

We ordered a few things off the menu and my wife and I enjoyed all of it.  My 4 year old picked at her food and we ended up going to get her pizza from Sorrento's.   As a parent, I'm frustrated at how she has regressed in her willingness to eat different foods. 

Despite my daughter, I can say Sabor on Freedom of the Seas lived up to my expectations and there really does not appear to be a difference between lunch and dinner.  We will be having dinner here later this cruise, so I can give a better comparisson at that point.

It was getting close to 2pm, so I took the 6 month old back to the stateroom for a nap and my wife took my 4 year old to Adventure Ocean and then she went to see the ice show onboard, known as Freedom-Ice.com.

I think the ice shows are quite good but my wife loves them, so I decided to let her enjoy the show sans kids while I let the 6 month old nap and I had a chance to connect with folks in #CruiseChat.

My wife reported the ice show was as good as she remembered and she also commented it is the same songs too.

Up next we went to the main pool to relax and enjoy the view.  I was happy to find the live band playing at the pool.  I really love Royal Caribbean's live music onboard and at the pool it is the best.

Drink of the day

Following the pool, we came back to the stateroom to get ready for dinner.  The girls got ready and I took a quick nap while most of this was happening

Our pre-dinner were the same as "usual" now.  I took my 4 year old up to the Windjammer for dinner and then dropped her off at Adventure Ocean (it was superhero night tonight).

Then I returned to the stateroom to pick up my wife and 6 month old, and we took the 6 month old up to the Nursery.

Once we were kid free, we went to the casino where I briefly won some money and then subsequently lost it all on a "double or nothing" bet.

Right before dinner we went to the Royal Promenade and my wife picked out a nice ring that she wanted to wear.  Husband of the year right here folks.

At dinner it was "Italian night" and I have to say the best food of the cruise so far in the main dining room.  Even better than last night's formal night dinner in my opinion.

After enjoying dinner (and lamenting that I did not wear stretchy pants), we headed to the Schooner Bar for 80's trivia.  

We didn't win but it was a lot of fun and the host was terrific.  I was proud of myself for being the only person to get one of the bonus question's correct (What is the name of the little boy on Alf).

After trivia, we grabbed a quick drink at R-Bar.  Tonight's drink was the Texas Collins, another solid choice and tasty too.

We collected both children and headed back to the room for the evening.

Tomorrow we are in St Thomas and we get to do some exploring.

Stray observations

  • Here is a photo of the phone you get after dropping kids off at the Nursery
  • Internet speeds have remained constant and I am okay with them.  I feel like staying connected around the ship is better than previous cruises.
  • I asked a bartender today at R-Bar if he prefers guests with the drink package or without and he said to him it is the same and there is no difference.
  • Royal Caribbean did not offer tickets to the ice show but it is smart to arrive at least 15 minutes early.  30 minutes would be ideal for a good spot.
  • The trivia games are incredibly popular.  Schooner Bar was overflowing tonight.
  • Vintages Wine bar does offer a handful of bottled beers.

Live Blog Index

Video: A visionary behind Royal Caribbean innovations

In:
28Jul2015

Behind every masterpiece there is a unique and innovative vision. Take a glimpse at the creative process through the eyes of Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Architectural Design, Kelly Gonzalez.

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day Two - CocoCay

In:
27Jul2015

Today we are at Royal Caribbean's private island of CocoCay for a day filled with swimming, the beach, a wedding and tenders.

Freedom of the Seas anchored off the coast of CocoCay around 7:30am or so.  I am not exactly certain because I was fast asleep, as was my entire family.  The kids slept through the announcement and around 8am my wife and I got ready and then woke up the kids and got them ready.

After getting our clan dressed, we headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast and had another classic Windjammer meal.  While breakfast is my least favorite of the meals served there (the selection never changes), I still enjoyed my custom made omelette.

We headed downstairs to meet our wedding group at 10am to head over to CocoCay.  After waiting a little bit for everyone to arrive, we were on our way to CocoCay.

As you may or may not know, guests take a tender to CocoCay

Once on the island, we were escorted via trams to the wedding location, which is a small spot on the top of a "cliff" overlooking the ocean and Freedom of the Seas.

It was a nice spot for a small wedding but there was absolutely no shade so we were all sweating profusely.  Royal Caribbean gave us bottles of water to help relieve the heat a little bit.

Despite the the heat, it was a lovely ceremony and as soon as it was over, we hopped back in the tram to head to the beach.

My 4 year old daughter wanted to go to Adventure Ocean so we dropped her off there.  

The Adventure Ocean facility is a small "compound" where kids play in the sand in the shade.  While it did not look like something I wanted to do, my daughter had a blast there and was upset she had to leave.

My wife, 6 month old daughter and I headed to the beach and we ended up near Barefoot Beach.  We managed to snag two beach chairs and placed them in a shady spot.

Shade on CocoCay is at a premium and oddly enough, they do not rent umbrellas. 

It was fun in the ocean, which was barely deep on any adult, but it was so incredibly hot I think my wife and I did not enjoy ourselves as much as we usually do at these private islands.  We did grab some Coco Locos to help cool us down.

At around 12:30 there were some scary looking clouds coming so we decided to head back to the ship.  Evidently so did the rest of the ship.

We eventually made our way back and yes it took a while because of the crowd heading back but I refuse to let a line for tenders ruin my day.  My daughter, however, had no such problem.

We got back to the ship, showered and changed and then headed to the Windjammer for a late lunch.  I really enjoyed the selection available today.

At this point my kids needed naps really badly so we went back to the stateroom.  I opted to head up to the main pool to enjoy the ambiance (in the shade).

I then took part in a time honored tradition of mine by taking a nap by the pool and it was glorious.

After waking up, I headed back to the stateroom and everyone got ready for formal night.  I took my 4 year old up to the Windjammer for dinner and then dropped her off at Adventure Ocean.

Afterwards I came back downstairs as my wife finished getting ready and we brough my 6 month old to the nursery.  My wife and I were hopeful both kids would do well.

For our pre-dinner activity, we went to R-Bar, which is a favorite spot of mine. When we were on Navigator of the Seas I really enjoyed R-Bar and Freedom of the Seas was no different.

I was informed by the staff that the R-Bar menu is different for every ship, so the drink that I had on Navigator was not available here but the staff at R-Bar was happy to help pick out a new one for me.  Between the decor and drink options, it is my favorite spot for drinks.

Tonight is formal night in the main dining room and it is also one of the better menus of the cruise. We both really enjoyed the offerings and my favorite part had to be the coffee ice cream, which I natually ordered as much as they would serve me.  Love it!

They also had some wonderful live music in the main dining room.  I think the live music for dinner is such a nice touch.

After dinner we went to the casino and I promptly lost money so we cut our losses and went to the Pub for some drinks and music.  I love the live music and cold beer available in the pub so it was a nice end to my evening.

We picked up both children without incident and things turned out to be a great evening!

Tomorrow is our first sea day and we do not have any firm plans but hoping we can do more exploring and enjoy everything the ship has to offer.

Stray observations:

  • I know some people like tenders but I really do not enjoy them because of the extra time required to get back and forth compared to docking. Luckily, no more tenders this cruise!
  • In the Cruise Compass, Royal Caribbean is offering a dining package deal that we reported earlier this year. $20/person/day for the duration of the cruise.  There is also rates for kids at the specialty restaurants
  • The drink of the day comes with a 25% discount

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Where to watch cruise ships in Fort Lauderdale

In:
27Jul2015

One of the largest cruise ship ports int he world is Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and if you are not lucky enough to be on one of these cruise ships, the next best thing is to watch them leave!  Blog writer Michael Poole shares where to watch the ships leave if you want to see them in Fort Lauderdale.

More often than not, if you are sailing on a cruise, you arrive to the departing city the day before to avoid any unplanned delays.  That’s exactly what I did on my last cruise on Oasis of the Seas out of Fort Lauderdale.  

Once I arrived to Fort Lauderdale, I reached out to my good friend, Emmy Schaffer, about the best place to watch ships sail out of Port Everglades.  I’ve always seen pictures of people on rocks at the beach waving bon voyage to the ships, but honesty had no clue how to get there. 

Almost all the cruise ships sail between 4:00pm – 5:30pm, so I’d recommend arriving no later than 3:00pm. 

The cross streets you want to look for are South Ocean Drive and Anchor Drive SE 20 ST.  You can also look for Everglades House condos, as they are on the same block. 

Once you arrive there are only a few meter parking spots on the right side, so get there early.  We had to circle around a few times and lucked out getting one, but it was almost 4:00pm. 

Now that you are parked, you are going walk back towards the street signs and look for a black gate.  This gate gives you access to the public beach and is not locked.  Upon entering the beach you will see a long walkway and then you want to turn right when you pass the ally. 

Now you will see a large section of rocks to the right and this offers the best views for watching ships sail away. 

Just a warning don’t get to far out, because the water will splash up on you, in fact I got soaked! 

This is such a great way to get even more excited about your upcoming cruise, if that’s even possible at this point. 

If you have any questions about how to get here please leave them in the comments section below.  

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day One

In:
26Jul2015

Today we kick off our Royal Caribbean adventure on Freedom of the Seas and as per usual, my wife and I woke up too early.  We were just too excited to sleep until our alarms went off, so we got up an hour or so early and started getting ready.

We were staying in a vacation home in the Orlando area near Walt Disney World this week as a pre-cruise vacation, so we loaded up the car with our stuff, locked up the vacation home and hit the road, heading straight to Port Canaveral!

The drive to the port was rather uneventful, although I did manage to pull a muscle in my back loading luggage into the car which made the car ride uncomfortable.  

Arriving in Port Canaveral, we drove to Terminal 1.  Terminal 1 is the new cruise terminal built in Port Canaveral that Royal Caribbean partnered with the port to construct.  The flow of the area is quite nice.  When you drive in, there are two options: drop off/pickup or park.  

I dropped off my family and luggage quickly and then drove around to the parking garage, which is on top of the terminal.  It was quite simple and I enjoyed the convenience factor of the entire process.

After parking, we took our luggage and got on line as the port was not quite open yet.  We waited perhaps 10 minutes and then they started letting guests in.

Check-in was a breeze and we benefited greatly by the special line for Crown and Anchor Society members.

As you may recall, we are going to two weddings on this cruise and the first wedding was today.  Once Freedom of the Seas was cleared by customs, we were literally the first group let onboard.

The wedding was at 12:30 in the Star Lounge.  It had been previously scheduled for the Diamond Club but that is closed for maintenance and so, the event was moved to the Star Lounge.

We headed up the Windjammer for lunch before the wedding and grabbed the usual assortment of embarkation day foods. Sadly, no honey stung chicken available!

After lunch we headed down to the Star Lounge for the ceremony.  It was a quick event, with the exchange of vows, first dance, toast and wedding cake all in about an hour.  It was a nice and quick event.  Certainly not traditional in the sense of a many hour affair, but I think it is what the bride and groom wanted, especially since there were a number of guests who were onboard but not sailing with us, so their time was limited.

After the wedding, we went up to our staterooms.  We have two connecting inside staterooms (7133 and 7131).  Both rooms are on the small size but together they give us just enough room to get around and some sense of privacy.

The rooms are exactly what I was expecting, so no surprises to be found.  

Next up was registration for my kids.  We went to Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies and Tots Nursery to register each.  Registration was quick, but I still wish I could do this in advance of the cruise to save some time.

At the nursery, you are limited to 16 hours of reserved time.  You could use more time if there is availability if you just show up but no guarantees.  Also, you can only reserve time on one of the two formal nights.  

My wife commented the other parents there were reserving time in the day whereas we sought dinner time reservations.  In my opinion, I'd rather enjoy a nice dinner than time during the day but to each, their own.

We took a tour of the spa next and it was what we remembered and a pretty standard Royal Caribbean offering.  Someone had asked about if there is a thermal spa or other facility in the spa that offers access for the duration of the cruise but unfortunately there is none on Freedom of the Seas.

I was quite pleased that our muster station was in the Star Lounge, as I was concerned we would be outside on a deck and sweating there with kids who do not understand why we have to be there.  Muster was quick and simple (the best kind).

Following muster we grabbed some pizza from Sorrento's and went up to the pool deck for sailaway.  

The sailaway party is at the main pool and features Dreamworks characters.  It's cute and sets the right tone for the beginning of vacation.  My 4 year old seemed to enjoy it.

We got our luggage and my 6 month old needed a break so my wife took her to the room while my 4-year old and I went to the pool.  I let her play in the H2O zone and she had a blast.

When we got back my wife mentioned to me we were missing one bag and that a voicemail indicated the final bag was being held on deck 1.  Many Royal Caribbean fans refer to this area of held back bags as "the naughty room" because folks go there for bad reasons.

It turns out we had bottled water in the luggage and so when it went through the x-ray machines it was flagged.  The crew members inspected the bag, and to my surprise, gave me the bag with the water.  

I asked them if there are a lot of bags and if they are mostly alcohol or water.  He indicated they get a lot of bags and they are almost always alcohol.  

I will now take an opportunity to talk about the fire on the ship.  As you may recall, there was a fire last week on Freedom of the Seas.  In terms of the impact on this cruise, it has been minimal. 

The smoke stack has been repainted but there is still a hole.  The Wedding Chapel and Diamond Lounge are closed for what I assume is because of the fire.  Otherwise, no other changes that I have seen.

I also did a fair amount of exploring and took some photos, so enjoy this batch of photos without my usual bit of entertaining commentary.

H2O Zone

Solarium

It's Sunday!  All elevators indicate what the day is

Grandeur of the Seas was also in port today

Beer prices at the pub

View from Viking Crown Lounge (I know, this photo did not come out well)

We headed back to the stateroom to get ready for dinner around now.  We decided to wear the same clothes we had worn for the wedding, so getting ready was easier than usual.

At the main dining room we were seated at a table for 4 at a window to the left.  No tablemates for us this cruise but it is nice to have a table by the window.  Not sure we have ever had a window side table for dinner in the main dining room before.

Our wait staff were good all around.  They were helpful and nice (sorry I do not remember their names yet).  I would have to say the dinner experience was unremarkable, which is not a bad thing.  The first night can be a little chaotic when it comes to the main dining room.

Speaking of first night differences, the ship is definitely cruising at a high speed this evening.  I can certainly feel the ship's movements but it is no where near it being very rocky.  It is the kind of motion that is perfect for sleeping!

The food this evening was about average overall.  Nothing terrible and nothing exceptional.  

We had both our kids with us for dinner because on the first night Adventure Ocean and the nursery are not open and all things considered, we had a good time.

Following dinner we took a stroll on deck 4 to walk off some of the food we ate.  There was a pleasant warm breeze blowing and it felt wonderful.

Since my daughter had eaten her food and was generally well behaved, I offered to go for a night swim with her.  We went back to the stateroom and got changed and then headed up to the main pool.  One side of the main pool was closed but the other was open and there was a Ryan Reynolds movie playing.

The water was a bit on the cold side but we had a blast swimming under the stars.  We then subsequently froze after getting out!

Stray observations

  • There was a Sabor Modern Mexican kiosk giving free guacamole samples on the Royal Promenade and I think I had no less than 6 samples.
  • Speaking of Sabor, outside the restaurant tonight was buy 1, get 1 free drinks (not sure what the drink was exactly).  
  • I could not smell any smoke or notice anything else of that kind related to the fire.
  • Our Crown and Anchor welcome gift was 4 bottles of water and Royal Caribbean cookies.  You can specify your gift in your Crown and Anchor preferences on Royal Caribbean's site.
  • The internet speeds so far have been tolerable.  I can upload photos in a few seconds but video is way too slow.  I'm happy to have a good wifi signal in my stateroom!
  • Internet cost is $140 for 7 days (one device) or $210 for 7 days (two devices) or $39.95 for 24 hours

That will do it for today.  Tomorrow we are going to CocoCay and another wedding!

Live Blog Index

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 26, 2015

In:
26Jul2015

Another week has come to an end and we've gone through and hand-picked some fun articles for you to take a look at in case you missed any of it.

Unfortunately this week's big news story focuses on a small fire that broke out on Freedom of the Seas near Falmouth, Jamaica.

The fire occured as the ship was pulling into port.  The fire looked worse than it really was, as there were no passenger injuries and just one crew member was injured with a first degree burn.

Freedom of the Seas was able to continue with her planned itinerary and there are no changes to any upcoming sailings.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

This week Matt is previewing his upcoming cruise on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas!

In this podcast episode, Matt shares why he booked this cruise, discusses cruising with his young children and shares his plans for onboard Freedom of the Seas and the ports he will be visiting.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

Digital Signage Connection looks at Royal Caribbean's partnerships to bring visual experiences to the Quantum class ships.

Deadspin shows you how to go on a fancy-ass cruise without going broke.

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