Royal Caribbean announced the teams of adventure squads that are finalists in the cruise line's "The World’s Most Adventurous Squad" contest.
In late March, squads began competing in the contest’s opening round of five challenges chronicled on social media. With themes like “Thrills and Chills” and “Epic Eats,” these challenges ran through April. Royal Caribbean then selected one winning squad for each challenge. Five finalists were picked among a field of more than 3,000 competing teams who entered the contest. Each team is made up of up to four thrill-seekers, and will compete to be crowned the winner in just two weeks.
The contest progress can be tracked at AdventureSquad.com. The finalist teams are
- Cousins of the Caribbean, Winners of the Thrills and Chills Challenge — These competitive cousins are former collegiate athletes, game-changers, and open-minded wanderlusters.
- Hawaii Koa, Winners of the Hidden Gems Challenge — Instagram ‘Pros and Bros’ are self-proclaimed ‘surf & snow animals’ that believe life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
- Bangarang, Winners of the Epic Eats Challenge — This globetrotting team collectively has sampled many of the world’s wonders and believe, ‘You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.’
- Seas the Day, Winners of the Culture Capture Challenge — Calling themselves ‘a couple of couples,’ this crew enthusiastically seeks out the adrenaline rush of serious adventure travel.
- Skallywags, Winners of the Air Land and Sea Challenge — Having brains, muscle, and moxie, these outdoorsy outliers know how to beat attitude with gratitude and plenty of altitude.
From May 27–June 3, the remaining tier of the Adventure Squad contest begins. The Final Five will embark on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas for a seven-day sailing. Beginning in Labadee, Haiti, squad mettle will be tested as teams careen down Dragon’s Breath Flight Line, the world’s longest overwater zip line. A sail to Haiti’s remote Amiga Island, surrounded by white-sand beaches and crystal blue waters, culminates in a kayaking and wave-jet surfing adventure to round out the day.
Next, competitors sail to Falmouth, Jamaica, where they’ll raft their way down three miles of the Martha Brae River on handmade vessels of bamboo. Later, crews get to sample some of the best jerk chicken and pork in Jamaica that’s cooked over the pimento tree wood pits of Scotchie’s Restaurant in Montego Bay. Exploring the exhilarating waterfalls and secret cave of Jamaica’s Blue Hole as well as off-roading on ATVs through the island’s jungle terrain is also on the adrenaline-pumping itinerary. But no worries, squad members get to shake off hard-earned road dust with a refreshing cliff-dive into azure waters.
The final port-of-call will take the eager travelers to the island of Cozumel, Mexico, where they’ll hop a plane to explore the intriguing archaeological Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. Once there, underground limestone caverns of some of the country’s many cenotes await their inspection. The group will then be treated to restorative handmade tortillas at a private Cozumel taqueria.
At the end of sailing, all five teams will gather in Harmony’s outdoor AquaTheater to hear which group is crowned “The World’s Most Adventurous Squad.” Each winning squad member will be awarded with three Royal Caribbean cruises.
Pre – Cruise
Before the cruise I had some work to do in Phoenix, AZ and actually took the red-eye back to Orlando, FL the morning of the cruise.
My flight landed in Orlando at 5AM Sunday morning and my ride was coming in around 10am. I started thinking about it and I didn’t want to sit at the airport all morning. So I was starting look at my options for a transfer from Orlando Airport to Port Canaveral. Many of the shuttle services, don’t actually leave until 10am. Unfortunately, only Uber Black works at the airport and it was giving me a rate of $139 one-way to the port. This is when I got creative and decided to take a taxi from the airport to a gas station 3 miles away ($10). Once you are away from the airport you can take an Uber X (the cheapest one) to the port for($39).
For $50 I got over to the port and the ride too less than an hour. I will note that my taxi driver, asked me if I was using him just so I can take an Uber.
Check – in
In Port Canaveral, they have a new terminal they built just for Oasis class ships. However, having used the amazing terminal in Port Everglades, this one really struggled holding all the passengers.
Around 11:15am-11:30am guest arriving had little to no seats left for arriving passengers. The good news is, boarding starting at 11:30 and that was a very easy process.
Once on board I headed over to Central Park to make my dining reservations. When I wrote the preview post, I only had the 4 night dining package. Well since then, I have since changed to the ultimate dining package. This means we will be dining in specialty restaurants all week. This package is $168 per person and also includes lunch on sea days at any of the restaurants. I went into Giovanni’s Table to make our reservations for the week. A few nights I wanted 6:30pm and they only had 6:15 or 6:00. Not a big deal to me, as most of my shows are later into the evening.
For lunch we headed over to Park Café and I couldn’t believe how empty it was. This is a free option for lunch where they have salads and sandwiches. Most cruisers head up to the windjammer day 1 for their first meal, but I highly recommend Park Cafe, for a much calmer and enjoyable lunch. You also don’t want to miss out on their famous roast beef sandwich!
After lunch I was actually starting to crash, I failed to mention I was going on 30 hours straight of no sleep. With the 3-hour time difference in AZ, and red eye over to FL there just wasn’t anytime, but I made the cruise and that’s all that matters. I headed to our cabin at 1pm and our bags had already arrived.
Before sail-away we had the muster drill and on Oasis class this is so much more enjoyable than standing shoulder to shoulder with total strangers on all the other ships. On Oasis class, you watch a short video in a lounge you are assigned to, mine was the theater.
During sail-away I went down to the jogging track and went all the way aft.
This location is often unnoticed if you don’t ever go on the track, they have chairs back there and you can just watch the ocean for hours. After we started moving I changed locations to the forward observation bridge on deck 14. This bridge is few steps away from my cabin D5 Ocean Balcony - 14144.
This bridge is likely the best location to watch, but get there right after the muster drill for a front row seat.
Tonight we had dinner at Giovanni’s Table in Central Park.
They have actually changed their menu recently to add a few more options. The big change I recommend is the octopus starter. This was so good; I could have eaten this for a meal to be honest. I also asked if they had any leftover lasagna from lunch and they said yes! So I had the filet and lasagna, and if you are counting that’s two main courses!
The filet was very large and had so many flavors; I can’t wait to go back here later in the week.
Tonight we had Oasis of Dreams aqua show. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this show, so I was excited to see the original aqua show again. Our show started at 9:30pm and they let you in the theater at 8:45. I really suggest getting there at least 30 minutes before the aqua show for a good seat. I saw so many people coming in right before show who couldn’t find seats together or only left with the front row “splash zone.”
The show was outstanding as always, the reason I love this show so much is because they have a little love story in the show.
- Tiffany’s had a mailbox to insert wish-list items. I wonder if they call the spouse to come down and purchase it? Actually, I don’t want to know!
- Aqua Theater had reserved seats for Star Class Suites, with their cabin number on their seat.
- The Royal Genies are with their suite guest all the time. I saw them in the terminal checking in, to getting them drinks in the aqua show. Really cool perk, if you can afford it.
Well friends this wraps up my first day on board Oasis of the Seas.
It was such an action packed day that I went to bed at 10pm to catch back up on sleep for tomorrow.
Today was our first full day on Empress of the Seas, and we spent it in Key West. The timing of our arrival was a bit odd, and we broke away from what we usually do in this port. Let's review the day and look ahead to tomorrow, which is sort of the "main event" in Cuba.
You may have heard about brunch on Empress of the Seas which includes a wide variety of options and complimentary mimosas. In the past I'd only seen this on sea days, but last night we were informed there would be brunch today, which made a lot of sense as we weren't scheduled to arrive in Key West until 12:30pm. The buffet-style meal is held in the main dining room, which I mentioned in yesterday's blog, is quite pretty. In the center of the room on the first floor had hot stations with various breakfast foods as well as cuts of meat. There was also several soups, a waffle station, pastries, fresh fruit, dessert items, and more. While there wasn't a menu present, they seemed happy to accommodate requests from several guests. For example, I asked for two eggs benedict without ham, and they seemed happy to help. Mimosas were offered up, which was a nice touch, though we purchased the drink package on this sailing, so it didn't move the needle for us. Overall I liked this a lot better than the breakfasts we had in the main dining room on other Royal Caribbean ships.
Waiting to Disembark
After brunch we headed to the theater to catch a presentation that was being given about the process tomorrow. It was largely about the documentation, Cuba's two currency system, and a few local tips. It was probably quite useful for many passengers, and we're just going to assume that Royal Caribbean did a great job reading our Cruising Cuba series where we covered a lot of this information.
The morning's leisurely pace continued as we waited to clear the ship in Key West, which didn't end up happening until 1:00pm. One nice thing about a small ship is that usually a late arrival in port would leave large crowds waiting at the gangway, but on Empress these crowds subsided very quickly - and about 15 minutes after being told we could disembark we walked down a few decks and strolled right into Mallory Square. The location was another win, as ships sometimes dock at the Naval Pier just down the way. This isn't a huge inconvenience, as shuttles take you right to the square, but docking right in the heart of Key West is really nice.
Usually when in Key West we buy tickets for the Old Town Trolley Tour. It's just been an easy way to get to all the hot spots, includes a bit of narration, and offers up some discounts to local attractions. As mentioned yesterday there are discounts available, but the cost I saw today was about $27/person. Today we didn't do this, not because I don't think it's a great way to get around, but because it was terribly hot, and we were pretty sure we were just going to grab a drink someplace with good a/c and head back. As we approached the cornucopia of bars we stumbled upon a garden of busts of people of historical significance to the Conch Republic (Key West). This was neat enough, but then another Empress guest said he was there to say high to his grandfather, John Lowe, who's bust was present. Below you see Charles Lowe (holding his SeaPass showing his name indeed matches up) standing next to his grandfather.
We first visited The Patio, a bar Larissa had been to in the past. They're largely known for their hand-crafted cocktails, but this section didn't open until 5:00pm. Luckily they had a good craft beer selection that was ready (as well as wine and such), and we enjoyed some local company who suggested we grab a bite just down the street at Mary Ellen's. We each had a beer and Larissa had a mimosa - the prices were quite reasonable as it was 2 for 1, and their beers were not "Key West tourist" prices, which was nice. Oh, this place had some great pop-culture references on the walls - it had neat character and we wish it would have been cooler so we could have enjoyed the outdoor seating.
Strolling a few blocks away to Mary Ellen's we were ready for a snack. The locals at The Patio promised good quality and creative grilled-cheese sandwiches and crispy fries with dipping sauces. This made me think of the potatoes you find in the Netherlands, so I was excited. We ended up having a few drinks there as well, and enjoyed fries and grilled cheese that lives up the the promise of the locals down the street. Definitely sneak in here for good bar service and great food.
Our next stop was Peppers of Key West, a store off the square which sells loads of interesting hot sauces, rubs, and other items for "chili heads". We've been fans of this place for years and always stop by. Don't be deterred just because you don't like spicy stuff - the staff knows their stuff and will guide you towards marinades and such that may not be spicy at all. They have many sauces which you can sample, so we did a bit of a tour and worked up to their hottest sauce they had available for sampling, and then William, the gentleman helping us, even had us try a capsaicin extract (the stuff that makes peppers hot) which comes in at 1,000,000 Scoville units. For a frame of reference jalapenos come in at between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units. We did this whole tasking on Periscope, and I recommend you check it out as we had a lot of fun - Kat from rcperiscopers.live even joined in on the fun!
I should mention that Kat and her family opted to visit the Key West Aquarium, which is right by the dock. They seemed to really enjoy it and I could see doing this sometime in the future - especially because it's so convenient.
Getting Ready For Cuba
Tomorrow we're in Cuba, so I took the time to fill out our visas, put them in our passports, etc. The ship was also getting guests ready as tonight's menu featured Cuban fare. Living in South Florida this wasn't the more novel concept, but guests seemed to enjoy it. I opted to have Indian food, which we requested last night, though I did enjoy the mango salad. I also enjoyed coconut flan for dinner, which combined two things I really love.
We're meeting at 8:30am in Boleros tomorrow for our "walking" tour. I put walking in quotes, as if a large portion of your tour takes place on a bus and in a restaurant...is is still a walking tour? We'll see. After the tour we'll be exploring on our own, and I'm really interested in conversing with some locals to find how different (or similar) it is to interacting with recent Cuban expats back home in South Florida. The architecture and history of Cuba of course interest me, but it truly is the interaction with locals that is the part of tomorrow which excites me.
Remember - we're sharing on Periscope, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram - so follow along! Tomorrow's updates may be a bit delayed because staying in touch in Cuba isn't as simple as elsewhere, but we''ll share as soon as we can! Have a question? Reach out or comment below!
Stay up-to-date with all the Royal Caribbean news from this week with our roundup of all this week's news.
Earlier this week, we reported a new kind of escape room game available on Brilliance of the Seas that will soon make its way to other ships in the fleet.
Puzzle Break CEO Nate Martin spoke exclusively with Royal Caribbean Blog about the work his company is doing to bring new escape rooms to other Royal Caribbean ships.
The "Royal Mystery" game is a hybrid puzzle hunt escape room experience that is playable by multiple teams at the same time. And it can be played on existing ships in the fleet.
Royal Caribbean News
- Kids Sail Free sale is back for the rest of the month.
- We have a new Symphony of the Seas construction photo update.
- Royal Caribbean pushed back the release of its 2018-2019 Australia sailings until June.
- Royal Caribbean retired its iOS app this week.
- We started two new live blogs: Oasis of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.
- Here are five ways to save hundreds of dollars off your next cruise.
- Our full review of Izumi on Navigator of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast
In this Episode, Matt talks with Nate Martin about the work Puzzle Break is doing with Royal Caribbean and the kind of escape room games that are coming soon to its ships.
Royal Caribbean Around the Internet
Seatrade Cruise News cites a poll that Royal Caribbean is tops with millennials.
CruiseBe has 5 places for foodies on Anthem of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean showed how they use data-driven, predictive analytics approach to fleet operations.
Eat Sleep Cruise shared their top 10 things to do in Havana, Cuba.
With every embarkation day there is a feeling of "vacation is finally here", despite the fact it isn't really a full day after checking in, muster, etc. Today however was all the sweeter after a rather eventful arrival in Tampa, which you can read about over on CruiseHabit.com. Adding to the excitement was the fact hat to us, Empress is a new ship, Tampa is a new port, and Cuba is a new destination.
Getting to the port
Ahead of the cruise we stayed at the the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which is about a ten minute walk from the port. The hotel was lovely, providing excellent views, and friendly service. For the price (a bit over $215/night) it was more than we needed, as we just worked on our laptops and slept, but if you'd like to enjoy downtown Tampa, Ybor City, and be close to the port, it's a great option (and the pool area is very nice). Our room faced the channel and port area, so when my alarm went off this morning (a very unwelcome alarm I should add, as we went out with CruiseHabitRic last night) my first thought was to get a glimpse of the ship from our balcony. Actually, the first thought was, "I drank too much last night, where's the Tylenol" - but wondering about the view was a close second. Once opening the curtains I wasn't disappointed, I was able to see the Empress of the Seas teasing me, and waiting for our arrival, which unfortunately would need to wait, as Larissa had some work to finish up and we had to pack up.
Empress of the Seas as seen from the Tampa Marriott Waterside
Once ready we opted to take Lyft to the port. We could have walked if we didn't have so many bags and it wasn't so hot, but I'm nobody's hero. I should mentioned that Michael Poole (who is live blogging at OasisOfTheSeas.live this week) said I could use Downtowner, an electric vehicle service in Tampa and other areas, and go to the port for free. Again though, with all that luggage I didn't want to add complication, so a $5 Lyft ride was an easy decision. We arrived at about 11:45am.
Checking in at the port
I'd heard great things about the port in Tampa, and it is small, which makes things convenient. Security was quick, the facilities were clean - all seemed well. Once through security we had to complete the health questionnaire (where they ask about recent illness). What was different this time is that because we're sailing to Cuba, this is when we were asked to complete the affidavit about our travel plans. This added a bit of time, but really wasn't a big deal. As you're required to retain a copy of your travel documentation to Cuba they give you a copy of these once you fill it out (though I just opted to take pictures with my phone). Up to this point, smooth sailing.
We went into the "Gold" Crown & Anchor line (for the last time, we become platinum after this cruise) which is fine. So far my Royal Caribbean check-ins had all been quite fast. This time things were a bit busier, likely because of our late arrival. The way the employees managed the queues however was a bit flawed, as the second someone walked into the Platinum+ line they'd take people from there - which meant we were waiting more than a few minutes before our line got a shot. Finally a port employee saw this logic was causing a major backup and changed things up, but we ultimately waited in that line for 30 minutes, which I felt was a bit long. Once up to the counter the process was quick and smooth, and we were also handed our Cuban visas. We were onboard Empress within 10 minutes of getting up to the counter.
First Impressions of Empress
I enjoy small ships, and the feel of Empress embodies much of what I miss from ships of the past. Lounges than span the beam of the ship, great views of the ocean, and tiny bathrooms. Okay, that last part I just live with. I found Empress to be in great shape, with most fittings and furniture appearing brand new. The style isn't outdated, but seeing a ship of this size and configuration in great condition was almost like being in a time machine.
We headed to the Windjammer for lunch, and it's obviously quite small, but we didn't have much trouble finding a seat - though you may have to queue up just a bit for food as they don't have the "island" configuration of most newer ships. After lunch I needed coffee, and attached to Boleros is Café Royal, which is the onboard coffee bar serving up Café Bustelo, a brand of Cuban coffee. The coffee was nice and strong and Larissa bonded with the barista, who is also Brazilian - so that's where I can find Larissa much of the cruise, I'm sure. Oh, and with the purchase of coffee you can get pastelitos, which are Cuban pastries. Whether they enforce the "you must buy coffee" requirement remains to be seen, but with the drink package, it doesn't make much of a difference to me.
Muster drill went as expected except for the crew and officers, who were very high energy - asking guests to chant the station number and other important into. I'm not usually into this type of thing, but I do see it as effective safety - I certainly remember that I'm station 6. I of course wore my muster drill shirt, which you can buy here (yes, I have no shame).
We walked a bit and noticed that the Casino is split level (and non-smoking!) which is interesting. It was a bit warm in there and I know they had some A/C issues last week. We also passed through the Schooner Bar, which is quite large on this ship.
One thing I wanted to mention is that it seems that the shore excursions desk gets very busy on this ship. It may be related to some changes with available tours in Havana, but the lesson is to go make changes early if you need to. If you need help remembering the value of this, check out the line I waited in. Note however that the staff was really working hard and efficiently - there was just a lot of demand.
Sail-away from Tampa
We were excited to sail through the bay and under the Sunshine Skyway bridge, and in fact, before we knew we were taking this cruise, we'd booked a Brilliance sailing just to experience sailing out of Tampa. While I knew it was a long sail-away I didn't realize how long. I started a Periscope broadcast about 10 minutes after pulling away from the pier, and had some nice chats, but then signed off to do another broadcast once we got to the bridge - as my friend Brandon informed me it was going to be about two hours before we got to the bridge.
Once we sailed near the bridge it was no let-down. The bridge is quite long and there is something about a cruise ship going under a bridge that is just neat - something I'm not sure I can explain if you've not done it. We then headed back into Boleros, where we'd already spent some time. You can actually go outside from Boleros, which is all the way aft. There is a great patio area from which you can watch the ships wake. It's a great spot, though smoking seems to be permitted in this area. It was open enough though that the smoke wasn't a bother, so we relaxed with a beer.
Dinner and drinks
Tonight we opted to head to the main dining room (our deck is called "Starlight". I love this room. I'll get some photos when it's not full of guests, but there are massive windows at multiple angles, an elevated platform with a grand piano, and it feels very open. I'm excited to share this in the coming days. We had a truffle risotto and a few appetizers as it was Italian night. The food was good - perhaps a tiny bit salty, but I was satisfied. I planned on checking out the Windjammer afterward to see what the options were but got lazy. I will check it out for late night snacks though.
After dinner we headed to the Schooner Bar to see Billy, a pianist and vocalist who sings a lot of Billy Joel. These things combined with my name being Billy made for very confusing head turns for me every time someone shouted "Billy!". He interacts with the crowd a lot, and I have a hunch he knows how to work any audience. Our friend Ron was on the past several days in addition to this sailing, and seemed to enjoy Billy quite a bit. As I write this, I'm listening to Billy continue as I sip my scotch, Ardbeg, which they keep at the Schooner Bar for me.
Billy in Boleros
Tomorrow - Key West
We don't arrive in Key West until around noon, which means, as a late riser, I may actually see our arrival. Brunch, which is usually only served on sea days, is reportedly being served tomorrow in the main dining room on account of our oddly-timed arrival. We haven't any plans, but usually when we sail into Key West we take Old Town Trolley Tours around, as it's an easy and economical way to get around to any of the town's hot spots. One tip here, is each time I've done this on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, the price of this ticket through the shore excursions desk is actually a couple dollars cheaper than buying tickets directly. That in mind, there are always coupons for purchasing directly. I guess the real tip is that only fools pay retail...for Old Town Trolley. While we like the town, there is also a small chance we'll just stay on board, as Larissa and I have been longing for a lazy day - it's been a busy few weeks. We'll see what happens.
Happy Friday to everyone! When the calendar hits Friday, that means we are sharing our readers favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos!
Each week we invite our readers to send us their favorite Royal Caribbean photos and we showcase them all right here!
Ken Slusser starts us off this week, with this photo of the deck party on Enchantment of the Seas.
Jin has a shot of North Star rising above Ovation of the Seas.
Here is a beautiful sunset photo, sent in by Catherine Elgie-Peters, from aboard Quantum of the Seas.
Dana and Patricia Hall shared this photo of Vision of the Seas docked in downtown Oslo, Norway.
Check out this photo of Quantum of the Seas in Nassau, Bahamas, just as the sun is setting. Photo by Naas.
Rob Ruby shared this photo of the sun rising in Sydney, while he was aboard Rhapsody of the Seas.
We round out this week's photos with this shot of Miami in the distance, as seen by John Estok on Navigator of the Seas as the ship was beginning a brand new sailing.
We want to share your Royal Caribbean photos too! Send us your favorite, best, most awesome Royal Caribbean cruise photos by using this form and we will feature them in an upcoming Friday Photos blog post!
Guests sailing on Brilliance of the Seas can look forward to enjoying an escape room game while onboard their next sailing.
Puzzle Break CEO Nate Martin confirmed to Royal Caribbean Blog in an exclusive interview that the company now offers, "Royal Mystery," which is a hybrid puzzle hunt escape room experience that is playable by multiple teams at the same time.
Puzzle Break's website lists Brilliance of the Seas as a ship offering a Puzzle Break experience
"To bring Puzzle Break experiences to an even larger audience, we also have a couple of games that we've done for Royal which we're rolling out to more and more ships everyday. It is a kind of a hybrid experience, that kind of captures what an escape room is...but instead of one team in one room, it's a whole bunch of teams in a very large space all working on the same puzzles independently, racing against the clock and somewhat racing against each other," said Nate Martin, Co-Founder and CEO, Puzzle Break.
"This is called A Royal Mystery, we're going to be eventually be doing several of these for Royal. They are available now aboard Brilliance of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and I think we are rolling out to Harmony pretty soon."
"I think the current plan of record is to get those on every single ship in the fleet."
Royal Mystery on Ovation of the Seas. Photo by drummerdave72
Royal Caribbean and Puzzle Break are also collaborating on bringing an escape room experience to Symphony of the Seas, which is Royal Caribbean's upcoming fourth Oasis Class ship that will debut next year. According to Martin, an escape room game for a ship like Symphony of the Seas costs "over a million dollars to make."
Royal Caribbean sent an update to users that its current smartphone app for iOS devices is being retired.
The app was updated in the iTunes App Store on May 17, 2017, with the notice, "Unfortunately, this Royal Caribbean App is being retired and will no longer be supported. Make sure to visit our mobile experience on RoyalCaribbean.com to book your next adventure and stay informed when you're on the go."
The official Royal Caribbean app was rarely updated, with just one update in all of 2016 and a few updates in 2015.
While not confirmed, it is believed retiring the current Royal Caribbean app may be the precursor to the release of the new smart phone app that Royal Caribbean is actively developing. According to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain, the new smart phone app should be out sometime this summer.
Thanks to Jason Percival Sr. and Marc Schwartz for alerting us to this app change.
Hi Royal Caribbean Blog readers, Michael Poole here with another live blog. This time I'm sailing on Oasis of the Seas, this Sunday May 21st out of Port Canaveral, Florida. If you recall 118 days ago, I brought you a live blog on Majesty of the Seas. And yes, I've been counting the days down. I've had many friends, including Matt (twice) go on cruises and I've been in what I call “dry dock.” Needless to say, I'm very excited to bring this live blog to you from Oasis of the Seas.
Why I booked this sailing
To be honest, it's quite a long story, but I'm going to do my best to summarize it so I don't put you to sleep.
Many months ago, Royal Caribbean announced they were sailing to Cuba on Empress of the Seas.I decided to book that cruise, May 20th sailing, as prices peaked throughout the day. A month later, we invited my girlfriend's parents with us on their first Royal Caribbean cruise (trying to steal them away from another line).
Well, as the months passed, I started thinking about how I kept sharing the “wow-factor” of Royal Caribbean and all my stories were from Oasis Class ships. Her parents kept talking about much they enjoyed eating breakfast on their balcony. On our Empress sailing we all had inside cabins.) Final payment was quickly approaching and I saw Oasis of the Seas, May 21st sailing balcony cabins for less than our Empress 5 night cruise, so I immediately made the switch.
Here's how I see it; I benefit because the sailing is cheaper, two days longer, an ocean balcony and you the readers now have two live blogs this week! That's right, Billy from Cruisehabit.com is going to be on the May 20th Empress of the Seas sailing and live blogging. For the first time ever, we will have two live blogs going during the same week!
Itinerary and plans
We start our cruise off with two sea days, as we head to St. Maarten.
On my sea days, I plan to relax poolside and eat at Sabor as much as possible. But I promise to make the live blog post more interesting than that. Day 3 while we are in St. Maarten, we plan on exploring the whole island. (More to come on that day). Day 4 we are in San Juan from 7am-3pm. I plan to actually get off this time, as I missed it last summer on Allure. Our last stop is in Matt's favorite place Labadee, and I've got some planned activities there that I'm excited to share. We will wrap the cruise up with one more sea day before headed back to Port Canaveral, Florida, so I'll try and eat at Sabor twice this day!
When I switched my reservation over from Empress of the Seas, I went into a neighborhood balcony guarantee cabin. With that cabin type, you are guaranteed any balcony cabin within Central Park or Boardwalk.
Well as I kept checking prices, many times a day, I came across an Ocean Balcony Guarantee for less than my neighborhood. I quickly contacted my travel agent to make the switch and hours later that deal was gone for good. Moral to the story, it pays to check prices as often as you can since price drops do happen. Only downside to booking a guarantee is you don't get to pick the cabin, and in this case, I don't love my cabin placement. I was placed on deck 14 forward, D5 – 14144, right by the kids adventure area.
Dining, Entertainment, Drink Package, & VOOM
A few weeks ago, the entertainment opened up in the online cruise planner, so I reserved all my shows. It's become a little tradition of mine on Oasis class ships, to see the Aqua show on night one. I started it many years ago, and it just kind of stuck; now it's how I wrap up my first day on board. I've seen the Aqua show, Oasis of Dreams twice before but it's my favorite of the three ships.
For dining I've purchased my first dining package. I went with the 4-night package and will likely dine at Giovanni's Table, 150 Central Park, & Chops twice on the package. The cost for the 4-night was $100 per person, so $25 per meal. However, since I have a dining package, no reservations can be made until on board.
I had thought about passing on the drink package, hey I should get points for just thinking about it right? Well after thinking about my three sea days, plus Labadee, & San Juan being a short day, I decided I must have it. One day the cruise planner ran a 24-hour sale called, “Sip & Stream” that gives you VOOM Internet for free during the week.
So for $392 I got the drink package & Internet for the week.
I hope to bring you a fun and informative live blog from Oasis of the Seas. If you have any questions about the ship, feel free to comment below and I'll respond. If you are on Periscope, I'll be doing live daily scopes from on board, so be sure to follow me @mpoole3!
Royal Caribbean is now offering a kids sail free promotion on top of their current Maycation sales event.
Kids Sail Free is valid on cruises booked between May 17 - 31, 2017.
- 30% off the standard cruise fare for all guests in a stateroom; all stateroom categories. Applies to sailings on or after June 17, 2017.
- Kids Sail Free offer
- Free cruise fare of third and higher guests who are 12 years or younger as of cruise departure date, booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests in a triple or quad occupancy stateroom on 5 nights or longer sailings that depart between Sep. 1, 2017 - Dec. 14, 2017 across Bahamas, Caribbean, North East Caribbean, Bermuda, Coastal and Canada itineraries.
- Valid on Vision of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Empress of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas.
- Kids Sail Free excludes sailings departing on or between 11/16/17 – 11/26/17.
- Oasis Class Sale
- Valid on cruises booked May 17, 2017 7:00AM EST to May 24, 2017 6:59am EST on sailings that depart on or after June 17, 2017.
- Dollars off on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas sailings departing on or after June 17, 2017 determined by stateroom category booked:
- $50 off per stateroom for interior and oceanview
- $150 off per stateroom for balcony
- $300 off per stateroom for suite
30% Savings is combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts, Shareholders Benefits and NextCruise offers. 30% Savings is not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including but not limited to, restricted rates. All offers are not combinable with any other offer or promotion.
Dollars Off is not combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts or Shareholder Benefits. Maycation 30% and Dollars Off are not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including but not limited to, restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, and Military), Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, and Net Rates.
Offer open to residents of U.S. or Canada.