Freedom of the Seas Live Blog

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.

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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

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

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

Live Blog Index

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

Live Blogging from Freedom of the Seas - Preamble

In:
21Jul2015

Hi everyone, I'm really excited to announce our next live-blog experience as we get ready for a cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas for a 7-night Eastern Caribbean adventure.

It is my hope to provide to our readers a daily look at what this cruise will be like and share our experiences with you.  This means I will try to post photos every day along with a written report of how things are going (internet permitting).

If you're new to our live blogs, check out the live blogs we did for Quantum of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas (back in 2013) and Jewel of the Seas last year for an idea of what's in store for you. I'm hoping to give our readers a daily look into what we did that day, what was good/not good and what we have planned for the next day.  

For this cruise, we are driving from Connecticut down to Florida, where we will board Freedom of the Seas in Port Canaveral.  Yes, this will be quite a long drive but I wanted to avoid flying and saw this is an opportunity to take a fun family vacation.  We are driving down a week early for some fun in Orlando prior to our cruise, so getting to the cruise port should not be a problem for us.

This will be our third time on Freedom of the Seas, which is the most of any Royal Caribbean ships.  We chose this cruise because friends of ours are getting married onboard and we were invited.  As it turns out, we are going to two weddings while aboard Freedom of the Seas.  One wedding will be on embarkation day on the ship, and the other will be on CocoCay.  Both experiences will be new to us!

For this cruise we ended up booking two connecting inside staterooms.  We have two kids now and my wife and I felt having the extra space (and bathroom) would be worth the additional cost and two inside staterooms seemed to be the most cost effective strategy to get us extra space.

Speaking of kids, we are hoping to take advantage of the kids facilities on Freedom of the Seas.  My oldest daughter is excited to go back to Adventure Ocean and we are hoping she will love it as much this cruise as the last time she on Navigator of the Seas.  My younger daughter, who is 6 months old, will mostly be with us but we plan on taking advantage of the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, especially in the evenings.

I am pretty excited to see the changes Freedom of the Seas had as a result of her refurbishment earlier this year.  There are two new restaurants and we have already booked Sabor Modern Mexican, because my wife and I loved it so much while we were on Navigator of the Seas.  

For our itinerary, we are sailing the eastern Caribbean and visiting CocoCay, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.  Crossing my fingers for great weather and smooth sailing because we are all looking forward to some beach time!  I have blogged about my plans for St. Thomas, if you want to get a preview of what we have in store for that stop.

Who is going

Matt (me), Marissa (wife), Gabriella (4 year old daughter) & Aubrey (6 month old daugher).

Our itinerary

Next update should be on our embarkation day, Sunday July 26.  Stay tuned for all of our live blog updates right here.

Live Blog Index

Have a question about Freedom of the Seas? Want Matt to cover something specifically in the live blog series? Tell us in the comments!

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

In:
22Jun2015

Royal Caribbean Blog contributor Michael Poole is on Freedom of the Seas this week reporting all about his cruise experience.

Today was our last day of the cruise and boy was I starting to get sad. 

This morning was the first morning I didn’t wake up early, and slept in until 11am.  That’s okay I still had a full day ahead of me, I met my brother for lunch in the Windjammer. 

I’m not sure if you have noticed from all my post, but I skipped breakfast everyday.  Once we entered the Windjammer they had a beautiful cake in the entrance, saying thank you for sailing.  Royal Caribbean really goes that extra mile the entire cruise to wow you time and time again. 

My plans for today were to relax in the pool and soak up all the sun I could.  It was shortly after noon when I finally made it to the pool and there was no hope for getting a pool chair.  They had a noon line dancing class poolside, I didn’t join in but it was fun to watch. 

An hour or so after the dancing they had water volleyball.  They had seven teams go up against the crew, including our cruise director Jamie Fentiman. 

Jamie was the most active cruise director I’ve seen in all my cruises.  Every single event he was involved in, where most these days let their activity manager take a few over.  Not only did the crew beat all seven teams, they last all the teams at the end take on the crew and still lost.  

Yes, there were almost 50 people in the pool and still couldn’t take out the crew. 

Pre Dinner

Before dinner we had some wine in their beautiful wine bar, vintages.  I must say the bar was pretty empty every night. 

If you look at my picture this was taken at 8pm on the last night. 

Nevertheless, the service was always great and each evening they have free taps in a few trays to sample. 

Dinner

Tonight for dinner the two main meals were the lamb and turkey and dressing.  I went with the lamb and it was so tender, just fell off the bone. 

My waiter overheard me talking about how much I missed the fresh green beans Chops used to serve, so he brought me a plate of them!  I was so impressed he went out of his way to surprise me, but then again it’s Royal Caribbean, it’s what they do. 

As dinner was winding down they started their farewell singing and dancing.   They invite the passengers up to dance around with them to close out the evening.  We didn’t join tonight because we were all saying goodbye to a few friends we met. 

Post Dinner

Tonight we met one last time at the R Bar to say goodbye to all group.  I didn’t take any pictures, since I’ve included them in a few other post.  We stayed until 1am and everyone headed to bed. 

I dragged my 15 year old sister with me tonight because I wanted to spend more time with her.  She was pretty bored hanging with the adults, but I let her use my Internet access, so that made her happy. 

I had talked about the helipad all week and how I used to hangout up there when I was her age.  We started walking to our cabins and I said, let’s go out there we still have time!  I turned around and off we went. 

It was a little after 1am and passed the curfew for teenagers without adults, but it was pretty busy up there.  If you have ever been up there at night it’s completely dark, but I had my flash with me on my camera. 

I took my usual shot to see how many people are in the center and I spotted three.  They were not too happy I near blinded them, but it was for the blog. 

If you ever want to visit the helipad, you go to deck 4 forward and step outside (where you were day one for muster drill) There are 2 sets of steps, but just keep going forward and you can’t miss it. 

Disembarkation

There are two options to get off the ship, express departure or a number system. 

The express option requires you to carry all luggage you have and walk off as soon as the ship is cleared by customs.  The other option is where you put your luggage outside the cabin by midnight and you see it once you get off.  

I always do the express option because I usually book an early flight or long drive home.  One more perk is little to no line getting off or in customs. 

I met my group at 7:15am and we walked off with no one else or any line, as the ship was just cleared. 

Recap

Overall this was a great cruise with absolutely no real issues to report of, other than slow Internet.  My cabin was beautiful, the ship looks great to be 9 years old, and we had clear sky and sun for seven straight days. 

All these years I’ve heard everyone talk about how much they love Freedom of the Seas and now I know why. 

I hope you enjoyed my blog post and see you again this Fall, ship is still TBD.  

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

In:
20Jun2015

Royal Caribbean Blog contributor Michael Poole is on Freedom of the Seas this week reporting all about his cruise experience.

Today was a sea day as we start our journey back to Florida, it’s so sad to think we are headed home. 

I didn’t set an alarm for the first time this cruise, but still woke up at 8am.  I always get my coffee at Starbucks, and blog while I’m waking up.  I noticed it was very quite this morning, I suppose everyone was still sleeping in. 

Since it’s a sea day, everyone had headed up to the pool deck.  There were many chairs being saved my pool towels, but the staff was trying hard to enforce the 30-minute rule. 

My schedule for today was to soak in the sun, get in the water, and repeat.  There were so many kids in the main pool jumping in having fun, but everyone was getting so splashed.  The pool staff kept blowing whistles at them to stop, but honestly they had over taken the pools. 

I usually don’t cruise in the summer time; due to the cost so perhaps this is the norm at summer. 

Those that have cruised before know they always have a belly flop contest and world’s sexiest man contest on sea days.  Well today the roles changed, for the first time ever they had a woman’s only cannon ball contest.  And that’s when it hit me; I’ve never seen so many people on a pool deck in my life!  I think half the ship was in the pools and around it getting ready for the contest.  It was fun seeing a different type of contest than the usual ones we have been watching for years. 

Dinner

Tonight was our second formal night and if you ask me the best dinner of the week. 

They have prime rib and lobster and boy did we have a lot of tails.  Our waiter just kept bringing the tails to our table.  

Again we had the head waiter stop by a few times to check-in on our meal, just makes dinner that much more enjoyable.  If you look at my picture you can see the amount of food on our table. 

I know I mentioned it before, but the service has just been outstanding each night. 

The Quest

Tonight was what I call the main event, The Quest!  Matt and I have talked in great detail on the podcast about the Quest being my favorite event.  If you haven’t attended the show, you are missing out my friends. 

Just to give you an idea of the show, it’s an adult game show searching for items within the team.  I’m very competitive in everything I do, so you can guess my team finished in first place! 

Cabin

In blog post from day one, I mentioned my cabin on deck 3 (3543), but didn’t include a picture.  Per the request of blog post reader Clo here is a picture of my cabin. 

I’m sorry it’s a little messy; I usually keep it much cleaner.  

My thoughts of the cabin have changed a bit throughout the week. Around 5pm each evening I can hear tables and chairs above me in Sabor, not really a big deal because I need to be waking up from my nap anyways.  

I also don’t love being forward on the ship, it seems like everything is in the aft. 

Evening

Tonight they had another pool deck party in the solarium.  I’m sorry I didn’t take my camera up to the party, so no pictures of the event. 

Unlike the last pool party this one was extremely packed.   The ship came to life tonight; it felt like everyone was out and about throughout the ship. 

The pool deck party lasted until 1:30am and then lasted until the early hours of the morning.  Sadly it was the last full night everyone had since most people get to bed early before they travel. 

Up next tomorrow is our last sea day…

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

In:
19Jun2015

Today was our last port of call in beautiful St. Maarten, docking at 8am-5pm. 

We didn’t have any plans today, so we started off with some shopping.  Once you get off the ship they have water taxi’s that will take you over to their boardwalk for $7pp round-trip. This is where all the shopping, restaurants, bars, and beach are located. 

If you are looking for a great port to shop, St. Maarten is the place.  I picked up two new lenses for my Canon 60D camera; of course I justified it for the blog posts.

Lunch

For lunch we decided to eat at a very famous restaurant in St. Maarten, called The Blue Bitch.  I discovered this restaurant around a decade ago and have lunch there every time I get to visit.  They have free wifi you just ask for the password (blueb921). 

They also have a live band playing on the boardwalk, which makes it fun while you are having lunch.  I should have inquired how they came up with the name, because it’s not wild by any means. 

For those wondering were it’s located, once you get off the water taxi turn right down the boardwalk and it’s about the 5th restaurant down. 

Swimming

After a few hours of shopping and lunch my sister and I decided to part ways from the group and go swimming in the ocean.  The price for two padded chairs and an umbrella is $15 for the day. 

The water here is so clear and the beach is very soft, talk about some combination.   We only stayed out there swimming for an hour or so and headed back to the ship.  The water taxi was at the dock waiting on us and off we went. 

Once I was back on board I just walked around and explored the ship.  I came across Guinness world records certificate for the largest passenger liner in the world.  This was located right beside the R Bar on the Royal Promenade deck. 

In 2006 when the Freedom launched it was the largest ship, but we now have Oasis class, which surpass her by 70,000 gross tons.  To put that into scale for you, the Titanic was only 46,000 gross tons. 

Dinner

Tonight we headed back to the main dining room.

I just kept looking up thinking how beautiful this dining room is.  It almost made me sad to think about the new dynamic dining because this is such a trademark of cruising. 

The service in the dining room is absolutely outstanding, perhaps the best I’ve seen.  

Tonight we had an officer come over and talk to those who are sailing next week and said, “you tell me what table you want next week and I’ll make it happen.” Once again, above and beyond service from Royal Caribbean, it’s what keeps me coming back. 

After dinner all the waiters got up and danced all around the dining room and invited us to join them.  So you already know, I grabbed my little sister and off we went.  I must say, this was the first time I had danced in the middle of the dining room, but we had a blast. 

Post Dinner

After dinner we had our usual gathering at R Bar, but tonight we had the 70’s street parade.  This started at 10:30pm and they played all the classics from the 1970’s. 

I’ve mentioned this before on the podcast with Matt, but I’m ready for a new decade of music, the 1980’s. Sure I enjoy all the songs, but I think it’s time for something new, and well it’s my decade.  I’ll just have to keep cruising until they change it up, because I know it’s coming!

Everyone was pretty tired and we called it a night early, after my usual pizza pit stop. 

Up next is two sea days!  These days go by too fast when you are at sea.  Our plan is just relax and make the most of them. 

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

In:
18Jun2015

Royal Caribbean Blog contributor Michael Poole is on Freedom of the Seas this week reporting all about his cruise experience.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to St. Thomas, so I was excited to get back to this beautiful port of call.  I didn’t have anything booked prior to the cruise, but my brother talked me into snorkeling with sea turtles and sting rays. 

The excursion cost $99 per person and last around six hours, so it was a full day activity.  The official name of the getaway is Caribbean sail to Christmas & Honeymoon Coves. 

We docked in St. Thomas at 11am and my ticket said to meet in the theater at 11am for an express departure.  It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Royal Caribbean excursion, as I usually do my own thing, but it was very organized and I was very impressed. 

We sailed over to Christmas Cove in a large sailboat, looked like one out of Pirates of the Caribbean.  The boat was pretty rocky from the wake and it took around a half hour to get there.

The guides were very informative with our gear and what we were about to see.   We saw quite a few sea turtles ranging in size and I loved when they came up for air.  The water was so clear you could see straight down to the bottom, I can’t even describe how beautiful the water is.  

After playing with the turtles for a bit, we went over where all the sting rays were, and I’m not going to lie it scared me at first.  After a few minutes of noticing they don’t bother you, I started to get a bit more relaxed. 

We were snorkeling in the water for a little over an hour then back onboard for honeymoon cove.

Our ride over to the next stop took a little over an hour and they served rum punch and went very slow.  At this point we were all just relaxing and enjoying our views. 

Once we arrived to the cove you could jump off and swim to shore or have the tender boat take you over.  Of course, I jumped off and headed over to the cove, I mean how over do you get to swim to shore in the Caribbean? 

They served a small buffet lunch and we just relaxed for a few hours.  The total excursion lasted six hours and we were back onboard at 6:30 and we left St. Thomas at 7pm. 

Cell Phones

Just a little pointer if you have AT&T cell phone service, you will get phone service at no extra charge.  I was actually able to pick up full 4G LTE, which was much faster than the ship Internet.

My brother has Verizon and it was roaming all day, so that’s one more perk of having AT&T.

Dinner

Tonight we headed back to the main dining room for dinner at 8pm. 

Freedom of the Seas is the only ship I know of that does dinner at 8pm and not 8:30 for late dinner. 

Tonight at dinner they introduced all the staff and managers on the staircase, and played more music. 

One of my favorite things about our waiter is each night he brings extra dishes we didn’t order for everyone to try.  This is just one more way Royal Caribbean goes the extra mile to ensure you have a great dining experience. 

I’m sorry for no food porn, I was locked out of my cabin and didn’t have time to get a new key before dinner. 

Post Dinner

After dinner each night my group, plus some new friends we have met meet up at the R Bar.  

This bar is new to Freedom of the Seas and replaced the Champagne Bar in January during her dry dock. 

I usually spend a lot of time at the pub, but I’ve just loved going to the R Bar each evening.  They are known for fresh cocktails, I’ve been having an old fashion each night and they are just perfect.  The décor in this bar is very intimate and creates a great vibe for a romantic drink before or after dinner. 

Dancing Under the Stars

Tonight was the Dancing Under the Stars Party on the pool deck from 10:30pm to 12:00am.  This is always one of my favorite events during the week to dance under the stars. 

Only problem was almost no one showed up!  I couldn’t believe how empty it was on the pool deck, mostly just teenagers.  I’m not really sure what caused the party to be a flop, maybe everyone was just so tired from being in St. Thomas all day. 

The bar closed down at midnight and I decided to call it a night... well after my late night pizza, that is. 

That’s all from St. Thomas; tomorrow we visit my favorite port St. Maarten.  

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