Quantum of the Seas Live Blog

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 8 - Sea Day

In:
28Mar2015

It's our last day onboard Quantum of the Seas and so it's time to squeeze in as much fun as Royal Caribbean can throw at us!

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I woke up at about 9am this morning.  The ship was definitely feeling the motion still and continued to feel the motion all morning long.  It wasn't enough to make you sick, but it made walking a little more involved an activity.

I went up to the Windjammer for breakfast and as I got to deck 14, I could feel the cold wind blowing in from the pool deck. We're not in the Caribbean anymore!  The high today is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

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I had a quick bite to eat and went on my way down to the Royal Esplanade for the last day t-shirt sale.  Every Royal Caribbean cruise, Royal Caribbean has a selection of t-shirts for $10 each.  I picked up one for me, my wife and my daughter.  We will be able to wear it in July when we go on Freedom of the Seas!

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I then headed back up to the pool deck to see how warm (or not so warm) it was in the indoor pool.  I was wearing jeans a t-shirt and it was warm enough to be comfortable in there but there was barely anyone in the pool or around it.

With the motion of the ocean, the pools became wave pools and everyone inside them did not seem to mind.

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Next up was a Q&A session in Two70 with entertainers from the ship's shows, like Starwater, Sonic Odyssey and Mamma Mia!.  Guests asked all sorts of questions about work, time off and life on a cruise ship.  Pretty interesting stuff!

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For lunch, I wanted to try the burger from Devinly Decadence so I went back up to deck 14 to eat there.  

For lunch, Devninly Decadence is served buffet style but I was disappointed nearly all the food from last night's dinner was what was being offered for lunch.  

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I did manage to get my burger, although it was create it yourself, which I'm quite terrible at.  The burger tasted good enough but I was hoping for it be different than the burgers from the Windjammer (if they are different, I cannot tell).

I wanted to see if any brave souls were trying the FlowRider but the high winds forced Royal Caribbean to close off the top pool deck and the sports decks around it.  

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Given the cold weather, there were limited things to do so I went back to my stateroom to pack.  It's the least fun thing you will do at any point on your cruise but it has to be done and I figured if I had a little time now to do it, then may as well get it taken care of.

After packing, I decided to take it easy and I turned on the TV for perhaps the first time to actually watch TV on this cruise.  I managed to catch Guardians of the Galaxy and I enjoyed watching this movie again.

At 4pm, I went down to the Royal Esplanade to meet up with the folks from the group cruise one last time.  We had drinks at Michael's and then wandered over to Boleros for mojitos. 

I have to mention again what a great group we had for this cruise and I can't wait for our next group cruise adventure (details on that forthcoming)!

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I had lofty aspirations for dinner at a restaurant but between having to pack and just feeling like I was in a mood to take it easy, I ended up eating in the Windjammer for dinner.  They had a great Mongolian stir fry that I really enjoyed.

After dinner, it was over to the Royal Theater for Sonic Odyssey.

Sonic Odyssey is a mix of percussions, string instruments and singing with each element infused with a ton of energy.  Someone described it as being similar to the show Stomp.

I enjoyed it and felt Sonic Odyssey was a good change of pace. Certainly not something I've ever seen before and the earth harp is really impressive.

And so, my live blog for this Royal Caribbean cruise comes to an end. I had so much fun sharing my adventures with all of you.  

I tip my hat to the wonderful crew on Quantum of the Seas.  I know so many people had a great time and the crew clearly worked hard to make our vacations so much fun.

Thank you for all the wonderful comments, tweets, messages and questions.  It made writing the blog all worth it!

Stray Observations

  • A friend mentioned the gym got progressively less and less crowded as the crew went on. Her flywheel class for the last day had next to no one in it. Seems folks lose interest/motivation to continue as the cruise goes on.
  • The chopiness never really subsided much.  I think we all got used to the motion but the Captain did a wonderful job and the ship can handle these seas quite well.
  • We have heard all guests, including back to back cruisers, will be forced to leave the ship for a ship-wide sanitzing before next sailing's guests are let on.
  • If anyone wants a very quiet inside stateroom, 12231 is a keeper!
  • Speaking of staterooms, I liked being on deck 12 for access to Windjammer and pool deck but I think I'd prefer a lower deck stateroom because I felt like going down to decks 3, 4 or 5 was a hike.
  • Will someone make me dinner tomorrow? Or pick up my towels from the ground at home? I can't go back to real life "cold turkey"!

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
27Mar2015

I think everyone on Quantum of the Seas woke up this morning with one thing on their mind: the storm.

Since late yesterday, the Captain indicated we would run into a low pressure system that will bring with it high winds and rough seas.  Today, the news was more of the same and the worst of the storm would begin around 8pm tonight and last until some point tomorrow morning. 

I slept in today until about 9:30 and slowly made my way out of the room, managing to lock myself out of my stateroom again.  Thankfully my stateroom attendent (Peter) is usually around the hallway somewhere and was able to let me back in.

My first stop this morning was the pool deck to get some fresh air.  I was feeling a little sleepy still and just enough energy to get upstairs and enjoy the sun.  

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Despite the impending storm, it was a sunny day outside.

After a little fun in the sun, I went downstairs to record a live podcast episode with some of the folks in our group.  It was a fun discussion of our time onboard and you can look for that episode (and others I've recorded while onboard) to come out in the coming weeks.

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I have to say, the people I've cruised with this week have been so much fun to hang out with.  It's been great having friends everywhere I go around the ship!

Right around this time the Captain made another announcement about the weather.  He said we could expect swells up to 30 feet and the storm to begin at 8pm, be at its worst around 2pm and by 2pm tomorow it should be much smoother. 

We've been re-assured many times not to worry and to take things easy and use the handrails where possible to brace yourself.  For the crew, this isn't a big deal but I think us passengers are a little worried.  

After the podcast recording I grabbed a quick lunch from Two70.  I had to get more of those wonderful roast beef sandwiches!  

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I took my lunch back into Two70 for the Captain's Corner.  This is a wonderful impromptu Q&A session with the captain, cruise director, head engineer, head of food and beverage and more.  

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The questions asked where all over the place, although many of the initial questions were about the storm.  The captain indicated this ship can easily handle a category 3 hurricane and something like what we will run into is not a big deal. 

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I really enjoyed the insight into the operations of the ship based on the questions asked and it was well worth my time.

I didn't go anywhere after the show because Two70 had another Roboshow to see and I did not want to miss it.  

The Roboshow is undeniably cool and really impressive from an artistic and technological standpoint.

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I think the roast beef sandwiches calmed my nerves because I went upstairs to the pool deck and quickly found myself dozing off.  I tried mightily to stay awake but the ocean breeze, warm air and music playing did me in.

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I didn't sleep that long, perhaps 45 minutes, and got up to see what else was happening around the ship.

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Right around 3 or 4pm, the captain provided a new forcast on channel 18 in our staterooms and he indicated the new weather models looked much better.  We'd still hit a storm, but waves shouldn't be more than 15-20 feet and it would be done earlier than we thought.

I felt greatly relieved, so much so that I went down to the Cafe Promenade to indulge in a favorite Royal Caribbean tradition, those little sandwiches at Cafe Promenade.  And also a few slices of pizza from Sorentos.  Ahhh, the cruise life!

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Following my late afternoon snack, I gambled the last $10 I had allocated for gambling in the casino. At first I doubled it and then like any good gambler, I lost it all. Oh well.

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Vistarama was being shown in Two70 so I headed there to check it out and met up with some folks from the blog group cruise and enjoyed the show while having drinks.  My new favorite drink might be the blue ed.  Very tasty!

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Dinner tonight was at Devinly Decadence, the former specialty restaurant and now complimentary restaurant on deck 14 near the Solarium.

The restaurant has an interesting set up.  You get a menu of just entrees with an appetizer and dessert bar at the rear of the restaurant.  It's certainly an interesting concept.

I ordered the enchiladas and ahi tuna tacos but the star of the meal for me was the Morrocan tomato soup appetizer.  I may have had multiple refills of it.  

I will be going back tomorow for lunch because their lunch menu features a Big Mac clone they claim is less than 500 calories. Now we're talking!

After dinner it was 9:30pm and the ship was moving no worse than earlier, so I decided to ignore my mother's advice of not swimming after eating and go for a night swim.  The pools were empty and I had barely swam this trip so I figured why not.

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I spent a little time in the pool and then some more time in the hot tub. Time well spent!

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Tomorrow is our last day of the cruise and yet another sea day.  Should be rather smooth sailing tomorrow and I have a few plans already to get done.

Stray observations

  • I freely admit I let the weather forcast get me too nervous to enjoy my day.  I eventually made peace with the news but as it turned out, it was nothing to worry about.
  • The pools, North Star, casino and many other otherwise extremely popular public areas are virtually empty during dinner hours.  
  • The crew has been sanitizing the ship non-stop for this Norovirus problem. I give them a huge amount of credit for constantly cleaning everything.
  • Others have noticed it's quite difficult to get water onboard.  Meaning, geting a cup of water does not seem to be as easy to get to as on other Royal Caribbean ships.  

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Labadee

In:
26Mar2015

When you talk about my favorite places to visit in the Caribbean, one of them will always be Royal Caribbean's private island of Labadee and today we're stopping at Labadee to indulge in a little paradise.

The ship docked at 8am, which actually woke me up.  For some reason when the ship goes to dock or leave port, the jitters a lot.  Very odd but I knew we were pulling in.

Just like San Juan, I decided to hang back a little bit and get off the ship a bit later.  I got off the ship at 9am and there was no line or anything.  

In Labadee we dock at the pier and then it's a short walk to the beach.  

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Today, my friends at MEI-Travel reserved a cabana for our use and I made my way to Nellie's Beach.

Labadee has two cabana areas: Barefoot Beach Club and Nellie's Beach. Barefoot Beach Club has its own private beach for cabana guests as well as suite guests.  At Nellie's Beach, cabana guests share the beach with other guests.

We had an over water cabana, which at Nellie's was a real advantage.  We had direct access to the ocean via a private walkway and ladder.  

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The cabana experience is a great way to spend the day in Labadee and I was quite happy to do it.  I think when I return next with my family I will reserve one again.

At about 11am, we had our next group cruise meet, which was the Labadooze Appreciation Society meet.  I bought everyone in attendance the first round of Labadoozies and it was as good as I remember.  

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Lunch was the usual island BBQ and I went with the burgers.  Simple, yet effective.

After lunch I headed back to the ship to drop off my stuff so I wouldn't be saddled with it when it was time to go on the zip line.

Back on the ship, it was not very crowded and I took the opportunity since I was kind of hot anyway from the walk back to hop in the pool.  For those keeping score at home, that would be my first time in the pool this cruise.  It was so empty I just couldn't resist!

After a quick swim, I headed back to the room to unload my stuff, went down to the gangway and back onto the pier to head to Labadee.  Until I realized I forgot to change into sneakers for the zip line.

I ran back up the pier, through security and upstairs to change and then reversed it all, again.  Luckily, I still made it to the check in area for the zip line early.

I apologize in advance for not having photos of my zip line adventure.  The literature indicated no camers except ones that are attached to you.  In reality, you can bring anything you can hold onto or stuff in your pocket.  Lesson learned for next time.

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It's a three step process to doing the zip line.  First, you get your harness and watch a primer video.  Nothing too exciting yet.

Next, you walk about two minutes away to a practice zip line course, where you try the techniques from the video out before doing it on the real thing.  Evidently a 20 foot drop is less lethan than a 500 foot drop. 

Because of high winds, we all had to position ourselves to go as slow as possible.  That means it looks like we are sitting in a chair with our arms up and not like an Olympic luge competitor.

The first training course was simple enough, although 3 people chickened out at this point.  I was worried about my form but seemed to be doing things correctly so we were off for the real thing!

We hopped in a truck and went up a very steep and winding road.  It was bumpy and I had read others saying this was the scariest part of the excursion but I did not think it was that bad.

Once at the top of the mountain, we got ready to go.  I was more apprehensive than I was scared because I just wanted to get it over with.  I'll admit once seated and ready to go at the top, you definitely have a moment of "woa".  Thankfully they initiate the process and off you go!

It's an amazing view and we had great weather, so we saw a lot of the island and after a few seconds of jitters, I enjoyed it.  Like so many others have said, it's a great experience but on the expensive side ($99 per person).  

Back on the ship, I showered and changed and got ready for this evening's activities. I'm worried just because news like that makes me worried about sea sickness.  I do have Bonine, which I will be taking in advance of the storm to prepare but mentally it's alarming.  Hoping for the best!

First up was the top-tier Crown and Anchor Society party for platinum and above members.  There was not a whole lot that was different than what we saw and heard in the first Crown and Anchor party.

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The Captain did tell us we were heading into some bad weather.  Like, close the pool decks and take some medicine bad weather. 

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By now I was actually pretty hungry and my dinner was still a few hours off so I decided to go up to the Windjammer for a pre-dinner snack.  As I walked to it, I passed by the suites-only restaurant Coastal Kitchen and thought to myself I should ask if I can eat there because I have nothing to lose. Sure enough, the crew member at the door let me in!

Coastal Kitchen is a California-inspired restaurant that is on deck 14 right outside the Windjammer.  Because I was eating a full meal later, I decided to stick with a few appetizers to keep it light.

Everything I got (including the breads everyone gets) were really good.  I liked the takes Coastal Kitchen had on some established dishes and would definitely go back to eat there again. If I was staying in a suite.  

I wandered onto the pool deck after eating at Coastal Kitchen and saw literally two people in line for North Star.  I quickly jumped on the line and the crew member told us this would be the last ride of the day.  Besides the fact I was ecstatic I walked onto North Star, the sun was setting and it would give us a great vantage point.

I should point out it was really windy and as soon as North Star engaged, we were rocking quite a bit in there. At first, I was nervous about it but you get used to it and I spoke to the crew member inside who said it's not a big deal.  He said as long as the ship isn't rocking too badly, they can handle most any winds.

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I wandered around the ship a bit more and then finally it was time or my dinner at Jamie's Italian.

I had heard lots of good things about Jamie's and I think the reputation held up..  Everything we ordered was good or great and their focus on fresh ingredients that are also quality ingredients really shows.  In fact, they make their own pasta everyday.

Our table of 4 ordered a little of everything and we were stuffed.  I loved the arincini balls, eggplant parmesan and epic homemade brownie.

Tomorrow is a sea day!

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Sea Day

In:
26Mar2015

Back at it today with another sea day but that didn't mean I slept in.  I set my alarm bright and early (bright and early for me is anything before 8am) so I could get on the North Star.

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I got in line for North Star at 7:50, knowing it would open at 8am and I was the last person for the first group on.  The key to pretty much anything popular on Quantum of the Seas is to arrive before it opens to avoid the longer lines. I would say when my ride ended, the end of the line probably already had a 15-20 minute wait or so.

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I had been on North Star back in November but this was my first time doing North Star at sea, which meant we got to go over the side of the ship.  There's no doubt North Star is an amazing experience and the photos never disappoint.  

After getting my North Star fix, I was off to breakfast and then I did something I've never done on this sailing yet. I went to the pool and relaxed.  

I found a nice lounge chair in the indoor pool area, put my headphones on and zoned out for much of the morning.  I mentioned this earlier, but when it's warm enough, Royal Caribbean will open the roof of the indoor pool and it really makes it quite lovely in there.

Pretty much everyone else decided to do a pool day too because it was packed on the pool deck.  It was really hot too (around 86 degrees) and everyone had the idea to go to the pool.

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For lunch today, I went to American Icon Grill.  I hadn't been there at all yet on this cruise, so I decided to check it out for lunch.

American Icon Grill is a lot like the main dining room on other Royal Caribbean ships.  It offers a little of something and today it was generally American food. The menu was actually surprisingly short (just 3 entrees). I went with the minestrone soup and reuben.

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Both were good but I was reminded by a fact of pretty much any Royal Caribbean ship, that it is nearly impossible to get hot food.  What I mean is, food that is hot enough in termperature that you need to let it cool down. Everything comes at either warm or luke-warm and I'm not sure why or if that's even a bad thing.

After lunch I had just enough time to catch the Roboshow in Two70.  Roboshow is essentially a spectacle of the robototic screens that demonstrate just how amazing these robots are.  I would definitely call this a wow moment.

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In the afternoon, some of the people on the group cruise with me had a cabin crawl, where we showed off each other's stateroom categories.  

It's always neat to see what other categories of staterooms offer and I think we all found different aspects of each room we really liked.

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Category D something balcony

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Category L large interior stateroom with virtual balcony (my room)

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Studio inside stateroom

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All of us inside a Category SJS Spa Junior Suite

Then I spent much of the afternoon at the NextCruise office to take advantage of the last day of the WOW sale.  Unfortunately, a lot of other guests did too.  

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I think we waited in line for about an hour and a half.  Appointments for the rest of the cruise were booked solid so it was standby only.  I know lots of guests were getting frustrated with the long waits and it seems like the process was easier on other ships.  If you just wanted an open cruise booking, you still had to speak to someone because there were no forms readily available to grab and drop off like on other ships.  

As the afternoon turned to dusk, I knew I had to run up to see if I could get photos of the sunset.  As I got up to the pool deck, I noticed the ship was at a dead stop.  Right in front of the ship was a beautiful sunset about to unfold and the Captain decided to make sure the ship did not miss it.

Dinner tonight was at a favorite of mine, Chops Grill.  What I love about Chops is it is consistantly quite good and tonight was no exception.

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The food was wonderful during the entire meal.  The service was on the slow side, but the restaurant was busy tonight and we still managed to get in and out in just 90 minutes, so that's not bad for a dinner on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Following dinner we headed back to Two70 to see Starwater.  Starwater is a mash up of music, dance and roboscreens.  It's hard to describe in words or even in the photos you see but it's a wonderful spectacle that I think you have to see to appreciate.

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Tomorrow, we're in paradise, better known as Labadee!

Stray observations

  • My stateroom attendant (or at least I assume it's him) has brought me a plate of cheese and a plate of fruit and left it in my room. It's a lovely gesture but I'm not going to eat it.  I feel like a terrible person for not enjoying this gift.
  • For what it's worth, a crew member in the Windjammer mentioned about 60 guests have gotten Norovirus this cruise.
  • I booked the zip line for tomorrow in a moment of craziness. I'm excited and a little frightened at the same time.
  • The bartenders at Two70 make a mean bloody mary

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - San Juan

In:
24Mar2015

After a few days getting to know Quantum of the Seas, it was time for our first port stop in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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The idea of getting off the ship today for a break was something I was really looking forward to, especially with the Norovirus stuff.  A little fresh air and time off the ship helps everything and I know the crew was working fiendishly to sanitize the ship.

I woke up a little later this morning, around 9am, because I was not going to go to the gym since I figured I'd be doing so much walking in San Juan that it would make up for it.

I had my first breakfast in the Windjammer and headed straight to the omelet station to enjoy my favorite cruise breakfast: egg white omelet with vegetables (no cheese).

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I took my breakfast back out to the indoor pool area to enjoy since the Windjammer was on the crowded side. 

After breakfast I did some blogging and then headed to the Royal Theater for the Crown and Anchor Society welcome back party.  

The welcome back parties are for Crown and Anchor members and it's an opportunity for the crew to address their most loyal members.  Nothing amazing was shared but I really enjoy the event for the principle that Royal Caribbean shows they care about their customers.  That and the free alcohol.

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After the event, I went upstairs to watch as Quantum of the Seas entered San Juan harbor.  It was pretty darn cool and I got a spot on the bridge wings, right outside the Solarium.  It was a great vantage point and I had the perfect view as we passed by El Morro and the other sights visible in the harbor.

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Right at 1pm we docked and were cleared shortly thereafter.  I was expecting a sea of people trying to exit but when I got downstairs around 1:15 or so there was no line at all.  Kudos to the staff for getting folks on their way quickly!

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Once in San Juan, I made my first of many treks up the hill and through the city.

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 A blog reader (hi Wayne) recommended a good place for local food but they had a pretty big wait so I hopped on Yelp and found another well-reviewed restaurant nearby, Palmas Restaurante.

 

When I walked in I was a little hesitant because it was overly decorated with all Puerto Rican decor, which to me says this is for tourists. I prefer to eat more authentic meals but I decided to try it nonetheless (that and there wasn't much else in my area).

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I went with my absolute favorite Puerto Rican dish, mofongo with chicken.  Mofongo is mashed plantains that is kind of like mashed potatoes but with a much thicker consistency.  

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The service was slow but eventually my food arrived and it was really good!  They added onions and the sauce that was drizzled all over it was the perfect touch.  It's up there for best mofongo I've ever eaten!

Back on the tour, I now proceeded to essentially wander the streets of old San Juan to just see what I could find. 

I saw both forts, El Morro and San Cristobal.  Admission to one is $5 and your admission gets you into both for up to 7 days.  Great deal!

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I explored more of old San Juan and eventually met up with a good friend of mine who lives in San Juan, Angel.  Angel took me around to the various spots and we got some great photos.  

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Spending the day in old San Juan reaffirmed my thought that it's a wonderful city to visit and it's the perfect place to get lost.  Just wander the streets and see where it takes you (odds are it's up a hill). 

For dinner, we went to the very spot the Pina Colada was invented, Barrachina.

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For research purposes, I had to try the pina colada for myself and they do make a really, really good pina colada!  

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I also had mofongo again and it was good.  This time the meat was of a pulled variety (the other restaurant had cubed meat).  I still prefer the mofongo from Palmas but the pina colada addition was top notch.

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As the sun went down and day turned to dusk and then to evening, I took the opportunity to wander the very same streets again and take photos of the city at night.  I love night photography and there were some great shots to be had.  Dare I say San Juan looks even better at night!

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I thanked Angel for being a great tour guide and got back to Quantum of the Seas at about 9pm.  I was exhausted so I went back upstairs to write this blog post and then get some rest.

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Tomorrow is another sea day!

Stray observations

  • Nearly everyone in San Juan spoke English and most spoke it fluently.  It's a wonderful city to visit.
  • There are free trolleys that will take you all over the city.  Take them instead of walking in 80+ degree heat all over the city (like me).
  • I cringed when I was walking off the ship and so many passengers were filtering right into places like Senor Frogs and other tourist traps.  Get out there!
  • To get off the ship and back on, you need your SeaPass card.  Your WOWbands won't do it.
  • Someone asked me for the Nursery cruise compass, so here it is (hope this is what you wanted)
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Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day

In:
23Mar2015

Woke up this morning a little before my alarm and decided to get up and start my day on Quantum of the Seas.  It's amazing how easy it is to get out of bed when you're on vacation compared to just another day back home.

I went to the gym around 8:30am and it wasn't overly crowded.  Unlike yesterday, I decided to do my own workout instead of a class and had no trouble finding machines that I wanted to use.  The gym wasn't empty but there was usually one or two treadmills or elipticals available.

A few minutes into my workout the ship's captain made an announcement that we would be able to dock in San Juan earlier than expected.  Thanks to a combination of great weather and good time, we will be docking around 12-12:30pm tomorrow instead of 4pm.  So we will end up with roughly 12 hours in San Juan, which is great news!  

Now I just need to figure out what I want to do in San Juan.  I was previously planning on just walking around and then having dinner but now we have much more time so I'll need to research some ideas for things to do in Old San Juan.  Any suggestions?

For breakfast I went to Two70 and found a nice bagel bar, where you can have your bagel toasted and then pick from a good array of choices.  There's various fish, cheese and other toppings for your bagels and it's a neat little option.  Plus it's great to take your breakfast and enjoy it in Two70, which has a wonderful view.

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After breakfast, I essentialy wandered the ship to see what was going on.  In the Royal Theater, they were showing Penguins of Madagascar in 3D, in Two70 there was a cooking demonstration and on the Royal Esplanade there were a few sales.  I stopped by each to get a little taste of each and it's fun to find so many activities to choose from.

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Given the fact the sun is out and the temperatures are rising, today the pool deck was packed.  It's not really a surprise but if you roll out to the pool deck at 11am, don't expect ample seating.  

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I was able to find seats inside the indoor pool, which had their retractable roof open and there was a wonderful breeze.  As long as I have somewhere to lay back and enjoy a few boat drinks, I'm good with it.

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Lunch today was at the Windjammer.  In fact, it's the first time since embarkation day I've eaten at the Windjammer so it felt odd not to have been there more often.  I sampled a little of everything but the highlight for me was eating in the rear of the Windjammer outside.  WIth the weather warming up, it was a great spot to enjoy lunch.

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A little after lunch we had our next Royal Caribean Blog group cruise meet, which was the Most Civilized Bar Crawl. We began in the Schooner Bar and slowly started picking people up that we ran into.

The idea behind the bar crawl was to sample drinks from a few different bars and enjoy it without it becoming a booze fest (also we insisted on pinkies up when we drank).  I think we accomplished our goal and it was fun checking out the various bars.

We ended up drinking at Schooner Bar, Bionic Bar, Michael's Genuine Pub and Two70.  We liked the prices and deals at Michael's but the atmosphere of Two70 won for its great layout and view.

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Around this time, the ship's captain made an announcement that the gastronomic virus known as Norovirus was aboard the ship and advised everyone to be a extra vigilant about washing your hands to protect yourself.

I'll be honest, the news was a bit jarring for everyone.  It's definitely not something you want to hear on any cruise. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like there wasn't a lot we can do and to just make the best of the situation.  Washing your hands is onboard a cruise is always a good idea but with something like this, you just have to be extra careful and opt for washing instead of maybe just using the hand sanitzer.

Following our bar crawl, I went up to the Solarium to enjoy the sunset.  There were too many clouds to get a really good sunset view but the sky was quite beautiful and I am such a sucker for sunsets in general.  So when you combine the sun going down, a warm breeze and the colors of the ocean at this latitude, it all makes for a great moment.

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Dinner tonight was at the specialty restaurant Wonderland.  We invited everyone that booked into our group cruise room package to be the guest of our partner MEI-Travel and enjoy this fun restaurant.

I had eaten at Wonderland on my 2-nighter in November but I think it was even better this time around.  The show aspect is always wonderful but the food, especially the entrees were really good.  I think we all found something we particulary enjoyed (the beef for me is amazing).  It's still worth noting the menu at Wonderland favors someone who is fairly adventurous in their eating or is at least willing to try new foods.

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After diner I went back to the casino for redemption but sadly did not find any.  I did stay afloat longer than any other time and had a good time but in the end, I walked away a poorer man.  I've said this everytime I've left the casino but I think I mean it this time, I'm going to to stay away.

At 10:30 was the Love and Marriage game show, which is a Royal Caribbean entertainment staple and it's something I try not to miss.  It's always the same questions but it never ceases to entertain me and I really enjoyed it.  It always helps when the contestants are good sports and we had a good group this time. 

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Tomorrow, we'll be in San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Observations

  • The indoor pool seems to be the last refuge of open lounge chairs on busy sea days.
  • In terms of motion, I've barely felt movement.  Around 10pm or so we started getting our first good swayings but it's still nothing I wouldn't sign up for.  Plus, ,I like a little ship movement when I'm going to bed.
  • In terms of Norovirus prevention, not a terrible amount has changed.  There are more hand sanitzers, crew members are using gloves more and in the casino, you have to go sanitize your hands before cashing in money.
  • Ever wondered where service dogs do their business? Deck 5 all the way forward is this little area
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  • Not sure I've mentioned this before but in terms of alcohol prices, beer is fairly priced, with most about $5-7. Mixed drinks, however, are signifigantly more expensive. I had a bloody mary at the North Star bar this moring that cost me $12.  
  • I don't have any firm plans for San Juan. I think I'll just wing it and wander!

You can also follow my adventures as I'm experiencing it live on Twitter and Facebook! And feel free to post your comments and questions in the comments below! I read 'em al!

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
22Mar2015

I woke up this morning by chance because my phone battery died overnight and so the alarm wouldn't have worked.  Luckily, I somehow decided to check the time about ten minutes before I was supposed to and all was okay.

Having slept in an interior stateroom for the first time in a while, I loved how dark it gets when you turn the lights and virtual balcony off.  With just a slight movement of the ship, it was the formula for a great night's sleep.

I got up and went straight to the gym for my flywheel class.  This was my first time trying flywheel, and it's essentially just like spin class where you ride a stationary bike.  There's a large monitor that tracks the progress of everyone and the instructor guides you through a "course" of hills and sprints.  

I gave it my all and finished but I really had to slow down towards the end because I was just exhausted. I finished second-to-last but there's no denying it's a good workout.  Upon leaving I thought I'd try it again tomorrow but then I realized each class was $25 and to do this every day would add up quite quickly.  I think tomorrow I'll just try something on my own.

After showering and resting a little while, I headed to the SeaPlex for our blog meet up of the day.  We had planned to do bumper cars but unfortuantely no bumper cars today so we figure we will try to do it another day.

With the extra time, me and a couple of us from the blog decided to try our luck at the casino. The table games did not open until noon so I tried a few slot machines and quickly lost my money without much to show for it.  Alas, I cut my losses sooner than I usually do so I was okay with it.

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Slot machiones accept SeaPass cards or WOWbands for player tracking

Some of the folks that are on the group cruise with me decided to meet up for Izumi for lunch.  We showed up a little before noon and were able to snag a table for eight.  For lunch, there are no reservations, so it's just first come, first served.

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As many blog readers know, I absolutely love eating at Izumi and the real question is not if I will eat there but how many times. 

The lunch menu at Izumi seemed larger than the lunch menu at Izumi on Navigator of the Seas, which was a pleasant surprise.  There is no cover charge for Izumi but you do pay for each item a la carte.  Miso soup and edamame are complimentary.

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I went with a couple of rolls and some nigiri.  All were excellent and I was happy with my choices.  I'll have a more formal review of Izumi in the coming weeks.

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Following lunch, it was time to try my hand at Ripcord by iFly.  This is the sky diving simulator and for guests, you can reserve a complimentary 1-minute flight.  Let's just say my flight was 1 minute too long.

When you arrive for your class, you will sign in and accept any waivers that are necessary.  After everyone arrives, you watch a short instructional video and then it's time to get suited up.

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You cannot wear any jewelry or accessories and your pockets must be empty.  In addition, you have to wear shoes that can be laced up.  

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D'oh!

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I volunteered to fly first and all I can say is I discovered I lack any real coordination.  I gave it my best and I was doing okay for a little bit but somehow ended flipping over and crashing into the ground.  I'm laughing about it now as I write about it but I'm fairly certain that will be the last time I try it.  I'd recommend it for anyone that wants to have fun and is more in control of their body than me. 

After embarassing myself in the air, I rushed over to the Royal Theater to check out the Broadway musical Mamma Mia!.  The show is based on the music of ABBA and I had never seen the show or the movie before.

I found myself really enjoying the show.  We arrived very close to show time so we had bad seats in the upper balcony all the way to one side.  So be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to get a better view than I had.

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Despite the seats, the show was great and I really enjoyed it much more than I was expecting.  It's a fun show and while I'm not an ABBA fan boy, I did find myself often thinking "Oh, this song is by ABBA too"?  And of course, it's hard to deny that tickets to this show on Broadway or even on tour would set me back a couple hundred dollars so it's a great value.

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After the show I walked back to my stateroom and overheard a crew member at Bionic Bar saying on Anthem of the Seas, the Bionic Bar would be the same concept but the robots would be an upgraded model that is also smaller than what we have on Quantum of the Seas.

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Eating at The Grande tonight, I had to get the formal wear together and so went back to the staterroom to get dressed. Interestingly enough, I saw a sign outside The Grande saying gentlemen had to wear jackets, which is definitely not the rule on formal night on other ships.  Heck, not even in most specialty restaurants.  I even saw some men walking out and handing back a borrowed jacket to the restaurant.

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I had some time to burn between getting ready for dinner and dinner itself so I walked around the ship a little bit, exploring to see what's new and different.

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I decided to stop back into Michael's Genuine Pub because suprisingly I had not had any alcohol to drink yet today and because I really like the vibe fo the pub.  It's great for people watching, good drinks and a real bar atmosphere.

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I went for a stout because I really enjoy Guiness and this was the craft beer closest to it.  It was great and even more "Guinessy" than Guiness! I do believe I will be back for more this cruise.

At last, it was time for dinner at The Grande. On my 2-nighter, The Grande stood out as my favorite restaurant so I was excited to get back here.  And judging by how crowded the restaurant was, so was everyone else.

We arrived a few minutes before our 7:15 reservation and waited in a short line.  We could tell the restaurant was packed and later learned the second night is evidently the go-to night for The Grande.  

We waited perhaps 5-10 minutes and then were seated.  Walking through the Grande, we saw the place was full.

Looking over the menu, I found more and more selections I wanted to try because everything sounded so good.

Like all restaurants I eat at on this cruise, a more formal review will be coming soon but I really enjoyed my meal here.  I loved the atmosphere with everyone dressed up and everything I ordered was a hit.  When can I go back?


After dinner I spent some time in the casino (again) and lost (again).  Pretty sure I need to limit my expenditures to drinks and not gambling based on my performance this cruise.

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In terms of weather, it's warm enoough today to go outside with a t-shirt (but pants are still needed).  A few souls were in the main pool but I expect that to change tomorrow.  Seas have been calm and it's quite welcome!

Tomorrow it's another sea day (get used to them, there's plenty more where that came from). 

Stray Observations

  • I finally met my room attendant this morning. Peter from Indonesia!
  • Last night I came back to my room and couldn't find the souvenir cup I had gotten from sailaway.  Turns out my room attendant threw it away because he thought it was trash!  We both laughed about it and he said he could get me another one.
  • Thus far, the internet speeds have been great. I've used it across phones and my laptop and been solid.  For unlimited use over the week at $109 it's a steal.
  • For those keeping score at home, I bought only one drink today.  I was too busy doing activities to drink.  Tomorrow we're having a bar crawl meet so the universe will be evened out.
  • If you want to wait in no line whatsoever for something on Quantum of the Seas, I recommend getting there right when that activity/venue/restaurant opens.  Lines build quickly but arrivng just before opening is usually a safe bet.

Here's tomorrow's cruise compass

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Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
21Mar2015

After years of waiting, my cruise vacation on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas is finally here and today begins with getting onboard.  

Embarkation day is always a combination of joy, trekking, indulgence and satisfaction.  I woke up right at 9am and got my things together before departing the hotel for Cape Liberty.

Ready to hop aboard #quantumoftheseas

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean Blog.com (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

The entire embarkation process could not have been faster or simpler.  Dropped the luggage off, parked the car and checked-in all within probably 15 minutes (I parked a long walk from the terminal). Once inside the terminal, at around 11am, we were able to get onboard immediately.

Royal Caribbean did assign boarding times as part of the online check-in but these times seem to be suggestions more than requirements. We boarded well before our time and others were doing the same.  

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Once onboard the ship, I naturally went to my favorite spot onboard, the Windjammer.  It appeared a lot of other people had the same idea and the place was packed.  Many Quantum of the Seas veterans will advise to eat at Two70 Cafe or Devinely Decadence as less-crowded alternatives but I wanted the Windjammer experience and after a few minutes of searching, we found a table.

I took my time at lunch and then headed to my stateroom to drop off my stuff and see my home for the next eight nights.  

I booked an inside stateroom with a virtual balcony.  It was a larger inside stateroom and this was my first time staying in a stateroom with the virtual balcony. I'm looking forward to waking up and turning the balcony on to enjoy the view.

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Wi-Fi prices

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Platinum coupons

The room itself has a good amount of space.  I could see two to three people (one kid) having no problem and I like how there are two comfy chairs included with the room as well.  So far, so good!

After dropping my stuff off, grabbing my WOWband and looking around the room, I decided to do some exploring around the ship. I headed up to the pool deck and walked around.  Given the temperature outside is around 40 degrees, the pool was empty but the indoor pool and Solarium were a balmy 70-80 degrees and a few folks were already swimming.

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I also took an opportunity to tour the spa and fitness center. I had not seen either on my two-night cruise and the facilities were quite nice.  I did not se anything I haven't seen on other ships with perhaps the exception of the couples massage room, which had a shower.

The fitness center is really quite large and the equipment is in top-notch conditiion.  I took the liberty of signing up for a spin class tomorrow morning.  I hope I can stay hydrated this time around!

All around the ship, other passengers were exploring as well, taking in the sights and it's fun to catch parts of others conversations where others talk openly about how impressive some aspect of the ship is.  Needless to say, everyone seems quite excited to get this vacation underway.

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UPDATE 5:00pm: Muster drill for this cruise was in Silk restaurant, which is also the restaurant I'll have dinner later this evening.  Nothing unusual but I did meet someone who has a job of going on cruises to assist with dialysis machines.  From the sounds of it, I think I need to seriously reconsider my professional career choices.

For sailaway, I braved the brisk March air and went up to the Sky Bar for a quick meet up with other Royal Caribbean Blog readers.  It was great to formally say hello to everyone and put names to faces.  The next meet is tomorrow at bumper cars!

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I also realized around this point I had not yet had a drink to officially kick off my cruise so I had to quickly remedy the situation.  One of the waiters, Ricky, helped me with my "problem" and hooked me up with the drink of the day.  Honestly, I don't know what it was but it looked like the perfect drink and it came in a souvenir cup that changes colors when it's cold!

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After some drinks and enjoying sailaway, I headed back to my stateroom to change for dinner.  My luggage was waiting for me at the door, which was good to see because I and many other guests noted the RFID luggage tracking feature in Royal Caribbean's app was not working (it would report you have no luggage to track).

Dinner tonight was at Silk, which on my 2-night cruise was a bit of a disappointment. It was disappointing in I love Asian food, especialy Indian food and it didn't really live up to what I expected. Silk, and all the compimentary restaurants onboard have since undergone a menu update so I was hoping for a better experience.

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Our dinner reservation was at 5:30pm and we were able to walk right up to the Silk entrance and check-in with nearly no wait. We were seated immediately at a table by the window and we were off to a good start.

The new Silk menu appears to be expanded from what I remember and it also included some of the Royal Caribbean classic options, like steak, chicken soup, pasta, etc.  

I started off with the vegetable spring rolls and chicken noodle soup (I know, not Asian at all).

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They were both good, not the best I've ever eaten of either but okay.

For my entrees I went with the chicken tikka masalla and a vegetable curry.  I figured I would double down on my favorite dish.

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Both curries tasted fine but they had no spice at all and frankly, not a lot of flavor either.  I had two curries in the Windjammer at lunch that were wonderful but I felt like these dishes lacked some character. 

My tablemates went with Chinese dishes and they looked good and they reported their dishes also tasted good too.  Perhaps my curry love needs to be relegated to the Windjammer.  

I also should note service was great.  There's now an assistant waiter to help and I brought my bottle of wine with me that they were all too eager to pour and store for my dinner tomorrow night.  

Making sure to end on a high note, I wrapped up dinner with strawberry ice cream. Awesome!

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After dinner we headed over to Michael's Genuine Pub and I was quite happy to see them offering buy one, get one free on Michael's Genuine Beer.  Clearly Royal Caribbean really, really loves BOGO deals.

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We enjoyed drinks, chatted and had a great time.  It was not too busy in Michael's at this point so it was nice to be able to just sit around and talk without too much noise.

I was wrapping up drinks when a fellow blog reader came into the pub to tell me there was an unannounced comedy show that was about to go on so I decided to check it out. One of the benefits of cruising solo is late night entertainment is tough with kids because it's bed time.

First out was cruise director Ken Rush, who I had never seen before.  Ken was funny and gave a good introduction to the show we were about to see.  

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The comedian was Steve Shaffer and he was amusing.  I was afraid he would tell the stereotypical cruise jokes but his jokes were all over the place and really never talked about the ship.  He did a 40 minute set, which is impressive and I laughed at a few jokes. Can't ask for much else.

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I wandered around the ship a little more after the comedy show but it was getting near 11pm now and I have some morning plans tomorrow.  I stopped by Music Hall, which had a band covering a lot of different hits, which was fun.  They had a good crowd there listening and dancing.

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All in all, a good first day and I'm excited for my first full day onboard tomorrow.

Here is tomorrow's Cruise Compass.

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Stray Observations

  • I haven't met my stateroom attendant yet.  I think it's because without kids, I'm barely here.  
  • The captain announced we should have good weather and smooth sailing.  At first I assumed he probably always says this but someone at my muster drill, who was on the cruise last week, said the captain announced the rough seas they experienced so hoping no issues this week!
  • On my first day I only paid for two drinks so far, which is no where near what the drink package would need to "break even".  Let's see what a full day holds for me.
  • Being in the Atlantic, there's just enough rocking of the ship to put me to sleep perfectly!

 

 

Quantum of the Seas Live Blog - Newark

In:
20Mar2015

Today begins my Quantum of the Seas adventure but Mother Nature certainly did not make it easy.

I had made my plans weeks ago the night before my cruise, I would stay close to Cape Liberty in the Newark Airport area and that way I would have no trouble getting to the port bright and early to get onboard Quantum of the Seas.

Clearly I was underestimating the likelihood of snow in New Jersey in late March (on the first day of spring, in fact). 

Earlier this week the meteorologists started predicting snow for today and go figure they were exactly correct with their prediction for this storm.  Right around noon it started snowing and would keep snowing all day and evening.

Driving from Connecticut, it would mean I would have to traverse the uber-busy New York City metropolitan area on a Friday and in the snow.  For those not familiar with the travel conditions in this area, it's akin to passing Mordor.  One does not simply walk into Mordor and one does not simply get through New York City on a Friday in the snow.

So right around 4:30pm, I was able to leave work and hop on the highway and give it my best.  I was prepared for an epic journey at no faster than 4 miles per hour.  I was prepared for the absolute worst.

Luckily, the snow forecast scared off enough people that I was able to get to Newark in a relatively good amount of time.  Less than two hours with the conditions I mentioned above is grounds for a Noble prize in breaking the laws of physics.

My GPS got me right to where I was going, the Marriott Hotel at Newark International Airport.  And when I say at the airport, I mean it's right in the middle of the airport.  Don't let the location fool you; It's a beautiful hotel built around business travelers and that means it is no dump.

To get to the hotel, you drive like you are going to park at the airport and you will find an exit for the hotel right before the parking area.  Check-in was super simple and many of the rooms have been recently refurbished.  My room on the fourth floor was one of them and it feels, smells and looks like a brand new room.

The room has two double beds and a regular sized bathroom and shower.  Considering it's been recently refurbished, it's great for what I need.

Unfortunately, the hotel does charge a hefty $25 daily parking fee along with a $15 internet charge. Alas, nothing is perfect, right?  The hotel is about 17 minutes from Cape Liberty and tomorrow there should be next to no traffic.

The snow forced me to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, the Aviation Grill. It serves New American cuisine and it really was not bad at all.  A little on the pricey side ($17 for a burger) but I was not about to drive to find something else and there aren't many convenient options in the area even if the weather was perfect.

I'm looking foward to getting some sleep and then boarding Quantum first thing in the morning!

We will have a lot of updates in our live blog here but also on Royal Caribbean Blog Twitter and Instagram.  Please feel free to post any questions you may have about Quantum of the Seas, I'm happy to answer as much as I can while onboard.  Follow along and then get the whole summary here tomorrow.  

 

Live Blogging from Quantum of the Seas - Preamble

In:
18Mar2015

Hi everyone, I'm really excited to announce our next live-blog experience as we get ready for a cruise aboard Quantum of the Seas for an 8-night 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 Navigator of the SeasFreedom of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas 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, I'll be driving to Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Friday, March 20 to start our adventure.  I live close enough to the port to be able to drive there on the day of the cruise, but I'm too excited to stay away and I like the idea of kick starting my vacation a day early.  

As many of you know, this cruise was planned as a group cruise among readers of Royal Caribbean Blog and I cannot wait to meet up with everyone onboard the ship and share in exploring Quantum of the Seas together.  Ever since I planned the group cruise, I've thought the idea of cruising with other Royal Caribbean fans would be a lot of fun.

I'll be leaving for my hotel near the port, Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott, right after work on Friday and I should get to the hotel in the evening (no thanks to the New York City rush hour traffic I will be running into). I picked this hotel because Newark airport hotels are as close to the port as you can get and because of the high level of business travelers, these airport hotels are also typically quite nice.  The next day, I will board Quantum of the Seas as early as humanly possible and start the real fun on March 21st!

This is actually my second time on Quantum of the Seas, having taken a two-night sampler cruise(read the live blog from that cruise here) back in November.  From the day Royal Caribbean announced Quantum of the Seas, I've been infatuated with getting onboard and my two night experience was merely a tease for the real thing.  The Quantum-class in general is a new direction for Royal Caribbean and there's just so much onboard to see, do and eat.  In addition, this will be my first solo cruise, so going on a cruise alone will be an adventure in of itself, but then again I'll be with other Royal Caribbean Blog friends who I'm hoping to see a lot of onboard.

In addition to the ship, the itinerary we are on will bring us to two ports of call.  Our itinerary has been changed a number of times but we will be sailing to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Royal Caribbean's private island of Labadee. I've been to both ports but am looking forward to each for different reasons.  San Juan is a beautiful city, with tons to do and this time we will be there in the evening, so I am looking forward to exploring the San Juan night life.  With Labadee, you never have to twist my arm to go back there.  I love what Royal Caribbean has done with this piece of paradise and it's among my favorite spots for pure relaxation (and Labadoozies).

Of course, I hope you will be joining for me on this cruise virtually. If you have any questions for me while I’m onboard, comment in the post below, email or twitter me, and I’ll do my best to answer. 

Who is going

Matt (me).  That's it. Just me. No one else. Seriously.

Our itinerary

Day Location
Day 1: Saturday, 03/21/2015 Depart from Cape Liberty, New Jersey
Day 2: Sunday, 03/22/2015 Cruising
Day 3: Monday, 03/23/2015 Cruising
Day 4: Tuesday, 03/24/2015 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 5: Wednesday, 03/25/2015
Day 6: Thursday, 03/26/2015 Labadee, Haiti
Day 7: Friday, 03/27/2015 Cruising
Day 8: Saturday, 03/28/2015 Cruising
Day 9: Sunday, 03/29/2015 Arrive at Cape Liberty, New Jersey

Next update should be on my pre-cruise arrival day, Friday, November 20.  Stay tuned for all of our live blog updates right here.

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