Five tips for Freedom of the Seas

In:
01Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Andy Mayer posted some great tips from his recent experience aboard Freedom of the Seas and they are some good advice.  Here's a quick rundown of them.

  1. Buy Bottles of Wine Not Individual Glasses
  2. Try the Buffet for Dinner
  3. Get the Early Dining Seating for Dinner
  4. Get the Fountain Soda Package
  5. Prepare to be Disconnected

Here's one full tip is posted about the bottles of wine being a better deal than by the glass

My colleague Mike told me about this before we left, and he was right.  Glasses of wine in the dining room can be expensive – in the $15 range.  However, if you know that you want wine every night and don’t mind the same wine for two nights or more in a row, buy a bottle.  At the end of the meal, your waiter marks the cork with your table number, takes it away, and then brings it back the next night for you to finish.  Since we had only two drinkers (my wife and I), this worked better than the RC Wine Plan, where the fewest number of bottles you can buy is five.  The per bottle cost of the Wine Plan is less than we paid, but we couldn’t have possibly drunk five bottles in a week.

Travel Weekly reviews Oasis of the Seas

In:
01Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

A river cruise expert at Travel Weekly, Michelle Baran, wrote a review of her experience on Oasis of the Seas.  She had heard a lot about the newest Royal Caribbean ship and wanted to see what it was all about.

The Oasis of the Seas is a destination, it is a spectacle, it is a vacation unto itself -- but a very specific type of vacation. It's a floating, mostly inclusive (with plenty of opportunities to spend additional cash), family-friendly resort, with something for a lot of different people: people who enjoy food, active people, people who want to relax, people who want to be entertained.

Overall, Baran seemed to be impressed with the ship and a fan.  Her passion are river cruises and she makes a number of comparisons between the two varieties of cruises.  It's a good quick read about the different amenities offered on the ship, especially interesting to get a different perspective on the ship.

Matt's Pre-Trip Report on Oasis of the Seas

In:
01Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Later this month, I will embark upon a 7 night cruise aboard Oasis of the Seas and wanted to write a pre-trip report before the final trip report comes down.

Who

Me and my 4 month pregnant wife
My parents
My sisters (older than 18)

Earlier this year, my parents voiced their desire to go on a family cruise.  We have been veteran cruisers of the Caribbean, so we wanted to take a different itinerary than normal.  Originally, we were looking for a cruise to Alaska but my sisters, always looking to worship the sun gods, preferred an itinerary that was a little warmer.  The next idea was to cruise on Mariner of the Seas out of Los Angeles and do a Mexican Riviera cruise.  My wife and I planned that we would fly out a few days early and spend some time at Disneyland and all would be perfect.  

Well, then my father decided he wanted to cruise on something bigger than Mariner (seriously) and we mentioned that it doesn't get much bigger than Oasis of the Seas.  After looking into it, we all agreed on taking Oasis of the Seas, departing Fort Lauderdale on July 24, 2010.  

Cabins

We have booked 3 cabins for this cruise.  My wife and I have a cabin that overlooks Central Park (as do my sisters), while my parents have a veranda balcony over the ocean.  My wife and I are usually fine with inside cabins (we'd rather spend the money elsewhere) but the Central Park cabin gives us a balcony to sit on and people watch, which will be fun.  

Itinerary

Our cruise will stop at 3 islands, Labadee, Costa Maya and Cozumel.

Labadee: Our plan will be a beach day here.  Everyone has been to Labadee before and we will find a spot on the beach somewhere.  Currently, Barefoot beach seems like a good choice and so we're going to go there.  I'm particularly happy that the ship can now dock at Labadee, as I've always found tenders to be incredibly slow and inefficient.

Costa Maya: Plans for this stop are still very much up in the air.  My sisters will likely opt for the beach but my dad really wants to check out the Mayan ruins.  His plan is to do this at Cozumel but I've heard good things about the Mayan Ruins at Costa Maya and so I'd like to take a tour here instead since I'm not keen on spending all day at the beach.  One excursion to the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins sounds pretty interesting so we will need to discuss this stop some more.

Cozumel: I love Cozumel and my wife and I could spend days here.  Our plan is to spend the morning in the city of Cozumel doing shopping and having lunch.  Last time we were here, we went to Pancho's Backyard for lunch, which was good but it didn't feel very authentic. This time, I'm looking for some real Mexican food for lunch, so we will need to do some more research.  After lunch, we're going to take a taxi over to Paradise Beach to spend some time enjoying the beach there.  We had a great time last time at Paradise Beach and looking forward to it once more.  Not sure what the rest of my family is planning for Cozumel. I'm hoping to change my dad's plan for Mayan Ruins to Costa Maya (as previously mentioned) so we will see what they have in mind, but I kind of like the idea of spending this day with just my wife.

Ship Plans

Needless to say, Oasis of the Seas is one big ship.  Given that we are only making 3 stops, the emphasis of this cruise is spending time on the ship.  My wife is a show junky, and so she plans to go to every show on every evening.  Like a good husband, I will likely go to them as well.  The Broadway musical "Hairspray" is playing and I'm looking forward to seeing that (we have tickets for it already).  The rest of the shows don't do as much for me but we will see.

While my wife loves shows, I love the restaurants and I can't wait to check them all out.  We have a reservation already for Giovanni's Table already but I'm hoping to be able to stop at Izumi, the sushi restaurant.  I love sushi and could eat it every day so I really want to go here at least once.  The other restaurants are less intriguing for us, but we're going to leave it up in the air.  We are fans of the main dining room, so getting to know our servers and that whole experience is important to us.

Aside from that, our plans for the ship aren't laid out.  There's going to be a lot of exploring and a lot of time spent at the pools.  We're about 3 weeks away from our cruise and I can't wait!

Explorer of the Seas Bar Menu

In:
01Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

A guest who just got off a cruise aboard Explorer of the Seas took some time to scan in the bar menu that was in each of the bars on Explorer of the Seas, as of last week.

Oasis of the Seas skips Costa Maya due to Hurricane Alex

In:
30Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Just a quick note that Oasis of the Seas has skipped the port of Costa Maya due to high winds and waves from Hurricane Alex.  Cruisers aboard Oasis of the Seas mentioned the change in itinerary on Cruise Critic. The ship's captain informed guests that the ship will not be stopping at Costa Maya as previously planned and the ship will instead have a sea day.

Royal Caribbean Names Michele Nadeem Vice President, Global Corporate Communications

In:
30Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has announced that Michele Nadeem will be their new Vice President of Global Corporate Communications.  As the VP of Global Corporate Communications, Nadeem will be responsible for "leading Royal Caribbean's overall global communication strategies and community relations efforts throughout all of its brands". She will report directly to the company's chairman and CEO, Richard D. Fain.

Before joining Royal Caribbean, Nadeem was the vice president of Corporate Communications, Public Affairs, Corporate Social Responsibility, Media and Industry Analyst Relations for DHL Express.

"We are delighted to have Michele join our team," said Fain. "We feel Michele's extensive international and domestic accomplishments and experience in corporate communications leadership roles will make her invaluable when the company needs to deliver clear and consistent messages across the organization and to the public."

Video of the Day: Wipeout!

In:
30Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Ah, the flowrider.  It's one of the newest innovations on Royal Caribbean ships and it does look like a lot of fun but inevitably, people will wipe out trying to surf on it.  Here's a fun compellation of some them.

Asian cruise market to reach 5 million by 2020

In:
29Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

At the Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention 2010, Michael Bayley, Vice President of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, talked about Asian source market size and where it is headed.  Bayley compared the penetration rates versus population in other markets: Cruising’s penetration is 3.2% in North America, about 1% in Europe and less than 0.05% in Asia. With a population close to 3 billion, Asia has the potential to reach 40 million cruisers in 30 years, he said.

"Whilst that is an outrageous number there were only 500,000 cruisers in North America 35 years ago. I think 5m Asian cruisers by 2020 is not unrealistic at this stage"

The cruise market in China has seen a lot of growth recently and fast. The change in atmosphere is thanks to regulations being eased, there has been a lot of government support for the industry and ports have been investing in the development of terminals and infrastructure.

E-docs not part of direct-sell strategy

In:
29Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

At the UK Cruise Convention held in Southampton, England, Royal Caribbean UK general manager Jo Rzymowska denied that moving to e-docs was a way of driving up the level of direct sales. Ryzmowska said online was “critical for search” for cruise customers but that the level of bookings remained very small, at around 2%.  She went on to say, “That will change over time as cruisers become more experienced and the next generation will use the internet as a norm,”

“But the point of e-docs is not about driving more online business. It’s about getting documents to clients as quickly as possible and in the most efficient way possible.”Rzymowska said just as travellers no longer expect to be sent airline tickets they will be comfortable not having paper documents for cruise.And she said having all the documentation online gives clients opportunity to find out more about their cruise and agents to provide a better service.

Review of Royal Caribbean's private islands

In:
29Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

The Orlando Sentinel has posted a review of the private islands that cruise lines have been using to lure customers on their cruises for years.  These paradises are great for the beach lover and offer the benefits of a day of sun, sea, beach and more.   Included in these reviews are the two islands that Royal Caribbean offers to its cruisers.

CocoCay

This 138-acre island (Little Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas' Berry Islands) offers a private island experience to Royal Caribbean International's passengers. It has beautiful beaches, food and drinks, organized pastimes including limbo contests, volleyball tournaments, and children's activities.A variety of water sports is available, including snorkeling--snorkelers can see a replica of a pirate galleon. When you just want to relax, one of the hammocks may be the ticket.

Labadee

Located on a 267-acre peninsula in Haiti's north coast this is another of Royal Caribbean's enclaves. In addition to the pleasures of the sea and sun, Labadee offers cultural pastimes including a folkloric show, tropical bands and artisans' market.Families with children will appreciate a water park, Arawak Cay, featuring water seesaws, slides and more.

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