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  1. I've had an opportunity to cruise a few cruise lines during this 2021 cruise restart. All of them have been with reduced capacity. Having recently encountered two terrible boarding day procedures I've got give credit to Royal Caribbean for implementing the best boarding day process I've experienced. On those other lines it took hours for me to board the ship. Neither of them improved the muster drill routine to a notable extent. For both the other cruise lines their boarding day process cast a dark cloud on the start of my cruise vacation and in both cases it took a few hours after finally getting on board before it felt like I was on vacation. Even then I felt exhausted and didn't feel like doing very much on the first night. Contrast that with Royal where I was car to cabin in 20 minutes. Upon boarding I was free to grab a bite to eat and a beverage then I could visit my muster station at my convenience for a one-on-one safety briefing that took less than 60 seconds. Upon boarding Royal I immediately felt like I was on a cruise vacation. It was like I got an extra cruise day to enjoy. I was quickly into vacation mode and it was all stress free. I will say people arriving before their appointed time is a problem on all cruise lines. Don't be that person. If you arrive before your time you are part of the problem and you deserve the long wait times you will encounter. However once you are allowed inside the terminal there is no excuse for the other cruise lines to make boarding such a stressful and lengthy process. Hat's off to Royal for creating the best boarding day process.
    43 points
  2. I am both excited and terrified to begin my first live Blog here of my first ever Star Class sailing and also….our wedding! I can only hope it is HALF as good as the amazing bloggers I read religiously here! 48 DAYS! Here we go! The Story- My husband and I (I will explain!) booked this cruise for our wedding 2 YEARS ago during a Black Friday sale at an amazing price! We both LOVE cruising…so much so that we have a YouTube channel called BoosCruize so it seemed natural that we would choose to tie the knot in a small ceremony on the high seas! So after much research we decided on the Star Loft Suite 1720 on Oasis Of The Seas! This suite had a HUGE rectangular balcony that could fit guests and also give us the ocean view we wanted….and a Genie to help us pull it all off! What could go wrong?!? Enter…COVID As you can imagine we basically needed a new pair of britches every other day for the last two years as things changed. It’s a good thing I buzz cut my head or I’d probably be bald and NOT by choice LOL A year later we weren’t even sure if this cruise would happen but we also KNEW we wanted to be married. So when a company came to us and asked to throw us a huge West Coast “David Tutera” style wedding in Hollywood that will be published for magazines we obviously said YES! We now have two bi-coastal weddings Lol It was amazingly gorgeous but nothing was our choice. It was all chosen for us….right down to our tuxes. We feel BEYOND blessed but it also wasn’t what we had in our head two years ago. So now here we are….our guest list of 50 has gone down to 12 due to covid complications. Are we upset? HECK NO! We completely understand and are going to have the time of our LIVES on a gorgeous ship surrounded by people who love us! We can’t wait! Who: We are an LA couple. Jarell is an international Flight attendant (yaasss benefits!) and I am an actor who just moved from NYC in time for a pandemic to close Hollywood Where: We are sailing on the Oasis Of The Seas out of Miami in the Star Loft Suite 1720 with stops at Coco Cay, St.Thomas, and St. Maarten When: We sail November 7th-14th, 2021 I think that covers most of the back story and introductions! So happy to meet you all and take you along with us on this very special journey that is over 2 years in the making! Can’t wait to see who our Genie will be! For good measure I have included a photo of the happy grooms from our West Coast Wedding!
    26 points
  3. I had a “charge without card present” notification pop up on my phone from AMEX for $470 from Royal and at first I thought “what the hell is this”? LOL ….. Then I noticed I had an email and saw we won our upgrade bid to go from a Grand Suite to a Crown Loft Suite. I was a little worried it may be a crappy location, but no …… it’s # 1720 …… so happy!!!! I really didn’t think we’d get it for only $470 total. Can’t wait for Saturday even more now!!
    24 points
  4. twangster

    Rough Seas

    1 - Sleep well 2- Sleep better 3 - Sleep really well 4 - Where is everyone? Why is the bar half empty? 5 - Yeehaw! This is fun!
    23 points
  5. We just got off 4 weeks on Symphony, weeks 2~5 of Symphony's restart (More on that later). First, I wanted to talk about passenger count and the odds of a Royal Up bid. Our cruise passenger count would drop daily as better counts were out. Aug 21st the first count was around 1,500 and eventually whittled down to 1,127. Rumor was 125 were turned away for insufficient or improper documentation as adjustments were made. Aug 29th we heard about 1,700 and eventually Coco Cay was told to prepare for only 1,414. Sept 4th, the holiday week, they still had 2,100 reservations on the books. Ended up with a number around 1,725 +/-50 Sept 11th we had the largest number of B2B at 93. It was moved from Boleros to the Schooner Bar. Last number I heard, but seemed high compared to Sept 4th, was 1,750 +/- 100. Things are very fluid right now. It is hard to plan for an exact number, as some people are waiting till the last minute to cancel, likely in hopes of better protocols. But to cruise with those numbers is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Royal Up was crazy. People would Royal Up from Interior to Balcony, Balcony to Grand Suite, Grand Suite to Royal Loft (Aug 29th). People we interacted with won Royal Up to the Ultimate Family Suite (About 8 passengers with only paying the Bid for the first 2 passengers), Deck 8 Aqua 2-Bd with the largest balcony (1 occupant), Crown Lofts were going like penny candy in a candy store, Owner's Suite were available, and naturally those Royal Ups created a backfill for Grand Suite, Junior Suite, Balcony and Ocean View. Right now, if you are cruising on the Symphony, have an interior stateroom, and give a reasonable Royal Up bid there is a lot of backfill above you sitting empty. We received Royal Up all 3 weeks we bid up from Grand Suite (Aug 29th we did not bid, rather stayed with Star Class Aqua 2-Bd). Below is meant as nothing more than reading the past x numbers on the roulette wheel sign to increase your odds of winning. Therefore, I am not giving the exact $$ number, which likely would not work right now anyway, but my Aug 21st and Sept 4th bids were notably less than $500. (Remember, the bid $$ is per person for up to the first 2 passengers). Aug 21 Grand Suite to Crown Loft. Aug 29th - We did not bid up from Star Class Aqua 2-Bd, but I know the winning Grand Suite to Royal Loft Royal Up bid was notably less than $3,000 per/person. Sep 4th Grand Suite to Owner's Suite Deck 12 240 (Which has a mildly annoying post in the several yards into the middle of the entrance to the room). Sep 11th Grand Suite to Star Class Aqua 2-Bd Deck 10 734 for notably less than $1,700 per/person. Again, the passenger counts were very low, and those numbers may not be more than a guideline right now, especially since they are now more public. You may get it for a lesser bid, or you may bid a little more and still not get it. The objective is to encourage you to sign up for Royal Up if you have not done so, and to BID FOLKS! Closing thoughts: Professional Photographer, Ajuraj (pronounced Achoo, like a sneeze is acceptable) and Aakash are fantastic! Though his studio shots are excellent, Ajuraj is willing to break away from the normal studio style photos. I saw him shoot one couple at CBC getting low for a continuation of the pool into the ocean at the infinity pool. It is worth a sitting. Some examples below. Sunil is a great Royal Genie. At various times we had interaction with the entire Royal Genie staff. Even the newest Genie was great and willing to serve from my interaction with him and one passenger where that is who was his Royal Genie. Hairspray, Mark Preston, and Jeff Tracta were great entertainment. When comedian Landry said he would bring on the headliner for the Family Comedy Show, the lady behind us appropriately said, "Headliner, I thought he was the headliner," because he was that good. The entire staff is so eager to serve. We made many friends over 4 weeks. Priya in Guest Services, Flavia in Next Cruise, if we could have packed waitress May at Hooked Restaurant in our luggage we would have, Victor, Praveen and many of the photo staff for special night and port pictures produced great shots in our photo package, Made and Alina on the Rising Tide Bar, Sachin and Mark in Chops, Radu and Boodhoo in Jamie's, Justin and Decan have the Coastal Kitchen and seating running like a well oiled machine, same with the Johnny Rockets crew who occasionally come out and put on a performance on Boardwalk, Rebeka at Sugar Beach is sweeter than the sugar behind the door, even Maria in housekeeping whose task was to keep the fwd Promenade stairs by the big lollipop cleaned down to the entertainment on Deck 4 was super friendly and excited to see passengers she recognized. If possible, I would list so many great crew members, but let me list those who were not great--ready--NOBODY! On a sad note, the Mad Hatter of so many years retired (24 years) at the end of the Aug 21st cruise. There is a replacement, but it will take some time to get the character down, according to those that went starting Aug 29th. Safety precautions were great. In San Juan, Channel 13 interviewed myself and several passengers about safety concerns. Safety Concerns? I told them I was more concerned during my air transportation than on the ship, and my daughter is a flight attendant. Here are some examples: The day before the cruise, even though I answered several emails, I received a call from Royal to verify I was vax'ed and would be providing proof. Don't have the negative test paperwork, you don't get on. Ever see that at a hotel? At the airport? Vax'ed have a colored wristband, Unvax'ed do not, so anyone can instantly tell if the person next to you has been vax'ed or not. Ever see that at the grocery store? Shopping Mall? (Let's hope that never comes to land. No Scarlet Letters or wristbands, but because of the media, I can understand it on the ship). Even though Vax'ed and UnVax'ed are separated by Decks in the MDR, there is still table spacing distancing. Maybe some land restaurants have that, but do they include the proper docs to verify? At the Casino, when anyone gets up, they wipe the area down fast. The crew is tested once or twice a week, perhaps depending on the amount of interaction with passengers. We had Zero Positives during our cruises. 6 or your group in an elevator. Okay, a comment here about elevator limits, folks. Use common sense. If 6 unvax'ed strangers can get in the larger capacity elevators, is it really unsafe if a group of 6 and 2 vax'ed get in the elevator? Many times, as long as no one objected, 6 or more of us invited vax'ed (we would see their wristbands) in the elevator if they wished. In 4 weeks, I only had one group of six friends, panicky adamant about the sign saying only 6. I mean over the top panicky. If a 7th got on, especially not one of their 6 group, they would all surely die before the end of the cruise. That was okay. I understand how the media has overplayed the safety concerns aboard ships. In that scenario I wasn't concerned about CoVid-19 variants. I was concerned about forgetting all my years successfully writing procedures and protocols to meet general Federal Aviation Build Guidelines. Anyway, on and on the precautions are in play. In 4 weeks B2B you see so much that many shorter time passenger miss. In this case, I was impressed.
    22 points
  6. KLA

    Royal Up offers

    It was JUST accepted. We sail in two days. Junior Suite from OV balcony GTY!!!!
    22 points
  7. Gotta say, Royal is doing it right -- ship was about 30% capacity -- (I heard everything from 1200 to 1400 passengers). The crew was incredibly attentive and happy to be sailing. Chops Grille (my first time there) was delicious. Check in was simple and staterooms were ready when we got on board. We had a bit of a scare. on night 3 (Nassau) We were scheduled to leave the port at 9pm and didn't leave until around midnight due to a passenger that needed medical attention. I heard that the passenger had a fever and needed to find a hospital bed, but I also heard that the passenger was injured and needed medical attention. Gotta admit it was a little worrisome, but AGAIN, Royal handled it as best they could. Now counting down to my next one in 7 weeks!!!
    21 points
  8. Matt

    Airline walkouts?!?!

    Yes, the pilots said so via the union. Sorry if that doesn't jive with your personal opinion, but it's the truth. Not sure who else needs to say the same thing before you believe it. And since this thread has gone down the covid conspiracy path, it's now locked. Keep the political discussions and opinions out of this site. Thank you.
    20 points
  9. What is this "other cruise lines" you speak of?
    20 points
  10. I didn’t want to start my blog early, or really mention the cruise at all to anyone for fear something would go wrong. But HERE WE ARE! ON A SHIP! I can hardly believe it! A Panama Canal transit has been on my bucket list forever. Once cruising started up again this summer I was feeling some severe FOMO with the live blogs trickling in. Looking at what was available I suddenly noticed a Radiance repositioning through the Panama Canal. What? Had I just missed this, or was it a new offering? There were even suites available which shocked me — those sell out fast on rare trips like this. I emailed the incomparable @Sharla on July 30th and snagged a GS. It was a 14-day Canal transit, leaving from Los Angeles, with stops in Ensenada, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, San Juan del Sur, Puntarenas, Cartagena, and ending in Miami. Woohoo!! And then, 4 days later, it canceled. Noooooooo! One big drawback to reading this blog obsessively is that I knew right away my trip was done. If I had been blithely going about my daily life, the first I would have known is when Sharla emailed about the switch to Serenade and I would have been spared some grey hairs. As it was, I’m pretty sure it went something like this: Me: SharlaSharlaSharlaSharla!! My shiny new cruise is canceled. Waaaaaaaaah! Is the world ending? I feel like it’s ending! Sharla: Um, what? Calm down, let’s see what’s going on. Me: <Breathing into a paper bag> OK, I’ll try… The next day came the switch to Serenade confirmation, and the itinerary came shortly after that. Now we had a 13-day trip (slight price break), with stops in Puerto Vallarta, San Juan del Sur, Puntarenas, and Cartagena. So we lost 1 day and two ports. Oh well. This trip is about the Canal. And vacation. And cruising again finally! Then 9 days before sailing, San Juan del Sur was canceled and replaced with a sea day. Bummer, for a number of reasons I’ll talk about later. Now this really feels like a repositioning cruise, with only three ports in 13 days! But I don’t care one bit! I’m sitting in my cabin waiting for sail away, with dinner at Giovanni’s up tonight and a massage tomorrow morning. More to come! What’s that? Oh, right, the blog title. About that… I was trying to come up with something catchy. Maybe something musical, because Serenade. Or iconic, because bucket list trip. Or memorable, so everyone will want to read. I also assumed that the flight to LAX would be a good time for brainstorming. Seems logical, right? Well the tiny human sitting behind me on the first flight had other ideas. He spent taxi and takeoff kicking my seat (yay.) and then his mother got out a tablet for his entertainment. Which would have been fine, except there were no headphones for him to use. And I think the tablet only had one volume level, which was nowhere near whisper. What did he listen to? That’s right, the catchy, iconic, musical, memorable ditty, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”. It earwormed it’s way right into my brain, and so I share it with you. You’re welcome.
    19 points
  11. Are we really going on a cruise??? It won't settle in for us until we actually step onto the ship tomorrow morning! It's been almost 2.5 years since our last cruise (Allure, 5/19/19)! Wow, that almost sounded like a confession, LOL! Like so many of you, we dealt with cancellation after cancellation due to this horrible pandemic... Harmony... Symphony... Oasis (x3)... I guess the 3rd time is the charm for Oasis! Unlike my first/last blog, I wanted to start before we boarded! My wife and I could not pass up the chance to sail on the amped Oasis out of Cape Liberty. We absolutely LOVED Allure and are sold on the Oasis class! This will be our 3rd sailing out of Bayonne - Explorer (2013) and Liberty (2015). This cruise will also be different, and special, as it will be the first time my wife and I have sailed alone since our 3-night teaser cruise on the Disney Wonder during our honeymoon 17 years ago! We're also planning on relaxing a bit more as the itinerary is not as port-intensive and we are planning on staying onboard in Port Canaveral. Covid testing: We had originally booked a PCR test with CVS for yesterday morning (24-48 hour turnaround), but we decided the stress of waiting for the results today would be too much to handle! Instead, we went to a local urgent care facility (City MD) and had the rapid antigen test. Results were e-mailed to us within 2 hours and thankfully we were both negative! OK... enough yapping... here is the brief synopsis... Cruise Details: Oasis of the Seas, 7-night, Perfect Day & Bahamas (Port Canaveral, CocoCay & Nassau) Out of Cape Liberty (Bayonne, NJ) 10/3/21-10/10/21 Cabin Details & Cruise Planner Stuff: Ocean View with Large Balcony (Deck 8, Mid-Ship, Starboard side... across from Giovanni's Table) Selected Traditional Dining (5:30PM) Purchased the Deluxe Beverage w/ VOOM Package Purchased the 3 Night Dining Package Purchased the Full Day Pass to Coco Beach Club (CocoCay) Purchased the Blue Lagoon Island Dolphin Encounter and Beach Day (Nassau) Miscellaneous Stuff: We're located in Suffolk County, NY (middle of Long Island), so we're just 70 miles or so from the port. We're driving to the port, and for the convenience as in the past, will be parking in the port garage for the week. The cost is currently $25/day (incl tax), but effective 10/15/21, they are raising it to $30/day. Still trying to decide when to leave... should take about 1.5 - 2 hours to get there... probably leaving earlier and will wait in the garage if need be just in case there is traffic or an accident on the way! Our first time on Oasis and our first time to CocoCay post renovations! We chose the cabin location in part based on a comment @WAAAYTOOO made some time ago on the forum (Thank You!). Since we are on the same deck as Central Park and mid-ship, there are no cabins on the other side of our corridor, just the back of the restaurants (Giovanni's for us). Should be very quiet! We love Central Park and the convenience of being close to the Trellis Bar and all of the specialty dining options! We originally purchased the Key, but Royal cancelled it for our sailing. We're OK with the cancellation... sailing at reduced capacity will lessen the overall value of the Key IMO. *** Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to post pictures of something you are interested in... I'll do my best to keep up! OK, time to finish packing! We also have to drop our Goldens (Bella & Jake) off later at my sister's house for the week! Don't tell them we're going away without them!
    17 points
  12. I dreamed last night that Royal Caribbean started selling FCCs- like a gift card, but it was restrictive like a normal FCC (can't be used for taxes, gratuities, etc, and must be by Dec 2022). All of my clients thought this was the world's best idea and I kept trying to talk everyone out of it! And then, of course, none of the FCCs worked. I can't escape it all even in my sleep
    17 points
  13. I think you meant to say "drink some wine"
    17 points
  14. Almond butter for those with allergies. Disclosure: I profit from almond butter sales.
    17 points
  15. Later I saw the clouds break and found the Milky Way in the sky. Hours after sunset it's amazing how much the sun is revealed in a long exposure picture.
    17 points
  16. Final thoughts: This trip has been absolutely amazing. It was off to a rough start, but wow, it ended as one of our favorite cruises. We worried about how cruising would be with all of the new Covid restrictions and if we would walk around with a scarlet letter on our heads bringing kids too young to be vaccinated on a cruise. We were totally wrong. Everybody on the ship was very nice and some even smiled, laughed, and played with the kids, especially the youngest two. We didn't get a single rude comment or look from other passengers about cruising with kids. The staff seemed so happy to be back at sea and were very accommodating. There were obviously things we missed like the Quest, Love and Marriage, World's Sexiest Man Competition, and the Belly Flop Competition. We also wish we could have done laser tag and the escape room, but there is so much to do even without those that it was still an amazing trip. One thing I missed was the interaction that we usually get with our room attendant. I don't think this was his fault though, as there are so many new rules they must abide by such as not going into the room when the guests are there. It made the experience less personal with him even though he seemed like a nice guy. The vaccinated only and everybody shows were also an annoyance at times when the everybody show ended up playing too late for kids. Hairspray was phenomenal, but Steven commented that the minimal seating detracted from the ambience (there was less people to laugh and clap at key moments in the performance). We also did not like having the Windjammer closed for dinner, but we were always so full anyway. We only made one stop at the Windjammer this cruise, and we actually perferred how it is now with them serving you food. It's nice not to have to worry about people touching all the food with their hands plus the food seemed fresher perhaps due to smaller portions being brought out at a time. Sunil picked out all of our servers at the specialty restaurants and he did a fantastic job because all of the servers we had were wonderful (with the exception of the guy at Playmakers, but Sunil did not choose him). We continually saw the Covid restrictions being modified. Room service went from not being allowed in your room to allowed in if you go into a different room and then finally to closer to what it used to be like all within a one week period. We watched a limit of five in a pool be modified to no limit. The genies went from not being able to pick up your kids from Adventure Ocean to being able to. Initially, we were told they were not doing the 2 for $20 t-shirts sale on this cruise because it puts people in too close of proximity to each other, but on day 6, the t-shirt sale happened. Cruising is slowly returning to normal, and we watched this transition happen every day. I would be remiss to end this without taking about Sunil. If you are lucky enough to get him as your genie, you are in for a treat. He truly made this trip unique. He went above and beyond and became like family to us. The kids are already talking about requesting him as our genie when we go on Symphony in April, which we are definitely going to do. For anyone wondering, he goes home on November 27th, and then he is going back to Symphony in January. Lastly, thank you to everyone who followed along. I hope this helped show what the current state of cruising is. Happy cruising and best of luck to everyone!
    16 points
  17. On the Oct. 8, 2021 sailing we have 3,300 guests on board so the WJ is open for dinner!
    15 points
  18. Day 10 - Panama Canal Wow. I love it when something you’ve built up in your head delivers in real life! The weather was a bit variable — thunderstorms, sun, on repeat, but it didn’t matter at all. Panama City in the distance: We approached the Miraflores locks at about 7am, after passing under the Bridge of the Americas. One of 6 mules that guided us through each section: Pretty sure this guy was some sort of supervisor : The entrance to the new locks on the Miraflores side. Hard to show, but that giant ship is already about 35 feet above sea level. Once past Miraflores, we had a stretch of more natural feeling waterway on our way to the last lock before Lake Gatun: One of the many tugs that shepherded the various ships: A closer look at workings of one of the locks: We had a couple of rain showers while we were in Lake Gatun so the photos weren’t stellar. Finally we came to the Gatun locks and the Atlantic Bridge: We reached the Caribbean about 4pm, so the whole transit took approximately 9 hours. The captain said that was about as fast as it is ever done. What an amazing day!
    15 points
  19. Day 7 - At Sea We should have been in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua today. I’m disappointed this stop was canceled! Nicaragua is a newer addition to the cruise ship routes, so not many have had the opportunity to stop here. The country is also very poor (eclipsed only by Haiti in the region) and could very much use the tourism dollars. Fortunately for you all, we live in Nicaragua right now so you’re going to get my Virtual Shore Excursion photos! San Juan del Sur (SJDS) is a small town very popular with the surf crowd. Serenade (or pretty much any cruise ship) would have tendered in, but the wide bay is very smooth and the process would have been painless. Walking distance from drop off are a number of great restaurants situated right on the beach, including this fun one: Towering over SJDS on a hill north of town is Nicaragua’s answer to the Cristo Redentor: Lots of small resorts up the lovely coast from SJDS, where you can rent a hammock or a shade for the day, and take a ride on the beach. A number of the shore excursions (or private tours) from SJDS will take you to Granada, a picturesque colonial town about 45 minutes inland. Spanish churches and colorful houses, with lots of artisans and restaurants. Adjacent to Granada is Mombacho Volcano. There is zip lining, hiking, and a working coffee plantation on the slopes of the mountain. A bit further inland is the town of Masaya, which has lovely lake and a volcano of its own. (Those are not clouds. Masaya is a very active volcano and you can sometimes see the lava in the caldera at night!) Nicaragua is a beautiful country and the people are welcoming and warm. If you get a chance to visit, take it!
    15 points
  20. Matt

    I dreamed last night...

    I've had dreams like that too... ...but then I remembered I had an MEI travel agent to handle those kind of problems! Hope you sleep better tonight @Sharla!
    14 points
  21. I picture a TV commercial featuring Bubba Gump... There's, uh, almond butter, almond milk, Almond Joy, almond extract, Jordan almonds, almond flour, almond oil, almond paste, marzipan, almond cream..."
    14 points
  22. Last sale before my Symphony! Momma needs a cabana baby!
    13 points
  23. Big Red

    Royal Up offers

    Boom! It I done! Officially got our upgrade! Today at 3pm EST. Right after my post above. Sorry I didn't want to go into details about my bid, room, and ship until we got the upgrade(as only one room was available online during bidding) Went from Ocean View Balcony to Grand Suite on a 7-Day cruise on Allure leaving this Sunday! We have a total of around $3,500 invested for a GS balcony for two people(price includes the original purchase price, and the bid offered($1,250 per person/ $2,500 total bid)! Way cheaper than what we would have done if we would have just booked the suite room to begin with! Plus we can now eat at costal kitchen, and I can get rid of our internet package(sad no extra Cruise points for suite room but oh well)!! Super stoked as me and the wife have been waiting all pandemic like most everyone to get back out and start cruising again! Cant wait till our next cruise now for January! Hope my additions helps folks that read this post/blog!! Royal Up works! Also in closing, I think it is an extremely good sign when bidding, that if you have one of the bids pending, you will typically get the upgrade!
    13 points
  24. I never imagined I would get involved in the Filet Wars, and yet here I am… I have had filet in the MDR, Chops, Giovanni’s, and Asia’s equivalent of CK, the Golden Dining room, on a variety of ships. The best filet is at Chef’s Table on Serenade. Fight me. This was our first time trying Chef’s Table. Current protocols limit the attendance to 8; we had 6. We were inadvertently smart, booking it on a night before a sea day — I think I would not have enjoyed a morning shore excursion very much The aperitif, some sort of bubbly Elderflower mint concoction: Scallop Carpaccio: Smoked Tomato Soup, pre and post combination. It also required stirring to blend all the ingredients, so I’m going to say that I assisted in the preparation of this excellent soup! And then, unfortunately, came the third glass of wine. Only unfortunate for you, Gentle Readers — I failed to take pictures of the next two courses Both the Maine Lobster Salad and the Roasted Branzino were delicious and I apologize for my shortcomings as a blogger! Then, the filet. Could not have been better! I ate the whole thing even though I was stuffed already! There was some sauce added after the photo was taken. The dessert was The World. Very, very rich! It came with an espresso martini. I was very pleased with the whole experience. We had fun companions, a good waiter, and a charismatic chef. One couple had eaten at Chef’s Table a dozen or so times and said that it was always just a bit different as each chef put their own mark on it. Kenneth redeemed himself tonight:
    13 points
  25. So we are back from our short jaunt to Nassau and Perfect Day. A fun four day break we have been looking forward to for some time. There have been several questions about the Covid protocols so I thought I would answer them all in one posting. First, as we were going to the Bahamas, the Bahamian Government has mandated all visitors MUST prove their full vaccinations. Not a problem for us, Sheryl and I had our second shots at the end or April. Next requirement was for us to test negative for Covid. Also not so much of a challenge. 2 days prior to boarding, we each used a proctored online antigen test. (we used the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test) The results were negative as expected. In fairness, all crew are vaccinated and it is my understanding they are all subject to antigen testing regularly. At the terminal, we arrived at our appointed boarding time and our documents were checked, passports, Boarding Documents, Covid Vaccine Cards, and proof of negative antigen test all checked at the door of the terminal. Once through the initial check, we were directed up the escalators to the next point where we were again validated, and this time subject to health screen, including temperature checks. Following that, we were adorned with wristbands (do not remove) which proved to all around us we were vaccinated and negative. All good, now to security. There was a little concern when they scanned my back pack and saw the magnets there, but it was easily resolved with a quick look. Thank you to the security staff for their vigiliance by the way. Their job is to stop anything nasty getting on the ship. As we boarded Freedom of the Seas, we were once more security screened and all was good. Thereafter we were directed to our emergency muster station for our safety briefing. Then wayhay, we could enjoy. All out door spaces were mask free, and inside the ship, general areas like passageways, the promenade and such were mask mandatory. There were however, mask free zones for the fully vaccinated. Honestly, it was no hardship, I think we have all become accustomed to wearing masks as it is. However, the opportunity to be mask free out doors and in specific areas was more than welcome. There were some changes since our last cruise. For example, at the buffet, it was not self service, staff behind the counters piled the plates on request. Additionally, in the WindJammer Buffet, tables were well segregated, every other table was marked as unavailable, the remainder were open, and in my field of view when they were cleared, they were totally sanitized including seating and table edges. There were far more hand sanitizing stations than ever before, and prior to entering any part of the ship, such as shops, bars, theatre or restaurants, we were asked to use them. I have always been pleased with how Royal Caribbean ships are so sparkling clean, the crew really do take pride in their ships. But on this trip, Freedom OTS was gleaming like never before. More than that, any surface that had public contact was sanitized heavens knows how many times per day. Even when we used the hot tub, when we got out, a crewmember was spraying down and sanitizing the hand rails we touched. We have cruised onboard Freedom before, (2017) and love the ship herself, but we have to give kudos to RCCL in general, and the ships company in particular, for ensuring she wasnt only looking her best, but was amazingly clean and sanitized.
    13 points
  26. FYI… I’m J, her 15 year old. I will also be posting updates.
    13 points
  27. Earnest Hemingway wrote “Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?” When this old man is at sea, and in Star Class, the answer is hell YES! Let’s enjoy every minute. This year’s spewing of my thoughts will cover our 4th Star Class adventure and this year we will return to the scene of the crime where it all began – the Royal Loft Suite aboard the Allure. Feels like we’re going back home! We began this nonsense of spending the annual budget of a small city for Star Class back in 2018. And as someone on this site likes to say, it’s been wash, rinse, repeat ever since! 2019 brought the RL on Harmony followed by the same room on Oasis in 2020. I know the Symphony should have been next in line but that would have required a 2nd city’s budget. So we’ll rough it again on the Allure. This replaces a cruise scheduled for last August on Oasis to celebrate the 21st birthday of the youngest of our litter. Which was replaced with a late celebration last November on the Harmony, which obviously didn’t happen either. . Poor kid is already 22 but we will still be celebrating! There will be 11 of us taking the journey this year. Most of the group have been on one or more of the last three: my bride and an awesome nurse Stacy, our 21st birthday party deprived preschool teacher Taylor, the red headed hurricane DNP Dr. Kaitlyn, my bride’s twin sister and food connoisseur Shari, brother-in-law school district management suit Mike, their oldest son and quietest guy on the ship Caleb, and family friend and all around fun guy Cody. Now even when you add me, the Old Guy, into the mix that’s still only 8 people and I said 11, right? Right. We will be joined by 3 new members of our cruising crazies. Our oldest daughter, her husband and our 16 month old granddaughter. They have asked to remain nameless and faceless in this blog and I will of course respect their wishes. One of them might be in the Witness Protection Program or something, who knows. But they’re part of the crew and I know they will do things that deserve, or demand, mention in this saga so I have to come up with something to call them. I know I can refer to people as like DD, for darling daughter, but that’s, well, so Disney. I’ll come up with something. I worked in the Nixon White House and the name Deep Throat comes to mind. That person did a lot. Said a lot. But never showed his face or gave his name. Might work. They could be DT1, DT2, and little DT or LDT. We will occupy the Royal Loft, the adjoining Crown Loft and an ocean facing Crown Loft on the starboard side. This group isn’t nearly organized enough to have any real plans for the week. Except food and drink. I’ve already explained to our wonderful Genie that she just needs to throw food and booze at this group and her mission is complete. Set the food and booze on a table. Slide it under the door. Hell, hang it down over the balcony by a rope and they’ll snag it in mid-air. They are a food crew. From the early morning Starbucks to the 2am pizza feeding frenzy. Food. Booze. It’s an awesome thing to watch! I joke, but not too much. We will, as a family, discuss dinner and entertainment plans when we gather this Sunday to welcome Dr. Katie’s new boyfriend for dinner. But that’s another blog – a well trained musician and great singer who can’t play a Willie Nelson Song. Blasphemy. Anyway, I think the group agrees that we will have dinner at Coastal Kitchen, Chops, Izumi, 150, Giovanni’s, and Chef’s Table. I may not do Chef’s Table. I’ve been polite and done it twice with the food zombies but it’s just not my thing. First, my entire expertise with wine was swigging some Mad Dog 20/20 back in the early 70’s. That doesn’t pair well with anything. And while listening to the Chef explain, in excruciating detail, the ingredients, preparation and presentation of something that looks like it’s already been eaten once, I’m thinking about tossing some chicken, onion soup mix and a little heavy cream in the crock pot. Guess I’m just too low class for that event. I think we’ve decided to have embarkation day lunch at Sabors simply because of the location. While most dine, one or two of us can grab some guacamole and go out and entertain and chase LDT. The other meals for breakfast and lunch will be decided later. A couple of these travelers probably won’t be sober enough for breakfast. Maybe even lunch! I see some breakfasts out on the amazing balcony. We’ve enjoyed that in the previous cruises. The entire group loves the entertainment and will I’m sure see all of the shows. Most of us are especially looking forward to Mama Mia again. Very few plans for the ports yet. We’ll probably discuss that Sunday as well. The birthday girl wants to see the Yoda Guy in St Maarten so that will probably happen. We did spend part of LDT’s college fund for an over the water cabana at the Coco Beach Club. I’m already picturing the lobster sandwich being sent down the slide into the waiting mouth of someone treading water. We received our Star Class survey thing 53 days out. I only really remember a couple of questions. One was something about if Elon Musk invited our party on a spaceflight and we could each bring one personal item, what would the item be? My answer was that, as a guy who who had the great fortune to work for a few years supporting the U.S. space program, I wouldn’t fly on anything built by the low bidder. But I’m sure for the others it would be food. The other was the old question about which 3 people living or dead that I would invite to dinner. My answer was “Prince, Madonna and Aracelli. Yeah, THAT Aracelli. Because I wanna know why they only need one name and I need two. But let’s get real, that ain’t happening. So how about just coffee with Marc Walker so I can ask him how that Carvana thing works?” (Some will probably google Marc Walker now!). We received the email from our Genie, Romina, at the 29 day mark. I can tell after trading emails that she is efficient, professional and has a great sense of humor. I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know her. I’ve warned her about the family. Poor thing. Like many of you this cruise is a special return to a ship and a vacation. Our last was in January of 2020. During the shutdown most of us continued to work. Our Doc Kaitlyn spent most of it as an RN in the COVID ICU. My bride, Nurse Ratchet, worked the entire time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The preschool teacher taught preschool. The school administrator figured out how to do it remotely. Everyone adapted and trudged on. DT1 adapted to the zoom method of her work and managed having a baby during a pandemic. I promise this is probably the only time that I will be serious in this entire blog. But the crazy folks I’m cruising with, like many of you, are looking forward to this cruise more than they ever have. It’s been a long road. So I invite you to follow along with us as we prepare for an amazing vacation. As you have surmised by now, I’m not a serious, detail oriented kind of writer. Actually I’m not a writer at all! But my hope is to, while maybe being entertaining and informing, document our trip as a memory for the family. When I wrote last year’s blog I didn’t realize that I was creating something we would read again to remind us of special memories. But it turned out to be our online scrapbook that we visit now and then. Thanks Matt for providing the platform for us to share.
    13 points
  28. @Matt, thank you. Because we were in a row on the restart cruises weeks 2, 3, 4, & 5 our ability to get to know the crew was awesome. Our Genie said more than 80% of the crew recognized us and most of the rest knew about us. We would be walking places and hear a new voice call out, "Mr Jack, Mrs Sue," or "Austin Powers" or "Jack and Rose." They knew my wife's name is Sue, but they fondly called her Rose. When we heard our names and turn around, there was always a new face smiling, and/or waving, dancing, or a combination. By the middle of week 3 I understood the term "Sea Legs." The crew laughed when I asked them if it was normal to discover you had muscles in new places, and they ache. Several told me they brought their ointments and such when they were called back. However, your ship, after ship, after ship with reviews, blog reports, and videos in a short time after the restart is more impressive. I was watching and reading them, and waiting for new ones multiple times a day before the cruise. A couple of times during the cruise I dropped in on for a short watch of your live reports while you were cruising. First thing I did when I got home was to go over your reviews. Thank you so much for this site, your work, and 'Everyone' on this Blog that helped me be well-prepared for the B4B cruise. Yes, @WAAAYTOOO, @twangster, @AshleyDillo, @cruisellama, @LovetoCruise87, and so many others it would make this a long post. All of you prepared the wife and I very well for the B4B.
    13 points
  29. Yay!!! All is well in the universe!!! ATTN: @Mark_A & @Chadster
    13 points
  30. Has anyone toggled from one cruise to another on the app with spotty/slow network connection? The developers put some fun messages that scroll through while the connection tries to make the switch. The last one even acknowledges how long it is taking before it starts the messages over. (Found this out in my dead zone office building when wi-fi was disconnected)
    12 points
  31. GKMCruising

    Rough Seas

    If you ever need a benchmark for how rough the seas are - rank it on a scale of 1 to 5. One - smooth sailing Two - a little choppy Three - "Oh look, they put out the seasick bags!" Four - The pools look like the below pictures... Five - "Are we sure he steered around that hurricane?"
    12 points
  32. Richard Fain said since restart half a million guests and only had one hundred and forty one cases. That's the protocols working extremely well, especially when you consider how much it has spread on land.
    12 points
  33. Day 2 - At Sea I do enjoy the sea days. We’ll see if I still feel that way after essentially 10 days at sea on this trip I am planning to document a lot of the ship, as a bit of a marketing for these “smaller” ships. I really enjoy them and think they get overlooked by a lot of people. The Centrum from Deck 6: The Centrum from Deck 10: Entrance to the Schooner Bar. I like the old school nautical theme: Adjacent to the Schooner Bar is both Chops and Giovanni’s, and they have similar decor: Safari Club (past the Schooner Bar. Also has Next Cruise and the Loyalty Desk): Great views and comfortable seats: Self-leveling pool tables!
    12 points
  34. Cabin for this cruise was 10328 on the aft. My SeaPass card was waiting for me by the door. The standard balcony cabin on Quantum class is one of my favorite across the fleet. A lot of storage. The bathroom on Quantum class is one of the best in the fleet for a non-suite regular cabin. It's one of the things I've always liked about this class. Diamond Plus and above upgraded bathroom amenities. New soap on board. Mini beverage cooler built in. The cabin itself is an extended version of a regular balcony cabin. There is at least six feet of space between the sofa and the balcony door. This aft balcony is extended and quite deep. Odyssey is one the first Quantum class ships to feature regular balcony cabins on the aft and I was thrilled to score one for my first cruise on her. Looking down. The view to the port side. The view to starboard. Crown and Anchor amenities waiting for me.
    12 points
  35. I got the email too. Trip booked. Looking forward to meeting her in person.
    12 points
  36. Thank you! I'll be honest, there was many a night I stayed awake while Steven fell asleep, but I did enjoy blogging the trip and hope it helped answer some of the questions that others have. Steven did catch a picture of me blogging on the balcony one day.
    12 points
  37. Day 6 continued: When we got back to the room, Sunil had a surprise waiting. Right now, they are not allowed to do the cupcake decorating class, and he told me he had tried his best but they aren't allowing it, so he did the next best thing and brought us the stuff to do cupcake decorating. The kids were so excited, and they had a lot of fun decorating and eating cupcakes. This was not something we asked for. It was just yet another thing Sunil did to make the trip special. He also got Steven and me a ship model, but he went one step further and had it signed by the Captain. The kids have already told us they want to request Sunil when we go back on Symphony in April and we are in complete agreement with them. Cupcake decorating:
    12 points
  38. AshleyDillo

    Keepsakes

    Credit card bills ???
    12 points
  39. Hey all! We are first timers in a lot of areas- first time live blogging, first time cruising all together as a family, first cruise post-shutdown, first cruise suite experience... But most importantly- first time in STAR CLASS! In six days, our little family of three will experience more luxury than we ever have on a cruise, and we're so excited! Who is traveling? Steph (me!): Mom and wife. I've been on 6 cruises prior to this one. Tom: Dad and hubby. This will be his second cruise (previous cruise was Canada/New England on Adventure in July 2019) TJ: Almost 10 y/o. This will be his second cruise (previous cruise was Mexico/Belize on Rhapsody in April 2018) About this sailing: We depart Sunday, October 10, 2021 on the beautiful Oasis of the Seas out of Bayonne, NJ! We're staying in Star Loft Suite 1720 with Royal Genie Shane! We'll be driving up from home the day before and spending the night in Elizabeth, NJ We'll park at the cruise port And we'll be celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary and Tom's 50th birthday! Stay tuned for our updates! And I will be happy to answer any questions about our onboard experience :-)
    11 points
  40. Embarkation Day was awesome! Spoiler alert: I already don’t know how we are going to sail any other way We arrived to the port at 10:45am and there was already a long line of guests waiting for the port to open at 11. We pulled up to the star class flag (Zone 6) and another Genie waved us to drop off our bags to the Star Class porter. The other Genie immediately said, “don’t worry, Shane is right behind me.” And sure enough, we met Shane right outside the port doors! Right at 11am, we were escorted into the port with the other Star Class families. There was one other Star family with children that needed to be tested at the port, so we went in one line and the other families headed to the other. Port testing was easy! They checked our negative tests, vaxxed cards, and IDs, then sent TJ off to get a little swirl in each nostril (no worries, it wasn’t the brain tickler ). After that, we did the normal check in process- made sure our photos were good (I forgot to upload one for hubby, ooops!). We showed our vaxxed cards again, as well as ID, and once hubby took a pic, they escorted us to a section to wait for our results, via e-mail. The results arrived in about 50 minutes and we were ready to go! We have been communicating with Royal Genie Shane via WhatsApp for about two weeks prior to embarkation day, so we were able to text him that our results were in, and he met us to escort us on the ship! (They asked for our vax cards a third time, as well as our negative tests from 2/3 days ago, and TJ’s negative test from the port). And just like that, after 800+ days since our last cruise, we were back on a ship!!! Ok, I’m heading to 150 Central Park for formal nigh dinner tonight! When I get back, let me tell you about this MAGNIFICENT Star Loft Suite!
    11 points
  41. I wish that we could search sailings by room category. I also wish that the default price was the refundable price, or at least they'd state the refundable deposit option was available without having to go as far in the booking process.
    11 points
  42. We have had phenomenal seas so far. Seriously like glass: And some lovely sunrises: One of my very favorite things is the days being noted on the elevators. I hope this tradition never goes away! A great thing about Radiance-class ships is all the glass. Here is Vintages: And here is the view from Vintages seating: (Window could be cleaner. Sorry.) Day 3 ended with Main Dining room delivery to our balcony again. Chicken Parmesan and Braised Beef Ribs: No towel art tonight. Kenneth is in big trouble!
    11 points
  43. OK, the wife is snoring… let’s see what I can cover before I’m done for the evening too! Day 1: Departure from Bayonne! The trip to Bayonne was stress-free and took about 90 minutes to get to the port. My wife got so excited as we crossed the Verrazano as we caught our first glimpse of Oasis in the distance! Once at the port, the process was so well organized. Everyone knew what they were doing. For those not familiar, the first thing you do as you enter the port is pull over and drop off your checked baggage. There are employees everywhere directing you where to go next. After we dropped of the baggage, we immediately were directed to the parking garage next door. We were told to please wait until our assigned boarding time before heading to the terminal next door (of course no one is permitted to enter the terminal earlier). We arrived at about 10:30AM and our boarding window was 11:30AM-12:00PM. We just waited in the garage with many other passengers that were waiting their turn to board. I took a few pics why we waited to head down to the terminal. Just before 11:30AM, we headed down to the terminal. People were waiting outside and employees were announcing which time period was currently boarding. It only took about 10-15 minutes to get through the terminal and onto the ship. We briefly walked through the Royal Promenade and headed immediately to Central Park. We purchased the 3-night specialty dining package for this cruise, so we went to Giovanni’s to change our dining time for this evening and to make the other two dining reservations. For lunch, we just went to the Windjammer. No line since we boarded early. They just took our cabin number and head count for capacity tracking purposes. Cabins were ready as we were finishing lunch and we went to unpack and settle in. After that, we just walked around a bit… … and back to Central Park (once again our cabin is on Deck 8 near Central Park - too convenient!)… … and to one of our favorite bars… the Trellis Bar, for our first Lava Flow! I’m going to break this up into 2 posts… getting too long! LOL!
    11 points
  44. Swag! Cabin tour, grand suite 1048 - Cabin is really great size, decor is typical: The nice sized balcony: The bathroom and amenities: The first day handouts: The safety swag: The first day discount offer: We’re getting a crystal block on this sailing. Here’s the new process for that: I’ll get photos of MomMe’s cabin tomorrow.
    11 points
  45. GKMCruising

    Crew Shoutouts

    Shocked there's not a thread for this already, if there is and I missed it I apologize. Figured we could use a thread to give shoutouts to specific crew members that you've have go above and beyond for you. For me, our most recent cruise on Ovation was extra special thanks to a couple specific restaurant / dining crew members. Our waiter, Mega, realized quickly how much our 2-year-old daughter loved grapes, so she had a serving of cut grapes waiting at the table for us every night at dinner. Our daughter looked forward to going and seeing her every night, to the point that we even dropped by after one night when we ate in Coastal Kitchen just to chat with her for a bit. The last day of the cruise, our daughter was having a rough morning, but we were able to stop by the host stand where Mega was working for breakfast to let her say goodbye and help cheer her up. The other was James down in Sorrento's, our daughter's "pizza buddy". We'd stop by for a slice or two late night after the shows or for a mid-day snack and he made a point to chat with us and her every time. The last night of the trip, he made her special heart-shaped mini pizzas and a paper rose. *This* is the kind of service that keeps people loyal to Royal.
    11 points
  46. Given the line for not having to wear a mask is 2, how did you know how old the child was? Frankly I am getting a rather snooty vibe from your post. Perhaps I am reading it wrong.
    11 points
  47. Can I just say I love how this messageboard has become the unofficial Star Class live blog/review board?
    11 points
  48. Day 7 Today , CocoCay , I do love this place but prefer to have a sea day as the last day of the cruise , ohh well "You can't always have what you want , but if you will try sometime you'll see you get what you need". We started with late breakfast at the balcony at 9 am and got ready for the island. I grabbed few month ago tickets to the beach club for 65$ pp which comparing to the price I see now it's a pretty good and. We wanted to get there early , Sunil with the other genies organized all the star class to meet and escorted to the Island so it went really fast. We were one of the firsts to arrive the club so we could have chosen were we wanted to seat. We took one of the large beds near the pool and the bar. I went to sweem in the infinity pool and it was very refreshing , I will spare from you pictures of me in the pool. Later we started to enjoy the club drinks When you enter the club they ask you to go to the host and reserve time for lunch , we asked for 12:30. When the time arrived we went to the resturants were the host escorting you to the washi washi station and stay until you wash your hands properly. It brought me back to the pre school time , but I was happy to see they followinge the procedures. For lunch you get the appetizer box which includes several salads and ceviche. For main course my spouse went with the filet mignon and I also wanted to try it per @Matt recommendion but had also request from @Tiffevento test the lobster and compare it the ship so I took one for the team and order a surf and turf. I thought they will bring me a smaller portions but it was full one. The lobster was very good. THe food was good and since they get the meat from the ship I guess it may be better since they have a good grill chef. That's also was the only place until now they ask us to cut the stake and check if it is cooked the way we wanted. For dessert we took the rum cake as it was different from the regular dessert we got until now. We stayed another hour in the club and since it started to get hot we went back to air conditioning at the ship.
    11 points
  49. STOP!!! I’m trying to diet for my cruise & you make me want to lick my phone!!!!
    11 points
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