Jump to content

Leaderboard

Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 05/30/2022 in all areas

  1. Level 1: It's T-minus 45. Got checked in and got my preferred time slot! I'll unnecessarily fret about how long it's taking to validate my vax card, but oh well Level 2: T-minus 30. Holy cow my luggage tags are ready. My luggage has dust on it in the garage and I'm not touching them for another 4 weeks but gosh darnit I'm printing these luggage tag right now! Level 2 isn't much more exciting than Level 1 but those luggage tags are some physical artifact that the cruise is near. Level 3: T-minus 2. My armpits are soaked from that 15 minutes of anticipatory hell constantly squinting and wondering "is that a second line or just an eyelash?", but the covid tests are negative. Level 3 is a Richter scale tier difference from Level 2. Level 4: Liftoff. On board the ship. My flights made it, I got a great absolutely terrible night's sleep at the hotel like a kid on Christmas Eve, and I got through check-in with no issues. Let the fun begin. Obviously Level 4 might as well be light years from Level 3.
    30 points
  2. Hi all! After having our flight home cancelled twice and spending two additional days in Seattle, we are back home. Here is my report on the Alaskan cruise and the Ovation! Embarkation Our check in time was 11am and we showed up at 9:20 am to find at least 30 people in front of us. After listening in on conversations, it was apparent that most of the people in front and back of us were not entirely prepared to check in. Oh well, their loss. Thanks to this Forum, we were prepared and when the gates opened, we were on the ship by 11:10 am. Easy peezy. MY SUGGESTION for easier boarding....just print everything and have them in order. Set Sail, vaccine records, covid test, just have physical documents ready. Internet was intermittent and people trying to check in with screen shots were having trouble. FOOD! I start with food because that is our thing and the first thing we did other than making reservations was eating at the Windjammer! Food was overall a 9 out of 10. Windjammer - only ate there for one lunch and 5 breakfasts. Breakfast could use some variation but food was hot, looked good, and filled our tummies with overall joy. Izumi's - ate lunch and dinner there. Rolls were overwhelming. Sashimi plate was excellent for cruise sushi! Fried chicken appetizer was yummy. I though 2 times was enough for Izumi though. Wonderland - food was overall imaginative, fun, and tasty. Some stand out dishes included desserts and the liquid lobster. Would not go more than once per cruise, but would definitely go every cruise. Chops - Solid steakhouse. Good wine selection. Bone-in ribeye is outstanding. Lobster bisque and mushroom soup were outstanding! Ate there twice. Jaime's Italian - OUR FAVORITE. I am a classically trained chef turned lawyer. Fresh made pasta was exactly what sold us here! The sauces were tasty and in the correct proportion to pasta unlike Americanized Italian places. Funny, Jaime's is British-Italian, but the food here tasted closer to what we have eaten in Italy than most places. Stand out dishes included Pavlova dessert, ALL pastas, Meat plank, and burrata cheese! MDR - This is the only place where I experienced service issues but I will address those later. Food was overall okay. Above average. Nothing stood out, nothing was bad. Oh...order the Baked Alaska! Last time I had Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee was in 1984 LOL. Room Service - prompt, hot, edible. Hot Dog Stand - good enough to satisfy cravings. Sorrentos - Not bad at all. Fish and Ships - fried to order and worth at least one trip. By the way, I am not sure this works for all ships, but UDP worked here for fried lobster tails and premium items. Cafe Two70 - Nice change of breakfast pace and quiet place to enjoy breakfast, enjoy incredible views, and play some card games or board games with the kids after breakfast. La Patisserie - Not quite Starbucks, but got me going in the right direction every morning and every evening. Solarium Bistro - It was okay. I was happy. DRINKS! Since I watched many bartenders open new bottles of liquor and paid attention to them making my drinks, I can say that the drinks were not watered down, but not exactly super strong, except for limoncello!!! Wine selections were nice considering this was a cruise ship. Cocktails were tasty. We loved the Bahama Mama and anything with KRAKEN! Service Guest services lines were a little long at times. I am always up at 4am and go to sleep at 11:00 pm so this was not an issue for me. The ONLY issue we had was that the pre-purchased Arcade credits were not properly applied to our kids' sea passes and there is no way to figure out arcade balances other than stopping by Guest Services or manual computations. Service at all specialty restaurants and bars was excellent. MDR service wasn't bad. It was slower than I would expect, but I am not one to eat in 45 minutes and run off. A 90 minute full service meal is more than acceptable. Ship Condition Did I mention that the Princess Ruby ship in front of us was rust stained and looked dilapidated? Ovation was immaculate! Enough said. Activities and Entertainment Enjoyed all of the shows and trivia. We did Flowrider, Ripcord, Bumper cars, Northstar....pretty much did everything. I highly recommend Northstar at a port and not at sea. We did it twice, once at port in Seattle and once at sea. Nothing much to see at sea. Ripcord by iFly was simply AMAZING. Do it. All ages. Do it. Internet We had one surf and stream and one basic. Get basic. Either way, internet is slightly better than DSL from 2005. Complaints A. Stupid people. B. Dumb people. C. Some public toilets did not flush automatically and were inconvenient when I forced my kids to poop outside the room in the public restrooms. D. Nothing to do from 4am to 6am. E. Too much to do from 8am to 11pm. F. Either Pixels has two different versions, or I fell asleep at the first one. My friends showed me pictures of the second showing and it looked quite different than ours. G. Make Solarium pools aged 25 plus please! Too many teenagers and college kids. It was gross. Spent more time in the indoor pool with little kids and enjoyed it more. HIGHLIGHTS, KEY TAKEWAYS and TIPS 1. Got to meet Chris Wong. Nice guy. 2. Stop gambling while you are ahead. I made out with winnings of about $370 from penny slots. Not bad. 3. Take advantage of the trivia games in between activities and meals. It is a waste of time to go back to your room for 30 minutes and come back out. 4. If you get the Food packages, RESERVE AS SOON AS YOU BOARD! We saw too many people complain about wait lists because no reservations. 5. If you are unsure of the Deluxe Beverage Package....I drink one glass of wine or beer a month. Period. On the cruise, I had at least 4 cocktails, one beer, one glass of wine, and 3 specialty Americano or Lattes each day. On top of that, I had one soda a day and took back 4 bottles of water to the room each day. It is worth the money to get a package. 6. Find the secret spots early. The outside seating at Windjammer ALWAYS had seating, and we spent breakfast there while the ship's back was turned facing Dawes Glacier. Trust me. Also, Deck 5 next the the Art Gallery, but aways from the smoking section...chairs facing the ocean and unusually warmer than most places on the ship considering its outside seating. Grab a glass of wine from the Wine bar and sit here to relax. Quiet and peaceful. 7. READ THIS ONE. Finding whales and other sea life....Watch the TV channel that tells you where you are and shows the ship's front camera. While watching, you will often see streaks of water (wake) left behind by dolphins, orcas, or whale....then grab your binoculars and look outside, you will see them passing! Great way to find sea life. 8. BIGGEST TIP FOR ALASKA RIGHT NOW! DO NOT OVER PACK. We each had one carry one rolling suit case and a back pack. Wore suits and dresses on formal nights. You do not need all of that clothing. You simply do not. Pay $35 to have underwear and T-shirts washed. Its cheaper than checking in suitcases on the plane. Plus, our flights home were cancelled twice and we were lugging around our luggage alot of that time. Thank God we packed light. You do not need all of that clothing. HUGE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU AND MATT for making this trip so amazing despite Covid, anxiety, the long wait, staffing shortages (which we experienced none), and despite raining the entire 13 days we were in Alaska or Seattle. Thank you!
    23 points
  3. smokeybandit

    Less bookings

    Kind of funny people being mad that their non refundable deposit is non refundable
    21 points
  4. This is a fan site, and not affiliated with Royal Caribbean. Nobody there will read your complaint. I doubt when they advertised the amplification of Explorer of the Seas (and Allure), they had no idea that the pandemic would hit and cause them to shut down for over a year and lose billions of dollars, making the amplification fiscally impossible. I would never consider that "false advertising". Personally, I'd go anyway. You haven't "lost the money". You are choosing to do so by not going on the cruise. You could still have a great time if you chose to do so. Good luck. (I can't speak for anyone else, but personally, I sleep quite well at night).
    19 points
  5. I'm posting this in the Rumors section b/c I have not seen it but one place, so far. La Vida Loca is reporting that Celebrity will be lifting the vaccination requirement for passengers under 17 years old, for cruises from Europe. Granted, this is a subset of a subset of a subset of cruisers, but to my knowledge this is the first time I have read of any vaccination requirement being lifted anywhere. Testing requirements ? Yes...but not vaxxes as far as I know. Anybody else hear this anywhere officially ? Could there be a crack ?
    18 points
  6. In threads like these it's important to understand the difference between what the benefits are officially supposed to be versus what some guests may have been able to exceed beyond that. When responding I choose to lean closer to what is supposed to be allowed, here's why: Over the years when crew have exceeded policy and allowed something that ventures past the published benefits that is always great to hear and well received by the benefactors. The problem becomes when that experience becomes the expectation. Other guests or when on a different ship with different management/genie may not realize the same stretching of the policy. When that occurs some guests who believe they are entitled to it feel they are let down or being cheated because they are not getting something that others have. Years ago there was a long serving Hotel Director who was able to get away with doing things that he wasn't supposed to do. He could get away with it given his tenure and reputation. He would do special things that other Hotel Directors could not. In the days before genies existed one such benefit he was in the habit of providing was a Pinnacle party on CocoCay. He would host the event that included special food and beverages and all the Pinnacles who participated loved it. Over time his generosity became an expectation. Some other HD's did something similar. Others did not. When sailing on a different ship with a different HD some Pinnacle became offended when the special event was not offered. Instead of appreciating the uniqueness of what that one HD did they decided to complain when they didn't receive the party they had become accustomed to. Upon receiving these complaints the cruise line president at the time said "What Pinnacle party? That's not supposed to be happening". As a result they clamped down and killed the event for all ships and all HD's. The HD at the root of it was strongly reprimanded. This cycle has occurred many times over the years when one loyalty ambassador, or guest services manager, or hotel director, or genie gets in the habit of doing something beyond the intentions of the cruise line. It always results in the company having to set the record straight and stopping it. It sets the wrong expectation and when expectations are not fulfilled you have unhappy guests. Now with social media guests are able to communicate faster and written words are read by many who don't participate actively in the discussion. They cherry pick threads like this not getting the nuances and that becomes their expectations. When their expectations are not met it ruins their experience. Someone else got something they didn't. How unfair. Time to complain. All this to say understand what the genie is supposed to do. That should be the basis of your expectation. If there is a request beyond that it may or may not be realized.
    17 points
  7. Here I am, 51 days out from my Oasis of the Seas cruise out of Bayonne, and low and behold I see those magical words in my email inbox: Your Stateroom Has Been Upgraded. My minimum $700 bid moved me from a JS guarantee to a 1 Bedroom Aquatheater Suite! I am beyond stunned, the timing, the acceptance, all of it! So Suite Snob crew (this is in fact a term of endearment!), help a dad who's never stayed in anything bigger than a Promenade View room taking his kids on their 1st cruise with the lowdown: what do I do now? Do I cancel my MDR reservations if we're going to do CK, or will the concierge do that? I suddenly have so many questions that I hadn't even thought about! Any advice/pointers/experience would be greatly appreciated!
    17 points
  8. “The Starry Neighbor (Neighbour?) Chronicles: Pining for the Fjords” – Anthem of the Seas, July 8th-15th, 2022 PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that? This cruise…long awaited, cancelled, booked again, wasn’t sure if was going to happen, now it looks like it might. That’s definitely the definition of “pining”! We started this journey pre-pandemic when @Matt announced the Anthem Group Cruise to Norway for July 2021. We had never entertained sailing to the Fjords prior to that but could not pass on the opportunity to sail with friends and sail an itinerary that is out of the norm for us. We all know what happened after that. Pandemic came, GC was cancelled, goodbye Norway sailing. When European sailings were released for Summer 2022, we discussed in detail what we would want to do. At the time (it was December 2020), we were still in the height of the pandemic, and it seemed crazy to even thinking about travelling internationally. It was a toss up between a Greek Isle sailing or try again for Norway. We let the kids decide. One kid loves nature and the other loves big cities, neither one has even been to Europe. It was an easy decision to try again for Norway, which would have us sailing out of Southampton. That checks off nature (the Fjords) for one, and the big city (London) for the other. After we decided on the itinerary, the next part was deciding how big we would go for this sailing. I promise that I have always had in my mind that we would do a smaller, older ship for Europe. It was beyond my control that the only ship offering this sailing (in July 2022 which we needed) is Anthem of the Seas. It is also beyond my control that Anthem’s only suites with aft views (which I really wanted for the Fjords) are the Star Class lofts. I was good, I held several cabin categories and waited for Hubby to come home. Then I sent a message to @GregD telling him of our plans. We (Hubby, @GregD, The Boss, and I) were supposed to sail the original Odyssey Inaugural together in November 2020 along with a ton of other blog/Insider friends, so we were sharing our misery together over that lost sailing. The conversation went like this: Me: I am pretty sure the GC to Norway is not going to happen so this is the replacement in 2022. Prices are way better than 2021. I am thinking of Star, and I want those aft views of the Fjords. Greg: Yeah, star class would be awesome on Quantum class ships with all those activities. Me: We’ve been on Anthem twice already. Hubby really wants to try SC on Anthem. (See my justification there ) Me: YOLO Book It! for you and fam? LOL Greg: I will talk to the boss. The Boss: Norway is a must do, and if we are looking at a third cruise being cancelled, STAR CLASS IS A REQUIREMENT!! Me: Woohoo! @WAAAYTOOO said to stay away from the corner lofts, they are way smaller. Greg: Yup. Greg: So, I did a thing… (sends email to TA to inquire) Me: Let me know how it plays out. ---Day after--- Greg: STAR CLASS NEIGHBORS! And so, the “Starry Neighbor (Neighbours?) Chronicles” begins!
    16 points
  9. The following is from my teenage daughter who is doing this as both a summer project and a bit just for fun Pre-Cruise PostTomorrow my family and I will be leaving Florida to go on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas Alaska cruise! I’ve never been on a Royal Caribbean cruise or an Alaska cruise before, but I have been on quite a few Disney cruises in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and even the Panama Canal. This cruise was originally planned for 2020 but with COVID, it got pushed back a year, then another year. I’m just glad that it wasn’t canceled again, yet (I’m hoping I didn’t just jinx it), and I’m very excited to be cruising again!A little bit about myself: my name is Caitlyn and I’m 13 years old. Now you’re probably wondering why a teenager is taking the time to write a blog while cruising. There’s two reasons really. One, I love writing more than almost anything else. I even go to an arts school to major in creative writing. Two, I had started researching what there was to do on the ship. Thing is, all the information I could find was from an adult’s perspective. I could find advice on what club to go to once the kids were asleep, but couldn't find almost any information about activities for teenagers or specifics about the teen club Optix, other than it exists. So I said to myself: "Self, why don’t you help all the other teenagers going on this kind of cruise and write the info yourself?" And so that’s what I’m doing.I’ll be going on this cruise with my mom, dad, and my 15 year old brother, Jonathan. In my posts, most of the pictures will come from Jonathan. Sadly we can’t take our dog Coco, so we had to find people to take care of him. Luckily, we have good friends who offered to let him stay at their house so he isn’t lonely. I will miss him from the moment we leave till when we get back again.The toughest part about this cruise was probably the planning. Seven days to fill with excursions and the endless possibilities of what we could do. Needless to say it took a lot of planning, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. We’ll be doing a fun excursion at almost every port. There’s also a little bit of an adventure after the cruise before we go home too, but more on that later.Nope, I was wrong before, the toughest part was packing! Since I live in Florida, we have to fly to Vancouver to board the ship. We can only have four carry-ons (one per person) and we’re only checking two bags so we don’t have any space to spare. One way to save space was using these wonderful packing cubes that make everything seem to take less space… although, it can’t do anything to make these clunky hiking boots any smallerWe are nearly done packing already and somehow all of our clothes and shoes and cameras and everything fit into our suitcases. Now it’s just a matter of waking up tomorrow before the sun is up and fitting everything in the car… Wish us luck!Only one more day till we fly out and I think I might explode with excitement! I’m going to try my best to post every day, but we didn’t get the internet package, so I can only post at ports. If I miss a day, I’ll catch up later. I just can’t wait for seven days on the seas to the last frontier to see the beautiful scenery and run away from the Florida heat.Stay tuned in for my Alaska Adventure!
    16 points
  10. Not looking for an argument but stating my thoughts that have been eating at me for awhile now: So not only would I love to see the pre-cruise testing stop…how about allowing the unvaccinated back onboard? I have never taken sides and I do not think it is my place to do so. I am me…and nobody else. I am vaccinated and boosted (twice) and got COVID for the first time 2 weeks ago after returning from a family vacation to Disney. There were nine of us and only 2 did not get sick…both unvaccinated! I think this virus is pretty close to becoming our next head cold or flu. Some will get very sick…some will have mild symptoms…some will never get sick! So…….why are the unvaccinated still being penalized this late in the game? I certainly hope my thoughts here do not start a war on words…but I feel better having finally stated how I think.
    16 points
  11. I can't seem to get my documents, check-in time, boarding pass, communication with my Genie or luggage tags. What's wrong?
    16 points
  12. Chicken of the Seas
    16 points
  13. We are not strangers to cruising. We have sailed twice with Princess, one of which was a quick 3 day to Santa Barbara and Ensenada Mexico, a 7 day Mexican Riviera, and 3 times with Carnival, a 3 day Ensenada, 7 day Western Caribbean (which was life changing and 1st time in the Caribbean), and a 7 day Mexican Riviera on the Panorama. So, it was time for something different. I was curious about why my mom has raved about Royal and why many are so loyal. My girlfriend and I wanted to start out light on a 4 day Freedom of the Seas May 2nd 2022 to Coco Cay, then Nassau with a 3 day stay for our first time in Miami. We decided to go bigger and longer for my birthday in November on Harmony for an 8 day Nov 12th to the Southern Caribbean. Overall I can see why Royal is well liked. I met quite a few passengers who sail only with Royal. It was on this sailing where a passenger told me about her Diamond status and 4 free drinks a day. That alone intrigued me! Anyhow, the little taste we got definitely makes us want more. Of course there were some pros and cons but we enjoyed ourselves, after all no ship I've encountered is perfect. And speaking of perfect, Coco Cay was the main draw and it was amazing! It was an almost perfect day at Coco Cay, since the weather could have been better. The Daredevil's Peak waterslide was unexpectedly very intense and I almost couldn't catch my breath. If it weren't for the climb I would have done it again. Nassau was cool especially hanging with friendly locals at The Fish Fry. A worker at Coco Cay educated me on how there are over 700 keys and Islands in that area. Jeez!! Our spacious balcony was roomy and the bed was very comfortable. Only specialty dining we did was Giovanni's Italian Kitchen which was so delicious! We love buffets and Windjammer was good for the most part. Our last cruise on Carnival Panorama the Lido Marketplace was mostly not good. For example, I've never had bacon that was absolutely inedible! It actually tasted a little fishy too. I like fish, but not for my bacon to taste like it. Main Dining Room on Freedom was also quite good and loved the filet for $16 from Chops. We will be dining at chops when we sail on Harmony. If I had one or two complaints, we feel Royal tends to charge for every little extra but at least those extras are not necessary. We also didn't care for the loud Reggaetón music playing in the Windjammer. In my survey I noted that it was a bit too loud. I guess those 4 day sailings are more of a party atmosphere from what I've heard. Anyhow, we are really looking forward to our next sailing in November. It cannot come soon enough! I'm glad I discovered Matt's channel on YouTube and this Blog. It helped us out a lot!
    15 points
  14. I'm presuming they would never go for Bottom
    15 points
  15. The Day at Sea and The Day of Sadness I cannot express how glad I am that we ended the trip with a sea day. My feet have been aching from all the walking. I have no regrets about any of that, but I am so incredibly glad that we got a day off our feet to wrap things up. We began the day with breakfast in our room from the Mason Jar. Since the very first day, I had an idea that I wanted to try out: Spicy Chicken and Waffles. While we were in the restaurant on the first day, I noticed that the chicken used with the waffles was the same chicken used in the chicken sandwiches (including the Nashville Hot), so I stored that away for later. It was pretty good, but it was actually a bit less spicy than I expected it to be. I'd love to hear from other people how they feel about the Nashville Hot chicken and if it lives up to your expectations regarding heat level. On other sailings, we've really tried to take advantage of everything on the ship during sea days, but this trip was a lot less about the ship for us and more about the ports. We were tired and just ready to relax. So we spent most of the morning sitting on the balcony (one of the best parts of an Aquatheater suite after all!) In addition to our food, we asked Marla to arrange a mimosa bar for us, which is just basically a bottle of champagne with pitchers of various juices - peach, orange and cranberry. We sipped on our mimosas and watched the scenery go by. I couldn't have asked for a better morning. Different from most Caribbean cruises, you actually sail pretty close to land in the Mediterranean so there was a lot to see as we sailed by. That kept our attention longer than I would have expected. After a few hours of relaxation, we got dressed and headed down to Izumi for some sushi. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, different people like different kinds of food. I love sushi, but neither Ashley nor I are really big fans of fried, crunchy sushi. Fortunately, the menu at Izumi is pretty expansive, so we were both able to get food that we really enjoyed. As Star Class, technically you can order as much sushi as you want, but I was pretty worn out from eating at this point, so we kept it light. One small word of caution about Izumi is that it is on deck 4 and there are tables right next to the window. I do not recommend sitting in those tables if you have any kind of vertigo or motion sickness, because the waves+wake do some interesting gymnastics around that part of the ship. It only bothers me a tiny bit, but vertigo is a concern for you, I'd find somewhere else to sit. After Izumi, we headed back up to the suite sun deck one last time. I will reiterate what I've said before - Royal knocked it out of the park with this space. It's easily accessible, has plenty of seating, and it has a great bar. If you are in a suite on Wonder, you owe it to yourself to spend a bit of time here at least. Later in the afternoon, we went down to Giovanni's Wine Bar for some drinks and charcuterie. Despite rebranding from Vintages, and a few updates to the food menu, I have to say that it doesn't feel all that different from Vintages. It's a nice spot for sure, but I think the changes are almost all entirely surface level. We enjoyed our wine, cheese and meats a lot. The wine bar, like Vintages, has a wine flight option, which is a great choice if you do not have a drink package. If you do have a drink package, you are better off ordering the wine by the glass, and just having them one at a time. The bartender should make sure to tell you this, but I know some people are caught off guard. We headed back up to our room to change for dinner: Wonderland! I really enjoy the Wonderland concept, but I am a food and science nerd, so molecular gastronomy really appeals to me. One of the servers was dressed up as the Mad Hatter, which was a lot of fun. He was entertaining, at least! We've been to Wonderland before, so we tried to choose options we hadn't had the first time around. It was a very different experience than previously, since we didn't have our kids this time, so we weren't trying to work around their limited food preferences. The individual items in the restaurant might seem small, but you actually end up with a seven-course meal, all things included, so the size isn't that much of an issue. The only thing we tried that I would probably not order again is the Tomato Water. It's an interesting novelty, but it's only about 1 oz of liquid, and it just goes so fast. For dessert, I ordered the World (again), and Ashley ordered the Mushroom Garden. They were both delicious, just as expected. Marla came to visit us during the meal and we also asked her to send some desserts up to our room too! Sort of a final send off for the trip. I ordered the Fried Cheesecake (I may have mentioned that this my favorite dessert on the ship), and Ashley ordered the Go Bananas! from Giovanni's. Honestly, it might have been a bit too much, but we loved it. We had thought about finding a nice spot after dinner for one last drink but we were honestly just so tired that we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. We did eat our desserts, and sit out on the balcony for a bit, but mostly we spent the evening packing and preparing for the worst day of the cruise: debarkation day. Our flight out of Barcelona was pretty early at 9:50 am. In hindsight, we should have probably picked a later flight, but it all worked out in the end, even though things were a bit tense at the airport. We had a light, early breakfast at 6am and put our bags outside at 6:30. Not having to set out your bags the night before is another really nice Star Class perk. We met Marla at the elevator at 7:00 and began the long walk of sadness to the terminal. It was super easy to grab a cab right there, and we headed to the airport. On Friday, the US government announced that negative Covid tests were no longer required for flights entering the US as of 12:01 on Sunday June 5th. This was awesome news as it reduced the likelihood of any last second disasters. We had read a post on Facebook from someone who left the ship in Rome on Thursday, tested positive, and had to quarantine for an extra 5 days before they could return home. That would have been worst case scenario for us, so not having to worry about an accidental positive test was really nice. Side note: we tested as soon as we got home to Seattle. Negative. So I feel pretty good about that. The downside to the announcement was that the airlines, who had all been clamoring for this change for months, were completely unprepared to actually handle the change when it happened. Online check-in basically broke for everyone, so we had no choice but to stand in line at the airport to get our boarding passes and check our luggage. The line was long. Long enough that we got pulled out of line finally to ensure that we could make our flight (that's pretty common on international flights), we were right up at the front so we ended up being next in line to check in from there. At that point we scrambled as quickly as possible to security and to the gate. I would have been super stressed if I'd been any further back in line, because we literally got to the gate the moment our zone started boarding. Since the first leg of our flight was just to Paris, the boarding times are really narrow. I'm sure they got everyone on board, but I'd have been screaming if I got there much later than we did. The situation was pretty similar in Paris. After a brief 2 hour flight, we had a 1.5 hour layover in Paris, but that's really not that much time. The international gates are pretty far from the 'domestic' gates in CDG, so there's a lot of walking involved, as well as a brief stop at passport control, even though we were catching a transfer. We managed to find a food kiosk to grab some salads, but we had to carry them on to the plane, because boarding started so quickly. From Paris to Seattle is about 10 hours, which isn't terrible, but is still a pretty long way. We had economy seats on the way back, which might have been a mistake, but we survived somehow . The airline food was decent, and they did an excellent job of coming by often with water (something that did not happen on the Delta flight on the way out). We needed to stay awake as much as possible to fight the coming jet lag, so we just watched a lot of movies. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, we arrived in Seattle! After a quick/eternal 45 minute ride on the train, we were back home to our kids, our puppies and our bed. Whew! What an absolute adventure! We had so much fun, and it was exactly the break we needed. Thanks everyone for coming along the ride with us. I loved reading your comments and seeing everyone's reactions. I hope you enjoyed it!
    14 points
  16. Since my introduction to participating in a live blog with @Lovetocruise2002 on her Star Class take over I'm going to document our family sweet 16 celebration cruise. Note: Daughter celebrating, me still scratching my head looking at baby pics thinking where in the heck did the time go? I had her when I was 40, so shocked and happy! Please be kind and don't do the math! Best thing that ever happened to me, after meeting hubby of course, married 30 years in August....together 32 years. Harmony to celebrate our Anniversary 01 August! Mariner of the Seas June 13-18, 2022 Cabin: 1804, it's been a 2X canceled cabin due to pandemic really happy to sail from this perspective. Bringing my motion patches just in case. VP Ocean view Panoramic Suite. Royal Up Bid: Royal Suite still pending, while that would be nice I'm perfectly fine trying out the cabin I have. Antigens negative yesterday, so happy! Stepping off the Allure last Sunday we all felt good but were just a little nervous, all for naught! Concierge contact and host Dudley! Yay, we met him on the first sailing of the Adventure out of the Bahamas back in June 2021. Our only request was a private table for the three of us in the MDR. There are no birthday decorations at all on board as reflected by the cruise planner so I am just bringing some small sweet 16 items to decorate the cabin. The Labadee cabanas are really high so we are just going to skip breakfast and go over early for some chairs in our hidden nook. Embarkation lunch at Jaimies Italian. We have never dined there. We are doing MDR for a change for dinner. Asked for a table off to the side as it usually gets really loud in there. Itinerary: Leaving out of Port Canaveral Terminal 5, Sea Day, Labadee, Sea Day, Coco Cay, Port Canaveral. A quick sailing, I will want to stay on for sure! I asked Dudley if I could bring him anything and he needed some laundry detergent and such, I purchased and packed to discretly give to him, I was so happy he felt comfortable enough to ask. It made me feel good to get something he needed. We are driving over from Tampa FL to Port Canaveral today and staying in the Hampton at Port Canaveral. With the sailing embarkation on a Monday Interstate 4 is never fun, but on a Monday just no! Would rather arrive a day earlier I'm just more comfortable because you just never know! Please be patient and kind, this is my first time doing this blog thing alone, I will try to channel my inner Sabrina to make it as fun as possible. Mariner here we come! Cabana prices are high! Last pic was me last week in Labadee, that is what I plan to do this entire trip....I love the water!
    13 points
  17. Since we are keeping track of Covid after cruising........... Who has gotten Covid after the grocery store? The movies? The ball game? Theme park? The mall? The family reunion? We criticize the CDC and mainstream media for unfair scrutiny of the cruise ship industry and then we give them nice threads like this on a public message board to fuel the fire.
    13 points
  18. Every protocol that has been implemented chips away at the ability to enjoy a vacation. Every protocol impacts the travel industry. Some more than others and some in ways that aren't as easy to quantify. The removal of the testing requirement for inbound international flights has created significant impact on the travel industry. Just because planes were full before they removed testing doesn't mean there was no impact from the testing requirement for international flights. Other protocols like pre-cruise testing impact the travel industry. Vaccination requirements impact the travel industry. There are people now that are not cruising because of these protocols. At the moment there are many new to cruise booking travel that is largely rebound or pent up demand from having minimal travel for two years. There will soon come a time when that pent up demand has been satisfied. The state of the economy and inflation may soon put the brakes on travel demand. When that occurs the industry will need the folks who are currently avoiding travel due to protocols. Just because ships are full doesn't mean that there is no impact from the current protocols.
    13 points
  19. I specifically cruise for two reasons. 1) I love the fact that I do not need to plan too many things in additional to the cruise itself. I don't need to call and figure out what restaurants to eat at etc. I don't need to worry if the restaurant is accessible. For me cruising is very convenient. Everything is right there. Essentially its a traveling all inclusive resort that moves to different ports. 2) I love the mulit-generational activities on board. I do a lot of traveling with grand parents, kids, other parents. It is nice knowing that there is something for everyone no matter the age. I personally think RCL has done a pretty good job of emphasizing this. I have family members that want to just do nothing and enjoy the sea breeze and read, while others want to go to the casino, and others who love the onboard shows. Cruises have a good mix of things for everyone in the family.
    13 points
  20. WAAAYTOOO

    Holiday cruises

    We have Santa hats. One says “naughty” and the other says “nice”. Actually, we have 2 sets of these hats because SOMETIMES we both have to wear a “naughty” hat. Rarely do we both wear a “nice” hat !
    13 points
  21. Travel Day Post After a 4:00 AM wake up call, we were on our way to the airport to catch the first flight. Unusually, lines for both checking bags and security were shorter than expected when we got to the Orlando airport. We did have a bit of a holdup before we could get to our gate though. One of our bags had to be searched because they didn’t know what something in it was. So they took it aside and pulled out our lunchbox that we brought to eat on the second flight. The perpetrator was a block of cheese. Luckily that didn’t make us late for the first flight and we got on with no problem. Sadly my dad couldn’t sit next to the rest of us on the plane, but he was only a row up and across so it was alright. The flight was smooth and I got a cup of hot tea about halfway through. We got off at Toronto and only had an hour and fifteen minutes to get through customs and catch the flight to Vancouver. Customs was pretty easy too, we had to walk a lot and then we got to the desks with the people checking everyone. You show them your face and passport and they make sure you are who you say you are and then they ask if you’re bringing any food. If you had meat or dairy, they had to make sure it was sealed and from the USA. We had brought salami and that troublesome block of cheese so it took a little longer but then we were on our way to our gate. The best part about customs was that we got to skip the whole security line. Then we were on our way to the flight to Vancouver and got there just in time to board. The five hour Vancouver flight was tiring. This time they had soda so I got Sprite and my mom got Diet Coke. I tried to sleep on the plane for a bit, but I’ve never been able to sleep that well when we’re flying. When we started the descent to Vancouver, we saw the mountaintops peeking out from the clouds and it all seemed so magical. Once we got our checked bags, we headed over to pick up our rental car. It was a little small for all our stuff, but we made it work. Then we were off to the Lynn Canyon to see the suspension bridge. The whole forest was like we stepped into a fairytale and we hiked for an hour. We might have done more, but there were so, so, so many stairs. Either way, I highly recommend it, just don’t forget your water bottle and camera. We got to the Airbnb which was rather comfortable and had our airplane leftovers for dinner. Then we got the must do of any vacation: ice cream! It was at this cozy little place called Welcome Parlour Ice Cream that had a kind of sampler dish where you could get four scoops of ice cream. I shared it with my brother, Jonathan, and it was amazing. Then we met a very friendly dog who just loved attention. It was nice that even though we had to leave our dog at home, we still had dogs around. Finally we got back to the Airbnb and Jonathan and I just fell straight asleep, excited to board the ship the next day. Stay tuned for my Alaska Adventure!
    13 points
  22. They frown upon bears in the suite. No pets allowed unless registered service animals. A lot of what you are asking about can vary by genie and ship. Some ships have strict rules about how far a genie can go and seating for non-Star guests is unlikely to be allowed but you can always ask.
    12 points
  23. Perspective from the other neighbour (neighbor?) It seems so long ago when COVID wasn’t a thing, but our story started out on Empress. The Boss (Heather) and I were looking for an adults only cruise. There was an 8(9?) night Eastern Caribbean BVI cruise that we had booked. The week we booked happened to include Heathers birthday. I remember reading a @twangster blog that got me interested in that Itinerary. We had one of the aft owners suites booked I think. As time went on Heather was nervous about being on a little ship (she is prone to motion sickness) but we liked the idea of going to places that the bigger ships couldn’t get into I remember when @Matt announced the 2021 group cruise in Norway, and I thought this sounds like a great experience. I brought it up to The Boss who much to my surprise thought the same thing. As she tells it, she never thought about going there, but now that the idea was in her head, why not. We decided that Empress was out and Norway was in, so we jumped ship and the group cruise was booked. That cruise was also our Anniversary, so why not celebrate with friends. We booked one of the short lived spa balcony rooms, because suite prices were stupid money at the time. The Boss figured if she couldn’t get her suite, the spa bonus was a consolation prize and we didn’t need all that space since it was just us adults. At the time, we had a GS Odyssey Inaugural, a GS2BR on Liberty, plus an A2 on Oasis booked, so something had to give. Boy did it give. COVID happened and things started getting cancelled. We were so excited to be on those group cruises so that we could finally meet some of these people that we interact with online. The Boss was fully ready to learn from the Suite Snob master herself. As things were going from bad to worse, I remember getting that message from Sabrina about shifting the Norway cruise to the following summer. I told The Boss about it, and she demanded Star Class. You all have seen how that conversation went. After messaging my TA, and what seemed like eternity later, the switch was made again, and we all became Star Class neighbors, and the chronicles began. We couldn’t just stop there though. We also decided to make this an even bigger vacation. The plan was to do two days in Southampton pre cruise, then 5 days in London after the cruise. If you have read my previous Navigator blog, you saw how we like to surprise our kids. Well, we are at it again. The kids are now coming with us, and they have no idea. They think that they are staying at the grandparents while The Boss and I are on the cruise. They still think we are in a balcony room, so the star class room will also be a surprise to them. The plan of attack for letting them in on this is that my dad will drop us off at the airport. The kids will ride along, since they are going to his house after, and they will get the first surprise in the parking lot when we get there. We will still tell them we are in a standard balcony room until we get to the terminal and find the star class banner with an “oops…did we forget to mention we were star class too?" As we have gotten closer we have been teasing the kids about the things that we are doing. One of the booked excursions ends at the top of a mountain with a snack of waffles. Johnny lamented “but I like waffles.” Lydia was also whining about not going. We told her that she wouldn’t have any fun. The cruise will be mostly scenery and mountains, to which she replied tearfully “I love mountains….” Will the kids end up in therapy from their parents lying to them all the time? Maybe. Is it worth it for the surprises? Definitely.
    12 points
  24. Cringeworthy: I tried a speedo once and got advice as to not embarrass myself or wife. Friends told me to strategically place a Potato in my speedo before I go out on deck. I was getting looks from everyone and thought I was magnificent until my wife told me I should have put the Potato in the front.
    12 points
  25. Day Two: Sea Day and Inside Passage This is morning we had a bit of a late start. I, of course, woke up around 6 am and read a bit but everyone else slept in a little bit later. It’s colder today so I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt under a t-shirt and I’m warm and cozy. At breakfast the pancakes were wonderful as well as the chocolate donut. The whipped cream was a little strange, it tasted like butter and I didn’t really like it. We went to a sudoku competition and some other guy finished the puzzle in almost four minutes! I’m not great at sudoku so I turned my paper into origami. Afterwards we listened to a talk about the Klondike Gold Rush and Mounties, but we couldn’t stay the whole time since we wanted to go to the Alaska Port and Shopping Show where they gave us some great tips on where to shop and a coupon for a free pendant that I might show a picture of in the next post. Then we had a quick lunch and my mom and I headed off to a lady’s pamper party. A little bit later we went to a Disney trivia and we won, only missing one question! My brother and I went to go to Optix, but a sign on the door said “At the basketball court” so we figured they were playing basketball which neither of us wanted to play. We headed back to the stateroom and I wrote some in my nook. Later we found out from the Royal Caribbean app that they were playing dodgeball, not basketball. I would’ve liked to play dodgeball, but I only found out after they were done so I guess you should always check the app or go see what Optix is doing if they’re not there. Today’s duck of the day is Belle. She’s my favorite duck because she has a book. I wanted to make sure she liked where she was hiding so you can guess where she went. You guessed it, in the cozy little library on deck nine. We went back to see if she was still there a couple hours after we hid her and she was. Hopefully a book lover finds her soon. We played around in the room a bit and I read some. Surprisingly, we found internet from the Canadian shore for a little bit and posted my blog yesterday even though we were at sea. Tonight was formal night so we got all fancy and took some pictures. Sadly when I’m fancy, I’m wearing a dress and sandals and therefore a bit cold. But it was okay since we staying inside most the time. Once we got all the pictures we wanted, we rushed off to the production of Piano Man. We got there about ten minutes late but could still find some seats. I figured it would’ve been a bunch of Billy Joel songs with a small amount of storyline, but then they started playing Elton John and then Wizard of Oz. I got very confused and the storyline was nonexistent. The tech team had some problems moving set and with lighting and audio. I only stayed because the performers were amazing even with the random script they had to go off of and I love music. Then we rushed off to dinner. I had a fruit cup, roasted chicken, and carrot cake. I have to say, all three were amazing and I entirely recommend them, though the carrot cake is not there every day, so be on the lookout for it. These were some of the activities to do in Optix, but I didn’t do any of them. A friend told me the selfie hunt was quite a workout and was fun. I played on their foosball table. I won and then we went back to the stateroom and I read some more in my nook and watched the beautiful sunset which seemed to never end. I read until I almost fell asleep in my nook, then had to get in bed and sleep. Stay tuned for my Alaska Adventure!
    12 points
  26. On Jewel, you will not get complimentary internet, even if you are in a full suite. Only Oasis or Quantum class ships include complimentary internet for full suites. So you will have to pay for internet under either circumstance. The vast majority of the other Key amenities, however, would be complimentary for you if you were in a full suite (expedited boarding and disembarkation, for example). The full suite would give you breakfast in one of the specialty restaurants (this is not a Key perk) and of course, access to the Concierge/Suites lounge (not sure what Jewel has these days). The suite would also give you reserved seating in the theater (a duplication of the Key). About the only Key amenity that you would not get with the suite (besides internet) would be Chops lunch on embarkation day and a place to leave your carry-on bags on embarkation. Another thing the full suite will give you is significantly more room and a much bigger bathroom.
    12 points
  27. 47,000 people tested positive in the US this past Saturday, June 25. Just saying, being on a ship or on land makes no difference. I choose to just live my life
    11 points
  28. The Midnight Sun: The sun did not get any lower than this. It just circled around until it was in the east and then rose again. Super interesting!
    11 points
  29. A lot depends on how many “extra” people we’re talking about. Of course, @Mattis correct…the official answer is “no”, but if you are just looking to have 1-2 people join you for a show, my guess is that you will be accommodated. More than that ? It would put the Genie in a very uncomfortable position of having to really bend the rules. Don’t be “that guy”. From my experience, when you ask the Genie this question, he/she will recite you official policy and tell you that only Star Class passengers will be entitled to SC amenities. They will never put anything in writing or even over the phone, that contradicts official policy. But when you speak with them personally, they will let you know what they can and cannot do for you and the other passengers. My experience has been that the reserved seating for an extra person or 2 has never been a problem. Regarding food and drinks in the suite - this will not be a problem. More likely than not, you will have waaay more food and beverages in your suite than you and 25 people could ever consume. We have yet to be in SC when we did not have to tell them to STOP with the food and drinks ! It just keeps coming and coming and coming ! They do not care who comes to your suite nor what they eat or drink. I have had as many as 35 people in the suite for which food and beverages were provided. You do NOT need to worry about this one… I agree with @twangster. Leave the bears at home. They will be constantly trying to climb on the railings of the balcony and are likely to scare your neighbors. . …and the tip you would have to give your suite attendants for cleaning up after them would be prohibitive.
    11 points
  30. The bottom line is that society must learn how to live with this new virus much like society has learned to live with other viruses. We collectively have taken great strides forward from the days when there were lockdowns and vaccine passports implemented in some form in various cities and countries. Those have all but disappeared and we are free to go watch Top Gun in a packed movie theater sitting beside strangers with no protocols for 3 hours. Yet cruising is still subject to excessive government regulation and the only industry subject to the scrutiny of government oversight related to the virus to this extent.
    11 points
  31. I thought I read somewhere it was something like within 3 cabins....but I am not at all sure about that. My kids will be two doors down....one cabin in between us. First time I see whoever is staying between us, I will make it clear to them that if they are disturbed by my kids in any fashion whatsoever I would like to know, and my kids will wish security came and got to them first
    11 points
  32. I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as an inflatable butt. …of course, I have no need for such enhancement as I have a natural inflate-ation. Lol
    11 points
  33. Are they hiring?
    11 points
  34. Please don’t encourage the ‘one and done’ posters by insinuating their whining is going to be read by someone at Royal headquarters
    11 points
  35. Showing my age here, anyone else remember Paul Harvey? As you have all been so kind and supportive through the trials and tribulations of my brother’s attempt at his first cruise, wanted to fill you in on the final outcome. 1. Royal refunded port taxes, fees, prepaid gratuities and DPB. 2. AON insurance issued FCCs for 90% of the unrefunded cruise fare. This was confusing because they issued 2 FCCs but he only received 1. They are reissuing the 2nd. 3. SWA returned the points used for the cancelled flights and gave them $650 in LUV anytime vouchers. So in the end he had to eat 10% of the cruise fare ($177 we had a very suite deal) and the cost of the insurance ($148). We are now looking for another cruise to book. I will take one for the team and go too (the things I do for my brother). I won’t ever be able to recreate the deal we had on Harmony but at least he got what I consider reasonable compensation for his ordeal. Thanks to all here, my RC family!
    11 points
  36. It's so hard to keep up while on board the ship!! Day 2: Palma de Mallorca One of the tricky things about Mediterranean cruises is that the excursions tend to leave somewhat early in the morning, which can make managing breakfast a bit challenging. We ordered Coastal Kitchen to our room, and ate while we prepared to leave the ship in Palma. We headed to the staging area in the Royal Theater and sat for really only about 15 minutes before our group was called to head to the bus. The Drach Caves were, by far, the most popular excursion at this stop. There were 4 buses filled with people heading that direction. The drive to the caves is exceptionally beautiful. Mallorca is a gorgeous island, and there is such an interesting combination of old and modern architecture and idyllic landscapes that it's hard to be too annoyed by the 75 minute bus ride each direction. In addition, our guide was great as well. He provided a great history lesson about the island and the city of Palma itself. He was high energy, and really just did an incredible job of setting expectations for everyone so we all knew exactly what to do throughout. If you haven't been to the Drach Caves before, you should know ahead of time that it is a timed, curated experience. They have groups leaving into the caves every hour or so, and the staff works to keep people moving along, so you don't really get a huge amount of time to just stand around. It's less cramped than the catacombs were, but still underground and still very damp. They are masterfully lit, as well, so you really get a great sense of the impressiveness of the stalactites and stalagmites that have formed inside this cave network over the last 25 million years ago or so. My particular favorite formations are these stalactites that almost look like sheets pouring down from the ceilings rather than the standard conical shape. It's really interesting, and I haven't seen that formation anywhere else before. After about 30 minutes or so, the group (which numbers a couple hundred), will arrive at a large amphitheater overlooking an underground lake. Once everyone is seated, they dim all the lights, and a small boat appears, lit all by itself, with a 4-piece string quartet who played the most beautiful classical pieces. The effect of the music echoing inside the caves and the only light coming from the boat (and two smaller support boats behind it) is really quite haunting. It creates a magnificent experience that I enjoyed a great deal. Once the performance is complete, you have the option to ride a boat to the end of the lake, or just walk across the bridge. I'm sure the boat ride was delightful, but that's the option everyone chose, and the line was pretty long. We decided to just hoof it (the walk to the end of the lake is maybe 100 yards), and I'm glad we did, because we arrived to the end about the same time as the second boat. It would have been 20 minutes waiting, I think, if we'd chosen the boat ride instead. Once we got upstairs we were feeling a bit peckish and spent a couple of Euros on some ice creams. The second part of this excursion isn't really all that exciting. 100 yards or so from the caves is a pearl factory (artificial pearls) and showroom. Obviously, this is their real 'moneymaker', but as I've mentioned before, we're not big shoppers, and the prices in these sorts of showrooms are pretty obscene for what you get. I think this part of the trip is really just to help people feel like they're getting value out of the time spent (who wants to ride for 2.5 hours for a 1 hour excursion?), so it's harmless, but we just didn't care for it that much. The ride back to the ship was pretty uneventful. I think I napped the whole way back. We returned to the ship to find snacks in our room (in true Star Class fashion), and I'll be honest, we pretty much lounged until dinner. The suite is so nice, that it's easy to just sit and relax and sip on a beer on the balcony. And, we needed to rest up, because, you know: Chef's Table. Chef's Table This was our second chef's table experience, having previously dined here on the Allure in August. There are a few key things that I liked that were different. First, round tables instead of the long table on the Allure. It felt more intimate, and made it much easier to chat with our tablemates, who all turned out to be wonderfully delightful people. A not-so-small part of what makes Chef's Table work is meeting new people, and we were not disappointed here! You can find the Chef's table menu online, so I won't go into all of the details here, but the experience is amazing. My favorite dish is, of course, the filet, but I will give an honorable mention to the scallop carpaccio as well. I'm not a scallop person, really, but this dish is quite delicate, perfectly sauced and just overall, really, really good. The chef (the youngest Chef's Table chef in the fleet at 25 years old) did an incredible job, and the sommelier was outstanding. We drank up all the wine and the dessert espresso martini, and we were feeling pretty good once we left to head to the theater for Tap Factory. Two notes: First, the lobster salad had a different preparation here than on Allure. I don't know why that is, but I preferred the version on the Allure. Second, there is some variation in the wine list from ship to ship and sailing to sailing based on availability. We didn't realize that, but one of our favorite wines from last time wasn't included this time around. Certainly, it wasn't the end of the world, and we enjoyed the wines paired with our meal quite a lot. Speaking of The World, I am now 3 for 3 on not finishing this incredibly delicious, decadent dessert. Whether you have it from Chef's Table or from Wonderland, you owe it to yourself to give a try at least once. Tap Factory One of my favorite parts of joining a new ship is the opportunity to see new shows and performances. While Wonder doesn't have a Broadway show like the other Oasis class ships, there are quite a few new shows to see. After Chef's table we made the long trek straight down the elevator to the Royal Theater. Marla saved us seats near the front, and we sat down for the show. I ordered a drink recommend to me by one of our new friends from Chef's Table, a BBC. A BBC is Bailey's, Banana and Coconut, and somehow not a drink I've encountered before. It's quite tasty, and a perfect drink to enjoy a show. The set of the show starts with several barrel drums on a scaffold, surrounding a drum set, so you know right from the beginning this won't be an ordinary tap dancing performance. And it wasn't! This show is so much fun. There is tap, of course, but also drums, acrobatics, and even a contortionist (wild!). We clapped and laughed along the whole time. These are the types of unique shows I really love on a cruise. It wouldn't have been out of place in Vegas, the performers are so talented. ----------- That wraps up day 2! Day 3 includes a much longer tour in Aix de Provence (docked in Marseilles), Hooked seafood restaurant and the adult comedy show. Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride. This is a bit more work than I expected, but I'm definitely enjoying getting it all out there.
    11 points
  37. Boarding Day! Finally, the day to board the Wonder of the Seas arrived. But, we did have one last stop in Barcelona first, due to our train issues. We had intended to visit Casa Batllo in the evening, with the light show and rooftop bar included, but alas, that was not to be. Instead, we opted for the early-bird special to be one of the first few people inside for the day. The house itself was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel, so it was a quick walk, and we arrived shortly before the doors open. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but you really can see Gaudi's inspiration from nature in all of his work. It's very clue that he considered God to be the ultimate designer and took his cues from what he perceived as the pinnacle of those designs. Nature is embedded in every element of this house, from the visions of bone and water on the facade, all the way to the way he designed the airflow inside the house itself. The tour of the house is a great experience, and surprisingly high-tech. The tablets they provide you not only contain a fully narrated (and scored) audio-guide, but they also have AR (augmented reality) views of each of the rooms, decorated in the way they might have been when the original owners lived there, as well as a bit of magic as the rooms come to life on the screen. Although the guide is excellent, my one criticism is that several of the audio sections are really long - upwards of 5 minutes in some cases. I don't really mind a bit of audio narration, but the length of these bits didn't really seem to match the size of the house, so there were several times when we would be finished taking in the details of a room, but be stuck waiting for the narration to finish before we moved on. There is an immersive digital experience right at the very end that I thought was a lot of fun. It's only 3 minutes, but you stand in a room that is completely covered with screens (literally all the walls, ceiling and floor) while they play a video of extrapolations from Gaudi's work that was created with machine learning and AI. It's sensational, and just gives the technology aspect of the whole tour a little notch upwards. After the house, we returned to the hotel, finished packing and grabbed a cab to the cruise terminal!! The Terminal Every cruise terminal is different. And Barcelona is no exception. Marla had provided instructions for us to go to Terminal C, which would have been a good idea even if we hadn't been Star Class, as there were just fewer people there overall (and I heard from a few folks that was the case throughout the day). We arrived at about 10:20 - 40 minutes or so ahead of our scheduled boarding time and headed over to the Star Class banner. Different from our last experience in Orlando, there isn't really a dedicated 'port genie' to help with the process. Most of the first steps are handled by the bag porters themselves. They tagged our bags with the star class tags and walked us right over to the check-in desk, where I experienced the absolute shortest check-in I've ever had. Beginning to end, including verifying passports, vaccine cards, covid tests and taking our pictures it took about 4 minutes. There were several other Star Class families who also arrived a bit early (official boarding was at 11), and while we waited for an escort to the ship, that group started to pile up a bit. Eventually, a staff member arrived and we made the hike up to the ship! We expected to meet Marla when we arrived on board ship, but unfortunately, that was not to be the case. We were instead greeted by Claudio, who let us know that due to all of the star class guests arriving sort of all at once, they needed to take folks to their cabins as they arrived, regardless of who their genie is. We learned later that a part of this is also due to the fact that Israel, one of the other genies on board, had taken ill, and his rooms distributed among the other genies at the last moment. As you might imagine, being a genie is already hard work, and having an extra room or two suddenly added to your list can make things pretty challenging! Claudio walked us to the elevator, up to the 12th deck and then down the long hallway to the AquaTheater suites. He ran through the typical first day information and then we had a chance to check out the suite. One of the reasons I was happy to have this room (instead of the Grand Suite we had originally been transferred to) is that we just had a 2BR ATS experience last summer with 6 people, and this really worked out well just for the two of us. The room is gorgeous (as is everything on the ship!) and we fell in love with it immediately. Again. Marla had, of course, provided us with small snacks and a few drinks (yay mango margarita!), so we set up shop on the deck and drank our first drinks aboard Wonder of the Seas. We didn't take too long to enjoy them, though, as we already had reservations for the newest restaurant in the fleet: The Mason Jar! The Mason Jar is just a delightful restaurant. The ambience is great. Our server was terrific, and the food and drinks were delicious. We had a bit of jalapeno biscuit to start with and then ordered our mains for brunch: chicken and waffles for me and the stuffed french toast for Ashley. They were every bit as delectable as I had hoped. After the main bit of our meal, we also split an order of red velvet pancakes because I just had to try them. And oh my. They were yummy! We will have to go back to the bar at some point, but we did managed to try four (2 each) of their signature cocktails: - Mississippi Moonlight (the only drink not made with bourbon!) - Southern Belle (my favorite so far) - PB&J Old Fashioned - Pretty as a Peach Tea The cocktails are all creative and clever and, of course, quite good. After brunch, we headed back to the room to change into swimsuits and ventured up to the new suite sun deck - which I loved. It's quiet and calm. It has a great bar and plenty of seating. As of this post, we've been up there twice, and it hasn't felt the least bit crowded either time. In any case, we sat in the loungers in the wading pool for about an hour or so (maybe an hour and a half), and let our food digest and our worries and anxiety of missed trains and sore feet melt away in the mediterranean sun. We headed back to the suite to continue relaxing, unpacked and just generally lounged a bit between then and dinner. I had momentary bit of panic when I realized that my only remaining clean button-up shirt was heavily wrinkled, but Marla had Alexis (our room attendant) rush to have it pressed in time for our dinner reservation. Trust me when I say there is very little that a royal genie cannot make happen for you on your cruise! Dinner was, naturally, Coastal Kitchen, in the time honored tradition of 1st night Filet Mignon. Dinner was excellent as always, and I still maintain that the CK filet is the best in the fleet. (Although - spoilers - the preparation we got for Chef's Table put it into the running again after a narrow miss at Chef's Table on Allure last summer). We also, naturally, split all three daily desserts, which in hindsight we probably should have just had delivered to the room for later. Dinner was pretty late in the evening, so we returned to the room to get ready to watch the brand new Aquatheater performance, inTENse. Marla had drinks delivered to us right before, and of course we got to watch the whole performance from our balcony. I won't spoil the show, but I will say that this performance is, and it's not close, the absolutely best aquatheater show I have seen to date. The energy, intensity and just overall bravado of the performance is absolutely top-notch. There is a slack-line trampoline sequence in the middle that will leave your jaw on the floor, and the aerialist is just outstanding. 7/5 stars, would see again, and probably will, on this very cruise. And that brings us the end of our first day about Wonder of the Seas! Stay tuned for tomorrow's update: The Drach Caves in Mallorca, Chef's Table and Tap Factory!
    11 points
  38. Gives me a chance to visit places in an "appetizer" fashion that I might have otherwise not have gone to. All-inclusive. Pretty pretty sea.
    11 points
  39. Sorry, everyone, but each time this subject comes up, I have to post this!
    11 points
  40. Made it onto Wonder
    11 points
  41. The crew that I have talked to tell me they do not get anything for serving a C&A drink, it's explained to them that this is expected and goes with the job. That's why I always tip per drink. If I have unused C&A vouchers I'll often ask for bottles of water near bedtime and even those I tip $1 per drink minimum, i.e 3 water = $3. Drink package and regularly charged drinks are the only drinks that automatically reward the server. I also tend to come back towards the end of the cruise and give something extra to those that have earned it through great service. I typically get shareholder OBC on my cruises which I cash out in the casino and use for extra tipping purposes.
    11 points
  42. The sun is going down in Paris, and my goodness is this a gorgeous city! But more on that later. You can read the previous posts about our adventure with the trains this morning. The tldr is that our train was diverted from our boarding spot in Amsterdam, we had to catch a local train to Rotterdam, and then we caught up with our original train and made our way to Brussels. The train ride was smooth and comfortable (for a train), and we enjoyed the view of the Dutch and Belgian country. Lots of canals, windmills and just very, very green landscapes. We arrived in Brussels shortly before noon and made our way to the storage lockers in Brussels-Midi. If you've never used lockers like this before, I highly recommend them for stopovers and day trips. We only had about 4 hours to spend in the city before catching our next train, but the luggage lockers let us safely store our bags for the duration, so we weren't lugging them all around town with us. Free of bags and free of train stress, we headed over to Grand Place. One thing that struck me right away is that Brussels feels much more 'lived in' than old town Amsterdam. There were many more locals than tourists (at least until we got to Grand Place), and they're just out living their lives, mostly unaffected by travelers from outside of the city. Like Amsterdam, much of Brussels is paved with cobblestone - another reason to be glad of leaving the bags at the train station. Cobblestone is rough enough on your feet, but it's a nightmare for a roller bag. We arrived in Grand Place after about an hour or so (it's only a 20 minute walk, but we took our time and made some stops in the train station as well before heading out). Grand Place is incredibly majestic. It's a large town square of about 50 acres surrounded by massive, highly ornate buildings. It's a lot to take in all at once, and the details of the facades is fabulous. There were a ton of people, but it wasn't really that crowded. People found space to spread out. After soaking in awe for several minutes, we realized that we were, in fact, feeling hungry, so we headed into a nice little pub-style restaurant, La Brouette. The food was delicious (as everything has been so far). I had a pulled pork sandwich with fries. Ashley had a Belgian food sampler including carbonnades flamande (a Belgian beef stew), chicken vol-au-vent, and a meatball that tasted faintly of spaghetti-o's. We also split a Belgian waffle with chocolate, powdered sugar and ice cream. The pace of our meal was leisurely. So much so that it did feel a bit longer than even feels appropriate for Europe. Nothing to complain about, but we sat for quite a while waiting for the check once we had finished our waffle. There is a wonderful chocolatier in the square, Mary, and we picked up some chocolates to bring home for our kids as well as a couple of pralines as a nice, after-lunch digestif. I've heard occasional rumors about people having difficulty getting pralines through airport security, and since we won't be checking any bags on the way home, we decided to take the safe route and buy chocolate squares. I have a feeling my kids won't be able to tell the difference. We went back to the train station by a slightly different route, going a bit out of the way to see the Mannekin Pis statue. It's smaller than I expected (insert joke here), but still otherwise entertaining. There's actually a really cool looking bike shop right around the corner, with full size, colorful bikes decorating the exterior wall. I found that to be almost as interesting as the peeing boy statue was. The walk back to the train station was nice and relaxing, and we returned with about an hour to kill before the train arrived. Ashley had forgotten some of her makeup so we dropped into a shop in the train station to pick up replacements. We sat for a bit and relaxed with a couple bottles of sparkling water and then it was off for the train to Paris. I'll be honest, I didn't see much of that train ride. While we are almost completely recovered from jet lag, I did wake up at 4:45 and we walked a fair deal, so I took a nap for a good half of the train ride. Once in Paris, we made our way to the local train (I broke the ticket buying computer. That's never happened to me, so it feels like something of an accomplishment). The ride to Luxembourg station was brief and uneventful. From the station, it was a quick 7 minute walk to our hotel, Les 3 Colleges. Our room is not as nice as the room we got in Amsterdam, and the hotel isn't as nice either. That said, this room is incredibly unique. It's a cozy, little loft on the top floor with a view (somewhat) of the top of the Pantheon. It's adorable in its own way, and, since we won't be seeing much of it other than to sleep, it serves it's purpose for us while we're here. We spent an hour so just giving ourselves a break, and then it was time to find something for dinner. We weren't really in the mood for a long walk or a taxi ride, so I chose something nearby: Perraudin. Now, we hadn't made any reservations for this evening, so I knew we were taking a risk, but we went ahead and walked over there anyway. At first, it seems our hopes would be dashed, because they were full up for the night. When the host said that all they had was outdoor seating though, we jumped at it. The weather is not that cold, and we both grew up in Colorado. An evening in the mid-60s is just fine for outdoor dining as far as I'm concerned. The food. Oh my goodness, the food. This is my first time eating at a legitimate authentic French restaurant, so I ordered escargots, a ribeye w/burgundy sauce, and the creme brulee. Ashley wasn't feeling super hungry, so she got duck confit and a cheese spread for dessert. This meal was everything I ever hoped for from Paris. A quiet, leisurely meal, sitting outside a French bistro, eating French cuisine. I could die happy (but I won't!). Also, I have had escargots before, but this was the first time I've ever been served them inside of the shell. I was handed the snails, a pair of tongs and a fork, and immediately reached for my phone to google: 'eating escargots with tongs!' I'd like to say that I figured it out pretty quickly, even if the first shell was a bit slippery and wouldn't stay between the tongs. The steak was fine - it's hard to compete with American style steak preparation, but the sauce was incredible and the little green salad and fries were delightful. The highlight for me, though, was the creme brulee. It was so perfectly torched, I could have cried. The crystallization and flavor was absolutely perfect, and the custard was creamy and perfectly chilled with just the faintest hint of vanilla. I am not a dessert snob, but I can recognize an incredible dessert when it's given to me, and this was just out of this world, spot-on execution. Now we've returned to the hotel, the sun is going down and it's time to get some sleep for tomorrow. We'll be seeing the city sights throughout the day tomorrow, which I'm quite excited about. See you all tomorrow! PS. I have a lot of pictures, but they're a bit clunky to get uploaded to the site. I will add them where I can, maybe before we head out in the morning.
    11 points
  43. You'd consider not taking a transatlantic cruise because the Flowrider has a bump in the middle? This is your make-or-break?
    11 points
  44. Here's a small sample of our photos from Amsterdam yesterday. It is such a beautiful city.
    11 points
  45. Day 4 - At Sea I will say that if you tend toward seasickness, an itinerary in the North Sea might not be for you. Last night we had 30 foot swells most of the night. Several passengers actually switched rooms in the middle of the night because their cabins were “too loud, with lots of creaking and popping”, including the one directly below us. Personally I feel it just sounded like a ship at sea, but maybe they were more used to larger ships. Dunno. Morning saw much smoother sailing. There was a Blue Nose ceremony at 10:30am, a champagne toast at 5pm, and a balloon drop at 5:15pm. We also got certificates for crossing the Arctic Circle. There have been lots of activities, including various trivia, bingo, art auctions, and the like. I will send in the Cruise Compasses at the end. I’ve gotten behind already in posting food pictures, so here’s a bunch, in no particular order, to catch up! Lunch at Izumi, but we mostly failed at getting photos. Here’s karaage and potstickers: From the MDR or room service: Pepper Steak Pie: Classic Cheesecake: Seafood cake: Braised Short Ribs: Chicken Schnitzel: Classic chocolate cake: Steak Oscar: Jaffa cake: And here’s a jaunty hippo!
    10 points
  46. Days Eleven: Willow Today was our last day here so I woke up early to play with my cousins. We played a couple board games then had breakfast. It was time for our final excursion: sled dogs! We got to play with all of their 62 dogs. Lots of them enjoyed getting up on their hind two legs and dancing with us. There was this dog named Patsy who’s the great x22 granddaughter of Balto and Togo. She was the sweetest out of all of them. If you ever go, be sure to look out for Tenzing, he bites anything hanging off of you and almost stole my scarf. After we played with them for a bit, it was time to mush! Since it’s summer, we weren’t on sleds and instead had the dogs hooked up to a UTV. I got to stand in the back the whole time. It was really cool to see these dogs run and funny thinking my own dog was sleeping at home. Once we were done mushing, we played with the puppies! They were adorable, but one of them tried to eat my hair. I even got to hold one. We got hamburgers or hotdogs, chips, and cookies included with the whole experience for lunch. It was amazing and if you’re ever in Willow, you should definitely give Snowhook Adventure Guides of Alaska a try. Once we got back to my cousin’s house we played on their trampoline for a little bit. Then we tried out their ATVs. I didn’t drive, but it was pretty cool to ride with my dad. I think I’ve been on every mode of transportation this trip. It was time for the inevitable packing. Somehow we made it all fit, even with our souvenirs. We played a couple more board games then said bye. Before we left I made sure to get myself a sled dog. Plush of course. Then we were on our flight and headed back home. Shortly after we took off, my mom opened the window shade one last time and above the clouds, we saw for our first time Denali. We are now members of the 30% club, meaning only 30% of visitors to that area actually get to the see the mountain. Clearly it's a very elusive and exclusive mountain. So I started this blog to find out what there was in Alaska for teenagers. In Optix, they go with the flow and do whatever everyone wants to do. You can almost always look for something fun to do there when they’re open of course. There’s also tons of activities onboard and off board for anyone. I’d definitely do it again. And a big thanks to everyone who made this blog happen. My mom for having the idea, my dad for posting it, my brother for pictures, my family and friends for encouragement, and most of all to you, my reader, cause without you, none of this would really matter so thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Thanks for tuning in to my Alaska Adventure!
    10 points
  47. No P-named ships because calling it POS just isn't right.
    10 points
×
×
  • Create New...