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Showing content with the highest reputation since 08/07/2013 in all areas

  1. 32 points
    Since it seems to come up a lot, and although Twangster's detailed blog is far superior, I thought there may be one or two who might be curious about a recent experience. I purchased it for my 4-night Mariner of the Seas cruise to Nassau/Coco Cay. I was a solo traveler and I had a $25 onboard credit, so the price came to $55. Between Voom and lunch on embarkation day, I'd already gotten my value, so it was really a no-brainer purchase for me. Embarkation: They called The Key people with the Pinnacle/Diamond/Diamond Plus members when they opened up the doors. I suspect they just threw us in with them because it was so early and there were very few people in the terminal yet. Delivery of carry on luggage to stateroom: A few of us wandered around trying to figure out where to drop off our carry on luggage when we first boarded - they were a little behind and didn't have a sign on the theatre door, or anyone in the theatre to take the bags yet. In about 10 minutes we all figured it out (all 5 of us at that point) and someone did show up to start the process. Unfortunately that person hadn't been provided with any luggage tags, so anyone who hadn't tagged their luggage had to wait a little while - I had my luggage tag on my one rolling carry on. They also had business cards with Voom codes on it - but none of them matched the names of anyone who was there, so staff was confused. In the end they just gave us a card for whoever (sorry Adam Davis, or whoever's I had), and we were on our way. I assume they managed to work it out in the end, but it was never an issue for me. Lunch at Chops - was a nice treat! Reserved seating section at shows - I only went to the comedy show really late on Embarkation day and on the last night. There was a section roped off for The Key next to either higher C&A or suite folks - it really didn't matter at this show because there was really hardly anyone in the theatre. The first night I sat in The Key section, the last night I sat somewhere else - it didn't matter. But this is Mariner, not a Quantum or Oasis class ship, so I imagine it would make a difference on one of those ships. Reserved times for Flow Rider/Rock Climbing Wall/Sky Pad/Perfect Storm - they had at least 2 hours set aside during the week for each activity. They weren't at the most convenient hours, but, at least on my sailing, it wasn't necessary for a separate time - there was never a line at any of those activities - I never saw more than a few people in line for any of them and most of the time nobody was using them. Apparently this was a "sit by the pool and drink" cruise for folks. On the 2nd day, I happened to stop by my cabin to pick something up and someone knocked on my door and delivered a fruit plate that was complimentary for The Key people. That was unexpected. Priority tender - We only tendered at CoCo Cay - I went down to get on the tender about an hour after we anchored and there was a line (not a ridiculous line, but a line as you'd expect there to be). There was no staff along the line at all to ask about The Key benefit, and I'm just not the type to walk past a bunch of people who are waiting to also get on the tender to get in front of them, so I just got on with everyone else. I was able to get on the tender right away anyway, probably because I wasn't trying to get on the first tender of the day, so it was just fine with me. I could have been more assertive, but that's just not me. And the ending result would have been exactly the same in this case. Disembarkation Day - it was nice to have a quiet, unrushed breakfast in the MDR. It was the only time I'd sat with other people during a meal - almost the only time I'd spoken to any other people all week (I did talk to the iguana and the chickens on CoCo Cay earlier, that's a whole different story #retiredzookeeper) and I did enjoy that. After breakfast, I ran back up to my room, grabbed my carry on, and went down to Deck 4, where there happened to be a staff member manning the line. I asked him about The Key disembarkation, and he personally escorted me to the gangway past a long line, which was REALLY nice. I liked the program, and it was defnintely worth it on a short sailing. I was getting Voom anyway, and there were just enough things that I was going to enjoy along the way that it made it worth it to me. I very much doubt that I'll get it on my Ovation sailing to Alaska in June - I will be going with my husband, who has no interest in Voom, and we will be meeting up with old friends, who will not have The Key, so we won't be taking advantage of reserved seating with shows and special times for activities since they won't be able to partake with us during those times. We'll evaluate it again on our Symphony sailing in Feb 2020 - things may have changed with the program, or the hubs may decide he wants internet access, so we'll see then. Hope this helps someone out there!
  2. 29 points

    I'm all packed and so excited

    I needed to share my joy with someone so here seems like the place. We leave Sunday on the Allure just hubby and I to celebrate 25 years of marriage then on the 27th we board the Empress with our three children for a family cruise. I'm so freaking excited even though we just cruised in December. I cannot wait to be without the kids for a vacation and I'm also excited for Cuba.
  3. 29 points

    Missed the Boat!

    I think this thread has served a purpose. Cruisers old and new have learned the ship will actually leave without you when you don't return in time. Of the 6,000 on board, 5,998 made it back. I was on a cruise two weeks ago and I saw 60 - 80 people slowly walking up the pier well past all aboard time. None were in a hurry. One drunk girl lay on the concrete pier and rested (or passed out) . I had to check my watch thinking I was an hour off. I wasn't. Crew were waving to them to hurry up. The bridge blew the ship's horn. People are way too cavalier and just assume the world revolves around them. I tire at the muster drill waiting for the stragglers to show up. I tire on an excursion waiting for people who show up late. Hopefully this video will serve to educate everyone that a ship will leave without you. It is your responsibility to be on time. The cruise community has a name for these types of people. "Pier Runners" and it transcends all cruise lines. This is about personal accountability and yes, two ships full of passengers will make fun of you when you miss the ship. Lesson learned - don't be late.
  4. 28 points

    What's Still Missing?

    Chairs that automatically dump off people's towels when they haven't been used in 30 mins!!! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
  5. 26 points
    I just want to say that it is so awesome to have found you guys! I feel like everyone here understands all of my questions and my general obsessing about my upcoming cruise! I am VERY excited about starting a new type of adventure (I'm most sure this will not be my only RC cruise already... lol)... Just sayin' thanks ... I found my 'herd'... 😄
  6. 25 points
    I pop over to that "other" site every now and then. Was just checking it out during lunch today and it never ceases to amaze as to how ugly it gets over there. I see so many people (even mods) who just get salty and vile with people posting simple questions. My wife was laughing at me the last time i was reading over there because i let it get under my skin way more than it should, if at all. So many trolls as well. @Matt it really makes me appreciate all of your hard work that has gone into this place, not to mention the great attitudes of everyone here. Thanks again everyone! My time spent here makes me really enjoy cruising much more than I ever intended. I always log off knowing more than I started out and generally have a good laugh as well. Cheers!
  7. 23 points

    Hi I'm Jane and I'm an overpacker!

    So I just got done reading @Whizbank live blog and she stated that she would pack lighter next time. I'm now sitting and looking at the suitcase I'm going to have trouble closing today. Ugh! So thought I'd share some things I'm going to do for the European cruise this summer (16 days in Barcelona and on the ship) as an accountability post lol. Please chime in with suggestions and encouragement lol. I know like the drink pkg we have beaten this to death, but hey, it's fun! 1. Royal has amazing storage in their rooms, both interior and outside.I have sailed 5 classes now and fit everything every time. Majesty had a dinky closet but a great big side table and window ledge. Others have hidden shelves, ottomans, other closets. Obviously the longer cruises are a bit more challenging which leads to.... 2. Rewear! I have favorites that I take on every cruise that I could totally wear over. Some things I will wash when I get home that I only wore once (or not at all) and they aren't even really dirty. I get if it's super hot you might have to selectively rewear, but I don't pack that way. 7 days, pack for 9 lol. Ugh! Do I need 2 formal dresses? Heck no. Is it ok if people are me in the same outfit twice... Absolutely. Do I need extra clothes not at all... That's where #3 comes in... 3. Laundry! I will freely admit I haven't used it in the ship and I won't risk any favorite clothes (I worry about too hot dryers). But I spend everywhere else...Porters, drink pkg, extra 2 dollars for my favorite 🍷 etc.... A bag of laundry will not kill me to pay for! And my bathing suits, etc, are wet when I came back...I can hand wash them in the shower. Now again, with how long everything takes to dry I am not bringing detergent and hanging everything... But a small stain is solvable by a quick rinse. 4. Packing cubes.... That was a long thread earlier. I personally love them but didn't use them correctly. I was in 3 different places pre-cruise, cruise and post-cruise. I should have packed the cubes that way rather than every time I wanted an outfit having to go through different ones. I could have put my pre-cruise two outfits in a bag with a bathing suit and pair of jammies and never opened the rest! 5. Shoes.... Sigh. I did do better this time. I wore my tennis shoes on the plane and once again, it wasn't necessary for me personally to have them. I will just wear my walking sandals on the plane too. I took my lighter weight sandals this time and didn't fuss with the 3 inch heals I would wear once or twice. I actually packed 2 pairs of flip flops in case one pair broke....omg WHY? Which leads to... 6. This next cruise no matter what I'm going with the Rick Steve's packing rule which I never do but am going to start! I love his travel blogs and YouTube videos and he says "always pack for the expected, not the unexpected". Ok...I'm a pack for the unexpected....my shoe might break, my phone cord might break, I might spill coffee on my 4 sweaters... All 4! All the unexpected back-ups come home unused and talking up space. I'm not traveling to the middle of Africa where I might have trouble getting something!!!! (If you are, you are probably better at packing than I am anyway and not reading this!). Next time I will truly try and follow this. Heck I will pack a $100 extra dollars just for things I might need to get and when I don't, take myself out to a nice Cafe somewhere! 7. Go with your history and your gut. Every trip I pack shorts "just in case I feel like wearing them" and workout clothes "just in case I want to work out". Ok...I've now been on 6 cruises. Not once have I put on shorts or tshirts (Im a sundress girl) and the only time I've set for in the fitness center is to take pics on day one. If I haven't used something at home (do I really want that dress) or on a ship, it is just not gonna get used here! 8. Compare with the other lovely people in your family. In March my family brilliantly brought 3 tubes of toothpaste. Seriously. We all packed our regular travel kits and we all have toothpaste. Oh well. Next time I'm going back to the family ziplocks...1 toothpaste and common shampoo, soap, etc. And I'm getting slightly better at judging amount we use. For example, I love using the bath & body works squirt soap better than the bars. They smell nice and I just like them. We don't need a whole bottle...I can bring a half-used one and then I have 2 more oz and space at the end of the trip! Same goes for shampoo, lotion, etc! 9. Suitcase stuffing. I'm a stuffer. If the suitcase is at 40 lbs and not full, I can stuff just one more extra dress or pair of shoes just in case. Nope. The problem is that it takes me forever to fit everything in at home. I don't have that time on the trip and what happens is I frantically stuff everything in and one day I'm gonna break the zipper. I have had to buy and check an extra suitcase at Disney before (ok...I could get into souvenir shopping here. I didn't buy the rum in Nassau because I knew I wouldn't have the space or weight lol). So next time, things will fit better at the start. I will do what you are supposed to... Pack and then unpack and take out a bunch you don't need! Because I don't need the stress at the end of the trip! So I've now spent time I should have been packing avoiding it but when I get home, this is what's I'm going to re-read before I pack!!!!!! Jane
  8. 22 points
  9. 22 points
    Yesterday I experienced a trip delay returning on a cruise and I thought it would make an interesting "lessons learned" post. My 4 night cruise on Brilliance of the Seas left Tampa on time and on schedule. It was a great cruise with a group of friends and we all enjoyed it. When we finished our day in Cozumel and re-boarded the ship none of us knew how mother nature had her own plans for our return to Tampa despite calm seas and smooth sailing. Fog. Heavy fog. To reach the pier in Tampa you need to pass under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. In 1980 during severe weather a freighter struct the original bridge sending a section of the bridge crashing into the bay killing 35 people. As such, Tampa and it's pilots don't take chances when it comes to weather. We arrived to the Tampa pilot station six hours ahead of schedule in an attempt to beat the fog but the fog beat us, arriving earlier than forecast. Our attempt to beat the fog and arrive early didn't come without cost. Running any boat, vessel, craft or ship at full speed consumes a massive amount of fuel compared to running at a nominal cruising speed. Royal spent tens of thousands of dollars on fuel and it's an example how Royal does try to do the best thing for everyone involved even if it costs them significant sums of money. Waking up early on debark day I noted our speed was zero but we were still outside of Tampa Bay. Oh boy, here we go. Up on deck 12 I could see several cargo and tanker ships hanging around with us in the fog. Beyond the lights of the other ships you couldn't see much of anything. Fog. The Captain informed us that the channel into the port was closed by the Coast Guard and we would need to wait until the channel opened and a pilot could come out to board the ship. The initial estimate was a 2:30pm arrival at the pier. Not long after the Captain informed us that he just got word that another cruise ship got stuck in port the day before and couldn't leave due to the fog. The channel through Tampa Bay is narrow and only one cruise ship can occupy it at a time, two ships cannot pass each other in the channel. It takes 2 to 3 hours for a ship to transit the channel. We had no choice but to wait for that ship to depart and clear the bay before could begin our entrance to the bay. Estimated arrival now 5:30pm. Lesson 1 - Don't book early flights. While sitting around an airport for a day doesn't sound that attractive you need to understand the risk that comes with booking an early flight. Delays happens for a number of reasons most of which are no one's fault and unavoidable. Weather delays happen, some ports like Tampa or Galveston are more likely to experience delays at certain times of the year. Do some research before booking that flight. Delays can occur for many reasons beyond weather. In my case, I had booked a 6:30pm flight home because it was cheapest, like $175 cheaper than the 10:30am direct flight. Over the weeks before the cruise I kept looking at that knowing I could pay the difference on Southwest and grab the earlier direct flight but if someone said to me "I'll give you $175 and all you need to do is stay at an airport for 8 hours" I'd take that deal every time. I knew I could get some work done using the free airport wifi so my plan was to get off the ship early and spend the day working from the airport knowing if there was a delay, I could be relaxed and not stressed out. Not only did I save money but the later flight also saved me a bunch of stress during this experience. Lesson 2 - Travel Insurance. This is a perfect example of how travel insurance needs to be high on anyone's list to consider. Our group of about 70 included folks with travel insurance and some "self insured" as they put it. Some people were out $400 or $500 per person to rebook next day airfare and they had to pay for a hotel and meals on top of that. For a couple that can be over $1,000. For a family of four that could be over $2,000. Those with insurance will get some, if not all of that back. Those without just lost a whole lot of money. However know your travel insurance coverage and limits. My annual travel insurance policy was chosen primarily for medical coverage. It has some trip interruption coverage but it doesn't have great reimbursement for delays of this nature. Lesson 3 - If you have travel insurance, know how to use it. A lot of people in our group had insurance but had no idea what to do in the hour of need. What is their phone number? What is the policy number? What is covered and what isn't? How much is covered? Do you need pre-approval? What documentation is required? The ship had letters pre-printed and available at guest services stating there was a weather delay and some insurance companies will need that documentation for a claim to proceed. If you buy insurance that's great, but know what to do when you need to use it. Lesson 4 - They keep the food and beverages flowing. No need to worry about your extra time on board, they have ample food for such events and lined up more activities to keep us busy. Most people took it all in stride and rolled with it. It was quite enjoyable, much like any sea day. Lesson 5 - Listen to announcements and pay attention. On the last night of the cruise many people put their luggage tags on their bag and place them in the hallway. Bags are collected by the crew and prepared to be offloaded once the ship reaches the pier. It takes time for the pier personnel to offload thousands of bags. There is a reason why bag tags have numbers and bags are offloaded in order so that numbers can be called only when those bags will be ready and waiting in the terminal. During an event like this there a natural tendency to want to get off as soon as the ship arrives but cruise terminals cannot hold thousands of people waiting hours for luggage to be offloaded. Of course what occurred once we did finally reach the pier? Hundreds of guests ignored the announcements, made a stampede to exit during the "self assist" time and found themselves having to stand outside the terminal waiting for up to 2 hours for their luggage, with no where to sit and no food or water. If they had listened to the announcements they could have been sitting comfortably on the ship with access to restrooms, food and beverages. Instead they made the self-assist process more chaotic and accomplished nothing but misery for themselves in the process. Listen to the announcements, follow instructions. Lesson 6 - You can't fight mother nature. It's not the crew's fault, it's not the Captains fault, it's not the cruise line's fault. Don't be one of those people making an already difficult situation any worse. Even if you are one of those people who choose to ignore the lessons above, at the end of the day becoming ugly or snarky with the crew or terminal employees accomplishes nothing. Sit back, take a deep breathe and relax. Life will go on and it will all work out in the end. Put a smile on in the face of adversity. Be kind to other's and don't get everyone else spun up. Staying calm and friendly helps other's stay calm and friendly. If you are stressed out, it will make your spouse and/or kids stressed out. If you are calm and smiling through it, your loved ones will be more relaxed. Do it for them. Lesson 7 - If you don't buy insurance you've only got yourself to blame. Accept the fact that you saved some money by not buying insurance. You took a gamble and lost. The money saved by not buying insurance may take a small bite out of your losses. No cruise line can change factors beyond their control. It's not their fault. You took the chance and lost. Accept responsibility and move on. Me? I got lucky. A lot of factors combined to work out in my favor. I had booked a later flight. I have travel insurance. I always use self-assist. Customs was fast. Taxi's were waiting. TSA Pre lines had no wait. Southwest did an amazing job getting my luggage on the plane checking in at 38 minutes before departure. The stars aligned for me perfectly and I didn't need to make a claim against my insurance policy. I was fortunate but in a small group of lucky guests.
  10. 21 points
    This was posted somewhere on Cruise Critic. Not sure where it came from but it's awesome!! It's drink packages explained and for those that "already know this stuff" it's noted that any changes to the RCCL Drink policies are noted in red in the article. This document ALSO contains Harmony's Bar Menu and Drink Listing WITH prices!! LAST BUT NOT LEAST...the last 4 pages documents the names of special drinks and how they are made so you can make them at home for yourself OR you will know what to order on your next cruise. I love this pdf and wanted to share with you all. Enjoy!!! Cruise News Harmony 2019 Drinking.pdf
  11. 21 points
    Who’s Going? The usual crew: Hubby, our 2 girls, D10 & D12 (a month shy of 11 &13), and myself. Flight Our plan is to fly from DTW to EWR two days before. Since it is our summer vacation and we are not pressed for time, we are taking an extra day to take our girls around Manhattan the day before the cruise. Pre-Cruise Stay I tossed around the idea of staying in Manhattan because the pre-cruise meet up is there but then we decided to book Embassy Suites again in Elizabeth, NJ. A few friends from our group cruise are also staying there. At the last minute, and by that, I mean only 3 weeks ago, it dawned on me that I overlooked a very important point. We booked a one-day tour with Viator for NYC that leaves from Times Square. I realized that going into NYC on a Wednesday morning from NJ would be a bit of a problem with rush hour. Not wanting to stress about being stuck in traffic or risk missing our tour, we went ahead, and canceled Embassy Suites and our stay now is at... the Intercontinental New York Times Square! We realize that this adds a bit more cost and travel time on embarkation morning, but our girls are so excited to stay in Manhattan and we are steps away from the pre-cruise meet up and our tour pick up point. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Itinerary This 9-night sailing takes us to Bermuda, St. Maarten, San Juan, and Labadee. We have no real plans for this sailing other than relaxing. June was such a busy month for all of us. I am simply burnt out and looking forward to sitting and staring out at the open waters. In Bermuda, we booked the Bermuda Island Drive By Minibus Tour through Royal. In San Juan, we plan to walk around for a bit on our own. Lastly, for St. Maarten and Labadee, we may not even get off the ship. Hubby and I will be back at these same ports (minus Bermuda) in a few weeks on Symphony and it’s better to visit “That Yoda Guy” without the kids. Cabin We are booked in the exact same cabin category as last cruise. Formerly a Family Junior Suite (FJ), it has now been re-categorized as a J3. This cabin makes the most sense for our family as it has the pullman bed and 1 ½ bath. This time around, we grabbed one on Deck 8 instead of 9 in hopes that it might be slightly better for motion. Not sure if it will make much of a difference. See my 2018 live blog for pics of this cabin. Pre-Cruise thoughts - First Group Cruise! So excited! Need I say more?! - Because it is a Group Cruise and our kids have started venturing out on their own, we grabbed the VOOM for 3 devices plan this time. This way, we will be able to contact D12 anytime if needed, especially if we split up from them for group activities. - This is also my way of giving Anthem a second chance. As noted in my previous Anthem blog, there were two things I really did not enjoy about the previous cruise. One was that crowds did not flow well throughout the ship. The second was that I vowed to never sail from NJ again in the colder months as it was not enjoyable for us. We will see if sailing in July makes a difference. - Finally, my disclaimer is that this blog may not follow my usual style. I can’t even promise how “live” it will be this time around. And there will be many things I may not post to avoid being redundant from my last one. - Once again, in the spirit of a live blog, please do not hesitate to ask any questions. I will do my best to find out whatever I can for you. - When responding to a post with a series of pictures, please do not include the pictures in your reply. It just makes for easier scrolling. - Lastly, I will do my best to bring the cruise to you LIVE through Periscope – you can follow me @LoveToCruise2002.
  12. 20 points
    Cruising with Greatness – Anthem Group Cruise – July 4-13, 2019 Anthem of the Seas the Reboot (aka Anthem, The Lite Edition). For those of you who have been around for a while, you know that we cruised Anthem back in 2018. For a more in-depth blog of Anthem, check out my blog from March 2018. This is going to be the “Lite Edition” for several reasons. I wasn’t even going to blog this cruise as I am not sure how much more I can add to it that would be different from my previous one or the ones that @twangster, @JLMoran, @SweetPea, or @TheHobbys have done. And…it’s my first Group Cruise! I might be just a tad busier than usual. However, the conclusion that I came to is that it would be irresponsible and inconsiderate of me to not blog it because it was the blogs and scopes from last year’s Royal Caribbean Blog Alaska GC that finally pushed me into booking this one. Again, the best part of live blogs is learning from each other and to pay it forward. Let’s back up the story a bit on how this cruise came about for us. I saw this GC as soon as @Matt announced it back in the Fall of 2017. The itinerary stood out right away for me as it was 9-night sailing that goes to Bermuda (we have never been). To make it even better, the dates for this GC landed on dates that were actually doable for me. However, during that time, I was more focused on securing my Symphony July 2019 booking and with both cruises in July, only weeks apart, I decided it wasn’t going to be possible for Anthem. In March 2018, we sailed Anthem, and I had very mixed feelings on that sailing with the ship itself. I usually enjoy most cruises we go on, but Anthem did not sit well with me. You can see my initial thoughts of Anthem in my previous Anthem blog. Fast forward to June 2018, the RC Blog gang went to Alaska, and it looked like so much fun that I truly wanted to try out a GC myself. Many of you know that I am teacher and my vacation dates are not flexible. To have the Anthem GC fall over our summer break was an opportunity that I felt I could not let pass. Booking this cruise was essentially embracing the true YOLO spirit. As far as our (I mean Hubby’s) bank account goes, booking this one and Symphony to sail in the same month was not wise and made for a very expensive April! On the bright side, this is going to be our shortest dry dock ever between cruises! This is the cruise that we probably should not have booked but could not turn it down for the reasons already listed and the best reason of all…Who can possibly turn down an opportunity to meet “Mr. YOLO Book It!” himself? True Greatness? Our Fearless Leader? Obviously not us! So here it goes…
  13. 20 points
  14. 20 points
    Wrong cruise line?
  15. 20 points

    2018 - A Cruise Year in Review

    Fourteen cruises marks the most I've cruised in any single year so I thought I take a second to put it down in a post. I started 2018 as a relatively new Diamond member in the Crown and Anchor Society and finished just over the halfway mark to Pinnacle. Anthem -> Liberty -> Serenade -> Adventure -> Explorer -> Empress -> Radiance -> Mariner -> Enchantment -> Adventure -> Symphony -> Serenade -> Oasis -> Navigator The scary part is I missed a cruise when my daughter graduated from the Air Force or it would have been fifteen. Oh well, well worth it. Of all these cruises I think Navigator to the ABC islands was my best cruise, in no small part due to the ABC islands and my cruise mate (step daughter and scuba diving buddy). Other notable 2018 cruise events for me First Transatlantic (Symphony) First Canada/New England (Adventure) First ABC island cruise First visit/cruise to Cuba First Diamond Plus cruise (Adventure repositioning San Juan to Bayonne) First Radiance class experience First Voyager class experience Completed the Oasis class challenge (sailing all Oasis Class) Completed the Freedom class challenge (sailing all Freedom class) Completed the Empress class challenge (easy one here) My longest single cruise (Adventure 13 night Snowbird Migration) Paid for a cruise in full and didn't show up (cruise #15 above) Sailed six different classes of ship in a single year (would have been seven classes if not for the missed cruise) First time on a FlowRider Five Crystal Blocks First year not sailing in a full suite Sailed on a ship every month of the year First RoyalCaribbeanBlog Group Cruise!!!! What was your most notable cruise moment of 2018?
  16. 19 points

    Missed Final Payment date

    "MY FRIEND" (lol) was able to get it ALL taken care of as if nothing had happened! P. T. L. #dontmissfinalpayment #mightstranglethehubby #iamthefriend
  17. 19 points
    I recently had an opportunity to try a fly-in vacation at an all inclusive resort in Jamaica so I'd thought I'd share my thoughts on my experience versus a Royal Caribbean cruise. I booked using a Priceline "Express Deal" for a "5 star resort". I ended up at the Hyatt Ziva Rosa Hall in Jamaica's Montego Bay. I used a 10% off coupon from a previous Priceline stay which brought our nightly rate for two during spring break down to $400 USD per night all in (taxes, resort fees, gratuity, meals and drinks). This for the least expensive "resort view" double bed room. For this resort that was pretty much entry level. Pool view and suites only went up fast from there. I did not include the cost of flights in this price because those vary based on origination and cruises don't have flight costs bundled in. The best rate I could find for this resort without using Priceline or my 10% coupon was over $550 per night for the same room, same dates. The resort itself is beautiful. The property consists of two resorts, the Hyatt Ziva (family friendly) and the Hyatt Zilara (adult only). We were free as adults to walk between them at will. Both resorts have their own pools and share many facilities such as beach activities, restaurants and bars. First Observation - Solo Rates As a frequent solo cruiser I often lament the dreaded single supplement. Cruise fares are advertised on a double occupancy basis with a per person rate. To cruise solo, you must double that advertised per person rate. Hotels and resorts generally advertise a room rate. Since this was an all inclusive resort including drinks and food, rates were also based on occupancy. In this case a single person paid just $50 per night less than two people in the same room. Even with my best deal finding, coupon clipping abilities that's just a 13% savings for a solo traveler. On this trip I traveled with a friend who I have cruised with before but with just a $50 difference in the rate for a solo traveler it's hard to give the fly-in resort a win on solo pricing. Second Observation - Food The resort featured seven restaurants available to us included in the price. These included an Italian, French, Brazilian Steakhouse, Asian and Seafood restaurant as well as more common options such as American bar food and a pizza station. Breakfast was pretty much a buffet style affair with eggs cooked to order stations satisfying our daily start with a made to order omelet. Fruit was plentiful. Lots of pancakes, waffles, etc. Every restaurant offered upcharge options such as this common offer available regardless what restaurant we visited: The menus looked great and the variety appealing. However meal after meal was just okay. Mediocre might be a better description. The Italian restaurant may have been our next best meal over breakfast. The Brazilian style steakhouse offered one of those red/green discs you turn over based on your supply and demand needs. My travel companion noted that the highlight of her meal was the salad she made for herself at the salad bar. The meats came regardless what color our disc displayed and I sampled a few of them before just having several small servings of the 'tenderloin' beef. Having eaten at Brazilian style restaurants in cities such as Atlanta this was not a highlight meal. Those breakfast omelets turned out to be the highlight of our culinary experience. Watch out for the Scotch Bonnet Sauce, it's hot, hot, hot but very good. A little goes a very long way. The breakfast venue offered stunning views outdoors as we enjoyed our start to the day. Side note - room service food was included but we never tried it. One other included venue was a jerk food station with several sauces and corn bread. It was okay but you had to carefully pick through the chicken to avoid bones as they just chopped it all up into pieces and served it on a plate. Like most other food, it just was missing something and I'm a jerk fan (you are what you eat). By the third day we declared Royal Caribbean food a hands down, no contest winner. Third Observation - Beverages Adult beverages were included, including the stocked mini-bar in the room. The mini bar was stocked with a couple of Red Stripe and Red Stripe Light cans, some common liquors (rum/vodka/tequila) and a couple of cans of mixers. WATA (local play on words for bottled water was also plentiful). Pool bars offered a decent selection of frozen concoctions, Red Stripe and Red Stripe Light on tap plus your standard variety of mixed drink cocktails. We sampled many of the frozen concoctions. So many we were left with a sugar buzz but not much of an alcoholic buzz. I never like to accuse anywhere of watering down drinks but either my tolerance rose substantially for four days or those drinks were mostly water. The included wines were hard to drink. Wine menus were offered with each meal but everything was at an additional cost ranging from $45 to "OMG there is no way we are getting that bottle". The house wines left a lot to be desired. As my glass lowered even slightly they were very good about refilling it. However it's not often I leave a full glass of wine at the table at the end of a meal. The wine was just that bad. "Maybe if I don't drink it, they won't refill it" went through my mind. Cocktails like vodka-tonic were basically well drinks with nothing top shelf available. Bars opened at 10am but Mimosa's were available at breakfast before that time. We each had three one morning yet felt nothing. Best option turned out to be Red Stripe on tap. Despite how much beer can fill you up, if you desire to become even moderately buzzed, stick with beer. Fortunately I like Red Stripe. It didn't take long to declare Royal Caribbean adult beverages a hands down winner. Even the included Diamond happy hour wines on Royal Caribbean have found a new respect from me. I longed for them during every dinner at the resort. That says a lot. Fresh off Navigator with the hand crafted cocktails in The Bamboo Room I was very disappointed with the adult beverages at the all inclusive resort. Even standard Royal Caribbean frozen drinks, mixed drinks, any drink, outshined any drink I ordered at the resort. Fourth Observation - The Resort Itself. Beautiful resort with well kept grounds. Staff were excellent and well trained. Everyone we met was happy and went beyond expectations to assist and be helpful. No complaints whatsoever at any time with the resort itself or any employee. Just very pleasant and accommodating people. I was quickly on a first name basis with many of them. Our lunch restaurant view one day: Some of the more expensive rooms feature a shared pool exclusive to those adult only rooms with outdoor lounging beds on the patio and in water loungers. On the adult only Zilara side of the resort these pools featured a lazy river type channel to the main pool. Very nice, but expensive. Meeting rooms and convention space. Immaculate grounds. Very well kept with attention to details. Each resort had it's own swim up bar which was immensely popular. Yes even Jamaica has spring breakers but nothing that was a problem. Pools had lifeguards. One pool next to this one had sport activities such as water bike spin classes, in water yoga, pool volleyball, etc. Lots to do. Cabanas available for rent. Cabanas pricing started at just $89. Beach cabanas $99. Aqua cabanas pictured above $139. The most expensive Royal Palm cabanas included a fruit plate, 15 min. message and lunch delivered for $250. Compared to Royal Caribbean's private destinations of CocoCay and Labadee the resort cabanas are a strong winner for value. While not as large as the new Oasis Lagoon pool on CocoCay, the resort pools were pretty incredible. Clearly no ship can build these massive fresh water pools, there is just not enough space on a ship pool deck to do it. Not pictured were gas fire-pits around the grounds with resort seating around them at night. Very peaceful and relaxing. Included Hobie catamaran 15 minute sailing, paddle boards and kayaks. Night time entertainment was pretty much musicians. One played a violin or fiddle with a machine generated track of background songs and he was very, very good. We listened to him for hours. No ship can compete with a resort spanning hundreds of acres with massive pools, a fitness center, fire-pits and so much more. Hyatt Ziva is very well maintained and beautiful. Win for the resort especially with the reasonable cabanas. Honorable mention to Navigator's new resort style pool deck. For a ship it's the next best thing to a resort. Summary I'm really glad I tried an all inclusive resort because you hear so many people trying to draw comparisons. Departing Jamaica after boarding the plane and getting airborne I had some drink coupons so we enjoyed an airline Mimosa in a plastic cup. We both felt more from that half-sized mini-Mimosa then we did from the three in a row we had at breakfast one morning at the resort. Drinks on Royal Caribbean are a clear and strong winner. When we landed in Orlando for our connection we both clamored a real meal of airport food. It says a lot when Outback in an airport is a fantastic experience after three days of blah. Even with a plastic knife and fork. After clearing immigration we had to wait for our luggage before rejoining the rest of America in the terminal. We talked with some other people who stayed at different all inclusive resorts more expensive than ours (the word Secret is in the name). I had to ask. "How was the food?". Long pregnant pause before their response... "Well, it was just okay, but we really like the resort." Pretty much exactly how we felt. Just okay. Food on Royal Caribbean is a strong winner without bringing Royal specialty dining into the picture. Chair hogs. We learned on our first morning get out early and stake your claim. I grabbed a coffee and claimed loungers under umbrellas while my travel buddy worked out in the fitness center. Some of my message posts this week were from that very poolside lounger. WiFi was included but not much better than O3b internet on newer ships. It struggled with Pandora. Upcharge opportunities. At every turn there were offers to upgrade just about everything, at a cost. A frequent source of complaints from some cruisers comes from upcharge opportunities on a cruise. I've heard people frequently claim "I though it was all inclusive". At this five star all inclusive resort we were inundated with opportunities to upgrade our experience including photographers taking pictures available at an additional charge. We didn't purchase any of them, just as I frequently don't when cruising. I just had to mention the irony of cruisers comparing it to an all inclusive resort. Transportation to the resort from the airport was not included and amounted to $33 per person round trip plus tip. Not much different than airport to port and/or hotel costs for a cruise. No clear winner. Airfare is difficult to compare but I can say that airfare to Jamaica (with a stop in Florida each way) was more expensive for the same spring break week had our flights ended in Florida. How much? Somewhere between $100-$150 for two people. My overall conclusion is that a Royal Caribbean cruise is a winner for my needs and my culinary expectations, which aren't much as a non-foodie. A cruise is simply better value. Despite having gratuity included in the all inclusive resort pricing it was pretty clear that a few extra bucks here and there made a better experience and our bartenders kept our drinks full or replaced with a new one before we could say no. I've seen that some people don't understand where Royal is heading with the CocoCay investment. We pretty much hung out around that resort pool a lot. I get it now, more so than before. Oasis Lagoon at CocoCay is calling my name. Give me a 3 night cruise with Royal Caribbean food, drinks and a long day in CocoCay any day. I don't regret my Jamaica vacation. It's very beautiful there. However I'll never feel like I am missing out by taking a cruise. When my friends talk up the all inclusive resorts I'll just nod and smile knowing I have another Royal Caribbean cruise booked where I can enjoy the food, and drinks, and so much more. For what's it's worth, the Hyatt Ziva is available for cruise ship "resort for a day" from independent websites. A couple next to me at a bar mentioned "it's almost time to get back to the ship". We watched Adventure of the Seas sail past us just after sunset one night. The rate I saw for a day pass was $152 per person per day. Suddenly Cozumel resorts for a day options looked like incredible deals and the food and drinks I've had at places like Nachi Cocum for a third of that price make them look like incredible bargains.
  18. 19 points
    Day 3: Labadee Gorgeous day in Labadee today! Lots of sun and not too hot. D10 was in the water almost the entire time and D12 made full use of the cabana. Originally we had a beachfront booked (B2) but switched to an over the water one (W5). Best choice ever! Clear view of the ship, clear view of the D10 in the water and on the beach. And fairly private. I will let the pictures do the talking. Entry into the Cabana: Separate entry into the water via a ladder. The other OTW cabanas on the other side have stairs. And so that @twangsterbot doesn’t have to photoshop me into Labadee anymore, and @rjac requested so nicely.... 😜
  19. 19 points
    I’ve seen posts about buying small models of cruise ships and what not, so for the purpose of entertainment, how much for this model I made of Oasis? Let’s start at $50 :)
  20. 19 points
    “I Dream of Genie” – Star Class - Harmony of the Seas – 03/10/19-03/17/19 Dreams…that is how many things begin; that is how this adventure began. But with every dream that comes true, there is always a journey. Here is our journey, almost 3 years in the making. Note: Pulling a @JLMoran here, it’s long winded lol. Back in May 2016, I read with keen interest, a blog post by @Matt that Royal was rolling out a new suite class program. The concept of Star Class intrigued me, but at the time, I knew that it was beyond our reach. However, dreams have no limits, and one can look but not touch. You all know that I am a shopaholic right? 😂 As the program rolled out, I read reviews, followed blogs, looked on in wonder and envy as I watched the Genies do their thing on Allure in 2016 and later on Harmony in 2017. This was pretty much me on those sailings... In February 2017, I came across a blog by @WAAAYTOOO. I believe it was her first time in Star Class and she had Reyno as her Genie. After that, I knew, without a doubt that this was something that I needed to try. The big question was how? The answer is that I really don’t know how I would have this opportunity without the help of some dear friends along the way, right here in the message boards. Somewhere between February 2017 and January 2018, I read a post by @tiny260 that really was the first glimmer of hope that Star Class could be a reality for us. @tiny260 basically posted that he had recently booked a good deal in Star Class by scouring the calendar week by week. There were only two problems with that idea: I did not have much time to go through each sailing, week by week and ship by ship, and there are only several times in the year that I can sail due to work. So, I set aside Tiny’s idea but made a point to remember his tip. In January 2018, call it God’s will, or good things come to those who wait, or fate, @WAAAYTOOO started a thread in the “Rumours and News” section here about a special STAR savings discount of $1000. I was also off work last year which meant I had all day to look. So, taking @tiny260's tip I went about an all-day effort to find something that would fit our schedule. Trouble was that my schedule was only flexible until September 2018 and I already had bookings for 2018 that I did not want to cancel. This is the point in the journey where sometimes intercession occurs, and you cannot logically explain what follows. During my search that day, I stumbled upon a sailing on Harmony (which I expected to be the highest price second to Symphony) for March 10, 2019. This worked out perfectly since this would be our March break, I would be off work, and Harmony is my favourite ship. For reasons that I cannot explain, this was also one of the lower priced sailings for a Star class cabin (compared to OA/AL/SY). How did I know that? Because up until this point, I had been tracking the prices on Star Class cabins and reading posts on the price that others were paying. Another example of how it pays to do your research. This low price, combined with the additional $1000 STAR discount, made it a no-brainer. I put a hold on it even before I had a chance to run it by Hubby. There are many that I have heard say, “Why would someone want to spend so much on a cabin?” or, “I would take more cruises over such an expensive one any day.” Here are my thoughts on that. We have taken enough cruises to know what we like. We are cabin and balcony people. We do spend time in our cabin, so to us, a nice cabin is important and worth it. My work schedule limits us to certain times of the year that we can cruise. Instead of taking our money and spreading it over a bunch of cruises (which we can’t do any way), we are putting it all into one. It all works out the same. Our original booking was for a Guarantee Star Class cabin. The code on the booking was A2-GTY. This was new to me and I did not even know such a category existed. I ran it by @WAAAYTOOO and a few others and figured that we had nothing to lose as the bare minimum would be an A2 on Deck 10. Hubby got home that evening and, after some persuasion and promises to curb the Lulu shopping, he suggested that if we were going to splurge on Star Class then we might as well go big and go to Deck 17, the “gated community” as some call it, and really live out that “WOW factor”. Ever since our inaugural sailing on Oasis, Deck 17 was always a wish of ours. I warned him that Star Class on Deck 17 could be quite a jump in price. Still curious, we called late that evening and inquired about what it would cost to upgrade. It was $100 extra (total). Done. No brainer. Again, an anomaly that I cannot explain. Since our original booking in January, I have re-priced our sold-out cabin 3 times for a total savings of almost $3000 less than what we originally booked for. The cost was many hours of tracking, but it paid off. We already had a great deal to begin with and it just got sweeter along the way. As we get ready for this grand adventure into Star Class, I must take the time to thank @WAAAYTOOO, @Mindybrite, @tiny260, @CGTLH, and @constable145. Your insight, advice, and blogs have been more valuable than you know. Words cannot express my appreciation. Finally, @Matt, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, thank you for creating this amazing community of people (enablers) who helped in making this a true possibility. I often say to my own girls, and my students, that we should never be afraid or give up in the pursuit of our dreams. Dreams can come true, this being the perfect example. So, without further delay, come take this journey with us, I would want it no other way.
  21. 19 points
    Scott M

    Royal canceled my reservation!

    Well, after 3 cabin moves and who knows how many phone calls by our TA, we are back in the original cabin we booked a year and a half ago! @Matt is 100% correct when he says use a travel agent, John Ames at MEI really came through on this! Scott
  22. 18 points
    We had a chance to visit CocoCay on TH 6/27 off of the Mariner of the Seas. Summary - Amazing, outstanding, a true game-changer. - Flexible enough to meet the needs of everybody. - You can have a great time with excursions or without. - Thrill Park is great. If that is your thing. - Overall, highly recommended. Our group - 2 families with children (11, 8, 7 years old) - We booked the full day Thrill Park via Cruise Planner at $47/adult as well as the kid rate (I forgot the total). - 2nd RCCL trip (1st was Harmony) Our Day (Part 1: Thrill Park) - RC provided a map and a 1-page fact sheet the evening before. We felt very prepared. - Checked out towels and then met the gang for breakfast at 7:30am. - Left the boat at 8:30am. It was very fast. No towel check-out was provided at level 1. You will need to get towels in advance at the pool deck. - Trams were waiting on the pier to talk folks if desired. - Less than 5 min walk from the boat to the entrance to the island and the Thrill Park. Live music, dancers, etc. lots of energy. - Easy entry to the Thrill Park, use your sea pass. RCCL staff is onsite. - Locker to your right after entering the park (free). - We divided into two groups. One group went straight to the Devil's Tower. They rode it once and had a very small line. Within an hour of opening the wait time was 45-60- minutes. Key point: Plan ahead and arrive early. The other group secured lounger chairs under umbrellas (between the Devils Tower and the other Slide section) and headed over to the Sling Shot (the half pipe ride), Twister, and Racers. - Easy to find chairs. Lots available with lots of shade. - Easy to find beverage (adult) and water. - All the water slides are strong. Fun, thrilling, scaring, high energy, etc. - After the slides, we hit the wave pool. Recommended as well. Make sure you watch the young kids. The pool is crowded and life guards can see only so much. - We also spent time on the adventure pool. Both adults and kids were using the attraction. Lots of fun. - After about 2.5 hours on the Thrill Park we decided to go to Chill Island. One of the reasons was the wait on the Tower Slides was getting long and we saw storms in the distance and wanted to hedge our time. Out Day (Part 2: Chill Island). - Relaxing. Laid back. Really a different vibe and energy. - Rented snorkel equipment. My kids saw stingrays and fish. - After about 2 hours, headed to Chill Grill for lunch. Taco bar and grilled chicken wings were strong. We also liked the fact you can pour your own beer (w Seapass Card). Kids loved the ice cream. - BIG ISSUE: TONS of birds are seagulls are onsite at Chill Grill and are very aggressive. They are swarming on guests and attacking their plates while guests sat at picnic tables. I saw a bird swoop down and steal a chicken wing from a guest who was about to it eat. This needs to be fixed. Think the movie "The Birds". - Went to Oasis Lagoon for the rest of the day and drank our share of Miami Vice, Kracken and Diet Coke, and beer. The Pool bar is strong and the staff are fast. - The pool itself is very large and can accommodate a lot of folks. Loud music. Party atmosphere. - Some lighting delays throughout our day, but no biggie. - Took the tram home. General thoughts - Great time. Really strong move by RCCL. Disney will have to up its game. Huge contrast to other cruise private islands. - Easy to navigate and everything is pretty much 10 minutes away. Walk or Tram. - Totally different vibes between the water park and Chill Island. - Even though we only were at the water park for 2 hours, it was so fun we still feel as though we got our $$$ worth. - Staff was great. - The island and layout are such that the crowded feeling is likely to be minimized. - Easy to get food, adult beverages, water etc. Lockers are free. - We did not rent a cabana. They looked very nice. Our hesitation is that if you rent a cabana you may feel limited to stay in the cabana and consequently miss other areas of the island. We liked our approach of spending time at the water park, the beach, and the big pool. - Talked to a few officer types at the island and they shared that RCCL plans on building a hotel for guests on the island and back-to-back CocoCay stays will be offered in Jan 2020. - The day before we stopped at Nassau and stayed until 8:30pm. I really wish we could have stayed that long at CocoCay and shortened our time in Nassau. - The birds at Chill Grill are an issue. - Other guests we were talking too on the ship felt the same about the island - it is fantastic. - Have a high-level plan so you can make the most of the day. You don't have to plan every minute, but at least consider where you want "Home base" and what you want to do on the island in some order. Hit the waterpark early to avoid lines. Hope his helps. Have.a blast. Andy
  23. 18 points

    Super Cheap Deluxe Drink Package price

    I think everyone knew this was a pricing mistake from the moment it was spotted, especially if you have been following drink package prices. I bought it at the $18/day rate for a couple sailings knowing full well it was a mistake and very likely refunded. Like they say in the lotto business, cant win if you don't play!
  24. 18 points
    Update: My custom creation from the Skagway Glass Blowing Experience arrived in the mail today! And to think... that's my hot air trapped inside the globe. My other purchases from their shop arrived yesterday but since many are gifts for family and friends no pics. I opted for the flat base so I could put it on a table. As dorky as this sounds, whenever I look at this I'll be brought right back to Skagway and this awesome Alaskan cruise experience on Ovation of the Seas.
  25. 18 points

    I'm So Excited!!

    After tons of research, I finally booked our cruise!! We will be going May 2020 on Symphony!! It's only our second cruise and first to the Caribbean...and first on Royal Caribbean. We are beyond excited....My brother in law, sister in law, and niece are going...Also, my mother in law is going and she got a junior suite and is paying for our daughter and my niece! I just had to share! 🙂
  26. 18 points

    What's Still Missing?

    Smoke free casinos.
  27. 18 points
    Yesterday I shared on my Live Blog post how I was able to get my Inside Balcony Room "perks" switched to the Boardwalk perks (vs. Central Park perks) using Facebook Messenger. If you don't already know, Royal Caribbean's Facebook team is GREAT, very responsive, and apparently very helpful in making special accommodations or fulfilling special requests via Facebook Messenger! Well... the Midwest including MSP airport (Minneapolis) is expected to get hit hard by winter storms this weekend starting Saturday morning/afternoon. Our flight was 1 pm Saturday, which is projected to be the time where things were getting heavy, so of course I start worrying about missing our cruise (even though we are on the Sunday, Allure of the Seas sailing...you never know how bad the weather delays can be). I started freaking out this morning and calling the airlines to see what could be done. Since we booked basic economy, we didn't have the option to change flights. The Customer Service agent on the phone said if there was a winter advisory (or what he called a "bulletin") they might be able to change us to an earlier flight. When I got to work, I started Facebook Messaging with Delta. Still no advisory/bulletin but the Facebook agent hinted that it may be coming. He messaged me back as soon as the advisory posted to let me know he could assist me in changing my flights. All through Facebook Messenger, I was able to get my party of 4 re-booked to the 8:45 am flight with no fees, AND he was able to get me and my daughter seats together and us all together on our flights home. I can't say enough GREAT things about the customer service I received today as well as all of the times Royal has been able to serve me via Facebook Messenger. Now, hopefully the weather patterns don't shift too much and we will be able to fly safely in the morning on Saturday! Good luck to all of the Midwest travelers this weekend, stay safe and hope no big delays for your trip!
  28. 18 points

    Missed the Boat!

  29. 18 points

    Planning Timeline

    Hi there, @A_perfect_Storm, welcome to the message boards! I'm not aware of any specific planning timelines like you mention, but here are some general guidelines I think work for any cruise. I'm sure I've missed some things, others here will fill in the gaps Starting right now Think about making monthly payments towards your cruise balance; this is a great way to spread out the cost over as much time as possible Put a reminder in your calendar for 3 days ahead of your final payment date, and make sure the cruise is paid off then -- if you miss final payment, you lose your cruise! No backsies, no mulligans, no second chances! About 12 months before sailing -- start checking your Cruise Planner for any items you may be interested in purchasing, like shore excursions, internet packages, beverage packages (alcoholic or non), specialty dining, etc. @Matt, who runs the site, is very good about posting in the main blog when new sales start in the Cruise Planner; you can re-check for things each time a new sale / promotion is announced Try to space out your purchases, to spread out the payments and avoid having a painful credit card bill in any one month Know that you can always cancel something you bought, and then re-purchase it, if you find later on that the price has dropped 8-9 months before sailing -- check your passports and make sure they will still be valid for at least 6 months after your cruise ends; if not, get them renewed now so they're in effect for about 6 months prior to sailing Also apply for passports for any family members who don't yet have them; while you can sail with just a drivers license and birth certificate, having a passport is generally better 90 days before sail date You had that reminder fire off and you took care of final payment, right? If not, do it on this day or lose your cruise! Do your online checkin and complete all forms, print your set sail pass 45 days before sail date -- start checking for your eDocuments on the web site (available under the View More Details link for your sailing after you log in) When you have your documents, you can also print your luggage tags 1 week before sail date Get all documents and papers together; passports, set sail passes, luggage tags, etc. If you haven't yet, put a travel alert on all credit cards you expect to use abroad 2+ days before sail date -- get cash for tips and other small expenses, souvenirs if you don't want to use your credit card, etc. 1+ day before sail date -- fly down to the port; never do this the day you sail away!! Hope this helps! The next year and two months is going to be a blast as you prepare and plan and eagerly await your vacation!
  30. 18 points
    Oasis returning to Port Canaveral:
  31. 18 points
    No Pressure. Lol. Thank you. I feel like a new person. This is from our family pictures, separated by one year. Should have about another 50 lbs to go... Also, you know it's time for vacation when you get a text from school saying "Your daughter has been tormenting one of the boys at school today, and decided to pull her pants down and shake her butt and him." SMH.....
  32. 17 points
    🎶 99 days til we go on the cruise! 99 days til we go! Sun goes down and comes back around, 98 days til we go on the cruise! 98 days til we go on the cruise! 98 days til we go! Sun goes down and comes back around, 97 days til we go on the cruise! 97 days til we go on the cruise! 97 days til we go! ... 🎶 😁
  33. 17 points

    Amplified Schedule dates

    I took a few minutes to see when the upcoming dry docks are scheduled and this is what I found. With the below take into account some days will be taken up getting the ship to and from dry dock ports and to and from the USA - Europe region . Oasis of the Seas 2019 - It appears her final voyage before dry dock is a Western med that leaves 15th September 2019, dry dock seems to be 22nd September with her first voyage back over the pond being November 24th Voyager of the Seas 2019 It appears her final voyage before dry dock is Hong Kong to Singapore that leaves 3rd September 2019, dry dock seems to be 10th September till 21st October 2019 Allure of the seas 2020 - It appears her final voyage before dry dock is a transatlantic that leaves 1st March 2020, dry dock seems to be 13th march till 10th may. Explorer of the Seas 2020 - It appears her final voyage before dry dock is a Southern Caribbean that leaves 21st February 2020, dry dock seems to be 1st March till 7th may for her European season. Freedom of the Seas 2020 It appears her final voyage before dry dock is a Southern Caribbean that leaves 5th January 2020, dry dock seems to be 12th January till 8th March. Adventure of the Seas 2021 - The schedule are not out yet beyond April 2021 with no sign of dry dock in those first 4 months Liberty of the Seas 2021 - The schedule are not out yet beyond April 2021 with no sign of dry dock in those first 4 months
  34. 17 points

    Travel agent success story

    This is our first time using a travel agent, which I decided to do after listening to about 10 podcasts. 😂. Well, lo and behold she called me earlier this week. Our cruise went down almost $800!!!! Such awesome news and reinforced to me to always use a travel agent for cruises in the future!
  35. 17 points
    Ok you guys, I'm SO excited. Mr. SpeedNoodles and I have not been on a vacation for 10 years (yes, you read that correctly). We've had time off from work, hauling the hounds to dog shows, but those are work. Lots of fun, but lots of work. This year is our 25th wedding wedding anniversary, his 50th birthday, we found a hound(s)/house sitter, and we are READY TO GO!!! I'll focus this blog mostly on the ship, since there's no way my photos of the scenery will do any justice of it, and Twangster did a superb job on his. Hats off to him - they were absolutely incredible! I don't know that I'll be able to post daily, but I intend to do the best that I can. We will have 36 hours in Seattle before we get on the ship, so we're super excited about that! Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick .....
  36. 17 points
    Finally the 2019 Alaska cruise season is beginning and so has the single digit dance! Looking back I always put off an Alaska cruise despite all the good things I heard over and again. Now I can't get enough. This will be my fourth cruise to Alaska and hopefully it will not be my last. Why did I wait so long to cruise to Alaska? Itinerary Day Port of Call Arrive Depart 1 Vancouver 5pm 2 At Sea 3 At Sea 4 Icy Strait Point (ISP) 9am 8pm 5 Sitka 7am 6pm 6 Hubbard Glacier 8am 11am 7 Juneau 7am 9pm 8 Skagway 7am 8:30pm 9 Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier 7am 12pm 10 At Sea 11 At Sea 12 Seattle 6am source: CruiseCharts.com The Ship This is a special cruise in many ways. This will be Ovation's first cruise to Alaska and the first time a Quantum class ship visits Alaska. It will be the largest cruise ship ever to visit Alaska edging out the NCL Bliss by a small margin. It's a repositioning itinerary unique for this season, starting in Vancouver and ending in Seattle. There are two glaciers on the itinerary, Hubbard and Dawes. The itinerary includes two ports not normally on Royal itineraries from the South - Sitka and Icy Straight Point. It's eleven nights compared to the normal 7 night Alaska cruise. This will be the earliest in the Alaska cruise season for me, beating out my previous early Alaska season cruise by several weeks. Hubbard Glacier is pretty far North and it's not normally on Seattle based itineraries. Sitka is infrequently on Royal itineraries. Icy Strait Point is a favorite port for me and usually only found on Royal's North or South one-way Alaska itineraries. When considering any Alaska cruise paying attention to the times in port is important and Royal has planned some awesome times in each port on this itinerary. Ovation is a "cold weather" ship which should pair very well with Alaska. The ample sized indoor pool will be great for families leaving the beautiful Solarium for adults to enjoy the sweeping views forward as we sail the Alaskan inside passages. Combined with the sweeping views aft from Two70° and this is shaping up to be a fantastic Alaska cruise experience. Pre-Cruise Plans I fly to Vancouver with a connection in Salt Lake City arriving noon the day before the cruise departs Vancouver. I found a nice but inexpensive hotel near the airport with a free airport shuttle. Vancouver features a train system that will allow me to reach downtown pretty easily while saving substantially by not staying downtown. Once settled I plan to visit downtown and may even head out to the Lion's Gate Bridge Sunday evening to watch Ovation arrive being the largest cruise ship ever to visit Vancouver harbor. Cabin I normally scale back my cabin to Alaska so I can splurge on excursions but Ovation changes the math. Quantum class ships have a much higher balcony cabin count relative to interior or ocean view cabins. Because of the balcony cabin ratio on Ovation the marginal price difference to book a balcony was small enough to motivate me to spend a few extra hundred dollars and book a balcony plus it's eleven nights. In years past an interior cabin was less than half the price of a balcony so the savings basically paid for the excursions. Consequently this year I am in a 2D ocean view balcony on deck 11 forward port side. On these ships I like being close to the pool deck so I can take the stairs and my cabin is a few steps to the elevator lobby. Specialty Dining None planned. My travel agent did throw in one specialty dinner so I'll probably visit Jamie's based on an Anthem cruise where I really enjoyed Jamie's over all the other options. Excursions To experience Alaska you need to get out of the ports and see Alaska. To this end I always plan a healthy Alaska excursion budget and this year's excursion budget approaches $900 per person. When I booked this cruise I grabbed a bunch of Royal excursions as place holders while I looked at all options. Several cruise planner sales occurred and I was able to save hundreds by cancelling and rebooking my excursions. With those price drops I couldn't find many cheaper options and all things being equal I always prefer booking excursion through Royal in case of itinerary changes. I did find one Viator excursion in Sitka that looked interesting so I booked it outside of Royal. Icy Strait Point (ISP) With Royal gaining access to Glacier Bay in future years I thought a fly over Glacier Bay National Park would be a great way to look forward to a future visit by ship. Going on a bear hunt to shoot pictures has always appealed to me in ISP so these are my two excursions for this day leaving lots of time to explore ISP on my own. Sitka The raptor center in Sitka sounded like a great way to see some birds including (hopefully) some Eagles. Throw in a nature walk and it sounded like a winner. Having hopefully seen bears by this point, I thought beers and bears sounded pretty good so I found this Viator option in Sitka. Juneau Visiting Juneau I have always watched the float planes coming and going but always found something else to do. So this year I am going to continue my small plane obsession and see some glaciers from the air in a SeaPlane. Skagway Glass blowing has always fascinated me and having done many of the other must do Skagway activities this year is going to blow. I figure what better way to find a keepsake memento from an Alaska cruise than on a glassblowing activity leaving me a lot of daylight to explore Skagway on my own. Internet I bought Voom Surf and Stream on sale for $11.99 per day. Given the 11 night duration this was more economical compared to buying it on board with my Crown and Anchor discount and waiting until day two. While Ovation uses the newest O3b satellite platform I'm not sure that is going to help North in Alaska where O3b has "limited services". source: www.ses.com/our-coverage A Royal O3b enabled ship has never ventured this far North into the limited services area so I'm not sure what to expect from Voom. If the ship switches to conventional satellite internet I know from past experiences that can be hit or miss at times while cruising Alaska. Consequently this may not be a live blog and I might have to finish and post pictures once home. With that the count down continues... more to come.
  37. 17 points
    Another trip... My first one as Platinum. No I will never make diamond and I don't really get anything for Platinum other than requesting the cool robe which I will do on the next cruise lol..... The Basics: First time on Majesty of the seas. The Crew: Myself, my 22 year old daughter Morgan and my 16 year old Madison. Dad stays home to work and pay for the girls trip! The Itinerary: Fly into fort Lauderdale 2 days early, relax, eat and drink, get in ship and go to key West (first time), sea day (relax and drink), nassau and then fort Lauderdale for 3 days (relax, eat and drink.. sense a pattern lol?) We booked this cruise as a total yolo. I was home in April feeling very guilty about not going to my daughter's last mom's weekend at University of Illinois. I started thinking, ok, we'd have spent a bit, let's travel instead after she graduates for a little 3 day weekend. Which turned into, hey let's travel 4 or 5 days. Which turned into hey, we can take a cruise!!! The 16 year old was all over the itinerary (let's go to Europe etc) but the 22 year old was exhausted finishing her final design project in material science engineering and said she would go anywhere if she could get the drink pkg and sleep! I was looking at 5-7 day cruises and an amazingly long cheap celebrity cruise (which now I wished I'd booked but I will get there!!!) and then happened on Cuba! We could go to Cuba!!!!!! My husband was such a good sport (history teacher who would be teaching summer school and not going) and said go! So we booked it in April. I've never YOLO booked a cruise like that. Within 2 days we had airfare and a hotel and airbnbs and were ready to go as long as Morgan passed all her classes lol. 2 days later the announcement came about the change in Cuban policy. Worried but cautiously optimistic we continued to get excited. The May escalation day came and went. Our biggest worry was if they would ever assign us our guarantee cabin! And then June came. First of all, I sprain my ankle. Badly. It's not broken but can I walk in Havana? Doesn't matter...we have an all day fun classic car tour! But it didn't matter. We were devastated when it was announced that travel would be banned to Cuba. We were cautiously hopefully that we would be grandfathered in but that was not to be. So now what? We had booked majesty only because of Cuba. I obviously like smaller and older ships ok...our first cruise was on vision in 2015 and we will be sailing it again after trips on other classes... But I'd have done a 7 day on a bigger ship. So I looked at our options. None. We would pay double to cruise another ship at the same time. We do have cancel at any cost insurance but my last dealings with Allianz and insurance were heartbreaking at best and we lost 10000. I just couldn't face that again even if we could find other dates in the future that could work (which we couldn't... The college grad has to get a real job sometime lol). So we were optimistic again... Maybe we would finally get to see cococay (since we couldn't tender on our trip in 2016). Nope....Nassau. The lemons keep flying. But we are making lemonade! Girls were just happy to be going on a trip, I'm happy that I will finally finish school next week, maybe it won't rain in Florida, this trip is gonna rock!!!! Any cruise is an amazing cruise! So we booked a specialty make your own sushi class, get an excursion in Nassau and think about packing!! So we leave in 6 days! I will update as we go. Unlike @TheHobbys if I lay out my suitcases, my Schnauzer will eat everything in the suitcase so I will have to pack and close. That will be today and tomorrow's project since I work all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! We will get hair cuts and pedicures and look forward to our first kraken lava flow on the ship!!! I'm looking forward to an amazing 8 days with my girls, wondering if we can all go 4 days without voom...we are gonna try!... and for the first time getting on a cruise less than 6 months after the last one! Jane
  38. 17 points
    Cruise Summary Wow! What an awesome Alaska experience. There is a part of me that wants to say this was my best cruise to Alaska. However looking back I thought the same thing on every Alaska cruise I've taken. There are a couple of ways to interpret that sentiment but the truth is that Alaska is such an amazing destination that each cruise can top the last one. Every visit to Alaska is different. I chose to focus on Alaska on this cruise and in writing this trip report. The ship itself is very similar to Anthem from a core ship experience. Anyone who has sailed Anthem will feel right at home on Ovation. Apologize for no menus and less about the on-board experience of Ovation, but I took this cruise for Alaska so that became the focus of this thread. There were some special aspects of this cruise and it starts with the itinerary. This itinerary may never be repeated. That would be a shame because it included a lot I love about Alaska. I was curious how an early season cruise would compare but now I'm sold on the idea that any time for an Alaska cruise season is the perfect time for an Alaska cruise. I was also curious how Ovation of the Seas would compare to Radiance and Voyager class or Celebrity's Millennium class for an Alaska cruise, the ships I've sailed before to Alaska. Each has features I like. Looking back over this experience there is a lot to like about Quantum class in Alaska. Great indoor pool space for families Great indoor Solarium for adults, one of the best in the fleet North Star (more on this below) Two70° SeaPlex Flowrider New ship feel, new technology, new decor Great Windjammer experience (I have always liked the WJ on Quantum class) Great entertainment Better suite amenities including Coastal Kitchen Affordable balcony options for a reasonable fare difference I was curious how viewing angles would work out for glacier visits. I prefer to move around during glacier visits and seeing everything from multiple perspectives. I was very pleased with how this worked out on Ovation, better than I thought it would. I didn't think I'd like the glass dividers in places on the top decks but they were a blessing at times to block the wind with large spaces between them I could still take pictures. Not everything was perfect. These are areas that I felt had some room for improvement: The crew pressure wash the outer decks from 5am to 7am. During this time they are closed. This is a required maintenance exercise but they could have adjusted times to recognize the long days of Alaska. Sunrise is around 5am. Runners want to run. Arrival into ports is often occurring at this time. I don't recall this being an issue on any ship I've sailed before including three cruises on sister ship Anthem. Smokers were complaining there was no where to smoke. I don't smoke but I know if you close all the outdoor smoking areas at the same time to wash them down guests are going to break the rules and some did. The Cruise Director lost an opportunity to hype certain events like sailing under the bridge in Vancouver or the fact that every port of call was an inaugural port of call. The CD and staff seemed unaware that this was a special cruise itinerary or the ship's first ever visit to Alaska. Voom internet was a disappointment but if you have read this thread I've covered this already. North Star Experience. North Star brings a new aspect to Alaska cruising allowing guests to see things from a very different angle. This really sets Ovation apart from other ships that have sailed in Alaska. Despite a single complimentary reservation for North Star I found great availability to enjoy it on standby basis. Groups larger than 2 may find less enjoyment in the standby line unless they are willing to split up. While the $49 charge during glacier visits was higher than I expected I understand why a charge is required. Having done that extra cost version of the North Star Alaskan Experience I might even do it again. I've devised some ideas how to reduce glare from the curved windows in my North Star photos that I look forward to trying in North Star in other regions before I return to Alaska and enjoy North Star there again. For me North Star really has value in Alaska where in other regions it's simply a cool activity to do. You get a bird's eye view just like an Eagle soaring in the sky above the ship. When I cruise Alaska my focus is Alaska and not ship entertainment or activities. I have more cruises booked on Ovation in other regions some with many sea days. This allowed me to skip entertainment or activities on this sailing knowing I can try them another time. I did not visit the MDR once. For my needs and a desire for a quick meal experience the Windjammer fulfilled my needs perfectly. Despite some cool meals I ate most of them on the aft outdoor seating area for the Windjammer. Daily complimentary room service breakfast was appreciated with a balcony to enjoy a coffee while watching marine life below or an incredible sunrise unfold in front of me. For Diamond Happy Hour the use of the entire Music Hall worked well but I still missed access to the Concierge Lounge, a stated benefit for Diamond Plus members. I understand the reasoning offered for blocking access to the Concierge Lounge but it remains a disappointment. If you've enjoyed my pictures in this thread what you may not understand is that mere photos don't do it justice. To experience Alaska you have to go to Alaska. I know Royal offers great entertainment and activities but I feel like Alaska is a destination where you shouldn't try to do everything on the ship just because it's offered and available for you. A number of times I found myself nearly alone enjoying incredible scenery, peace and tranquility. Apologies to Nick Weir and his incredible team that produce awesome Royal entertainment but I came for Alaska. At times I put the camera down and just enjoyed the moment live and in person. What you don't see in this thread are those moments. Those are some of my best memories and for you to experience them you'll need to book a cruise to Alaska for yourself. Thanks for following along and I thank you for viewing.
  39. 17 points
    I made it onto a famous @twangster image! Can't believe my wife and I were in the presence of royalty and missed the opportunity to meet @twangster personally!
  40. 17 points
    I'm going to Alaska, why push Perfect Day Coco Cay excursions on me in Alaska? I'm going to Hawaii. No where close to Coco Cay: I understand that nothing else but Perfect Day matters to Royal Caribbean, or is that "Perfect Day Royal Caribbean"? Next ship... "Perfect Day of the Seas"! I was looking forward to Ovation of the Seas but not sure how I'll feel sailing the newly named "Perfect Day Ovation" Will Michael Bayley rename himself to "Perfect Day Bayley"? Perhaps the Key should be renamed "Perfect Day Key". Should I get the Unlimited Dining Plan or wait for the "Perfect Day Unlimited Dining Plan"? Enough Perfect Day! Seriously thinking about cancelling my 3/4 night B2B on Navigator to Bahamas. Or should I say the "Perfect Day Bahamas". /rantover
  41. 17 points

    Not Your Bag! Luggage Tags

    We all love checking our luggage curbside at the terminal and having them magically appear outside our cabins. Many of us having made the $8 investment in luggage tag holders that if you ever plan to take another cruise should be high on your list of cruise "must haves". There is always the small chance that someone might see your luggage and in a case of mistaken identity grab your bag by mistake. This can happen after the cruise as well if you use the luggage tags and place your bags in the hallways the last night of the cruise. Once in the terminal with a sea of other bags they all look a like. It can happen when you fly too. I'd seen luggage tags you could buy on Amazon that boldly warn people "This is NOT your bag" or "Hands off!" - anything that might make a person pause and think before grabbing your suitcase if it looks just like theirs. It dawned on me I have these luggage tag holders so instead of buying a "Not Your bag" luggage tag, why not just print one and use the Royal luggage tag holders? Simply print them off, cut and slide one into a cruise ship luggage tag holder. Here is a sample PDF to get you started: Not Your Bag.pdf
  42. 17 points
    Sadly friends, this live blog must come to an end. Not because I want to end it, but because I am being forced to vacate this ship. Thanks for reading and following along. I have to admit I really enjoyed this format of live blogging, and I’d love to do it again. It’s certainly a lot simpler approach compared to my other live blogs. Thanks again and hope you enjoyed it. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
  43. 17 points
    With Cuba on my mind and with a goal of sailing some of the older and smaller ships in the fleet I booked Empress. With the current fleet it's hard to get any smaller. I'm supposed to get a glass block based on my current Crown and Anchor points accumulation so as I thought which ship to 'block' on, getting a glass block from Empress seemed like a really cool idea so I booked this cruise with that other goal in mind. It's a 5 night cruise: Day 1 - Embark Miami Day 2 - Key West Day 3 - Havana Day 4 - Sea Day Day 5 - CocoCay Day 6 - Debark Miami It's been a few years since I've visited Key West but I need to get some work done so I'm not sure how far I'll venture off the ship. For Havana I've a booked a full day excursion through Royal. I have an overnight cruise to Havana booked in September so I'm using this trip and excursion to discover and plan my next visit there for maximum cultural enrichment. I have many Canadian friends who have visited Cuba. They've been able to fly direct since, well forever. They've given me some ideas so this full day excursion should check all the boxes for an initial Cuba experience and allow me to better plan my next visit. I've missed a few calls on CocoCay this year so fingers crossed. Flights were booked through Air2Sea and I'm taking a dreaded red eye flight with airport transfers to the ship by Royal. I usually just take a ride-share but as a solo traveler the transfer isn't that bad from a cost perspective and it's for research so I know how well it works getting from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) airport to the Port of Miami and back. I had to work this weekend so the all night flight is an "efficient" use of my time, or so I keep telling myself to justify it. Not sure when I might sail Empress again especially since she does mostly Cuba runs at the moment so I've splurged and booked a junior suite. My first solo JS experience. At the time I booked it was a reasonable price difference. My red-eye departs at 1am local time and I haven't started packing yet. It's only 5 nights so not a hard cruise to pack for. However I better step away from the keyboard and get started.
  44. 17 points

    Royal Caribbean Ships

    Here's a graphic I slapped together since I like to see fleet info with the tonnage listed. The pictures and below came straight from the RCI website. I only added the header and the tonnage info. I've attached a pdf version and also included a ppt version if you want to tweak the image to your liking. Enjoy! RCI SHIP INFO.pdf RCI SHIP INFO.pptx
  45. 17 points
    Final Thoughts: As I mentioned in a post by @twangster a few days ago, 2018 has been a great cruising year for us. After sailing mainly OA class for the last few years, we had a chance to revisit Voyager class and try out Quantum and Freedom Class. I am, without a doubt, still an OA class girl. There is simply no comparison. Nothing comes close. My heart belongs to that class of ship. Indy is a great ship. Would I sail her again? Yes! Will I? Maybe not. But that is because Hubby doesn’t like to sail the same ship in a short period of time. He already thought with this cruise that it was too similar to Mariner. So, we may not end up keeping our booking for next New Years. Time will tell. Other than the MDR, I have no real complaints. The crew for the most part was friendly. The stateroom attendants seemed a bit overworked but they still took the time to acknowledge you while passing. The lines at the pool bars were long most days. The WJ crew was one of the friendliest I have encountered in a while on any cruise. Special shout out to the WJ “washy washy guys”. They turned that wash your hands song into a show every day. I will post a video when I get home. D12 has one on her device. The revitalization, IMO, was most definitely a step in the right direction. My kids loved the pools, sides, etc. and feedback from the Playmakers scope was that it is in a great location and is huge as a venue. The ship is showing her age in small areas like the chipped tiles and worn out chairs. I really wished they updated their furniture (couches and chairs) and curtains in the cabins. That really dates the ship. Like Mariner, only the newly added staterooms received new items. But she was clean and functional for the most part. While I do not regret the stateroom that we booked, I did not care for it either. The additional space was nice but I completely hated the bathroom. For me that is a deal breaker. And I really missed not having a balcony. So for @WAAAYTOOO, @bellemiche, @Boston Babe, and anyone else wondering, I have not left the suite snob club. Hubby is out of luck. His plan did not work. Once again, thank you all so much for following along. Blogging is so much more fun when you all are with me. And for people wondering if that consumes too much of my vacation time, it does not. I just don’t read anymore on a cruise. I blog instead. I have plenty of time to read back at home. I consider this relaxing and enjoyable. That’s all for now. I will report back on the disembarkation process tomorrow. We have never had issues at Terminal 18 so hopefully that is the case again tomorrow. The countdown is finally on for our next adventure, and possibly the best cruise of my entire life... 67 days to go!! It’s Genie time! Excited is an understatement.
  46. 17 points
    There are so many blogs to read this week it is wonderful!!! Just wanted to say a quick thanks to all who are taking the time out of their vacations to help those of us stuck in dry dock! ☺️
  47. 17 points
    452 days have passed since I booked. Now it's just 6 days away! I'm single digit dancin'! I'm super excited, and I just can't hide it! No more waiting, no more holding back, it's time to get this ball rolling! This will be my live(ish) blog for our long-awaited first-ever cruise. My family and I will be on Freedom of the Seas, sailing out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. It's an Eastern Caribbean itinerary with four sea days and four port days, and we have a fair bit planned on those port days. BUT, that's not all we're doing! We're flying down to Fort Lauderdale 3 days early, as it saved us a ton on the airfare, so we'll be taking in the sights and activities around Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days before we board. AND we're staying one extra day in Fort Lauderdale after disembarkation, to get in one more beach day (and maybe an air boat ride) before flying back home. Here's the full cruise itinerary, plus what we have planned each day: March 31 - Embarkation from Port Everglades at 5:30 PM April 1 - Sea Day April 2 - Sea Day I'm doing Chef's Table this day April 3 - St. Kitts, 9 AM to 6 PM Dolphin push/pull/swim excursion in the AM Wandering around town in the PM, after we shower and have lunch on the ship April 4 - St. Maarten, 7 AM to 5 PM This is the big big day; we're doing an all-day beach and snorkeling tour around the island with Soualiga Destinations I'll be curious to see how the snorkeling is after the hurricane roared through there last year; haven't really heard much about that on the other recent live blogs to St. Maarten, so I will be sure to report back April 5 - Old San Juan, PR, 7 AM to 2 PM We're meeting up with a friend my older daughter met last summer, who lives in Old San Juan We plan to visit El Morro, and around that my daughter's friend said she'll show us some other interesting places, as well as the best places to eat; this might mean we'll miss a stop at Barrachinos as originally planned, but who am I to ignore the advice of someone who's lived there her whole life? April 6 - Labadee, 9 AM to 5 PM Wife and kids are doing the zip line in the morning All of us are doing the alpine coaster, as I got all-day passes for a really good sale price The rest of our time we'll be chilling in an over-the-water cabana! I heard @Matt's recommendation and rave reviews on his podcast, and I said, "This is my splurge item this trip!" April 7 - Sea Day April 8 - Return to FLL Why this itinerary? We needed a cruise that timed well with the girls' Spring Break week, but wanted one that filled up as much of that time as possible and also gave a good mix of port days and sea days. Our only other options were 7-day trips on Harmony or Allure that only gave us 3 ports, or a 10-day on Navigator to the Southern Caribbean that we'd have loved to take, but ran over the time we had (and before we knew we'd want to fly down early anyway). So this wound up being our "Goldilocks" cruise, especially with Freedom being liked by so many as a first-time cruisers' ship. We also wanted something kind of big for a first-time cruise, because we're celebrating 3 simultaneous milestones that will all happen in May / June of this year: Our 20th wedding anniversary Our older daughter graduating high school Our younger daughter wrapping up middle school Our TA actually has "20th anniversary" down on the reservation for the room my wife and I are in, and "High School Graduation" for the girls' room; I'll be curious to see if there are any decorations in either room when we arrive, or if the staff does anything out of the ordinary. Not expecting it, but ever-hopeful. Our Cabins We booked two D3 Superior Balcony rooms on deck 8, forward. The rooms are connecting, so my wife and I were able to book in one room together and the girls are in the other room. This was after looking at the prices of suites and realizing that we got more space and saved a ton of money going the two-balcony route. We plan to get the divider opened up as soon as possible, so even though we won't have a suite, we'll at least have a suite-size balcony! The rooms included $100 OBC each, we have no idea what we'll spend that on at this point. The girls are thinking of putting theirs into a purchase at the salon or maybe to get some on-ship merchandise. Drink / Dining / Other Packages I've purchased the Deluxe package for myself, and I'm planning to at least try and keep a running tally of everything I get to see if it works out. I think it will, but time will tell. The rest of the family has the Refreshment Package. Since it's our first cruise, we chose not to plan on any specialty dining and just use the MDR for all dinners. Not sure yet if we'll use the MDR for breakfast, at least on sea days, or go to the Wind jah-mehr for all the morning food. WJ will likely be our go-to for lunch, at least when we're not in port. Depending on whether any lunch specials are offered, we might try Giovanni's for lunch one day. For sure I'll be visiting Sabor, even if only for guac and margaritas. I did get the 4-device VOOM Surf and Stream package on a fairly good sale in the Cruise Planner. We mostly plan to use it for communicating with each other through iMessage and Google Hangouts (my wife is the lone Android user), and of course I'll be taking advantage of it to post updates here as I'm able. Updating this blog I'm only bringing my phone with me, no laptop since the one I have is employer-issued and I'm not working on this trip. I'll post updates as I'm able to each day, but they may be on the shorter side since typing on the phone is a lot slower than I can manage on a proper keyboard. So looking forward to this!
  48. 17 points

    Travel Story and Tip

    Hi Everyone, Thanks for making my first cruise on Royal go well with all the tips and reviews on the board plus the blog post. Just a quick story time. The wife and I flew out of MSP on Friday, Dec 8th, 2017 to Fort lauderdale thru Atlanta. The same day a massive unheard of soul crushing blizzard fell on Atlanta. Our flight to ATL landed 45 mins late but our flight to FLL was a nightmare. We got on the plane at 3pm and then over the next 8 hours got on and off the plane twice, pushed back and then the flight got canceled because the crew timed out. ATL only has 8 deicing trucks and they apparently breakdown easily. MSP has 40 for a comparison. All the flights the next day were past the set sail time so we had to improvise. We stood in line for 2 hours trying to get our checked luggage back and Delta said no go at 1AM. I started the search for a rental car and all the one way, one day rentals were gone and was told there is no way we can rent you a car. Here is the trick: If you reserve a one way car but for a weekly rate it will come up and you can get out of there. It cost more but when in need its totally worth it. Most programs have an early return policy so you will get a little money back. In the end we got a car from Hertz for $360 and drove from 2AM-noon to fort lauderdale without bags. Did a quick Walmart fashion stock up and got on the boat. During the drive down talk to Delta and got our bags rerouted to Jamaica our 4th day stop and we picked them up there and enjoyed the rest of our cruise. So we were the casual people on formal night :)
  49. 17 points
    We sailed out of Miami on Monday Sep 4th for a 4 day cruise to what was supposed to be Nassau, Coco Cay, and The Keys. At that time the hurricane was in the Atlantic and we were not too concerned due to the uncertainty of how it was going to behave in the coming days. Besides, we were confident the captain and RC's meteorologists were watching the storm closely, and we would just change itinerary if needed. On Tuesday Sep 5th we docked in Nassau and spent the day at Atlantis. We got the package on RC's website and it was a better experience than we were expecting! The slides, pools, and facilities were extensive, and we had access to their private beaches, casino and aquarium on site. We got to spend the entire day there from 9am to 7pm with shuttles leaving every 30 minutes to take us back to the ship. It was well worth it in our opinion! Unfortunately later that evening, the captain came on the intercom to tell us Coco Cay and The Keys were being evacuated, and we would be staying in Nassau overnight. Everyone on board was obviously disappointed, but the tension and nervousness could be felt for the entirety of the cruise. There was a huge line at guest services after the initial announcement, partially for refunds and partially questioning our safety. For us, we decided it was out of our control, to trust the captains judgement, and enjoy ourselves as much as we could. The next day (Wednesday) we got another announcement on the intercom from the captain. We would be staying another day in Nassau but would cut our cruise short. We would begin our return to Miami that evening as the city was beginning evacuations. Commence another ship-long line to guest services with people in varying degrees of distress. Everyone had their own situations, but for us, we were planning to stay in Miami through Friday and fly home Saturday afternoon. Hearing forecasts that the storm would hit Friday or Saturday, we were almost positive our flight would be cancelled, not to mention our hotel closed. RC opened all the phone lines for us to make international calls without being charged. They also offered anyone who could not make travel arrangements to stay an additional night docked in Miami through Friday morning, the original time we were supposed to leave. That night we got a notification that our flight was cancelled and there were no room on earlier flights. Our hotel called us to say they would be evacuating and could not honor our reservations. I'll admit I felt the panic welling up at that point. We were being dumped in an evacuating city with no where to stay and no way to leave. After calling home to my dad, he went online and arranged a car rental from MIA to drive home to Cleveland, Ohio. In the moment, I was angry we were going back to Miami. We overheard angry cruisers saying we should have left Nassau for Miami earlier, or they should have sailed away from the storm, not in the path of it. How would it make sense to drop a bunch of tourists in an evacuating city with no where to go with a hurricane coming? Later I realized there were Florida residents on the ship that had to prepare their houses and meet with their families. Others that drove from other places that had their car parked by the dock. I came to the resolution that we took a risk taking a cruise this time of year and once we disembarked, I alone could be responsible for my own safety. Thursday morning we chose to disembark, everything riding on the car rental. Sailing up to Miami was eerie. Few cars were on the roads, resorts and beaches were deserted. We joined the line to get through customs, people in line still calling their airlines and trying to make arrangements. Once we left the terminal, there was a roped off area of taxi companies yelling at us like paparazzi that they would take us to the airport. They were playing off our fears, but it was working. It was chaos and the air started to feel panicked. We jumped into a nearby taxi and decided anywhere would be better than staying there. We drove through nearly empty roads to get to the airport car rental area, which was very busy, but to our relief, had a car reserved for us. We set off and ran into some serious traffic by Daytona Beach. Hundreds of thousands of people trying to go North. The first time we stopped for gas, they were empty. Nervousness set in as we drove off the beaten path a bit to find a gas station that had just been filled up, the worker starting to open pumps again. We got lucky. There was a line of cars waiting and people filling red gas containers. To avoid traffic, we drove through the night until we couldn't stay awake anymore, pulling into a rest area literally packed with cars. I don't think I'll ever forget what we saw there. We saw people with elderly and disabled parents, children, babies, dogs and cats. People with U-hauls and trailers. All these people prepared to lose everything. I could no longer complain. We drove up onto the grass and slept for about 2 hours. The drive home ended up being 26 hrs with traffic. I was grateful for my time spent at the beach and in the sun. I enjoyed the drinks and food on the ship and appreciated everything the staff did to make our trip fun despite the circumstances. We got refunded for the day we missed and the excursions we didn't go on. The staff remained professional and calm in the midst of stressed and angry customers. I will definitely be going on another cruise to get the complete experience, just not during hurricane season.
  50. 16 points
    Practice what you preach is what they say (whoever "they" are), so I'm dipping my toes into the fabulous Live Blogs forum of the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards! We're headed on Brilliance of the Seas for a 4-night weekend getaway cruise and I usually post my live blogs on the blog portion of this site, but, I decided to do things a little differently this time because I've blogged this particular ship and sailing a few times already. Instead, I'm taking my talents to the message boards to show some love for what I believe is a vastly underrated and extremely entertaining feature of this blog! Our cruise departs the fabulous port of Tampa on February 14 and on this sailing, it will be just me and my wife.....and @ShakeDownCruise's family. We originally booked our kids on this sailing with us. Kids Sail Free was in full effect, so we put a deposit down. As it turns out, I convinced my parents to fly down and watch the kids so it will be just me and my wife enjoying this quick sailing. Fun fact, my kids are still technically booked on this sailing because we got kids sail free, so removing them from the reservation seemed pointless. Plus, gives me a safety net if my parents reneged on the plan. We booked a category 1B Spacious Balcony stateroom on deck 9. We picked this room primarily under the guise of my kids sailing with us, but now we will enjoy some extra space and the ocean views my wife enjoys. In my experience, I barely spend time on the balcony on most cruises. If I am going to lay out, I prefer the pool deck for the music and people watching. Our 4-night itinerary takes us to one port, Cozumel. While I went to Cozumel six times in 2018, this will be one and only stop in Cozumel in 2019. 😔 I will be sure to eat as much chips, salsa and guacamole as humanly possible. Nothing booked yet on what we will do, but we have some time to figure it out. In the weeks left until this cruise, I will take some cues from some of the awesome live bloggers here, such as @ellcee, @melski94, @JLMoran, @Lovetocruise2002 & @twangster.
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