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About Neaxan

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  • Birthday 07/21/1983

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    near Nuremberg, Germany
  • Interests
    Traveling, Motorsports, Music, Reading

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  1. Up to now our only mistake was to think that Princess was a premium cruise line.... to my defense, it's portraited like that in Germany. But we experienced something funny when waiting for our shuttle from Alamo to Caribbean Princess. When staff made a list of who needed to go to what ship, one couple said Allure. This was in Fort Lauderdale, mind you. The look on their faces when they were told they had to go to Miami for Allure - priceless 😄 Luckily for them, their car wasn't processed so they could take it to drive to Miami - and they were still early enough to make it.
  2. Sorry I'm a bit late, but instead of post cruise depression I managed to get a post cruise cold. I'll try to keep this as short as possible. There were two major drawbacks for us on Royal: the class system (also called C&A) and the shortage of waiters in bars and lounges (Playmakers being the notable exception). I'm hoping that it isn't that bad on normal cruises with less top tier cruisers. As for the missing waiters, well at least you get to know your bar tenders.... Apart from that, we were really happy with our first Royal experience. The food was better than expected, staff was phenomenal, entertainment top-notch and the ship amazing. We also liked the international mix of cruisers. TLDR: we'll be back - for Oasis 5 transatlantic and we're also looking at Anthem cruises from Southampton. Regarding our cruise with Caribbean Princess: we can't recommend it. The ship is old and looks the part (we've sailed on ships 10 years more senior that looked better) and there isn't much to do. Caribbean Princess also has some major problems with vibration - your plates and glasses are constantly moving in the buffet (deck 15!). Food in the MDR is way worse than on Royal, so bad that we only went twice. We liked the buffet better than the Windjammer so we spent most dinners there. As for speciality dining, Sabatini's was on par with Jamie's, but Crown Grill was way inferior to Chops Grille. Yes, Crown Grill is cheaper than Chops Grille, but I'd prefer paying a bit more for better quality. We liked Planks (part of the buffet that sells barbecue dinner for 12$ per person). Regarding service, Princess was also inferior to Royal - there were A LOT of staff but they prefered to chat among themselves, therefore you often had to get drinks yourself. I didn't mind that much on Royal but if there is enough staff around, why don't they work? We also had a bad cabin steward who forgot the water for my CPAP even though I prebooked it (took some reminders) and who was capable of overlooking empty dishes and glasses for up to 3 days in a row. I just stacked them up until even he couldn't not notice anymore... Other bad service examples include Princess not providing German menus or cruise compasses even though they advertised it beforehand (no problem for us but we met some fellow Germans that were really struggling). Another thing that really annoyed us was the amount of advertisements and sales. You were constantly plagued by staff trying to sell mimosas, speciality dining, pictures... or even schnapps glasses in the MDR after dinner. And trust me, they weren't subtle about it, it was really rude at times. There were a few good points about this cruise: the Caribbean (yes, we'll have to do it again), the super comfy bed (way better than on Royal) and in part the medaillon. When it worked, your stateroom door was unlocked when you approached - a real plus when carrying food or drinks. You could also order drinks from anywhere you set via the app - well, at least when it worked... it's still quite buggy. Funny enough, while the app manages these more complicated things, it's impossible to show the MDR menu of the day, or any day in fact. Guess the comparison between good and bad points says it all - we'll definetely never sail Princess again, we were indeed very happy when we finally could disembark. Descriptions can't do it justice to say how bad it was. On the bright side, the flight home was actually rather enjoyable. I fear I'm now spoiled and will never fly economy on intercontinental flights but well... at least I'm willing to go to the US again!
  3. Day 13 - Disembarkation 😭 Time to say goodbye - unfortunately. After our last breakfast at Park Cafe we waited in the Theater until our number was called. At least disembarkation was a breeze - no immigration, no costums, we just walked off. Wish I could say the same about getting to the car rental station. While the new terminal looks beautiful, they apparently didn't think traffic through. Bus and shuttle have serious problems turning and have to reverse out of the berths - this takes time and only worsens the chaos. Additionally, there are no lines for the bus - it's survival of the fittest. Took us 1.5 hours to get on a bus, but getting our car took 5 minutes once we arrived at the rental station. The day was spent shopping at the Disney store and Walmart. When it was time for checkin, we went to our Hotel - Sense Beach House in South Beach. It's a nice little hotel on a quiet block of Ocean Drive. As promised, we went to South Pointe Park for Symphony's sailaway. We also got to watch Mariner's sailaway and the fireworks for Symphony. Sad to see her go, but we'll be back with Oasis 5 😁 A little stroll around South Beach: For those who made it that far: thanks for following along, I really enjoyed blogging for you. I'll do our final verdict (and a little comparison to Princess) later, probably when I'm home.
  4. Day 12: The last full day of this cruise and only our second port of call – Cape Canaveral. As we booked the Kennedy Space Center Guided Tour, we had an early breakfast at Park Cafe. Meeting for the excursion was in the Royal Theater at 8 am. As we’d arrived early, we were already in line to get off the ship at 7.50 am. Unfortunately, this didn’t help much. Immigration in Port Canaveral was mayhem for non-US citizens. We stood in line for 2.5 hours, shortening our 8h tour to 5.5 hours. This was our first major gripe with Royal. While they can’t speed up the immigration process, their organisation was truly disappointing. They sold way too many full day tours resulting in thousands of people trying to get through immigration at the same time. And instead of reserving the first hours for full day tours, they also let half day tours and passengers without any tours off the ship at the same time. Never seen such a bad organisation and we’ve already done immigration in Russia. On the bright side: our tour guide Doug did everything he could to show us as many things possible within the shortened time frame. I’m sure we’d have enjoyed KSC more hadn’t we been so tired from standing in line for hours – maybe we’ll just try another time. At least we saw some alligators on the way back to the ship ☺️ We were finally back onboard at 4.22 pm (all aboard 4.30 pm), so our first stop was the pool bar for some much needed alcoholic drinks. We managed to get first row seats in the Solarium for sail away. Symphony’s arrival in the US generated quite some interest, we had 2 helicopters documenting sailaway and hundreds of people watching. Guess Carnival Liberty never had a bigger audience 😈 Before dinner we finished packing, then we went to Solarium Bistro. I have to agree with Twangster here, it’s a pity we only did this on the last day. Well, as we were able to share, we had a significant advantage: we managed to try everything we wanted! We tried Greek Salad, Ceviche, Tomato & Bocconcini, Tzatziki & Pita Bread, Seafood Soup, Stuffed Zucchini, Greek-style Roasted Potatoes, All-natural Grass-fed Skirt Steak with Horseradish, Chicken Kebab, Lemon Pepper Roasted Chicken, Kofta, Moussaka, Grilled Salmon, Fresh Mussels, Grilled Shrimp, Chocolate Nocciola, Loukoumades, Torta de Mele, Tarte Tropezienne, Panna Cotta à la Romana, Galaktoboureko. I wouldn’t recommend the Chicken Kebab but everything else was really good. Feeling completely full we changed clothes and headed to the pool for some laps and just relaxing in the hot tubs. We fled when it started raining – yes I know we were already wet, but our cover up clothes weren’t 🤣 The evening ended with some final drinks at – you guessed it – Playmakers. Side notes: 15k steps Nearly forgot to pick up our pictures – fortunately it suddenly dawned on hubby before they closed the foto shop. We’re missing Symphony soooooo much 😥
  5. Day 11 FINALLY! This is the first day with nothing planned in the morning – well, tbh we’re skipping the final choir meeting. Instead, we’re having a pool morning. Breakfast was in the MDR as we had the time to do it. Then it was up the stairs and on the waterslides. Unfortunately I only did one waterslide – the blue one. That was enough to wreck my swimsuit & waterproof bag for my asthma inhaler. Lesson learned: don’t take the bag with you on a waterslide – in other words, don’t go on the waterslide as I wouldn’t risk going anywhere without the inhaler. At least I can report that hubby did enjoy the waterslides immensely. I took the opportunity to swim laps in the pool while he was having fun on the slides. Unfortunately, the sports pool’s correct name should be „stand in the damn way pool“ so after half an hour I had enough. As we’d climbed the stairs already, we had lunch at El Loco Fresh. We really like the nachos and build your own tacos. At 3pm it was finally time for the postponed Hairspray matinee. Wow, what a brilliant performance! The cast is amazing and I’d haver never thought they could do all that on a moving ship. We really liked Hairspray, even though it’ll never be our favourite musical – these are still Phantom of the Opera and Dance of the Vampires. Time until dinner was spent at Playmakers again. I can report that on day 11 we finally managed to empty Symphony’s stock of Guinness. Guess the provisions master miscalculated a bit. While we were at the Boardwalk anyway, we finally managed to go on the carousel – must’ve been the first time for at least 20 years. We also managed to spend our arcade credit on Mario Kart – I won every time 😇 Tonight’s dinner was in Izumi – sushi night! If you’re on the drink package, try the Sake cocktails, they’re really yummy. For starters, we had the shrimp firecracker spring roll (sorry, forgot to take a picture). As main course we had five different rolls: Champagne Lobster in Yuzu Wrap, Crispy Philly, Izumi Spider Roll, Surf & Turf and Izumi Ryu Futomaki. The latter roll was the best sushi roll we ever had, the others were also very good, even though not really Japanese sushi. Apparently American sushi is more bells & whistles 😂 As planned, we went from Izumi to the MDR for dessert. This was a good opportunity to say goodbye to Baptiste and Juan – and to realize what we’d missed on our other visits. We had Tiramisu, No Sugar Added Coconut Rice Pudding, Royal Cheesecake and Royal Chocolate Cake – the latter was soooo good! After dessert we hurried to the Royal Theatre for the last headliner show, Adam Kario, a juggler and comedian. We were a bit late so we wouldn’t have gotten the best seats anyway, but as we were thinking of skipping the show (the other headliner shows weren’t really to our liking), we chose seats at the end of the row to sneak away if necessary. Much to our surprise, this headliner was by far the best, really funny and we definetely regretted our choice of seats. From the theatre we hurried to Studio B for The Quest – our first I might add. I came close to being forced to be the female captain of our team – luckily someone else volunteered eventually. I can report that Bobby did a brilliant job with The Quest, we had so much fun and were howling with laughter. I won’t get into details here as you know – what happens at The Quest, stays at The Quest 🤣 After The Quest it was back into the Theatre for the last adult comedy show – we sneaked out halfway through as it was mostly the same material as the last time. Instead of bar hopping, we went to the cabin to start packing. Side notes 11 k steps
  6. They have a cocktail called Down the Rabbithole at the Wonderland bar and it comes with your choice of a red or a blue pill so I thought it would fit right in 😂
  7. Day 10: This day was off to an early start, therefore we had breakfast in our beloved Park Cafe. Why the early start, you might ask – the All Access Ship tour, of course! At 119 $ each, we had a YOLO moment when booking this. Hey, when will I be ever able to get a behind the scenes tour on the biggest cruise ship in the world? Our tour guide for the morning was Charly from Shore Excursions, who gave us some insight into crew life on Symphony. First stop of the tour was the engine control room where we were lucky to meet the chief engineer. I don’t want to bore you with a multitude of numbers so here’s the highlights: of 6 generators for the engines, Symphony uses 4 on a transatlantic sailing compared to only 3 when on normal Caribbean itineraries. Symphony has enough fuel to immediately return from Miami to Barcelona without refueling – but we’d lack food and drinks 😭 Our next stop was the MDR galley on deck 5, where we got all information from one of the sous chefs. The MDR has 3 galleys (one on each MDR deck) – deck 5 is mainly responsible for soups, sauces, salads, cold plates and breakfast room service. The sheer amount of food that has to be prepared here is really impressive. Royal uses a computer system to predict the amount of dishes they’ll need for each seating – interesting to see this in use. Down from deck 5 it was back into the bowels of the ship, taking the I-95 to provisions. On I-95, we saw the crew activities board. I’m really quite angry about the amount of money the crew have to pay for internet – in my opinion, it should be free of charge for them as it’s the only way to stay in contact with their family at home. And Royal should be aware that a happy crew makes for happy cruisers! But on to a more lighthearted topic – provisions: Symphony’s provisions master took care of all our questions. As we still got a few days left, the walk in refrigerators were well stocked - nobody can starve on a cruise ship. For the European season, Symphony had to restock in Barcelona and Civitavecchia on each sailing – not because of the longer advance booking periods but because all goods arrive on (wooden) EU pallets and have to be reloaded on the steel pallets that Royal uses! That’s why Symphony only needs restocking once a week (in Miami) for Caribbean cruises – it just takes less time. Our time with the provisions master also answered another question: how does Symphony dock in Miami? Always on the starboard side, as they can use 2 doors for loading instead of only one when docking portside. Unfortunately, this means that Symphony will always turn in the basin when entering the port – so in the middle of the night most likely. From provisions, we ventured even further down the ship. The laundry is as far down as you can get on Symphony (assuming you don’t want to take a swim in the fuel tanks). The laundry master explained his department to us and also showed us the use of some of the machines. You can even stumble upon Captain Rob in the laundry 😁 Most interesting information: crew’s uniforms are cleaned free of charge, but they have to wash their private clothes themselves. Our last stop on this tour was the bridge, where we met one of the First Officers – and Captain Rob again. It's amazing how approachable and chatty the Captain is – what a nice experience. Best thing about the bridge is the unobstructed forward view, but all the instruments on the bridge wing were also quite interesting. We were even lucky to have not one but two ships in our safety corridor when on the bridge – in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic! The route is completely at the Captain’s discretion so we took a southern route on this crossing for better weather. Even though the southern route is longer than the northern route, it’s more fuel efficient due to winds and drift. # After this illuminating tour, we went to the MDR for an early lunch. We were seated with Americans, Brits and a couple from Taiwan. This mix made for some very interesting political discussions. (Hey, I thought you don’t small talk about politics and religion?!) Fortunately, we don’t mind political discussions as we like to hear opinions from all sides. In fact, we’ve redpilled quite a few fellow cruisers on the topic of Germany on this crossing 😈 As for the food, can’t remember the exact names (and forgot to look them up before disembarkation 😥). Hubby had the Greek Salad, Chicken Sandwich and Chocolate Cake, I had the Tortilla Salad, Steak Sandwich and Apple Pie. The next event of the day was the Guest Talent Show. The choir's This is Me was the first act, the song was enhanced by a choreography from the progressive dance class. Other than that, it was mostly musical acts. We were quite surprised about the confidence of some of the participants but a few acts were REALLY impressive. The best act was a guy singing New York by Frank Sinatra – in fact this guy was on par with headliner Gary Williams. No surprise he won progressive karaoke. As we’d had an early lunch and were planning a late dinner, we had a 2nd lunch at Playmakers – again Base Loaded Potato Skins but this time accompanied by Pulled Pork Sliders. From there it was on to Laser Tag. Sadly a session only is 10 minutes, but considering the long lines it’s understandable. Due to the de-icing of Studio B there were only 4 sessions on this 12 night cruise - the first two on one of the first sea days, session 3 on day 10 during formal night dinner and session 4 during sailaway from Port Canaveral. We had other plans for the first two sessions and didn't want to miss sailaway so we chose the lesser evil. Our team didn’t win but at least we were the team’s top players. Day 10 was the 2nd and last formal night, so we went to the cabin to change into more formal wear (so not playing laser tag in dress and heels!) and then get some pictures taken on Royal Promenade. Dinner in the MDR consisted of the Mediterranean Tapas Plate for starters, Seafood Linguini and Broiled Lobster Tail for entrees and Chocolate Profiteroles and the Artisan Cheese Plate for dessert. Feel free to guess who ordered what 🤣 Verdict on the food: to us it feels as though MDR food is better on Formal Nights – so a good reason to dress up. When leaving the MDR we were advised to come back the next day for dessert (we have a reservation in Izumi and the dessert isn’t really our cup of tea). After a few drinks at the pub we went to bed. Side notes: 10.3 k steps – most of them on the tour 🤣 If anyone wondered, yes, drink fatigue is a thing. Well, for me – not for hubby. Food fatigue is also getting real, guess we’ll have a breather in Miami. Can't really call this a towel animal, can I? 🤪
  8. Wonderland is darker than the MDR, but all speciality restaurants are - at least on Symphony. We could still take pictures without using the flash (I hate it because it makes for unnatural colours), you just need a longer exposure or higher ISO. Due to the light decor and furniture, Wonderland feels well-lit, no comparison to Izumi where everything is dark.
  9. Wonderland: Wonderland was our most anticipated restaurant – spoiler alert: rightly so. To fully enjoy Wonderland, you have to appreciate the concept and be a bit of an adventurous eater. We loved the whole atmosphere of the place – it’s a real trip down the rabbit hole with everything including the waiter’s uniforms or the Mad Hatter’s conversations fitting in. We even found a little Alice 🙂 As we were planning to get the most of this experience, we ignored the menu even though painting your own menu was a nice touch. We let our waiter Sorina chose our courses as we only had good experiences with following our waiter’s recommendations. For starters, we got the whole ride: Citrus Seas, Crispy Crab Cones, Mad Hatter‘s Purple Potted Shrimp, Liquid Lobster, The Chicken & the Egg. We loved all of them! When forced to pick a favourite, I’d go with the Citrus Seas even though the Liquid Lobster was the most surprising taste. For entrees, Sorina hadn’t forgotten that hubby isn’t that much into fish as a main course. So we got Snap, Crackle & Pork and The Rib ‚I‘ Luscious Short Rib (aka Chocolate Brownie 🤣). Personally, I prefered the latter as the pork is quite greasy. Hubby did enjoy the pork so it might just be my pet hate talking. I can thoroughly recommend the short rib – I liked it even better than 150 CP’s main course! For dessert, we were in for a surprise! As I’d hoped, we got The World – it’s not only a visual treat, it’s also absolutely delicious. Our second dessert was the Forbidden Apple, also very good but just not as perfect as The World. On the other hand, the Forbidden Apple was decorated for an anniversary that we still don’t know about 🤣 Guess it was a mix up in the kitchen as neither me nor hubby had informed Royal about an anniversary. Instead of worrying, we just went with the flow and got nine times Happy Anniversary from Sorina and the Mad Hatter. We’ve been married 9 years now, it’s only we married in August, not in November. Who would voluntarily marry in the German winter season? Back to the topic: we loved the whole Wonderland experience, it is easily our favourite restaurant onboard! In fact, we enjoyed this kind of imaginative and adventurous cuisine so much, that we’ll take the leap and try some fusion cuisine at home. If you only want to try one speciality dining venue – I’d chose this one as it offers the most different experience. We’ll definetly be back on another ship!
  10. Right back at you, it was so cool finally meeting you. Hope we'll meet again on other cruises! As for the top tier bunch, it did annoy us quite a bit. Were not used to being treated as second class passengers, and sadly you got that feeling on more than one occasion on this cruise. We prefer TUI's approach to this one where loyal cruisers are rewarded without taking anything from the experience of other guests. Examples include bridge tours, free champagne, free speciality choclate, free laundry... TUI does have a designated venue for guests staying in suites and that is fine by us, as it doesn't impact our stay in any way. But taking away a third of the available seats in all entertainment venues and closing numerous venues at times does get on your nerves. We'd still sail with Royal but we made sure Royal got this feedback. I'm now sitting next to the aft pool on Caribbean Princess and enjoying a nice view of the ocean (something that's hard to come by on Symphony). So it's finally time to do the blog posts that fell victim to too much to do and not enough time - and some post cruise land sickness. I'll also do a summary of what we liked and disliked on our first Royal cruise. As for comparing our Royal and Princess experiences, I'm thinking of doing it once I'm back home 🙂
  11. Thank you. Blogging is really fun, I'm just a bit behind - too much going on here. But no need to worry I'll likely do the missing entries on the sea days on our way to the Caribbean.
  12. I guess it's just for the crossing as there's so many higher tier cruisers onboard.
  13. From ISkate we hurried to the Boardwalk to get in line for Hiro, the Aquashow. Finally we’d get to see one! Guess there had been a lot of complaints as the movement of the ship hadn’t changed much since yesterday but they were still running the shows. Unfortunately, our seats again weren’t the best as a) we weren’t the first in line due to ISkate and b) the whole center part of the Aqua Theater is reserved for PiT (Pinnacle in Training), Pinnacle and Suites. Hiro is a brilliant show with a storyline (see Twangster’s blog for details), but there’s so much going on with dancing, high diving, fighting, synchronized swimming and slacklining – you just can’t take it all in. I guess you’d have to watch it at least twice to see all the details – good luck with the standby line 🤣 Fun part: we kind of got our revenge for the seats. The screeches from the high status crowd when they got wet from the dripping aerialist amused us immensely 😈 With another detour for a cocktail, we just fell into our beds. Side notes 12.2 steps Planning on getting up early for our way into Port of Miami, as Symphony is rumored to turn before docking. Estimated arrival time is 4.30 am in case you wanted to watch, Matt. If you suffer from night blindness, Escape the Rubicon is really hard. Speaking from experience here. Found yet more staircase artwork I liked – and some elevator art: Stopped by at Vintages – here’s the current menu for tapas:
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