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twangster

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Everything posted by twangster

  1. Interesting that @Matt 's cup specifically directs you to Share the drink package
  2. I'll ask another bartender. Maybe tomorrow.
  3. 2 oz vodka 1/4 shot lavender syrup Sprinkle of lavender flakes
  4. Its 360, wrapped around the tuba like centerpiece of The VIA. Quite impressive.
  5. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." The Gingerbread Houses of Anthem of the Seas
  6. There is a lot of engineering and planning of weight distribution. Even the materials used on higher decks is planned very carefully. I suspect this contributed to removing the solarium pool on Harmony in light of other additions like the water slides up high on the pool deck. Water is very heavy.
  7. Final payment is like locking in an interest rate on a mortgage. Once locked, its locked. After you have made your final payment expect nothing. You can try and in the past sometimes you may have gotten an OBC but with the $55M loss due to this past hurricane season they are not in a position to be as generous with "goodwill" activities. This includes paying off the cruise prior to the deadline for final payment. My TA advises me to hold back a $100 if paying for a cruise in full prior to final payment deadline. I tried to upgrade to a different category a month ago for my current cruise (~30 days out) and they wouldn't let me upgrade my inside cabin to anything, not even a suite. YMMV.
  8. Day 6 Evening Before dinner I took in the Headliner show. Gary Lovini is a UK musician and he is very good. Dinner in the My Time MDR Smoked chicken wings and Pork Chops. Food and service excellent tonight from Roman my head waiter.
  9. I'm in too! I'm looking at post dry-dock Adventure cruises now right around the same time in February but I'm thinking about the ABC islands, or at least the AC islands since Adventure doesn't stop at B on the current itineraries .
  10. Woohoo! Going on Indy on the 21st so looking forward to your live blog! Hint - the best camera is the one you have with you. Some of my pictures are from my phone because I don't always want to carry the Albatros that my good camera seems to be on some days around my neck. Cheers!
  11. Day 6 - Martinique Our weather patterns with periods of sun and lines of showers moving through continued today. Such is the Caribbean. This is my first stop at Martinique. It's quite developed. There is a small public beach (no facilities) within walking distance of the ship but the real beaches are a ferry ride away. The town is setting up for some seasonal festivities along the water front. Martinique is French and uses Euros. The beach ferry is a short walk from the ship. With the threat of rain looming I decided not to head to the beaches but planned to check out Fort Saint-Louis. Unfortunately it was closed today, so I walked around town. It has much more of a European ambiance compared to many Caribbean islands. It was very humid and I was drenched so with rain clouds moving in I headed back to the ship. Traveling solo I am less inclined to go sit on a beach for a day and I had toyed with a helicopter excursion over to the Monserrat volcano but with the weather as it was I just self explored on this trip, but I'll be back as it is quite nice here.
  12. Leaving St. Thomas I managed to get a picture of Oasis over in Crown Bay. Beside her is a ship contracted by FEMA to house relief workers brought to the island to continue the restoration efforts.
  13. Here is on board Voom brochure from Anthem. I'm assuming Explorer is the same but it is possible it might be different while outside of the North American region.
  14. Assume you mean the drink package beverage cups. There are different variations such as a lighter design and I've seen folks with a red one that has the Coca Cola logo all over it. This came with my Deluxe package.
  15. That's interesting about passports. I know you need photo ID such as a driver's license but I've never been told passport specifically is a requirement. I've been to Cozumel 3 times this year and never carried my passport off the ship. Most recent was on Freedom in November. i used my driver's license. San Juan also requires photo ID and I used a TWIC card since it's plastic and easy to carry around with my SeaPass card.
  16. As you consider packs for port days also consider waterproof options. Rain happens. I'm currently using a large fanny pack. While fanny packs aren't my favorite fashion accessory they work well for carrying a couple of lens for my DSLR. Function trumps form and I'm old enough to not care what people think of me and my fanny. I also have a lightweight dry bag that folds flat and inserts below my lens but if a rain storm happens I can pull it out and place my fanny pack and DSLR into it. I did just that on St Thomas yesterday and it was very comforting knowing everything was safe. Phone, wallet, money all went in. A full backpack is too much for me most days and I like being agile.
  17. Dinner last night was in the My Time MDR. New section tonight. The Pan Seared Duck Breast was very good. Service was very good tonight and fast. Satish and Imade were right on top of things. Oddly my head waiter from my last visit saw me and also stopped by several times such as asking for my dinner order even though Imade had just taken it. It almost became territorial so Satish and Imade stepped up their game. Awkward, but quite amusing to experience. I felt like a celebrity.
  18. A few more St Thomas photos from my phone. It was raining as our Safari taxi arrived downtown in Charlotte Amalie. With that my 'good' camera was put away and I used my phone to capture the main shopping street. If anyone has been here before you know this street well. It's why St Thomas is known as the place to shop for duty free. If using no other means, there is no better way to say that an island is officially ready for tourists than when the duty free stores are open and waiting for you!
  19. While in North American waters RCI ships have two feeds of ESPN International. They can't just flip a switch and 'steal' content from another provider. ESPN International does have different programming compared to ESPN USA but if they don't have the rights to show an event such as the Cup, they can't. The league controls who can display their events. In many cases these businesses (NFL, NHL, Masters, etc) are trying to drive revenue from online streaming services for International customers so the league themselves may prevent a satellite provider from carrying games. Blame the league, not the ship.
  20. My stop in San Juan all seemed very normal. Granted this was just a stop on our itinerary as opposed to a hotel based stay. As I wandered around Old San Juan it struck me how hard it must be for all these tourism based businesses such as hotels, bars, restaurants and stores. It costs money to operate a business and absent of money coming in some may be forced to close temporarily not because they can't open because of the hurricane but because they can't afford to pay their employees to do nothing for very long. I may go out of my way to book a cruise originating from San Juan in the coming months. Now is when they need our support more than ever and there is no better way to help in this phase of recovery than putting money into local businesses so that they can get through this. Having a job, going to work and earning money to support their family gives locals a sense of purpose. It may be a little extra effort to find an open hotel but they need us. It's worth the effort.
  21. Day 5 - St Thomas I woke up early to make sure I could watch our approach before our pier arrival. I was happy to see much of this side of the island with power. 
 The main power generating plant is not far from Crown Bay so it's no surprise the South East of the island was first to get power back. A line of showers moved through sending me into the Solarium but soon after we were treated to a nice sunrise as we approached the harbor. This is one of the bridge wings on Anthem (the port wing has been closed for both sailings). Today we would be docking at the West Indies pier or what many refer to as Havensight. I wanted to wait for the sun to rise a little higher for it to set off the color in the water so I went off to the Solarium Bistro for breakfast. As it turns out this early morning photo with the blue sky day would be one of the best of this area of the island. The blue sky wouldn't last all day. The Captain mentioned increasing chances for rain so I decided to head to Magens Bay for some pictures while the weather was good. This photo was taken shortly after leaving the Havensight Mall area. I took a 'Safari' taxi for $8 and joined 10 other shipmates on our way to the beach. On the ride out of town I looked over and saw Oasis docked in Crown Bay.
 That is Anthem far left and Oasis far right. 
 I had asked our driver if he could stop by Drake's Seat and he did. This is the spot to get a great overview picture of Magens Bay Beach. As we approached Magens Bay you could see large areas of forest that had been damaged by the hurricanes. In the past this was dense and you couldn't see much of anything when you looked into the forest. Now you could see many trees down, many with no tops and most with no foliage. Magens Bay is a preserve managed by the local USVI government and has a $5 per person entrance fee. We paid at the gate. Our driver then took us to the South end of the beach where they had set up a temporary bar, grill and beach shop while the centrally located building that used to house them is being rebuilt. It's cash only right now. I tipped well and I hope you do too. 
 Chairs and umbrellas can also be rented here. Otherwise it's a ship towel on the sand - don't forget one. There are showers and a foot wash area as well as restrooms all working fine on this occasion. Magens Bay Beach remains as beautiful as ever. As I took this photo, Beatles Abbey Road popped into my head... I was curious what the efforts were to repair the beach. Royal Caribbean partnered with the local USVI authority that operates the park to restore it. Beyond the obvious structures that were damaged and are being rebuilt, you can see there are hundreds of new trees that have been planted recently each with temporary braces until they take root. This is the activity to rebuild the central bar, grill and gift store building. It's looking close to completion. Maybe another few weeks? Hard to tell in the islands... I wanted to stop by Charlotte Amalie for lunch so at this point I headed to the taxi stand to get a ride back into town. Dark clouds were starting to move in and I sensed rain was coming and boy did it. Safely in our Safari taxi me and a couple from Oasis watched the downpour as we made our way back into town. There is an overlook with great views of the harbor but a traffic accident had closed that road and with the heavy rain it made no sense to try. For each of these $8 ride I gave our drivers a $20 - they need the money. Fortunately the rain stopped just as the driver dropped me off in Charlotte Amalie. Lunch today was at a favorite restaurant of mine 'The Green House' with views of the harbor. 
 I was happy to see the "Blackened Mahi Caesar Salad" was still on the menu. 
On my first trip to St Thomas I found this restaurant and since then the Mahi salad has become a ritual meal. 
 A Bushwhacker and a beer rounded off lunch. With another line of showers coming this way I found another Safari taxi for the ride back to the ship. The stores in the Havensight Mall were all open and people were eagerly shopping. 
 Back on board I jumped in the shower and made plans to take a nap. Summary of my day on St. Thomas and some thoughts. Some of the pictures I decided to include to illustrate how far the flora and fauna on St Thomas has come. Talking with my friends who live here they told me in the days after the hurricane everything was brown. There was no green anywhere. It was very depressing. Even they are amazed how quickly green has returned. That in no small way is helping everyone get through this. Life is normal one told me (even though he doesn't have power back just yet). From a distance St Thomas looks like it always has but you don't have to look very far to see signs of hurricane damage. Some people may never rebuild. It was like this when I lived here and I recall stories of "that was from hurricane ..." when I saw a broken down building. I imagine there will be similar stories years from now. When the ship arrived I saw lines of utility trucks leaving their staging area near the West Indies pier. At lunch I saw a truck pulling a trailer full of pole transformers drive by. Maybe tomorrow my friend will get power back. This morning I observed a cargo ship carrying dozens of luxury yachts enter the harbor behind us. This is a thing. People ship their luxury yachts and fly in to use them as a base to explore from. Oh the lives of the rich and famous. However it shows you even they are returning. I tipped a LOT more than I have in the past but they have been without income for way too long. St Thomas is back and there is no reason to avoid coming here.
  22. Sailing out of San Juan last night you can see how much of the San Juan area itself has power and looks quite normal at night.
  23. Day 4 - San Juan, Scheduled Arrival 3pm As we approached San Juan our sunny day ended and it became apparent we would have some liquid sunshine, emphasis on liquid, to contend with. We docked near the Sheraton in Old San Juan. Skies began to look better but radar showed another line or two approaching from the East. After a few false starts to avoid getting drenched I finally ventured out. San Juan is doing much better than much of Puerto Rico. On the surface it doesn't look much different compared to previous visits. There were street performers waiting to greet us. I've eaten here before but was looking for something a little less corporate to visit tonight. I ended up at Tijuana's bar and grill. This is very close to the ship pier on this side of the harbor and I've walked past it many times before. Today is the first day they have opened since Hurricane Maria. They have a limited menu right now and are cash only but I'm glad I stopped by. Beer and a burrito sounded pretty good to me with great views. The bill came to around $18. I left them $40. After this I wandered down the shore along the edge of the fort walls that used to protect the city in the days of old. Another wave of rain moved through but it was light and refreshing. They have festive lights set up. San Juan is back and is ready to greet you. The rain soaked streets increased the contrast and made it especially pretty tonight. I made it down to the fountain I've visited before but lighting wasn't very good tonight and some more rain was moving in so I doubled back to a restaurant and bar I passed along the way. The Princesa Gastro Bar has the "It's Rum Time" sign that you'll see around San Juan. On the outside it's a small bar but I was I glad I stopped by. I talked to 'Angel' the bar keeper and he eagerly explained the island rum he had available. It's quite a selection. He arranged it compared to popular liquor such as Scotch, Bourbon and Vodka. He explained that if someone likes a certain type of Scotch, they might like this type of rum and so on. He was very passionate and he invited me into his bar. After discussing my likes and dislikes he recommend a couple for me to try. He then presented them to me, complete with bottles to review as I sampled them. I was impressed. As a frequent Scotch drinker I appreciated the flavors and differences between the samples that I would not have noticed had I not discussed them with him. Despite being a small looking bar, it's packed with some great island rum and other liquor if you just don't like rum (Scotch, Vodka, Gin, wine, etc). This might not be the kind of place to seek a rum punch or frozen something but there is no doubt Angel could probably come up with something for you. The ambiance in the shadow of the old fort wall combined with the restaurant next door is quite nice. I won't say the ridiculous price he tried to charge me. I had to do a double take with my old eyes but I tripled it in cash. They say the trick to navigating is always look for the North star as it shines brightest in the sky. This wasn't lost on me as I made my way home to Anthem in light rain with a belly full of rum. Back on board I settled down in Vintages to write and post this. There's no place like home. I was hoping for not just an adventure in San Juan but I also wanted to contribute to the local economy as they need our tourist dollars in the long road to recovery. It's wasn't what I had in my mind but I'm quite pleased how it played out. I went into the Walgreens to pickup a few things I forgot to pack. I used my credit card. My time in old San Juan all seemed very normal except the restaurants and bars were lightly occupied. They need tourists to return. Absent of money coming in some of these businesses will be forced to close if tourists don't return. If anyone is concerned about booking a cruise with a call on San Juan, don't be. Book it.
  24. Not very happy with Next Cruise Desk on board. A 12 Night cruise in a balcony is supposed to net you $200 OBC on top of any standard OBC being offered but they are sticking to the $100 OBC they gave me. EDIT - turns out this is the downside of booking using the C&A balcony discounts. It's unfortunate they suggested I would get more OBC but in the end those are the rules as you can't combine the regular OBC and the C&A balcony discounts.
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