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Everything posted by mk-ultra

  1. Curious to find out if others have booked anything through this program. I'll be on Navigator late in December, and it's going to be 3 ports new to me. I called (web form barfed twice) to see what they can offer up based on my preferences. Waiting to hear back from Royal. https://www.royalcaribbean.com/privatejourneys/
  2. The snorkel-only trips are usually on top of a reef no more than 10-15 feet below you. You can bob around on the surface and still get a decent view of fish and coral. If you do want to dive down a bit, it's a really good idea to try it in a pool first. Learn how to clear your snorkel when surfacing (it's just giving it a good blow with your head tilted back a little). If you inflate your BC vest (buoyancy compensator) you won't be able to get underwater. I'd start with it fully inflated when you step off of the dive boat. If you're comfortable after that, you can let air out of it to let you dive below. Rackham's advise above about staying calm and relaxed with your breathing is spot-on. If you feel anxious, surface, re-inflate your BC and chill out on top for a while.
  3. I wouldn't book any cruise based on expectations of an Aquatheater show. Too many variables. Got off Oasis last Sunday and the show happened on my cruise (and was great) but things like wind and sea state can lead to it be cancelled for cast safety. It was cancelled on the previous two cruises (not my cruises -- just what I was told by a Genie).
  4. No bartender or FoH management on a ship is going to mess around diluting alcohol. You'll get a 2oz jigger-measured pour, which may seem light compared to non-ship bars that have a heavier hand. Tip: use the same bar and bartenders and tip. They may accidentally begin to overfill that jigger.
  5. Clear was a sanity saver in MIA. Regular security line: disaster. PreCheck: better but still epic for PreCheck. Clear: absolutely no one using it, and 4 employees handling the kiosks. BOOM. Straight through. For those of you with an AMEX card, check your benefits. Clear enrollment will be refunded. That's for Plat, not sure about other cards.
  6. I'm "prime" -- been in that tier forever. I only play blackjack -- not slots. Rating a table player is apparently voodoo. It's allegedly based on average bet and time spent at the table, but unlike Vegas I hardly ever see a dealer or pit boss track that your betting has changed. This is purely anecdotal, but I place a few high bets when I join. Same when the boss wanders over with his tablet. You can ask what they're tracking you at -- they don't mind. I've never used any of the free cabin offers, but I get 1 a year that has a $500 cash trade-in value. Once in a while a random $250 one. Those are the good ones. You can apply them to any cabin, any cruise... as long as it's within the expiration date. You can track your offers at: https://www.clubroyaleoffers.com/PlayerLookup.asp
  7. You’ll see full-face masks for sale online that incorporate the snorkel into them. These sound tempting. Do. Not. Buy. One. I’m a diver (SCUBA) and have never seen so many people having issues. 4 couples on my boat had brand new full-face masks and every one of them had issues. The snorkel itself can be connected with the ball valve vent facing front or rear. All 4 couples had the snorkel on backward. Meaning: you can be face down and not get air when you expect to. The mask WILL fog up. You’re exhaling into the mask instead of directly from your mouth through the snorkel. This is also unnecessary work breathing-wise. You have to move more air to get the same result. Clearing a fogged traditional (eyes and nose) mask is a 1-2 second job. Just get a little water in it and pop it right back on after tilting it to let the water out. The full face mask folks were struggling the entire time, with most choosing to swap out for an operator-supplied mask and snorkel. I'd ban these things if I could. It's the closest to safety issues I've seen in the water in a long time. If you do get one, make sure to try it out in a pool first. Well-tracked data is still scant on these masks, but I wouldn't use one.
  8. Just got back home. Much easier trip than the flight out Now, back to the real world. Boo-hoo.
  9. Oh, how the heck did I fail to mention this? I'd told Shane (Genie) I'm a big fan of Filipino food. Via Genie magic, I had a couple of surprise full-on Filipino meals in CK & got to meet the chef that prepared the grub. Included: Rice (duh) Pancit bihon Sinigang Chicken adobo Pork apritada Lechon Probably the best food I've ever had on a ship. Heck, some of the best Filipino food I've had anywhere (my friend Luis' mom is going to slap me for saying that - Filipina aunties can wield a chankla too).
  10. Sure. Suite-wise zero complaints. Caveat: I was solo. For one guy it was perfect. There is a battleship-grade door between the main bedroom and what would be 2nd accommodations in the entry area living room with the convertible couch. I think this is an awesome cabin for a couple and very serviceable if you have close friends or kids that can use their own space (they get their own toilet, but everyone needs to share the bath/shower). Didn't miss the balcony a bit. That surprised me. It's a brief one-deck jaunt to deck 15 and being outdoors. I love having a balcony, but nope... no regrets. The view absolutely trumps it.
  11. And just to end this on a happy note, got a surprise "...ppy Birthday Mark" cake in the cabin. Yes, I cut into it before remembering I'm supposed to take pics of this stuff. I'll never be an Instagram influencer. My birthday is in September and it came with a card starting with "We know this isn't your birthday." Loved that. And a ship (it's nice!) And a crazy heavy crystal block that just blew out my bag weight limit. Sweet!:
  12. And, the wrap-up. This is my [counts on fingers] I think my 7th Oasis class ship cruise. All of them have been split between Oasis and Allure, a mix of pre-amp ships and not. I love me some O class ships. This one was weird in nice ways. First time in Star Class, probably the most rare cabin in RCL's fleet, and dear-god-I-don't-know-how crazy good pricing by booking in 2019 for a new cabin product. Will I do Star Class again? Maybe? Everything about it was excruciatingly excellent. You will not wait for or want for anything. You'll have a great seat at every venue and the attention to detail is eye-watering. I say "maybe" because I'm a low-maintenance kinda person. It's a fantastic product, and Shane (my Genie) was awesome. For me, probably back to sky lofts. No complaints at all, just not my cuppa. Mind you: solo, so your mileage may vary a lot.
  13. Random note: these chaise lounges are insanely comfortable. Turns out they're made by a Norwegian guy who transplanted to Tennessee?! They definitely have that Scandinavian aesthetic, with the ergonomics to match. I want to get a pair for home. Asked Shane for a contact and will report back if they're available to us plebes.
  14. Argh. Navigated away while writing this post, and lost it. Anywho -- skipping forward to night 5, after the great beach break in Roatan. Dinner at 150 Central Park. Went with Shane's recommendation for the appetizer (seared scallops) and picked lamb Wellington for my main. Two dishes that are easy to screw up, especially when doing a lot of covers. Both: perfecto! Plate-cleaning-good. Washed them down with a couple of the signature garden martinis -- a perfect fit for hot weather. Had a side chat with the Maître d'hôtel about dessert wines. I lamented never seeing a Madeira or tawny port on offer on an RCL ship. I'm not sure where he got it, but I did get a surprise (and very good) ruby port to go with the (OMG do it) fried cheesecake for dessert. No food pics. Too busy stuffing my face. Imagine it looking delicious.
  15. We only had a teensy bit of weather (last night). 20-25 knot winds and 5-6' seas or so. No appreciable motion in the cabin, but even small wave hits put a reverberating bang through it. For a light sleeper, I could see this being annoying.
  16. In keeping with this thread's theme of completely ignoring the timeline, kindly set your watches back to day 4 in Cozumel. Pretend you're in The Matrix or something. Eat the blue pill. I picked "Catamaran Snorkel with Rays and Sharks and Beach BBQ" for my outing. I'll get right to it: 4/10 for me. I'll preface this by saying I'm a SCUBA diver, used to dive boats and divers. Oddly enough, I've never snorkeled. I mean, yeah I've used a mask and snorkel, but never as a primary thingy. My expectations are heavily colored in that I can't help but compare it to SCUBA. Did not like. Vessel was (by definition) a catamaran (twin hulled). Not one of the big sailing ones though... more of an up-scaled pontoon boat. ~15 pax per side. Both the boat and the equipment were in good shape, and the crew of 6 were all good at their jobs. Snorkel site was a "reef" about 3/4 mile from the port. A. Very. Sad. Reef. Not bleached or anything, but clearly suffering. It was small. That's a factor because there was a moderately strong current -- which would have been great for an effortless "drift" dive, but if you blink, you're beyond the reef. It was mostly swimming up-current to stay above the tiny reef. This part has nothing to do with the tour itself: as a diver, I've discovered I genuinely dislike snorkeling, especially with 30 of my new friends. I don't think I've been kicked in the head that many times outside of work. Snorkel BCDs are no-size-fits-all and turn you into an unhappy cork (getting kicked in the head). Other dive and snorkel boats in the area were trying to set a maximum wake record nearby. So, yeah. No more snorkeling for moi. Tried it and going right back to SCUBA. Rays and sharks portion was on beach. Netted sea pens. The place is a wildlife rehab, so I feel OK about it. Good, but very rushed wildlife talk from the guide. They crank people through like clockwork and you'll feel it. The beach BBQ part was great. Grilled meat tacos, guac, veggies, mas cerveza. Best part of the excursion.
  17. Heading almost due south from Cozumel to Roatan (Wednesday evening, day 4). Probably the best sunset view from a cabin I've ever had. I'm gonna jump around with the narrative a bit. In Roatan, I did the "VIP Beach Break" at Turquoise Bay. Like it says on the tin, it's a day on a nice beach with booze and food. Uncrowded, good music (guy doing keyboard and vocals and another on guitar). Really well run. It's about 45 minutes from the port to the northeast shore of the island. No selling unless you decided to visit the souvenir tent. No sargassum clogging up the beach. Massage tables if you'd like one. The food was excellent. I was already a bit surf-and-turfed out, but they serve grilled local rock lobster (smaller and a hell of a lot tastier than their Maine brethren).
  18. While I wait for my room (and bask in the bit-rate being terrestrial again), I'll work backwards a little bit since disembarking is fresh on my mind. Having a Genie whisk you off the ship is practically worth the price bump itself. Facetious, yes... but damn, that magic elevator priority card and not having to join the exit conga line is (swoon) the bee's knees. The service doesn't end when your Genie and you part ways. It goes all the way through customs until you're curbside. I didn't use line-jumping privileges on the ship (ick, just not me)... but hell yes I used them on my way out. Aside: if you value your sanity, put everything you can in your favor. Global Entry / Nexus / PreCheck / Clear. Speaking of curbside: when you come out of the terminal in Miami, look right. See that? That is ~500 people queued up for a taxi, with varying levels of grumpiness and tired kids. You want no part of that. Turn left. Walk all the way down to Zones 2, 3, 4. Suck it up and hit the Uber button. Choose the XL option... you'll get an RV-sized SUV in 3-4 minutes, with a competent driver. It's $28 to Miami's Brickell area. Seriously: money well spent. I'd probably still be in that taxi rank pondering my life choices otherwise.
  19. Apologies for not putting much live in the semi-live this time around. Internet speeds were a bit slow onboard (759Kb/s slow to be precise). Unusual for an o3B ship. Also, it’s been FANTASTIC to mostly ignore my work laptop and have an excuse to only join meetings with a voice call. Just disembarked and arrived at the hotel. 32 minutes from ship's cabin to checked-in at hotel. More on that later. Arriving this early to hotel = store bags and explore some more until a room is ready. Back at the Kimpton for my outbound back to SF tomorrow. Will catch us up when I have a room and can hunt-and-peck on a laptop.
  20. So, escape room escaped. I can see why this activity gets high praise. Without giving anything away, the Apollo 18 challenge is a neat mix of kid-friendly button pushing and mostly easy tasks, with a few genuine adult puzzles that require teamwork, close observation, linking clues and some basic math. Some of the puzzles surprised me in their detail and subtlety. It's workable in the ~50 minutes you are allotted, and is really well-crafted. Bravo. Also did Chef's Table for dinner tonight. It's been good every time I've done it. Here is the thing though: you're not going to get some sort of mind blowing food or wine. You'll get exactly the same thing you can get in CK at no charge if you're in a suite. Tonight's menu was almost line for line everything I had in CK on my first night. It's more about the shared table and the people you meet... and that's why I keep doing it. Got to know some cool cruisers in detail. Tomorrow: Sun, Sea, Sailing, Snorkel. Preceded by the other 3 S's: Something, something, shave (family audience here).
  21. Lunch at CCBC was all it is cracked up to be. There's a "list" of appetizers -- but you don't order from that (I guess you could); they just bring you a massive two tray sampler of everything. It could feed two men and a boy. Winners were the shrimp cocktail, babaganoush (spell check just had a stroke) and the veggie crudites to gobble up said baba. Ceviche was the only "meh" thing. I love ceviche and this had sat in the citrus juice just way too long. Equivalent to overcooking fish. Taste was nice, texture was "thanks, I'm done with that." Main was surf-and-turf grilled lobster and filet, with fingerling potatoes and a smattering of roasted bell peppers. Excellent. It's so easy to screw up grilling a lobster. They didn't Sorry I didn't take any more food photos. I always forget -- only to remember after I've made a disaster of my plate. I spent the rest of my 4.5 hours on the island in a lounger, in the ocean and in the comfortably heated freshwater CCBC pool. Loungers have a little flag like a mailbox you raise to ensure you don't sober up. Dinner was at the hibachi side of Izumi. I had the Gyu (beef tenderloin). Beef was good, but I was beefed out from lunch. Finished with chocolate lava cake and killed a little time in the casino. Took a beating last night -- but variance in blackjack is kinda that way. You have to look at your yearly P&Ls to figure out just how much of an idiot you are (or aren't). [Arnold Voice] I'll be back. Last thing of the night for me was the "Aqua 80" Aquatheater show. Thoroughly enjoyed that. It's (surprise) based around a melange of '80s music and pop-culture themes. I was a little bit skeptical because my musical tastes almost never veer into the mainstream (especially when I was an '80s angst-y little s*t). Worth seeing though. Was very surprised to hear stuff like NWA, Soft Cell, Joy Division, etc. mixed in. Today is a lazy sea day. Massage. Shane says the Escape Room is running again and looks like I have a slot at 2PM. Dinner is Chef's Table.
  22. From Day 2, yesterday. Main event was Cococay. This is my first time on the island. I've enjoyed other private islands like Labadee though. For my beachside digs, I chose the Coco Beach Club. I think it was a good choice. Upgraded food was well worth it, and it wasn't anything near crowded. As mia081081 mentioned, we had the island to ourselves instead of it being a two ship day. Shane said ship is running ~4000 pax or so on 3/4 crew (should be around 1600 at that level).
  23. Yesterday, Day 1, went great. Took an Uber from the hotel to Terminal A at the port. ~10 minutes. As instructed by everyone including my Genie, bypassed all of the blue check-in areas and went alllllll the way to the purple Star Class banner. At Miami, you'll go far enough that you begin to wonder if you missed it. Nope -- press on, sailor. Whisked through security with an escort. Genie (Shane) picked it up from there. By 11:30, in the cabin with Shane explaining all the bells and whistles. Man, I can play with those shades for like an hour (so many buttons -- my dad would yell at me). Ate lunch at the new-ish Portside BBQ. Yum. It'll be on my rotation for the rest of the cruise. Dinner was at CK. I had the smoked tomato soup, seared branzino and the chef brought out a couple of surprise Indian appetizer-sized tastes (Shane had told them I really enjoy Indian and Filipino food). Missed the ice show. I showed up and got seated, but wow I was tired from having my body clock messed with. I just went back to the cabin and zonked out. No casino for me last night I'm not a quitter -- will try again tonight. Anywho, at Cococay now and about to disembark. Some cabin photos:
  24. 14528. No real reason for choosing starboard over port. I think I habitually take the starboard side to reduce that day one "what direction am I going in?" thing.
  25. So, last thing to do was checking "no" on 15 things on the RCL app at T-24 hours indicating I'm not a plague rat. It's failed multiple times trying to submit. Mucho non-caring. They can deal with me tomorrow. Hats off to Royal IT again.
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