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Everything posted by JerseyJoe

  1. We did this on our cruise also. Made it easier for just her to purchase the deluxe drink package, since I don't drink alcohol. If we were booked into the same room, we both would have had to purchase it.
  2. I don't think you can link it yourself. I had to call Royal Caribbean to link our 2 rooms for dinner reservations. But that didn't link them for other things. When I purchased some things through the cruise planner, like drink packages or shore excursions, I was able to add the people from the stateroom I was logged in as, then I was able to add people from another room at checkout as long as I had the reservation number. I have a feeling the photos don't work that way, and will need to be linked while on the ship. You might not even need to link if everyone in your group knows to give the same room number to the photographers. Our kids mistakenly gave their room number several times, we didn't think to tell them to make sure they gave the same room number every time.
  3. I was told that if I had children in one of the rooms, the rooms could be linked and we could buy one package. I spoke with the guy at the photo gallery where you view your photos and he was able to do it for me in about a minute.
  4. Yes, saw it a couple weeks ago with the kids. It was entertaining. There was no storyline, basically just a musical review. Singing, dancing, lots of costume changes.
  5. I genuinely hate the pricing model of most of the travel industry. It drives me crazy knowing that you have to time things just right, and watch daily to try to buy at exactly the right time. Then, knowing that the person sitting next to me on an airplane might have paid half what I paid for my ticket. Just tell me what the price is, and let me decide whether I'm willing to pay it or not. I don't want to make it a part-time job trying to get the best deal. Small fluctuations in price due to sales are acceptable to me, but the way the airline, cruise, hotel industries work is maddening to me.
  6. I was expecting to see a lot of decorated doors when we did our first cruise a couple weeks ago. I didn't see a single decorated door until the last night when I saw one decorated for someone's birthday.
  7. Thanks, I'm not too worried about it, she's not even 12 yet, she'll probably change her mind 100 times in the next few years.
  8. My family were amazed at the logistics that must be involved with making these cruises work. Having one sailing right after another, loading all the food, unloading all the garbage, where does all the fresh water come from and how big of a tank is used to store it, tons of details that seem overwhelming. While on our first cruise on Navigator a couple weeks ago, my almost 12 year old daughter said that she now wants to work on a cruise ship when she grows up. We found ourselves wondering - do the people who work on cruise ships basically live on the ship? Do they do a series of consecutive sailings without a day off, or do they alternate with another crew? I realize that some of the entertainers are hired for specific sailings, and switch off. But what about people like the captain, the cruise director, the wait staff, etc?
  9. Yeah, you really need to know yourself to make the decision. I can understand marti314's opinion above, and think it is a valid point. But I don't think we ever felt we put pressure on ourselves to drink more to justify the package. But if someone feels that they would be doing that, maybe the drink packages aren't for them. For us, it was peace of mind knowing we didn't have to think about it, and wouldn't be thinking about how much our tab was going up throughout the cruise.
  10. We just sailed for our first time last week. Here's my thoughts on the drink package: I'm not sure if we drank enough to at least break even on the drink packages or not. I didn't take the time to do the math and count all the drinks our family drank. And to me, that is the whole point of the package. It is paid for, including 18% gratuities. Sure, it is not a small cost, but I didn't have to stress out about how many sodas the kids were having, or have to say "no, you can't get another virgin pina colada because they are expensive". It gave me peace of mind knowing it was already paid for, and that people could enjoy whatever they wanted without having to ask.
  11. We just cruised for the first time last week. We weren't planning on buying the pictures, so we didn't take advantage of as many of the photographers as we should have. We viewed the photos, and liked a lot of the ones we did take, so we ended up buying the full digital package for $249. We only had 53 photos, but when it was $199 for 20, it was a no-brainer to spend the 50 bucks extra for all of them. If we had known they would come out so well, we would have forced our camera-shy kids to stop for some more family shots. While we were looking at our photos, a guy came up and asked if we'd be interested in signing a waiver for the photos to be used for promotional materials because we have a "beautiful family". I asked if that meant we'd get a discount on our photos, and his response was laughter. Oh well, it was worth a shot.
  12. We gave her $20 right at the beginning, and another $20 at the end. She was on top of getting our drinks, and got us extra floating water mats (even though we were only supposed to get 2, and they were $20 a piece to rent). She also was there to call for the golf cart whenever we needed it. We tipped the golf cart driver also. I think the $500 is just a supply and demand issue. There are only 8 of the cabanas, and if they priced them too low, they would be snatched up the first day.
  13. Well, since we booked our flights using a combination of timeshare points and cash, I wasn't sure if the airline would reimburse the full cash value. We are going through the insurance we bought, and they are reimbursing the full cash value of the tickets.
  14. No wonder we didn't see it as an option this year. We were looking specifically for during the kids spring break.
  15. I think we did, haven't finished unpacking all the luggage yet. If we did, I will upload them. But if your cruise is not a 5 night, it could be very different, from my understanding.
  16. I'm not sure why we didn't pick that one. We booked very late, less than 2 months before the cruise, and had a very specific window of opportunity based on my wife's work schedule. It could have been that this didn't fit into our window. If we ever book another cruise, we'll definitely look to leave out of Bayonne, it would be much more convenient for us, not to mention cheaper.
  17. I agree with everyone about self-service ice cream not being the most hygienic thing. I was just surprised because I had read about it so often and was expecting it.
  18. Our kids are 17, 15, and 11 and our son's 18 year old girlfriend came with us also. We kept telling them that they didn't have to stay with us and could go off on their own, but we're a tight family and we couldn't shake them. The escape room was one thing I forgot to mention. They are kind of our 'thing', we do them everywhere we go. Our youngest was too young (will be 12 next month and her birthday party will be at an escape room). We would not do it without her. We tried talking to them to see if there was any way they'd book us and make an exception for her (Longshot, but doesn't hurt to ask). It was disappointing, but they lost out on the money for 6 people doing it. I don't regret getting the drink packages. It was nice for everyone to get whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, including frozen mocktails, and not having to worry about how much it was choosing because it was already paid for, was worth it for us. As for our next cruise, we'll see. Our son starts college in the fall, so in addition to new monetary concerns, it will be harder to align schedules, unless we go without him which just wouldn't feel right. This may have been our last true full family vacation which is kind of bittersweet.
  19. Overall, we loved the cruise. I would definitely do it again, but not 100% sure my wife feels the same way. The kids loved it. There were parts that weren't great (Nassau, the market in Labadee), but it was a nice getaway. I just wanted to share our experiences with other first-time cruisers. The flight thing definitely put a damper on everything, and made us miss out on 2 relaxing days in Florida. As for the My Time Dining, booking ahead would still have defeated the purpose for us. We like having flexibility, and don't like to be locked in to a time. Otherwise, we would have just picked one of the two standard times. Without having access to the daily schedules ahead of time to see what activities we would be interested in, it would have been impossible to select a set time for every night. It was just a misunderstanding on my part on what the My Time Dining was all about. No big deal. The two meals we had in the main dining room were very good, but the flexibility and food options of the Windjammer just worked out better for us. As for the flight, we booked it through our timeshare company. We paid a majority of it with our timeshare points (using all of our points for the year), plus about $1,000 cash. I did purchase the insurance at the end of the transaction. I'm not sure if we would be able to reclaim our points, but I suspect that answer is no. I won't find out until I'm able to call them tomorrow (not even sure who I need to call - timeshare company, insurance company, airline?). I suspect I'll be on the phone a good part of the day tomorrow dealing with this.
  20. I just returned with my family from a 5 night Western Caribbean cruise on Navigator of the Seas. It was our first cruise, and our trip was part amazing and part nightmare. I spent a lot of time on this site (and others, but this site was a truly valuable resource) trying to become as informed as possible, but some things just can't be learned until you experience them yourself. I'll share some of my thoughts/experiences here. When people say to fly in at least a day before because things happen, believe them! We booked our flight 2 nights before our cruise was to leave. I spent weeks watching flight prices to try to get the lowest price. I compared leaving out of Newark or Philadelphia, and flying into Miami or Fort Lauderdale. I finally purchased tickets for the 6 of us out of Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. I booked long-term parking, a shuttle through SAS Transportation from Fort Lauderdale to our hotel in Miami. Everything was set, and we were to spend the day before our trip exploring Miami. On the way to the airport, I received a text alert that our plane was delayed from 6:20 pm to 7:00 pm. No big deal. As times approached, we proceeded to get 8 separate text alerts with further delays. The plane finally arrived around 10pm, and we were able to board around 11. We left the gate, started heading toward the runway, and received a message from the captain that all flights to South Florida were grounded because of storms, and that we'd be heading back to the gate. We were then told that we'd be getting off the plane and to await further instructions. About a minute later, we got a message for everyone to sit down, that they were looking for another set of captains to take over the flight, and that it would be at least another 15 minutes. When everyone was acting confused, it was explained that the current crew had 'timed out', and that by law they couldn't fly us because they were already on duty for all the hours of the delay. In the meantime, I received a text saying our flight was cancelled. I feel like we were being lied to, because the story changed many times. We all got off the plane and were told to go to a ticket booth to find out our options, and then to get our baggage back. Our options included: 13 flight choices, the earliest of which would have gotten us to Fort Lauderdale at 11 am on Sunday, when we were supposed to be on the ship in Miami at noon, or to wait on standby. There were no flights available out of Philadelphia on Saturday. We were told that the odds of 6 of us getting a plane on standby was extremely small, because all the flights were completely full. We started looking for other flights from other nearby airports, and all along the east coast that we could drive to. We found flights out of Atlanta that would have cost $655 per person, and would have required us to drive 2/3 of the way. We decided our only option was to drive from Philadelphia to Miami. Now, we are no strangers to driving. We've done the drive from New Jersey to Disney many times. But we always prepared for the long drive. My wife works nights as a nurse, and always works the nights before we leave so she can sleep all day and take the night shift driving. It works out well for us. This time, she worked the night before but only took a 3 hour nap before having to go to the airport and spend 7 hours there. And we had no blankets, pillows, DVDs for the kids in the car that we would have had if we had been expecting to drive. Nonetheless, we left Philadelphia at 1am and arrived at our hotel at about 7:30 pm on Saturday. We got to eat dinner in the outdoor marketplace then crash in our rooms. Now, I have to figure out how to get our money back for the flights, and if we can get our timeshare points back for the night in the hotel we didn't use, and if SAS will return our money for the shuttle ride we didn't take. The parking lot didn't charge us. But we are still out the luggage checking fees ($30 X 2 bags), the tip we gave the porter, the tip we gave the parking lot shuttle driver to and from Philadelphia airport...I don't know how airlines can run a business that way. How they can leave people stranded without any options. They should work to get a suitable replacement flight, or buy you tickets on another airline, or guarantee tickets for another flight at the same price. I will never use American Airlines again after feeling lied to so many times. Ironically, if we had booked only one day in advance from the start, we would have been fine, as the weather was fine that day. But if we had only booked one day in advance and the flight was cancelled, we wouldn't have had the option to drive, and we would have missed the cruise. My Time Dining. The first thing we got hit with when boarding the ship (after going through security) was the My Time Dining people. They wanted to book us for the same time every night. I had gone with the MTD because we like to have flexibility and didn't want to be locked in to the same time every night. Because of our group size (6), they told us that we should book the same time every night or we might not get a table, and that the only times available for a table of 6 were 5:30 or 8:15, almost identical to the non-MTD times. We took the 8:15. We ended up canceling 3 of the 5 nights and going to the Windjammer instead because the kids didn't really like anything on the menu in the Main Dining Room. Maybe the My Time Dining would work out well for a smaller group, or for people who don't like the 5:30 or 8:00 options, but it really didn't work out for us. Food. Overall, the quality of the food available ranged from ok to excellent. We could always find something we wanted in the Windjammer, and the Promenade Cafe was a nice option for snacks/pizza. El Loco Fresh was also good, as was the soft-serve ice cream. We were always stuffed, and I don't think I want to eat for the next week and a half. Layout of the ship. I had done my research and thought I was prepared for the size of the ship, as well as knowing where things were, but it still took some time to find our way around. For example, made the mistake a few times of going to our floor (2nd floor) in the front half of the ship, not realizing that you can't get to the rear of the ship from the front, and have to go to the back elevators to get to the rear of the 2nd floor. Also, we learned that if we wanted to get to the Royal Theater on the 4th floor, it was best to get off the elevator on the 5th floor and walk to the stairs, or else we'd have to walk through the smoky casino (YUCK!). There are parts of the ship that we never did make it to, such as the Helipad, the shuffleboard, the arcade. Entertainment options. We found the entertainment options to be very good. We went to see the ice skating show, a couple of comedians, 2 singing/dancing productions. Our family also really enjoyed the trivia/name that tune games that they held, and we won the 80s name that tune game show. The keychains weren't exactly 'life-changing' as the host of the game show said, but they were a nice souvenir. Scheduling. This was by far the hardest part for us. Not only agreeing on things all 6 of us wanted to do, but also making sure all 6 of us were showered and ready, and that we scheduled things around our meals. We often found ourselves rushing from one thing to the next, or missing the first few minutes of something. Not the ship's fault, it was totally our fault. Outdoor activities. The deciding factor for this ship for us was the water slides. And ironically, all of us went on one of the slides exactly once, and only 2 of us went on the other slide at all. The pool area was nice, but often crowded. We only used the pools one day, as it just didn't seem worth the hassle of dealing with wet bathing suits and not having a place to dry them. Staff. The staff was pretty much amazing overall. Our room attendant, the wait staff, everyone was very attentive. Our cruise director, Hugo, was unbelievable. He was everywhere, and his energy level was always at an 11. The only problems we encountered was a language barrier at times, as it seemed there was no one who didn't have an accent and they didn't always understand us (or us them). Nassau. When looking for suggestions online for things to do in Nassau, I came across many people recommending to 'stay on the ship'. I couldn't understand that, our kids had never been to the Bahamas and we wanted them to experience it. We didn't book any excursions, because we couldn't all agree on any. I wasn't spending close to $1,000 for Atlantis when some of the people aren't really into waterslides, or for a dolphin experience when some of the people think it is cruelty to animals. So we decided to spend our money in Labadee, and just wing it in Nassau. We ended up taking a taxi for $4 per person to Cabbage Beach, then spending $40 on 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella. Then we had to put up with people trying to sell us coconut drinks, or hair braiding, or parasailing, or banana boats, or wooden flutes, or wooden turtles every 30 seconds. The beach looked beautiful, but the water was extremely rough. I was the only one who went out into it. I wasn't planning to go above my waist, as I'm not a swimmer, but a big wave came and toppled me over. I honestly believed I was going to die, and I lost my glasses into the Caribbean forever. One hour and $100 later, and we were back on the ship. This was the day that we ended up doing the pool and the waterslides. I would definitely recommend booking one of the excursions if you plan on getting off the ship in Nassau. Labadee. Labadee was beautiful. We spent the extra money that we didn't spend in Nassau to get an over-the-water cabana in Nellie's Beach and to do the Dragon's Breath zip-lining. Cabana - not cheap at all, but I am glad we did it. My wife wasn't too happy with the location of ours as it was close to the beach, but we didn't get off the ship early enough to get our pick. I actually preferred the location, as the stairs didn't let out into deep water as some of the others. Having an attendant to get us drinks was nice. She was nice, but made sure to make it clear right away that she didn't work for Royal Caribbean, and worked for tips. Having shade when we wanted it was nice, as many of us were burnt from the day at Nassau/in the pool. We also had a golf cart driver who would take us where we needed to go (zip-lining, lunch, etc). Dragon's Breath zip-line - it was a fun, exhilarating experience. Also, not cheap. Just know that if you are planning to do it, it will eat up about 90 minutes of your day for 50-60 seconds of zip-lining. 90 minutes because you have to fill out waivers, get fitted for your straps, wait for other people in the group to show up, go to a smaller practice zip-line to learn how to do it, take a truck up to the top, then finally get to do it. It was still worth it to me, and everyone in our family loved it. Food - the food was decent, barbecue style food. It was nice that it was included, and that our drink package worked here. Artisan's market/village - by no means should you go here. They swarm like vultures on an animal carcass. Ruined the end of an otherwise perfectly nice day. Drink package. Our group got 5 refreshment packages, and my wife got the Deluxe Beverage package, as I don't drink at all. We were booked into separate rooms because we were the only ones over 21, so we had to split us up on the reservation to book 2 rooms, so it wasn't an issue just getting her the deluxe package. Honestly, I'm not sure if we drank enough to make it worth the cost. But personally, I liked having the peace of mind knowing it was paid for already, and not having to worry about how much money was being added to our tab throughout the cruise. Nevermind that soda costs pennies a serving, and charging $600 for 5 people to be able to drink soda for 5 days seems outrageous, that is an argument for another day. Also, having access to the Coke Freestyle machines was nice, but there are only 2 locations on the whole ship, and only 1 at times when the Windjammer is closed. You either have to carry your cup around all the time, or risk not having it and having to go back to your room to get it if you decide you want soda. The cups we got were the old variety. On day 5, they brought out the new style cups with the handles and straws, that you could buy for $8.95 to use for the rest of the trip. Gratuities. Even though we prepaid gratuities, and the drink package also had 18% added, we always felt the need to be pulling out cash for people. The whole trip, in fact. Baggage handlers, shuttle drivers, cabana attendant, golf cart driver, waiters in the main dining room. And it hardly seemed fair that many of the people, like the people serving food in the Windjammer, weren't getting tips even though they were working just as hard. We tipped our room attendant on the first day as a sign that we'd take care of him, and it was nice that we were able to charge additional gratuity to the room by going to guest services and filling out a paper. Misconceptions. I had several misconceptions going in from reading these message boards, that I was surprised about when on the cruise. First, I thought there would be 24 hour self-service soft-serve ice cream available. Not only was it not available 24 hours, but it also wasn't self-service. I'm assuming that the standard 'only available on Oasis or Quantum class ships' answer applies here. Second, I thought there was a pizza restaurant called Sorrento's on board. I had read how people thought it was awful. I looked around for a Sorrento's and never found one, the only pizza available was at the Promenade cafe, and it wasn't bad. Third, I thought that cabin-door decorating was a 'thing'. I only saw one door decorated on the entire cruise, and that was only on the last night for someone's birthday. Length of cruise. For us, I think the 5 night cruise was just right. We chose this length because of work and school schedules, but I honestly believe any longer would have been completely exhausting for us. I can't imagine keeping up that pace for 9 or 10 nights, not to mention the amount of food,. The 3 night cruise that includes Coco Cay sounds nice, but I'm not sure it would be worth the drive down there (or risk trying to fly again). That's all I can think of at the moment. I'll add more below if anything else comes to me. Overall, it was a fun experience, even though we had to drive, and lost out on a free day in Miami before the cruise and a free day in Fort Lauderdale after the cruise because we had to drive instead of flying. Now I'm going to go collapse from the drive home and the mountain of laundry.
  21. So basically everything I can already see on it? I assume some of the other features that are listed are only available while you're on the ship?
  22. So, the app is available on Navigator, but none of the other features are. So, what exactly is available then?
  23. I hope it's not a situation like happens at Six Flags. We get season passes there every year, and buy the cup that gets us free refills all summer. They're not cheap, and we've had them stolen 3 different years now. It's gotten to the point where I don't go on the rides anymore so I can stay with the cups while my kids go on the rides. Even then, they still aren't safe, I was sitting on a bench and had it on the ground by my feet and someone somehow managed to steal it. I hope the people on a cruise are a bit more trustworthy, and that we won't have to guard our cups with our lives.
  24. Not sure. The beach ones weren't available, but I was able to get an over the water one, which is what we wanted anyway.
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