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  1. Like
    Ken23 reacted to AshleyDillo in SOLOasis redubbed YOLOasis Thanksgiving of the Seas Nov24, 2019 - Dec1, 2019   
    That's totally a napkin dispenser charging my phone while I BBQ it up.

  2. Like
    Ken23 reacted to AshleyDillo in SOLOasis redubbed YOLOasis Thanksgiving of the Seas Nov24, 2019 - Dec1, 2019   
    Walking into Portside BBQ you get hit with the smoke smell immediately.  Like they pipe it in right by the sliding door.  It's quick casual style and the lunch menu is a little limited.

    There was confusion with the ultimate dining package and the cashier stated they had to charge and they would back the charge out later.  They explained the $20/day charge.
    I picked the turkey leg.  Note they take it out of the warmer and put it on the grill to finish it.  Then they mop it with sauce before serving.  I omitted the sauce as I try to avoid sugar.

    Thanksgiving came early for me!!!!!
    My mom did the brisket and it came with two sides.  The brisket is a lean cut and has a rub but isn't sauced.  Sauces are available at the table.

    😂😂😂 at Mustard Drill sauce.  Didn't see that one coming.

    Meh to the mac n cheese.  She said it was cold even though it came out when we arrived and baked beans were awesome and are gone.  The banana pudding in a cup dessert was delicious too.  The brookie got a verbal "omg".
  3. Like
    Ken23 reacted to AshleyDillo in SOLOasis redubbed YOLOasis Thanksgiving of the Seas Nov24, 2019 - Dec1, 2019   
    So I debated starting this, but I'm sitting in my hotel room in Miami, it's 10:45pm and I can't sleep.  Why??  BECAUSE TOMORROW IS CRUISE DAY!!!!
    And here we go...I will try to keep this going as I'm spending the next 7 nights on Oasis of the Seas for my 2nd Thanksgiving in a row at sea.  I managed to snag surf & stream VOOM for $11.99/day which I thought was reasonable enough, so I will be connected on the ship.  Sprint also has cell service at the ports (Labadee, San Juan, St. Thomas) which is included in my cell phone plan, so I won't be forced to disconnect at all. That means I can talk about, read about, and write about cruise stuff while I'm doing cruise stuff!!!
    Last year I spent Thanksgiving on Symphony of the Seas (which also left from Miami) as part of the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise.  It was my first group cruise and I got to meet so many awesome folks from the different social media channels involved with the group.  I also spent that cruise in a category A1 room (Spacious 2-BR AquaTheater Suite with Large Balcony) which was absolutely my favorite cabin I've ever been in.  Symphony was also my first Oasis class ship.  It was Star Class and then combined with it also being the group cruise I felt like every single moment of that cruise was scheduled for me.
    This time around I feel like I'm slumming it in an oceanview balcony room.  But I paid a pretty awesome price for it as a solo cruiser as they weren't charging the solo supplement.  I originally had a CP double balcony room (cabin numbers ending in 229 and 629) but the price dropped so much after final payment (we're talking as low as $650 all-in solo with Diamond discount and FL resident discount) that the oceanview balconies ended up being cheaper than I had paid.  My terrific MEI travel agent said they wouldn't give me any money back but she got me moved into an oceanview balcony at no extra cost, cabin 8594.
    So that means I'm by myself in the room, I get double points, and I get to make my own schedule, right?  WRONG...my mother decided to invite herself along.  Of course she's also after the extra points, so she went and booked her own cabin so I will have a little bit of space and solo-ness still.
  4. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Traveler in Best of Japan cruise Spectrum Of The Seas October 1 - 8 2019 , a new experience.   
    Day 9 Singapore.
    I have been many time in this small city state, most the on business trip and I learned to like this crazy combination that exist here. It's a very orgnized country very clean and most of the time . There any attractions which are very close by , the only problem is the weather which is always warm and can be very expensive. We checked in to night before to the Marina Bay sands which is attraction by itself we got a wonderful room with excellent view on the gardens and the bay which I shared yesterday but here some more pics.

    Another member to the family

    It's not trees what you see in the window but some plants in the balcony.
    We eat branch in one of the resturants and went to visit the garden by the bay. It's a very large gardens which are free to enter , there three things that requires admission : the skyway between the the trees , the cloud dome and the flower dome 
    The path from the hotel to the gardens.

    The tree structures and the , the yellow line is the skyway which you can walk between the trees

    The skyway

    We visit the gardens and went to the flower dome , the best thing is that they have a good air conditioning inside , it contains flower from around the world. 

    Our next stop was the second dome ( we bought combined ticket) which is just near the first one , this is the cloud dome which contains a rain forest , not all the plants there are real but many are , very impressive , it contains also a small museum and a theater. If you choose to go to only one dome go to this one

    After the visit we went back to the hotel for some pool time and took the subway to one of the center to buy some fruits in the supermarket , ear very late lunch in the food court and visit the lucky fountain.

    We went back to the hotel , it was already dark so we returned to the gardens which are illuminated and looks total different. Evey hour they also have a light show with music , very recommended.

    We took the elevator to the skyway which you need to secure time slot for. It's very beautiful view from up there but not recommend for people that fear from heights. 

    We have one more day here before going to Thailand to continue our vacation .
  5. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Traveler in Best of Japan cruise Spectrum Of The Seas October 1 - 8 2019 , a new experience.   
    Day -1 , Shanghai.
    Today we foght to get up early to enjoy the breakfast which I heard it's very good at this hotel, the rummers were true. There are two main Islands , one western food and one eastern. The western includes fresh egg station , salads station and many fresh worm options.

    The eastern contains many kind of dumplings, soups, fried vegetables and other good things.

    I took one plate from each island 

    Now that can be useful for busy days at the WJ buffet , just think oh simple life would be if we had this option

    After the big breakfast we went to check the big  shopping street of Nanjin, my spouse wanted to buy some pearls  for her mother, we went to a pearls mall, found something we thought is nice and started to negotiate. I must it's easier for me to negotiate with our clients than the sellers there but we got a good price for two chains which per our request combined to one. The street itself very impressive.

    We also passed this Royal Caribbean Blog caffe

    We walked all the way to the famous  Bund street which as a perfect view on the Pearl tower and the other to towers.

    This area includes also some monuments and nice small gardens

    We wanted to cross to the other side of the river so we took the new small under the river train were we bought combo tickets for the Bund tunnel and Shanghai tower observation. The small tunnel trains take you into a tunnel full with light effects , nice but not a must:

    We got out from the tunnel and haded to the tower (around 20 minutes walk) passing near the impressive pearls tower, near buy you also have the aquarium and many other tourist attractions which we decide to pass 

    We finally got to the second biggest building in the world , the Shanghai tower , it's around 650 meters high with 128 floors. The amazing thing that in one year from now it's going to be only number 5 or 6 in the world.

    At the ground floor you have some exhebition of how the build it plus the future and the past of skyscrapers. From there we took the super fast elevator (10 M per second) to the observation platform (118 floor) to watch the very nice view .

    After the Shanghai tower visit we went back using the Bund tunnel to the other side and walking to the hotel , lots of steps . It was already evening so we went to the lounge to eat something , lots of options, I do recommend to book a room with access to the executive lounge.  

    I must say we found Shanghai to be very beautiful
  6. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Traveler in Best of Japan cruise Spectrum Of The Seas October 1 - 8 2019 , a new experience.   
    Oh , almost forgot ,to whoever celebrating - Happy New year , "Shana Tova" , a year of as many cruises you wish for  yourselfs  to ever you want with who ever you want 🙂
  7. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Traveler in Best of Japan cruise Spectrum Of The Seas October 1 - 8 2019 , a new experience.   
    Today I went to collect our passports from the Chines visa agents  , finally we found few days were we are both at home and can leave the passport for few days (it takes up to four days to get the visa if you are not paying for expedite process) so I guess it’s a good opportunity to start this “I do not know how live it will be” blog.
    It’s a different cruise for sure , many first times for us , first time going to China , first time on Quantum class , first time cruise to Japan and firs time on a cruise that English is not the first language. I am sure we will have much more first times , but that’s what make us so excited.
    Why we choose this cruise  ?  well , apparently it was a childhood dream of my spouse to visit Japan and it will be her first time there , for me it will be the second time but the other  time was quite a long time ago and was a business trip, also it’s a new ship , and a new class , do we really need other reasons ?
    So what is the plan :
    Two days in Shanghai – Some tour in the city , still did not choose one  although I so a nice bicycle day trip which we might take.
    I already booked a nice hotel near one of the main square , the location is important as we wanted to be at the center to reduce traveling , as we are landing very early in the morning I guess we will store our suitcase in the hotel and start to tour the area. I thought to book the hotel a day earlier so we will get the room once we will arrive but as I know both of us , we will get to the room and go to sleep and miss important hours in the city 😊.
    On 1-October we will do our way to the port .
    Our itinerary :
    02 OCT - Cruising
    03 OCT – OSAKA, Japan  
    04 OCT-  OSAKA , Japan
    04 OCT – Kobe Japan
    05 OCT – Tokyo (Yokohama) , Japan
    06 OCT – Cruising
    07 OCT – Cruising
    After we booked the tour I found out that 1-October is also what they call in China  the Golden week , this is a mandatory vacation week in all China so we expecting to have many local families and not many foreigners on board.  We might experience some traffic as many are traveling this week but I do not think its going to be showstopper. We choose this period as we also have some holidays and many bridge days between.
    Post the cruise we will go to the airport and fly to Singapore , we considered to stay some extra days in Chania but was not sure if we will have multi entrance visa or a single entry which mean that we will have to use transfer visa on the way back, at the end we got the multi until as long as the passport is not expired.
    We will be in Singapore for three nights at our favorite hotel in the world (or should I say our favorite swimming pool in the world), it will be good for some rest time although I might need to have a face to face meeting with one of our customers for few hours.
    From Singapore we will fly to Thailand to chill out , currently only Bangkok but we might fly to one of the islands , depends what the weather will be.
    So almost three week vacation before going back home.
    There are many difference is cruise out of China  :
    1.       Activities cost money (north star ,Ifly , skypad, laser tag) I will give the prices later.
    2.       Food in the MDR is different – the menu is a picture menu with many Chinese flavor.
    3.       Instead of sea class , sky class and start class there is golden class and silver class.
    4.       In the golden glass there are not just suites but also balconies cabins with suite services.
    5.       No coastal kitchen but golden dinning room and maybe silver dining room (not sure yet).
    6.       The solarium is only for Golden and Silver class.
    7.       Golden class have access to some other dedicated places (again not sure about silver) , there are also elevators just for suites class.
    8.       Wonderland with Chinese menu.
    9.       Dining package is not offer before the cruise.
    10.   No Diamond lounge – only the 3 free drinks during happy hour.
    11.   Many first timer.
    12.   MDR late seating is 7 PM.
    I  am sure I will find more differences , but difference are many time a good thing , it will push us from the comfort zone to experience new things.
    More to come.
  8. Thanks
    Ken23 reacted to 12thman in Quick put together of Spectrum of the Seas video   
    Found this video thought others would enjoy it. Amazing how large complex structures are built, be it ships, planes or buildings. 
  9. Like
    Ken23 got a reaction from PRebecca in Sailing Celebrity Through the Eyes of a Royal Caribbean Cruiser   
    Thanks @KathyC for the great write up, and answering questions.
    I have my first Celebrity cruise on Equinox in two days, and am excited about it. 
    The lower key factor will be good for a change, especially with some of the people on the trip.
  10. Like
    Ken23 got a reaction from KathyC in Sailing Celebrity Through the Eyes of a Royal Caribbean Cruiser   
    Thanks @KathyC for the great write up, and answering questions.
    I have my first Celebrity cruise on Equinox in two days, and am excited about it. 
    The lower key factor will be good for a change, especially with some of the people on the trip.
  11. Love
    Ken23 got a reaction from WAAAYTOOO in Sailing Celebrity Through the Eyes of a Royal Caribbean Cruiser   
    Thanks @KathyC for the great write up, and answering questions.
    I have my first Celebrity cruise on Equinox in two days, and am excited about it. 
    The lower key factor will be good for a change, especially with some of the people on the trip.
  12. Sad
    Ken23 reacted to KathyC in Sailing Celebrity Through the Eyes of a Royal Caribbean Cruiser   
    I just found out that our medical emergency did not have a positive outcome, the gentleman passed away yesterday. 😞 
  13. Like
    Ken23 reacted to KathyC in Sailing Celebrity Through the Eyes of a Royal Caribbean Cruiser   
    Lastly, another major difference is in the announcements.  There is a 10am sea day announcement where the captain gives you a nautical & weather update, then the cruise director mentions some of the activities for the day, and that's it.  Nothing else interrupting your day reminding you about sales or activities or events.  On port days, we got an announcement when the ship was cleared and when we were ready to sail away.  No pier runners either day, no announcements for missing guests.  
    We did have a medical emergency where the captain announced we were returning to St. Maarten to drop off a passenger that was ill.  The next day when leaving St. Thomas, the captain did give us an update on the passenger letting us know he was doing well and was on his way back to the states for medical treatment. 
    So that’s about all I can think of for now.  I may come back and add more as I think of other things.  So by now you’re all wondering “will they sail Celebrity again?”  YOU BETCHA. We loved it. Did we miss the mini golf, rock wall, or ice skating?  Nope. What about Crazy Quest, Broadway shows or belly flop contests at the pool?  Nope. Will Celebrity replace Royal for future cruises? Not completely.  But we will look at both when booking 2021 and out.  We’re at the point where we feel we’re ready for something different, and Celebrity can offer us islands that Royal doesn’t, sailing different grouping of itineraries that we’ll enjoy.  We are at the point where we only cruise for the ship, the itinerary or a specific group of people. We’re back at sea in December on the newly amp’ed Oasis - looking forward to venues we haven’t experienced yet (like Playmakers) but not looking forward to yet another stop in St. Maarten.
    Happy to answer any questions or talk more about Celebrity cruising!! 
  14. Like
    Ken23 reacted to KathyC in Sailing Celebrity Through the Eyes of a Royal Caribbean Cruiser   
    This will be a partial recap/partial comparison post.  I thought it would be fun to put together a comparison of Celebrity to what we know as the “norm” of Royal Caribbean cruising.  We’ve sailed also on Norweigan (before it was NCL), Carnival & Disney in the past, but primarily are Loyal to Royal. In my recap, I have bolded the important differences.
    Ship: Celebrity Summit 
    Sail Date: October 20-26, 2019
    Itinerary: Repositioning cruise from Cape Liberty, NJ to San Juan, PR
    Three sea days followed by two ports, St. Maarten & St. Thomas
    Cabin: Aquaclass A2 cabin #: 9131
    Status: Royal Crown & Anchor Diamond = Celebrity Captain’s Club Elite
    Drink Pkg: Premium
    We parked our car at a Newark Airport Hotel, the Hilton, and took an Uber to the port. Since this was a repositioning cruise, we would not be returning to the same port we left from.  We booked parking through Way.com, which was significantly cheaper than parking at the airport. The hotel runs a complimentary shuttle 24/7, so this was perfect for our late arriving flight.  
    We noticed a difference from embarkation.  There is no separation of class.  No mention anywhere.  No suite line, no Zenith (their Pinnacle).  Some boarding passes listed “Expedited Arrival”, which one of ours did.  With that special notation, we had a separate security line/scanner, and separate port employee with iPad to check us in.  They re-took our picture, looked at our passports; we scanned our bags, and then by-passed the rest and walked straight on the ship.  Super fast and easy. They had the normal ship photo-op and on you went.  
    Upon crossing the threshold from the ramp to the ship, you scanned your boarding pass and were then officially on your cruise!  To celebrate this momentous occasion, you were offered either a glass of champagne or mimosa, complimentary.  No drink package necessary!  This was one of many times we were offered a complimentary beverage of this nature.
    With our glasses in hand, we then proceeded to our cabin on deck 9.  On the Summit, you proceed directly to your stateroom where your keys are in an envelope on the door and you get to drop off your carry-on bags and lock your valuables in the safe.  Even though the cabins are not ready until 1-1:30pm, you are not forced to lug your stuff.  When traveling with small kids, elderly grandparents or people with mobility issues - this is HUGE.  
    Free of our jackets and other belongings, we put our cards in a lanyard, and off we went to explore the ship.  Over the course of the week - we saw very few cruisers wearing lanyards.  This sailing had three travel agency groups having conferences, the largest group wore lanyards, but otherwise there was barely anyone.  We did see a few groups in matching t-shirts, but the lanyards were not a thing. By end of day 2 our lanyards were back on their hooks and instead the cards were placed in the lovely card holder we were each given.
    Also on this sailing was another conference, this one made up of Celebrity captains, hotel directors, and upper management including the CEO!  The captains and hotel directors attended a show one evening and all came out on stage to say hi.  Left to right - 1 Cruise Director, 11 Captains, out front Summit Captain Matt, 13 Hotel Directors.

  15. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Marc Van Niekerk in There is only one First Time - Mariner of the Seas B2B Oct 14-18, 18-21   
    Day 7 / Day 3
    Whats better than visiting Coco Cay?  Visiting it again a few days later!
    This time I was a little more prepared and looking to take some photos of parts I had missed previously.  We also didn't have a Cabana so we knew the experience was going to be a little different.  Mariner docked back in again, but on the opposite side of the pier.  Thankfully this once again gave us a great view of the island from out balcony.

    One thing we had learned from or previous visit was that the shuttles they had taking us ashore were easier to get into the rear facing seat at the back of the cart.  This also gave a neat perspective for photos.

    Today we also used the tram once on the island to head to a beach area near the upcoming Coco Beach Club and check out the water there.  This also provided a nice view of the Beach Beds which were at this point uninhabited.

    We placed our belongings on a couple of chairs and ventured into the water.  Unfortunately the luxury of the pool from a few days earlier had spoiled us and due to the recent churn from hurricanes in the area there was still a lot of sea grass.  We got in up to just past our knees but that was the extent of before we decided the pool was calling us.
    We took a very short walk from the beach area to the pool and found two well placed chairs under an umbrella with a small table and near the stairs into the pool.
    This was a Sunday and the cruise was populated with many young people and a few bachelor and bachelorette groups.  As a result the bar area of the pool was quite busy.

    One other benefit of the location we had chosen was a very close proximity to the Snack Shack.  I really must say those chicken sandwiches are incredible.

    For the record you MUST order the Shack Crispy Chicken.  The simple Crispy Chicken just isn't the same.

    Pictures following are from another photo walk of the island.

    Chill Island Cabanas

    Island Tram

    Up Up and Away

    Straw Market

    Harbor Beach

    Wedding Pavillion

    Mariner of the Seas

    Coco Cay Pier and Entrance

    Snorkeling Area Beach

    Captain Jack's

    Skipper's Grill

    Island wildlife

    Decorative Entryway's

    That bring us to the end of most of our photos.  There are a few photos taken using my iPhone that I need to sort through and will post later.
  16. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Marc Van Niekerk in There is only one First Time - Mariner of the Seas B2B Oct 14-18, 18-21   
    Day 4, Perfect Day at Coco Cay
    Apologies for taking so long to get more posted, it has been some busy times since returning home.
    The good news is that by taking some time to post more photos it allows me to relive the trip.
    I will begin by saying that the first glimpse of Coco Cay post renovation was very exciting.  We have been here several times before and only missed it a couple due to weather but the renovated island is seriously impressive!  Due to our aft balcony we had a fantastic view!

    I will also state for the record that I forgot to change the ISO setting on my camera from the sunset photos the night before (NEWB move!) and the sun was so bright it took me a while before I was able to review them on the camera to see the error of my ways.  As a result things may be a little grainy and overexposed.  The saving grace is that a few days later I will be back at Coco Cay to do it all over again!
    When we exited the ship there were carts at the ready to whisk us down the pier to the island proper.  This is something we greatly appreciate due to the fact that my wife has very bad knees.  It allowed us to save some time and energy.  I will also note that some of the carts have ramps and space for strollers and wheelchairs which is an incredible plus for those who need such special accommodation.

    Signs abound on the island to help you find your way and the paths are paved with specifically colored pave stone to aid in navigation.

    From this point we elected to walk becuase there were no shuttles waiting and we were impatient to get to Oasis Lagoon.  In hindsight we could have waited to again save some time.  IT was hot already before 8AM for this Canadian.
    Along our walk was the entry to the Thrill Waterpark

    and our path was along Sandy Lane which was paved in red.

    This took us past Splashaway Bay

    and to Oasis Lagoon where Up, Up and Away loomed large over the chairs.

    We were looking for the Oasis Lagoon Cabanas which were over the bridge and past the Swim Up Bar which at this hour was pretty quiet.

    In fact, the whole pool area was very quiet still.

    We reached the cabana area and our attendant gave us wristbands and led us to our cabana.

    The cabana amenities are fantastic.  We found several chairs,

    a sofa with towels, a table with an unlocked and lockable cubby in it

    as well as  cooler filled with ice cold water.

    The view from the cabana was rather nice but no direct line of sight to the pool.

    On the table were menus for food and drink

    as well as a call button to page your cabana attendant.  I pressed this before it was explained to me and I was surprised just how fast they responded.

    We preceded to relax for a while and take advantage of the pool area.
    We did press the button intentionally to order the island specialty Coco Loco as well as lunch which was prepared at the Snack Shack and delivered to us.

    I will add that the food was incredible and certainly lived up to the hype from those we had spoken to who had visited the island before.
    After a very satisfying lunch, I set out on a little photo safari around the island to see some of the other changes while my wife took full advantage our our shady cabana to relax and read.
    By this time the pool was much busier but not what I would consider crowded.  I will also add that a DJ plays poolside and you could definitely hear that in the cabana area.

    The beach areas were fairly populated and the floating bar was too.

    The Beach Beds were along the Tram Route near where the construction was ongoing for the Coco Beach Club and looked quite comfortable as well.

    Chill Grill received some attention too since we were here last with fresh awnings paint and food selections.

    I made my way around the island and found a great view of Mariner at the pier 

    as well as a pretty gazebo where weddings are held.

    Daredevil Tower in the water park is certainly what I consider on of the defining landmarks of the island

    There are ample locations to get wonderful photos of the ship

    and I managed to grab a quick shot of some people on the Zip Line

    That pretty much ended my photos for the day.   I returned to the Cabana and we visited the pool a couple more times before heading back to the ship around 4:00.
    This blog will pick up with a brief description of our experience with turnaround on the Back to Back before I return with more photos from our second day in Nassau and an excursion to Pearl Island.
  17. Like
    Ken23 reacted to Marc Van Niekerk in There is only one First Time - Mariner of the Seas B2B Oct 14-18, 18-21   
    Day 2
    Day 2 is a sea day and kind of a lazy one.  We started with breakfast in the windjammer, followed by his and hers pedicures,.
    The windjammer on Mariner is quite nice and wasn't too busy when we arrived.
    Afterwards we made our way once again to the Diamond lounge for a little quiet time, and ten to our cabin to enjoy our balcony.  I took some time to start this blog and try out the new notebook I had gotten.  This is our first trip with the new notebook and the key is that it is powerful enough to process photos ant small and portable enough to carry in my camera bag which is only advertised to carry a tablet.  It is performing admirably.

    Of course, the view from the balcony was not hard to take either!

    Finally the time rolled around to 1PM, the reserved time for Key guests at the Flow Rider.  During the 1 hour session I was able to ride 3 times which is pretty good for that span of time.
    There were some younger people there showing how its done.

    When my turn came up, I tried starting on my own for the first time.  I have use d the FlowRider on several cruises before and always started with staff helping me.  It all worked out just fine and I was able to get going for several seconds on my first try.
    I will upload videos of the first two runs later (VOOM isn't exactly cooperative right now)
    On my final try I had a good run and my wife was taking still photos from start to eventual fall.

    One note about FlowRider on Mariner compared to other ships is that they have riders lining up across the top of the FlowRider and call the next person down as the current gets started.  On most other ships people have been lined up beside.  Also the staff were making first time riders do a Boogie Board session before stand up.  Riders who had done that first run were given blue wristbands.  I somehow managed not to be made to do the Boogie Board on my first try, then on my second since I didn't have the  wristband they wanted me to do boogie.  I explained that they had already let me do stand up and they just gave me the blue band and let me continue stand up.
    That was most of our activity for the Sea Day.  I did manage one more run on the FlowRider before our dinner reservation at Chops and the time spent in line for one turn was about an hour.

  18. Like
    Ken23 reacted to heffy2 in Anthem 10/24-11/2 The Last Canada/NE of the Season   
    The drill was incredibly quick, and we are being treated to a statue sail by like last cruise!

  19. Like
    Ken23 reacted to heffy2 in Anthem 10/24-11/2 The Last Canada/NE of the Season   
    Hello! This will be my first attempt at a live blog, and it just seemed right to do it here as opposed to CC. The Blog and podcast have been instrumental in my return to Royal Caribbean. I've been on 4 prior RCI sailings on the Viking Serenade and Rhapsody of the Seas, the last one being in 2007. I was convinced to sail this itinerary by @twangster's wonderful Snowbird Migration blog last year, and have been addicted to all of your awesome Live Blogs. I'll be sailing with my mother, and have been waiting for cruise day for about 367 days, but who's counting? I've taken much of the advice that I learned here and have pre-purchased most everything except Vroom. I'm kicking myself for not buying the Deluxe Drink Package before this last weekend, as it did go up slightly. Two weeks ago my Royal Up bid was accepted for a total of $150 for a Large Balcony cat 1C from a standard balcony. Today is my last work day, and I don't think I'll be able to sleep for the next 72 hours! I'll add more as soon as I get off work.
  20. Like
    Ken23 reacted to JLMoran in Second Anthem - NJ to Bermuda - Oct 19 to Oct 24 - LIVE(ISH)   
    Thoughts about Bermuda
    One thing I wanted to mention here was that, while Bermuda is definitely an island to do it all on your own, it's really important to be aware of things that may have happened recently and properly factor that into your plans. Cathy and I winged it for our full day, and quite honestly wasted much of our morning with that trip to the botanical gardens when we could have just gone to the aquarium. If I'd paid more attention to the effects of that hurricane that hit a couple weeks earlier, and not only thought about "will they have the lights back on?", I would have realized that the gardens should be saved for another time.
    Also, we made the mistake of thinking that Hamilton would be an easy to explore place like St. George's. Let me be clear -- Hamilton is nothing like St. George's when it comes to wandering around!
    Where St. George's is a relatively small community with not much more to explore than the main road with all the shops, plus the little historical section in the center of town by the channel, Hamilton is a true city. It is huge compared to St. George's, and it has all of the sprawl and varying "regions" that come with being a city. I would advise reading up on the place before you go there and picking a spot or two to walk to, not just wandering around at random. Front Street seems to be the shopping and dining center of the city, but there are side streets where you'll find other places to check out. Whenever we make our way to Bermuda next, I'm going to make sure to properly read up on the place so we can figure out what we want to do, if anything that time beyond getting to the bus terminal to reach our true destinations for the day.
    The other thing I learned this trip was that I should really expand my beach horizons beyond Horseshoe Bay (and Tobacco Bay when up by St. George's). There are many more beaches, including Admiralty Beach, Long Bay Beach, and Elbow Beach; from pictures that other passengers showed me, or descriptions I got from my table-mates at dinner, more than a few of them are just as nice as Horseshoe Bay without the massive tourist crowds, and even have some neat features of their own. The main draw for Horseshoe is convenience, thanks to the constantly running shuttle vans; but if I'm paying for an all-day commuter pass then why not use it to find some of these other beaches and spend some time on them instead? A lot of them even have their own restaurants and amenities, so I wouldn't even be giving up anything I'd have at Horseshoe Bay.
    So that's it. This blog is done, and now there's only one thing left to note....
    🎶 Two hundred eighty-one days 'til we go on the next cruise,
    That's nine months and five days 'til we goooo! 🎶
  21. Like
    Ken23 reacted to JLMoran in Second Anthem - NJ to Bermuda - Oct 19 to Oct 24 - LIVE(ISH)   
    For this post, I chose to upload PNG files instead of JPEG images, as the JPEG files were showing some noticeable banding and other artifacting. Apologies for the much larger file sizes and slower download, but I spent too much time cleaning up these shots to let JPEG compression mess them up.
    After getting off the Restless Native, we were walking back to the ship and it occurred to me that I have this nice new camera with real glass and a good sized sensor; why not see what it can do with the ship all lit up for the evening? So before boarding, I grabbed these shots. Needed a bit of post-processing, but overall pretty impressive for a six year old compact camera model.

    This wasn't enough for me. We had already talked about getting on the North Star and seeing the Bermuda skyline at night, so I figured I'd keep taking pictures and seeing what worked and what didn't. We got onto the standby line, fingers crossed that they'd have a couple of no-shows, and I snapped a couple of shots while waiting our turn. First up, this shot from the North Star Bar looking out over the pool deck.

    I was also able to get a nice shot of the North Star while she was fully raised above us. Didn't realize it had lights on the bottom of the capsule; I guess they need that for safety in case of any low-flying planes coming near.

    And then, it was our turn to board the capsule. We rose up into the dark, and I immediately saw that this was going to be difficult at best. You all know how the glass is pretty reflective in the day time? Well at night it's practically a mirror! They have blue lights inside the capsule, and the glass catches and reflects everything lit up by it like crazy. I must have taken a dozen shots of the skyline and dockyard area, but finding a spot where I could put the camera in my own shadow (or someone else's) to block out the blue lighting was nearly impossible. These two were the best I could manage, and required a lot of editing to minimize the blue that still got into the pics:

    But then I saw the pool deck from up high, and it looked like maybe I'd have some better luck there. Still required a pretty decent amount of editing, but I am darned happy with the end result. The only piece that I couldn't edit out was the reflection of the shoe you can see there on the bottom left. I'm wondering if I could get away with using the "healing brush" to make that last little bit go away...

    It looks even better at full size, but I don't how much @Matt would appreciate me uploading a nearly 5 MB file. 😉 
    After we came back down, I stopped on the little observation platform they have as you go down the stairs to the exit at the North Star Bar. I got one more shot of the dockyard at night, and without all that reflective glass it came out looking much better.

    And with that, we rushed back inside to quickly change our clothes and grab dinner. Cathy wasn't up for the MDR that night and just grabbed a few slices at Sorrento's. I was pretty hungry and wanted to share the day with my table-mates while finding out how they had spent the day, so off to deck 3 I went.

  22. Like
    Ken23 reacted to JLMoran in Second Anthem - NJ to Bermuda - Oct 19 to Oct 24 - LIVE(ISH)   
    Lazy beach day, better than any day in an office or at home.

    Especially when your honey (#best_of_wives_best_of_women) goes to the bar and gets you a Dark and Stormy to enjoy.

  23. Like
    Ken23 reacted to JLMoran in Second Anthem - NJ to Bermuda - Oct 19 to Oct 24 - LIVE(ISH)   
    And this is why you go on Day 2 in Bermuda. It’s 10:22 AM and the beach is practically empty! Woo hoo!

    Waves are gentle, maybe 3 feet tall when the break. I can’t go in, unfortunately, but Cathy is going to take full advantage!
  24. Like
    Ken23 reacted to CHRIS WONG in Hello! I Am A Crew Member!   
    Hey guys!
    So I have some exciting news!
    I found out last night that I'm going to be transferred to Oasis Of The Seas in 3 weeks time. This is a big step up for me, and a lot more responsibility is going to be put on me - but I'm excited for this challenge.
    I'll be flying out to Spain to join the ship, and then crossing back to America for the beginning of the Caribbean season.
    Let me know if any of you will be on Oasis! I look forward to meeting you!
  25. Like
    Ken23 reacted to CHRIS WONG in Hello! I Am A Crew Member!   
    New vlog has just gone live!
    I reveal how much money I make working onboard!
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