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About ChessE4

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    North Carolina
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    Playing chess during sea days

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  1. On the smaller ships, I like being near the Centrum (Deck 4), and have found Decks 3 and 4 convenient. This assumes you are roughly amidships; the bow can be noisy. On the larger ships I find proximity to elevators is useful, and since we go to the promenade a lot, a deck like 7-9 balances distance to dining and activities. Since elevators are often in use, it is important to be about 3 decks or less from your destination so taking the stairs is healthy but not fatiguing. The main point is to avoid being near a noisy venue and to think about the locations on the ship you'll visit most. On the Harmony we were pretty far aft, and we ended up eating a lot in the Solarium Bistro, which meant long walks to the bow of the ship.
  2. On a previous post someone stated the "PIG" excursion was a bit of a scam--not at all like the true pig island elsewhere in the Bahamas. So I would check more recent reviews on that one.
  3. When you reach a decision, remember to book excursions online rather than on the ship. You can download the entire excursion brochure instead of spending hours on the cruise planner going back and forth...If your selected excursions drop in price, you can cancel and rebook at the lower price, up to the cut-off time.
  4. I used it on the Harmony, but as @FManke noted, they started charging two punches for some drinks, like the Caribbean Coconut I love to drink in the afternoon. If you stick to a normal (1-shot) cap or latte, then it is a good value unless you have Diamond Lounge access. Also, on the Harmony they don't show Chai Tea on the menu, but I was able to order that for my wife.
  5. The other point about carry-on is that unless you have the Key or VIP privileges, you'll be lugging it around. That can annoy your party and other guests, e.g., trying to find a table for lunch on Day 1. So, many folks limit carry-on to either a back-pack/tote bag that won't clutter lines, OR they pull a small wheeled suitcase that is easily maneuvered those few hours before you have access to your stateroom. Do take some sort of carry-on, as bags going to your stateroom can be delayed and even lost (on rare occasions). Have a great trip!
  6. There is one potential disadvantage for early check in, if you are expecting a credit card/passport to expire and be replaced prior to the cruise. Example: my Royal CC was renewed but the CVA code was different so the online information I had submitted was incorrect. When I tried to update the information online, the cruise documents had already been issued and I wasn't allowed to change anything. On embarkation, I asked the agent about my credit card and was told I was OK. However, I was surprised on disembarkation day when I was informed I needed to pay my bill in person. Guest Services took care of me at 6 AM, but it was a bit of an inconvenience. If the CC you are going to use and your passport numbers/dates won't change, then checking in early is fine. Otherwise, wait until you have all of the new information you'll need to input.
  7. When you mentioned "boys", I wasn't sure if that meant children/minors or spouses. If children, note Royal's age restriction - I don't believe under 18 one can exit the ship without adult supervision.
  8. Since this is your first time on the Harmony, take note that they typically offer a video around 2:30 PM which explains the various ship venues. When the video is over, you can take a leisurely walk to your muster station. Of course, if you arrive early, you will also have time to explore the ship. Have a great trip!
  9. You are already doing a lot to be cost-efficient. With regard to flying, I normally don't fly unless I am going to spend 10-14 nights at destination. So if you are looking at 7 night cruises, consider back-to-back cruises. You can shop for hotels that offer transportation to the port, but really, an extra $50 for ground transportation is less than an extra $200 on the ship you might be persuaded to spend unnecessarily. Just my opinion. My best suggestion for saving $$, aside from booking when schedules are first published and likely cheaper, is to avoid buying extras on the ship when the included items are just fine. Example: you can forget specialty restaurants when the MDR is very nice for dinner. Don't buy unlimited drink packages when there are low-cost or no-cost beverages, and an option to carry-on beverages. Unplug and forget about paying for internet access -- Royal usually has a valet program that will take care of luggage and boarding passes for many airlines. Or if you really need the internet, buy one day's service when it is needed. Order your excursions on line at discount, etc. Avoid peak-season cruises on the latest ships (e.g., Harmony was overpriced when Coco-Cay was remodeled and marketed this summer -- May cruises were 50% more than September cruises for the same room category.) More important than the $$ is the purpose of the vacation and what your objectives really are. Some members of this blog really want to splurge and live like royalty for awhile, and that is a factor in making their choices for this or that. My goal is to see and enjoy and interesting places/cultures, so I focus more on the port experiences. If I were traveling with a large family, I might want to emphasize the shared experiences and relationship moments. So I would work backward from my objectives, see what it costs, and then find a way to pay for it. Since I don't need all of the bells and whistles on large ships, I am perfectly fine sailing on a smaller ship at a less expensive port. From Illinois, Galveston might be a better choice than Port Canaveral, for example. Whatever you choose, have a great cruise!
  10. On the Harmony in September a coke was a little over $4 with the tip, I believe $4.18. So when the soda package was $10-12/day, it meant you needed to drink three covered drinks per day.
  11. I've always found newer ships priced higher than older ships. I have noticed a few good prices in Europe off-peak, but I don't think one can expect much discounting.
  12. I like Radiance Class for a few reasons (we've been on the Radiance and the Brilliance). I like the chess table and pool table aft, the inside cinema, and the Centrum. The ship is a little larger than the Vision Class we used to sail out of Baltimore. On the Radiance, the Diamond Lounge was often expanded to the Concierge Lounge, and we had a nice view out the windows. This was incredible in New Zealand. I don't object to the Harmony or the Oasis because of Central Park and the many dining alternatives, but I don't really like the larger crowds. We insist on music with an opportunity for ballroom dancing, and this is easier accomplished in a Centrum-like area than in a lounge with lethal sound levels (like Dazzles on the Harmony). Despite the ship, my wife and I select cruises based mostly on the itinerary as long as the price is within our threshold. When we take a cruise that is not Royal Caribbean, it will be because of the itinerary (e.g., we are dying to go to French Polynesia and the RCI ships just pass through on relocation with only 2-3 stops).
  13. Here is the harbor info. https://vertoe.com/luggage-storage/honolulu/honolulu-harbor
  14. Found this link. https://airports.hawaii.gov/hnl/services-amenities/locker-storage/ It refers you to: http://www.baggagestoragehawaii.com/ Never used it, though. This is airport, not cruise port.
  15. In September the first formal night was "wear your best" but the lobster night was still labeled "formal". We dressed the same for both -- I wore a suit and my wife wore nice dresses (but not formal gowns). And technically, the nicer dress is optional (recommended), with many men not wearing ties. Other threads explain the dress practices in detail, but I want to point out one new practice I witnessed this fall. On the 2nd formal there was a "white" night at 11 PM, so a lot of Harmony guests changed to white outfits in the PM to stroll the promenade, have the formal dinner, and then enjoy the later evening. If that appeals to you, go for it!
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