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  1. Does anyone have a good suggestion for a convenient, moderately priced hotel? The Embassy Suites in Carolina (right by the airport) has always been my go too. Has a beautiful pool area, right across the street from the beach and within the hotel there are two restaurants, a casino and you cannot beat the breakfast in the morning and the complimentary evening happy hour. It is about a 10-15 minute uber to the port and old san juan, but being a little further away from the hub means less of a crowd and slightly cheaper prices. The area in general is also great. Some great restaurants in walking distance as well as some some resorts a few blocks away (royal sonesta & el san juan) Am I missing any of the really interesting things to do in San Juan? I think just staying in and around San Juan will give you more than enough to do, but in the past I have gone to the El Yunque rainforest. Haven't been in a few years, but it was definitely something I was happy I did. Both times I have gone, the trip involved a hike with one time stopping at a waterfall and the other to the banks of a river with some rope swings and a smaller waterfall. I do not really have much better information than that (went when I was in college for a training trip, so was just kind of following the leader). This would probably be a little bit of a stretch (and I personally have never done it), but taking the ferry to the islands of Culebra or Vieques. It would be an all day adventure and some logistics around it (driving to Ceiba ~1hr and then the ferry), but is definitely different and from what I hear, is beautiful. I know Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but it isn't a state. Does my cell phone need international roaming? What about the US Virgin Islands? Per everyone else, I think you are fine. Honestly, I have never worried or paid attention while there. And since I never had 'uh oh' moment when I got bill after visiting you should be ok. Google says Royal docks at the Pan American pier, which is across the harbor from old San Juan. Is this correct? That is correct. Also, depending on how you get there, all the ubers & taxi's know exactly where to go and understand the difference between the two piers. Is it better to get a hotel in Old San Juan or should I find something closer to the pier? I think this is just personal preference. The two cruises I have taken out of San Juan I have always stayed near the airport at the aforementioned embassy suites and never had an issue getting to the port, getting a uber, etc (many cruises use this hotel as well). Is it better to use UBER/LYFT or rent a car Uber/lyft
  2. @FionaMG This is amazing. Thank you so much for putting this all together!
  3. This is awesome. Thank you so much for the insight.
  4. Looking for any and all recommendations or insights for excursions or things to see when we are on our 7 night cruise via Celebrity Apex out of Barcelona. We already have an idea of what what we want to do for our first two stops in Valencia & Ibiza. However, not entirely too sure what to do or even where to start for our remaining three ports: Nice, Marseille, and La Spezia. Anything is really fair game. We have no oppositions to looking to travel out of any port to say Monte Carlo when in Nice or to Florence when in La Spezia. Having never been to Europe, really just trying to take in as much info as possible to get a feeling for what makes the most sense. And in many cases - probably just venturing on our own and walking a city may be sufficient enough. However, wanted to pick some people's brains just in case there were any 'wow' excursions out there. Thanks in advance for any help!
  5. There is a courtyard marriott that was just built across the highway from the cruise terminal: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bwics-courtyard-baltimore-downtown-mchenry-row/ As someone that lives in Baltimore city (yellow star is the neighborhood where I live and the red star is the terminal in relation) I will say McHenry Row would be my best recommendation. I have no idea what the situation for parking your car would look like, but if we are talking about ease of access to the port and being situated right off of I95 (and only 15 min away from BWI airport, you cannot go wrong). It is also right next to a Harris Teeter shopping center so you can easily grab any last second needs. If the ease of getting to the port is not for you, I would echo some other suggestions of staying in Harbor East. There are a bunch of different hotel options ranging from the four seasons to a hilton garden inn. Total time to the port (with no traffic) would be right around 10-15 minutes. The good thing about this location is it is centrally located to a bunch of unique baltimore neighborhoods. Little Italy, Fells Point, Canton, etc. And Harbor East, a neighborhood within itself has a variety of restaurants and shopping. But being partial to my neck of the woods, I would say you cannot go wrong in Federal Hill & Locust Point. I think someone already called out LP Steamers (seafood & crabs), Little Havana (cuban), Barracudas (New American Tavern Grub). These are all great local spots within walking distance of the courtyard. Also in the complex as the hotel, they have variety of different food options as well. If you venture a little further in the neighborhood (maybe a 5 minute uber) you get to Federal Hill where there is a brand new market where they every type of food vendor, coffee shop, butcher, etc. Very cool place just visit even if you do not plan to eat there: https://www.crossstmarket.com/. Within this whole area there are a bunch of food and bar options. My recommendations would be Wayward Smokehouse (before 10pm - turns into a big going our bar) or 101 Deli Bar. Not in that main drag of restaurants, my two other picks would be The Outpost (New American Tavern Grub - my favorite restaurant) or Hersh's (italian). As far as things to do, there is the fort & the Ravens (if they are playing). Knowing it's going to December, kind of limits any outdoor site seeing (although Baltimore weather is unpredictable). There is Fed Hill Park, which gives you pretty much a 360 view of the city and harbor. There are a bunch of museums and what not, none that I would say are a must see. I am big on walking the city and seeing all the little historic neighborhoods. Also, to throw another idea out there, if you are into it, Baltimore has pretty big craft beer scene with a variety of different breweries. I would say to try to check some of those out if you are interested in that. - Diamond Back (their tap room is right next to the courtyard as well) - Checkerspot (location is also in federal hill, about a 5 minute uber away) - Monument (located across the harbor in Canton) - Union (located in Hampden - my recommendation, and favorite beer) - Guinness open gate brewery (Helethorpr, MD - probably 15 minute uber) Now I am a huge Baltimore guy. Love this city. Been here (including college) for over ten years. I will say, downtown "downtown" Baltimore is something you won't be missing out on if you decide to visit/book a hotel else where. So places like the Hilton I would advise against. Not because it isn't safe or anything, I think you will fall into the tourist traps and not really get to see and enjoy the 'real' parts of the city.
  6. @Lovetocruise2002 your feedback has always made my day. I’m glad you enjoyed the blogs (and my poor grammar + ‘misspellings)!
  7. And here we are, the last day... which just happens to be a sea day as we head back towards Miami. Similar to our second sea day, we had no major plans. I think the morning consisted of breakfast at park cafe, hitting up the t-shirt sale and heading to the next cruise desks to talk to them about options for slipping in a cruise when we go to Europe for honeymoon in 2021. Other than that, we planned to just veg out at the Solarium, make a few last rides on the water and dry slides, dinner in the Solarium Bistro and wrap everything up with the headliner comedian. During breakfast we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner and the Solarium Bistro popped into our heads. We went straight to the app to see if we could book a reservation and oddly enough, the only time available was 9pm. We decided to just book it and see if we could walk up during the afternoon and ask to change it to a slightly earlier time. I mean, we do like our late dinners, but 9 was slightly pushing that acceptable threshold. But I had a hunch that it should not be a problem because most nights we are still up by the pool when the dinner crowds rolled through and there was always plenty of tables. Anyway, we weren't worried. So we decided to head down to the promenade to check out the t-shirt sale. And boy was it a zoo. I don't ever remember on the two previous cruises it being a literal battle royale (pun intended). But we finally were able to snag two shirts each that we actually liked and in our size... range. From the sale we made our way to the next cruise area. This was our first time ever interacting or talking with anyone from here. I am a big "do it yourself-er" and I also think that there really is not that massive of a benefit. But we were curious to see what suggestion they had. I kinda already knew possible cruises and prices for the timing we were looking at. So when the rep started spouting out information I already knew, it kinda reinforced my preconceived notion. Howeva (Stephen A. Smith voice), they did prove me slightly wrong. Prior to our sailing there were no mentions of Odyssey of Sea doing summer sailings in the Mediterranean. Pretty much all that I saw was Harmony out of Spain and I think Rhapsody doing the more Greek/Italy cruises. So initially, we wanted to see if we could get a better deal in some area (if possible). But once they started telling us information we already knew, I kinda started to lose interest. But then the rep mentioned that they were just about to release the sailing for Odyssey, which for us was intriguing. We did not end up booking anything immediately, as I wanted to do some more recon on price/rooms etc. But long story short, two weeks after returning home we booked a 7 night cruise out of Rome! From next cruise we made out way back up to the Solarium and grabbed a few loungers to take in the last of the warm rays before we returned to snowy Baltimore. I did pop my head into the Solarium Bistro to see if I could move our dinner reservation. After talking with the manager, he was able to move our time up without issue. There must have been something off with the app because they had a ton of open time slots. For the rest of the afternoon we just lounged around the pool, had and ate way too much el loco fresh for lunch and then took a long dip in the hot tub, to which I ended up losing my seapass card ?. After 2 and 3/4 completed cruises this was the first time I had ever lost my card. I was devastated (especially since it was the last day)- took such great pride in that fact. But I guess keeping it in your pocket in the bubbly hot tub can cause it to vanish. So this then caused an unfortunate trip down to guest services to stand in line for what seemed like forever to grab a new one. Although, it was entertaining listening to everyone pleading their cases on over charges (especially the ones where their kids may have swiped something mom and dad did not approve of ?) but I still would have much rather been up by the pool. Once I returned, Rebecca and I made our way to the back of the ship to do a last few activities before deciding to take a ride down the ultimate abyss to hit up Playmakers to see some of the Patriots/Bills game. Once down on the boardwalk we were able to get a hightop table and decided to order some drinks and an appetizer. This was really our first time taking in a full experience at Playmakers. Throughout the cruise we did stop in for a drink here and there. Watched a few minutes of the Gonzaga/North Carolina basketball game. And even played a quick round of pool. But other than that - we were never really drawn to spend a long amount of time. I think maybe (in the case of why we were there now) if we were on a cruise during a time where there was more sports events going on, I definitely would have pushed to go there more. But given Rebecca is already such a good 'sport' with my sport addiction (see what I did there), I didn't want to over do it. But overall we had a great time and highly recommend. We ended up getting I guess one or two craft beers and then wings and their special truffle/parm fries if I remember correctly. From the boardwalk we made our way back to the room to quickly change, keeping things extremely casual and headed out to Central Park and visited the trellis bar. We had stopped by here a few times, but it was typically pretty crowded so we could never get a seat. But this time, we were able to sneak in at the bar and hung out for while. Wish we came here more during the week as we had a great time chatting with the bartenders and just taking in how hard these guys work supporting just not the guests grabbing drinks, but all the waiters coming from Chops, Giovanni and 150 placing orders. It was truly impressive how methodical these guys were pumping out drinks while still being some of the most engaging workers we encountered on the ship. From Central Park we headed up to dinner and it was wonderful. Solarium Bistro is a gem that I am sure is highly under utilized. We pretty much had the restaurant to ourself, and our server was one of the best we had the entire cruise. But we loved the menu options (and the buffet options for appetizers and additions to your meal). I think we got an assortment of small plates and then for the meal itself we both got seafood (fish for me, shrimp for Rebecca) and then shared a plate of made to order pasta. Do not remembering getting any dessert... between our Playmakers visit and now dinner, both our stomachs were operating at over capacity. From dinner we made one last pit stop in Central Park and then made our way to the theater to catch our show, which like the majority of comedian shows was very funny. After the show, we went and did our formal good byes to all our favorite staff we engaged with over the past week before making one last visit to the casino. So for the week I was even. Which for me was like being up a million dollars. When I do any sort of gambling, I have a set number of dollars I allocate to gambling for the week and fully expect to lose every dollar. It is more of a game of how to I make said gambling fund last rather than how do I make it grow. So being even should had made me extremely happy. I should not have even stepped foot in the casino. But considering the money I brought was 'cash back' from my credit card payments from the past year - I was looking at it like it was free money to lose (so dumb, so dumb). Anyway I got some stupid idea that it would be fun to put 100 bucks on black and see what happens on the roulette wheel. Rebecca highly advised against this.What could go wrong? Land on red? Yup. So from there I was like, "ok let's do one more spin and make back what I lost". But switch to red. Now let it be know when I play roulette, I never just play black or red. Not because I think I am too good or sophisticated for that. Actually quite the contrary. I have by far the worst 50/50 odds out of anyone I know. Super bowl coin toss? Can remember the last time I won that. You put a pebble in one hand, I 100% will choose the other. Kinda wild that my game of choice is what it is. But whatever. So I put my chips on red and the dealer lets it spin. Now, I think you know the end result. Black. But this did not just land on any random black number. Oh no. Not black 28, 17, etc. I would have even preferred 0 or 00. But that stupid ball decided to have the audacity to land on 22. Twenty freaking two. I played that number every spin for 6 days. I think it hit three times. And that is how I am repaid. Talk about a slap in the face. So after getting a scathing look from Rebecca I knew it was time to cash out... After the casino debacle we rounded out the night doing... god knows what. I think we ended up heading to bed slightly earlier than usual as we were planning to debark pretty early in the morning to make it to FLL to sneak on an earlier flight home. What I do remember, which was quite depressing, was seeing them rolling out the new balloon drop nets for the next day's cruise. That stung. BONUS DEBARKATION BLOG So we woke up around 6 and made our way down to the promenade. I think the gangway opened at 630. There was already a line of about 50 people snaked around the Starbucks. We decided to self disembark, so we had our luggage with us which was not an issue at all. Once the line started moving we made off the ship through custom and to the ride share pick up point in a matter of minutes. Could not have been easier. After having a slight issue with a few cancelled uber and lyfts, we were finally on our way to the airport, which as we assumed, was quite overwhelming with people coming in all directions from the ships that just disembarked in Port Everglades. We were standing in line at southwest trying to change our flight, but it was barely moving. On the app we could see the flight we wanted to catch was quickly running out of seats so we ended up calling customer support and they were able to make the change for us (shout out to Rebecca for that quick thinking). If she did not do that, we would have been stuck in the airpot for another 6 hours. But because of our gamble, we were on a 930 flight back home and walking in the door to this little guy before we knew it. Overall Perception Of The Cruise Awesome, duh. Great ship & crew. Amplification was an added bonus but I think without it we would have still had the same amount of fun. While we were sad to leave, we were happy to get back home to see the pup and give our body a day vacation from our vacation. But overall, another great experience and we cannot wait for June 2021 when we do our Greek and Italy cruise on Odyssey (with it being our first time in a suite - well kind of - jr. suite). We already started to look into 2022 and it is seeming like we are lining up to do Oasis again which will take us to CoCo Cay, Honduras, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Been close to pulling the trigger there but there is a Celebrity Apex cruise that is toying at my emotions. May have to do the always over complex and strategic analysis of 'eeny meny miny more' to make a decision there...
  8. Day 6 has brought us to Cozumel. On tap for the day... ATV excursion + lunch & snorkel Impromptu trip on our own to Paradise Beach Portside BBQ 20 Minutes of Cats Cruise Ship(s) gone wild We had our excursion booked through a third party and it was pretty much scheduled for right when we got into port. So Rebecca and I needed to get up even earlier to make sure that we could be in the first wave off the ship and get to our meeting location in time. After navigating through the endless maize that is the Cozumel port terminal, we made it to our meeting spot... Carls Jr. When we arrived we met our guide for the day, Omar. Along with Omar there were four other tour participants, all of which were friends who were on Empress (or maybe Majesty) of the Seas which was docked directly next to us. From our meeting spot (which was directly across from the port entrance) we walked about a block to where their excursion headquarter was (I say headquarter very loosely). Before I continue about the excursion, I am going to preference that I am going to crack a lot of wise-ass one liners. The reason being is because this was no Royal Caribbean all buttoned up, no cutting corners, excursion. Things were... let's say very lax. Which honestly, was not bad. We had a great time. The excursion made our time in Cozumel and was one of the highlights of the trip. But I will say this would not have been for everyone. It was a few notches above organized chaos, but it worked. We never felt not safe or uncomfortable. Honestly, we felt more uncomfortable and on edge when we did our beach break excursion in Jamaica and we booked that through Royal. On this excursion, you could just tell this is the way they operated. Just go with the flow. Which given the cost for what we were doing, that was more than ok with us. And, we were very lucky in that the group with us, had the same personality as us in that they were there for the experience and not going to get caught up with the unorthodox flow of the excursion. Ok, so back to the excursion. Once we finished providing final payment and filling out some paper work (may have forgotten our drivers license - oops) Omar comes over and asks who in the group knows how to drive shift. A girl in the other group raises her hand. So Omar points to her, one of her friends, and then to me and Rebecca and ushers us over to a small little compact car. Then Omar jumps in another car with the two other members of the group. Odd. One would think you all would load into a van/vehicle - together. Not the case here. But hey, maybe it is only Omar working and he needed to drive one of the cars? Nope. Omar hops in the back seat of the other car and makes one of the other guys drive. The one girl in our group cracked a joke that either Omar doesn't know how to drive or got his license revoked. As bizarre as it was, it was also pretty hilarious (we have an odd sense of humor). But we all got an even bigger chuckle as we can see Omar in the car in front of us, reclined in the back seat just enjoying the drive. After about a 20 minute drive we arrived at a little side of the road shack where we got an extensive (and completely thorough) two minute introduction on to how to operate an ATV. Again... just going with the flow. From the shack, we headed down the road until we reached the beach. Then from there we entered onto the trail. Now let me say this. The ATV experience was exactly what was advertised and exactly what we were looking for. The trail ran through the jungle all along the coast. There were pockets where we would come out and see pristine beaches and coastline before zooming back into the jungle. And as far as the terrain, it was a fairly smooth ride. There were some bumps and rocky areas but overall the ride was pleasant. At the half way point we stoped at an area where would could walk out onto the beach to snap some pictures as well as view an ancient ruin. Finally from there were headed back the way came. All in all the ride was probably just over an hour and a great experience. Now next up was a... tequila tasting? ?This kinda came out of no where. I mean, we all welcomed it with open arms, it was just out of the blue and definitely not part of the excursion itinerary. Anyway, it seemed to be a little "I scratch your back you scratch mine" between our excursion provider and the tequila guy. Again, Rebecca and I along with the others from Empress all took it in stride and had a great little experience. At the end when they try to get you to buy some of the tequila that you sampled, our counterparts could not have flown out of the room faster. But we ended up buying a coffee infused bottle... so nice that TSA on the the flight back home wanted a sample apparently. I just wish they completely closed up the bottle after they were done. As we were about to head back into the car we heard Omar talking about two cruise ships colliding in port. At first we thought he was talking about a different day. But then he confirmed it was that morning. After watching the video (which I am sure everyone on her has seen - i.e. the two Carnival ships hitting), Omar then mentions that a Royal ship may have been hit (and then he shows us the other clip). Now image, you are on island in Mexico, on an excursion, with no idea if what is going on and you hear that your ship was in a possible collision. I had visions of my mother freaking out and looking to buy a flight that day to come to Cozumel to make sure we were ok. But now I have Rebecca starting to freak out and trying to send emails to her mom to let them know we were ok. Me on the other hand? Not going to lie, I was hoping our ship got hit ?(of course it goes without stating while with the intention of hoping no one was hurt). I am hoping for an extra night in Mexico. Envisioning an extended vacation. I'M THINKING CRUISE CREDIT!... However (as we all know), my hopes and dreams were crushed and our ship was spared. From the ATV spot we rode back towards town and to the beach club where we were set to have lunch and to snorkel. The spot was super nice, however because of the wind, we were just limited to having lunch and to walk along the beach. After lunch, our excursion came to end and we started to head back to the port and the ship. However, when we were halfway through the maize on our way back to the ship, Rebecca and I both realized that we didn't want our day in Cozumel to end. So we ended up making a u-turn and heading back towards the exit and the taxi stand. We really didn't have a plan but we decided to take a ride and check out Paradise Beach club. Really cannot tell you why we chose to go there other than the price of the cab was reasonable and the name seemed somewhat familiar... probably from ready other peoples blogs. Upon arrival we decided just to the beverage and food minimum to gain access, which was perfect. We probably arrived around 1:30 and ended up staying until to just about 4 taking in the beach (the weather got much nicer), crystal clear water, and the pool. Getting a cab back was super simple (there is line waiting outside), which put Rebecca at ease since she thought we weren't going to get one and end up missing the ship. One we got back to port and on the ship, we did a little more lounging in the Solarium and some other water activities up on the pool decks. Since we were planning to have dinner in Portside, getting ready for dinner was going to be a little less of a production. Which was nice because after being up super early for the excursion and being out in the sun all day, having a casual dinner planned was exactly what the doctor ordered. Now onto dinner. Portside was awesome. This was probably what I was most excited for after reading about the amplifications. The whole concept, location, food, environment are just so cool. And for the price, considering its BBQ (very very good BBQ) - you simply cannot beat it. And you get so much food. And as a proud member of the clean plate club, I had to have my membership revoked. Yes, I had to take a to go container. Between myself and Rebecca we probably got to try everything on the menu (excluding the ribs maybe?). It was all delicious. It was a little sad that the restaurant was more or less empty, because it really is a great concept that I think more people need to give a try. I will say that Royal does not do that great of a job marketing the restaurant when you are actually on the ship. Which I think they definitely should do given the hidden/tucked away location up on deck 15. We did get a chance to talk to the manager who was super friendly and engaging. We ranted and raved to him about how much we loved everything which I hope made him feel good. You could kind of tell he was just as confused/frustrated that it was not a little busier. Maybe over time as more people find out about and the word spreads, the crowds come. And hopefully Royal does add it to other ships. As dinner came to end, Rebeca and I needed to roll ourselves down to the theater to catch the critically (not-cruiser acclaimed) production of Cats. But not before running into this guy... Now let me just say this. I was fully prepared to ride it out for the whole show. I was going to prove everyone wrong. No way it could be that bad. Everyone was overreacting. Well... we lasted 20 minutes. But in my defense, I think if we weren't up at 7am (after going to bed at 2am), did two excursions, and just ate an entire cow & pig for dinner - we could have made it. But after almost falling out of my chair multiple times we decided it was time to exit. *We also strategically sat in one of the bar hight ops along the edge as to not to disturb anyone - I guess we were really foreshadowing our early departure, huh? From the theater we ventured around and then settled down in Globe & Atlas to catch up with Rudy. As we hung out, we noticed that Adam was not performing (but we did catch his set during dinner in Portside ?) Speaking of Adam... Now I know by now everyone is sick of hearing of how much of a fanboy I am. Deal with it. Every night, I am filled with envy when he sits down with a group in between sets and has a beer and shoots the sh$t. But at the same time, I am too shy to even go up and say hello. Anyway, there were are, just sitting there minding our own business and who comes walking in and sits down at the table next to us. After he chatted it up with a few guys next to us, I saw my opportunity to say hello. But every time I tried to form a sentence, nothing came out. I started to stress. What if he leaves? What if someone scoops him up and brings him to their table? I could not let that happen. So after a shot of liquid courage I made my move (sorry Rebecca). I cant remember exactly what I said, pretty sure I blacked out. But next thing I know, Adam is sitting at our table and we just chatted the night away. Literally. We shut Globe & Atlas down with him just talking about everything under sun. Quite literally a dream come true. We may have even gotten Sorrentos with him So after we had to say good bye to my man crush (Rebecca could have not been more relieved), I think we may have tested out the casino. I believe the roulette gods were surprisingly in a good mood, which means Ryan is in a good mood, which means Rebecca is in a good mood. But this was probably the most fun I had in the casino on the cruise (of course winning helps). We had a table filled with a cast of characters, all of which were great people, which made for a fun time. From the casino we probably ventured maybe to Blaze before then calling it a night. Tomorrow is a sea day on our way back to Miami. Highlights include: T-Shirt Sale, Trip to next cruise, Multiple food comas, And losing my sea pass card for the first time (on the last day no less!)
  9. Day five has now put us at sea steaming towards Cozumel. At one point, which was pretty cool to see, we sailed just off of Grand Cayman and could see all the ships anchored off shore. Random comment, I know. There wasn't much happening today so thought I would throw that tidbit in. The day overall was pretty low key and quite uneventful in comparison to that of the other four, which for us, was a nice change of pace. However, Einstein (what my dad use/still calls me when I do something stupid) decided to book a 830 haircut. So much for at least trying to sleep in an extra hour. I have this huge problem where I think I need to take advantage of every single second when we are on board. Which at times is good. And others... well, I think I could spare an hour or two. Like I think we were getting up earlier than we would for work. Actually I know we were because that is what Rebecca told/yelled at me every morning when the alarm went off after telling her the night before I wasn't setting one ??. Anywho... as to follow the theme of the cruise, the alarm goes off and I am off to a breakfast date with me, myself and I in the windjammer. And I am going to add that this was the first and only time I ventured into the windjammer all week... which was a travesty. I am not proud of myself and I promise to the windjammer faithful who are reading this, I will redeem myself on Odyssey in June 2021. From the windjammer I went to the Vitality Spa and could not have been more out of place. Truth be told, the spa has never really been a thing or appealed to me. But that beginning of cruise juju (and the mentality that money is no object once you step foot on the ship) got to me and there I was thinking I needed to get my ears lowered. So there I am, shelling out (I cant remember the amount) more than I probably should for the exact same haircut I would get from my guy Jay down the block for 17 bucks. Now this is no knock on the hairstylist or the experience itself. But as someone who once got $5 haircut at sport clips, I am more interested in just getting in and out. Also, my style of choice is far from high maintenance. I think the woman cutting my hair thought I was joking for what I was telling her to do - maybe even laughed at the fact how dumb I was asking to get a few snips here a few snips there and bang the job is done. But regardless there I was after, not looking like Ryan Reynolds (which I think I will every time) and a few bucks lighter. While I was getting beautified, Rebecca was heading in for her spa treatment... which I want to say was a seaweed wrap & facial? Don't quote me. But whatever she had, she loved it. Was tickled pink when she came up and joined me in the Solarium where we spend pretty much the rest of the morning and afternoon. We were actually pretty lucky to get one of those massive cabana like beds and boy did we make good use of it. A little sleep here, a drink from the bar there all followed by lunch in the solarium bistro. From the bistro, my memory is a little hazy. I think we again just ventured around the pool decks and lounged/soaked around in the hot tubs. The weather wasn't that great at times (windy, cloudy, etc.) but we didn't let it rain (literally and metaphorically speaking) our parade. Pretty sure we did a few round on the flowrider and the slides since the lines weren't too long with people wanting to stand in the wind. That was all then followed by our favorite mode of transportation down to the boardwalk, the ultimate abyss (where maybe a trip the dog house was taken). For the rest of the early evening there were no major plans or activities (I wasn't lying about this being a low key day), so around 6ish we headed back to the room to get ready for dinner which tonight was 150 Central Park. Before dinner we did some more wondering and visiting with some of our favorite crew members and then headed up to Central Park to make a pit stop in Vintages. Side note - we were shocked at how uncrowded Vintages was. On our last two cruises out of PR we were the only people ever in Vintages, but talking with the crew, they said that it was always a popular spot for the ships going out of Florida. So we were just kind of expecting more than 4 other people including us in there... especially in such a beautiful location. Ok sidebar over. So from Vintages we headed over to 150 Central Park, and had our favorite meal on any ship. We pretty much ordered the entire menu. And the mint cucumber martinis... dangerous. Was like you were drinking spa water. If the Vitality spa had these, woo wee I would be their best customer. But back to the meal. The whole experience was just top notch. The restaurant is beautiful and the service was the best we had all week... which is saying a lot because we never had a bad experience anywhere else. It was odd though, there was only maybe one or two other tables in the restaurant occupied by other guests. Our reservation was kind of later... I think maybe 8. But still just an interesting observation to callout. I think from reading other blogs and reviews, people seem to have stated that the quality has declined. I guess I cannot be a judge of that, but as newbies, we really enjoyed ourselves. But her are some not so glamours shots of our meal... This looks to be the beet salad for me, the scallops for Rebecca and we shared the short rib (also, by my attire, this looks to also have been the second formal night) Next course looks to be the lamb wellington for yours truly and lobster for Rebecca... with probably our third loaf of bread And now we are onto desserts... which I could not tell you what they were other than just down right delicious After dinner, we had reservations to see the ventriloquist, Ron Lucas of which was a great show. After words we caught the last few sets in Jazz on four. Now as I am writing this, I think prior to dinner this evening (or it could have been the previous night; the aerosmith cover band was playing in the aqua theater. Now like I previously stated, not a huge aerosmith guy. Love the roller coaster, band...meh. But we gave it the good ole college try at seeing them in the aqua theater & in the music hall. I am sure if you like their music, it would be awesome... because it was cool. But after one or two songs I was all Steven Tyler'd out. But for the rest of the evening we bounced around from a few different spots (schooner, globe & atlas, casino, playmakers, etc.). And we rounded things off with meeting up with our aforementioned friends we met on night three and all went to Blaze and attempted to do some dancing (at least that what we were calling it). Finally from there that pretty much brought the night to a close. The next morning will have brought us to Cozumel where I promise... there was a lot more action and excitement. So much so, two Carnival ships wanted to get in on the fun... ?
  10. Day four now has us in Jamaica. ***Let me just note one thing. As the title of this blog infers, it is in fact not live (SpOiLeR!!!). So as I write this, I am (was) watching love at sea (started piecing this recap together on Saturday night). So, for your own quarantine pleasure, please just picture a 28 year old guy on his couch at 11:30pm on a Saturday watching a hallmark movie. Ok, now back to our regular scheduled programming. So for Jamaica, we originally had nothing booked. Leading up to the cruise I was looking at a bunch of different excursions both through Royal and external. Truth be told, I would have loved to have done the all of major excursions: Dunns River Falls, The Blue Hole, etc. But at the end of the day, the price was not worth it based on the the travel time and knowing how big of attractions they are based (there were three other ships in port - including Ocho Rios) We figured to skip getting off the ship. Now for those people that know me and Rebecca, that is a big no no. I know for a lot of people, the ship is the destination. And it is for us, but we truly believe that if we are going to wake up one day in a new country, we want to say we at least saw something other than the port. So eventually we found a pretty cheap beach excursion through Royal on day one so we booked it. That morning, the alarm goes off. Almost made it to sunrise yoga (jk lol). And when I say sunrise yoga, I mean the Solarium Cafe for breakfast (by myself). After my solo food excursion, I went back to the room, armed with a latte, frosted mini wheats and a mixed fruit cup (cue the "Awwww, what a good fiance") ?. Once back at the room, we got ready and headed out to disembark on our beach excursion. Once we get off the ship we head to our meeting area. Long story short (and kind of what we expected), it was organized chaos. But given we knew that most beaches near the port needed to be part of the group we sucked it up. The beach club over all was not bad, it just was not great. We still had fun and enjoyed the the whole environment. You could just tell that it was cash cow tourist trap. Oh well. So we probably left the beach around 130 to head back to the port. Once back in port we shopped around (the Falmouth port is actually the best ship ship port we have been to - I know I am not saying anything astronomically enlightening). After walking around we decide to head back to the ship. But literally as we are about to walk through the cruise ship entrance, I see a sign that caught my attention. Margaritaville - Free Pool and & Wifi ?. I point it out to Rebecca, who like me, was a little ashamed to mention it. But we both were not ready to head back so we made a u-turn and headed to say hi to Jimmy. The entire complex was actually pretty nice. It was like a Margaritaville built within a pool resort. There was a massive pool with water a water fall, swim up bar and a massive hot-tub in the shape of a margarita glass. It was essentially a slightly (key word, slightly) classier version of a spring break pool party... which for us was just hilarious. I am not proud to say this, but if Jamaica is ever on our itinerary again, we are skipping the excursions... and I think you know where you will be able to fine me. So we ended up spending a few hours just lounging around and then decided to head back to the boat (and good thing we did). As we were going through port security a huge thunderstorm rolled through essentially closing the gangway. We actually were right about to walk onto the pier and into the ship but decided to hold back to not get drenched. After about 20 minutes we were allowed to board. **The pic are the doors leading out to the gangway where we got stopped right before the storm. Kinda pointless pic but trying to give the people a visual. When we got on board we headed to Izumi to see if they had any open reservations for Hibachi that night, and luckily for us, they had two spots! So with dinner reservations secured, we went back up to the Solarium and did some more soaking in the hot tubs and hitting up the slides which were particular nice to get a great view of the island and sunset as we sailed away. As creatures of habit, we then headed back to the room to get cleaned up. After changing we decided to head to the schooner bar to take in some music and good conversation before heading to dinner. For the dinner itself, it was delicious and fun time as expected (below is proof of my unprecedented athleticism on display... catching a diced pieced of chicken on the fly). Our table mates for hibachi were all great (two other couples). After dinner, we had some time to kill before the ice show we had booked so I am sure we just ventured around the ship. The ice show, which was the first time ever seeing on any ship, was terrific. After the aqua show, this was our next favorite. You might be wondering why we have never seen it before? Well to be honest, if it wasn't for reading other peoples reviews, we probably would have skipped it again. I know, I know. We are idiots. Literally, even reading the most negative and terrible reviews on cruise critic (I am sorry, it is a guilty pleasure), people would somehow muster enough props saying the show passed their extravagant expectations and needs. So this time we were determined to give it a try. And hand up, it was less Rebecca and more me wanting to skip. Rebecca is very much go with the flow. So this is all on me. Anyway the show was overly entertaining and quite funny, especially with those adorable little ducks. For those that do not know, the ice show is all based on different Hans Christian Andersen stories. I am by no means a playwright reviewer nor am I going to try to be. So I will it at Royal did great job putting together a wonder show. Would highly recommend, and yes... I will never skip the ice show again. After the show it was back to our normal nightly routine of meandering to all the different venues (jazz on 4 was especially ?tonight). I might add, if anyone was wondering on my nightly roulette spins... 22 black and me are now back on speaking terms. And his friends, 0 & 00... great guys. May invite them to the wedding. After quitting while I was ahead (and getting the evil eye from Rebecca), we headed back up to the Globe and Atlas to chat with Rudy a little more before turning in for the night. Tomorrow is a sea day. Will Rebecca have breakfast with me? Will my Vitality Spa haircut make me look like Ryan Reynolds? I guess you will just have to click back in 1-2 days when I finally get around to writing about it!
  11. And we are back with Day 3, which has put us in Labadee. Out of all the ports on our itinerary, I would say this was the one we were looking to the most. While we were excited for Cozumel (we had an ATV excursion planned), Haiti for some reason had us the most excited to visit (and it doesn't hurt the food and drinks are included). So like I previously mentioned, needed to get up rather earlier (not for any fitness classes) to grab breakfast and make our way off the ship for our early morning jet ski ride. We originally had this excursion booked a little later in the day, but last minute we decided to add a trip to amiga island (have to love that mindset of money really doesnt matter (as much) on vacation). So to make this second excursion work with our schedule, we needed to bump up our jet ski time. *We really wanted to do this adult sandbar party excursion thing where you take a boat out into the water where I guess it is around waist high and are able to hang out and have a good old time. I saw it for the longest time in the cruise planner, but it seemingly disappeared a few months before the cruise. After contacting Royal I guess they removed it as the tour operator decided to not offer that excursion. Guess we need to find another cruise to Haiti in the near futrure... So after getting up we partook in a new tradition established on this cruise... Rebecca staying in bed while I go and have break by myself ?. I know, so sad, right? But I sucked it up, stopped by park cafe and got a quick bite to eat and even brought a little something back for Rebecca because you know, chivalry is indeed not dead. Once we got off the ship it was pretty simple to find where we needed to go, sign-in, and meet our group (it is literally right off the ship when you get to the end of the pier). When we got close to our time, we headed into a room where our guide and instructor went through all the safety rules and other logistics. From there we got our life vests and headed out onto our jet ski's. In total there were about 12 people in our tour. We were assigned a number based on the experience (or lack thereof). 1 was if you had the most, 12 if you were a newbie. Rebecca, the speed demon, started at number 3 and half way through she was knocked up to number #1. Myself? I just will keep the number to myself (I definitely was not knocked down a number ?). Overall, the excursion was a little over an hour and we had a blast. It was interesting how they had it structured in that it was like follow the leader. Our guide would go first then we would all follow. So it wasn't like a free for all in one particular area. We were a little skeptical at first. But it ended up being perfect. We still got our need for speed and were able to jet ski around some pretty big swells. And you really couldn't beat zooming past the the Haitian coastline. Those mountains are pretty spectacular. After we finished our excursion we decided to checkout out the rest of the island. Overall Labadee lived up to our expectations and would have absolutely no problem coming back. For the rest of morning we just hung out at beach, ventured out to the floating bar for a beverage and then swam back in for lunch. After we ate, we needed to make our way back over to the dock to catch our ride to Amiga Island. The boat ride over to the island was about 20 minutes. Again was definitely very cool to get a different vantage point of the island, and to get a close up of the ship... Once we got to the island, Rebecca and I took walk around and then a dip in the water. The excursion in my opinion was defiantly worth it. There were probably only 15 of us on the island so it was a nice quiet getaway. For the rest of the time we were there we pretty much just relaxed and caught a few Zzzzz's. If you wanted, they had a little hut that was used as cash bar but the complimentary rum punch and view was more than enough for us. After the ride back, it was unfortunately time for us to have to get back on board. *The ride back though was pretty eventful in that there were some pretty big swells. No one ever thought we were in danger, but it wasn't your average smooth ride back. It was almost like a two for one excursion. One being the island the second being the rollercoaster (I mean boat rife back). As far as plans for the night, we only had dinner booked at Chops for around 8. No shows booked. That being said we did our traditional late afternoon solarium and jacuzzi session followed by a few runs on the slide. For sail away we did head to back of the ship to I think deck 5 for a little less crowded view (and maybe had a hot dog from the boardwalk). From there we ventured back to the room to get ready for dinner. After that, we did some walking around, probably spending more money on the hot-shot basketball and and football toss on the boardwalk. Rebecca (along with every 8-year-old kid) was also on the prowl to catch that piano guy in the elevators. At one point we spotted him, but to Rebecca's misfortune, he zipped right past our floor. We then headed up to Chops for dinner and as expected there were 0 complaints. I think we both got the crab cake appetizer, maybe salads...cant remember, filets with their various delectable sauces. And then for sides, if my memory serves me correctly, we did the creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and the mac n cheese, because you know...#health. For dessert, I know we got it, but gun to my head I couldn't tell you what. Maybe Rebecca got something chocolate and I got something apple? After dinner was over and considering we had no real plans we decided to head to the Globe and Atlas to see my man crush. Again, our server Rudy made for great conversation. We always seem to luck out and get a great server in all the pubs when we've been on our cruises and Rudy may be our favorite. Would literally run over from wherever he was to greet us with a hello and would constantly be checking in on us. But like with most people, we just like talking to him about life, his family, about us, etc. Eventually Rudy needed to tend to some of the guests (how dare he). It was fine, I could let Adam start to serenade me. As the night went on, we ended up meting and joining forces with a group of 2 couples who were traveling together. So after chatting up a storm, having a drink or two we all headed to Blaze. From there me and Rebecca broke off and once again I needed to go and see if 22 Black wanted to be friends. While we did say hello once early on in the night, he then started to ghost me. From the casino we may or may not have stopped for pizza (ok i did, not Rebecca) and then headed back to the room to call it a night in preparation for Jamaica in the morning.
  12. Best advice for the flowrider is finding someone other than me for pointers...lol. In all seriousness I would say not to over think it, listen to the crew members... and not caring what you look like. Next thing you know you will look like a pro. I can say all dogs, sausages and brat's that I consumed at the the doghouse were delicious. It was bad cruise to be on if you were an encased meat... We did! We had the three night package. But we then ended up booking izumi (hibachi) one night and then venturing to portside bbq another. We probably just should have gotten the unlimited. Now we know! I booked all of our shows prior to boarding (then made a few tweaks once we got on board). Dinner I believe I was only able to make a reservation for Chops for the first night if I remember correctly? But when we boarded, we just went to Izumi and moved things around (since we had the key we were having chops for lunch so we wanted to change up the dinner location for that night). Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. But both being delicious. Obviously as others have stated and posted, there is a ton to do and such unique things on Oasis and Oasis class ships. But that is not to say Freedom is boring or lacking. Actually, I would say Freedom has been my favorite cruise. I think it just comes down to what you are looking for, the type of person you are and the people you are traveling with. You can't go wrong on either. However for me, I think I am stuck going on Oasis class. Rebecca almost cried when I told her there was no central park on odyssey of the seas. And she now has now implemented a strict "if there is no royal promenade, then there is no cruise" rule.
  13. So Day 2. Let's think back. Ah it started with the alarm going off at 7am. And then again at 730. Why you might ask (and so did Rebecca, but not so nicely)? Well you see - and this became a trend over the course of the week; each night before going to bed and after maybe one to many vodka soda... I had this preconceived notion that I was going to get up and go to the fitness center for the sunrise yoga and core/ab class. Keep in mind, I purposely do not bring sneakers and in my two previous cruises I could not even tell you where the fitness center was. And this trip was no exception. Needless to say, I kept my record perfect of never setting foot in the fitness center. But after my second alarm and Rebecca deciding she really didn't want to kill me, we got up and decided to try breakfast at Park Cafe which is a great change of pace in the morning compared to the windjammer. While I scarfed down my third breakfast panini (dont judge me, they are small) and Rebecca ate her frosted mini wheats (loser) we planned out our sea day. Looking through the cruise compass we saw a few different things we were both interested in. First being rock climbing. Then following that up with a mini-golf competition. Rebecca saw that there was some spa event later in the morning so she made note of that and then I noticed a dodgeball competition that afternoon. Seemed like we had a tentative game plan. So with a coffee in hand we made our way over to the boardwalk to hit up the rock wall. Upon arriving, we found ourselves to be the only ones there. This was done intentionally. I do not like lines or crowds (when I can avoid them). My logic was, who the hell would want to rock climb at 930 on first day at sea. Well that answer was pretty simple. Me. Now I am by stretch of the imagination and rock climber/outdoor adventure junky. I have only done this three times in my life, all of which were on cruises. I really just do it to say I did it (and to get a sweat to make me feel good that I did something athletic before I eat a gazillion calories). But when it comes to athletic challenges, I don't like to lose. So you can bet your butt that I am making it up that wall no matter what, even if I have to Freesolo the crap out of that wall. But here is the difficult thing. I kind of had a headache if you know what I mean. I probably needed to cycle in maybe a few more waters that morning before hauling myself over three stories in the air. But you know what. I'm a big boy (whether Rebecca agrees with that or not). Annnnnd I decided I was just going to do the kiddie wall. OR so I thought. However, for some reason if you are a somewhat 'kinda' in shape 20 something wearing a basketball jersey, the activity staff will stereotype you and they will make you go to the advance wall. Oh boy. Well long story short (I also think I blacked out at some point half way up the wall)...I did it. And quickly high tailed it out of there before they peer pressured me to do it again. After rock climbing we decided to do a more low-key activity and and enter the oasis dunes mini-gold tournament. I mean I am not one to brag, but last year on Oasis I did get first place. Sure, there were only two other people, one of which was Rebecca, but that is neither here nor there. So we show up to the sports deck and got paired with one other gentle man who was quite nice. To be honest, we all sucked. I think Rebecca may even have won. But I think we all mutually agreed that keeping score was pointless. From the mini golf course we decided to make our way to the Solarium. Given it was probably 1030/11 by this point, we were fully expecting slim pickings when it cam to finding a chair, especially since it was a little windy and the front outdoor area was closed. But by the grace of the cruise gods, we were able to snag two loungers. From there we pretty much chilled. Had a drink or two and just people watched (one of my favorite and sometimes infuriating activities). Why infuriating? Well I will tell you. Like I mentioned, the outside deck was closed. "But Ryan, how do you know it was closed?" Well it could have been for a multitude of reasons. Maybe it was the fact there was no one out there. Maybe it was because none of the chairs were set up. Maybe it was because none of the chairs had cushions on them. Maybe it could have been the chairs being stacked and bungee corded together. Or quite simply it could have been because there was a rope blocking off the entrance. But I mean, who am I to speculate, right? Anyway, the amount of people I witness attempting to go out and try setting up a little sitting area was both comical and frustrating. God bless those crew members who had to keep dealing with those people. But the best was those same people thinking they were entitled enough to unstack and transport chairs from the deck back into the Solarium. I mean I kind of respect the power move. I am too much of a rule follower to even think to move a chair out of line let alone drag one across the entire Solarium and block the walk way so you can have you own special seat. So kudos. Now my other favorite people watching pass time are those with the unlimited drink package who shoot out like a bat out of hell on the first/second day of the cruise. I mean, I am not judging (but I kind of am) so I am sorry. It is your vacation. But when you get white girl wasted before 12pm on day 2 off of pina coladas, I get to laugh. So while my 'catty 18 year old mean girl' subsided, Rebecca ditched me for that event down in the spa. Once she came back we decided to give El Loco Fresh a try for lunch. Since it was probably around 2 at this standpoint, we missed the massive lines and crowds that usually tended to form. But as far as food and concept, Royal really hit it out of the park. The best description I can give is if Taco Bell and Chipotle had a baby. From pre-made burritos and quesadilla's to make your own tacos and taco bowls, everything was just awesome. Also the salsa and guacamole bar really puts everything over the top. After lunch, we decided to not wait 30 minutes and head back to the Solarium and do some soaking in the hot tubs until dodgeball. At around 430 we headed to the sport court. After getting placed on the team of misfits (other randos who showed up without a team), we decided in the five minutes before we played to bond and go out there and give it everything we had. And everything we had lasted about 1 minute. So by 435 we were back at the Solarium. We hung out there for another hour or so until we decided to head over to the water slides and give those a go as most people started to head back to their cabins. As previously mentioned, Rebecca decided to head back to the room around 6ish as we had dinner reservations in the MDR at 730. After Rebecca left I headed back over to the flow rider and then made my way back to the room. After getting ready for dinner (and I believe this was formal night judging by the chronological order of photos in my phone) we headed back out to Central Park to grab a glass of wine at Vintages. But we also enjoyed a nice bottle of wine courtesy of Rebecca's parents on the balcony in between Rebecca doing her hair and makeup. Dinner tonight was in the MDR and it ended up being our only night there. Not because of anything bad, we actually had my time dinning set for the four other nights. But like I mentioned at the beginning, once we got a taste of that forbidden fruit (and looked past the whole paying for food when we already paid for food), we ended up cancelling and going to a few other dinning venue's. Anyway, back to dinner. I think the orders were: french onion soup for Rebecca and the wedge salad for me. Rebecca then got the seafood pasta and I had the duck a l'orange. For dessert it could be anyones guess (I am sorry I am letting you guys down - I thought my elephant brain would remember). Looking at the menu for what would have been the night, and knowing me, I maybe got the grand marnier souffle and let's say Rebecca got the cheesecake. Now for me, dinner was just spectacular. Including this occasion, I have had duck a l'orange 2 times. And let me tell you, it ranks in my top 2. However, Rebecca was not too keen on the seafood pasta. Maybe it was because she had homemade gnocchi the night before in Giovanni's, but that is just a guess. I had a bite, but I am not a fair critic as I eat leftovers that are three weeks old and think they are just fine. Anyway, it was fine though. Didn't ruin the dinner by any means. As far as service, even though we were only there one night, was amazing. We absolutely loved our servers and honestly that was the hardest part of when we were making our dinner reservations to go elsewhere because our waiters were such great guys. Usually it takes by the third night for us to really get a feel for our serving staff but these guys were just phenomenal. For example, when Rebecca didn't finish her plate of pasta, they had some sixth sense that told them she was not wild about the dish. Over and over they apologized (which they did not have to do - the food was fine, just not her cup of tea). Offering more times than we could remember to bring her something else. Just really showed that not matter how busy and overwhelmed they can be with all there tables, they do care about every person they are serving. Now after dinner we had reservations for One Sky which was very good. For the rest of the night we just kind of jumped around from all the different venue's: schooner bar, jazz on four, globe and atlas pub, etc. Now for a 'small world' moment. Back on Freedom, we spent most of our time in Bull & Bear (I hope that was the bar on freedom and not adventure - I am too lazy to search via the google). The main musician in there was Adam Coe, of which I am sure many of you reading this may know of him. Whether you like him or not... that is of no concern to me and keep your negative comments to yourself. Why? Because I run the Adam Coe fanclub and this is my blog so kind words only. Anyway, the fanboy that I am made sure anytime he was playing, me and Rebecca were there. So now back to Oasis. Rebecca and I walk in, but at this point in time there is no one playing. Doesn't matter though, we just really like the spot and figure whoever is playing will be good. So after sitting for a while and chatting up storm with our server, Rudy (more to come on him later), I notice up by the music stand, a flag. And not just any flag. But a Canadian flag. Well if you could have seen the grin that appeared on my face. And a mere five minutes later who comes walking back up on stage but no other than that Tom Petty playing, Dave Matthews singing, Bob Dylan storytelling handsome devil of man. It is not an exaggeration that if I could make a decision of which cruise I go on based on where Adam plays, it would definitely play a factor. So once Rebecca threw a bucket of cold water on me we decided to check out the silent disco down in Blaze. However, before we did that, we needed to down an adult redbull vodka to keep us going. So we stopped at the cafe promenade and got an espresso each and then walked up to the schooner bar to have Trisha and Luis (some of favorite bartenders on the cruise) make us an espresso martini. (disclaimer: if you do this, do not tell them you found out about this idea from Ryan and Rebecca - jk). Yeah, I hate to say we were those people, but to be fair we only did it once a night (when they were slow towards the end of their shift) & they were the ones who told us to do it! OK I feel better getting that off my chest. Anyway, after a drink and a picture or two we headed down to Blaze. Now after doing the silent disco on Freedom last year and being two of five people actually dancing, it was refreshing to see a packed dance floor when we walked in. As could be expected, we had a blast. I mean what could not be more fun or funnier than seeing a bunch of people shaking their tail feathers in a dead silent night club. After Blaze I did my 45 minutes of roulette until I realized that 22 black did not want to come out and play. I think we maybe had one more drink and decided to finally make our way back to the room so we could be bright eyed and bushy tailed for our 830am jet ski tour (it sounded like a great idea fourth months ago)... ...and for me to make it to sunrise yoga before hand.
  14. There's that pretty lady... Well before we get to the good stuff, figured I would mention the lead up heading to the terminal. We probably got up sometime around 730 and headed out for quick bite to eat and to grab some coffee. That was then followed by one last trip to CVS. At around 930/945 we decided to get an uber and head to the port. The hotel to the port it was probably about 10 minutes. Easy peasy. So like I mentioned above, from our first cruise to now, we have learned a bunch of useful tips, one of which is getting on the ship as soon as possible. But given we are mere peasants (low men on the cruising totem pole), I needed to figure out how to get ourselves on that ship ASAP. From past experiences of going out of Puerto Rico, it is pretty much organized chaos when you checkin. So we really had no issue just walking on the ship at whatever time we wanted previously. However, since this was our first time going out of what I would consider a 'legit' port, I was worried that they would be a little more strict with boarding times. So what would the logical thing be? You guessed it, just buy The Key! And now here is my review of the said 'Key' program. Was it worth it? Meh It was great for someone like me (crazy neurotic person) the peace of mind knowing that we could board right after the fancy star class people. So this was the main draw for me. Rebecca was thinking of getting the internet package just because she needed it to briefly check work emails in the morning to ensure the world was not going burn. So this was beneficial for her. The chops lunch was very nice (and tasty) but I would not say it was a huge selling point (*I am still a huge windjammer fat boy). Other than that we didn't really use the other perks. Rebecca dropped off one her smaller bags to be deliver to the room which I guess was nice. There were some (not a lot) set times for some activities like ice skating, flow rider, rock climbing, etc. But truth be told, we never needed the private times because we were able to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted without a huge wait. I think we used the "special seating" once for a show in the royal theater but other than that we had no issue getting seats (and typically in a better location). Overall we probably would not purchase it again. Like I said, for me getting the key was about getting on the ship early. Possibly, if we do a cruise in the future where you needed to tender to shore... but other than that we really did not see a need for it (unless Rebecca is being a party pooper and checking work emails again...tisk tisk). So all that said, we now arrive at the port. I must say, complete 180 from Puerto Rico. However, the traffic getting to the drop off point was a little congested. But after a mind-numbing 5 minute wait we were dropped off and headed up the escalators. From the curb to the waiting area it legit probably took 5 minutes. It helped that we had the key as we had our own little check in area and the customer service was quite enjoyable. But I will say even if we didn't have the key, the general public line was pretty much non-existent. And in addition to all of this, we had done pre-checkin so we flew through this entire process. So after that we get up the waiting area to board and it was probably 10:25. At 10:30 they make the announce that they are starting boarding and at 10:35 we are walking onto the promenade. *definitely helped we were cluelessly walking around right by the entrance doors when they made the announcement. Once we got on the ship and had our 'oh sheet' moment, we decided to get all of our un-fun business (reservation making) out of the way. Now this is probably the only 'negative' thing I will say this entire blog. Like I mentioned in the first post, we did the room upgrade. And this ended up being a slight pain in the butt as we tried to book our specialty dinning reservations. And to be honest, we weren't really frustrated, the same thing happened last year on Freedom. But what happened you may ask? We go and get in line at guest services... which is already packed (you can somewhat see in the pic above). While in line they have a few employees walking around seeing if they can help assist so you dont have to waste an hour of the first day of your cruise in line. We tell the crew member we are trying to make dinner reservations and they so kindly tell us we can leave the line and head to Izumi (n00b move on our part) and book our dinners for the week there. Awesome! So we get out line and head to Izumi which was perfect, no one was there and walked right up to the host stand. But here comes the problem. We tell them our room number but since we did room change, the old guests names were still appearing and tied to the room. Like I said, this happened on Freedom and the system seemed to not have been updated to change the rooms and room names. Because of that we could not book anything and had to go back to guest services to get the room situation sorted out. Annoying? Yeah, but TBH I didn't really care. I was more concerned with the boardwalk dog house running out of sausages before I could get there (did I say I was neurotic?). So we go back to guest services and wait in line. And wait some more. And a little more. But we finally get things sorted out (side note - is it just me or does it seem like when you stand in line at guest services that your issue only takes like 1 minute to resolve but everyone else seems to be a half hour effort?) So we head back to Izumi and book Giovanni's for that night, chops for Tuesday and 150 Central Park for Thursday. Once we wrapped that up, we confirmed our show times, MDR reservations and then got those key card bracelets (was not a huge fan - mine seemed to never work but Rebecca had no issue). Now with all the business settled we set out to explore the ship. But first I can confirm they did not run out of hot dogs. So in typical first day fashion we set out explored as much as we would. The boardwalk, Central Park, the pools, slides, etc. All while making sure we were picking up our jaws up off the floor around each turn. Of course needed to partake in some of the activities while the lines were short and just lounge around until we were hungry for our 'key' lunch... (*I am absolutely terrible at the surfing on the flow rider. When 10 year old girls and 65 year old grandpas show you up, you just avoid the embarrassment) At around 12:30 we decided to head to the MDR for lunch. Rebecca decided to take the abyss slide as a short cut while I decided to make a detour to el loco fresh to sample a chicken burrito (whoops). Lunch was very good. Uncrowded (we were towards the tail end of the key lunch crowd). I got the bronzino and Rebecca got the filet. Once we were done with lunch we decided to make our way to our room. And in a shocking turn of events we did not get lost and found our luggage down the hall! The room overall was very nice. No complaints on anything. And with having our luggage we were able to unpack and not have to worry about making a pit stop back at room until dinner time. After that we did some more exploring until the muster drill which had us meeting in the royal theater. Now, being the clever guy I am, I made sure that we sat at the end of the isle. Why is that you ask? Muster drill was at 330 and the sail away time was 4pm. Needed to make sure we high tailed it back up to the solarium to grab that prime real estate for sail away. So after the all clear we booked it out of seats and more or less sprinted up 6 flights of stairs of which Rebecca was not too thrilled about. But I think she then forgave me when she realized what I was doing... After making our way out into the Atlantic we pretty much just ventured around the pool some more, hit the hot tubs and enjoyed a pretty snazzy sunset. As the sun set Rebecca decided to head back to the room to begin getting ready. *As we go though this blog you will see a trend with our evening activity as Rebecca typically needs a hour head start getting ready for dinner... So while the cat was away the mouse played. I decided to give the flow rider another unsuccessful go, hit the slides (yes I crossed my arms and legs with my head back and if I got stuck I used my hands to scooch myself down) and maybe tested out the bionic bar. With dinner at 8 I decided it was probably best to get back to the room and shower. Before dinner we did a little more exploring of the boardwalk + playmakers and then took in the sights and sounds of central park while enjoying a glass of wine from Vintages. *Beware of those arcade games. The amount of times I just said, "oh just one swipe". Next thing I knew I was on my 10th game of quick shot basketball. And it showed on the last day bill and seeing a zillion $1 charges. (had to hide that bill from the mrs). Anyway Playmakers was very cool. We were a little skeptical as we are/were big Sabor people (and of their margaritas). But overall Playmakers is a great addition, especially as a bigs sports guys to watch the games. And of course Central Park was amazing. We think Royal tapped our phones prior to coming on because they put our room on the same deck as Central Park and it was just perfect. By far our favorite neighborhood. And we also love Vintages. On Freedom, you could always find us there before dinner. So it worked out perfectly that our favorite venue was now on our new favorite deck and we didnt even have to walk up or down a flight of stairs. While we sat in Central Park waiting for our reservation, we experienced our only time being up-sold on something (chefs table). To which we really didn't mind it. After politely declining we ended up having a great 15 minute convo with the cruise member as his last contract was just on Grandure. Now dinner. We lets just say after being in the restaurant for 5 minutes I knew I was in trouble. From the service to the food, everything was top notch. Definitely set the tone for the rest of the trip (and also made me have to undo a notch in my belt). I cannot remember exactly what we had, but it is safe to say we almost had the whole menu. I think Rebecca got the gnocchi, I got the shrimp and polenta. I think we also had the antipasta platter, bread basket, salads and possibly a meat dish to share. Who knows, I was practically in a food coma. After just sitting back and relaxing and having some great conversation with our waiter we decided to skip dessert. Or at least we tried. Our waitress decided that was not an option and actually had some small little samples come out just so we could try. And of course they were amazing. Leaving dinner Rebecca had that look in her eye of "I told you so" since I may have been a little grumpy prior to dinner that we were not doing our traditional first night dinner in the windjammer. However, I was proved wrong (again I am big enough to admit - although I hate admitting it) and now could not wait for Chops later in the week. As we waddled out of Central Park we made our way down to the boardwalk as we had the aqua show booked. With seats already reserved we made our into the theater and caught what was probably our favorite show of the trip. After the show we did some more exploring of the entertainment venues (music hall, jazz on four, karaoke, etc.). We are not big Aerosmith people so the cover band in the music hall was not our go to spot, but the venue overall is pretty cool. Karaoke was always a popular spot thus never got the chance to light up the floor doing my best Frankie Valli. But jazz on four was one of our favorite spots enjoying some of the most talented musicians we have seen/heard, enjoying a nice cocktail in a very unique setting. This place became a main staple each night for us. We finally made it back up to the promenade to catch the ballon drop, check out the pub all before heading down to the casino to finish out the night definitely not breaking even on the roulette table and then finally heading to Blaze to grab another drink and do some ridiculous dancing before calling it a night... but not before making a pizza stop on the way to the room
  15. For everyone's entertainment and reading purposes (because I know we all need some kind of live blog material in this hiatus)... here is what my live blog would have been if I knew of this message board prior to my cruise back in December. But I do have a disclaimer that it would not have been "live". Once I am on the ship, phone goes into the safe and the laptop stays home where it should be when you are on vacation. So who am I? I am Ryan (28) and my travel buddy is my now fiance Rebecca (27). This was my third cruise, her fourth, and already looking forward to June 2021 when we will be on Odyssey of the Seas cruising around the Mediterranean for the second half of our honeymoon. But a little back story. My first cruise was back in 2016 on Adventure of the Seas and I was more or less forced by then girlfriend Rebecca. But given we both had never taken a full week vacation together since we graduated college, figured it was about time to do something. So I let her pick what we did and next thing I know were booked on a 7 night southern caribbean out of Puerto Rico. Now dreading is not the right word, but let's say I was not over the moon on the idea. I was just more excited not having to go to work for a week. Long story short, I am hooked and now a royal pain in the butt bugging Rebecca as to when we are going on our next cruise (we are skipping our yearly Dec cruise to save more for the wedding - so responsible, I know but it is killing me). But like I just mentioned, after Adventure (and not cruising in 2017 for some reason - maybe we were just busy? Can't remember), we did Freedom in 2018 also out of Puerto Rico to Curacao Aruba, St. Kitts and St. Thomas (here is my cruise critic review if you are interested...am I allowed to link there? kind of seem like the competition) and then shortly after returning I booked this cruise on Oasis as a "birthday/master graduation gift" for Rebecca. *I strategically did this because she would not have let me book a cruise a week after a returning from one if I didn't phrase it as such. But anyway, our cruising knowledge has definitely evolved going from smucks who flew in the morning of their cruise, not packing a bathing suit to carry on board and actually following the rules and coming to port at your assigned checkin time... to now much more experienced and knowledgeable cruises people in knowing how to maximize every second you have on board. And as of now, it is typically just me and Rebecca going on these trips. After numerous failed attempts of trying to convince/convert any of our friends and family we simply realized this is our thing and 1000% ok with that. Maybe one day we will get someone but for now, we say this is our once a year hobby and just enjoy being together doing something that we love doing. I should also mention that we have been pretty lucky with the ships we have chosen. We have been strategically working our way up to an Oasis class ship and decided to skip over the quantum class (which is ok, didn't want to sail out of Bayonne - we like going further south) and just book Oasis based on price and the ports. Funny enough, were actually about 5 minutes from the port of Baltimore and see Grandeur of the Seas docked most Saturday mornings on our way to the grocery store and running into a few crew members grabbing their essentials before heading back on board. However, Grandeur is a little too small for us and not going to ports we want to see (maybe that 12 night itinerary is in the future at some point). Anyway, back to the ships. When we booked Adventure and Freedom they were both coming out of drydock so it was always nice to be on a somewhat spruced up ship purely by luck. Well with Oasis, you could imagine our surprise when we learned of the amplification a few months before boarding. Needless to say we were pretty excited. But here is what we had planned... Interior Room => royal bid upgraded => Balcony - This all we really need. If you read my review from Freedom, we pretty much just use the room to sleep at night (which is already minimal) and to shower. Other than that we are out and about on the ship. Firm believer taking naps by the pool are way better than the room when on vacation. However, like Freedom, we did do the royal bid up and got a balcony for like $200 bucks more. Why not. What ever makes the lady happy. Deluxe Beverage Package - We take full advantage. Will just leave it at that. Three meal dining package - I am a firm believer in not paying for the specialty restaurants. I love the windjammer. I love the main dinning room. And seeing all the other options on the ship (Solarium Bistro, Park Cafe, El Loco Fresh, etc.) I don't really see the need. But again, to make the lady happy we booked the three meal package through the cruise planner. More to come on this later. But getting ahead of this now, we will become unlimited dinning people in the future, been converted. Don't get me wrong, you will still see me in the Windjammer and MDR, but I have seen the light. I am big enough to admit when I am wrong. Excursions - Haiti: Jet-skiing & Amiga Island Escape - all through Royal | Jamica: Nothing (although this changed later in the cruise - more to come) | Cozumel: ATV and Beach excursion through a third party + spur of the moment trip to Paradise Beach Club Shows: Booked everything ahead of time per what I read online. Yes, even Cats. Spa - Rebecca had credit for a spa treatment and did that during a sea day and I ended up getting a haircut. An expensive and unnecessary haircut.. I will elaborate on each as we hit each day (this will be really impressive to live blog everything that happened almost three months ago). But I guess the last thing is, what type of cruisers are we? That is a great question. I think we are in our own category which I think is true of everyone. For us, we like to be out doing everything we can be doing on the ship. Slides, games (including dodgeball and mini golf competitions), shows, etc. It is pretty hard for us to complain about anything. From food or service, unless to really do something catastrophly awful, we are go with the flow people. And to us Royal, always hits it out of the park. Sure there are sometimes a food dish comes out wrong or a reservation gets messed up. Thats life and you move on. It takes a lot to screw up a vacation for us. So you can find us rock climbing one minute, napping in the solarium the next, then catching a tune in the pub or stupidly dancing to silent disco. As long as were on the ship we're pretty much set. Backstory concluded. Now the fun stuff... For the cruise we flew into FLL the day before and had a room booked at "The Hotel of South Beach". But before all of that we had to say good bye to this good boy bright and early (4am) to catch our flight out of Baltimore. Anyway, uber ordered and we were off to airport and next thing we knew we touched down in FLL around 830am. That was followed up with a quick 35ish minute lyft ride to Miami Beach with the entire day ahead of us (of course passing the cruise port which was pretty cool to see all the ships leaving that afternoon). Once we got to the hotel we were fortunate enough to be able to get into our room, drop the luggage off, change into our swim suites and head out to explore the town. Considering it was almost 10 and we were up at 4, we were pretty hungry so we decided to stop at Eleventh Street diner and grab some brunch. From there we did some exploring as it was my first time to Miami. After a trip to CVS we decided to go to the beach. And because of the hotel we were staying at, they offered complimentary chairs and towels. We pretty much spent the entire rest of the day at the beach as the weather and water were both beautiful. At around 4 we decided to head back to the hotel and make our way to rooftop pool and bar. We were surprised to be the only ones there, which for us is more than ok. A little later on two couples who were heading on cruises the following morning joined us. For the next hour or so we had a few margaritas, a small appetizer to hold us over to dinner and watched the ships departing that afternoon sail out into the Atlantic. At this point we went back to our room and got ready for dinner. We had reservations at Santorini by Georgios which was about 8 or so blocks away from the hotel we were at. So after getting ready, we had a drink at the hotel bar/restaurant before taking our little stroll to grab dinner. A thought as I am typing this - walking along the main drag in Miami reminds me of a classier version of Bourbon Street being sold into trying a restaurant or bar. Not that it bothered me, it was just a funny observation I made after having just been in New Orleans a month prior. Anyway, we made it to dinner and it was pretty spectacular. With the restaurant being so far south in south beach (see what I did there), it was nice to get away from the noise and have nice dinner. From there we walked a few blocks and made our way back up towards the hotel enjoying some of the more 'nicer' parts of South Beach. We ventured around to a few different bar/restaurants. Rebecca was in South Beach a few months prior for a Bachelorette party so she had some ideas of where to grab a drink. But soon we found ourselves pretty exhausted and headed back to the hotel (although we kind of threw the idea of "what if we went to this club and then just went straight to the ship"... but quickly laughed that notion off, we've matured in our late 20s... so we tell ourselves). Review of Miami - it was great. We had a blast and throughly enjoyed our day around the town. Also, the drive and cost of getting from FLL to Miami was all reasonable and would have no problem doing it again (fyi we are Southwest people thus going to FLL). The overall impression of the hotel was also very positive. For the price and location you cannot beat it. It is definitely a boutique hotel (quirky decorations, one elevator, etc.) but it was clean, great staff and the amenities of the hotel restaurant/bar, pool and beach services was definitely a plus. Was a great way to start off the vacation. With that said... Day one of the cruise to follow (hopefully tomorrow)
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