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  1. Getting this party started early because I am just way too excited! Can you tell? Here goes....
  2. Gonna try giving this a shot even though I've never done a live blog before. Please take it easy on me
  3. Well my husband has been after me about blogging our trip, so here goes. He claims that he will be helping me blog, but I'll believe it when I see it. Atleast at this moment he is sitting next to me looking at the screen and not reddit for once. A little background on us: I'm Tiffany, and he's Steven. Our circus consists of four kids who are nine, seven, one, and eight months. Steven retired from the Army last year, and I'm a stay at home mom. We knew we wanted more time to be able to cruise, so we decided to take a stab at homeschooling this year. So far so good, and to make it even better, it is significantly cheaper cruising when it's not over school break. Our cruise plans: We were originally on the Allure of the Seas September 1st cruise that got shortened by three days due to Dorian. We stuck with the cruise, and had an amazing time and got a nice future cruise credit since we were in a 2 bedroom aquatheater suite. It was so great, in fact, that we had to do a "grounding cruise" in a non-Star class cabin to bring us back down to Earth. Guess it didn't work, because here we are doing another Star class cruise on November 17th. The ship and cabin: Allure of the Seas 10730 (2 bedroom aquatheater suite) We would have loved to be back in the deck 8 aquatheater suite, but since it's a last minute booking for a family of six, we were lucky to find this one open. We will try to keep this as live as possible but with four kids and star class food coma, no promises.
  4. NOT QUITE YET... ....is this going to be a Live Blog. I am NOT looking to set the new World Land Speed Record for starting the earliest Live Blog. It will turn into a live blog MUCH later when we get closer to sail date. I just wanted to announce to the world that the long anticipated 8 night Symphony itinerary for 21 - 29 August 2021 has finally shown up on the website !!!! I've been stalking this cruise for months. They announced the itinerary - Labadee, Aruba and Curacao - months ago, but never opened it for booking until today. I quickly snagged one of the Deck 8 Aqua Theater Suites because I could not afford (or didn't want) any of the other Star Class rooms that were left. Believe it or not, some of the SC rooms were already gone by the time I got there !! The aft-facing Star Loft was there but I don't really want that one. I have NO interest in that awful Ultimate Family thing and the Royal Loft is WAAAY out of my price range on this cruise (and so was the Ultimate Family thing, to be fair). So let the fun begin. I BELIEVE that this will be the first Oasis class ship to go to Aruba and Curacao. I could be wrong about that. For sure it will be the first time Symphony has been there. This will also be my first cruise on Symphony and I'm very excited. 3 ports in 8 days is my idea of heaven. Interest, anyone ?
  5. I saw some comments in another thread that leads me to believe that some may have experienced some Star Class hostility when they were taking advantage of some Star perks such as jumping to the front of the line for certain events or getting seated in the front row for shows etc. Just wondering if anyone had actually experienced some comments from other passengers on board.
  6. Trying out Star class for the first time and have no idea what to ask the Genie to do for us. I've read several of @Mattblog's on the subject. I'd like some ideas and what you would ask your Genie to do for you. I've read many threads on tipping so I'm good there. One thing I'd like is a plate of Sushi from Izumi's on boarding day hopefully they can arrange that. Does anyone know if they can get flowers for the room? Do I have to pay for them?
  7. I literally can't take it... 45 days out and I can barely wait to have our first Star Class experience. I know, I know, 45 days - why blog now? Why so early? I have to vent some of this energy, and I've seen some other blogs start a smidge early which has assuaged my angst about jumping the gun! I'm inspired by some great writers on this blog (fellow Canadians included!), so thank you for some great reviews providing inspiration. A little about our crew. Hailing from beautiful (albeit very wet lately) Vancouver, BC it'll be me (Alison), my DH and 2 boys (ages 9 and 11). We've been on 7 cruises to date, most recently in a 2BR Grand Suite on a 9 night Anthem Bermuda/Caribbean out of NJ, a 1BR Grand suite on Oasis 7 night Eastern Caribbean, and a Boardwalk Balcony also on Oasis 7 night Eastern Caribbean. We booked this cruise December 2018 wile on Oasis... but it wasn't in a star class - that came about 7 months later. We are sailing with one of my best friends and her two boys (ages 6 and 12). They've never been on a cruise and I cannot wait to "sea" and Oasis-class ship for the first time again through their eyes. Plus they get star class on their first experience - it's doing to be a doozie! We initially booked this cruise in a CLS last December when we were on Oasis for our family. We then convinced our friends to come along and they booked an ocean view balcony about a month later. We had a bit of trepidation about travelling with peeps who weren't in a suite as the suite lounge and CK are both a big part of our cruises when we're in a suite. Afternoon reading and drinks in the suite lounge is a real treat for us and we love it. Fast forward to July of 2019 and DH noticed a 2BR Aquatheatre suite is available on the website. It was right after the itinerary change was announced (lost St. Kitts to San Juan - mega bummer) - so we inquired with our travel agent. There was a definite price increase, but when weighed against all the Star benefits we decided to bite the bullet and we merged everyone into one room. None of the kids know - and it's been the hardest secret to keep. I have said to my boys a few times "wouldn't it be fun if we were all in the same room - maybe we can have the other boys over for a sleepover one night... too bad they're not on the same deck as us... etc." I can't wait to board and all go to the same room - hopefully they're half as excited as I am. We've also had angst about travelling Dec 8 rather than waiting for the Christmas school break. Not because we are worried about them missing a week of school (I know - we're terrible parents!), but because both boys play hockey and my youngest son is the sole goalie on his team. Ugh. We obviously didn't know he'd be the lone "tender" on his team when we booked or we may not have, but c'est la vie. Luckily I'm co-managing the team and will attempt to reschedule any games for before we go or after we get back. My husband also plays on a senior men's team as their lone goaltender - so hopefully we can find backups or reschedule games for him too. Having said that, I will be ready for a break come December, it's been a literal gong show this season managing three players and getting everyone to games, practices, and development sessions, and we're only a month in! Feeling like I've let some energy go ... will update as the nerves and excitement to build.
  8. We just booked a Grand Loft Suite on Anthem and get the Star Class suite perks. What have others asked for from their Genie? I heard about bar cart service daily - is that on Anthem too? Will they stock your room with beer and hard alcohol so I don't have a long walk to get a drink?
  9. ' I'm doing the Single Digit dance now, baby, and we all know that's when the pregaming starts. Hello! And welcome to Dipping our Toes in Royal Waters, Part Deux. Part Deux, you ask? Where is Part Un?! Briefly, Part Un was in August 2008, aboard Mariner of the Seas. We were in a Grand suite. We didn’t know why we booked a suite; there was no priority anything and practically no suite perks because the number of eligible Crown & Anchor members on that sailing who had the same access to the lounges completely overwhelmed the services and offerings as well as the concierge team. Not that I begrudge anyone their loyalty benefits but combining loyalty perks and suite perks into one pool just meant completely watered-down benefits for everyone. Lines were everywhere. Free drink? Wait in line. Want a seat in the lounge to eat your appies? Wait for a seat to open. Need something from the concierge? Carve about an hour out of your day to get help. It took me practically that long to ask the concierge to book us the single thing we wanted (Ice Show tickets). I should’ve just gone to Guest Services or wherever, but I was chatting with people in line. For forking out suite $$, it was completely unremarkable and unimpressive in every other way I won’t bore you further with here. (This is a fan site after all!) However, due to that completely lackluster cruise, we haven’t sailed with Royal since. In the interim, we became Platinum Plus on Norwegian (all Haven or suites), Platinum on Disney (all Concierge), and 3* Mariners on Holland America (all Neptune Suites). I don’t like to say we’re suite snobs, but rather we have “Super FOMO.” Fear of Missing Out. What is not available to us if we don’t book a suite?! What will we be missing out on?! Not that we are “do it all” peeps. But we like to know we can, if we want to. Most of the time we don’t want to, but what if we do? (This makes sense in my head.) Plus, the secret to a happy, successful marriage? Separate bathrooms. We don't share a bathroom at home. If we can help it, we don't like to share while on vacation either; hence our suite life propensity. Fast forward to mid-March 2019 when our original vacation plans fell through while still being locked in to a specific vacation week at work. We scrambled to find a substitute vacay. What to do, where to go? WHAT. TO. DO??! (Heaven forbid we stay home and work on the house. YOLO, baby!) We of course checked the Norwegian Escape Haven first (one of our faves). This ship is approximately the same size as Anthem of the Seas, departs from NYC, and spends 2 overnights in Bermuda. In other words, about as apples-to-apples on paper as you can get. The lowest priced (and rather small in comparison) Haven room was 2K$ more than SC on the Anthem. I’m crazy, but not that crazy. The Anthem for the same week had a single SC room left for the week we needed: one Grand Loft suite. I called my TA who immediately held the suite for me for 24-hours while the hubs and I chatted over our new last-minute vacation plans. Spoiler alert: we did not need 24 hours to decide. Stateroom nerd warning: before jumping any guns, I needed to know if we were going to be stuck with everyone’s last choice room. My crack whip research showed that Anthem 10324 is a great room and has no negative factors. In fact, we thought we were totally lucky to get it (last minute cancellation perhaps?). A quick review of Star Class Service Perks (which was the real game changer), and I was sold. It took the hubs a couple more hours to come around. But come around he did. Mariner OTS, bygones are bygones. We’re ready to come back to Royal! Let’s do this! Juicy Deets: Me (SweetPea) and the Hubs (Batman) sailing on the Anthem of the Seas, 4/27, Grand Loft Suite 10324 (SC), departing Cape Liberty, NJ for an overnight in Bermuda and then up to Boston for a full day before heading back to the armpit of my great state on 5/4. (NJ born & bred here. I’m allowed to say this. My accent only comes out when I’m annoyed, thankfully, though CA born & bred Batman argues differently. However, it’s not an accent; we all know Newark, NJ is pronounced “Nork.” End of. Do not argue this with me. I’m 100% right.) So, if you’ve indulged me this long (and God bless you for that), stick around for my quasi-live review from a born-again Royal to see if it measures up to our usual haunting grounds. Will it? I can hardly wait to see myself! Hopefully, I don’t get frustrated blogging from my phone (I'm not finding uploading and captioning pics here and inserting them between text intuitive at all. Any hints are appreciated. Not having any "preview post" functionality isn't helping me either. ) If i figure it out, be forewarned: there may be an episode or five of PUI. For those unfamiliar with that term, that is Posting Under the Influence [of the drink package] … I should probably test the edit/delete functions of this message board first. After all, #TeamSuperFOMO’s motto is “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Who knows, at the rate I'm not figuring this out, you may just get random pictures with separate posts of me trying to explain them to you later. Out of order. What fun! Up next: submitting your DNA test results, current blood pressure and cholesterol levels, your Superhero and Soap Opera names, and the last time you cried at a movie to your Genie. And why you should never let Batman submit said Genie survey on your behalf. Stay tuned.
  10. Can I just clarify as I’m getting a little confused. One benefit of Star class is complimentary gratuities. Is this different from the normal pre paid gratuitues that I would put on any other cabin? Doing a couple of mock bookings for a star class suite and the pre paid gratuities are automatically tagged on. Do you still pay the pre paid gratuities with the star class perk or is it a glitch with the RCL site
  11. I have been reading all of the live blogs others are doing of their Star Class cruise and thought about attempting one, however, I didn’t want to be constantly on my phone blogging about the day’s events or answering questions so mine is going to be an “after the fact” blog! I am certainly not witty and it likely won’t be as funny or entertaining as others but hope to provide some information for anyone else looking for it. I will space the posts out so if people have specific questions I can answer them along the way. I am also currently going through all of my photos so future posts will hopefully have less content and more pictures! Booking We booked this cruise over a year ago. We always try to book early to secure a location we wanted and my SIL asked if we wanted to try Star class this trip since we are celebrating big anniversaries. The prices of the rooms weren’t that bad on Anthem compared to some of the other ships sailing in March. We booked and then sometime over the summer, my BIL’s parents and nieces decided to join us and they snagged the last Star Class suite on Deck 10. My Husband, his cousin and myself stayed in GLS 10324, my SIL, BIL and niece were in GLS 10724 and my BIL’s parents and their 2 grand kids were in GLS 10720. Prior to the Cruise About a month out we received the generic questionnaire about any special requests, who we would be cruising with and some other random questions. We were sailing with 10 of us in total in 3 Grand Loft Suites on Deck 10 and requested that we have the same Genie. We also requested what we wanted stocked in our room for drinks and snacks. A little over two weeks before the cruise, our Genie, Yen Lee reached out to us introducing herself. From what I have read about Yen, she will make anything we want happen but we shouldn’t expect any real surprises. That was completely fine with me because I am not one who likes surprises….I used to open my Christmas presents before Christmas and re-wrap them all again! We provided her a spreadsheet of where we wanted reservations for dinner for 4 of the nights and a list of what other things we wanted to do (iFly, Flow Rider, Cupcake Decorating, Rock Climbing, Galley/Bridge/Theater tours, North Star, etc.). We also asked that the two cabanas we had booked at Chill Island on Cococay be next to one another in the front row (specifically Cabana #4 and #5). After some back and forth emails between Yen, my SIL and myself, we got a final schedule around 5 days out with everything we wanted scheduled. She indicated she appreciated the spreadsheet as it made it easier for her to make our final schedule for the week. This is what she sent to us: One thing we had really wanted was to have a lunch set up in one of the suites on embarkation day to avoid all of the crowds. We know we could have eaten at Coastal Kitchen or any of the specialty restaurants but wanted something in our room. Within 24 hours Yen replied with menus we could order off of (Jaime’s and Chops) along with letting us know we could also order pizza. I have heard a lot of people were told they couldn’t set up lunch in the room on embarkation day but because we were her only suites, I think it made it easier for her to accommodate us.
  12. We are counting down until our first star class cruise on Anthem of the Seas. We are new to Royal Caribbean; previous DCL concierge cruises so we can’t wait to experience Royal Caribbean. I really enjoy following along on as many star class blogs as I can and thought it may be fun to give it a try! So, I am Jacquie and my husband Lindsay and 14 year old son Reyd are counting down (34 days). We are from Calgary, Alberta. So what made us pick Royal Caribbean....honestly New York was on our bucket list and we love to cruise so we thought why not! Once we narrowed it down to New York, the royal genie and visit to Coco Cay helped us choose Royal Caribbean. So far the experience has been good. The one notable difference is DCL offered a dedicated team to deal with Pre Cruise needs/questions for their concierge guests 120 days out which I really liked. I haven’t been super impressed with Royal’s main customer service team but I am hopeful that the Genie will make up for any shortfalls! We received the royal genie questionnaire 45 days out followed by our luggage tags a couple days later. From what I have read I should be hearing from our genie soon. Cruise Itinerary: 8 nights with stops in Port Canaveral, Coco Cay and Nassau. Stateroom: Grand loft suite #10320 Shore Excursions: Reserved Chill Island Cabana at Coco Cay back in January. Had hoped to get an overwater cabana but opening was delayed to January 2020. Cruise Planner: With the Royal Genie, there is not much to plan but I have ordered the unlimited photo package. Will finalize specialty dining, entertainment and on-board activities with our genie. Thinking about reserving the thermal suite but have read mixed reviews. Any feedback on Anthem’s thermal package would be appreciated! We always reserved this on DCL so will likely book it on Anthem. Flights: Flying direct from Calgary to JFK a couple days before our cruise. Pre Cruise we are staying in lower Manhattan as we want to visit the 911 Memorial. Post cruise we are staying at Central Park. I am in the process of finalizing transportation to Cruise terminal and would be interested to hear any recommendations on reliable limo companies. We do not pack light so an SUV will be needed! The Four Seasons Downtown uses Empire CLS Transportation but I am pretty sure I can arrange something for cheaper. Planning to arrive at cruise terminal around 10:30am. Royal Genie Questionnaire: Have read mixed reviews on whether the genie uses the information provided but I am keeping an open mind. We had fun completing it and have no expectations. I have attached a copy of the questionnaire for those that are interested. Royal Up : Received a Royal Up offer email about a month ago for the Royal loft suite. I put in a lower end bid and expect it to be declined which I am totally fine with. We really don’t need the additional space but the hot tub would be nice. Well I think that’s all for now. Look forward to answering any of your questions and having you follow along!
  13. Hi everyone and happy holidays! We just signed up for this blog! My name is Drew. My husband Rob and I are big cruising fans and are doing more RCCL cruises as of late. We are big Celebrity fans but it is always fun to try different things! It’s still far out, but we are booked on the Anthem 9 Night February 11th cruise out of Cape Liberty. I am dying to know what blogger’s experiences are with star class. We booked a grand loft. What is the best part of a royal genie? How can that person make an anniversary celebration extra special? Any insider tips with Star Class? Thanks! Drew and Rob
  14. We have an upcoming cruise on the Harmony in star class - our first non DCL Cruise - and have lots of obc. Can obc be used for tips for Our genie, servers in specialty restaurants, and/or the casino? Also as specialty dining and coastal kitchen is included should we budget tips for servers there and if so, how much do people normally leave at specialty restaurants or at CK? Thanks for any advice!
  15. I know its 6 months away but I'm excited to sail with star class. We'll be on the Quantum of the Seas. One thing I'm hoping my assigned genie can do is arrange an in-suite dinner for my wife and I. Embarkation day is her birthday. Any suggestions on what to do? Also, how does the dinning work with star class? Can we basically eat wherever and whenever without incurring extra costs? Same thing for drinks or does the beverage package rules apply? Thanks in advance for sharing!
  16. “Follow that STAR…Our Journey back to Oasis.” - March 15-22, 2020 Oasis… ” A fertile or green spot in the desert, a shelter from the storm, a moment of respite from the conditions of the desert…” We’re back with another blog and that line above pretty much sums up what this cruise means to us this time around. Our lives, since entering dry dock back in August 2019, has been work, work, and more work. To say that the last seven months have been busy is an understatement. However, all is going to be well soon as we are about to embark on not just another cruise, but another Star Class adventure! And full disclaimer! In fear of being blog shamed (I won't mention any names here lol), I debated waiting on this one until about a week out but then I would have to back track to outline the Star Class process. This is just easier. Oh, and I am excited too! Please note that this is only 5 weeks early. Let's begin...
  17. With the obvious lack of Oasis Star Class blogs recently, I thought I'd step up and do one as well. The more the merrier, right? Stealing from @Lovetocruise2002 for formatting: Who’s Going? Me, wife Abby, and 5 y/o Daughter Virginia, along with Abby's mom and dad (the in-laws). It will be the in-laws first cruise in over 20 years, so going on an amplified Oasis will be quite the culture shock for them. Flight Flying from STL to FLL the day before via SWA, then taking an Uber/Lyft to Miami to spend the night. Pre-Cruise Stay Looking at hotel rooms, we were planning on staying at the Intercontinental, but rates were outlandish. $500+ per night per room. I couldn't believe that certain members of the Blog group would stay there at that price, so I was confused. I did some research, and that weekend is the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, so everywhere was booked or crazy expensive. So instead we are booked in a 2 bedroom suite at the Hyatt House near MIA for almost 50% of that rate, and for all 5 of us. Itinerary This 7-night, Western Caribbean sailing, brings us to Falmouth, Cozumel, and Labadee. No plans in Falmouth. Cozumel we have El Cozumeleno booked, and in Labadee with have cabana B2 booked. Cabin 2 Bedroom ATS on deck 9 for us, we will try to keep it nice for you @Lovetocruise2002. The in-laws are booked in a JS down the hall from us. RCCL sent an email about 3 weeks ago saying that they overbooked JS for this sailing and offered to go to a Balcony room for $300 OBC and a full refund of the second passenger in the cabin. We paid for this cruise as a Christmas present for them, so I pushed like hell for them to go to the standard balcony, but unfortunately they had already been on the blog and youtube looking at cabin information and were dead set on the JS... Pre-Cruise thoughts We are beyond excited to see the newly amped Oasis of the Seas. It's the only Oasis Class we've been on, and that was in November 2018. I'm very excited for all of the slides, the escape room, and the prospect of actual brewed iced tea at Portside BBQ. No pre-cruise purchases because it’s Star Class, but I did snag the DX for my in-laws at $18/day. Looking forward to checking out the new Adventure Ocean, even though Virginia will probably be bummed out that @Matt's daughters won't be there too! I think it's interesting that @Lovetocruise2002 and I have a different Genie even though we will be in the same cabin. We have Smitha, whom I've heard great things about, but apparently it would be hard-pressed to go wrong with any of the Genies on Oasis. Smitha has been great so far. We got our initial email from her 1 day after our survey, on 1/7/20, and had a provisional schedule worked out about 3 days later.
  18. Not a live blog but posting details of our Anthem of the Seas Star class experience under live blog section of the website. Come check it out if you have any questions about the ship or Star class on Anthem. I will be posting all 7 days of our experience! I figure in these times of no cruises some fun pictures will be an enjoyable distraction!
  19. Our first star class cruise on Anthem of the Seas is approaching quickly. Today marks 50 days to go. We completed our genie survey this morning. This will be our first time as a family on Royal Caribbean (the husband previously sailed as a child on RCI). We have sailed on DCL concierge twice, both times on the Magic, once in the Walt Suite. The rising prices of DCL concierge had caused me to look into other options, and it seems that the amenities provided to star class cruisers on RCI are far beyond what is offered on DCL… and for a better price! Our suite will include myself, the husband, and our 8 yr old son (who will be celebrating his 9th birthday onboard). My parents will also be joining us on the cruise, but will be in a separate cabin. Cruise Itinerary: 11 night Southern Caribbean (Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Kitts) from Cape Liberty, NJ on 1/27/2020. Stateroom: Owner’s Loft #8720 Shore Excursions: St. Maarten Beach Rendezvous. Catamaran Sail, Snorkel, and Beach Cruise in Antigua. 4x4 Island Safari & Beach in St. Kitts. All were booked online on the cruise planner with Royal Caribbean. Transportation: We are fortunate to live approximately 2 1/2 hours from the port, therefore will be arranging transportation for the entire family through Delaware Express. We have used them many times for airport transportation, and have found them to be very reliable. Bonus: We didn’t realize this when we booked the cruise, but the Super Bowl will be happening while we are onboard. Looking forward to finding out who our genie will be!
  20. So here goes. I am a planner by nature and not being able to plan everything myself is driving me crazy! I am going to trust the process and "attempt" to go with the flow but am hoping to get some more information. We cruise in a little over a month and I have read tons of blogs and searched the internet but I still have a few questions/clarifications: 1. If I send a schedule of dinner each night, along with other things we want to do/already have reserved, will the genie follow that or will they move things around? My concern is that the times we want to dine there won't be tables available for our group (10 people in 3 Star Class Suites) since we didn't book in advance and therefore, we won't get to eat where I want on the day I want. 2. I have heard Anthem tends to not allow lunch to be served in the suite on embarkation day. We can live with that but will they do snacks/appetizers for sail away at 3 PM that day? I have heard people say that if the restaurant isn't open that you want the food from then you can't. We were thinking of getting some sushi, tempura and spring rolls from Izumi. Alternatively, Brass and Bock is open so we could get appetizers delivered from there. 3. I know the Genie doesn't stock the room with wine but could they deliver a few glasses of wine or leave some gin in a glass to make gin and tonics? 4. With our total of 10 of us in 3 star class suites, we have asked for one genie thinking it would be less work for that genie since we will be doing mostly everything together. Does that make sense to others or would having (potentially) different genies be better? 5. Besides the few snacks we asked to be stocked in our room, I do want some snacks delivered to the room (sometimes) but I don't want wasted food. I was thinking of putting on my schedule I will be sending to the genie what days we wanted snacks delivered. Is that what others do? 6. Tipping at specialty restaurants. I know we aren't paying for any of the specialty restaurants but I usually tip $15-$20 for the two of us when we have gone to them on past cruises. There will be 10 of us at most meals so what is reasonable? Follow the same guideline we typically do? What about at breakfast or lunch at CK? Does anyone have any guidelines that are reasonable? Not trying to be cheap but we splurged for our 20th anniversary on this cruise and I want an idea of how much extra cash I need. 7. When we do in-suite dining (we want to order chops one night), do we just get in contact with our genie and tell them what we want and what time? Is that the same for ordering breakfast in the room too? 8. I know everyone tips their Genie differently and I have googled, Facebook stalked and searched and I still have no idea! It seems some people do $100 pp/day (which would be $2100 which is 40% of what we paid for our room so that is not happening)! I only foresee our Genie scheduling dinners for us and handling in-suite dining if we want. We already booked all excursions and shows. I was hoping $700 for the week was reasonable (the other two rooms would likely tip them the same so $2100 from the 3 rooms in total - I know I would be happy if I made $2100 in cash for a week!!). 9. I know we have to go to the Star Class Zone 6 drop off area. I was a little confused as to what to do when we get there. I know I don't give the bags to the pier porters so is there someone at the star class banner that will tell me who to give them to or should I go inside with them? Thank you in advance for any other tips or tricks to make this the most amazing trip ever!!! I know there are some experienced Star Class cruisers here so I look forward to hearing from the experts!
  21. Well, it's been almost a week now that we've been back from our B2B Star Class cruises on Anthem so if I'm going to do this blog I'd better do it while I can still remember stuff (#oldbrain).... Some of you may have noticed that I tend to be a bit "wordy" <cough, cough> so I'm going to try and keep my posts short(er). Unfortunately, I am the anti-Twangster so I have NO photos at all. That's just the way I roll....so not only will this blog be on the wordy side, but it will be bereft of photos - hince, the shorter, more readable options, hopefully.
  22. 4:45 am alarm goes off. 5:00, maybe 5:20, stumble to coffee. 5:30 am blink and look at computer to figure out where I left off the prior day with work. Oh, that alarm – yeah, that’s my damn body alarm. When you wake up early (way early) and do a ton of reading about cruise stuff, you realize that writing up your own personal experience from start to finish is a cool way to document your vacation. Reading all the blogs tends to get you excited. You start thinking, yeah, cool, I can do this. No problem. Oh yeah, it was my sister that was the English major (#InsertExplicit). That just means I hope she never finds this thing. My grammar probably isn’t that good, but it’s communicable. Countdown started a long time ago, but now we are exactly 2-weeks from boarding. Let’s push the rewind button and see how we got here. April 2016, after taking a financial break from cruising (our last cruise was 2012 #ugh) to ‘fund’ our home renovations and finish our Master’s degree, we realized it was time to take a real vacation and celebrate a few things. One of our big celebrations was wanted to take the kids, my mother-in-law (MiL) and sister-in-law (SiL) on their first ever cruise. My SiL turned 50 and my MiL turned 70 – sshhh – ok, so those are big milestones, #meh, they won’t care. We needed a cruise that would accommodate all of us for a reasonable price. Many spreadsheets later and seeing as how we would ‘split’ the MiL’s cruise fare with my SiL, we landed on the Oasis of the Seas, A1-8330 Aquatheater Suite w/ Balcony. It was the 7-night Eastern Caribbean on May 28, 2017. Oh yeah, and it was our first time to experience Star Class (SC). #Ruined While on the 2017 cruise, there was a lot of discussion about when / where / how / etc would we do the next cruise. Well, we didn’t sign up on Oasis in 2017 for the next one because we just hadn’t figured out all the logistics. Maybe I’ll try and remember to write up something about that cruise later, but for now … need to fast forward a few months to the current cruise. There were months of research, discussion, pricing and justification before we finally landed on something. Let’s play from here. In January 2018 we confirmed the cruise ship, route and room. #MonthlyPaymentsStarted During all of our researching and planning, we laid out plans for the next 6 years of cruising vacations. This includes starting plans for the kid’s graduation cruises, one in 2023 to Italy and one in 2025 to Ireland. Plus, SC cruises in 2020 and 2021. We'll probably have to skip 2022 and 2024 to accommodate a 2-week vacation / cruise in 2023 and the other in 2025. More on those later. One of our cruise goals is to try all the new ships coming out for RCL. We prefer the larger ships with all the cool activities and shows. Finding the 9-night Bermuda cruise on Anthem was an awesome find. While we are still working for #TheMan, our vacation and cruise budget limits us to about one cruise a year. We booked the Owner’s Loft Suite 8720, which falls into the Star Class. I can blame the kids for wanting to only cruise in SC now. #Damnit #BadDad Oh, and since we found the Coastal Kitchen, we are now ‘required’ to book something that gives us access. #Spoiled Planning for this cruise is pretty much a weekly discussion over the weekend mornings while drinking coffee and scanning cruise ‘stuff’. Travel arrangements We booked our flight on 12/12/18 (about 25 weeks out) on Southwest. Flight on 5/5/19 and returning on 5/15/19. Since we are in Nashville, Southwest is our preferred carrier. Over the past few years, I’ve flown for work and we have taken a couple of Vegas trips, all on Southwest. So, those points FINALLY paid off. Rather than paying close to $1200+ to fly all four of us up to Newark, NJ, we paid about $50. I cashed in all my points for me and kids. There was almost enough left to pickup my DW’s ticket (I’m guessing this acronym means Dear Wife ) so, we paid the transfer fee to have her points transferred to my account to give me enough to get her ‘freeish’ ticket. Thus the $50ish buck was for the transfer and taxes. Not bad, fly all four of us roundtrip for $50ish #KeepCasinoBudget When cruising, we always fly in the night before just to make sure if there are any travel issues there is time to deal with it before getting on the cruise. I give credit to my dad for teaching me this. I’ve been cruising since early 2000’s and have always made sure to fly in the day before. Plus, we can start our vacation a day early. My better half did a lot of research on hotels around the port Bayonne in NY. She found a nice hotel, forget what it was, but really wanted to stay in something a little nicer. We talked about the Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson, but it was about $300 more for the night than what she originally booked. She really wanted to stay there because it looked really cool and is right across from the NY skyline. I felt bad because that really wasn’t in our budget. But wait, lookie what I found. We have some ‘cash-back’ rewards on one of our credit cards. Let’s us that to upgrade to the Hyatt and use our rewards to pay the difference. Done. Booked. Confirmed on March 5th. We’ll get to the hotel earlier enough that we are planning to go see the 911 Memorial and take the ferry over to the statue. Was hoping to be able to see the statue from the North Star as we left, but after a few postings and great information, that doesn’t seem to be an option. The only other pre-cruise travel stuff we did was book a spot to drop the car off. More than likely, we’ll grab us an Uber to get around everywhere else and to take us to the port on the morning of our cruise. Right now, we are planning to leave the hotel about 9:30 to give us an hour or so to make sure we are at the port and in the right spot by the Star Class to meet Yen. I’m the type of person that wants to be early to almost everything – I would rather wait than to have someone waiting for us to show up. #IsThatOCD We got our first RoyalUp email on April 26, about 6 weeks before our cruise date. This was the first time we ever received one of these. We talked about attempting to upgrade, but couldn’t justify an additional $2400 IF we sent in the lowest bid of $1200 pp. I mean, we ‘could’ have swung it but that would have taken away from our casino budget – yeah, we quickly shot it down. Now, if we could have bid maybe $500-$750/pp – that we would have considered a little more. Just to note, they would only charge us for the first two guests – so, technically, it was like upgrading with the kids sail free. Yeah, only way kids sail free is if we put them to work on the ship cleaning dishes or something. They are 12 and 14 now, so I’m SURE that would go over just peachy. Anyway, I guess we didn’t pay enough for this SC cruise so RCL was trying to get us to pay a little more. I’m not going to post what we paid but let’s just say I booked this thing about 16 months prior so I could make monthly budgeted payments. Yes – we actually have a cruise budget . We did reprice a few times over the course of time that saved us a little extra. A second email to upgrade came in about 2 weeks later on 5/7/19. I guess the second one was meant for @Lovetocruise2002, since she’s never gotten one. Lol Evidently, they wanted us to upgrade to the Royal Loft Suite which looks amazing, but, hey, we are happy to stay where we are at. There weren’t any other suites included with this email. Side note. We got the RCL credit card a long time ago on one of our past cruises. Yeah, the perks aren’t as good as other cards, but we designate this card for pretty much cruise only related stuff. Over the years, we obtained some of those MyCruise Points that we were able to use for some nice OBC. #BonusCasinoFunds We get double points by putting the cruise payments on this card, which can add up to some decent OBC. Plus, it keeps our cruise finances separate from our normal daily financials. Star Class Notes Our first welcome aboard email from the SC came in on 4/13/19. What’s this, about 8ish weeks or so before our cruise. It was just a generic welcome to the royal genie program where you can fill out a questionnaire. On 5/8/19 we got our first email from Yen Lee, our genie for this cruise. We are excited to have her and have heard great things, especially from @WAAAYTOOO. Here’s a snippet from her initial email: “Once I hear back from you, I’ll reach out again to confirm all the exciting details. From this point on, any questions or requests can be sent my way. I’m looking forward to seeing you onboard soon Please allow me to provide you with directions to the STAR Class arrival area and guarantee a VIP boarding. Kindly be advised that your drop-off point at Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal will be Zone 6. There is a large purple banner, which says Star Class, at the location. Please do not get off at any other zone. Once at Zone 6, kindly identify yourself as a Star Class guest and the assigned pier staff will ensure that your luggage is loaded onto a cart and will be sent directly to the suite while you go through the check-in and security screening process. Due to the nature of the Star Class program, you would understand the services and amenities listed in this email are exclusive and limited to guests residing in these suites. We appreciate your understanding when it comes to the exclusivity of these privileges. I would like to offer you Expedited Boarding services and I would also like to give you my undivided attention. May I suggest arriving at the terminal at 10:30 AM? I have 3 Star Class Families in total and I want to personally escort you inside the Ship. “ We are not the type of family to require a ton of assistance or demands on things, as we want to do all of our own planning and organization. But when cruising SC we allow some of our obsessive planning nature to be done by our genie. After coming up with a list of ‘must-do’ activities on the boat, we sent that over to Yen to allow her to plan the best times. Being in SC does have its perks – two of the main ones we enjoy is the ability to have someone help make sure we can enjoy ALL/ANY activity on board. This is really something that the kids enjoy. The second is the up-front reserved seating for all the shows. Of course, there a lot more benefits, but we can elaborate on those later. Over the past few weeks, we have been communicating with Yen to have her send us the dinner menus for the Coastal Kitchen #teamCK and the other specialty restaurants. I have 11 PDF files of these, so might load those in a follow-up to this opening blog. These will include Izumie, Jamie’s, Chops and Wonderland. We asked for the cruise planner, but haven’t gotten it at this time. Now being two weeks out, this weekend is dedicated to cruise shopping. We all need a few new things for the cruise like some new clothing, shoes and other misc. items. Our new suitcases came in last week, so those are setup in the living room to get ready to start packing. My DW wouldn’t really allow us to start packing any earlier. We don’t have a spare bedroom for a staging area, so have to use the living room. Oh well. Cruise Planner Being in SC, we pretty much get most everything available in the CP, with the exception of the excursions and a few other items (the photo package comes to mind). We did a lot of discussion around the excursions and talked with the kids to see what they wanted to do. For the most part, they just want to swim / snorkel the entire time. Paying some of the prices for the excursions was something we had a hard time justifying. On a prior cruise, my DW and I did a kayak, hike and snorkel excursion in St. Maarten but was pretty disappointed. Paying a few hundred for that excursion didn’t help us want to pay for another one, when we could potentially just walk somewhere and snorkel or walk and tour on our own. However, in 2017, we (all 6 of us, including my 70 yr old mother in law) did the Loterie Farm Zipline. Now, that was well worth the cost. So much so, that we booked it again for this cruise. This is our only purchased excursion in the CP. They did get hit really hard by the hurricane later in 2017, but from their recent pictures looks like they have rebuilt. We are happy to support them by taking this tour again. I’m going to pause for now but will pick up later as we get a little closer. I will also be attempting to do a few live periscopes as @CruisingHobby with #rcperiscopers and will also post more here during the cruise.
  23. I promised Sabrina that I would do this, so here goes. First: I am the worst live blogger EVER since I hate to take pix. I DO realize that long, text review/live blogs are less effective b/c nobody wants to sit and read line after line of text. I hate it myself ! So I am going to TRY and be brief-er than usual and TRY and incorporate photos, which are 2 things I am not very good at (brevity and photography). Who: Dan and I (Raye) What: S2S cruises on Brilliance and Oasis. Where: Tampa then Miami When: 24 - 30 Nov (Brilliance out of Tampa) then 1 - 8 December (Oasis out of Miami) Why: Because we can...and this will be our first S2S At home, writing this but leaving for the airport (DCA) at 2PM. Uber, cost $81.56. We have to have an XL due to luggage. Honestly, it's not that far to the airport. We live about 20 miles south of DC so it's not more than 15-17 miles to the airport. Kinda high, IMO but still cheaper than parking the car in Long Term Parking for 15 days. We will pass some time at the American Airlines Admiral's Club prior to boarding and then fly First Class to Tampa. Flight is at 5:00, arriving TPA at ~7:30PM. Will Uber from airport to the hotel (Tampa Marriott Water Street); used rewards points for the hotel. We could have used airline miles for the air but we're saving those reward points for a yet-to-be scheduled Alaska trip !! One piece of luggage still missing as it is awaiting inevitable forgotten, last-minute items. So looking forward to Brilliance. #1, we have never sailed on Brilliance before and #2, it has been many years since we sailed on a Radiance class ship. PS. I am already having fits with just 1 pic. I don't know how the rest of you do it !! More, later from the Admiral's Club !!
  24. I just received a Royal Up bid possibility for our sailing in a few weeks. As of now we are in an Owners Suite with a minimal bid in for a 2 Bedroom Aqua (really would prefer 2 bathrooms) but nothing was available at time of booking. My question is two fold, does anyone know the stateroom numbers of the Star Loft Suites so I can see their location and your thoughts if you have stayed there? ie part balcony in proximity to the basketball court etc. The minimum bid requested is $1300.00 so even if we bid that my CC gets hit for $2600.00 if we "win" Planning on staying low key so we will be in stateroom a great deal. Your thoughts would be so appreciated, what would you do? Thanks a bunch Sailing Harmony
  25. Greetings fellow travelers! First time at blogging, first time on Ovation, first time in a Grand Loft, first time in a "star class", and I've never had a genie before, so this cruise brings lots of new and exciting adventures for me and my family! Our cruise is 9 nights, March 21-31, 2019, starting and ending in Sydney; 5 days at sea, 3 ports of call (Mystery Island, Vila, and Noumea). We are a family of four.....two exhausted middle age parents (pumpkin is 55, I'm 50) who apparently, at the age of 39, thought it would be a brilliant idea to start a family....so our twins are now 10. As a family we've done 3 previous cruises, all on RCI; we've enjoyed staying in the family suite, the owner's suite, and the grand suite. This spring break, we decided to drop the bomb on this cruise and stay in a Grand Loft Suite. We booked the cruise a few days ago. I am starting this blog early enough that I can share the details of when this "genie" reaches out to us, and how having this perk touches the pre-cruise stage. And then, of course, there will be the blow-by-blow stuff once we actually get to Sydney. I tried to do my due diligence before booking this suite, by reading all I could about Star Class, but I found there was a paucity of actual reviews and so by writing this blog, I hope to give fellow cruisers another source of information on the benefits of both the Suite, and the whole Star Class, genie thing. So I'll update this blog as things start to happen. Cheers!! Kim
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