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DDaley

Freedom of the Seas // August 18-25, 2019

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It’s nearly time! I feel like I have waited for yeeears to set off on my first cruise as an adult! (It’s been… 84 years… ) In reality, I haven’t had to wait all that long as the days between booking and embarkation maxed out at 146 days. Now it’s down to just SIX days! The saddest part was that I had three vacations to go on between then and now and the poor Grand Canyon and Puerto Vallarta did not get the travel-obsessing they deserved.

In March, my boyfriend and I were looking into different trips we could take for our birthdays this August (on the 22nd and 25th) and as a Puerto Rican he suggested a trip there to visit his mom who went down to help family after Maria. I was pricing it out to stay in PR for around 6 nights (typical length of a land vacation I can afford) when he mentioned having taken a cruise from there back when he was in high school. The next day I googled cruises from SJ and booked a 7-night sailing on Freedom hours later! The price was pretty comparable and on this itinerary we would get the added bonus of seeing 5 other Caribbean ports! Who could say no? It should be noted that I booked during the 30% off sale but I even got us into a JS for less than every vacation I have taken to Hawaii.

After reading about a million fabulous live blogs here I thought I would give it a go because I would love to give back, so if you have any Freedom questions, feel free to ask!

Itinerary

  • Day 1 8/18 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Day 2 8/19 - St. Thomas 8am-6pm - Magen’s Bay via taxi (haven’t been since I was 7!)
  • Day 3 8/20 - St. Kitts & Nevis 8am-8pm (only ship in port) - Cockleshell Beach via Shore Excursioneer
  • Day 4 8/21 - Antigua 8am-5pm (only ship in port) - Antigua By Sea (RC Excursion)
  • Day 5 8/22 - St. Lucia 8am-6pm - Rainforest Zipline & Aerial Tram via Shore Excursioneer for MY BIRTHDAY!!!!
  • Day 6 8/23 - Barbados 8am-9pm - Catamaran/Snorkel via Shore Excursioneer
  • Day 7 8/24 - Cruising
  • Day 8 8/25 - Return to San Juan

With the added bonus of

Day 9 - Extra day in San Juan!

With a newly-renovated oceanfront room at my favorite hotel in SJ, the Caribe Hilton. I could not say no to seeing the renovation for myself. I am also a brand loyalist to my dear, sweet Hilton, specifically because I love getting to pick my own room (e.g. north-facing Disneyland Resort room for fireworks every time). We also got a rental car so we can cruise the island and pick up my boyfriend’s mom so she can point us to the best mofongo!

Who’s Going - my boyfriend (Adrian) and I (Daryl)

Cabin - Junior Suite 9538. The larger balcony is what got me because I am a lanai girl through and through. I get an oceanfront every time I go to Hawaii and even extended the year-round lanai time to include my apartment in downtown San Diego, specifically for sunset balcony-sitting! So suffice it to say I plan on spending a lot of time out there for sail away cocktails and the JS balcony was a major draw. Priority embarkation also sounds nice without having purchased The Key.

Pre-Purchases - I got us the DBP for $44pp/pd during the 30% off sale although I can never figure out if it’s on sale or not cause it remained the same price once the sale was over?! Seems like at $12 each it is not hard to get to $44 per day, I can easily drink 4-5 cocktails and will also need 100+ ounces in water to make up for all that dehydration. Hoping to keep track of my drink consumption like @JLMoran! 

Also got the Voom Surf and Stream for 2 devices for instagramming and live blogging.

Excursions

St. Kitts - Cockleshell Beach transportation that includes a stop at Timothy Hill on the way. A taxi all the way down there was somewhat comparable but with a drink and chair included, it was worth it for the excursion version of going straight to the beach.

Antigua - 80ft catamaran that circumnavigates the whole island! I went back and forth on which beach to taxi to from the port (for the record I had settled on Dickenson Bay - $14, haha) but decided this would be a fun way to see all 365 of them with a lunch/snorkel beach stop on Green Island off the east coast of Antigua.

St. Lucia - Rainforest Aerial Tram and Zipline in the Castries Waterworks Forest Reserve on my biiirthday! I almost did the Pitons zip as advertised on the cruise planner but opted for the one with the sweet 45-minute aerial tram ride through the jungle. I am thinking SD Zoo Skyfari x10!

Barbados - Catamaran/Shipwreck Snorkeling excursion to Folkstone Marine Park and Carlisle Bay. I am a sucker for both catamaran rides and snorkeling (a must in Waikiki and at Hanauma Bay evvvery single time) so I couldn’t pass this one up!

---

I hope I can keep up with this blog as we go. I haven’t been on a cruise since December of 2005 when I sailed HAL Oosterdam with my parents out of our home port of San Diego to the Mexican Riviera. BUT! My very first cruise experience was with my friend's family on RCCL ol’ gal Sovereign of the Seas out of Miami in 1998! We went to Key West, Nassau and the oooolddd fashioned Coco Cay. Would love to try out Perfect Day on a future cruise to see the transformation (besides the fact that I love waterslides).

Ahhh! Seeing the logged-in Royal countdown at 6 Days To Go has me feeling near-constant excited stomach butterflies! 😎 These 5 work days are going to crawl by.

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5 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Following along! Remember to sing the countdown song each day! 😉 And have a great trip!

Hah! I was singing it this morning at 6:15! Also I just realized I didn't correctly tag you above but you are my reason for wanting to produce a break-even drink report each day. I am truly interested to see how my list stacks up since I basically only drink water and liquor. 

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Land vacations are overated lol.  That's how we ended up on our first cruise as well.  For us the cost to go to St. Lucia was more than a cruise to St. Lucia.  It was a no brainer for the same reasons that we would see more islands along the way.  Have a great trip!  Sounds like it will be a lot of fun!

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7 minutes ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Land vacations are overated lol.  That's how we ended up on our first cruise as well.  For us the cost to go to St. Lucia was more than a cruise to St. Lucia.  It was a no brainer for the same reasons that we would see more islands along the way. 

Exactly! I had also searched for flights from San Diego directly to St. Lucia (the pitons have been calling to me) but the flight alone would've sucked up most of the vacation budget! 

6 minutes ago, tiny260 said:

Have fun, taking this cruise as a B2B in June 2020.

Awesome. One day I will make it to B2B status! 

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Has anyone done this sailing that was up and paying attention the night between Antigua and St. Lucia? According to the itinerary map on cruisemapper.com, we're gonna sail right through the center of Guadeloupe?

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On other itinerary maps I have seen, we go around the outside. 

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Even when you zoom in, they're very specific about how we're gonna squeeze right through there! 🤔 

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5 days to go! 

Today my boyfriend’s mom (hmm should I refer to him as CBF? for cute, haha, dear is too formal) let us know she’s got a family birthday on embarkation day and wont be joining us for El Morro/OSJ crusin’ before boarding. 

We were discussing dropping bags at the Pan American Pier and ubering to OSJ for a mid morning frolic and I mentioned that we’d have to taxi from the airport and then could uber from the port as they can’t pick up at the airport. He said “thanks for looking that up” and I got to say “oh actually, that’s just something I knew offhand from my months of cruise research!” Special thanks to these boards for getting me prepped! 

Gonna ask this question under a different forum but — has anyone left bags abandoned at the port pre-check in? Or would you check in and board and then leave? With boarding at 11am and departure at 8:30pm surely they let you off during those hours. 

5 more days till we go on the cruise.. 5 more days till we gOoooo! 🎶

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Oh, how I love Freedom; she is my cherry buster!  Wonderful ship, and my favorite vacation of my life was my first on her.

I actually thought we had to stand on the pier with our luggage to get onboard...🤔

 

And the itinerary is great!  I've only been to St. Thomas, and would love to see those other ports!

 

Breaking even on your DBP is like falling off a log.  Make sure you get some fresh-squeezed OJ.   

 

I'll be following your what I'm sure will be fabulous blog!

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16 hours ago, DDaley said:

has anyone left bags abandoned at the port pre-check in?

Drop off the bags with the porter and then go about your day. 

If you do want to check-in formally when you drop off the bags, I think you can ask about in-transit card (if they do this at this particular port) that will let you bypass the check-in when you return to get back onto the ship

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3 days to go!

I have been thinking about packing for this cruise since I booked it! I started my iPhone note list that long ago and it has grown steadily to 80+ line items since then. I only ever travel with a carry on suitcase and a second, smaller carry on for under the seat (22” Samsonite and a Lo & Sons Deluxe Tote) so fitting all the stuff we’ll need between that and CBFs carry on is going to be a feat.

I go on a LOT of beach vacations and am always shocked at the amount of people who packed like they were going somewhere completely different. Really? You’re headed to the beach for days on end and you’re bringing only bathing suits and the postage stamp towels provided by the hotel? Amateurs! 

When I set out for a beach vacation I have a list of essentials that are coming with me and it will be no different for this cruise (although of course I’ve spent about $300 on random Amazon things I think I need!).

Beach Non-Negotiables

Our own towels (Dock and Bay, they fold up suuuper small and dry extremely quickly) that are also nice for identifying chairs on the pool deck
Beach tent for shade minus that chairs + umbrella price tag per beach
Beach sheet
Beach bag
Cooler bag
3 plastic reusable water bottles (2 for cocktails, one for extra ice) with neoprene sleeves
Camelpak for water
2 Swimways spring floats
2 Goggles
Underwater bags and waist bag for bringing valuables into the water with us

It looks like a lot but I will get it to fit. Especially once CBF presents his carry ons with empty space! Packing is a fun puzzle. 

If anyone is in the market for a beach shade device, I highly recommend the beach tent I linked in the list above! I toiled on Amazon for literally 5 months prior to finally choosing/buying one. I brought it to the beach here in San Diego for a trial run and it held up well in wind and was very easy to take down and put up. Best and most important part is that it fits easily in the carry on! Seen below upside-down and labeled as 'Gorich.' I had to replace the muuuch older tent I have been using (since my parents took me to St. Thomas in 1994!) and think I chose correctly. 

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I'm going to have to see a picture of this tent when it's not compressed down to the size of a large coffee table book. I'm assuming you're buying not just for compactness but also ultra-lightweight. Otherwise hauling all of that to the beach every single time would be quite the workout!

I was always the one required to wheel the beach cart around through the sand on every family vacation, so I've come to appreciate going to a place with nothing more than my bathing suit, my towel, and a small backpack to hold the sunscreen and other essentials. I don't consider it being an amateur, more like valuing the convenience over the pay-it-there costs.

Kind of like Kathy Bates' character in that one scene from Fried Green Tomatoes, where the young girls cut her off and steal her space in the parking lot and comment, "Face it, lady, we are younger and faster." So she deliberately crashes her car into theirs several times and deadpans to them after they've run back out, "Face it, girls. I'm older, and I have more insurance." 😂

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56 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Kind of like Kathy Bates' character in that one scene from Fried Green Tomatoes, where the young girls cut her off and steal her space in the parking lot and comment, "Face it, lady, we are younger and faster." So she deliberately crashes her car into theirs several times and deadpans to them after they've run back out, "Face it, girls. I'm older, and I have more insurance." 😂

JOE THAT IS MY FAVORITE SCENE! My mom and I quote it all the time. She used to pull sh*t like that when I was a kid and I would get so embarrassed. 

I am not quite at her level of retired income (she makes more than I do and I have a JOB) but one day I, too, will forego the hauling! 
Oh, and yes! It's super light! As are the towels and floaties. 😎

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2 hours ago, JLMoran said:

I was always the one required to wheel the beach cart around through the sand

OMG, Joe...every time I see "you" on the beach I say to myself, I would HATE that! When the kids were young we'd always go to a beach that had little walking from car to sand/water.

Sorry for the minor hijack @DDaley . Can't wait to hear about your cruise!

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23 hours ago, DDaley said:

Our own towels (Dock and Bay, they fold up suuuper small and dry extremely quickly) that are also nice for identifying chairs on the pool deck

Love the towels! I am looking on their web site... are they "microfiber" or more like the thin cotton "Turkish Towels"?

PS - Following along!

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6 minutes ago, JennyJenny said:

Love the towels! I am looking on their web site... are they "microfiber" or more like the thin cotton "Turkish Towels"?

They feel to me like a combination of the two because they are super soft and thin like Turkish (and the sand falls right off) but made of a nicer microfiber than I am used to feeling. They are super absorbent so you're dry immediately and hung to dry, the towel dries again in minutes, too!

I used them for swimming in the Grand Canyon (which I do not recommend) and everyone else who was on the raft air-drying were asking about them. 🤗

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8 minutes ago, DDaley said:

They feel to me like a combination of the two because they are super soft and thin like Turkish (and the sand falls right off) but made of a nicer microfiber than I am used to feeling. They are super absorbent so you're dry immediately and hung to dry, the towel dries again in minutes, too!

I used them for swimming in the Grand Canyon (which I do not recommend) and everyone else who was on the raft air-drying were asking about them. 🤗

I'll definitely grab a few. I like to travel with my own towels (I use my Turkish ones now) but like how compact and quick dry these look! Also love the head wraps for my long hair! I know what folks are getting from me for xmas this year! Thanks!

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As a test of uploading images from my phone, I bring you my first cruise souvenir from ‘98, still proudly displayed on my vacation magnet-laden fridge. Do they still make these? I will have to get a Freedom magnet! 

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One day to go!!

I am in the waiting place today since our flight is so late, so I spent the morning at the zoo to relieve pre-travel waiting anxiety! 

Here are the San Diego Zoo stars of the day. Sadly, the baby hippo Tony got sent off to another zoo when he reached 1 year (he has been the star of the day countless times). 

Finally not all asleep! 

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Ibex cave hangout (he fought off two baboons to claim his space)

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