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melmar02

Liberty 9/1/2019 - 8 years on land is too long!

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I have been in dry dock for almost 8 years, and it’s finally (FINALLY!!) time for the uncontainable excitement I have for my upcoming cruise to boil over onto the Live Blog pages! We’ll be on Liberty of the Seas embarking September 1 for a 7 day western Caribbean cruise to Roatan, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. We're also heading to Galveston a couple days early to visit Space Center Houston. Unfortunately, this will not be a true live blog as we are unplugging for the trip, but list any questions you have here and I’ll do my best to get the answers when I’m on board then post when I’m back. I’ll post our plans and some details over the next several days and a review with photos once home.

About us - I am 39 and DH is 47. I home school our two kids and run a wedding cake bakery from home. I like to think I can talk to myself in public and call it a parent-teacher conference. 😉 DH is an engineer.  DH and I have sailed twice before, both on Royal - Independence Eastern Caribbean in 2010 out of Ft. Lauderdale and Voyager Western Caribbean in 2011 out of Galveston. We loved both of these, and our only “complaint” if we had to come up with one was that the dance floors were too small. This will be our kids’ first cruise; DD is 10 and DS is 7. DD has Autism Spectrum Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A few years ago, she would have been diagnosed with Aspergers, but it’s now lumped in with ASD. She doesn’t generally need special accommodations as she’s mainly socially awkward (can’t remember multiple step tasks, gets distracted in her own world, interrupts you mid-sentence to tell you all about dinosaurs/Pokemon/every word of a tv show she saw once 6 years ago). With her GAD, she occasionally catastrophizes things. In her mind, wild fires in California mean the whole world will be consumed by flames type of thing, so we did a lot of video watching and safety type prep with her to hopefully ease any fears that might come up on board. I had several photos of a life boat drill and another crew drill from our previous sailings which helped a lot. DS is your typical silly, loud boy. Both the kids are extremely excited for the cruise. Right now they want to spend a little time in Adventure Ocean each day, but we'll be spending a good portion of the time together as a family. 

Why this cruise - I decided that it had been long enough since our last cruise, and that we were going to take one for my 40th birthday. It’s the same month as the sailing, so it counts, right? We actually had our third one booked in 2012, but we got pregnant with DS and wound up just cancelling due to timing of everything else going on in our lives beyond a new baby (aging parents, job changes, etc). We have been land vacationing a lot these last 8 years at Great Wolf Lodge as there is one less than an hour from our house, the kids love it, and it’s cheaper than Disney!  Because we live in north Texas (Dallas area), we decided to keep it easy and drive down to Galveston. Liberty’s water slides and Splashaway Bay will be a good fit for my kids, and I wanted a 7 day cruise which Liberty offered as opposed to Enchantment’s 4 or 5 day itineraries. We booked during the 2018 Black Friday sale which featured a discount on the second passenger and Kids Sail Free promotions. We picked up about $500 in price drops along the way, even after our cabin category sold out thanks to @Lovetocruise2002's tips.

More to come...

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@melmar02 have a fantastic time with your family.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Liberty.  8 years dry dock is a really long time!  Glad that you are getting this opportunity now.  I remember that we had to put cruising on the back burner for a while when the kids were young and life got in the way.  No time like the present to make up for it.  Enjoy!

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On 8/19/2019 at 8:53 AM, JLMoran said:

Have a great cruise, @melmar02! Don't forget, never let blogging get in the way of enjoying the trip! 😁

Since we'll be unplugging for the cruise, I'll be recapping when we return. I'll be soaking it all in!

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Our Cabin – Since my I am planning this trip, and it is for my birthday, I chose to splurge with cabin 9708 which is an aft, 2 bedroom Grand Suite (formally the Royal Family Suite if you want to search on YouTube). Regardless of where we vacation, we always look for a room with space that DH can go to read or work while he waits for the rest of us to get up. DH has been an early riser all of his life – 5am is really sleeping in for him. I’m a night owl and could close down the dance floor, and apparently I’m no fun when woken up at 4am! DH and I have stayed in Junior Suites on both of our previous cruises, which worked well for the 2 of us. That little curtain between the bed and couch was just light blocking enough to keep me from being a… let’s just say grumpy lady… every morning. But with the kids, we knew we wanted the extra space and the second bathroom. Hopefully all goes well for the kids on this cruise because we’ve already booked another! We're taking my MIL on her first cruise next time around - Enchantment in February 2020 also in a 2br Grand Suite. Hopefully we won’t be ruined by the real suite experience, and we will be able to handle connecting rooms in the future. If not, and you know anyone who needs a wedding cake, send them my way so I can keep paying for the suite life! 🤣

Pre-cruise purchases – Because we are in a suite, we didn’t think we would take full advantage of the Deluxe Beverage Package, so we purchased the Refreshment package at $17 for all of us during the Black Friday sale. I caved and upgraded to the Deluxe Beverage Package at $46 about 80 days out. I really think it needed to come down to $42 to make financial sense for us as we got the Refreshment package so low and we’ll be taking advantage of the Suite Lounge every evening, but it’s worth the extra $50ish in my mind to not have the big bill at the end. I never saw the package go that low, even on Black Friday. Of course now, with the recent price increases across the board, it really seems like a steal!

We also purchased an excursion in Roatan through RC. I found the same excursion through a 3rd party, but the price was only $10 more when RC was running one of their sales, and DH likes the assurance of staying with the herd. 

We haven’t had family photos made in a while, so we will most likely buy the digital photo package. I haven’t quite decided yet, but the price is normally $250 for all the digital shots. None of the photographers I work with, even on their family sessions, give all the digital images and a print release for only $250. Most start around $300 just for the session fee. I’m sure it’s not quite apples to apples with the ship’s photographers (I'm not getting any editing with that price), but it doesn’t seem completely unreasonable to me. The package also went on sale today for $235 so I'll probably get off the fence about that today. I can use that $15 for one of the kids' souvenirs instead! 

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1 hour ago, melmar02 said:

The package also went on sale today

I'm Sailing Aug 28 on Enchantment and today's sales are for embarkation Aug 29 and later :( Just my luck...I was going to book Photos and Refreshment Pkg with the sale.

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10 minutes ago, MotleyCruiser said:

I'm Sailing Aug 28 on Enchantment and today's sales are for embarkation Aug 29 and later 😞 Just my luck...I was going to book Photos and Refreshment Pkg with the sale.

Ugh! I double checked everything yesterday and our excursion and drink packages were higher than what we paid originally. Our excursion is even higher with today's sale. I'm waiting for Black Friday to book our drinks and excursions on our February cruise. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

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Itinerary / Excursions

  • Friday, 2 days pre-cruise - Drive to Houston, hang out at the hotel pool
  • Saturday, 1 day pre-cruise - Space Center Houston
  • Sunday, Day 1 - Embarkation day!
  • Monday, Day 2 - Sea
  • Tuesday, Day 3 - Sea
  • Wednesday, Day 4 - Roatan
  • Thursday, Day 5 - Costa Maya
  • Friday, Day 6 - Cozumel
  • Saturday, Day 7 - Sea
  • Sunday - Disembark and drive back to Dallas in tears

We're driving in 2 days early so we can spend most of Saturday exploring Space Center Houston. I've done a couple of astronomy units with the kids over the last two years, and they are really looking forward to our 'field trip' before the cruise.

We will have two seas days then we are stopping at Roatan, Costa Maya, and Cozumel followed by one more sea day on this sailing. In Roatan we purchased the Lobsters, Iguanas, and Snorkeling RTB7 excursion through Royal. We stop in Iguana Hideaway, snorkel at Lobster City, and then have a little beach time at Big French Key. DD has a lot of food aversions so we have to be selective about excursions that offer lunch. We can find something that works on a buffet or with a menu usually, but an excursion that only offers something like a tortilla with beans in it just isn’t going to work for us. This excursion was only 4 hours, so we can eat a late lunch back on the ship – problem solved. In Costa Maya, we plan to just explore the port area for a little bit, maybe tour the aviary, and then get back on the ship to enjoy it while empty. DH and I have been to Cozumel on land vacations and he’s more inclined to break away on our own there since it’s just a relatively quick cab ride back to the ship from anywhere on the island. We plan on taking a cab to Paradise Beach, and we went all inclusive with the fun pass so the inflatable water toys are included. We had a coupon code and the total for the 4 of us was $256. When you opt for the AI, you pay for the fun passes and a 50% deposit up front. We could have just purchased the fun passes when we got there, but they were discounted when purchased up front. DD and I have looked at their menu online and watched a lot of videos showing the food people have ordered there – she knows she has a several options that will work for her.  One of those options is shrimp. She's only been eating it for a few weeks, but absolutely loves and can eat her weight in it. At $18 a plate, that's one of the reasons we chose to go AI here instead of just the $3 entrance fee and pay as we go. She can easily eat 5-6 of the plates I saw on YouTube.  🦐 

Dining - We’re MDR people, but went to a specialty restaurant once on each of the previous sailings and enjoyed the change in atmosphere. We loved the Mystery Dinner on our last cruise, but it’s the first night on this sailing and Adventure Ocean won’t be open yet. We’re planning on booking a specialty restaurant once we can confirm AO’s dining hours, and I’m leaning toward the Chef’s Table this time. I'm hoping this is something the concierge can confirm and arrange for us once we get her email this week or next week. If not, we'll just ask her to take care of it once we are on board. On our first cruise we had traditional dining, and sat with a couple from England who were a lot of fun. On our second we decided to try MTD and liked that we had a little more control with planning our evening. With the kids this time, we’re going with MTD again - regular, not Family MTD as the kids will enjoy some of the evening shows. I'm sure we’ll hit up Johnny Rockets a time or two as well.

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Pre-cruise stay – We are driving down to Clear Lake on Friday when DH can wrap up work – probably around noon, hopefully sooner. We just got a Bucee’s a few miles from our house, so we’ll fill up there and then hit the one in Madisonville as well. Beaver Nuggets for everyone! With it being a holiday weekend, I expect stand still traffic at rush hour in Houston, and I keep hoping we can leave Dallas by 10am to beat the afternoon traffic. Fortunately, I grew up about 30 miles north of Houston, so if needed I know a few good spots we can go for dinner and to wait it out for a bit. Last time we cruised, we stayed at the Clear Lake Hilton. It was nice, and we would stay there again. This time we are staying at the Homewood Suites in Clear Lake which will be a 35-40 minute drive to Galveston on Sunday morning. DH would prefer the Hilton because their breakfast is better, but they didn’t have a 2 BR suite available. Homewood had the room we wanted for the same price as a 1 BR at the Hilton. Besides, who needs an awesome, big breakfast when I plan to gorge myself at the Windjammer for lunch on Sunday! We are driving in Friday so we can get up and spend a good part of Saturday at Space Center Houston. We’ll keep the kids occupied in the evenings at the hotel pool. Last cruise, we took the short drive to Kemah Boardwalk to eat, but it’s usually around 100° in Houston on Labor Day Weekend so we're keeping food options open. Right now, Texas is supposed to get a cold front next weekend, and the whole state is doing a happy dance! It's only supposed to be 89° next Saturday! A cruise and 80 degree weather? Christmas just came early for me!

Parking – We pre-purchased uncovered parking at Lighthouse. We stayed somewhere else last time, but Lighthouse had good reviews and was cheaper. It’s about ½ a mile from the pier, and we got 10% off with a coupon code which they post on their website. Total $67.50.

I think that covers the basics. We have a very full "regular life" schedule up until we leave, so I really need to get an action plan for packing going. I already have a box started for the non-clothing stuff (sunscreen, towel clips, etc.). I had an amazing packing list for our last two cruises, but 8 years and two computers later, I'm not sure what happened to the file. I came up with this one last week. It's not quite like my old one was, but I think I have everything covered. Feel free to let me know if I've missed anything though. 😉

Today I think I'll pull all our formal wear out for a trip to the dry cleaners. DH travels a lot for work, and I got him a new carry on for Christmas last year. Great minds...he got me a new 29" suit case. He mentioned yesterday that he wants the bigger version of his carry on for this trip. He has tomorrow off, so we'll head to the Samsonite Outlet then. Plus my son just informed me that his shoes are too small, so I guess I'm not quite as done with shopping for the cruise as I thought I was.

Master Packing List.xlsx

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1 hour ago, melmar02 said:

We just got a Bucee’s a few miles from our house, so we’ll fill up there and then hit the one in Madisonville as well. Beaver Nuggets for everyone!

Love Buc-ees! One of my favorite things from Texas!!!

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3 hours ago, AshleyDillo said:

Love Buc-ees! One of my favorite things from Texas!!!

The one by our house just opened at the beginning of summer. We're a pretty small town, so it was a really big deal. My kids did all of their Father's Day shopping there and put a gift basket together for him - 2 flavors of jerkey, salsa, pickled garlic, an A&M yeti, etc. We didn't even touch the sweets side of the store so we had an excuse to go back!

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DH is ready to start this vacation! Last night he was talking about trying to go into the office this weekend so we could leave for Houston on Thursday night instead of Friday. The planner in me immediately cringed because my timeline may now be off. However, the rest of me said, "no problem!" If we go early, we will probably stay Thursday night at the Embassy Suites or Homewood Suites in The Woodlands to break up the drive a little. From there we can drive the hour to Clear Lake Friday morning and spend the day at the Kemah Boardwalk if that cold front does come through, or if it's still like an oven next Friday, we'll probably go to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (I had several field trips here as a kid and loved it) or the Children's Museum. We're going to see how his week goes at work before we make that call for certain, but I think I need to plan like I just lost a day of packing. 

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Pulled out some of our luggage since we bought a new big piece today. I'm trying to decide if my daughter can squeeze all her stuff in her carry on size or if I need to let her borrow my old, big hard side. I just realized we have no medium sized bags. 😆 For 11 days now, I'm pretty sure my son will have to use a normal carry on size instead of his little Star Wars bag.

 

20190823_174136.jpg

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It's official this morning, we just added Thursday night to our pre-cruise hotel. We're just going to drive all the way to Clear Lake instead of stopping north of Houston for the night. The  plan is to spend Friday at the Children's Museum and Saturday will be at Space Center Houston (as originally planned). Because we have a membership at the Perot Science Museum here in Dallas, we get free admission to both those museums too. We've doubled up on home school lessons the last couple weeks to be able to take Thursday and Friday off from school. I'm pretty sure I will want Wednesday off now too, so I'll just double up the week we come back to make up for that day. We haven't told the kids they're getting an extra day of vacation yet! 

Today's agenda includes picking up the clothes from the cleaners, laundry, and picking up (more) sunscreen. 

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Started pre-packing today, and my DD swore up and down that she didn't need any new clothes. I took several shorts out of her drawer and thought, "there's no way these still fit her!" I hadn't seen her wear them all summer - she's been living in athletic shorts. They weren't even close! We spent the afternoon shopping, and hopefully we're all good now. 😏 

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On ‎8‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 7:55 PM, melmar02 said:

Pulled out some of our luggage since we bought a new big piece today. I'm trying to decide if my daughter can squeeze all her stuff in her carry on size or if I need to let her borrow my old, big hard side. I just realized we have no medium sized bags. 😆 For 11 days now, I'm pretty sure my son will have to use a normal carry on size instead of his little Star Wars bag.

 

20190823_174136.jpg

R2-D2 > BB-8

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Our school district starts today, and we are supposed to be going to a "not back to school" pool party (even though we started mid July). But...it's raining pretty hard this morning, so we're going to get through today's lessons and keep packing. The kids have a bad case of vacation-itis, so it's going to be a challenge. 2 more days until we head to Houston, 5 more until we board Liberty!

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20190827_083410.jpg

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Today is COZ and as is our normal preference when we visit COZ, we stayed on the ship.  We have the UDP and decided to check out the ever-questionable policy on dining at Johnny Rocket, using the package.  The restaurant opened for business today (port day) at 1PM. We arrived shortly after 1:00 to find that the UDP on LIB covers all food as well as sodas. It does not (as we fully expected) cover the shakes...but they did give us BOGO shakes from our D+ coupon.  So we were able stuff our gullets to near the breaking point for $-0- with a total bill of $5.90 for 2 shakes.

We often forget about JR as a lunch option, which on port days, is extremely limited.  So remember that if you have the UDP and want a “specialty” lunch dining option on a port day, JR might be a good option - at least, on LIB.  I realize that different ships have different rules regarding JR.

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