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Cruising the Caribbean with the "Cleaders" Freedom of the Seas Mar 22-29,2020


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I debated if I would do a blog for this trip or not and finally decided to take the plunge. I have lurked around here for about a year....... I know how helpful the "cruise boards" can be from all of my previous cruises and the research I had done..... My husband used to think I was crazy..... Then on our first cruise he was sitting in the ESPN sports box next to a guy-- drowing his sorrows in a beer as he didn't get any Palo reservations during the cruise for him and his wife and was in the dog house-- and realized that we had got dinner, champagne brunch and afternoon tea reservations because I knew where to be when. He realized my endless hours scouring the cruise boards really do pay off!!!   THEN WE SCORED THE START THE CAR $23 CDN/DAY OOPS OVER THE CANADA DAY LONG WEEKEND FOR THIS CRUISE AND HE WAS SOLD ON MY RESEARCH 😄

I have read 1000's of cruise reviews so I will use some of my favourite styles to write this one 🙂

How this cruise came about:

In March 2019 we were away at our time share for our annual spring break getaway with our son. I was still recovering from a very serious concussion and couldn't travel and our time share was only 3 hour drive from our house so we went there. I was so sick of the weather--cold, snow, cold, snow and more cold and snow. I was jealous as our best friends and their son were away at an all inclusive in Mexico.  So I started looking one morning when I couldn't sleep at cruises for in March of 2020. Hubby and I had done a B2B on Royal to Greece and Croatia out of Venice (our first with Royal and our first B2B) along with a whirlwind tour of England and Switzerland for a total of a month in Oct 2018 and were pretty much sold on Royal. We previously had cruised Disney.... (huge break 15 years almost) and then Carnival a number of times. Needless to say Royal won us over.  I came up with this cruise ABC's (a bucket list for cruise) and St Marteen or Carnival Breeze- a ship we liked to Amber Cove, St Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk..... well this one won out.  Got hold of our stellar TA and this was booked same day........ AFT Junior Suite .. SO EXCITED!!!

Sitting with our friends about a week after we all returned from our March breaks we told them about our cruise and she was booked within 24 hours.... It was supposed to be a surprise from her hubby and our teenage sons but ...... It's not lol.... and Everyone is excited for our vacation.

Background:

Our family is Me, DH, DS 16,  Our Best friends- my GF, her hubby and their DS 16.  We have been friends since we met them camping when our boys were 3 and had a knock down drag out fight.... You know the one where the playground is all theirs and myself and GF hubby are mortified about their behaviour and then later in the day these darling 3 yr olds are best friends?? They are a strange pair but are the best of friends and brothers!

 

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Background cont'd:

The B2B cruise my hubby and I went on my GF was there with her mom Vivianne- her mom had stage 4 breast cancer and was palliative. She lived the cruise to the fullest and we had so much fun! We lost her in March last year right before our respective spring breaks so this cruise will be in memory of her!! This is not the best shot of us all as it's 4 am in Venice at the airport waiting to start our 20 hour journey home but it's us 🙂

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Staterooms:

We are booked one cabin apart in Aft Balcony Junior Suites. My GF and I are very very excited about this..... the "big boys" and "little boys" as we call them really could not care less lol.  I will definitely post pics of our rooms when we are on the ship

 

Excursions:

Aruba- Booked through Royal-- National Geographic Catamaran Sail and Snorkel with Lunch

Bonaire: Golf Carts booked on our own--they were awesome to deal with although we booked in April 2020 we have ended up with 3 two seaters as the four seaters were already gone

Curacao: Resort for a Day-St Barbara Beach Resort for me, GF, little boys,  GOLF the Old Quarry Golf course at the resort for the big boys

St Marteen: Exploring around, we do want to go to see the Yoda guy as except for GF Hubby we are all huge Star Wars Fans

 

Pre Cruise: We decided to stay at the Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel and Casino -- I will post room photos and photos of happy hour and breakfast as both are included

Travel: Ok I will be honest I am frustrated, not happy, then happy, then not happy etc repeat with our flights.  First of all We booked as soon as flights were released May 5, 2019 and got an AMAZING DEAL!  We are all flying business class on 375000 points and $3200 CDN.  You may think this is expensive but to put it into perspective: Economy flights round trip with no luggage, no food, no drinks, no lounge for the looooonnnngggg wait between flights was going to be $1400 CDN each! We are in Calgary-YYC and the only way to get to San Juan-SJU is through Toronto-YYZ or Montreal-YUL for the most direct or multiple changes in the USA.  Disclaimer: I did expect some minor changes with our flights given how far out we were booking... it's been a few more than minor to say the least.

Originally we were flying YYC to SJU with a 3 hour layover in YYZ. Excited as we have never used the Maple Leaf Lounge in YYZ and it's supposed to be awesome. Coming home we were supposed to be SJU to YYC with a 1 hr 45 min layover in YUL. This is totally doable to clear customs etc...

First Flight change June 19 leaving 10 min later arriving in YYZ 10 min later -- expected no big deal

Second: July 03... Flight to YUL was now leaving almost 3 hours later and would arrive after our flight for YYC took off, Changed to the flight coming through YYZ and have 1 hr 40 min layover there... a bit tighter but still doable

Third: Nov 14 we were now going to be on the Max 8??? and arrive in YYZ 8 min earlier??? Really I'm sure this is going to change again

Fourth: Dec 03 Minor changes again and all to the Max 8-- I'm still ok because really it's just minutes apart but I know the Max 8 is still grounded and I'm waiting for AC to get their acts together

Fifth:  Dec 10 FLight YYZ to SJU and SJU to YYZ were all changed by an hour ..... ummm we cannot make the connection now!!! from YYZ to YYC we only have 25 min???

Sixth: Dec 11 Cancelled flight YYC to YYZ and rebooked on AC Premium Rouge???? UMMM I paid for business class and I am not happy, after research we knew no change to luggage allowance or perks.... ok we are still getting there lets just not rock the boat I just want to get on my cruise!   AND the flight home...... we can't make our connection so we need to stay overnight now 😞 Ok I am not sleeping on an airport floor for 10 hours..... so we lucked out at the Hilton Toronto Airport and Suites and got a great room with a king, queen and a double pull out for the teen sons to share, adults don't care it was reasonably priced, it is right at the airport and there are 3 beds and we can get a bit of sleep until we have to be back at the airport again.

Seventh: Jan 28 leaving now 25 min earlier from YYC , different aircraft, different seats all over the place AGAIN!

Eight: Feb 11 Flight YYC to YYZ cancelled now back on a AC flight not AC Premium Rouge-- Ok I am a bit happier, time is basically the same, I log on to select seats AGAIN.....  The reason is this is such an issue is that every time there was a change in flight AC must have put our names in a hat and tossed them around and pulled them out and we were sitting everywhere, not together, switched husband/wife/kids it was weird!  Our DS 16 is on the ASD spectrum and very high functioning but "rules" ie assigned seats must be the one you sit in there can be no switching when you get on board as that is where we are supposed to sit..... SO I was a bit stressed when I looked I had to do a double take as the flight , our overnight flight!!! had the PODS!!!  Beyond excited for this ...... however waiting for another change and praying there isn't one 🎉🎉

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On Board Pre Cruise Stuff

Adults $23 CDN/ day deluxe beverage oops packages 🙂

Kids: $25 CDN/day refreshment packages--we have saved over $100 CDN since we first bought these

Internet: 4 device surf and stream totatl $125 CDN-- we think there was an oops here as we have saved over $100 total since we bought

Digital Photo Package $199 CDN

Mystery DInner 4 ADults

Ultimate Flowrider Private Session: 6 of us get an hour with two instructors first sea day first thing in the morning!  Excited about this

Anytime DIning in MDR when we went to book in March as soon as we booked cruise it was either 545pm or 730pm or later...... we went with the 730 pm for the week. We think we are ok with this but will see once on board

I think this pretty much sums it all up for precruise stuff. Please let me know if you have any questions, want photos or anything checked out I am happy to do it! These boards have been so much help to me and my family to enjoy our cruises. I can say reading reviews is a passion and I can only hope to help someone a little bit. 
OHHHHH our ship will be newly revamped too!!!! Can't wait to see all the new stuff 🙂

 

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Following, our family is on the same cruise, our second time on Freedom. We're staying at the Sheraton in Old San Juan for 2 nights prior and have connection balcony rooms (adults in one , 2 kids in other) on deck 8. Glad you got a good deal on airfare, we're paying outrageous fares for the 4 of us out of Minneapolis

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You seem to be my kind of girl, suites and business class flights or better.....holla!!

I have used the Maple Leaf lounge at YYZ and they have the best popcorn. They also have separate bathrooms, the best kind with the sink already included in your private room. Nice chairs with a decent selection of beer and wine, depending on your time of entrance the food can be meh.

Looking forward to following along.

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6 hours ago, Ampurp85 said:

You seem to be my kind of girl, suites and business class flights or better.....holla!!

I have used the Maple Leaf lounge at YYZ and they have the best popcorn. They also have separate bathrooms, the best kind with the sink already included in your private room. Nice chairs with a decent selection of beer and wine, depending on your time of entrance the food can be meh.

Looking forward to following along.

OHHH good to know..... not sure about popcorn at 630am but we will see lol...... Thanks for the info on the food and the amenities there.....  In terms of suites and business class.... I admit I love it...... can't do it all the time but I love it, my husband is so kind to spoil me when he can 🙂

8 hours ago, Srp431 said:

Following, our family is on the same cruise, our second time on Freedom. We're staying at the Sheraton in Old San Juan for 2 nights prior and have connection balcony rooms (adults in one , 2 kids in other) on deck 8. Glad you got a good deal on airfare, we're paying outrageous fares for the 4 of us out of Minneapolis

Awesome!  I am very excited about the amplifications 🙂 Airfare is crazy it is now over $2000 person economy on the flights we are flying down on 😞 I can't believe the cost of the flights to SJU.... It will be a decision if we were to cruise again from there

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5 hours ago, NC350 said:

OHHH good to know..... not sure about popcorn at 630am but we will see lol...... Thanks for the info on the food and the amenities there.....  In terms of suites and business class.... I admit I love it...... can't do it all the time but I love it, my husband is so kind to spoil me when he can 🙂

Awesome!  I am very excited about the amplifications 🙂 Airfare is crazy it is now over $2000 person economy on the flights we are flying down on 😞 I can't believe the cost of the flights to SJU.... It will be a decision if we were to cruise again from there

We were thinking the same thing about cruising out of San Juan again in the near future, may be  a few yrs before we come back. I love the southern caribbean, but we're paying $1,200 per person and its not even a direct flight out of town. I'm very excited to see the amped up ship, looking forward to the time off from work

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10 hours ago, Srp431 said:

We were thinking the same thing about cruising out of San Juan again in the near future, may be  a few yrs before we come back. I love the southern caribbean, but we're paying $1,200 per person and its not even a direct flight out of town. I'm very excited to see the amped up ship, looking forward to the time off from work

We are on FOS and of May, and flights from St. Louis are in the $700 range per person.  So frustrating.  Haven't booked them yet, hoping they come down. 

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On 2/14/2020 at 11:29 AM, NC350 said:

Internet: 4 device surf and stream totatl $125 CDN-- we think there was an oops here as we have saved over $100 total since we bought

Not to alarm you, but carefully re-check this to make sure that when you re-purchased you didn't accidentally switch over from Surf & Stream to plain-old Surf. This was a costly mistake / lesson I learned on my last cruise, when I did exactly that during a sale and ended up having to pay the (large) difference after boarding to get back to the level of internet I had originally wanted.

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23 hours ago, Lovestotravel said:

We are on FOS and of May, and flights from St. Louis are in the $700 range per person.  So frustrating.  Haven't booked them yet, hoping they come down. 

We monitored flights for almost 12 months from Minneapolis to San Juan. Best price we found was $1200 the highest was 1$800. Neither was a direct flight. Prices only moved 5 - 10 dollars per ticket, but stayed very consistent. Limited options to San Juan for this coming March. 36 days away for us until we board

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52 minutes ago, Srp431 said:

We monitored flights for almost 12 months from Minneapolis to San Juan. Best price we found was $1200 the highest was 1$800. Neither was a direct flight. Prices only moved 5 - 10 dollars per ticket, but stayed very consistent. Limited options to San Juan for this coming March. 36 days away for us until we board

I just booked.  Got them both for $1300 total (which is still high), but the bonus is that I am able to fly out of my home city, where as all other flights of decent price were requiring us to drive 3 hours to the hub.  So, won't have to leave my car nor pay for gas.  I grabbed them, because I don't think they will decrease. 

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19 minutes ago, Lovestotravel said:

I just booked.  Got them both for $1300 total (which is still high), but the bonus is that I am able to fly out of my home city, where as all other flights of decent price were requiring us to drive 3 hours to the hub.  So, won't have to leave my car nor pay for gas.  I grabbed them, because I don't think they will decrease. 

Great price. Spring Break is a tought time to fly, cheap airfare is hard to come by

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11 hours ago, JLMoran said:

Not to alarm you, but carefully re-check this to make sure that when you re-purchased you didn't accidentally switch over from Surf & Stream to plain-old Surf. This was a costly mistake / lesson I learned on my last cruise, when I did exactly that during a sale and ended up having to pay the (large) difference after boarding to get back to the level of internet I had originally wanted.

Thanks for the heads up I double checked and it definitely says Surf& Stream 🎉

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23 hours ago, NC350 said:

Thanks for the heads up I double checked and it definitely says Surf& Stream 🎉

Same thing happened to me a couple of months ago, I randomly lucked into a two-device S&S package for about half the regular going rate. I have re-checked the order like 4 times just to be certain I didn't screw up! 😄 

Pays to stalk the Cruise Planner, for sure!

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  • 4 weeks later...

WELLL........ IT'S TIME TO TURN SOUR GRAPES INTO FINE WINE!!!!

As we all know we have all been restricted to our respective countries and regions! We are blessed to be very close to an amazing area just outside of Okanagon Falls in BEAUTIFUL British Columbia.............

Cruise Cancelled ---- Check

Airfare Cancelled--- Check future travel voucher issued ... Maybe Cabo in October???

Hotels Cancelled--- Check

 

AIR BNB booked!!!! Check check and check!!! So excited for this vacation to happen we leave same day Mar 21, 2020 to Kaleden, BC

I have decided if it's not breaking any rules here I will blog this trip ........

Here is our place we are staying 🙂 and the "big" boys practicing FINE WINE!!!

 

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Well preparations have started... as things continue to unfold with Covid-19 we will be self isolating while we are there!....... So we have been "shopping" in our pantries to determine what we need and planning activities..... Lots of games, I am sure the kids brains will be fully or partly pickled on their iPads, walks along the shore...2 metres apart of course.....

However most exciting we have planned a wine tour 🙂 Please see attached photo for the route 🙂

 

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Yesterday was travel day! I am sorry I couldn't live blog..... I will try to do better today 🙂 

We left Calgary at about 8 am. We had a beautiful day for a drive, roads were clear and sun was shining bright.  Our first stop was in Golden BC (about 3 hours from home) This is when things made us really think. We had expected and planned drive through or counter pick up and leave however we weren't prepared for most of them to also have the bathrooms completely closed. This became a bit of an issue later in the trip.......  Unfortunately I didn't think about taking pictures for this as I was the driver. When our friends arrived at our place we quickly decided guys, girls for cars and the teens decided "lets go with the mom their gossip is better" 🤣 

We continued along the road after getting coffees, Timbits, bagels, cinnamon buns and bathrooms (THANK YOU MCDONALDS!)

As we were approaching Roger's Pass (yes this is where all of you who don't know the AB/BC (Alberta/British Columbia) geography get to be home schooled and look it up 😉 the snow was really piling up, there was a little tumble of rocks coming down the mountain beside the car which isn't uncommon in some areas we were travelling. The teens took full advantage AVALANCHE at a very loud level was shouted from the back seat...... then giggling and "I've always wanted to say that" said Oscar, Felix was laughing......

SIDE NOTE: Remember when I introduced us all and talked about the boys bickering? As they have grown up this has not stopped, years ago as we were whipping them across the lake in a tube we can see as we are watching from the boat they are very adamantly engaged in a fight so we slowed the boat to find out what is going on. They shared they don't fight they talk like this and demanded to know why we thought this was important to slow the boat for? From that moment on we named them Oscar and Felix...wait until later they got new names yesterday 😉

 

Revelstoke approached and we knew the guys would be "STARVING" it was almost 1pm and that is way past their lunch time. Things were worse here than in Golden, really no choice for restaurants, we did find a truck stop that had outhouses, quick bathroom break and pulled beef jerky out and off we went until Salmon Arm, which was about another hour down the road. The teens felt that this stop was the most humorous as there was extra Lysol wiping and handsantizing...... My GF fell into the door of the outhouse as she was trying to open it which disolved into giggles and a Lysol wipe  bath. The teens now had a chance to tell their dads "its been like this since we started, they wipe everything, our hands are cleaner than clean"  We all had a good laugh and went on to Salmon Arm.

When we arrived in Salmon Arm we went to Wendy's for Salads for the us --We have decided as we were supposed to be in Peurto Rico today we would be Selma and Sophia, the teens are Ernesto and Paco and we struggled with our hubby's but finally came up with Jose and Cuervo. Our names will change again throughout the week I am sure.  
FYI: I'm Nicole, Hubby-Tim, Son-Brendan, GF-Shawna, Hubby Jeff, Son-Coleman

There was an A&W right next door so off the guys and teens went for that........again no bathrooms...... Paco is getting desperate for a "real bathroom" As we were sitting in our cars social distancing and people watching eating lunch we noticed a very interesting group of individuals who had set up across the street in the gas station parking lot corner. In their camp chairs more than 1-2 metres apart they were bantering back and forth and then out came some bottles of beer, to which there was singing, louder bantering, maybe fighting? not sure and a lot of laughing. Paco and Ernesto were thrilled! They said they were getting lunch and entertainment. We decided lunch was over and off we went we are still about 3 more hours for the drive.  Just down the road I spotted a little gas station and we stopped there! Success a bathroom, cute vodka sodas and a case of pop for the kids--realized we forgot these!!

OH NO We don't have any pictures and I'm supposed to be blogging this......

 

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