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The $20,000 cruise surprise (Ovation of the Seas)

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You've thought about it, you've dreamt about it, you've researched it - Are you going to do something about it?


Lets have a look and see what I did.


Many Many Many years ago, my parents took the whole family on cruises around the south pacific. I still have a hand carved fisherman's sail boat model from Fiji with 1977 carved into the side. (Hmmm 43 years ago) Back then you could throw coins over the side of the ship when in port and the local would swim down and pick them up, how times have changed.


We are addict's, all it took for me then was a taste 43 years ago and even to this day I love cruising !!!!


I had wanted to cruise for a VERY long time and based on my professional responsibilities it just wasn't possible.


My best friend and I had talked about taking a cruise for a very long time. And it took a long time for both of our schedules to be in line with each other so that we could take time off work to go on a cruise together.


In August of 2019 on the celebrity reflection, my best friend and I (Including Families) took a 12 NIGHT SCANDINAVIA & RUSSIA CRUISE.


Well like a junkie that has been clean for decades, my cruise addiction got what it needed and like a fresh blood transfusion "CRUISING" was back in my blood.


Within a month of returning from Russia, I had booked a cruise for my family. The problem I had, was that it was going to be a surprise, a VERY BIG surprise and I could not tell them.


Every chance I got, I was watching Royal Caribbean Blog, The Klaykowski's (AKA The ship show), Cruise tips TV, Tips for Travelers and on and on. "I LOVED IT". Some of it as silly as it sounds was over my head and not until now do I understand what and why they were saying things.


If it was mentioned, I bought it. Magnetic Hooks, Highlighters, collapsible laundry hampers, first aid kits, dental kits, sunglasses, sunhats and the list goes on. If you recommended it I got it.


My mother had died in January and I thought that it would be a great surprise for my father to go on a cruise with us. In short my father has become a home body and getting him to the cruise terminal in Sydney, let alone out of the house was a bigger task than I thought it was going to be.


After three subtle attempts to see if I could get him to Sydney (Australia) to go to sea world, I accepted that he was simply content at home and that was OK.


So how do you purchase all of these cruise must haves and not have anyone catch on to the fact that that's exactly what you are planning.


EASY -  You invent a cruise !!!! What I mean is, you let them know that you are planning a cruise sometime in the distant future but not when they expect it.


At the time, we were in Hong Kong and I had told them that I have arranged a vacation at Sea World on the Gold Coast (Queensland, Australia). Everyone was happy we were going on a vacation.


Problem was that the cruise I had planned was departing out of Sydney and Sea World is in another state, Queensland. Kind of like saying we were going to Orlando but needed to go via New York.


When going to Australia we always flew into Sydney, so telling them that we would fly into Sydney spending a couple of days there and then flying to Brisbane did not draw any undue attention.


The reason I used Sea World, was because they had already been there before and they knew what to expect. Because it is a resort it was easy to explain why they needed swimming paraphernalia, hats, sunglasses and so on.


So how do you explain why they need cocktail dresses, evening wear, high heeled shoes and so on? I know - tell them that I have prepared a professional photo shoot. We need everyone looking their best so the family can have some lovely photo's to look back on.


I had planned everything down to the most minuscule detail. I went to a photo store to laminate their boarding passes, I had their bag tags printed in color, I had personal lanyards made. I even bought them Samsung tablets (Not iPads) as a ruse to give them gifts that included their boarding passes in a bag.


Being the genius that I am, I forgot where I hid the damn things before we left. Using some Sherlock Homes logic I worked out - now where would you hide those things if I were you. I FOUND THEM. Afterwards thinking what kind of an idiot would hide them there.


Just think about planning a cruise months in advance and 1.) You cannot tell anyone and 2.) Getting them to pack for it. It's crazy !!!


My wife though I was nut's, because I was watching her pack. I've never done this before, but she is a genius at packing. (Yes I got the CUBES) This was to ensure that she didn't forget anything (She did - no magnetic hooks or collapsible clothes hamper.) Who needs that stuff at sea world right.


A small side note. We had a mini brake in Japan earlier in the year. We were staying at Universal Studios (Osaka) Japan and on one of our day trips went to Osaka Aquarium for the day. To get there you take a short ferry trip from universal to the aquarium.


After the day at the aquarium, on the way back to our hotel. While we were on the return trip on the ferry, guess what ? We passed Spectrum of the Seas. I just wanted to explode, I just wanted to shout out and say "LOOK THATS WHAT YOU WILL BE ON AT XMAS" It took so much strength to keep my mouth shut, but I did and the surprise was still safe - so the story continues.


We arrived in Sydney two days before the cruise, so we were in no rush. Qantas for the most part are very reliable, so I was not expecting any flight delays. I was able to upgrade of flight tickets so the surprise was just getting better and better. They didn't know about the business class seats either.


When I mentioned that I had planned this down to the most minuscule detail I was not kidding. I had booked a hotel in Sydney that would require us to take a ferry into Circular Quay. Circular Quay is where the cruise ships dock in-between the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor bridge. This would have us pass the Ovation of the Seas before reaching the wharf.


I had made sure that I had the current time table for the ferry, so that we would pass the ship just at the right time and subsequently we could board the ship at our predetermined boarding time.


I don't know what time we went to bed the night before the BIG SURPRISE cruise, I was so paranoid about sleeping in and missing the ferry.

Remember my wife and two daughters thought that we were going to Sydney airport from the hotel to fly to Brisbane. I'm so close at pulling this off. so so close.


We had stayed at this hotel before and my wife new that we could get a reliable airport shuttle service.


From the hotel to the wharf, where the ferry was to depart was about a 5 minute work downhill (A very steep downward hill) We had five large suitcases, backpacks, camera bags and nick knacks hanging off us. We looked like Sherpas taking guests belongings to the top of Everest.


I'm so close, we were all struggling going down the hill with all of this luggage. My wife looks at me like you cheap bastard you could not even cough up enough money to get the airport shuttle.


We are half an hour away from the greatest surprise ever and do I have to take this #$%@ from her. YES YOU DO! She doesn't know and I probably would have thought the same thing.


We get to the wharf everything is on track, we are early for the ferry and we are almost there. One thing I have not mentioned is that this ferry is designed for commuters carrying either a hand bag or a brief case, not a family of four going away for two weeks on a cruise.


In Australia everyone is quite nice and patient so like a worker bee I grab one bag put it on the ferry and run back and get another till we have everything onboard the ferry.


Now I have to get the timing just right, as I had envisaged such a long time ago I was going to get this on film. How do I get them outside while I get their xmas gift bags ready?


We will be passing the Sydney Opera house which is on the left hand side of the ferry and the Ovation of the Seas will be on the right hand side as we pull into the wharf.


I ask my wife to take the girls out and get some shots with the Sydney opera house in the background, OK - no problem out they go. Every second counts now I have to get it just right.


I get everything organized, all of the bags are in order and ready to be given out. I go out the back and ask them to stand on the opposite side of the ferry and this is what happened.



When booking the cruise I figured this will be a one off and if I am going to do it I should go all out and give them a cruise that they will never forget. Hence the cost of the surprise, you only live once and life is here to be enjoyed and experienced to the fullest. Also when I booked it I planned for my father to be in our room as well so we needed a large room.


We got a suite and every extra possible, the only thing I regret now is that I didn't know about STAR class. (SKY class sucks, it's like being a brides maid.)


To follow up their surprise about finding out about the cruise, the next surprise was going to be seeing their room.


The next video is of the family seeing their room for the first time. If you cannot smile while ,during or after this room (I cannot really call it a room tour) surprise you need to go take some happy pills.




I hope that you have enjoyed this little adventure and trust that you can have as much fun in the future cruising as we had in the past.


Just so that I could link these videos to this BLOG, I had to create a YouTube channel about half an hour ago. Nothing sexy to see, just life in the raw.


Maybe I will be as creative as Matt and learn how to edit one day.


Best Regards



I was also wrong about this cruise. I thought that it was going to be a one off - NO - I have four more cruises booked with more surprises to come.

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  • R.J. changed the title to The $20,000 cruise surprise (Ovation of the Seas)
22 hours ago, R.J. said:

Maybe I will be as creative as Matt and learn how to edit one day.

Couldn't watch initially, finally did ... I like the videos in the raw format. It really brings out everyone's excitement. 

I tried to surprise my wife once with a suite upgrade, made it all the way to about a week or two prior when we got the concierge email. Forgot wife's email was on reservation too. Oh well, she was still extremely happy and surprised.

Look forward to hearing about your next surprises.

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Well the best intention was there. I am not surprised that that didn't happen to me.


I found out what extreme paranoia was, that was for certain. I was convinced a few times that she new when she made totally innocent comments.


As you can see from the video, I made it all the way to the end.


More surprises are already in the pipeline, all we need is the ships to start sailing.

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I laughed about the very steep walk to Circular Quay.  2 years ago we stayed at the Intercontinental (located across the street from the botanical gardens) in Sydney and I can still remember walking down that hill to the Opera house wearing heels, I swear my husband still has bruises on his hand from my death grip.  I could not imagine dragging luggage.  Pretty sure I would have been just like your wife....add in some swear words.

We were there in May and from our hotel room I watched Ovation dock one morning.  All I thought was ... I am so jealous of the people getting on the ship.  I then said to myself if I ever go back to Australia we will do a cruise.  As an American east coast girl, that's not going to happen for at least a decade+ (retirement).  

Sydney to me is now tied as 1 of the best cities in the world. Tied with Venice. Edinburgh is behind them.  Than again, I am a huge Queen Victoria history buff and a true romantic so that be why it is at the top

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