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Thanking my lucky STARS that cruising is back (a Symphony Star Class family blog)


Tiffeven
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We arrived at our hotel around 9pm and doordashed Chipotle.  We are staying at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Airport/Blue Lagoon.  The front desk told us that it is about 25 minutes from the port.  So far it seems like your standard suite hotel, but I will comment more on it tomorrow after I have enough time to form a more complete opinion of the premises.  Until then, here are a few of the photos from the hotel for anyone interested. 

View from the hotel:

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The room (2 Queen Bed 1 Bedroom Suite):

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25 minutes ago, Traveler said:

Just came back from a ship night tour. The team is preparing the ship for you and started with the turn around clean ups. It's ready !

 

 

We are so excited!  It still seems so unreal.  Good luck on the transferring between cabins, but it will totally be worth it for Star Class. 

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Today is cruise day!  We decided to log into the app to see if the e-muster drill was available,  and it was.

You click on safety at the bottom of the screen to access it:

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Then you go through and click on any sections marked as incomplete; and upon completion, it changes to complete.  The only one we couldn't do was Step 3: Visit assembly station, but we will do that once we are onboard.  At the end, it also asked who on the reservation watched the safety drill, and I was able to click everyone on the reservation.  We have a split reservation since only four people can be on a reservation.   I went into the other reservation that consists of two of the kids, and everything was already marked as complete.

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Homewood Suites by Hilton Airport/Blue Lagoon was a nice hotel.  It was what you would expect from an entry level suite hotel.  It didn't have some of the bells and whistle of its upscale competition but we have no complaints from our stay.   Breakfast consisted of bacon, eggs, waffles, packaged strawberry pancakes, cereal, and fruit.  They were nice and allowed us to do late checkout when we asked for 30 extra minutes (thanks to searching for Kat's shoe that ended up still being in the car).  I would give it a 3.9 out of 5.

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Boarding:

Boarding was a mess to say the least and there was absolutely no social distancing despite the signage for it.  It was obvious they are still trying to figure out how to handle the new protocols.  Nobody in the terminal seemed to know what Star Class or a genie was.  We also did not get any Star Class boarding perks and went through the same lines as everyone else (other than the initial suite door to the terminal), but that may be due to the fact that we have children that required testing.  

Upon arriving at the terminal, we showed vaccination cards, negative tests, boarding passes (on phone), and passports.  Steven and I received our "Royal Comeback" bracelet that shows that we are vaccinated and the kids got a yellow bracelet which signified that they needed to be tested still.  We, then, got in line to have the kids tested.  This line only took about 5 minutes, but it would have taken longer if we wouldn't have pre-registered for the test.  The test was a little more invasive than the Walgreens one but not too bad.  We had to hold the babies for it, but they didn't cry.  After taking the test, we were allowed to check-in while waiting for results.  After going through check-in and security, we were told to wait in a sectioned off area on floor 3 for our results.  We were told we would get our results by email in 30 to 40 minutes, and then we could board after we received our negative results.  We waited for results for 55 minutes.  After we received the email, we were being escorted onboard by Sunil almost immediately.

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So sorry to hear about your check in process , I guess the genie power is limited to no exist until you past the test , they will need to do better and figure out how to handle this.  I can tell you that our B2B was also without any star benefits and we just went bent back by ourselves. But now I hope everything is behind you and you started to enjoy the cruise. 

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Day 1 continued:

After boarding, Sunil took us to our muster station, they scanned all of our sea passes, and we were done.  By far, easiest and quickest muster drill I've ever done.  Sunil, then, took us to our cabin where we got our room keys.  Sunil left and we went to ride the carousel and have lunch at Playmakers.  Unfortunately, it was kind of a let down.  The server was not attentive, acted as if we were putting him out, and made a snarky comment about how much food we ordered (had it been jokingly, I would have laughed along as we did have a lot of food but it came across as rude and like we were wasting his time).  At one point, a female server came up to us and asked if we needed anything and stopped and played with the little ones.  She genuinely seemed nice and I wish she would have been our waitress.  The food at Playmakers was just ok.  The kids had chicken tenders and fries, and they seemed to enjoy them.  Steven had Jamaican Jerk wings and Major (hottest) wings, and he said they were just ok.  He said they tasted like hot wings you would get at a pizza place.  I had the truffle burger, and I was not a fan.  It was so greasy that it fell apart when I picked it up and the taste wasn't great to me either.  I've had worse but I've definitely had better.  The Playmaker fries that came with it were on point though, and one of my two favorite things there.  The other being the Playmaker Sundae which did not disappoint.  We also had the onion ring tower (which tasted like typical onion rings),  buffalo crunch rolls (Steven said they were good not great but he'd eat them again), jalapeno poppers (we liked them but wish they had a little more cream cheese in them), and a campfire cookie (we were very full at this point but it tasted good from the little bit we had).

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10 hours ago, Tiffeven said:

 Nobody in the terminal seemed to know what Star Class or a genie was.  We also did not get any Star Class boarding perks and went through the same lines as everyone else (other than the initial suite door to the terminal), but that may be due to the fact that we have children that required testing.  

We have a SC cruise in April with an 8 year old. This is disturbing to read. I sure hope they figure out the boarding/testing thing for SC families. It’s RC so i’m guessing trial and error will have it figured out by then. 🙏🏻

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11 hours ago, Tiffeven said:

Nobody in the terminal seemed to know what Star Class or a genie was.  We also did not get any Star Class boarding perks and went through the same lines as everyone else (other than the initial suite door to the terminal)

That is definitely disappointing, but it might be as @Travelerand perhaps their "genie powers" don't extend to beyond the testing point.  Sort of like pre-covid, where their Genie powers were gone once you were back in main terminals (to collect your bags).

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1 hour ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Hmmm…sounds like a somewhat disappointing first day.  At least Sunil seemed to be attentive (although it was his failure at check-in, if you ask me).  I would have been completely unimpressed with SC if this was my first impression.  

Sunil did everything he could.  The genies were not allowed past a certain point in the terminal.  He was surprised to see that we arrived.  He told us that there is someone downstairs at the terminal that calls and lets the genies know when their guests arrive.  He told me they never told him, and he kept checking.  There was one person when you first entered the terminal that we were going to stop and ask who seemed like maybe she was the one who was possibly a contact point for suites and pinnacles.  It was directly after you enter the terminal and there was a large family who kept asking her questions and a family right beside her that was having a complete breakdown.  The wife was balling her eyes out and the husband kept telling her "I told you you needed that and you wouldn't listen.  The kids and I are just going to go without you."  I felt really bad for them, but I assume it probably had something to do with not reading all of the protocols.  This was distracting even for us (but to be fair I would be in tears if I found out I couldn't go on my cruise too), so maybe between this commotion we got missed by the genie's point of contact.  After another lady saw us waiting to talk to the lady who we thought may be the one we should talk to, the other lady came over and pretty much told us no, we need to go to testing.  I understand if they are trying to keep the kids separate who haven't tested in the terminal,, but why were we allowed to check-in with everyone else before receiving results?  It didn't quite make any sense.  After being shuffled around for awhile, I messaged Sunil on Whatsapp, and he immediately responded and even called trying to help where he could.  Unfortunately,  we had zero cellphone service in the terminal and did not notice that we had a missed message and two missed calls until we got to the end of the process and I was able to hook to wifi.  I do not blame Sunil at all.  Perhaps, we got unlucky or maybe the people at the terminal need more time to make it a smooth process.  If anyone else has any issues at check-in, I recommend reaching out to your genie and learn from our mistake and make sure you have cell reception for them to respond.

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Day 1 continued: registering for Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies and Tots

After Playmakers, we picked up Starbucks (delicious drinks and very friendly staff) and headed to register the kids for Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies and Tots.  This was really fast and the staff members were very friendly.  We were able to register all of the kids on the same tablet despite them being in different classes.  We were very happy that Sunil had reserved our hours after what they told us.  We asked them how many people were onboard, how many were children, and how many were allowed in Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies and Tots.  They told us that there was somewhere between 1,800 and 1,900 people onboard but they couldn't remember the exact number and that out of that 180 were kids.  They also said that they were only allowed 15 kids in Adventure Ocean at a time and 4 children in Royal Babies and Tots at a time.  They said they had to measure the room and add in the fact that they have to allow 6 feet between child.  About this time, Christian chimed in and asked about gaga ball (his favorite cruise activity that used to happen every night in Adventure Ocean after 10pm).  They told him unfortunately, they can't do gaga ball right now because of social distancing rules.  We also asked about the open play area that they generally have open through the day for parents to bring their little ones to play.  We were very disappointed to hear that this will remain closed during the cruise because of Covid protocols.  This was always a nice place to bring the little ones to run out their endless energy.  It was enclosed and we were able to sit on the side and watch the babies play.  I understand why it is closed, but it is still disappointing.

 

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Day 1 continued: Dinner

After registering the kids for Adventure Ocean, we returned to our cabin where we met our room attendant.  He seemed nice and by the books.  He let us know that he wasn't allowed in the room while we were there and asked us to put the "out catching thrills" magnet on the door anytime we leave.  We were planning on eating in Coastal Kitchen, but the babies were super fussy and we called and asked Sunil if we could have it delivered to our suites instead.  We gave him our order, and the food arrived in less than 30 minutes.  One of the few downsides to the aquatheater suites is sometimes food and coffee arrives tepid and ice cream arrives melted.  This was not the case for this meal.  The food was tasty and still hot.  When having food delivered right now, they let you bring the rolling tray into the room since they aren't allowed to enter with anyone present.  I asked him if it was ok if we all shut ourselves in a room and he set it up on the balcony.  He said that was fine.  After he left, the food was waiting for us on the balcony.  Unfortunately, it wasn't set up like they used to do.  Instead of a table cloth with the plates set out neatly, it was just plates stacked on top of each other.  While slightly disappointing, it probably wouldn't have been noticed had we not sailed Star Class before.  The filet mignon and ceasar salad were delicious as always.  While we missed eating in Coastal Kitchen, I think this was a much better decision than going there with tired, fussy toddlers.

 

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Day 1 continued:

After dinner, we dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies and Tots.  We were very surprised to see that there were no other kids in Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies and Tots when we dropped the kids off.  They told us that they had others scheduled that should be there any minute, so the kids wanted to stay.  

Steven and I decided to do our usual day 1 ship exploration.  It was a different feel than before walking around an almost empty pool deck and solarium, a completely empty suite deck, and several closed outdoor bars that used to stay open later.  The promenade was the busiest place we visited, but it was still the fewest people I've ever seen there.  I ordered a drink from bionic bar which is super gimicky but still a neat concept.  I decided to try something different and it was good, but I still prefer my mango lava flow and grabbed one when I eventually found the one pool deck bar that was open.  There was signage about not sitting at the bar, but it was not being enforced and multiple people sat at the bar sipping their drinks.  We also made a stop at Sugar Beach and got ice cream.  The staff members in Sugar Beach were very friendly and genuinely seemed happy to be there.   

We picked up the kids when the nursery called and let us know that Kat was crying (she gets fussy when she gets tired).  Nyssa seemed to be having fun, but she was excited to see us.  Other than Kat and Nyssa, there was only one other child in Royal Babies and Tots.  We, then, picked up Christian and Sophia.  Christian and Sophia said they had fun but not nearly as much as they used too.  Sophia said it was too structured and they didn't have the freedom that they used to to do stuff they enjoyed.  While there were more kids than when we dropped them off, it was considerably less than we expected and way below the 15 kid limit. 

Bionic Bar:

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Mango lava flow and the nice bartender who fixed it for me:

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Day 1 continued:

After picking up the kids from Adventure Ocean, we took them for ice cream at Sugar Beach.  They recognized us from earlier and laughed and joked with us and the kids.  They were just as nice as before and it was a very fun environment. 

We headed back to our cabin to watch the aquatheater show.  I was expecting snacks to be delivered for the show since I mentioned it in the document that I sent to Sunil, but I guess I should have checked with him or reminded him because they were never delivered.  Part of me was glad because I had ate way too much food already.  We sat on the balcony and watched Hiro.  We had to get up and chase the little ones several times throughout the show, but the parts we saw were fantastic.  The cast is very talented, and it amazes me how they can make something that is incredibly difficult look easy.  The kids enjoyed pointing out the things that you can only see from the higher perspective such as the floor going up and down and seeing where the swimmers disappear to. 

Temptation got the best of me, and I decided I was going to order room service.  We ordered a philly cheesesteak, hot dogs, hot wings, and a steak quesadilla.  Room service took about 30 to 40 minutes to arrive, and the food again arrived hot.  The hot dogs were the standard ship hot dogs (no complaints), Steven said the wings were better than Playmakers and he will definitely order them again, and the steak quesadilla was the best one I've ever had from a cruise ship's room service and I've ordered alot of room service haha.  It was crispy, cooked just right, and had just the right amount of steak and cheese.  As I type this, I'm literally having to stop myself from ordering one thinking about it.  The philly looked delicious but I was so stuffed by the time I got to it that I had to force myself to try a bite.  We sent Sunil our breakfast order for the morning and headed to bed.

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Day 2: Breakfast

Our breakfast was delivered at 10am like we requested.  Again, it was hot.  That makes 3 for 3 for food being delivered hot to an aquatheater suite, which is honestly a first for us.  Perhaps this is one of the perks of sailing at reduced capacity or maybe the staff members here are just doing a great job with delivering the food expeditiously.  Either way, we are happy.  Again, they did not put out a tablecloth or set up the meal and while the food was good, some of the food was missing (we had ordered 3 plates of bacon and 2 plates of sausage and only received 1 plate that was half bacon and half sausage).  This was disappointing as that is probably the favorite part of breakfast for the kids and we had to split 4 sausages and around 10 slices of bacon between 6 people.  I let it slide, but the one thing I couldn't let slide was my Starbucks.  In the document I sent to Sunil, I specifically told him that we enjoy Starbucks very much and exactly what we like.  Again, I guess I should have clarified that I wanted it delivered every morning, but I never had to ask with Jay or Alan.  They saw it in the document and it was just an automatic thing.  I NEEDED my coffee and Sunil told me when we boarded to use whatsapp if it wasn't urgent and to call if it was urgent.  My coffee was urgent, so I called and told him I wanted Starbucks and I wanted it to be a standing order every morning with breakfast.  About 30 minutes later, our drinks were delivered by room service.  One thing, I am picking up on is I need to pretend like Sunil never read the document I sent him.  Everything we have asked for after getting onboard, he has made happen, but the document I sent has not really helped that much like it did with previous genie experiences.  

How they set out our breakfast order (no presentation or even a tablecloth):

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Our breakfast:

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