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So I'm taking my first cruise ever, on Freedom of the Seas (8-night Eastern Caribbean sailing in March/April of 2018). I have some general questions I haven't found answers for after listening to the podcast and searching the blog and these message boards. Apologies if these have actually been asked a million times already.

 

 

First question is about the main dining room. I'm looking at the deck plans for FOTS, and I see that there are three areas labeled "Dining Room" -- Leonardo Dining Room on Deck 3, Isaac Dining Room on Deck 4, and Galileo Dining Room on Deck 5. Are all three of these combined actually the "Main Dining Room"? Or are they distinct in terms of appearance, menu, any background music, etc.?

 

Related to this: I have the Early Dining assignment (5:30 PM) and my family's cabins (connecting balcony rooms) are on Deck 8. Will we be assigned to just one of these dining rooms for the entire week? Any way to predict which one based on our cabin deck?

 

Do we have to eat in that assigned room for all meals where we choose a dining room option, or can we go to, say, the Galileo room for breakfast even if we're assigned the Leonardo room for dinner? Does it even make a difference if we do?

 

 

Next question is about stargazing and taking photos of the night sky. I've read here that at least some of Royal Caribbean's ships have at least one planned stargazing event on the helipad. Are passengers allowed on the helipad at night when there is no planned event? Just want to know if I have to make sure to find that announcement in the Cruise Compass and tell my family that I'll be doing that no matter what else they might want; I live too close to bright cities to ever get a good view of the night sky, and being able to actually see the Milky Way and maybe take some long-exposure photos to capture it is something of a bucket list item of mine.

 

Related to that, are passengers allowed to bring a tripod onto the helipad in that situation? Long-exposure shots don't work when holding the camera, so at a minimum I'd want to bring a very small (I'm talking 6") folding mini-tripod I own that I could set up, or something like a Gorillapod that I could wrap around a railing or post.

 

 

Next question is about the Adventure Ocean program. Both my kids will be with me, and they'll be 14 and 17 at the time. Are they able to just go to the teen lounges without actually signing up for Adventure Ocean, or do they need to be signed up so it shows on their sea pass card that they're allowed in? Besides those teen clubs, does the ship staff typically do anything special for teens during the day on sea days? Or is the expectation that kids that age will just roam the ship on their own and do their own thing with or without their parents?

 

 

Last question is about what people's experiences have been with the staff when it came to special events. My TA has noted on our reservations that it will not only be our first ever cruise, but our 20th wedding anniversary and our daughter's graduation from high school. When we went to Disney the first time, we got big buttons to wear and the staff went out of their way to be extra helpful and make the stay even more enjoyable than it already was. I've heard / read multiple comparisons of Royal Caribbean to Disney in terms of their effort to "wow" their passengers, so I'm curious if anyone here has traveled under similar circumstances and gotten similar "TLC".

 

 

That's it for now, at least. Thanks in advance for whatever help you can give!

 

 

- Joe -

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Lots of great questions. I just wanted to jump in and say those are the 3 levels of the dining room, it's all one room. They just name each floor to help let people know where to go. Sounds like you have a 'traditional' dining time at 530, you will be at the same table for the whole cruise.

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All 3 dining rooms just make up the main dining room. Depending on which dining option you are in, it will specify which deck you dine on. The deck you are assigned to depends on if you are in My Time Dining or Traditional Dining.

 

The different decks are only for dinner.  Breakfast and lunch in the MDR is open seating, and open to all guests to enjoy anytime within the times the MDR is open for those meals.

 

Yes, you can go on the helipad anytime you want, assuming it's not too windy.  It is very dark up there!

 

 

Next question is about the Adventure Ocean program. Both my kids will be with me, and they'll be 14 and 17 at the time. Are they able to just go to the teen lounges without actually signing up for Adventure Ocean, or do they need to be signed up so it shows on their sea pass card that they're allowed in? Besides those teen clubs, does the ship staff typically do anything special for teens during the day on sea days? Or is the expectation that kids that age will just roam the ship on their own and do their own thing with or without their parents?

I believe teens still have to register (I could be totally wrong). However, teens can sign themselves in and out from what I understand.  There are also additional teen events in the Cruise Compass beyond what is happening in the teen lounge. 

 

There aren't really the kind of "celebrating" special events with buttons and what not. It is good to note you are celebrating on the cruise, because the staff won't know otherwise.  Surprises can happen, but I wouldn't expect anything. Essentially, it doesn't hurt to note it.

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Thanks, Matt and Jerel! All great information to learn!  :) 

 

There aren't really the kind of "celebrating" special events with buttons and what not. It is good to note you are celebrating on the cruise, because the staff won't know otherwise.  Surprises can happen, but I wouldn't expect anything. Essentially, it doesn't hurt to note it.

 

Is it enough that the events are noted on my reservation, or should I still make a point of mentioning it to the staff we meet (waiters, room attendants, etc.)?

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Thanks, Matt and Jerel! All great information to learn!  :) 

 

 

Is it enough that the events are noted on my reservation, or should I still make a point of mentioning it to the staff we meet (waiters, room attendants, etc.)?

 

I would mention it if you want anything "special" (though not sure what they do).

 

I noted it was my son's 18th birthday when talking with a customer service rep prior to our cruise.  His birthday was noted on our reservation, but he didn't want anything "special" (God forbid we call any extra attention to a teenager :) )  Anyway, we never mentioned it and they never did anything "special" in the public areas (dining room, hallway decorations, etc.)  However, they did drop a happy birthday card by his room with a plate of deserts/cookies one day.

 

As for the helipad, I often went out there at night on Navigator and yes, it is very dark....and windy (at least our cruise had a lot of wind).

 

As for the breakfast question in the main dining room....on Navigator, I believe only one of the main dining room floors was open for breakfast and you just got in line and got seated.  People weren't necessarily seated at their "dinner" table.  If they had a table with 8 chairs available, they just came out to the line and grabbed 8 people and seated them together.

 

As for your kids, all I can say is, you picked the right year to cruise with them being 14 and 17.  My two boys are 15 and the oldest had just turned 18 prior to our cruise.  Because he was 18, he was not allowed to participate in any of the teen activities (even though he is a sr. in high school and those are the kids he hangs out with anyway).  He and his brother are close, so his younger brother just hung out with the older one...so he didn't even experience the teen club/activities.  It was really a negative impact on our cruise as the 18 - 20 year olds on a cruise are kind of a forgotten population (too old for the teen stuff, too young for the adult stuff).  I think had we gone a month earlier and they had both been able to hang out in the teen club, play in the teen sporting events, etc. they would have had a much better time.  Anyway, just giving you this heads up in case you decide to book another cruise when your older one hits 18.  (I should note, we sailed out of a U.S port. I am not sure if there any different age restrictions from non-U.S. ports.)

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As for the helipad, I often went out there at night on Navigator and yes, it is very dark....and windy (at least our cruise had a lot of wind).

Good to know. If it's likely to be windy then I probably should figure on a Gorillapod for mounting my camera, rather than trying to lug a regular tripod onto there and risking it being blown over. I'd imagine it's also easier to bring a Gorillapod on board.

 

I guess I shouldn't be surprised it's windy. It's the front of a vessel moving at 15- or 20-something miles an hour, I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least a little wind.  ;) 

 

As for your kids, all I can say is, you picked the right year to cruise with them being 14 and 17.  My two boys are 15 and the oldest had just turned 18 prior to our cruise.  Because he was 18, he was not allowed to participate in any of the teen activities (even though he is a sr. in high school and those are the kids he hangs out with anyway).  He and his brother are close, so his younger brother just hung out with the older one...so he didn't even experience the teen club/activities.  It was really a negative impact on our cruise as the 18 - 20 year olds on a cruise are kind of a forgotten population (too old for the teen stuff, too young for the adult stuff).  I think had we gone a month earlier and they had both been able to hang out in the teen club, play in the teen sporting events, etc. they would have had a much better time.  Anyway, just giving you this heads up in case you decide to book another cruise when your older one hits 18.  (I should note, we sailed out of a U.S port. I am not sure if there any different age restrictions from non-U.S. ports.)

Yeah, it's mostly luck that the older one will still be 17. She'll be a senior and graduating that June, but her birthday fell just before the district's cutoff and it's made her one of the youngest students in her class. If it wasn't for that, she'd be in the same limbo your older son was in.

 

That said, she's already rolling her eyes at the idea of all the "teen" activities, not sure how much she'll really care to go to those teen clubs or do the other items on the daily events list. She's more likely to want to see a jazz performer or other live entertainment at night. She's a budding performer herself, voice and learning piano, and has some eclectic tastes in hobbies (to give you an idea, she just asked for, and got, Cards Against Humanity as a Christmas gift), so I'm not necessarily expecting her to be the social butterfly of the teen scene.

 

Her younger sister, on the other hand, will probably want to be in the clubs every night and doing as many group activities as she can. And also finding a sushi making or other cooking class if one is available, along with evaluating the guacamole from Sabor against her own recipe.  ;)

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That said, she's already rolling her eyes at the idea of all the "teen" activities, not sure how much she'll really care to go to those teen clubs or do the other items on the daily events list. She's more likely to want to see a jazz performer or other live entertainment at night. She's a budding performer herself, voice and learning piano, and has some eclectic tastes in hobbies (to give you an idea, she just asked for, and got, Cards Against Humanity as a Christmas gift), so I'm not necessarily expecting her to be the social butterfly of the teen scene.

 

Her younger sister, on the other hand, will probably want to be in the clubs every night and doing as many group activities as she can. And also finding a sushi making or other cooking class if one is available, along with evaluating the guacamole from Sabor against her own recipe.  ;)

 

This cracked me up...we did something similar last summer. We didn't do adjoining staterooms though. My wife and I had a balcony on deck 8 behind the hump, and an inside directly across the hallway for our three kids (two teenagers and one 20 year old)...

 

Our biggest issue was simply getting the kids out of bed everyday to enjoy the ship on sea days. The inside cabin was pitch black, and they slept well, too well...

 

They were not interested in any of the teen activities, and just did what they wanted or hung around us....my son spent a lot of time at the basketball court and the girls were by the pool. We got them to go to some of the shows.

 

btw, breakfast is always on deck 3 in the Main Dining Room...don't forget the Windjammer...lots of selections there! The helipad is a great place to go when it is open!

 

You're going to love it

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Next question is about stargazing and taking photos of the night sky. I've read here that at least some of Royal Caribbean's ships have at least one planned stargazing event on the helipad. Are passengers allowed on the helipad at night when there is no planned event? Just want to know if I have to make sure to find that announcement in the Cruise Compass and tell my family that I'll be doing that no matter what else they might want; I live too close to bright cities to ever get a good view of the night sky, and being able to actually see the Milky Way and maybe take some long-exposure photos to capture it is something of a bucket list item of mine.

 

Related to that, are passengers allowed to bring a tripod onto the helipad in that situation? Long-exposure shots don't work when holding the camera, so at a minimum I'd want to bring a very small (I'm talking 6") folding mini-tripod I own that I could set up, or something like a Gorillapod that I could wrap around a railing or post.

 

Whilst you may use the hand rail for a Gorrilapod or a small tripod where would still be too much motion of the vessel to allow for a long exposure shot that you are talking about to allow any sort of sharpness in the stars.

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Whilst you may use the hand rail for a Gorrilapod or a small tripod where would still be too much motion of the vessel to allow for a long exposure shot that you are talking about to allow any sort of sharpness in the stars.

 

Shoot, I hadn't even thought about that! I was just figuring on using my iPhone (most likely a 7 Plus I'm picking up in a couple months, which has the improved f1.8 wide-angle lens and optical image stabilzation, but possibly the model after that if the camera upgrade is compelling enough), plus an app I have called Slow Shutter that allows taking low light shots up to 60 seconds long, with manually controlled or automatic ISO to keep the noise down.

 

I was figuring on only trying a couple of 30- to 60-second exposures and seeing if they even came out, and otherwise just enjoying the view and taking it all in. If the exposure is that short, would the ship movement be slow / small enough to not matter? Or could the optical image stabilization that iPhone has on the wide-angle lens be enough to compensate for the movement? Probably just as importantly, would that relatively short an exposure produce a decent image that picked up enough detail to be worth keeping? I haven't tried a shot like this before, so I don't even know if the milky way or even most visible stars show up in photos with anything less than a minutes-long exposure.

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Whilst you may use the hand rail for a Gorrilapod or a small tripod where would still be too much motion of the vessel to allow for a long exposure shot that you are talking about to allow any sort of sharpness in the stars.

^ This is true.  Way too much motion to get a good picture.

 

If not though you can get good pics at about 30 seconds exposure if it is a dark location.  Anything longer and you start getting the star trails.

 

This is 30 second at F4 in the Tennessee boondocks.

 

15632922535_f25026df42_c.jpg

 

 

BTW I am taking the same cruise leaving on the 20th of this month. If you need any specific information just ask and I'll try to accommodate.  I will bring back the Compasses and scan for Matt to put on the site.

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You have set dinner time, 530 pm, which means that passengers are already standing in line at 5 pm, so be prepared. If you are late or just decide to go later in the evening, you will definitely wait in line. You will be at the same table, with the same people every night. I like this kind of dining, I have made some really good friends at the table. As Spiegeje said don't forget the Windjammer and the other free restaurants. On my reservation it was noted my mother was celebrating her 90th birthday. The dining room manager came to our table on the first night and told me they would bring a cake and sing to her on the night of her birthday and they did. She got a card in her room with a plate of 4 beautifully crafted candies.

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^ This is true.  Way too much motion to get a good picture.

 

If not though you can get good pics at about 30 seconds exposure if it is a dark location.  Anything longer and you start getting the star trails.

 

This is 30 second at F4 in the Tennessee boondocks.

 

15632922535_f25026df42_c.jpg

 

 

BTW I am taking the same cruise leaving on the 20th of this month. If you need any specific information just ask and I'll try to accommodate.  I will bring back the Compasses and scan for Matt to put on the site.

Great photo! Last time I checked, the only thing Tennessee was rocking from was the moonshine and not from the wind on a moving ship ;)  ;)

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^ This is true.  Way too much motion to get a good picture.

 

If not though you can get good pics at about 30 seconds exposure if it is a dark location.  Anything longer and you start getting the star trails.

 

BTW I am taking the same cruise leaving on the 20th of this month. If you need any specific information just ask and I'll try to accommodate.  I will bring back the Compasses and scan for Matt to put on the site.

 

WhiteSoxFan, that was a really cool photo. Good to know that only 30 seconds is needed to get what seems like a more than adequate exposure.

 

I appreciate the offer for info. Is your trip also departing from Fort Lauderdale / Port Everglades? I've never been there, and we're debating whether to fly in the day before or two days before to have a chance to look around; so any suggestions on things to do there the day before would be appreciated (besides going to the beach, I'm sure that on spring break week all of the beaches are crazy crowded). Also any advice about that port terminal and getting through it (besides arriving at 10:30 or 11; I've already told my family it's 10:30 or bust ;) ). And I'll definitely review those Cruise Compass copies!

 

Is your itinerary the one that starts or ends at Labadee? Ours starts at Basseterre, St. Kitts for the first port; then St. Maarten, San Juan, and finally Labadee. I can't imagine that the activities differ between that itinerary and the one that goes in the opposite order, but just in case...

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WhiteSoxFan, that was a really cool photo. Good to know that only 30 seconds is needed to get what seems like a more than adequate exposure.

 

I appreciate the offer for info. Is your trip also departing from Fort Lauderdale / Port Everglades? I've never been there, and we're debating whether to fly in the day before or two days before to have a chance to look around; so any suggestions on things to do there the day before would be appreciated (besides going to the beach, I'm sure that on spring break week all of the beaches are crazy crowded). Also any advice about that port terminal and getting through it (besides arriving at 10:30 or 11; I've already told my family it's 10:30 or bust ;)). And I'll definitely review those Cruise Compass copies!

 

Is your itinerary the one that starts or ends at Labadee? Ours starts at Basseterre, St. Kitts for the first port; then St. Maarten, San Juan, and finally Labadee. I can't imagine that the activities differ between that itinerary and the one that goes in the opposite order, but just in case...

We arrived two days early and went out to Everglades Holiday Park an airboat tour of the Everglades. Well with it for the $30 per adult and about $20 for kids. We were also lucky enough to catch Billy Joel's New Year's Eve show at BB&T Center, so it might be worth checking scheduled events for the area. Viator is also a good site to look at for ideas, but I usually book directly.

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WhiteSoxFan, that was a really cool photo. Good to know that only 30 seconds is needed to get what seems like a more than adequate exposure.

 

I appreciate the offer for info. Is your trip also departing from Fort Lauderdale / Port Everglades? I've never been there, and we're debating whether to fly in the day before or two days before to have a chance to look around; so any suggestions on things to do there the day before would be appreciated (besides going to the beach, I'm sure that on spring break week all of the beaches are crazy crowded). Also any advice about that port terminal and getting through it (besides arriving at 10:30 or 11; I've already told my family it's 10:30 or bust ;) ). And I'll definitely review those Cruise Compass copies!

 

Is your itinerary the one that starts or ends at Labadee? Ours starts at Basseterre, St. Kitts for the first port; then St. Maarten, San Juan, and finally Labadee. I can't imagine that the activities differ between that itinerary and the one that goes in the opposite order, but just in case...

One note about those star shots.  You need to do a lot of tweaking in a program like Lightroom or Photoshop to get the best results out of the picture.  

 

We start in Labadee and end in St. Kitts.  

 

I can't be of much help for you on the Ft. Lauderdale pre-cruise as we are flying in early, but to Orlando.  We get much better options and pricing to MCO vs FLL.  Plus my parents live in Ocala and I'm driving up there to pick them up.  So my daughter and BF flying in from Seattle), parents and us will be staying a night at Disney before getting up bright and early (actually dark and early) and driving down to Port Everglades.  I'll drop the crew and bags off then the wife and I will return the car and taxi back to the port.  It looks like Terminal 29 will be a bit of a CF to drive into and drop the bags as early as we'll be there because there will still be a lot of people getting off the ship but once that is done it should be smooth sailing (I hope(pun intended)).

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I've read through 75% of the replies and wanted to chime in that the helipad is open 95% of the time. It may not be as dark as you would think as there are staterooms overlooking it and if they have their curtains open, there will be light coming out of their windows. I spent a lot of time out there in September. There are even benches to sit on.

 

Agree with the motion of the ship causing you to not get great star photos. Eastern Caribbean though- do you get a late night in San Juan? Might be able to go somewhere aft on the boat and get a good shot. Or somewhere in town.

 

I think most of your questions were answered about the MDR, just know at breakfast and lunch they may only have one level of the MDR open. For example, if you eat dinner in Galileo, Isaac may only be open for lunch. Check your cruise compass. It's quite different than Disney's multiple themed restaurants. The MDR is huge! We found it to be quite nice on Freedom.

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I've read through 75% of the replies and wanted to chime in that the helipad is open 95% of the time. It may not be as dark as you would think as there are staterooms overlooking it and if they have their curtains open, there will be light coming out of their windows. I spent a lot of time out there in September. There are even benches to sit on. 

 

Agree with the motion of the ship causing you to not get great star photos. Eastern Caribbean though- do you get a late night in San Juan? Might be able to go somewhere aft on the boat and get a good shot. Or somewhere in town.

 

Our time slot in San Juan is 3 PM to 9 PM. Not sure that will be late enough for full dark in early April, but might still be. I'm guessing there will be too much light pollution from the city to really get a good night sky view, even all the way aft. But if all else fails while out in the middle of the ocean, I can certainly try that. Thanks for the suggestion!

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The MDR format for breakfast and lunch can vary from cruise to cruise and from day to day within a cruise.

 

For almost every cruise I've been on, breakfast with table service was always available every day on the lowest level of the MDR; however, my last cruise (on Navigator) had an alternate arrangement where you went to the second level of MDR for full table service (i.e. a waiter takes your breakfast order from the menu and brings it to you when it's ready), or you could go to the lowest level where breakfast was served buffet style, but you are still seated at a table and waiters would serve beverages. Lunch is typically only served in the MDR on days at sea.

 

Every night your waiter in the MDR will tell you the details of what is available the next day for breakfast and dinner. This information will also be available in the daily Cruise Compass (event list and schedule) that is delivered to your cabin each night.

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Every night your waiter in the MDR will tell you the details of what is available the next day for breakfast and dinner. This information will also be available in the daily Cruise Compass (event list and schedule) that is delivered to your cabin each night.

 

On my recent NAV cruise it was really the first time that my waiters were diligent about passing on this information for the next night.  I really appreciated it.  That kind of information has been very hit-or-miss on cruises in the past but it was very consistent on the NAV over the holidays.  That particular nugget tells me that the crew on NAV, at least, is receiving some consistent training and the wait staff was heeding it.

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