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Liberty of the Seas 06/04/2017 Trip Report


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Going to attempt to share my thoughts on recent, June 4, 7-Night Western Caribbean sailing of Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston, TX…

Ports are Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth

Party of 3… Mom and Dad in 40’s and daughter who is 10.

We’ve sailed 5 times before with last two being Freedom of the Seas out of Port Canaveral.

We sailed out of Galveston once before in 2006 on Princess.

 

We arrived in Houston Area on Friday evening from Hill Country stop for Nephew’s High School Graduation.   We spent Friday and Saturday evening at Marriott SpringHill Suites NASA/Webster.  We paid $143.75 a night by the time all taxes and fees were added.   Buffett breakfast was included.  We enjoyed this hotel very much and immediately booked it again for December pre-cruise stay.  It is located right off I-45 and has excellent retail nearby for last minute shopping.  The main reason we picked this location was its proximity to Space Center Houston- our Saturday activity.

 

Having been to Kennedy Space Center in Florida after our last cruise in March 2016, it was nice to book-end our USA Space experience with a trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  We ended up purchasing an annual membership for $129 since we will be returning in December 2017 to view the Apollo 11 command module that landed on the moon as it briefly goes on tour outside of the Smithsonian.   We did both red and blue tram tours and saw most of the movies.   Only regret was not purchasing the audio tour at the beginning.   The audio tour covers items on the tram tours as well.   I had thought it was only for main exhibit building.  Lesson learned for repeat visit…  I had pre-arranged tour tickets for both tram and Space Shuttle/Boeing 747 exhibits but neither of these were necessary as lines were minimal/non-existent.   Good balance of interactive exhibits for the kiddos and tech stuff for the Space Geeks…

 

Sunday morning it was overcast with mild drizzles as we left the hotel.   As we got closer to Galveston the rain increased dramatically with frequent thunder and lightning.  We could see it moving slowly on the radar and hoped it would pass by the time we reached terminal.   It didn’t…  We had arranged for parking at EZ Cruise parking ($54 for the week) opting for the no shuttle option to save $20.   Original plan was to drop wife, daughter, and luggage at Terminal and for me to park car.   Well, the weather changed that plan as it took over 2 hours to reach Terminal from Harborside Drive.   Literally, it took 2 hrs to travel less than 1 mile due to traffic congestion/weather/flooding.   I saw the parking lot on the right at 28th Street and knew I had to get to 22nd Street to turn into the Terminal. I asked the family if we could carry luggage and we all agreed to tough it out on foot carrying 6 suitcases and assorted small bags (my wife swears she learned her lesson on this trip to pack lighter…).

 

Security checkpoint was divided into two categories- Emerald +/Suites and those below those levels…  Being Gold, we walked back and forth in the switchbacks for 40+ minutes for our turn with the metal detectors and x-ray machines.   Once that was completed we reached the Royal Caribbean check-in desks.   Surprisingly the shortest line was at the ‘no prior cruise experience’ line.   Gold was longest with the Suites and Upper-level Crown and Anchor line moving right along…

 

At 3pm we were finally onboard and in our stateroom after a brief stop for Pizza at Sorrento’s.  (We had been ½ mile from the ship since 10:30am…) We had an interior stateroom on Deck 7.  We were surprised by the installation of 4 extra staterooms in what used to be a large library.   Our room, 7449, used to be at a deadend and now had a short hall with 4 additional rooms on it.   This change happened after we booked our cruise and has not yet happened on the sister ships.   We love this location as it is only a few stair climbs up or down to major areas.  Avoiding the elevators is always a plus… We had hoped to do Flowrider that afternoon but it was not open.   The rain and Thunderstorms had passed by this point.   Looking at the Cruise Compass, the Flowrider was never listed as scheduled to be open on Sunday… (Late April 2017 Cruise Compass for same sailing showed it as being open…)  I did read a report several weeks ago about one of the pumps going out on it, so perhaps they were doing repairs that day.  

 

They did have a massive crane next to the ship that day and were installing new communication equipment (the white balls) above the main pool.   They had portions of Deck 11/12 closed all week as they welded and did electrical work.   This was annoying as it routed traffic through smoking area on 11.  Towel Station was moved to Solarium as well...

 

Wife and daughter each had a drink package- Wife had refreshment package and Daughter had soda package… We had gotten cups in our room and went looking for the Freestyle machines we had used on Freedom of the Seas on our prior cruises.   They were nowhere to be found and a crew member confirmed our worries that there were none onboard.   He said they had been scheduled for several years now but not installed yet… Not having the Freestyle Machines was a major drawback for us.   The low-cal/diet options, as well as all the drink varieties, were great to have.  The self-service aspect was missed as well.   In the mornings say before 11am, the only ‘bar’ on lower half of ship to get drinks is Café Promenade.   Wasn’t cool to wait behind 10 people ordering coffee to use our simple packages…  (Casino Bar might have been open as well but I am not going to walk into smoke filled room…)  Even during afternoon and evening hours, the barstaff always seemed to wait on customers ordering alcohol before getting to us for a simple Diet Coke or Ginger Ale order…  I don’t want to start a rumor, but it might be that bottled Powerade is included in drink package on ships without Freestyle Machine.   Purchased a couple and they never showed up in our Folio…

 

The muster drill was moved back almost an hour due to boarding delays.   Can’t remember exactly when we left port but it was later due to above mentioned construction and boarding delays

 

Dinner that evening was in the MDR at 5:30 Deck 5.   We had an assigned 4-top at the inner railing overlooking the chandelier.  It was a little too close to the front entrance for my taste, but being a private table I could live with the extra foot traffic.   Shorts were abundant.   (I confess to wearing them as well that evening due to luggage not being delivered yet...)

 

We skipped the ‘welcome aboard’ show in the main theatre in favor of playing some board/card games we had brought with us.  Olive or Twist was a popular spot for several gamers… (Card Room on Deck 10 was discovered later in the week…)

 

End of Day one…

Days 2 -7 and photos/videos to come…

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Your description of Space Center Houston is really making this space geek regret not going there before or after our upcoming August cruise! Because "Apollo 13" is my favorite movie and 13 my favorite mission (yes, I have a favorite mission), Space Center Houston would've been a great stop for me. My mom would've tolerated it. :13_upside_down: We opted not to go because we couldn't extend our trip as long as I would need to properly tour there. That just means I have to plan another trip!

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your cruise!

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1 hour ago, psushady said:

Your description of Space Center Houston is really making this space geek regret not going there before or after our upcoming August cruise! Because "Apollo 13" is my favorite movie and 13 my favorite mission (yes, I have a favorite mission), Space Center Houston would've been a great stop for me. My mom would've tolerated it. :13_upside_down: We opted not to go because we couldn't extend our trip as long as I would need to properly tour there. That just means I have to plan another trip!

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your cruise!

Here is a an interest article about Apollo 13 written by my best friends' father, Jerry Woodfill.  The neighbor he refers to was my dad.

Apollo 13.pdf

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On 6/15/2017 at 11:50 AM, Scatmanjack said:

Going to attempt to share my thoughts on recent, June 4, 7-Night Western Caribbean sailing of Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston, TX…

Ports are Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth

Party of 3… Mom and Dad in 40’s and daughter who is 10.

We’ve sailed 5 times before with last two being Freedom of the Seas out of Port Canaveral.

We sailed out of Galveston once before in 2006 on Princess.

 

We arrived in Houston Area on Friday evening from Hill Country stop for Nephew’s High School Graduation.   We spent Friday and Saturday evening at Marriott SpringHill Suites NASA/Webster.  We paid $143.75 a night by the time all taxes and fees were added.   Buffett breakfast was included.  We enjoyed this hotel very much and immediately booked it again for December pre-cruise stay.  It is located right off I-45 and has excellent retail nearby for last minute shopping.  The main reason we picked this location was its proximity to Space Center Houston- our Saturday activity.

 

Having been to Kennedy Space Center in Florida after our last cruise in March 2016, it was nice to book-end our USA Space experience with a trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  We ended up purchasing an annual membership for $129 since we will be returning in December 2017 to view the Apollo 11 command module that landed on the moon as it briefly goes on tour outside of the Smithsonian.   We did both red and blue tram tours and saw most of the movies.   Only regret was not purchasing the audio tour at the beginning.   The audio tour covers items on the tram tours as well.   I had thought it was only for main exhibit building.  Lesson learned for repeat visit…  I had pre-arranged tour tickets for both tram and Space Shuttle/Boeing 747 exhibits but neither of these were necessary as lines were minimal/non-existent.   Good balance of interactive exhibits for the kiddos and tech stuff for the Space Geeks…

 

Sunday morning it was overcast with mild drizzles as we left the hotel.   As we got closer to Galveston the rain increased dramatically with frequent thunder and lightning.  We could see it moving slowly on the radar and hoped it would pass by the time we reached terminal.   It didn’t…  We had arranged for parking at EZ Cruise parking ($54 for the week) opting for the no shuttle option to save $20.   Original plan was to drop wife, daughter, and luggage at Terminal and for me to park car.   Well, the weather changed that plan as it took over 2 hours to reach Terminal from Harborside Drive.   Literally, it took 2 hrs to travel less than 1 mile due to traffic congestion/weather/flooding.   I saw the parking lot on the right at 28th Street and knew I had to get to 22nd Street to turn into the Terminal. I asked the family if we could carry luggage and we all agreed to tough it out on foot carrying 6 suitcases and assorted small bags (my wife swears she learned her lesson on this trip to pack lighter…).

 

Security checkpoint was divided into two categories- Emerald +/Suites and those below those levels…  Being Gold, we walked back and forth in the switchbacks for 40+ minutes for our turn with the metal detectors and x-ray machines.   Once that was completed we reached the Royal Caribbean check-in desks.   Surprisingly the shortest line was at the ‘no prior cruise experience’ line.   Gold was longest with the Suites and Upper-level Crown and Anchor line moving right along…

 

At 3pm we were finally onboard and in our stateroom after a brief stop for Pizza at Sorrento’s.  (We had been ½ mile from the ship since 10:30am…) We had an interior stateroom on Deck 7.  We were surprised by the installation of 4 extra staterooms in what used to be a large library.   Our room, 7449, used to be at a deadend and now had a short hall with 4 additional rooms on it.   This change happened after we booked our cruise and has not yet happened on the sister ships.   We love this location as it is only a few stair climbs up or down to major areas.  Avoiding the elevators is always a plus… We had hoped to do Flowrider that afternoon but it was not open.   The rain and Thunderstorms had passed by this point.   Looking at the Cruise Compass, the Flowrider was never listed as scheduled to be open on Sunday… (Late April 2017 Cruise Compass for same sailing showed it as being open…)  I did read a report several weeks ago about one of the pumps going out on it, so perhaps they were doing repairs that day.  

 

They did have a massive crane next to the ship that day and were installing new communication equipment (the white balls) above the main pool.   They had portions of Deck 11/12 closed all week as they welded and did electrical work.   This was annoying as it routed traffic through smoking area on 11.  Towel Station was moved to Solarium as well...

 

Wife and daughter each had a drink package- Wife had refreshment package and Daughter had soda package… We had gotten cups in our room and went looking for the Freestyle machines we had used on Freedom of the Seas on our prior cruises.   They were nowhere to be found and a crew member confirmed our worries that there were none onboard.   He said they had been scheduled for several years now but not installed yet… Not having the Freestyle Machines was a major drawback for us.   The low-cal/diet options, as well as all the drink varieties, were great to have.  The self-service aspect was missed as well.   In the mornings say before 11am, the only ‘bar’ on lower half of ship to get drinks is Café Promenade.   Wasn’t cool to wait behind 10 people ordering coffee to use our simple packages…  (Casino Bar might have been open as well but I am not going to walk into smoke filled room…)  Even during afternoon and evening hours, the barstaff always seemed to wait on customers ordering alcohol before getting to us for a simple Diet Coke or Ginger Ale order…  I don’t want to start a rumor, but it might be that bottled Powerade is included in drink package on ships without Freestyle Machine.   Purchased a couple and they never showed up in our Folio…

 

The muster drill was moved back almost an hour due to boarding delays.   Can’t remember exactly when we left port but it was later due to above mentioned construction and boarding delays

 

Dinner that evening was in the MDR at 5:30 Deck 5.   We had an assigned 4-top at the inner railing overlooking the chandelier.  It was a little too close to the front entrance for my taste, but being a private table I could live with the extra foot traffic.   Shorts were abundant.   (I confess to wearing them as well that evening due to luggage not being delivered yet...)

 

We skipped the ‘welcome aboard’ show in the main theatre in favor of playing some board/card games we had brought with us.  Olive or Twist was a popular spot for several gamers… (Card Room on Deck 10 was discovered later in the week…)

 

End of Day one…

Days 2 -7 and photos/videos to come…

I also stay in Webster when cruising from Galveston. Great interchange w countless dining/hotel choices, just 30 mins from the ship for sailing morning. I also use EZ Cruz parking. Sorry to hear about the weather issues messing up your embarkation. I'm usually so jacked up on sail morning that were up and out, parked, and sitting in Starbucks across the street from the ship by 8:30 LOL   

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I felt some of your pain, I was dis-embarking on 6-4, my wife and I had decided to carry our own luggage off, which turned out to be smart on our part, but dis-embarkation on the ship was a total mess. We assumed that a lot of people probably drove to the cruise terminal and so a lot of people were carrying their luggage off to try and hit the road early like us. Eventually the ship got it together and started letting people off the ship, we got through customs and started to walk outside and the rain hit, I'm talking raining cats and dogs, we had intended to catch the shuttle to parking (Also EZ Cruise parking), but to save my wife from getting soaked I left her at the terminal and jumped on the shuttle, got my car and headed back to the terminal. We were on the road and headed back to Oklahoma by 9:15, so not much of a complaint.

It always sucks leaving a week of rest and relaxation and the beloved cruise ship, but when weather causes issues, it seems to double the pain.

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On to Day 2…

 

The rain came back for Day 2 as we sailed towards Cozumel.  It was overcast most of the day with off/on rainfall.   We never made it outside to the Flowrider, our intended activity of the day.   Not sure if water features were operational at all that day… You could tell when it really started to rain because the Promenade and Elevator lobbies got instantaneously flooded with people as everyone fled the upper decks during any downpour.   We played several games of trivia in the Schooner Bar as well as several of our personal games up in Olive or Twist.   Never won a full trivia game this cruise but was the only player to correctly answer several questions on multiple occasions - which earned me recognition during a Martini class later in the week… They seemed to be trying out several new word puzzle games which were fun but a couple had a few typos in them that will need to be corrected before future use.  We attempted the napkin folding class, but gave up our spots during the first model as they ran out of napkins as many people showed up for the class due to the rains.   (We already do a lot of napkin/paper folding on our own, so generally we end up helping other cruisers who cannot follow Instructor’s directions…)

 

During one of the morning trivia sessions, a fellow passenger asked the Cruise Director Staff if they were going to do any Sudoku this cruise.  Staff replied probably not, but that there was a daily Sudoku in the Card Room on Deck 10.  This intrigued me as I did not know what the Card Room was.  (I was subconsciously thinking it was something put together by Hallmark…)  It’s right off the rear elevator banks and is an enclosed room with probably Eight 4-top tables, a couple lounge seats, several small end tables and many games.   I saw:  Scrabble, Scrabble Espanol, Apples to Apples, Dominoes, Chess, Checkers, Playing Cards, Mahjong, Cribbage, etc…  (Some had pieces missing…)  The did have a daily puzzle sheet with Sudoku, Word Find, Trivia on it but strangely no box of pencils to use to complete them.  They also had a serving area on the back wall but nothing was ever set up.  I could understand not having food, but perhaps a couple pitches of water and fresh glasses would have been a nice touch.  The concept was nice but even with some mirrors on walls, this room felt really cramped/enclosed.  They actually had the door propped open then entire cruise- almost to say ‘This is a public space, come on in, play a game, have a good time…’ On the sister-ship Freedom of the Seas, the ‘game room’ is located up on Deck 14 and is called Cloud Nine and had a small selection of hors d'oeuvres (with a sister room next door called Seven Hearts).   We greatly preferred that approach as you get nice scenic views out the window during your gaming.  On Liberty of the Seas, these two rooms have been converted to a Private Suites Only Lounge, which I only saw people go in/out of once… (and that was a private wedding party having their reception).   I would say that 75% of the time I went to the Card Room that week it was completely empty, 15% of the time people were playing games, and 10% of the time people were reading books/tablets/iPads...

 

I attempted to do the Mixology Class at the R Bar that afternoon, but it had already filled.   Friday afternoon would be my next attempt to enjoy this class… (Sidebar- register early for events like this because space is limited and they fill up quickly.  All 3 sea day Mixology classes were full by midweek…)

 

Monday night was formal night in the MDR.   I don’t recall seeing any shorts on adults but several kids had khaki shorts with collared shirts.   Men were wearing everything from Khaki Pants/Golf Shirt to Tuxedos.  Most men did not have jackets but to each his own. Women had the same with range of attire from Long Tunic Tops w/ heels to Cocktail dresses.  The meal was enjoyable but no photos were taken so meal specifics will be light…

 

After dinner, we attended the 8:30 performance of ‘In The Air’.   We arrived about 8:10 to a surprisingly full theater.   We were able get 3 seats together on the floor near the left hand railing/wall.  Waiters were abundant and my wife and daughter both got drinks- though the virgin bloody mary my wife ordered somehow ended up as a virgin strawberry daiquiri… The show was enjoyable and is in the ‘cirque du soliel’ ariel performance vein.   Of all the various themes presented, I found the ‘air/winter’ scene the most disappointing.   The music in this section needed a bit more rehearsal and the staging was just blah compared to the other sections.   The headlining act, Sergey, really upped the ante during their section.   They were simply stunning in their artistry and displays of strength on the silks.  For a brief moment, you forgot this was a cruise ship and you could have possibly been on a stage in Vegas or New York.  

 

We three successive port days coming up, we retired for the evening after the show…

 

Next stop Cozumel…

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ScatmanJack thank you so much for taking the time to write all this.  I am taking the same cruise in January so I really enjoy the insights.  One question, you mention signing up for such thigs as the mixology class.  Am I correct that you hav e to wait until you are on-board to sign up for these (ie. they don't show up in Cruise Planner)?

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Thanks for the review.  You mentioned the antenna replacement that delayed your departure.  I happened to do a periscope broadcast of the antenna replacement that day if anyone is interested.

It was a busy weekend in Galveston with the commissioning of the USS Giffords.  I also did a periscope broadcast of your delayed departure as you sailed past the USS Giffords.

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So this was the first cruise in which we had 3 successive port days.   Being that Cozumel is probably the most frequent stop for Galveston/West Florida cruises (meaning we’d be returning often…), it was last in terms of deciding our port activities on this cruise. Eventually it was decided that we simply wanted a beach/resort day and booked the Deluxe Beach Break and Playa Mia Water Park Excursion via the Cruise Planner for $66USD per adult and $56USD for our daughter.  This included access to all the park facilities except motorized watercraft, massages, etc…  Lunch Buffet and Unlimited Drinks (with and without Alcohol) were included.

We had actually done a cooking class at Playa Mia in 2006 on a Princess Cruise.  I honestly didn’t make the connection until after I’d booked the current excursion.  The then sous-chef now appears to be the head chef and his face is plastered all over the advertising.  Funny how things turn out…

Following our rain-filled Monday, it was simply overcast and cloudy on our Tuesday in Cozumel.   We were one of the first groups off the ship and hit the port market for about 30 minutes before our transfer buses loaded and departed.   Instructions were given to the family to simply take notes of items to buy as I didn’t want to haul bags of souvenirs on an excursion.   Of the three ports we hit this voyage, the pricing of small knick-knacks was lowest at this port.   We purchased several maracas, shot glasses, bracelets, etc… for $1 each.   (We already have plans to buy more on our next cruise in December which also stops at Cozumel…) There were two gentlemen under a hut in the shopping area dressed in Mayan (?) garb/body paint and performing various dances.   They were entertaining and well-earned the tip money they received from the crowd.

The bus ride to Playa Mia was about ~10-15 minutes in length and was uneventful.   Wristbands for admission and food/beverage access were passed out in the Port Market Area before the bus ride, so we were able to walk directly from the buses to our beach chairs… The buses remained onsite until our afternoon departure.   If we wanted to leave early, a taxi could have been arranged at our expense. 

There was a floating playground out in the water which my daughter wanted to attack first.   Life jackets were required and several kids were sent back to shore by safety staff in order to obtain them.   I’ll be honest and say it was 1) a bit of work to swim out to these features and 2) even more work to actually climb up/stay on them.   The main activity we did was the large slide.   It was fun and I’m glad we did it, but I now know I’ll never have to pay for this type of activity at other ports because it just wasn’t worth all the physical effort.  

Daughter wanted to use her mask and snorkel but the water was too cloudy from all the surf and people kicking up sand.   Instead, we retreated to the swimming pool and did some pool snorkeling.   The lack of fish, coral, and other sea life didn’t seem to bother her…

Lunch was a nice buffet spread.   Plenty of fresh fruits, salads, rice, beans, chicken fajitas and the usual kid fare of hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pasta, etc… They had a self-service drink station that featured various fruit punches.   There was also a bar at the end of buffet that you could get alcohol and soda if desired…

After lunch, we journeyed over to the water park area and rode the water slides a couple of times.   The kiddie area seemed very popular with that crowd and the larger oval pool was well attended by adults looking for a place to lounge with their drinks.  

We headed over to the watercraft section and my wife and daughter boarded a paddle boat and hit the water.   They really seemed to enjoy their relaxing ride through the surf.  I attempted to paddle out on a kayak but quickly found myself in a position that I was not happy with.   All of the watercraft appeared to be for 2 passengers- including the kayaks.   I was sitting in the rear as instructed and quickly found the front of the kayak higher out of the water than I would have liked.   I tried to lean forward to compensate for the tilt but my life vest made it 1) challenging to get my torso forward and 2) to actually breathe.   Knowing I had been defeated, I threw in the towel and paddled the 30 feet back to shore and beached my craft for its next victim...  

Within the same complex at Playa Mia is The Mayan Cacao Company.  They offer a tour on the process of making chocolate along with some Mayan history but we did not have time to fit it in our schedule.  We did find time to visit the gift shop and drop some $$$ on some delicious gourmet chocolate bars.   They had samples set up of the many varieties of bars and they were amazing.   (Will have to find a source in Port for these on our next visit…)

The bus ride back to port was uneventful and our pre-planned shopping stops were executed with surgical precision.   Walking back to the ship was quick and painless.  We finally got some blue sky as we got back on board.

 Dinner in the MDR started with Shrimp Cocktail and a Caesar Salad and progressed nicely from there…

After dinner we took in the Comedy and Juggling Act of Billy Prudhomme in the Platinum Theatre.  Some of his humor seemed to get a bit too dark at times, particularly when he had audience participants.  His juggling was enjoyable and the few drops could be understandable given the movement of the ship.  My wife did not like him at all, so keep that in mind… Opinions vary…

Grand Cayman was on the horizon so we turned in for the evening- dreaming of the Sting Rays and Reef Snorkeling that lie ahead…

 

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We are doing the Playa Mia Beach Break in a couple of weeks.  I was so happy to get good info on exactly what we will be doing.  We also did the cooking class several years ago and didn't know until after I booked this that it was the same place!  Small world!  Now if July 16th would just hurry up and get here....

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  • 2 weeks later...

Haven't forgotten about y'all... Life sometimes gets in the way... About halfway done writing next update... Having to do some research into our excursion in Grand Cayman... It wasn't pretty... Did we read the description wrong... Was it just an off day... Do I write a formal complaint to Royal Caribbean...?

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