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Independence 12/21/17 9 Night Christmas


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Cabin Tour!

I booked an Inside Guarantee.  I was assigned 6397.  Deck 6, starboard, aft.

I had an inside cabin on Freedom and this is basically identical.

 

 

 

 

The Diamond lounge is different on Indy compared to Freedom.  While I never went in the lounge on Freedom I found it and the location differences were immediately obvious.  The port side cloud nine card room is still a card room on Freedom while on Indy that is Diamond lounge.  What is the starboard Diamond lounge on Freedom is the overflow lounge on Indy.  I overheard a couple express confusion to the food and beverages director and he replied Indy made the switch about a year ago.  Indy has gates on the stairs to the lounge outside areas,  Freedom did not.   Subtle differences between the sisters, but that's a good thing.  I wonder what Liberty is like?

As I sat there having a glass of wine before dinner I started to see the makings of a sunset so I grabbed my camera and headed out on deck.  Sure enough the sun was setting over Miami.

 

Tonight I ate dinner in the MDR.  

 

Thai Chicken Salad followed by the Pork Loin.  Very good.

Service was fine, no complaints.

I stopped by Vintages to grab a glass of wine then I made my way to the Welcome Aboard show as I mentioned in the previous post.  The Royal Orchestra played some seasonal music leading up to tonight's main act - comedian Heath Harminson.  He was funny and I enjoyed the show.  Our Cruise Director is Mark Walker from the UK.  So far he seems pretty good.

 

After the show I realized I hadn't visited the helipad yet and while it was dark out a passing cruise ship heading in the other direction looked like a great photo op.  I knew I couldn't get down to my cabin and grab my camera in time for this ship but it got me thinking. 

On Freedom they closed access to the helipad at night when I tried to go there but I wanted to see if Indy did as well.  It was open and there were hundreds of stars in the sky.

I was aware that on the helipad I shouldn't light a flashlight on the fore deck required to review settings on my camera and confirm level so I used this session just to try some various settings in manual mode in the dark figuring I could figure out later what works.  I was just goofing around, I didn't expect much.  I've always assumed a moving ship in the ocean wouldn't be a great platform for astrophotography.  I'm very encouraged by what I captured.  The heart of the Milky Way is most prevalent in the Southern hemisphere right now so I knew I couldn't capture the heart of it.  Our best Milky Way photo ops are in summer months up here.  Based on these results, a cruise next summer when the moon is new might just be on my horizon. 

 

 

I know it doesn't look like much but now I have a baseline to work from.  

Earlier at muster I met a couple from British Columbia.  Their son is a skater in the ice skating show.  He has done this on various ships for around 10 years.  Since he is working this Christmas the family all came to Indy.  Indy is using tickets for the ice shows on Day 2 and Day 3. 

 

 

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Phew!  Packing nearly complete.  I've done quite well.  Only 43 bags. Two less than I took on Anthem!

IT'S CRUISE DAY!!!!!! I woke early in my hotel and plotted how to kill some time.  I've decided to give @Matt a two-fer blog on this sailing.  Since the next Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise is

This is completely unacceptable.  We need to start a GoFundMe page immediately.  

Posted Images

14 hours ago, twangster said:

As I sat there having a glass of wine before dinner I started to see the makings of a sunset so I grabbed my camera and headed out on deck.  Sure enough the sun was setting over Miami.

5a3c8b3370fe7_indyDay1fone-1.jpg.ba61949ce8d380106772e4c094bf152a.jpg

Really nice sunset shot!

 

14 hours ago, twangster said:

I was aware that on the helipad I shouldn't light a flashlight on the fore deck required to review settings on my camera and confirm level so I used this session just to try some various settings in manual mode in the dark figuring I could figure out later what works.  I was just goofing around, I didn't expect much.  I've always assumed a moving ship in the ocean wouldn't be a great platform for astrophotography.  I'm very encouraged by what I captured.  The heart of the Milky Way is most prevalent in the Southern hemisphere right now so I knew I couldn't capture the heart of it.  Our best Milky Way photo ops are in summer months up here.  Based on these results, a cruise next summer when the moon is new might just be on my horizon. 

5a3c9491bc178_indyDay1-10.jpg.0283e672d335378789e6e163d750a62b.jpg

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These photos are gorgeous! Hand-held, or did you have a tripod or monopod handy? How long an exposure?

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16 hours ago, JLMoran said:

These photos are gorgeous! Hand-held, or did you have a tripod or monopod handy? How long an exposure?

Thanks!

Tripod.  I had been to the Diamond lounge so no way I could be still without one!

The shot looking back at the ship was ISO 2500 for 2.5 seconds at f2.8

The shot looking forward was ISO 2500, 25 seconds at f2.8

 

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A couple of hours ago the Captain came on the PA to inform us that Harmony would be passing by on the port side in 20 minutes.  He said there would be a mile between us but it felt closer than that.  Optical illusion I suspect.  

It's very windy today but the seas are small.   When I was on Freedom we crossed paths with Harmony in the Caribbean Sea.  Today we are on the North side of Western Cuba.

 

Our bridge crew greated her with several varying blasts of the horn.  In the high wind it was hard but you could faintly hear Harmony reply.

 

 

 

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On 12/22/2017 at 2:44 PM, JLMoran said:

Really nice sunset shot!

Photo above was on my iPhone 7 Plus using the built in telephoto lens.

My Nikon had my 14mm lens on and it was just too wide - Miami is lost in the wide angle shot.

 

The very same photo cropped in Lightroom.  In a photo like this you can cheat quite a bit in post when using a UWA but it's not as clear as the iPhone photo above.

 

 

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Day 2 - Formal Night

On the way to dinner last night I was heading to Vintages and they had the A Capella group 'REVOICED' singing Christmas music in the promenade.  I'm not always into A Capella music but these guys were pretty good.

 

They even had a simulated snowfall effect while they sang.

 

Formal night dinner menu

 

My normal formal night choice was the caesar salad and prime rib.  The prime rib was very good, right up there in contention for best formal night food on an RCI ship.

After dinner as I was passing through the Promenade they were handing out sparkling wine.  I knew this meant the Captain would be addressing us soon.

 

Senior Officers were presented.

 

When I first boarded the Christmas tree wasn't lit so I've avoided taking photos.  Yesterday the ginger bread houses appeared in the Windjammer.  With that I plan to take some photos around the ship while in Labadee which we are approaching on the morning on day 3 as I write this.

The 10 drink card offer appeared in the day 3 Cruise Compass.  It's $85 plus gratuity.  This is the same price as Anthem charged for the drink card on my recent B2B.  Earlier this year it was $79 on other ships.  The 10 pint draft beer card also appeared which remains $49 plus gratuity.

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Day 3 - Labadee

I love Labadee.  Royal Caribbean has done a really good job creating a beautiful and fun private destination here.

 

They added some seasonal decorations such as the gift packages by the Labadee sign above.

 

 

 

 

On this trip I noticed many Dreamworks references.  Perhaps these were always here and I just noticed them now but once I started looking there are several photo ops for families in various places around Labadee.

 

 

 

 

 

As always they had local musicians playing island type music.  When ever I take a picture like this I leave a tip.

 

If you've never been Labadee is quite beautiful.

 

 

 

From the ship I noticed the over water cabanas at Barefoot Beach had been replaced so I stopped by and asked if I could take some pictures.  Roberto is a local Haitian who lives across the bay.  He is one of approximately 500 full time employees at Labadee and he generously allowed me access to the suite only beach so I could get some pictures of the new cabanas.  I've used this beach as a suite guest before and it's very nice.

 

 

 

Of course I had to stop by my favorite spot to take a picture of the ship.

 

Back to ship to drop off my camera and get changed for a swim. 

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Earlier today when I was back on the ship the crew were doing a man overboard practice drill.  They announced the Oscar Oscar Oscar over the PA and followed that it was a practice drill.  

An hour or so later a USCG helicopter began flying around the ship.  A crew member near me thought there may be a medical evac.  She is responsible for filling out paperwork when a guest has to leave under these circumstances so she was paying attention to the surprise arrival of a rescue copter.  

At Labadee they use the pier for this.  They never landed but flew a pattern back and forth before leaving.  There was a lifeboat in the water as the crew practiced a simulated response.  I'm wondering if they heard radio chatter of the simulation and responded? I'm not sure where they came from, Gitmo maybe?   Any ways it was interesting to see a USCG rescue helicopter fly past Labadee.  

I've been on a ship with a helicopter medical evac. at sea and it's quite impressive.  

 

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Day 3 Dinner

My Time MDR

 

Inslata Mista with the Pork Shoulder.  Service continues to be excellent and food very good.  I've had the same table all nights despite arriving +/- 15 mins off my reservation time.  Actually last night I was 25 mins late and they still had "my" table waiting for me.

After dinner I took in the special holiday ice skating show in Studio B.  The regular ice show will be available later in the cruise, this was a unique show put the music of several traditional Christmas tunes.

 

 

 

 

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I met a couple from British Columbia at the muster drill.  They mentioned their son Cole is an ice skater in the show.  As it turns out he is the captain of the skating team.  They were front and center watching their son perform along with other family members behind them.  They are the couple to the left out of the spot light and I believe that is Cole skating.

 

 

 

It was a 35 minute show and very good.

 

 

 

This can't be easy on ice, on a moving ship, in heels.

 

 

I managed to catch water dripping off her skates as she was whisked into the air.  When you skate the pressure of the skate blade on the ice creates a thin water barrier between the skate blade and the ice.  It's a very thin layer of water along the edge of the blade.  In this shot you can see the trail of water leaving her skate as she is lifted off the ice and they begin to spin.

 

 

 

A very good show and I look forward to the regular ice show in a few a days.

After this the late night adult comedy show in the main theater.  Very funny.  Tonight was his last performance, he disembarks tomorrow in San Juan.

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Top tier event last night

~3,600 on board but this seems light.  Suspect I got confused as numbers were presented quickly.  

1,692 C&A (or something like that) - That means around 2,000 are new to RCI on this sailing.

1,032 Gold. 

Missed the Platinum and Emerald numbers (the Captain rattled them off very quickly).

Just over 300 Diamond/Diamond Plus.

9 Pinnacle.

Top cruiser had around 3,400 points and over 275 cruises. 

Side note - A lot of Canadians on this sailing.  The family next to me at the skating show were from Toronto.  Based on crowd response when the Cruise Director has asked at shows or at the top tier event I'm guessing over 25% are Canadian on board.  

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13 hours ago, twangster said:

Side note - A lot of Canadians on this sailing.  The family next to me at the skating show were from Toronto.  Based on crowd response when the Cruise Director has asked at shows or at the top tier event I'm guessing over 25% are Canadian on board.  

Smart Canadians. They are escaping this....

IMG_1153.thumb.PNG.1e28d8f9a7866e9398ab57774dede4af.PNG

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Merry Christmas! 

In addition to changing time the night before we reached San Juan, we've entered the cruise ship time warp.  Time is flying by and I'm behind processing photos.   I took a bunch in San Juan yesterday but we've now arrived in St. Maarten and I just took in our arrival from the helipad.   Since I've got an early excursion I'll try to return and work on photos later today.  

When I ran into the couple from BC whose son is a skater they asked me to email them some photos.   I sent them nearly 30 shots of not only their son but of the whole skating team.   Last night the team held their own little Christmas Eve party.  They all loved the photos so much they emailed me back with a thank you video.  

Time to load up on sun screen while some of you gear up to shovel the driveway 😎.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Independence of the Seas Ice Skating Team:

 

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Day 4 - San Juan

Photo heavy post.  Given the hurricane damage to San Juan 100 days before this visit I wanted everyone to see how much the San Juan has recovered.

This port was actually yesterday as I write this sitting in St. Maarten but time is getting away from me.

Weather was much better than my last visit here on Dec. 5th.  Winds were high overnight before arriving as the Captain warned they would be.  They re-opened the helipad as we approached San Juan so I took in our arrival from there.

 

El Morro guarding the harbor entrance.

 

Later in the day I would walk along this shore.

 

 

At a distance it's very normal. A fleet of buses waited for us.

 

Jewel is home ported in San Juan and she was at the other pier across the harbor when we arrived.

 

I pre-booked the "Old and New San Juan" tour.

We boarded a bus and made our way towards new San Juan.  Our first stop was at a park and beach area.

 

 

We re-boarded our bus and made our way into Old San Juan with the driver pointing out a number of buildings and providing a history of the area.  Once we arrived at El Morro I decided to stay here longer so I gave the driver a $10 tip and told him I would walk back to the ship.

 

I never tire of taking pictures of El Morro.

 

 

 

 

There is a walkway outside of the old city walls that goes along the shore and all the way back towards the ship.  In 1630 they decided to expand the city walls.  It took 160 years and they completed the wall we see now in 1790.

 

 

 

 

One of the main gates used to access the old city in the 1700's:

 

 

 

It's a very pretty walk.

 

 

I stopped back into the Princesa Gastrobar for a cold beer.  I'm glad to see the crowds returning.  

 

 

I started back towards the ship on an indirect route exploring some of the streets of Old San Juan.

 

Lots of tourists milling about was a good sign.

 

 

 

 

Finally back home to Indy.

 

I took a nap, just made dinner and went top side to find darkness.  Jewel was beating us out of port to start her cruise.

 

Up on deck I saw some fireworks in the distance on this special Christmas Eve.

 

Soon after we slid out of port and started making our way along the shore near San Juan and points West.  I continued to see fireworks along the route.  It was a beautiful night and the night sky was full of stars.  I didn't have my tripod but tried to capture some of them as best I could given the city lights of San Juan lighting up the night sky.

 

It was another great day in San Juan and I was happy to continue supporting their recovery efforts.  With that it's formal night and I need to head back to my cabin to get dressed.  

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