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I apologize for not finishing the blog during the trip.  It was a challenge for me to find enough internet time to myself.  I still took notes and picture with plans to share over the next few days.   Props to Matt & Michael Poole who obviously spend so much time of their own vacation to compose and post their posts!

 

Sea Day 1

I welcomed our  Sea Day by sleeping in and having breakfast in the main dining room. While everyone was still waking up I took a walk outside on deck 4.  It's a nice underused section of the ship. I later met up with the kids to spend the rest of the day by the pool.

This was probably the best sea day we've ever had.  It was a perfect 80 degrees,  calm seas and not a bit of wind. Although the pool deck was busy, we didn't have a hard time finding chairs.  The kids started the morning out climbing the rock wall, then on to the waterslides and the pool.  On deck 12 we comfortably watched :) the Zumba class and Belly Flop contest by the pool.  It was a nice relaxing break from port days. A nice frozen mojitio complimented the afternoon.

Dinner: We're still in the main dining room for the rest of the trip and I love it because this sailing we've been seated by the windows. They surprised us tonight by making some of the items from the regular menu gluten free along with some cherries jubilee.  

After dinner we soaked in the hot tub and finished off the evening with a lively Quest game in Studio B. They always find a way to kick it up a notch! We stopped by Boleros for a bit before heading to bed.  Tonight was "white night" and it appeared many had dressed for the event. 

Fun side note: we met a guest tonight who has been on the ship for six weeks.  Wow! What a life!

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Day 5 Curacao:

 We intended for Curacao to be a nice easy day exploring. We had a nice breakfast and took our time leaving the  ship.

I immediately fell in love with Curacao.  All of the colored buildings are fun to see and the port is landscaped well and very inviting. There are plenty of places to walk around and explore. We walked off the ship, crossed the famous floating bridge and enjoyed walking the streets and shopping. I was really impressed with the shopping here, more so than the other Caribbean ports we’ve visited.

Excursion: We really wanted to take a tuk tuk tour but they were in high demand today, so we resorted to an island tour by taxi. It cost $25/person for two hours. She took us to some vantage points for pictures, to see a group of pink flamingos and the the Curacao liquor factory. (Btw, the factory has a very soothing  green spray for sunburns, I highly recommend trying it!) We ended with a short visit to Mambo Beach Blvd, a fun beach area with an outdoor mall of shops and restaurants. I loved the ambiance there: music playing, a lot of padded chairs and palms trees, and the most perfect turquoise water. If I ever come back to Curacao I will definitely plan for a longer visit to this beach. 

Dinner:  We learned the new dinner menu is a response to guests wanting to finish dinner in time for the first show. Apparently, the dessert process was taking too much time so ordering dessert with dinner helps shave off time. It is suspectedthat more changes to the menu will come given the feedback they’re receiving . That was reassuring to hear.  We really miss the fruit soup! I do like finishing dinner early enough to catch the shows, it gives us more time to do other activities in the evening .

Entertainment:  Joel Mason performed a tribute to music show in the theater.  He has a lot of musical talent incorporated with humor and wit.  After the show we took in the later pool side movie.  They're so relaxing by the sea!

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Haven't seen a phone booth in a long time!

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Movie by the pool . . . 

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Day 6: Aruba

After breakfast in the main dining room, we left the ship an hour early to shop and buy our  Aruba Alex and Ani bracelets. 

Excursion: After shopping, we met back at the port building for our excursion-KuKoo Kunuku bus tour. There is no mistaking you’re a tourist driving through town in a loud, brightly colored party bus shaking maracas! The added touch is the driver plays fun party music, sings to you and each window is fitted with maraca holders for each passenger. It is truly is unique and makes you feel apart of the “happy island.”  In addition to the peppy ambiance, we appreciated the brief tour to a church and light house before dropping us off at Palm Beach. The tour allowed us to to see a enough of a preview of the island without sacrificing too much beach time.  He gave us about 10 minutes at each stop. For us, that was just right!  My only regret is that I did not get the special coconut smoothie at the light house.  We could not find a version of it at the beach later on.  

The beach was beautiful. Lots of people and activities, and they had chairs saved for us. Again, the water was so perfect and turquoise you couldn't help not playing in it. On the flip side, I was surprised to see acres and acres of cactus! I never thought of Aruba as a desert island. 

Port Tip:  There is a good sized super market behind the Renaissance shops if you need bottled water, Pepsi products :10_wink:, snacks, sunscreen, etc.   

For dinner that night, the staff were dressed in their choice of island shirts. They seemed excited about it and were in a spirited mood. It was fun. They served us Chicken Cordon Bleu and a Brownie for dessert. 

Entertainment: After dinner we saw the Fire & Ice skating show and the Love & Marriage.  It's really impressive what they can do on such a small ice skating rink. 

 

 

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Day 7: Sea Day

We took advantage of our last chance to not set the alarm clock and ate a late breakfast in the dining room. After breakfast we high-tailed it to the deck 12 to make the most of our final sea day. It was windy and the boat was rocking a little that day and there were plenty of lounge chairs to choose from. 

We watched the Zumba class and pool deck games. I ate a final lunch in the Dining Room with my daughter. Lunch in the dining room is really a treat and I’m surprised more people don’t do it. They usually have a nice salad bar, selection of desserts and some fun entrees. We ordered the chicken sliders and seafood risotto. This tomato-based risotto is one of my favorite dishes on the ship. 

After lunch we rode the waterslides with the kids and soaked up our last bit of sunshine and Caribbean music before heading back to the cold. About 4 pm I returned to the room to pack up and shower for dinner. 

Entertainment that night was the farewell show and another comedian. We walked around a little more before setting our luggage out and then called it a night. 

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Leaving San Juan & Final Thoughts

We waited on Deck 4 for an 8:30 am departure. They called us about 15 minutes later. Note, there are 2 stations to scan out of the boat, the furthest one had no lines. It took about 40 minutes start to finish  to find our luggage and get through  customs line . 

We still had a few hours to kill before our 1:30 flight and didn’t want to sit in the airport any longer than necessary. We found a tour guide outside the terminal who took us and our luggage through old San Juan and surrounding areas then dropped us off at the airport. He was happy to adapt to our time constraints. Cost was $30/person and we had the van all to ourselves. His smaller van could access streets/areas the bigger busses could not. He was very informative, spoke excellent English, and gave us a lot of history and facts about the areas . You can find him on FB Joe Padro or phone (787)-960-8585. 

SJU Tip: we arrived 2 hours before our flight and made it to the gate barely with about 15 minutes to spare. The lines at SJU were very long for agricultural inspection, baggage check and TSA. It was very crowded and busy! Allow plenty of time for SJU departure!

Some pictures of our pre-airport San Juan tour:

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Final Thoughts: All in all it was a great trip, beautiful itinerary and excellent entertainment and customer service from Royal Caribbean staff.  My only frustration was our GF dining experience.  The ship did not receive a shipment of their usual Gluten Free baking mix so adding that on top of their new dinner menu really limited my choices that I usually have and look forward to.  To their credit,  they sensed my predicament and went above and beyond to try to accommodate us by personalizing the menu and delivering us a bowl of GF packaged cookies every night. It helped, but it just wasn't as reliable and effortless or filling.   I'm hopeful they will modify their menu a bit more to include some of the old choices and markings.  I feel it would eliminate a lot of stress and free up more time for dinner staff and passengers.  

Many have asked about the condition of the ship since dry dock.... I cruised last year right after the first dry dock and again this year after the second.  This time, the staterooms, Chops & Izumi are finished and look like they do on other ships. The ship while more of a classic, traditional look compared to Oasis ships, seemed very refreshed and polished, even more so than last year.  The dining room and staterooms are fresh and modern, and all of the public areas are very well maintained. The carpet is new and modern.  I noticed a painters touching up a lot of nooks and cranny's that most people probably wouldn't bother painting. I admired that attention to detail. The new Izumi looked nice.  It's only a sushi bar, no Hibachi,  but with tables to dine at.  They were offering many 50% off deals so I would watch for those.  The water slides and Flow Rider were fun and functioning well, the lines never seemed too awful. They were well-placed and looked as though they have always been there.  

Thanks for following along! Now I need another vacation to look forward to :57_cry:

 

The New Izumi: 

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Our stateroom, Deck 7

 

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