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JLMoran

Freedom of the Seas - Mar 31 to Apr 8 - Eastern Caribbean LIVE(ISH)

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452 days have passed since I booked.

Now it's just 6 days away!

I'm single digit dancin'! I'm super excited, and I just can't hide it! No more waiting, no more holding back, it's time to get this ball rolling!

This will be my live(ish) blog for our long-awaited first-ever cruise. My family and I will be on Freedom of the Seas, sailing out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. It's an Eastern Caribbean itinerary with four sea days and four port days, and we have a fair bit planned on those port days. BUT, that's not all we're doing! We're flying down to Fort Lauderdale 3 days early, as it saved us a ton on the airfare, so we'll be taking in the sights and activities around Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days before we board. AND we're staying one extra day in Fort Lauderdale after disembarkation, to get in one more beach day (and maybe an air boat ride) before flying back home.

Here's the full cruise itinerary, plus what we have planned each day:

  • March 31 - Embarkation from Port Everglades at 5:30 PM
  • April 1 - Sea Day
  • April 2 - Sea Day
    • I'm doing Chef's Table this day
  • April 3 - St. Kitts, 9 AM to 6 PM
    • Dolphin push/pull/swim excursion in the AM
    • Wandering around town in the PM, after we shower and have lunch on the ship
  • April 4 - St. Maarten, 7 AM to 5 PM
    • This is the big big day; we're doing an all-day beach and snorkeling tour around the island with Soualiga Destinations
    • I'll be curious to see how the snorkeling is after the hurricane roared through there last year; haven't really heard much about that on the other recent live blogs to St. Maarten, so I will be sure to report back
  • April 5 - Old San Juan, PR, 7 AM to 2 PM
    • We're meeting up with a friend my older daughter met last summer, who lives in Old San Juan
    • We plan to visit El Morro, and around that my daughter's friend said she'll show us some other interesting places, as well as the best places to eat; this might mean we'll miss a stop at Barrachinos as originally planned, but who am I to ignore the advice of someone who's lived there her whole life?
  • April 6 - Labadee, 9 AM to 5 PM
    • Wife and kids are doing the zip line in the morning
    • All of us are doing the alpine coaster, as I got all-day passes for a really good sale price
    • The rest of our time we'll be chilling in an over-the-water cabana! I heard @Matt's recommendation and rave reviews on his podcast, and I said, "This is my splurge item this trip!"
  • April 7 - Sea Day
  • April 8 - Return to FLL

Why this itinerary?

We needed a cruise that timed well with the girls' Spring Break week, but wanted one that filled up as much of that time as possible and also gave a good mix of port days and sea days. Our only other options were 7-day trips on Harmony or Allure that only gave us 3 ports, or a 10-day on Navigator to the Southern Caribbean that we'd have loved to take, but ran over the time we had (and before we knew we'd want to fly down early anyway). So this wound up being our "Goldilocks" cruise, especially with Freedom being liked by so many as a first-time cruisers' ship.

We also wanted something kind of big for a first-time cruise, because we're celebrating 3 simultaneous milestones that will all happen in May / June of this year:

  • Our 20th wedding anniversary
  • Our older daughter graduating high school
  • Our younger daughter wrapping up middle school

Our TA actually has "20th anniversary" down on the reservation for the room my wife and I are in, and "High School Graduation" for the girls' room; I'll be curious to see if there are any decorations in either room when we arrive, or if the staff does anything out of the ordinary. Not expecting it, but ever-hopeful.

Our Cabins

We booked two D3 Superior Balcony rooms on deck 8, forward. The rooms are connecting, so my wife and I were able to book in one room together and the girls are in the other room. This was after looking at the prices of suites and realizing that we got more space and saved a ton of money going the two-balcony route. We plan to get the divider opened up as soon as possible, so even though we won't have a suite, we'll at least have a suite-size balcony! :3_grin:

The rooms included $100 OBC each, we have no idea what we'll spend that on at this point. The girls are thinking of putting theirs into a purchase at the salon or maybe to get some on-ship merchandise.

Drink / Dining / Other Packages

I've purchased the Deluxe package for myself, and I'm planning to at least try and keep a running tally of everything I get to see if it works out. I think it will, but time will tell. The rest of the family has the Refreshment Package.

Since it's our first cruise, we chose not to plan on any specialty dining and just use the MDR for all dinners. Not sure yet if we'll use the MDR for breakfast, at least on sea days, or go to the Wind jah-mehr for all the morning food. WJ will likely be our go-to for lunch, at least when we're not in port. Depending on whether any lunch specials are offered, we might try Giovanni's for lunch one day. For sure I'll be visiting Sabor, even if only for guac and margaritas.

I did get the 4-device VOOM Surf and Stream package on a fairly good sale in the Cruise Planner. We mostly plan to use it for communicating with each other through iMessage and Google Hangouts (my wife is the lone Android user), and of course I'll be taking advantage of it to post updates here as I'm able.

Updating this blog

I'm only bringing my phone with me, no laptop since the one I have is employer-issued and I'm not working on this trip. I'll post updates as I'm able to each day, but they may be on the shorter side since typing on the phone is a lot slower than I can manage on a proper keyboard.

 

So looking forward to this!

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Joe, just thought of something...I remember you said you are staying at Embassy Suites on 17th street.  Not sure if you and your family like Mexican (but I'm guessing you do since you keep talking about Sabor lol) but there's a restaurant called "La Bamba" right next to Embassy, in the Publix plaza.  We love that place.  Hubby said we already have plans to go back next time.  It is great pricing, great food, and most importantly, great margaritas!  

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Forgot to note in my opening -- We are on the late Traditional Dining slot, at 8:30 PM. This was a more lengthy decision that I first thought it would be. Originally scheduled for the 5:30 PM slot, but we decided to change to 8:30 based on a few factors:

  1. We never eat dinner that early at home
  2. On 3 out of 4 port days, especially in St. Maarten, we'd be very hard pressed to get back on the ship, showered, and ready for dinner in time after our excursions or wandering around
  3. We felt that, with it being a Spring Break cruise, the 5:30 slot would most likely have the families with younger children, along with a majority of the senior citizens on board, which we would rather avoid

It will be interesting to see how we do with having dinner that late. I know we won't suffer any lack of things to snack on before then, but depending on how we find the show times and other evening activities line up, it's possible we might try to switch over to MTD so we can eat more around 7 PM, which is our normal dinner time.

5 minutes ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Joe, just thought of something...I remember you said you are staying at Embassy Suites on 17th street.  Not sure if you and your family like Mexican (but I'm guessing you do since you keep talking about Sabor lol) but there's a restaurant called "La Bamba" right next to Embassy, in the Publix plaza.  We love that place.  Hubby said we already have plans to go back next time.  It is great pricing, great food, and most importantly, great margaritas!  

We all like Mexican, so this is a great tip! Also going to see if there are any sushi places nearby, since we won't have an Izumi on board and would like one shot at sushi on this trip.

 

On the Bad News front -- I was really stupid yesterday. I went to clean my eyeglasses and decided that I was tired of always having residue even after washing them, so I used our dish sponge on them. I foolishly thought "scratch-resistant coating = dish sponge safe"; now my left lens is completely covered in fine scratches and looking through it is like looking through a thin film of vaseline. I tried a DIY remedy I'd seen in a few places to apply car wax to fill in the scratches. That did nothing, but at least it doesn't seem to have made things any worse. Unless my local optician can get replacement lenses for me overnight, I'm SOL and will be dealing with that vaseline-like haze in my left eye for the entire trip. 😞

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3 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

We all like Mexican, so this is a great tip! Also going to see if there are any sushi places nearby, since we won't have an Izumi on board and would like one shot at sushi on this trip.

You can google their menu and see if it is to your liking but we love it!  They have two locations in Fort Lauderdale but one is right next to where you're staying.  Walking distance.

 

5 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

On the Bad News front -- I was really stupid yesterday. I went to clean my eyeglasses and decided that I was tired of always having residue even after washing them, so I used our dish sponge on them. I foolishly thought "scratch-resistant coating = dish sponge safe"; now my left lens is completely covered in fine scratches and looking through it is like looking through a thin film of vaseline. I tried a DIY remedy I'd seen in a few places to apply car wax to fill in the scratches. That did nothing, but at least it doesn't seem to have made things any worse. Unless my local optician can get replacement lenses for me overnight, I'm SOL and will be dealing with that vaseline-like haze in my left eye for the entire trip. 😞

You've recovered from your surgeries so what's a little haze in one eye? :10_wink:

Hope you can get them fixed before you leave...

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Joe, add me to the "so excited for you" camp!

Freedom was my first cruise, and I was simply in complete awe the entire time.  I was such a noob that I 

thought we had to line up along the pier next to the ship for the embarkation process!   You, my friend, are

so much more prepared than I was - you're gonna have a blast.  Your blog may just break records here, and

that's saying something considering the fabulous ones we've enjoyed lately.

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So excited to follow along on your trip!  Freedom was also our first Royal cruise.  Our boys were 12 and 16 at the time.  We were in a balcony, and the boys had an inside room across the hall.  It was awesome having 2 closets and 2 bathrooms!  Congrats on all your upcoming milestones!  Have a great trip!

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bon voyage JL and family my first was on liberty what an experience new years eve cruise hope you have the time of your lives and enjoy every second I barely slept on my first but I don't recommend this. I am waiting anxiously for your blog and please don't leave anything out

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So an update on the eyeglasses situation -- I remembered good old Lens Crafters and their promise of lenses in about an hour. I found we have one about 15 minutes from my house, and gave them a call to see if they can do the progressive lenses I use with Transitions color shift, and my rather heavy prescription. They indicated they can, so I will be able to see clearly again before flying out. Thank goodness!

I'm not sure I'll get a 100% match for my normal lens features; it seems that I can either get a progressive lens or a transitions lens, but not a lens that has both. Might just be that I can get their high-end progressive lens that has no distortion but not with the Transitions feature, and if I need a Transitions lens I have to settle for the standard distortion-laced progressive I've gotten used to. But at least I'll have a clean pair of lenses before I fly out!

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Joe, I feel like you are a chick that we all raised and now we're watching you learn to fly on your own !

So excited for you.  I know we are all just recalling the awe that we felt when we drove up to our first cruise ship.  Even the little ones are SOOOO impressive and when you first step foot through the Centrum and see all the shiny glass and metal.  It takes your breath away.  Freedom is a beautiful ship.  You are definitely not starting small like we did.

I know you're going to have a great time.  You have chosen VERY well with all of your options.  I think the adjoining balcony rooms are going to be WAY nicer than a suite.  There will be much more room and 2 bathrooms.  I think you've thought of everything !  ...but of course, you haven't.  There will be something that you will learn on this cruise that you will use on your next...and so on and so on.  It never ends.  I still learn something new every single time I cruise.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas.

Look everyone - our little Joey is going off on his own !
 

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No luck with LensCrafters, I’m afraid. They could have made me a pair of lower-end progressive lenses in their vaunted one or two hours, but the distortion on them would have been noticeably worse. They did have the Varilux lenses that I currently have as an option, but not with a Transitions option; and on top of that, it would require 5 days minimum to make them, since they can only do that in the warehouse that holds the very large computer-controlled grinding machine. And it would have cost me over $300.

So, I will take care of that after I’m home, and deal with the scratched lenses during my trip. It’s not ruining my vision, in regular daylight they still work well enough (although glare at night is quite a lot worse), and the fact is that with all of the sand I’m about to be around, it’s altogether possible I simply did in advance what fate had planned for me anyway! :3_grin:

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On 3/25/2018 at 7:52 PM, DandA said:

Joe

For your eye glasses try toothpaste with a microfiber cloth.  It cleaned up my spare pair pretty good.

DandA, unfortunately from all that I’ve read, there is no DIY solution that will work in my case, as my lenses are high refractive index plastic. The plastic is apparently so precisely ground that anything I use to try and fill in the scratches or smooth the surface is going to introduce distortion.

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1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

DandA, unfortunately from all that I’ve read, there is no DIY solution that will work in my case, as my lenses are high refractive index plastic. The plastic is apparently so precisely ground that anything I use to try and fill in the scratches or smooth the surface is going to introduce distortion.

Yup...ran this theory by an eye care professional today and that was the same thing I heard.😉

Sorry the LensCrafters thing didn't work out. 

Have a few more margaritas and you probably won't even notice the difference!

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13 hours ago, JLMoran said:

DandA, unfortunately from all that I’ve read, there is no DIY solution that will work in my case, as my lenses are high refractive index plastic. The plastic is apparently so precisely ground that anything I use to try and fill in the scratches or smooth the surface is going to introduce distortion.

Sorry that it wont work for you, but as has been suggested medicating with a few margaritas a day should clear everything up. :5_smiley:  Enjoy your cruise we too are anticipating our first cruise on Lady "O" next month.

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Can't wait to hear about your cruise! You are going to have so much fun!! We sail on Freedom April 22nd!! I love Freedom, one of my favorite ships!! I believe Freedom does have an Izumi?!? Someone can correct me if I'm wrong! If I am then my daughter will not be pleased, as I told her they do and she can get carry out and half portions! Thought I read that on one of the blogs!!

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4 minutes ago, Deedeelynn said:

I believe Freedom does have an Izumi?!? Someone can correct me if I'm wrong! If I am then my daughter will not be pleased, as I told her they do and she can get carry out and half portions!

Unfortunately, no. Freedom only has Chops, Giovanni's and Sabor. The closest they have on board is an "Izumi Express", which is just a wheel-out cart that comes out once a day for a limited time (hour or so) with pre-made sushi that may or may not have been previously frozen and may or may not have been prepared before the ship ever left the dock. @LetsTryThisPlace wrote about it in his blog for this same itinerary just a couple of weeks ago.

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Just now, JLMoran said:

Unfortunately, no. Freedom only has Chops, Giovanni's and Sabor. The closest they have on board is an "Izumi Express", which is just a wheel-out cart that comes out once a day for a limited time (hour or so) with pre-made sushi that may or may not have been previously frozen and may or may not have been prepared before the ship ever left the dock. @LetsTryThisPlace wrote about it in his blog for this same itinerary just a couple of weeks ago.

I was just looking at deck plans! My daughter will be disappointed! I think I got it confused with the Adventure , which we are sailing on in August!! How does @twangster keep everything straight with all his cruises?!? He is the master!! Thanks @JLMoran, have a blast on your cruise!!

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