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JLMoran

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

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Well somehow this never posted this morning. So backtrack and pretend it’s 9:30 AM. In the Wind-jab-mehr right now, getting some late lunch (nothing worthwhile at Cafe Promenade).

 

A gathering of angels

appeared above my head.

They sang to me this some of hope,

and this is what they said: They said,

COME SAIL AWAY! COME SAIL AWAY!!

COME SAIL AWAY WITH ME!!!

 

The day is finally here! Just another couple of hours and we’ll be on board. I was told by another couple we met on the hotel elevator that Harmony is also in port today, and between those two ships and the others in port there are going to be 17,000 people there. Very glad I learned the lesson to get there between 10:30 and 11, because I can’t imagine what the crowds are going to be like! I know it’s multiple terminals and it won’t be all 17,000 in one place, but that many people funneling through the port entrance and security checkpoint is going to be nuts!

I’m going “dark” now, probably until after sail-away. I’ll be Periscoping during sail-away, so keep an eye out for me there. Periscope handle is the same as my handle here.

 

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19 hours ago, JLMoran said:

So we ended up spending about four hours today out at the nearby public beach. As planned, we took the Beach Link trolley bus from Publix. On the way, we passed by the port and saw Navigator of the Seas at the far end of the port, and also Royal Princess docked very close to where we were driving past. We were all kind of awe-struck at how big Royal Princess was, and then I quickly realized that she was about the same size as Navigator, and Freedom would be even bigger! I honestly have no idea what my reaction when I finally see her up close is going to be.

We got off the trolley at a park a short stretch past where the trolley’s route left the beach area; we didn’t realize until we passed that final stretch of beach that this trolley line doesn’t have fixed stops, and you need to tell the driver when you want to get off. We had to walk a little ways to get back to the beach, but not that far.

The stretch of beach we ended up on was great. Not at all crowded, plenty of space to just stand at the water’s edge and take in the view, as well as a lot of pictures that included some very nice family snaps. Some of those also confirm I’m no bot. 😉

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At one point we saw a big flock of pelicans flying in formation. I always thought they were more solitary birds and didn’t do that, so this was quite surprising. It was like watching the Canada Geese migrating, only these birds were slimmer and far less obnoxious as they flew by.

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All of these shots were taken using my new telephoto lens. It’s really good in these well-lit conditions, definitely better than it did with the test pics I took at home. Surprisingly, I also really like how panoramic photos with the tele lens come out. I think these are a lot better than what I get with the iPhone 6s Plus’ base lens.BE108BC2-2789-49A9-B10D-4129ECD1D766.thumb.jpeg.a4aa31b45501e859f832f121f90e4ff5.jpeg66599035-5249-49B0-910D-0AEF3FF6E341.thumb.jpeg.e4b652a6a6ccfc3dff9256debee735b3.jpeg

 

After deciding we’d had enough time at the beach, we walked about a mile back up the main road and found a little place to grab lunch, which was right next door to a Haagen Dasz store that we also took advantage of. After that, we caught the trolley back to our hotel, rested a little and cleaned up, then grabbed dinner. (Outback again, as I’d scored a Dine Rewards discount on our prior visit)

Now we’re packing up for tomorrow, when we will finally be boarding Freedom of the Seas. I have my alarm set for 7 AM so we have plenty of time to shower, grab breakfast, pack up the last of our things, and hail a Lyft to get us to the port around 10:30 or 10:45. We all want as much time as possible on board before the crowds!

Beautiful pictures!!!

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I tried watching your sail away on periscope.  I'm not sure if it's your wifi or mine but I had a hard time joining. We've sailed into some light rain so it might be me.  

It's easier to fool around with the techy stuff when I'm solo.  

Regardless, looks like your off at last!   What does the family think?  How is your cabin?   

Don't be a slave to this blog or periscope on your 1st cruise.  Take it all in live with your family.  They come 1st, not us 😎

Have a great cruise!   

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5 hours ago, twangster said:

I tried watching your sail away on periscope.  I'm not sure if it's your wifi or mine but I had a hard time joining. We've sailed into some light rain so it might be me.  

It's easier to fool around with the techy stuff when I'm solo.  

Regardless, looks like your off at last!   What does the family think?  How is your cabin?   

Don't be a slave to this blog or periscope on your 1st cruise.  Take it all in live with your family.  They come 1st, not us 😎

Have a great cruise!   

I was having a TON of problems getting Periscope to work with the ship’s WiFi on the helipad, and was constantly getting poor signal errors. But after the first attempt, maybe 5 minutes in, I shut off WiFi and put my phone back on LTE. Then it was rock solid, so I’m guessing most of the issues were due to the rain you hit and the slower WiFi on Serenade.

I was also having trouble with my gimbal, seems I wasn’t capping the battery correctly so it wouldn’t power on.

I did confirm I had pretty good speeds at the pool, based on a Speedtest run there:

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Not as good in my cabin, where I’m writing right now:

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But at least I can scope from some locations, like the Promenade, without any hassle.

 

The family is really liking it so far. The only time we really spent with all of us together was when our cabins first opened up, and then at dinner. Apart from that, we explored and bumped into each other or messaged the odd meet-up. But that leads into my next full post...

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Embarkation Day recap...

We checked out of the hotel about 10:20 and hailed a Lyft. The experience was not nearly as smooth this time; the first assigned driver mysteriously changed the ride to “in progress” without ever showing up, and I had to cancel that one and hail another (thankfully with no penalty applied). The second driver we got showed up earlier than predicted, but clearly didn’t know the area fully as he was blindly following Lyft’s GPS directions and I could see it was taking him in a crazy route compared to where the port was. It eventually got us there, and we made our way to Terminal 29, the very last one in the port. As we made our way through, we passed Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Conquest, and HAL Nieuw Amsterdam. It was indeed a busy day in the port!

We arrived about 11:10, and there was already a good line of cars forming for drop-off. We checked our bags with a porter and I tipped $10 for our 8 bags (four big suitcases and four carry-ons that we wanted to check, while keeping the essentials in our backpacks and handbags). I was openly gawking at the ship and the sheer size of her, now that I could see her up close. I kind of pissed off the port workers as I failed to quickly follow their directions to GTFO and go into security, and just stood there for a minute debating whether to take a picture (I didn’t).

From there we quickly went through security, and ship check-in was relatively fast as well comparing to other times I’ve seen reported here. We boarded Freedom around 11:50, so a 40 minute turnaround. Considering the large crowd already there when we arrived, and the time I “wasted” ogling her from outside the terminal building, I’d consider that pretty good. Sadly, our t-shirts advertising our 20th anniversary got us no love from any attendants, and we had to take the “no status” line.

Here’s a shot of the crowd at the checkin counter, plus a panoramic showing it wasn’t actually that crowded.

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We boarded on deck 4, and went straight to the gym and spa so my wife could find out about those unlimited classes. Unfortunately, this resulted in us getting the guided spa tour, which none of us wanted but we got roped into as we didn’t see the way into the gym that bypassed the spa. We realized afterward that we should have gotten off at deck 11 instead of 12. My wife ended up not signing on to the unlimited classes in the gym, deciding she’ll be fine just using the complimentary equipment. But she did sign up for the free pampering session they had on offer, and the girls signed up for the teen version (though they might skip it).

After this, we went outside to the pool deck, and had our first split up of the day, with the girls wandering off to explore the ship. I got right down to business, and sat down in a lounger in the shade with my first beverage — a lava flow!

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It was good, at least when the rum wasn’t settled to the bottom and overwhelming the flavor. My wife stayed with me and had a taste, agreed it was good. We got up and explored the rest of the deck, enjoying the view of the surrounding area. I had a moment looking over the railing where it really hit me that I was on a cruise ship, about to embark on a helluva trip, and I laughed out loud. This is what I was looking at.

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From the other side of the ship, we could see Harmony and Carnival Conquest, sharing the port with us.

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We made our way to the Promenade, and once again I had to take a few moments to just absorb it all and realize I was somewhere I’d only seen in pictures up to this point.

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Where to start?!? But, it was 1:10 and the announcement came out that rooms were now open. So, off we went to see what our balcony rooms were like.

In two words, very nice! We were a little nervous when we saw how narrow the door was, but breathed a sigh of relief when we walked in and saw the actual space. No photos right now, my wife was adamant that I not do a photo tour set the second we got in. And happy wife does indeed equal happy life!

She did not, however, say anything about taking photos of our view, so I give you one fisheye and one telephoto pic that sums it up.

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Our luggage arrived not long after, around 1:30. Most of it... Oddly, we got every piece except my wife’s carry-on; maybe because it was more like a very large handbag than a suitcase? That didn’t show up until a little after muster.

Before muster, after unpacking our luggage, my wife and I went to the MDR to see where our table was and if we got the really big table we’d hoped for. We didn’t, but from what I could see there really weren’t any apart from a half dozen in the center.

Our table is on Deck 3, #356, located to the right of the central staircase.

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We left the MDR and wandered around deck 4, making our way to Studio B and the ice rink. It is cold in there!

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By the time we were done taking in the MDR and ice rink, it was about time for muster. Muster itself was uneventful, but a little surprising. I was sure we were going to be outside, so I had all of us put on sunscreen... and then we had muster in the Star Lounge! It was over pretty quickly, and then D14 and I got Down to our post-muster goal — a margarita for me to have with sailaway, and a mocktail for her.

She went back to the room to enjoy sailaway from her balcony (favorite spot #4, per @Matt, IIRC), and I made my way to the helicopter deck (favorite spot #1) by way of the “secret path” through the Star Lounge. Here I did my first ever Periscope, which was... well, let’s say I have a lot to learn on this front. 😅

I really enjoyed sailaway. The weather at this point was perfect, not too much sun, comfortable temperature, and a refreshing breeze blowing in. Once we cleared the channel and got into the open ocean, I took a few pics of the receding coastline and the helipad.

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I made my way all the way aft to take in the view of the wake. Doing that walk really made clear how long the ship is! But it was worth it, as I caught this view that was absolutely striking.

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After this, I met up with everyone back at the cabin. We got changed for dinner, then saw the welcome aboard show. I got my second margarita of the day before the show started. We got to meet our cruise director, Drew. He was very funny and engaging, so this bodes well; I found out later from the staff at Vintages that he just transferred (from Liberty?) last week. As for the main acts, there was a pair of artistic dancers who opened up the show and were really impressive, with good choreography and some jaw dropping moves. After them was a comedian who was hit and miss for me, mostly because of some his subject matter that has become a sensitive subject for me. No photos as photography was not allowed and we were sitting in the back of the theater.

After that, we had our 8 PM dinner (not 8:30 as I’d originally posted) in the MDR. Menus are the same as posted earlier by @LetsTryThisPlace in his live blog, so I didn’t take pictures. Also didn’t take pics of our food as I was too engaged with the family and our table mates, a mother and son from Michigan who happen to know @mpoole3 and have cruised with him a couple times! Small world, indeed!

I tried the escargot, not expecting to like them, and was very pleasantly surprised! D14 had asked to try one if I liked them, so I passed over the plate. I have to quote her here, because it kind of sums up my own experience:

”I’m kind of nervous about this...” ::eats the piece, and a moment later her face simultaneously lights up and gets confused:: “This is wrong, why does this taste so good?!?”

She said she’d have it for sure tomorrow, assuming it’s offered.

The rest of our meals were very good. In addition to the escargot, I had the wild mushroom soup, the horseradish crusted salmon, and creme brûlée for dessert. My wife had the Caesar salad, spaghetti bolognese, and royal chocolate cake. D14 had the crispy calamari, prime rib, and hazelnut chocolate. And D17 had the French onion soup, salmon, and fruit for dessert. D14 and I both got a cappuccino with our dessert, which is why I’m posting a novella at 1 AM instead of sleeping; lesson learned!

After dinner, I went to the pub and spent some time listening to guitar player James Brown from Canada for a while, while I enjoyed a Paulaner Salvator double bock.

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I Periscoped some of his set before my battery got too low, and my wife joined me after a while. We tried to go back to the helipad to see the stars, but the moon is full and the wind from the bow so strong that we couldn’t even make it all the way up there! We decided to call it a day and went back to our cabin, where I started working on this. She fell asleep about midnight, but I was still wired and decided to finish this post.

So there you have it! Future posts may be broken up more or they may also be novellas, but that’s the writer in me for you. I hope I conveyed how amazing this first day was for all of us, me especially.

 

Just want to wrap up with a couple items:

- Drink package tally: 1 lava flow, 2 reposado margaritas, 1 cappuccino, and 1 craft beer; I think I got my money’s worth today, given the $43/night rate I paid.

- I stopped in the casino briefly and spoke with the gent at the craps table; minimum is $5 all day, and you get single odds for that bet, however if you bet $25 you get double odds; betting $50 gives you 3x/4x/5x odds, depending on what number you rolled. So serious craps players can actually get Vegas casino level odds on their pass line play.

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Loving this live blog!  The pictures are amazing, and I love your writing style, don't worry about the novellas.  I'm just so stoked for you and your family👨‍👩‍👧‍👧.  Rest, relax, take a breath of sea air!...and a shot of Patron 🍹😉

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Sounds like a great first day!  

Interesting about the Lyft as something very similar happened to us a few weeks ago in NJ. First driver cancelled after 5min and then we had to wait 10min for a new one. 

Had to laugh at the spa tour part. One of us should have warned you about that lol. 

Loving the blog so far. Don't worry about how long or short it is. Like @twangster said, just blog as you have time. We're just happy you're taking us along with you 😊

Happy sailing!

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Just heard a medical emergency alert (“alpha, alpha, alpha”) over the hallway PA system, for the gym on deck 11. Guessing someone had a treadmill accident or other incident, may try and find out later if any crew members are able to share.

I hardly slept last night. The ship has been rocking gently but erratically since late the evening, probably something to do with the heavy winds that we felt last night and could hear faintly through our balcony door (or is that normal?). Nothing nausea inducing, but between that, lingering caffeine, and the soreness in my feet after putting in just shy of 14,000 steps yesterday (when I normally do 5,000-6,000 due to my mobility limits), I just couldn’t settle down for more than a few hours.

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Took a couple of minutes to stand in our balcony and take in the view. It’s truly breathtaking. I am SO glad I invested in these add-on lenses, as they’re helping me take photos that capture the memories so much better than the plain camera.

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As you can see, we’re almost exactly in the middle between the bridge wing and the whirlpool on deck 11.

I’ve never seen the ocean such a cobalt blue. It makes me pause every time I see it, just to take it in. Being a New Jerseyan, the Atlantic has always been more of a greenish tint whenever I’d go to a beach. I just assumed you had to get to a Caribbean island to see blues like this.

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what a beautiful day for a beautiful family on there way to the time of there lives fun fact at one time Freedom was the largest ship in the world and now for a fun tip from someone who lived in the keys for most of his life don't stand under the pelicans when there in formation like your great picture shows :3_grin:more pictures please

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44 minutes ago, Boston Babe said:

Following you makes me smile @JLMoran. Just so happy for you and your family! Savor every minute and remember, you have another cruise booked for October!!

I also have one in October ugh what a long wait Savor is the perfect word although I must say although I have forgotten many parts of the other cruises I will NEVER forget every minute of my first this is truly one of lifes greatest adventures ENJOY

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On ‎3‎/‎31‎/‎2018 at 8:45 AM, Boston Babe said:

@JLMoran, your family is gorgeous, look at the red heads! so pretty! IT'S HERE JOE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So so excited for you!! PLEASE POST PICS WHEN YOU ALL SEE THE SHIP AND BOARD!!

Hey Joe we have a lot in common black cats run our house and we both have redheads LOL love them both so much:6_smile:

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@JLMoran love seeing this through your "first timer" eyes too.  I stopped a bit to reflect after reading your "ocean is so cobalt blue" comment.  Such a good reminder to not take things for granted after many cruises.  Every cruise and vacation is a blessing and a joy.  Enjoy your day!

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