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JLMoran

Anthem of the Seas to Bermuda, Oct 13-18, 2018; Not Even REMOTELY Live, Because 20th Anniversary

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Day 3 - Ferry and St. George's, Bermuda (FINALLY)

We woke up at 7, knowing we had to be off the ship as soon as we were cleared to disembark if we wanted to get our transit passes and board the 9:30 ferry to St. George's. We grabbed a quick breakfast from Cafe Two70, and once again sat in the far back of the Two70 area while we ate and watched the ship finish docking. We were ready to disembark just before our scheduled clearance time of 9 AM and walked down the stairwell to deck 2...

Where we were told to go back up to deck 3 and wait until we were actually cleared. Even though it was 8:58. 😞

The good news is that we were only about a half-dozen people from the very front of the rapidly growing line of passengers who also had time-sensitive plans. We all were getting antsy as 9:00 passed, then 9:05. Apparently we needed a little more time to get cleared, or maybe we were running a bit late with our docking, as we didn't actually hear the announcement that it was OK to disembark until about 9:10.

Once cleared and outside the ship, we hoofed it over to the booth just outside the pier where transit passes could be purchased. Most people ahead of us were boarding shuttles to Horseshoe Bay beach, or waiting for taxis or excursions, so we only had a couple of people ahead of us when we got there. I got us a pair of single-day passes, figuring that tomorrow we'd only be doing Horseshoe Bay and just needing the private shuttle. Tickets in hand, we had ten minutes to make our way over to the ferry before it departed for St. George's. Thankfully, it was a fairly short walk to the ferry pier, and we were finally able to relax a little and just walk over at a normal pace. We boarded the ferry with a couple of minutes to spare, and made our way up to the top deck where we'd have a better view as well as a breeze.

While we waited for the ferry to depart, I got a shot of the far side of the pier, where the dockyard shops were located, and also a half-decent shot of Anthem.

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We departed on time, and as we made our way into the water I saw our companion from yesterday, the Disney Magic, making her way into the port to join us.

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We had to share the view with our daughters, but our younger one was already in school. Still, it was early enough thanks to the time zone difference that it was still possible to catch our older one before she went off to college for the day. I'm on Verizon's pay-as-you-go international plan, where for a flat $10 a day I can use my phone's data plan just like if I were home. I took the phone out of Airplane Mode, made sure I had a good cell signal, and fired up FaceTime. We spent about half the trip chatting with our older daughter and showing her the view of the coastline. She was horribly jealous, and tried to make us feel the same by cuddling with the puppy.

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Eventually the cell signal got too weak, and it was close to when our daughter had to go to class, so we hung up and enjoyed the rest of the ferry ride. At one point, we passed what looked like a fort of some kind on the coastline.

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Before much longer, we were entering the channel to the port at St. George's. We started to see brightly colored homes peeking out through the foliage.

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The channel quickly widened, and the number of buildings rapidly grew.

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I took some video as we got closer to the pier, and much to my surprise there was another cruise ship docked here! The Regent Cruises "Seven Seas Navigator" was paying a visit to this end of the island.

We were almost to the pier now, and the area was getting progressively more dense and colorful.

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We finally docked, and once the ferry was secure we got off and started making our way towards the town center. Before we got very far, we saw a car that was just too awesome looking not to take a couple pictures. I'm not a car guy by any measure, but even I was impressed at the work that went into customizing this Suzuki!

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Even the dash and seats had been modified to match the general design theme...

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Tearing ourselves away from this awesome vehicle, we continued until we made our way onto Water Street, passing a place that had quite an assortment of hats for sale.

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We walked down Water Street, admiring the buildings along the way and just loving the general quiet vibe of this town. By this point, Cathy was already saying that we had to come back for another visit.

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We followed the sounds of a steel drum being played, and found this gent next to a small shop that had just opened. I tipped the fellow a couple of dollars before taking his picture, remembering what the busker I'd met in San Juan last April had told me.

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There wasn't really anything interesting in this particular shop, just typical t-shirts and other touristy knick-knacks. We continued down Water Street until we came to a craft shop on our left that sold various pieces made from sea glass.

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We found a couple of nice paper weights that we thought the girls would like and would hold up to travel and being bounced around in my backpack. While we were looking at the various items for sale, we chatted with the shop owner. She was born and raised in Bermuda, and while she didn't look a day over 60 she said she was actually in her eighties! Clearly this island's air is good for the body and soul!

I half-jokingly told her that we were already debating the idea of relocating here. We proceeded to get an interesting but brief description of how to actually do that, and it's not that hard really. The only tricky part is that until you've lived on the island for ten years and earned "landed resident" status, you either have to rent an apartment (which would be tricky with a family of four), or buy a home worth at least a million dollars! After reaching the "landed resident" milestone, you're free to buy any house you want on the island.

Having bought some small gifts for the girls, we thanked the shop owner and went back out to explore the town more. We stopped in a couple more shops, these ones selling art prints and various hand-made glass decorations, but didn't buy anything more. We already planned to visit the shops in the dockyard area the next day, and didn't want to blow through our spending budget in the first hour we were there. Little did we know...

Eventually we reached the center of town proper, and found the St. George's town hall.

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If I read the various descriptions hung on the walls correctly, this building was both a historical site and also still used for town meetings and other local matters. It certainly looked like it could still be actively used, but the photos of a young Queen Elizabeth and Duke Philip, plus the original charter under sealed glass, spoke to the age of this place.

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Having looked around, we headed back out to try and make our way over to Tobacco Bay Beach. The sea glass craft shop owner had told us about it, and said it was a very beautiful spot that we really should try and see before we left the town. We were still getting our bearings, and while ambling around we saw a much closer Seven Seas Navigator, along with some other sights.

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Here's a statue of Admiral Sir George Somers, for whom the town is named. There was nothing there to indicate why his statue was posed in this way.

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We figured out we must be heading the wrong way for Tobacco Bay beach, and started going back the way we had come. Our shop owner friend had told us one of the ways we'd know we were going the right way was to just watch for the old men shambling along, who would all point in a general direction and mutter, "Tobacco Bay, that-a-way" as they passed. Sure enough, we hadn't gone a hundred feet in our new direction when a man with deeply tanned skin like old leather and sun-bleached hair walked past us, and sure enough pointed vaguely in the direction we were walking and said just that!

Even with this "help", we still had to ask another shop owner for some slightly more-precise directions after buying a couple of drinks to stave off the growing heat. Knowing the way, we walked away from town and up Duke of Kent Street.

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We came to a side street with some interesting looking ruins. Not the abandoned church that @coneyraven saw, as we could see that further up the street. This was something different.

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On the other side of the intersection, we were suprised to a banana, or maybe plantain, tree growing on the far side of a low wall.

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As we hit the roughly half-way point, we paused to take a breather and admire the view back the way we'd come.

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The walk is about a half-mile each way, and going out is definitely harder as you're going uphill for about two thirds of the way, some of it steep. We finally reached the point where we started going downhill again, and to my surprise I started hearing techno music! Some really good stuff, too, like there was a club nearby. Not long after we saw Tobacco Bay and its beach spread out before us.

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We walked the remaining distance and finally were standing on the beach, admiring the view. The source of the music was the beach's bar and small restaurant, and I couldn't have been happier. Not only did we have a gorgeous view laid out in front of us, our ship faintly visible off in the distance; I had a great soundtrack to enjoy with it!

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We were trying to figure out how on earth this mostly submerged bench ended up here, and whether it could even be sat on without the waves pounding you. Neither of us had brought our bathing suits since we didn't even know this place existed before we got into town, so we'd just have to wait for a return trip to find out.
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I was amused to see some birds taking advantage of a puddle that had formed in one of the lava outcroppings. We humans weren't the only ones who wanted to swim at this beach!
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Unfortunately, we couldn't stay as we still wanted to have lunch at the Swizzle Inn and see the Crystal Caves. A young woman there was nice enough to take our picture before we left.

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We walked the half mile back without too much trouble, although we were very hot by the time we got back into town and very much needed something to drink and cool off. We gulped down a couple of sodas, then made our way to the bus terminal to wait for the #10 or #11 to show. The first bus to show filled up before we could board, but then another one showed up with plenty of space. We showed our day passes, got them punched (not sure why the ferry pilot hadn't done this when we boarded back at the dockyard pier), then sat down for the relatively short ride to Crystal Caves and the Swizzle Inn.

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Day 3 – Crystal Caves, Bermuda

The bus dropped us off at the stop for Crystal Caves, which is actually the start of a walking path that leads you to the caves. Next to the path is an ice cream shop, and across the street from the bus stop was the Swizzle Inn. I'd been told it was a short walk from Crystal Caves, but I had no idea it was literally right across the street from its path entrance!

We were both ready for lunch, so we decided to do that before going to the caves. As soon as we were seated and I had a chance to look through the menu, I ordered a Rum Swizzle. I had to try one, in the name of research!

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I'm not a big rum fan, and it was definitely no Kraken in this brew, but it wasn't bad by any stretch. I'm just glad I only got the single serving and not the next size up (a half-pitcher) -- that is one strong drink! I was feeling a hefty buzz before I'd even gotten halfway through what was in my pitcher! Knowing I had to navigate a lot of stairs in the caves, I figured it was better at that point to finish the drink quickly, and hope it cleared out by the time lunch was done. Swizzle Inn, swagger out!

The food was pretty good. I had locally caught Wahoo, which to me was about the same as a good swordfish steak. Cathy wasn't super hungry and just had a flatbread pizza. Then I saw they had bread pudding as one of the dessert options... Yeah, I'm weird that way; I love bread pudding, especially if it's got a good vanilla sauce (which this preparation did).

With a full belly and the vestiges of my swizzle still in me, we headed out to the path that would take us to the Crystal Caves. It had rained while we ate, and everything was still pretty wet, but that didn't discourage the large group of people ahead of us. We ended up having to wait for the tour at three o'clock, which was OK as my feet were pretty worn out from all the walking earlier in the day and could use the rest. Cathy took the opportunity to check out the gift shop, and got a couple more items for the girls along with a small stone bracelet for herself.

Our turn to see the caves came around, and we made our way through the gate and descended the 83 stairs down into the caves proper. Along the way, we could see open pockets where the water from the sea was already visible, as well as some smaller stalactites and columns.

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When we got to the bottom of the stairs, our guide directed us to the smallish dark opening in the ceiling. This was the original entrance to the caves, the one that the boys who lost their cricket ball crawled through in their effort to find it.

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Now here is a part I didn't know about the caves. The water level changes with the tides, to the tune of between two and three feet deeper at high tide. Our tour happened to be going through pretty much at peak high tide, so when we went down the floating walkway to reach the rear of the chamber, several of us had to bend over almost double to get past some of the stalactites without hitting our heads or getting our back's badly scraped by the stone.

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Our guide stopped us about two thirds of the way back to talk about the water here, and how deceptively deep it was. It ranges between 50 and 75 feet deep at the spot we were standing, and it's so clear and the refraction from it so strong, that you don't realize that the rocks below that you think are fairly short are actually themselves between 40 and 50 feet tall.

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We made our way to the far end of the main chamber, where I noticed there was a small opening in the columns that had a light mounted inside the space there. I leaned down and got what I think was actually one of the prettiest photos of the space, despite what the brochures typically show. The limestone in that space looked more like mother of pearl than rock. I was kind of wishing I could explore that space more instead of this main chamber.

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Our guide turned the lights down and showed how, depending on the angle of the light that was hitting the water, you could see just the cave floor below, or the reflection of the ceiling above forming what looked something like the Manhattan skyline, or the head and long neck of a dragon.

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The actual tour only lasts about 20 minutes, and that was plenty. Caves are supposed to be chilly places, but either the smaller space created by high tide, or the high humidity there, or the sheer number of people being taken through all day made the place feel like an oven by the time we started walking out.

We headed back to the bus stop, where we met a mother and her two daughters holding a picture of their father, her late husband. They came here on the Disney Magic, and were visiting Bermuda to honor his passing, as it was one of his favorite places to vacation. I took their picture when they asked, the three of them holding his photo and standing with the Swizzle Inn, one of his and his widow's regular places, behind them. After that, we spent the time waiting for the bus just talking about Bermuda, how beautiful it was and how nice the people were. We learned that the Magic was in Bermuda for three days, not just two; if we didn't already know how much more expensive it is to sail Disney than sailing with Royal, we might well have decided to book a return trip on that ship so we could get that extra day!

The bus to Hamilton arrived, and just like before it filled up before we could get on. Partly it was our mistake, we were standing at the wrong end of the stop and a bunch of people who got there after us boarded first; partly it was because it was getting to be rush hour there, and with this stop mid-way on the trip to Hamilton any bus was going to be more crowded when it arrived.

Just like before, we waited about ten minutes and another bus arrived. This time we were at the front of the line and got on right away, but we knew that there was no way we were making the 4:30 ferry from Hamilton back to the ship. Sure enough, we arrived at the bus terminal in Hamilton just a few minutes before 4:30. Could we have walked really fast and gotten to the ferry pier in time? Maybe, but it was raining again and we didn't feel like chancing it. A bus going to the dockyard was right there and leaving momentarily, so we got on and just accepted that we'd have an hour's ride back to the ship, instead of the 20-minute ferry trip.

We got to the dockyard closer to six than five-thirty, and hurried back on board as best we could with our tired feet. We had a reservation at seven-thirty for Wonderland, and while we weren't dressing up, we did want some time to rest and get cleaned up.

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12 hours ago, JLMoran said:

and it's not that hard really. The only tricky part is that until you've lived on the island for ten years and earned "landed resident" status, you either have to rent an apartment (which would be tricky with a family of four), or buy a home worth at least a million dollars! After reaching the "landed resident" milestone, you're free to buy any house you want on the island.

OOO! My tour guide said it was much harder and it was $2 million! One of my fellow travelers was asking all of the questions about this. It sounds very difficult when you factor in the job search. Jobs are only given to outsiders when it can't be filled by a Bermudan.

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7 hours ago, ellcee said:

OOO! My tour guide said it was much harder and it was $2 million! One of my fellow travelers was asking all of the questions about this. It sounds very difficult when you factor in the job search. Jobs are only given to outsiders when it can't be filled by a Bermudan.

I did a little Googling on my lunch break, and I think what made the woman I spoke with give me a different story on the difficulty side of it was that I specifically commented that I was in the financial industry and IT. Based on what I read (mostly from the "Getting a Job in Bermuda Page" on bermuda-attractions.com, which I remember was the site I was using to learn about places like Crystal Caves and does seem to be a legit Bermuda-focused / possibly Bermuda-managed site), those jobs are in high demand and not as readily / frequently filled by Bermudians. Because Bermuda is a tax haven, a fair number of hedge funds and banking companies are set up there, and a lot of their employees are expats.

I will say that she was probably off about the cost of a house, just based on what I read on that site, even what your tour guide said might have been on the low side! Seems just a two-bedroom apartment in Hamilton will run around $4,000 a month, and "only" $3,200 outside Hamilton, while renting a full house that's ocean-facing (not ocean-front!) and equipped with a pool and private garden runs over $15,000! 😱

And there's no 10-year "landed resident" status that I could find a reference to. If you're not Bermudian or married to a Bermudian, you cannot buy a house at all, full stop, unless you're someone very privileged. And even then, you can only buy a home already owned by another expat (which the site says is basically the top 5% of properties, at exorbitantly inflated prices).

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Day 3 – Wonderland and evening on the ship

Since we still had about an hour and a half before our reservation, Cathy went up to the thermal spa for a bit. I didn't think my really sore feet would do well resting on the hard lounger, or sitting in the sauna, so I stayed in the room and rested while Advil did its magic.

Now, before I get into the actual meal and experience of Wonderland, I want to go back a bit in time. You may remember me posting here a couple of weeks before my sail date with a question on whether I should just book the reservation online, or wait to see if a sale was offered on our day in port. I decided to book it online, and that ended up being a very good thing. I was of a really strong belief that with it being an overnight day in port, and people probably wanting to eat at venues off the ship, that all the specialty restaurants would be looking to fill tables and offering specials.

NOPE!

I had paid a visit to the reservations desk the morning of our sea day to check on whether they were in fact doing any specials or promotions for this day, and the woman there informed me that not only were they and all the other specialty restaurants not offering any kind of discount, they were in fact just about fully booked for the whole trip! So had I not booked in advance, I might not have even been able to get us a table there at the time we wanted!

So we arrive at our scheduled time and were seated immediately. Our server for the night, Ilver, came over and explained the way the restaurant worked, and I had a feeling this might not have been the best specialty restaurant to book for the two of us. Cathy isn't a fan of seafood at all. I knew the menu had a strong seafood focus, but I just figured that she could simply skip those parts and order a meat entree and just a couple of the appetizer options that would be more to her liking. For Cathy's part, she was looking more for the experience of it all and also the chance to try The World, and if the rest of her dinner was a little light that would have been OK.

Well, our waiter explained that the appetizer part of the menu was fixed for everyone, and he really couldn't leave anything out or make alterations. In addition, they normally served two fish entrees with one meat option. I was thinking I would have to apologize to him and say we had to leave, because no way was I going to have Cathy sit there not able to eat for over half the meal.

But then Ilver started to turn it around for us.

He didn't want Cathy to be sitting there and not able to eat while the appetizers were served, and he also didn't want us walking away disappointed. He asked if he could get Cathy a Caesar salad and a bowl of mushroom soup from Chops, right next door, to have during the appetizers; he hoped she would try at least a couple of the non-seafood items, like the tomato water or the Baby Vegetables in the Garden, but wanted her to have something she would enjoy. That was totally acceptable to her, so appetizers were squared away. And instead of the usual two fish and one meat, he would reverse it for us and do two meats with just one fish. She ordered the slow roasted chicken entree for herself, while I ordered the branzino in crispy bread; for the second meat, we decided to try the Terroir Beef to share.

Our appetizers came out, and I had every one of them (including Cathy's). I thought they were all great.

First, the Baby Vegetables in the Garden, with the smoked deviled eggs behind it.
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The "dirt" in the baby vegetables dish, which is hidden by the dressing that was poured over it, is actually finely grated pumpernickel bread. I had been wondering what they used for that, and thought it was actually very clever. The dish itself was very good, and I was surprised that Cathy didn't want to try it since it had no seafood. But she had her Ceasar salad and was fine with that.

Next up, the Liquid Lobster. Just a single bite of lobster tail in broth on a giant spoon. The lobster was very tender and not at all overcooked, and had good flavor.
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Next we have the tomato water (in the test tubes), the crispy crab cones, and shrimp kataifi. Cathy tried the tomato water and didn't care for it. For me, it was exactly what it said on the tin but hardly anything special; it didn't even really strike me as the palate cleanser our waiter said it was meant to be. The crab cones and shrimp kataifi were both excellent.
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While I was going through these last appetizers, Ilver brought out the mushroom soup. Cathy had a couple of spoonfuls and commented that while she's not a big fan of mushrooms, that was a really good soup! She didn't finish it, but did enjoy what she had and reassured Ilver that she was just saving room for her entree and the dessert she knew was coming.  @WAAAYTOOO, you have another believer in this soup from Chops!

So now it was time for our entrees. My branzino was very good, and I liked the presentation that basically hid the fish underneath the bread part, sized just right to cover the filet and the rice that it lay on. It was only my second time having branzino, the first being at Chef's Table, and I actually liked this preparation more!
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Cathy's roasted chicken was also really good, and she liked the vegetables and mashed potatoes that it was served with.
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And then, there was the Terroir Beef...
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My picture was taken after Ilver had already prepared it for us to eat, so you can't see how it just slid right off that bone with no effort, and looked so incredibly tender. I slid my fork in, took a bite...

The texture and taste was like my mom's beef stew.

Exactly like it.

And I HATED my mom's beef stew!

This dish was bringing back every awful memory of being a kid and forced to choke it down in front of her because there was no plan B.

I apologized profusely to liver and let him know that it wasn't any failing on his part, this was just a dish that brought back memories in the way that food does, with not one of those memories being good. Cathy also didn't care for it, so basically the entire dish was left on the serving plate. I was kind of ready to just call it a meal, get dessert and chalk this one up to bad judgement on my part, but Ilver wasn't done trying to make this a meal we'd remember in a good way.

So how do you fix a bad meat experience? By getting a dish from the place that does nothing but good meat -- Chops! And not just any dish, either; Ilver got each of us a filet mignon, cooked to our preference. Quite honestly, I would have been OK without this after eating appetizers for two people along with my fish entree, but Ilver insisted that we get the full value of the meal we'd paid for. So a few minutes later, we had two filets laid out before us. Sorry, no picture of this.

Cathy was in heaven, and said it was just as good as the filet we'd had in CK on our first night. She fully agreed with @ellcee's statement that it was the best filet she'd had. I didn't think it was quite that good, as my piece tasted like it had a little too much salt thrown on, but it was definitely good. I was starting to feel really stuffed at that point, and knowing we still had dessert coming I chose to leave about a third of it on the plate.

And now it was time for the desserts. Again, no picture; food coma was setting in and it seems I forgot to take one. But we had three desserts served to us: Forbidden Apple, which is mostly a raspberry mousse and doesn't actually have apple in it; a mini-popsicle of key lime ice cream; and The World. This was what Cathy had been waiting all night for, especially after I had raved about it when I got to have it at Chef's Table back on Freedom. It was just as good this time around as it was then, and Cathy was right back in heaven.

While we were enjoying all this decadence, Ilver asked if we wanted any coffee or anything to go with it. I asked for a lactose-free cappuccino, thinking that if they had that milk in the Windjammer as well as the coffee places, it must be available ship-wide. Well, Ilver let me know he'd run down to La Patisserie to get it for me; before I could tell him not to bother, and I didn't want to make even more of a bother of myself, he was gone. Ten minutes later he came back with my beverage in hand. I was really impressed by his drive to give us a good experience and good meal, and simultaneously felt like a heel for causing him to run down to deck 4 to get that for me.

The meal finished up, and I left Ilver a sizable tip for the way he went above and beyond. I also asked him for the exact spelling of his name so that I could be sure to note him in my post-cruise survey. God knows he earned that!

 

It was just about time for the late showing of this evening's headliner act, The Las Vegas Tenors. I seemed to recall hearing of them before, maybe here, and wanted to catch this show. Cathy came along, but after the first couple of songs decided to call it a night as she was pretty wiped out from our day on shore. I stayed through the show, and for the second time I was disappointed in Royal's choice of entertainment. While the trio are all good singers, their music selections were almost all from artists before my time and I just felt like this was an act geared for an older crowd than my age bracket. I did like their Spanish rendition of Nights in White Satin, and they had a couple of other numbers from newer artists that I enjoyed, but they were too few and too far between for me to really enjoy the show as much as I'd wanted to.

I decided after the show to swing by Vintages, as I'd barely made use of my drink package outside of two cappuccinos. The night's disappointments continued, as I found a wine menu with less than a third of what was offered at the Vintages on Freedom. I got a glass of La Volte, a wine I'd enjoyed on Freedom, and after a short while I took my glass with me and wandered over to Brass and Bock Pub, where there was a better crowd to people watch along with the musician performing there. I settled in at a table with my wine, and slowly finished it off while I wrote up this day's notes. After that I called it a night, a little after midnight.

 

The couple of issues we've had on the ship notwithstanding, and believe me that they were unquestionably small potatoes, Cathy and I already agree that we absolutely have to come back here, even if we have to do it in an inside cabin.

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Day 4 – Horseshoe Bay

Today was our laid-back day. No rush to get off the ship, only real plan is visiting Horseshoe Bay and trying to do some shopping at the craft market and other shops in the dockyard. We slept in a bit, and went down to Cafe Two70 for breakfast again. Barely made it before they closed at 9:30. They actually closed all the doors in and out while we and the other stragglers who squeaked in at the last moment got our food and coffees, opening the exit door only long enough to let someone into Two70 when they had their breakfast ready. We were still stuffed from the night before, and just had a light meal before heading out. I got an extra espresso shot in my morning cappuccino; I needed the extra caffeine.

That done, we headed over to the North Star to get in another ride and see the island from 300 feet up. There were only a couple of other people there, as expected, and we had no problem boarding from the standby line. The view was pretty impressive, and it drove home just how tiny the island is as we were able to see all the way to the far end.

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After our ride, we left the ship and walked down the pier to where the private shuttles were lined up, ready to take passengers to Horseshoe Bay. At $7 per person, it's only a little more than taking the bus, and they have the advantage of running much more frequently and taking you all the way to the beach entrance.

We arrived around 11:00, and the main beach was fairly packed but not a madhouse. The chairs, loungers, and umbrellas available for rent could only be set up to about half way down the length of the beach, leaving a nice big stretch wide open. As we walked to the rental booth, we passed a small grotto with a very calm and shallow tide pool.

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We rented just a single lounger, mostly so we'd have a place to put our towels and backpack and not lose them. We had it put as far down as we could go, which wasn't super-crowded yet. Then it was time to get our feet wet.

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We hadn't brought our bathing suits with us, mainly because we didn't think we'd be staying that long. Well, after about five minutes of standing at the water's edge and letting the surf wash over our feet, Cathy decided that she didn't care that her bathing suit was back in our cabin. She had on enough clothes that even soaking wet, it wouldn't be at all indecent, and she just dove on into the ocean!

I couldn't really do the same, with my phone and camera lenses and a bunch of other stuff on me that I didn't want to leave lying on the lounger unattended, so I decided to wander down to the far end of the beach, where it looked like there was another grotto and maybe some good picture opportunities.

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Off in the distance, I saw someone standing on top of a boulder in the middle of the bay.

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I headed back to our lounger, not wanting to leave Cathy behind for too long, and while taking a couple more shots I managed to catch the person diving off the rock and into the water.

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Cathy had gotten out of the water, and after drying off a bit more in the sun the two of us walked back to where I'd been so she could see that grotto. She got some good pictures of the surrounding cliffs, wading out into the water with my phone and getting some nice changes in view from what I could get while staying on land.

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On the way back, I played around with climbing one of the rocks. Wade wasn't amused.

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Cathy wanted to go back in the water for a bit, so just let the water wash over my feet again and got some video.

It was just about 1 when Cathy came back out, and we decided we should head back if we wanted any chance at shopping before our all-aboard time. On the way out, we stopped at the first grotto, and Cathy once again took my phone with her into the water to get another shot from up close.

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We hopped back on the shuttle, and after a bit of a wait for it to fill up we were on our way back to the dockyard.

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Loving the pictures, Joe!  It's funny - on our sailing, Wonderland was ALWAYS available.  I saw the poor guy in his purple coat walking around every night trying to drum up business.  After reading your experience, it makes me wish that we were brave enough to try it instead of going to Chops twice.  It really sounds like Ilver went above and beyond to make it worth the upcharge.  Thanks for your review... it'll give me courage for next time 😄

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28 minutes ago, firebuck said:

After reading your experience, it makes me wish that we were brave enough to try it instead of going to Chops twice.

You definitely need a taste for seafood, and enjoying sushi doesn't hurt as a couple of the appetizers do use raw tuna; but if you tell the waiter you're not a fan of sushi he / she will probably skip those appetizers. I re-checked the menu as I was writing it up last night and confirmed that while they have about 16 different appetizer options, they bring out just a sub-set of them based on both the size of your party and what you tell them are your likes and dislikes. I'm sure part of why Ilver brought out the smoked deviled eggs for us is because they were one of the few non-seafood options.

The food is definitely nothing so far off the beaten path that you'll be shaking your head trying to figure out if anything is really edible. It's more that the meal is something of a spin on molecular gastronomy and "avant garde cuisine", so it's normal food that just looks weird. 😂

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Day 4 - Bermuda (continued)

The shuttle bus left Horseshoe Bay at 1:30, but we didn't get back to the Dockyard until almost 2:30 because of traffic and rain. With our all-aboard time at 4:30, we didn't have a lot of time to finish up our day. And we still needed to eat some lunch, we were both getting pretty hungry. Rather than burn a lot of time at any sit-down restaurant in the dockyard, we went back to the ship and just grabbed some small items at Cafe Promenade to take the edge of our hunger and let us get back off-ship ASAP.

We headed back out to the dockyard with about an hour we could safely spend without risking being pier runners. Even with that decent amount of time, we were kind of hurried to get our shopping done. We ended up only making it to the craft market, where we got our traditional souvenir holiday ornament and a couple of prints, and one other store where we got some limited print coasters and a few t-shirts. After that, we made our way back to the ship, cutting it a little close as we boarded at 4:15, but not all pier runner territory. To our surprise, as we waited in the security line we heard one of the staff holler down from the card scanner area to the people at the entry booth that there were still over 250 passengers not yet on board! We looked back and there were nowhere near that many in line to board, so it was looking like there'd be at least a few pier runners today!

I have no idea if that ended up being the case or not. Our room was on the opposite side from the dock, and all I wanted at that point was to enjoy my traditional sail-away margarita from our balcony and take in one last sight of Bermuda.

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We sailed away promptly at 5:00, so either everyone made it on board in time or there were some people (possibly happily) left behind.

We had to get ready for dinner in CK, as we were eating a bit earlier to make the evening's showing of Spectra's Cabaret. As it happened, while this night wasn't formal night it was still the night when the kitchen pulled out almost all the stops. That's right, almost all the stops...

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This was a set of impossible choices. There was no way I could decide between salmon sashimi or the risotto, nor could I choose just scallops or lobster. So, I did what every enterprising cruiser does in this situations... I got 'em all! Sorry, escargots, but there is only so much room in this stomach and you got the short stick; considering Amar brought me a second lobster tail without prompting, I was glad I left them behind. Appetizers were paired, at Amar's recommendation, with the "Conundrum" blend from the "Adventurous Whites" section; yes, I actually had white wine and I enjoyed it! It was very dry, which I appreciated, and only a little fruity with a slightly spicy finish. With my entree's I also had white wine, this time the "Mer Soleil" Chardonnay; also very nice, and I have to say after having this and the Chardonnay served at Chef's Table back on Freedom that I do like that kind of white. I may have to pick up a couple of bottles for at home when I have meals that traditionally do get served with a white wine rather than a red. 

Cathy kept it far simpler than me, and just had her favorite Caesar Salad and the gnocchi. She said the gnocchi was very good, not too heavy and really good flavor.

Then it was time for dessert. Cathy got the crunchy chocolate bar, which had her back in heaven again; we're all chocolate lovers, and she said that was a really good dessert. I had the Baked Alaska and, as usual on this sailing, an iced Bailey's and coffee. Here's the Baked Alaska.

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And lest I forget, our meal once again came with riddles! First was this one: "The one who makes it, sells it. The one who buys it, never uses it. The one who uses it, never sees it." I actually figured this one out after a very small hint from Amar, with confirmation that "it" was a real thing and not some metaphysical concept or the like. After this, we got another stick challenge – There are 12 sticks arranged into a square, like so:

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Moving exactly 3 sticks, change the four squares into three squares; you cannot double up any sticks, and you cannot have any sticks jutting out on their own. This one neither Cathy nor I was able to figure out; when Amar showed us the solution, I shook my head again. And the solution he showed isn't the only valid one; we showed this puzzle to our kids and my older daughter came up with a different solution that was still valid.

And now, it was time for...
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We arrived a solid hour early, actually getting to Two70 as the first show was ending. This was good, as it gave us our pick of the available seats. Make note -- if you want to have a chance to see the cast up very close as they leave the main stage area in a couple of parts and walk around the perimeter, then find the third ring of seats, which are a set of tall couches and love seats. Cathy asked to sit here as her back was bothering her and she wanted something with a taller back than the other seating, and wow was it the perfect place to enjoy the show!

I respected the "no photography" announcement, so I can't show you anything of the actual show, but both Cathy and I were very impressed. This was the kind of show we'd been waiting for, and it really was incredible how they blended the singing, dancing, aerialists, robot displays, and projection wall into one seamless whole. It's not Cirque du Soleil, as I had first imagined it to be. It's something all its own, and you really do have to see it to appreciate it. And if you sit where I indicated, you'll have two times that either the emcee, Spectra, or the full show cast walks past and you can fully appreciate the costuming and the performers' talents. Spectra actually took time on his pass-through to say hello and shake people's hands, including mine, which I thought was a very nice touch. When the show ended, we gave the cast a huge round of applause. And we were even more excited now at the prospect of seeing We Will Rock You the next day, as that show was supposed to be even better!

Not wanting to go to bed quite yet, we decided to wander the ship a bit. There were some interesting chairs laid out in front of Wonderland and by the Music Hall, so we decided to have a goof and do our best Game of Thrones impressions. Cathy played Circe Lannister.

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I, on the other hand, was Ned Stark.

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After having our bit of fun, we went up to the pool deck and Solarium to see how they looked at night. The Solarium was surprisingly empty.

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 We contemplated getting our bathing suits having a private dip in the Solarium's hot tubs, but didn't want to take yet another shower before bed when it would be really late; we figured we'd do that on our sea day tomorrow.. 

At this point, Cathy was ready to call it a night. I was still pumped up between my evening Bailey's coffee and Spectra, so I continued to wander for a while. I stopped off at Boleros and tried out a Royal Mojito; not at all bad, but not as good as the one I had in Old San Juan back in April. While I sipped my drink, I decided to finally pay a visit to the casino and see how the craps tables might treat me. Not nicely, as it turned out. As soon as I joined the table went cold, and I lost to 8 shooters in a row; I ended up leaving before I could even get a chance to be the shooter, having lost $40 in about 10 minutes. I saw the same thing happen towards the end of my trip on Freedom, and I'm starting to wonder if I make any table I join colder than a Polar Vortex hit in January.

Just for grins, I put $10 into the one $1 Double Diamond slot machine they had, as that has been a somewhat reliable slots game for me. No luck here, either. Out $50 total, I cleared out of the casino and decided it was time for me to get to bed as well.

 

Tonight's drink package tally:

  • 2 cappuccinos
  • 2 glasses of wine
  • 3 cocktails

Definitely ahead tonight, but still "making up" for yesterday's big shortfall.

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21 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Conundrum" blend from the "Adventurous Whites" section; yes, I actually had white wine and I enjoyed it! 

Conundrum White and Conundrum Red are two of my favourites!  Love both.  Conundrum is owned by Caymus and is a fraction of the cost.

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Day 5 - Sea Day

I was glad today was a sea day, because when we woke up the skies were completely overcast and it was threatening to rain at any time. Would definitely be a day to stay indoors and take advantage of Anthem's accommodations for inclement weather. Unfortunately, I had to take care of a couple of unexpected issues, like the sewer stink that flooded out of our bathroom this morning when we opened the door! Nothing like what @twangster had happen; this was only a stink and no sewage backlog. But good lord was it pungent in there!

The other unexpected problem was that I found Royal had been charging me the daily gratuities, even though I had pre-paid them through my travel agent. With two of the days looking like I had been charged twice!

Before dealing with that, we had to get down to breakfast before things closed. I wanted to change the venue this time, as I was a little tired of Cafe Two70, so we decided to go to the Main Dining Room. On Anthem, this meant going to the American Grille room, and it was a madhouse! The place was packed, and even though we had asked to be given a shared table so we could have some companions and conversation, we ended up seated at a two-top. Granted, the tables were really close-packed so we had no trouble talking to our neighbors. They were a very nice couple from Buffalo, NY, who were on their honeymoon. We talked about Bermuda and agreed it was gorgeous, and that we had to get back as soon as we could. We also talked about our experiences on this ship so far; it was interesting to get their point of view, as they had previously sailed only on Carnival and this was their first time on Royal. They said Anthem was definitely a good bit nicer than Carnival's ships, and that it definitely had better food and a nicer crowd (not nearly as many drunks as they tended to find on Carnival, and they liked that it wasn't such a constant party atmosphere). But, they felt Carnival had the edge on activities.

For us, the food in the main dining room wasn't really any better than if we'd gone to the Windjammer, and it took a long time to both place our orders and then get our food. My pancakes were actually cold; not just room temp, but like they had been in the refrigerator and not quite reheated enough to reach room temp. On the other hand, my omelet was totally fine, probably because it was cooked to order. Cathy had the buffet, and felt it wasn't as good as the one on Freedom; fewer choices, and what was there also just on par as if we'd gone to Windjammer. I was able to get my fresh-squeezed OJ, at least, and it was as good as I remembered.

So, with breakfast out of the way, it was time to go and visit Guest Services. For the sewage smell issue, the person I spoke with was very apologetic, and paged both our floor attendant and maintenance to check it out. He also looked up my reservation and said he had no record of my prepayment on the gratuities, but after showing him my invoice and confirmation email from my TA, he offered to remove the gratuities without any further action on my part. I still wanted to get to the bottom of this part, so I emailed Heather and asked her to look into it.

While I was doing all of this, Cathy was at the logo store taking advantage of the two for $20 t-shirt sale. She scored a few more t-shirts, including one for me, and caught up with me just as I wrapped up with Guest Services.

With that out of the way, we went back up to our cabin. Our floor attendant was already there and taking a look at the problem. He agreed there was a smell, and shortly after we arrived Allen, our cabin attendant, arrived. He checked and told us the problem was that the ship had run into some bad weather last night that had been tossing a ship a fair bit (which was surprising, because we never felt that once); all the movement caused some rooms to have the bathroom floor drain's trap clear out, allowing the sewage smell to come up through the now cleared pipes. He poured some water down the drain to re-fill the trap portion, and left to check on some other rooms. And then maintenance came by not half an hour later, to further follow up on the problem. The timing was good on that as I was just heading out for my iFly session.

By this point, about 11 AM, it was actually raining, albeit lightly. So we stuck to the indoor paths as much as possible for getting to iFly, stopping at La Patisserie along the way so Cathy could get another latte. I should have asked her to just meet me there rather than waiting, because by the time we got to the checkin area my group had already been taken inside and my spot was given to someone on the standby line. There were no other openings for iFly that day, unless I wanted to wait around for my own shot at a standby slot, but I was OK with this. My feet were still sore from all the walking over the last two days, and I wasn't sure how they'd hold up being buffeted by the simulated winds inside the iFly chamber. Plus, the day was already feeling a bit rushed and it was good to have a chance to slow down.

Since the weather wasn't great, we went down to the Solarium to just relax and enjoy a beverage or two. I got another Lava Flow, but I had to make do with another rum; somehow @twangster had teleported from Adventure of the Seas onto my ship and run off with all the remaining Kraken! 😉

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Day 5 - Sea Day (continued)

After finishing my cocktail, I wanted to get to lunch ahead of our 2:30 showing of We Will Rock You. I had told Cathy ahead of time that I wanted to have lunch at Izumi one day on the trip, and this was my last chance, so I went down to deck 5 while Cathy headed over to the Windjammer.

Since I was solo, I just asked for a seat at the sushi bar. That actually required a short wait, as all the seats there were taken along with the tables. They were doing a busy lunch business today. Fortunately, someone was just about done and I got seated in about five minutes, ten tops.

The meal was... OK. I have to agree with @ellcee, it wasn't bad by any stretch but it also wasn't amazing. She had already eaten there when we met up, and given her underwhelmed reaction to their ramen (which I had originally planned on getting), I decided to go with two sushi items instead -- the Tuna Wasabi appetizer that @Matt had written about in his own review a while back, and the DX Sushi Combo. To go with the meal, I had one of Izumi's signature cocktails, "She's a Geisha".

The cocktail was actually very good. It's a mix of sake and various berry juices, and it was really light and refreshing. The sake flavor was noticeable, but not overpowering, and it was clearly just the right amount for this beverage. I think the right to think of this, or any of Izumi's other signature cocktails (all of which have sake as the base) is a Japanese style wine cooler. But with good (rice-base) wine instead of the crap those store-bought mass-produced drinks have. And none of the sulfites for preservatives that in my case always give a monster headache.

The food part was good, overall, but the one area they fell short was the tuna. In both the Tuna Wasabi and my combo, the tuna was mild to the point of being flavorless. It was most noticeable in the tuna nigiri, where it's just the tuna and rice; I never use soy sauce with my sushi (I feel like it masks the fish flavors too much), so I could really pick up on how bland the tuna was. I've had a lot of tuna sushi and sashimi, along with seared ahi tuna, and there's always that distinctive flavor -- not the overwhelming one from the canned stuff that's often overcooked, but still distinctive and tells you you're eating tuna. This tuna was just there on the plate, and with the nigiri the dominant flavors were the rice and the bit of wasabi used to hold the fish on it.

With the appetizer and the spicy tuna roll that comes with the combo, the amount of jalapeño was overwhelming. I couldn't help feeling like they were trying to make up for the tuna's lack of flavor by putting in more jalapeño than should have been necessary. It stopped being a complement to the main ingredient and just took over.

What made this problem with the tuna such a standout factor was that the rest of my sushi was really good. The octopus, which I'm not the biggest fan of but will eat when it's part of what I ordered, was firm and had a solid chew but wasn't the least bit rubbery. The eel and salmon were both great, with rich flavor. And all the other fish were equally good. But the tuna was so off compared to the rest it was hard not to have it bring the rest of the meal down.

I skipped dessert, as I was figuring on having another cocktail while watching We Will Rock You, and just settled my bill. I still had about half of my "She's a Geisha" left, so I took it with me and wandered over to the Music Hall. There was a family at the pool table, with the husband and son playing, and they asked if I wanted to play the winner. I wasn't sure after my practice the other night if I'd offer them any real challenge, but the pool gods decided to smile on me for an hour or so.

For the most part, I played better than I have in years, although my first break was an absolute embarrassment to pool players everywhere and I had a couple other mishaps that couldn't remotely be blamed on the ship shifting suddenly. In spite of those blunders, I actually managed to win both games that I played, and both were nicely competitive. The husband and son both were great sports and we had some good conversation while playing, no one taking the games too seriously. Karaoke started in the stage area after my first game, and all through the second game I was happy to hear no bad singers. Everyone carried the tunes well enough, and I didn't really hear any blown notes or songs done horribly off key. The only one that was a bit of a letdown was the first singer, who performed "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. She did really well through the song until the final lines, where the song just got just a bit too high for her range and she was forced into her falsetto range.

Having finished my second game of pool, I saw that the Royal Theater's doors had opened to start seating for We Will Rock You. It was still almost 45 minutes to show time, but I wanted a good seat close to the stage. So I thanked my opponents for the good games, wished them a good rest of their trip, and headed down to Deck 4 where I took a seat and eagerly waited for what was going to be the headline show of the trip for me.

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Day 5 - Sea Day (continued)

We Will Rock You was abso-freaking-lutely amazing!! What everyone says about it starting slow is certainly true, and there's no denying it's one of the most contrived plots out there to get the songs to fit some kind of narrative. But man, what a show! All of the performers were great, and the band was phenomenal; their guitarist looks like she's still in her 20s but she was crushing it like someone who's been playing for over 40! The sets looked really good, and I'm amazed at how many set pieces they have for this one show that they swap out in really short order, some of them rising up out of or dropping down into the stage floor. After seeing @twangster's pics from the backstage tour for Hairspray and how crowded the backstage area was with all the set pieces for that show, I can only imagine what backstage (and under the stage) must look like with this one!

One of the supporting actors had some mic trouble early on, which caused him to have to switch over to a hand-held mic in the middle of his scene; he totally took it in stride and just kept acting through the sound drop-outs until the hand-held was brought out to him, and spoke clearly and loudly enough through it that I think everyone in the theater could make out his lines. His cast-mates help get the mic out to him, moving as if it was all part of their choreography for the scene. Some definite pros at work, there.

Apart from that one small technical glitch, the show went flawlessly. The actors who play Galileo Figaro and Scaramouche were absolute stand-outs, belting out song after song; they also looked like they had some good on-stage chemistry going, so parts like them falling for each other were more believable. They and all the cast and band members totally earned the standing ovation they got at the end of the show.

If I had seen the evening showing, it would have been a fantastic way to wrap up the final sea day. But we saw the matinee, and we still had half of that day left to go. How the heck was I going to top that on-board experience?

Well, before I could do that I had to spend a little more time on the gratuities situation. My TA had emailed me back during the show and she was not happy. Royal had no record of the charge for my gratuities and were saying that they must have never processed the charge. A quick check of my most recent credit card statement put the lie to that; that charge was literally the very first one on the page! I emailed Heather back and let her know that; she said that as long as they did indeed roll back the on-board charges for gratuities that I had requested, we'd be good and she would straighten it all out so that Allen and the wait staff would properly get their gratuities from me. So I put that on the back burner again, as I wouldn't really know about the reversal until the next day, and got back to enjoying my final day of this trip.

We decided to get one last time in at the thermal spa, and spent about an hour up there. Had some nice conversation in the sauna with another New Jerseyan, who owned a shipping warehouse not far from where my wife used to work when our kids were younger. After taking advantage of everything the thermal spa had to offer, we checked out for the last time. Cathy got in three visits all told, while I had only gotten in twice; while it was nice to have this as another thing to do on our trip, we agreed we wouldn't spend the money on it again as we didn't really feel like we were able to use it enough to justify the price. Maybe on a longer trip with more sea days, but not this one.

Remember how I said that the chefs at CK had almost pulled out all the stops yesterday. They saved the absolute best for last. Check out this menu.

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I'm not gonna like, I ate like a man on death row getting his last meal. I started off with a final round of escargots, plus the forest mushroom terrine...

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and the fennel soup...

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These were paired with a pinot noir, "Spy Valley". I've honestly been afraid to try pinot noir before, after seeing the movie "Sideways" with Paul Giamatti; at one point his character talks about how pinot can be really hit or miss, even from bottle to bottle within the same vintner, and I tend to believe that script writers don't usually put statements like that in there without doing at least some research on it first (lest the critics pounce on it); so after hearing that, I'd never felt like spending my money to try it out. Well, I had the drink package, and Amar recommended it as a good pairing with these entrees, so I figured why not? It was better than I expected, and I may get a bottle for at home at some point, but for now the one glass was enough.

For my entree, I had the saffron linguine, and shared an order of the cauliflower fried rice with Cathy. Sorry, forgot to take pictures of those last two. I paired these up with a glass of my favorite Chianti, the Marchesi de'Frescobaldi Chianti Ruffina, "Castello di Nipozzano" -- aka "#684". 😅

Cathy changed up her appetizer from the usual Caesar salad and had the Pizzette, followed by the sirloin steak and the shared cauliflower fried rice. Everything was phenomenal, the chefs really outdid themselves tonight. And we hadn't even had dessert yet!

 

Before I get to the desserts, let me give the final riddles of our trip. First up was this, which Cathy and I both had heard before and I'm guessing you may have as well: "Poor people have it, rich people need it; if you eat it, you'll die." We both just just needed a few minutes to dredge up the answer from memory, and shortly had two pieces of Dove chocolate to enjoy with our dessert.

The second was another stick puzzle, which neither of us figured out. I'm not going to give the drawing this time, I'll just type it out since it involves numbers:

| + | = ||

Pretend it's Roman numerals, so you have one and one equals two. Long sticks for the roman 1's, short sticks to form the plus and equals sign. Now, move just one stick so you get an expression or equation with regular decimal numbers that totals 130. Yes, it can be done, and yes the answer will have you smacking your head.

 

So, time for dessert!

The dessert menu was also a set of impossible choices. Cathy and I both had the Chocolate and Berries Sundae; mine with chocolate and strawberry ice cream, while Cathy got chocolate and vanilla. But I didn't want to miss out on the Dulce de Leche Crème Brûlée, so I decided to order that as well.

With a cappuccino.

The crème brûlée was fantastic, and while the sundae was also very good I just could not eat all of it. I finished off the strawberry ice cream part, and Cathy got to enjoy some extra chocolate on top of her own. While we enjoyed our desserts, Amar had one final gift for us for solving so many of his riddles over the trip -- It was a key ring that had small replicas of all the local currency notes from Mauritius, which he wanted us to have as a keepsake and reminder of our trip and time in CK. We really appreciated it, it was quite a unique key ring!

He had some time for chit-chat, and we asked him how much time was left on his current contract. He told us he was on Anthem for just three more sailings -- the final CA/NE that was leaving the next day, followed by one more trip to Bermuda and then a 9-night Bahamas sailing. After that, he was going home for a little over 3 months before coming back to work on Anthem in March for his next contract. He said that while he was at home he'd be helping his mother finish getting her house remodeled, as the contractors working on it needed pretty constant oversight to make sure they were doing a good job. He was hoping they'd finish before he had to leave again, or they might end up leaving his mom with some shoddy work at the end.

We also had a chance to talk more with our head waiter. We found out he was from India, descended from the British colonists who had stayed there after the country won its independence and who had married the native people. He was missing his family a lot, especially his youngest daughter who he wasn't getting to see grow up nearly as much as he'd like. It was tough to hear, and a reminder that the folks who make our trips so phenomenal are giving up a lot to have these jobs and support their families through them.

Amar brought out the final check for me to sign to cover my typical wine overage. I had been tipping him a bit extra each night already, but tonight I made sure to give him an extra-large tip for all the great service he'd given every night. We had only gotten one WOW envelope, and I hadn't thought to pick up another from Guest Services, so this was the best way to be sure he got that extra.

 

By this point I was rapidly realizing that I really should not have ordered so many things, or at least not eaten every last bite of them all. Between the sheer amount of food, guzzling down my cappuccino and getting a caffeine rush, and the ship starting to really rock and roll as the weather got worse through dinner, I was getting a little unsettled. Since we still had to pack and get our bags out for pickup, we went back to the cabin where I could be pretty sure the motion would be a lot less, and where the distraction of packing would help me get through the queasiness. We had both packed just about exactly the right amount of clothes and other stuff, so packing was pretty much just a matter of tossing all the dirty stuff into the suitcases. We had group 50 for our tags, which was close to the last departure group.

While we were packing, we heard the wind positively howling outside the balcony door. The ship movement was modest enough in our room that I wasn't worried about taking a peek outside, and as soon as I opened the balcony door and looked down at the ocean, I understood why the movement was so pronounced through dinner. I couldn't take a picture, but just take the rough seas @Neaxan had put some video of in her live blog and change from day to night; you'll have a pretty good idea. All I could see around us in the bright moonlight was big waves and massive expanses of white froth. There wasn't any rain as far as I could tell, it was just tremendously windy and that seemed to be the main thing churning up the ocean.

Packing done and our suitcases in the hall, I was feeling just about back to normal. And we still wanted to do our plan of getting in some hot tub time. So we threw on our bathing suits and headed over to the Solarium. I remembered a tip from JimZim in his YouTube review of Anthem -- if you go to passenger deck 13, and walk all the way forward, you can get into the lowest level of the solarium by the hot tubs without ever having to set foot outside. Well, we found the door, but neither one of us could open it! It wasn't locked, we could turn the knob and we saw the door shift a tiny bit if we really put our weight into it. But the air pressure difference was so tremendous between that hallway and the Solarium, probably because of the observation wing doorway that was right next to where this door opened up, that it flat-out would not budge!

So, we walked back to the nearest stairwell and went up the one deck to the pool level. The automatic doors here were working normally, and we were able to get into the indoor pool area and finally into the Solarium. Being all the way forward, the ship was moving pretty noticeably; the pool are was roped off, but the hot tubs were still open and there wasn't a soul there. We chose one and got in, and enjoyed the hot water and the jets on our still-stiff legs. A handful of people came into the area after us, but there were still three unoccupied hot tubs and everyone got to enjoy their own private space.

I made it about 20 minutes before the combination of the hot water and the ship's motion here got me feeling green around the gills again. I headed back to the room while Cathy stayed a little longer, took a quick shower to cool off and finally went to bed to just sleep it off.

 

The final day's drink tally:

  • 1 fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cappuccinos
  • 2 cocktails (my "She's a Geisha" from Izumi, and a margarita I had while watching We Will Rock You)
  • 2 glasses of wine

I definitely was feeling the drink fatigue by the end of today, amplified somewhat by my mild seasickness. I realize in hindsight that I let myself fall into the trap of worrying about "catching up" with my drink package and the "shortfall" from our first port day, when I needn't have bothered. Fact of the matter is that I'd had enough on the other days that I didn't need to have anything extra today, and I could have skipped the margarita and one of the two glasses of wine with no problem.

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On 11/8/2018 at 9:39 PM, JLMoran said:

Day 3

It was just about time for the late showing of this evening's headliner act, The Las Vegas Tenors. I seemed to recall hearing of them before, maybe here, and wanted to catch this show. Cathy came along, but after the first couple of songs decided to call it a night as she was pretty wiped out from our day on shore. I stayed through the show, and for the second time I was disappointed in Royal's choice of entertainment. While the trio are all good singers, their music selections were almost all from artists before my time and I just felt like this was an act geared for an older crowd than my age bracket. I did like their Spanish rendition of Nights in White Satin, and they had a couple of other numbers from newer artists that I enjoyed, but they were too few and too far between for me to really enjoy the show as much as I'd wanted to.

 

They were on our Serenade sailing last week as well.  I think they mentioned they have an exclusive contract with RCCL for the next 50 weeks.  They were perfect for my average age of 75 cruise.  LOL 

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Day 6 - Debarkation Day (a.k.a., The Day of Great Sorrows)

I woke up at 6:15, much too late to catch us going back under the Verrazano but early enough that I got some great pre-dawn views of the New York City skyline and surrounding area.
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I saw the ferry crossing the river and remembered that it was Thursday; people were already up and going to work.
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Before long, we were pulling into the port, the sun still not yet risen.
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The sun came up, as it must every day, and we were that much closer to the time we'd be very politely told to please GTFO.
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I re-checked my folio and confirmed that the gratuities had indeed been removed. Our only charges were for the clothes we'd bought on board, my wine overages, and the tips I'd left. I emailed Heather so she knew that there was nothing more to worry about besides getting the charge properly applied so the staff could get the tips they'd earned.

We grabbed our carry-ons, and after leaving Allen a much-deserved WOW envelope we headed up to the Windjammer for our final breakfast on board.

It was absolute chaos there. I got cut off while trying to get on the omelette station line, and then when we were told there was another station that was basically empty, I think I may have inadvertently done the same to a woman who had been standing there; meanwhile, the other woman who had cut me off before... very deliberately and actively did it to both of us. Again, in my case! I shook my head, looked apologetically at the other woman who I was afraid I'd cut off, and very happily answered "no" when asked by her if the woman who'd cut us both off was my wife.

After breakfast, we headed down to Two70 to wait for our turn to get off. We actually got there just in time to snag one last round of cappuccinos, plus a couple of bottled waters, with our packages still in effect. I overheard the couple in front of us on the coffee line comment that they were going to be right back on board, apparently doing the CA/NE sailing that evening. Ooooohhhh, was I jealous!

The final GTFO call came at 9:50, sooner than expected. We headed off the ship and made our way back into the port terminal. The porters were calling out for anyone who wanted to get a porter and skip the long customs line, but the line was moving pretty quickly; with so little luggage to deal with, we (and most of the others we saw) just trundled our bags along and stuck with the main line. I'm guessing that porters are not big fans of these short sailings when it comes to the tips they were losing out on.

When we got to the customs area, they were separating out people with passports from those who just had their driver's license and birth certificate. We got in the passport group and, like @firebuck on his sailing, we just had to look into a camera for a few seconds and were cleared to leave. Meanwhile, the no-passports line was crawling forward. People, when you go on a cruise, bring your passports! They really do save time and aggravation!

Ship to curb was all of 30 minutes, tops. Once we got outside, I paid for our parking and we were on the road. We got home at 11:30, much to our older daughter's surprise. She had come home to walk the dog and wasn't expecting us home yet.

 

Here's my sea pass. Now I just need to get a gold one and a purple one!

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And here is the sand from Horseshoe Bay that had gotten trapped in my water shoes, and that I found all over my suitcase when I unpacked that afternoon. I certainly wasn't going to just throw it away! You can clearly see the red flecks that give it that distinctive pink color.

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Final thoughts, in no particular order:

I am not a fan of the WOW band. Every time I wore it, my wrist would sweat like crazy even when the surrounding area was chilly with air conditioning; it didn't matter how loosely I'd wear it, something about the band's material just doesn't agree with my skin. And while the tap terminals were all in reach everywhere I tried using it, it was awkward to do so unless I rotated the band to put the medallion on the inside of my wrist; and then I'd have to flip it back around when I wanted to unlock our cabin door. I gave up by Day 2 and just carried my Sea Pass card everywhere.

The Junior Suite was absolutely a really nice splurge, and much nicer than a regular balcony. But I still had a couple of nitpicks.

  • The separate tub and shower are nice in concept, but I was the only person to use the tub, and that was only once to soak my aching feet for a bit.
  • The shower door can't be closed tightly from inside the shower, as there's no handle on the inside; even when it was as well-sealed as we could managed, the gap between the door and bottom of the door frame allowed a good bit of water to get out onto the bathroom floor, making for slightly slippery tile and a wet bath mat.

completely agree with what others here have said about the crowd flow in The Via on deck 4, and Royal Esplanade on deck 5; those areas have far too many choke points, which are worse on days that the shops have displays set up in the corridor.

Generally, pretty small potatoes. On the whole, Anthem is a pretty good ship and I'm glad to have this option in my "backyard", so that I can take cruises without having to fly to Florida or another port. But how does Anthem compare to Freedom?

  • Anthem didn't really feel all that much bigger than Freedom, or (when not in the Via or Esplanade) any more crowded than Freedom
  • Anthem is much better when it comes to the top-tier headline shows (Spectra's Cabaret and We Will Rock You); but if I decide to sail Anthem regularly, how many times can I really see those before it starts to wear thin? I know they don't change out shows more than once every decade or so, when the ships undergo major refurbishments, and Anthem's only been in service for 3 years; a long way to go before there's a change on that front.
  • At the same time, I felt Anthem's other available theater entertainment was a little worse than Freedom's (see The Las Vegas Tenors)
    • Maybe short sailings like this one don't get as good a set of performers as longer sailings, and if I take a longer sailing I'll find that it's better overall.
    • Certainly, after reading @firebuck's blog, that does seem to be a good possibility, as we had no cover band; no extra shows in Two70 besides Tonight at Two70, one robo show, and Spectra; and none of the other extra performances that he'd noted on his 7-night trip.
  • North Star is a very nice feature on this ship, but the reality is that if you're not in port then all you have to look at from up there is the ship. But Freedom doesn't have it at all, so still a point for Anthem.
  • Vintages on Anthem was a disappointment compared to Freedom. The wine selection was far smaller, and the vast majority of what was offered was only available as full bottles, not by the glass.
  • Bearing in mind that I only had one experience with it, I found the American Icon Grille MDR on Anthem disappointing. I much preferred the multi-story grand dining room on Freedom, and I have to say that I'm glad the newer ships like Symphony are going back to that design. Hopefully whatever follows Spectrum of the Seas in the Quantum class will also follow suit. That said, I have no idea if my impressions would have been different if I'd eaten dinner in one of the other dining rooms like Grande or Chic.
  • As a ship, Anthem's overall quality and design was for the most part quite a bit nicer than Freedom. While a modern ship, it didn't have the metal-and-glass ultra-modern decor and style of other new ships like Seaside, which I definitely appreciated. I loved the design and decor of Coastal Kitchen, that was definitely one of my favorite spaces on the whole ship.
  • I thought the Solarium on Anthem was light years better and nicer than Freedom's; having four hot tubs instead of two definitely doesn't hurt
  • It was nice having Izumi available on Anthem instead of the to-go cart that Freedom had
  • There were small room details on Anthem that I really appreciated and others that I found a bit disappointing
    • As weird as it sounds, the balcony door was a high point of the room. The ones on Freedom were an exercise in testing my strength, where the ones on Anthem slid incredibly easily while still locking securely. At the risk of maybe sounding a bit too much like @monorailmedic, I really appreciate the engineering and design that went into those balcony doors on Anthem
    • The USB outlets, while nice to have, were the low-power variety that can only charge phones and other devices at a trickle; it was a good thing I still brought my Anker charging hub

So speaking as an adult passenger, I have to say that Anthem wins this competition against Freedom. How would she rate, though, if it were my teenage kids sailing on her?

Honestly, my older daughter probably wouldn't be any more impressed or enjoy the sea days any better. I know she'd almost certainly love Spectra and We Will Rock You, and she might appreciate the live band(s) in the Music Hall. But those are all evening activities.During the daytime, I think she'd still find herself somewhat bored since she doesn't like just sitting around at a pool doing nothing, isn't a trivia buff, and (oddly, given she's a singer) isn't into karaoke.

My younger daughter would definitely love all the extra dining options and chances to try some different styles of cuisine. If we could get a JS for CK access she'd probably think that she'd died and gone to heaven. I'm guessing she'd also appreciate all the art on display throughout the ship, as she's the artist of the family, and would also enjoy the live band(s) in the Music Hall. We'd have to go on a sailing with more kids, though, as she would want to have some people to socialize with.

 

So Anthem was definitely a winner for us. But far more than Anthem, Bermuda was the standout of this trip. It is such a beautiful place, and so different from the Caribbean island experience, that we left wanting to get back as soon as we could. There's still a lot of the island we haven't seen, particularly Hamilton, and we want to see some of the other beaches that are considered the best on the island.

I hadn't really planned on doing another cruise for 2019, seeing as I'm holding out hope for a 2020 CA/NE cruise in the summer. But over the last two weeks we found ourselves looking at what our options were for getting back next October or November. And then the BOGO60 sale stuck around through November, and before I knew it we ended up booking this exact same trip again for October of 2019! Just a regular balcony this time, and only because we lucked out with a really good rate that keeps the monthly pay-down low. 2020 is still on the radar, just waiting for the itineraries to come out and any announcement from Matt!

 

So that's all of it. Apologies for taking almost a month from the trip ending to finally get this wrapped up, especially when some of you have been looking for this ahead of your own upcoming sailings on Anthem; work and regular life have been keeping me tied up since getting back, and photo editing always takes longer than I expect.

Thanks for following along! I'll be back next October for the repeat voyage!

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Great post blog Joe!!   I loved reading along especially since we are doing Bermuda for the first time this July on the Anthem GC.  After looking at your pics, my daughter has already decided that we need to visit Crystal Caves.  So you can bet that I will be consulting you more on that one in the new year.

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Excellent blog, Joe!  It's always nice to take in someone else's perspective of the same ship, and also interesting to see the differences between the two itineraries.  Hopefully, we'll both get to experience the third itinerary in 2020 😄

11 hours ago, JLMoran said:

Bearing in mind that I only had one experience with it, I found the American Icon Grille MDR on Anthem disappointing. I much preferred the multi-story grand dining room on Freedom, and I have to say that I'm glad the newer ships like Symphony are going back to that design. Hopefully whatever follows Spectrum of the Seas in the Quantum class will also follow suit. That said, I have no idea if my impressions would have been different if I'd eaten dinner in one of the other dining rooms like Grande or Chic.

 

I totally agree with this sentiment.  We only dined in the MDR once on the Anthem, and we were all underwhelmed.  The space seemed really small and closed off.  There is definitely something to the grandeur of the open, multilevel dining rooms, and while I haven't sailed on a Freedom class ship, the Explorer's MDR is very similar.  Perhaps its just the nostalgia of my first cruise being on Explorer, but I find myself measuring the MDR experience to that one, and so far the rest haven't measured up.  The closest that I've come to that first experience so far was on the Oasis.

I do have to say though... (even though your flair says that you are an Oasis class denier)  if you liked the Anthem, you'd love Oasis class.  Sure, it's more people, but I actually found it a LOT less crowded with a much better flow.  It's too bad that we can't get an O class ship up here in NJ, that would be the only way I'd sail 😄

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14 minutes ago, firebuck said:

I do have to say though... (even though your flair says that you are an Oasis class denier)  if you liked the Anthem, you'd love Oasis class.  Sure, it's more people, but I actually found it a LOT less crowded with a much better flow.

My reasons for not looking at the Oasis class are more around the itineraries they offer than the ship's amenities or size. There just aren't enough ports capable of accommodating a ship that huge, so the itinerary selections are far too limited for me. It's basically the same 8-ish ports between eastern and western Caribbean, plus Labadee and Coco Cay, for every Oasis class ship, with nothing else available. I'm still too new to cruising to be OK with a "the ship is the destination" itinerary; I want to experience lots of destinations and lots of cultures and sights and activities -- the Southern Caribbean / ABC islands, the Mediterranean and Adriatic, Scandinavia, etc. Eventually, I'll be too mobility limited with my feet to do that sort of thing any more, and that will probably be the time when the O sisters start becoming more appealing.

Of course, by that point I'll also be retired and most likely living a lot closer to Florida, so sailing on one of those sisters will be a lot easier, too! 😂

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2 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

My reasons for not looking at the Oasis class are more around the itineraries they offer than the ship's amenities or size.

 

Fair enough!  I think that my wife and I are more of the "ship is the destination" types.  If we wake up somewhere warm with a beach, that's just a bonus! 😛 

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