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Live on Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship to restart from the United States

In:
02 Jul 2021

After 15 months, the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship is sailing from the United States.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is departing Miami today to begin a short 3-night weekend cruise, but the significance of her sailing is far more important than where she goes.

The cruise industry has been mostly shutdown since 2020, and while a couple of other ships have restarted around the world, all eyes have been focused on cruising's restart in the United States.

On Freedom of the Seas from Miami, Royal Caribbean will allow vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, although there are different rules about where you can go if you are unvaccinated. 

Before the cruise, Royal Caribbean gave passengers the choice of volunteering that they are vaccinated.  If you do not wish or skip showing proof of vaccination at check-in, your SeaPass card will be punched with a hole.

The health protocols in this post are for Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami in July, and the cruise line has emphasized that protocols will vary depending on the ship and departure port. Moreover, protocols could change for Freedom of the Seas as various health organizations and the federal government changes requirements and recommendations.

The line has made some bars, lounges, restaurants, and events for vaccinated guests only, with no masks required. This includes:

  • Chef’s Table
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • R Bar
  • Schooner Bar
  • The Pub
  • Viking Crown Lounge
  • Solarium Bar
  • Solarium Pool
  • Casino Royale 
  • Casino Bar
  • Vitality Spa

Each scheduled event is designated if it is available to vaccinated guests only or not.

Unvaccinated guests will also need to pay for additional Covid testing.

Upon check-in, if you volunteered the information that you were vaccinated, you will be asked to show your vaccination card, at which point you will get a wristband to wear during the cruise to indicate to guests and crew you are vaccinated.

Unvaccinated guests will not have a wristband, and will get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

In addition, masks are required to be worn in the cruise terminal and inside the ship for vaccinated or unvaccinated guests.  No masks are required outdoors.  

One major difference between Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami and Adventure of the Seas sailings from The Bahamas is vaccinated guests need to wear masks while indoors onboard Freedom, whereas vaccinated guests do not have wear masks indoors on Adventure.

Around the ship, the designated areas for vaccinated guests have signs to remind guests of which areas are off limits.

Children's programming in Adventure Ocean and the teens club are operational, with limited capacity in the clubs to ensure the area does not get too crowded.


Revamped Adventure Ocean


Teen club

The vaccinated spaces have signs, and are even roped off in some cases, to mark areas available to vaccinated guests.

New muster drill

Perhaps the best new change is the refactoring of the cruise ship safety drill.

Instead of lining up at your muster station at a designated time, guests can now do the drill on their smart phone, tablet, or stateroom television.

Guests watch a short safety information video, listen to what the emergency alarm sounds like, and then go downstairs to their muster station to verify they know where it is.

The new muster drill is significantly faster, less burdensome, and does not require the entire ship to shutdown while everyone does the drill.  This is a very welcome change for guests, and an incredibly simple process to follow.

Dining

The dining options onboard are similar to what they were before the cruise industry shutdown.

There is still a buffet available for breakfast and lunch (they are closed for dinner), with a few different rules.

The buffet is full service instead of self-service, so the crew members will serve you the food.

In addition, there is limited capacity in the Windjammer.  Guests can make a reservation for a time, or simply walk up and see if there is space.  On our Adventure of the Seas sailings last week, there was never an issue with getting into the Windjammer.

In the Main Dining Room, there will be designated areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated reservations to dine separately.

My Time Dining will not be available to unvaccinated guests. 

How is it being on a cruise ship with the new protocols?

The overwhelming question everyone wants to know is what is it like to be on a cruise ship with the new rules in place.

As someone that is fully vaccinated, there are more areas available to enjoy and no restrictions.

The most noticable difference is the mask mandate while indoors (no masks required outside), which is far from ideal considering mask requirements for vaccinated people at home are eroding quickly in most restaurants, theme parks, hotels, and supermarkets.

Having been onboard for less than a day, my early thought is I will spend more time thinking in advance where I will go next, rather than leisurely walking around to explore.  That way, I can reduce the time needed where I am required to wear a mask.

Moreover, the limited capacity onboard (around 1,000 passengers on this sailing) means no lines or waiting for popular activities and attractions. 

But at the end of the day, being back on a cruise ship feels great. As a Floridian, being able to drive to a ship instead of flying is a welcome return.

Many cruisers I spoke to onboard are equaly eager to be back onboard and relish the opportunity, masks or not.

Others may find the rules too much at this time, and wait things out a bit longer until protocols change.  Royal Caribbean has said it expects government requirements to change regarding health protocol requirements, including possibly masks.

Based on sales, there is strong demand for cruises this summer as many flock to get back to travelling.

I will have regular updates throughout this sailing to provide a look at what the first cruise ship to sail from the United States looks and feels like.

Live Blogging from Freedom of the Seas - Preamble

In:
30 Jun 2021

At long last, cruise ships are sailing again from the United States, and I'll be onboard!

Freedom of the Seas is ready to resume Royal Caribbean's cruises from the United States out of PortMiami on a short 3-night cruise.  Not only is this a celebration of cruising's return to America, it is also a celebration of the Fourth of July!

I will board Freedom of the Seas on July 2, 2021, and this will be the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast the cruise experience sailing from the United States, which has different rules than Adventure of the Seas sailing from The Bahamas.

Most notably, there are different health protocols in place for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers, and it appears as though the onboard experience will be different than on Adventure.

Why we chose this cruise

Ever since Royal Caribbean shutdown cruises in March 2020, I knew I wanted to be back onboard as soon as I could.

I achieved that goal when I sailed on Adventure of the Seas, but the return of cruising from the United States was another goal I wanted to attain. Therefore, when Royal Caribbean announced Freedom of the Seas would be the first ship to sail from the states, I immediately told my travel agent to book a room.

At the time of booking, I struggled with if I should keep my reservation on Freedom, or book the inaugural sailing of Odyssey of the Seas for July 3rd.  As it turned out, Odyssey had her debut pushed back until July 31st, and that conundrum solved itself.

Luckily for me, this first sailing is going out of Florida, and that means I can easily drive to the port instead of flying.

Another good reason I booked Freedom of the Seas is I never got a chance to see all the changes and upgrades she received as part of her Royal Amplification.  Freedom was the last cruise ship to be Amplified, and that means there are new venues and activities onboard to check out.

My plans onboard

Being on Freedom of the Seas is really about being on the first Royal Caribbean International ship to sail from the United States after 15 months.

While Celebrity Edge was the first cruise ship to sail from the United States since the shutdown, Freedom will be the first for Royal Caribbean International brand ship to go, and the protocols are different than what Celebrity announced.

The question everyone wants to know is what will it be like to go on a cruise ship in a world still dealing with Covid-19? And what are these health protocols like compared to Adventure of the Seas?

On Freedom, there will be certain venues only available to fully vaccinated guests, and there will be a need to wear masks onboard in certain situations.  These protocols did not exist on Adventure of the Seas.

My goal is to gauge what the experience is like, and also see all the changes Royal Caribbean made to the ship as part of her Amplification.

On this sailing, I will be traveling solo primarily because our aging cat needs a break after two weeks at the kennel. 

My plans on shore

We will visit two ports of call on this short 3-night cruise, Nassau, Bahamas; and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

I may briefly get off the ship in Nassau, but the focus here is visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay again.

I have not booked anything at CocoCay yet (i.e. cabanas, water park admission, et al), because I am cruising solo and also because with the limited capacity on Freedom of the Seas, there will be plenty of space on the island to do whatever I feel.

I do not need an excuses to visit Perfect Day at CocoCay. Even after 4 days there earlier this month, I would love another full day relaxing by the Oasis Lagoon pool because the entire island is so darn impressive.

It has also been hinted at by Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley that there may be a Fourth of July fireworks show, which would be a must-see for me.

What's next

My Freedom of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, July 2nd, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
05 Jan 2020

The last day of our Freedom of the Seas cruise is here, and we started our final day with a very late sleep-in.

The night before, a bunch of RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers had our own Blackjack table at the casino, and we did very well for ourselves. Alas, I did not get to bed until the wee hours of the next morning, so since we had a sea day, sleeping in seemed like the perfect plan.

We woke up in time to kick off our day with lunch at Sabor. One of our RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise events today was renting out Sabor for just us to enjoy. 

Everyone in attendance had a full range of food and drinks to enjoy, and starting off your day with some Sabor is a great plan!

After enjoying my last guacamole of the cruise, I was in need of coffee and grabbed an iced caramel macchiato from Cafe Promenade.

 

One of the people in our group (Hi Christine) brought a game called Moniker for us to play, and it was a lot of fun. It is a cross between charades and trivial pursuit, and it is a lot of fun.

I neglected taking a nap, and enjoyed some time around the ship leading to the afternoon.  Our next event was to conduct a live recording of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast from the Star Lounge. I think it was a lot of fun!

Getting ready for dinner, I enjoyed one last sunset from the comfort of our balcony.

I tried something new this cruise, but placing a bet on an NFL game via the ship's casino.  A friend is a big Bills fan, so he and I put some money down on the game and then watched it from the pool deck of the ship.  Sadly, the Bills lost, along with my bet.

Dinner this evening was in Giovanni's Table, and it was arguably the best food I ate on the ship that was not from Sabor. 

I had the eggplant parm and pasta side.  It was fantastic, and I regret not being able to take leftovers back to Florida with me.

We rounded out our evening in the Pub and enjoying one last round of drinks with friends.

This was a fantastic sailing, and it seemed to go by so very quickly. I am grateful to all the RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers, podcast listeners, Periscope & Facebook friends that joined me on this sailing. Without them, it would not have been nearly as fun.

I hope you enjoyed following along with this live blog, and look forward to you returning for another live blog in less than two weeks on Brilliance of the Seas!

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Bonaire

In:
03 Jan 2020

Our final port stop on this cruise brings us to Bonaire, which is my second time visiting this island. On my first visit, I lamented not having a plan on shore, so this time we had a shore excursion lined up.

We dropped our kids off at Adventure Ocean, and then walked off the ship around 8:30am to start our trip.

Prior to the cruise, I booked an ATV through quadprojectbonaire.com to use for half the day. Many others in our group reserved golf carts to rent, but these sold out before I could book one.  The ATV is significantly faster, brand new and also way cooler looking!

As we walked off the ship, Eddie was waiting with a sign to take us to pick up the ATV.  He is just getting started in the business, and took us in his truck to his home to pick up the vehicle.

The rental ran from 9am to 1pm, and cost $90 for a a two-seater Can Am Maverick 800 ATV.

The ATV was complete with storage space, a cooler, bluetooth speaker, automatic transmission and plenty of lighting. It drove very well and was so much fun to drive.

We started off driving down and around the southern portion of Bonaire. 

We visited a variety of spots along the way, stopping along the road when something looked interesting.

There was plenty of naturally beautiful spots, as well as historical monuments to Bonaire's past.

At one point, we ran across the Sorobon Beach Resort. We stopped to grab a drink, but I kind of wish we had spent more of our day here, because the beach was beautiful.

We completed the southern loop earlier than expected, so we drove back through town to the north end of the island to see the 1000 steps.

This is a popular dive site that features limestone stairs you have to descend to get to the water. Though the name might sound a bit intimidating, the stairs only exists of about 67 steps.

The ATV rental was a home run, and I loved it. The vehicle was fun to drive, and the perfect way to get around Bonaire.  I was glad I bought that sim card in Curacao, because having Google Maps was very helpful.

After returning the ATV, Eddie drove us back to town and we had lunch at an Italian restaurant, where I ate a terrific chicken parmigiana.

We rounded out our day in Bonaire by having a few beers a small brewery downtown, the Bonaire Blonde Brewery.

We got back onboard the ship to get cleaned up for dinner.

Dinner tonight was in Chops Grille. It felt sort of odd having such a wide gap in specialty dinners with our dining package. 

Meal was great, and service was fantastic.

After dinner, many of us in the group started off hanging out in the pub, but migrated to the On Air Club. A good time was had by all.

Tomorrow is a sea day, and our last day onboard.

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Aruba

In:
02 Jan 2020

Our next port stop is Aruba, and it is a full day of fun, with the ship departing at 9pm.

We got ourselves up and ready early, and relied on the complimentary room service that staying in a suite provides to eat while getting prepared.

We walked off the ship at 9am and took a taxi to the Eagle Aruba Resort & Casino. I searched for day passes and things to do in Aruba, and found that it was economical to book a hotel room even though we knew we would be checking in and checking out the same day. Given the fact we were in port late, it made sense.

After a short taxi ride (perhaps 5 minutes, we arrived at the hotel.

The appeal of booking this hotel was it featured two pools (including a water slide), beach access at Eagle Beach and a room to utilize.

Prior to booking the hotel, I verified we could arrive early in the morning and use the resort facilities.

There are two large pools, one with a large water slide and one with a waterfall grotto.

There was plenty of seating, complimentary Wi-Fi access and shade for those that wanted it.

We spent our morning by the pool and my kids probably climbed that water slide at least a dozen times.

The resort also offers complimentary beach palapas and beach chairs at Eagle Beach. You simply walk across the street and through the next resort to access the beach.

The weather was fantastic, and we had our best day yet outdoors. A consistent breeze kept the warm temperatures tolerable.

Around 1pm, our room was ready, and it was larger than I expected. King size bed, sofa with pull out sofa, full kitchen and private balcony. My only regret is we did not have more time to spend to enjoy the room.

As the afternoon wore on, we had to head back to the ship for our other adventure for the day.

One of the staples of a RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise is enjoying a group excursion together. On this cruise, we organized a private catamaran sunset cruise through Royal Caribbean.

The tour departed from across from the ship and it was a two-hour sailing off the coast of Aruba to enjoy an unencumbered view of the sun setting.

The weather was perfect, with a great breeze and warm temperatures all round. 

The sailing even included an open bar of drinks, and a few light bites to eat.

Not only did we see a fantastic sunset, but we got to spend a couple hours with friends. It was a ton of fun.

Back on the ship, we ate a late dinner in the Windjammer and then kicked back with a few drinks at the pub.

Tomorrow, we will be in Bonaire.

 

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Curacao

In:
01 Jan 2020

It is time to begin the "ABC" part of our itinerary with a visit to Curacao.

Being New Years Day, you might imagine it was a little slow going that morning.  We had no excursion booked, so we all slept in and did not get off the ship until almost noon time.

The plan for the day was to walk downtown and shop/eat, then go to a beach later in the day.

The walk is fairly short from where the ships dock, with the highlight being walking across the pontoon bridge.

It was a hot day, but luckily there was a nice breeze that kept it comfortable.

With it being New Years Day, it was a government holiday and that meant many more stores were closed than I thought would be considering there were a few cruise ships in town.

We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe that was right on the river, simple called Dock.

It was light fare, and featured some Dutch specialties, including a Gouda sandwich.

We did a bit more shopping after lunch, and then went to Mambo Beach for the afternoon.

Mambo Beach is a short taxi ride away (five minutes or so), and it features a lot of restaurants and bars. It reminded me of an entertainment district back home, but with a large beach scene.

The plan was to enjoy some time at the beach, with a view of the sunset at the end of the day. Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to have the same plan, because the beach was quite crowded and never got uncrowded.

We took in the beginning of the sunset, and then decided to head back to the ship.  Freedom of the Seas was docked today until 8pm, so it was nice having more of an evening to enjoy.

Back onboard the ship, the kids were tired and we fed them in the Windjammer and put them to bed a little earlier than usual.

I rounded out my day catching up with friends in the Pub.

Tomorrow, we will be in Aruba.

Stray Observations

The ship formerly known as Monarch of the Seas was in port with us today.

 

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day

In:
31 Dec 2019

Happy New Year!

Celebrating New Years Eve on a cruise is exactly why we booked this cruise, and the day is finally here.

Before we get to the New Years celebrations, we did have a great sea day lined up to enjoy.

We kicked off our morning with a private ice skating session. As part of our group cruise activities, we rented out Studio B so that everyone in the group could enjoy a private free skate session.

I was happy to say I managed to not fall and/or embarrass myself during the skating session.

After ice skating, some of us headed to the Schooner Bar for morning trivia. I really enjoy trivia on a cruise ship, and it was a good set of questions. While my team did not win, another team made of up group cruisers did win.

Next up was the suite concierge invitation for a reception in celebration of all suite guests. It was held in Giovanni's Table, where light snacks and beverages were served and the ship's officers came by to say hello.

For lunch, we decided to eat in the main dining room. As per usual on a sea day, there is a fixed menu available, as well as a salad bar option.

In the afternoon, our next group cruise event was scheduled, which was the pub crawl. A pub crawl is basically where we enjoy a drink or two at a few bars on the ship in quick succession. 

We managed to visit the Bull & Bear Pub, R-Bar, Boleros and the Windjammer Bar. 

I feel that pub crawls are more about the social aspect of getting to know people who are cruising with us, and enjoying each other's company.

As afternoon turned to evening, it was time to get ready for the New Years Eve festivities.

We enjoyed dinner in the main dining room, which had plenty of New Years Eve hats, horns and noise makers.

Essentially, the ship is a giant party, and there are different venues around the ship offering various entertainment. 

The Royal Promenade is at the heart of everything you can do, but it is also sure to be jam-packed with guests. Royal Caribbean sold private tables to enjoy along the Promenade, but you could stand around as well.

There was live music at various bars and lounges around the ship.

While the Promenade had a lot going on, it was bit too crowded (and hot) for my taste, so most of us decided to ring in the new year from the On Air Club, which had plenty of seating and a full bar as well.

It was a really cool feeling to countdown the final seconds of 2019 with friends, and we enjoyed some great after-party music around the ship following the new year.

Happy New Year everyone!

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - St. Maarten

In:
30 Dec 2019

Before I can talk about what we did today, I have to mention the ocean was quite rough last night. I was awoken a few times to jostling of the ship, but I believe it if you are going to have rough waves, may as well occur when you are sleeping.

We decided to sleep in, and woke up around 9:30am and found the ship docked in St. Maarten.  Our balcony was rather wet and it was cloudy, so clearly there was a storm that had passed by.  Luckily, the weather was progressively clearing.

We grabbed breakfast at the Windjammer and then headed off the ship to explore a bit.

We had no plans for St. Maarten, so our plan was to take the water taxi to downtown Phillipsburg and explore.

The water taxi costs $7 per person for a roundtrip ticket. The ride is perhaps 5 minutes from stop to stop.

Even with the partly cloudy conditions, it was very, very warm. We walked along the boardwalk area of Phillipsburg and I instantly regretted not taking a bathing suit with me to be able to hop in the ocean.

Both my daughters wanted to get their hair braided, so we found a lady who did that for them.

Next up, we decided to visit the Yoda Guy museum, which is a Star Wars and sci-fi museum built by a very talented makeup and modeling veteran of the movie industry.

Nick has built a museum and shop that documents the great lengths he has gone in his career to work on Star Wars, Highlander, The Terminator and more films. 

In fact, Nick was there in person to sign anything you care to purchase and talk about his career. He is incredibly generous with his time, and loves to share stories.

You can walk in and look around the shop, or pay admission for his museum.  If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, it is a must-see stop.

Did I mention it was hot? Because it was very hot, so we decided to head back to the ship and order room service in our cabin for lunch. One of the nice benefits of staying in a suite is the room service charge is waived.

Back onboard Freedom of the Seas, we decided to order room service for lunch. It seemed like the perfect marriage of convenience and food.

After showering and eating, the kids decided to take a nap while our group headed up to the Solarium for a hot tub meetup (because you can never go wrong with friends in a hot tub)!

As afternoon turned to evening, it was time to depart St. Maarten and we had our first real nice view from the balcony. Luckily the sun's angle changed just enough to make it really pleasant to be outside and a great view of St. Maarten leaving and the sun setting.


We all got ready for dinner and then headed to Sabor for dinner. I love Sabor, and with an ever dwindling amount of Sabor locations left, I hope to make it into Sabor a few more times.

No meal at Sabor is complete without a heaping serving of handmade guacamole and a lovely margarita on the side.

I opted for the tuna crudo tacos, as per usual, but also ordered the duck tacos, which were fantastic.

This evening's entertainment was the Broadway tribute show, Marquee. There was music from Phantom of the Opera, La cage aux Folles, and more to enjoy.

I rounded out my evening with friends at the pub (not all friends pictured here).

Tomorrow is a sea day and the big holiday celebration!

Stray Observations

The Queen Mary 2 was docked next to us today. First time I have seen this ship in person.

I spotted Izumi Express as an option still on Freedom of the Seas. Essentially, there is grab-and-go sushi available to purchase onboard in the evening. By the time I stopped by they were sold out of most of it, but I might have to try this out later in the sailing.

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
29 Dec 2019

Cruise day is here and we are getting onboard Freedom of the Seas!

We flew down to San Juan on two nights before and enjoyed a relaxing start to our vacation. Prior to the cruise, there was a lot of conjecture about what time boarding would begin, but I decided around 10:30am to roll the dice and head to the port. We found no traffic or wait at all to check-in at the terminal.

We boarded the ship at 11am and it felt great to be back onboard one of my favorite ships in the fleet. 

Getting onboard the ship, we walked around the ship a bit to see things. There were still Christmas and Hannukah decorations up on the ship, and I understand they will stay up through this sailing.

At 1:30pm, our rooms were ready and we are staying in a two bedroom grand suite on the aft of deck 8.

The room is very spacious, and more than enough room for the kids and us.  It features two full bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a very spacious balcony.

After getting in the room, I took the kids up to the pool to enjoy the now-classic H2O Zone.  This, like so many other areas of the ship, will be upgraded/replaced in the forthcoming Amplification.

In the afternoon, we held our first event of the RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com group cruise, which was a welcome aboard event in the Viking Crown Lounge.  We rented out the entire Olive or Twist bar and got our first official opportunity to meet everyone and put faces to online names.

Muster drill was at 5:15pm, and was luckily not too warm outside for the duration of the event.

Unfortunately Adventure Ocean did not open until 8:30pm, so we decided to skip dinner in a restaurant and eat with our kids in the Windjammer. 

The Windjammer had a phenomenal gingerbread house at the entrance.

After dinner, we headed down to the Royal Promenade for some live music in the pub.

There was a Christmas tree lighting held as well on this sailing.

Tomorrow, we will be in St. Maarten.

Stray Observations

I loved this creative fruit and cookie delivery to the room.

Here is the New Years Eve champagne options to pre-order.

The upper decks are closed due to winds this evening.

Freedom of the Seas 2019 Live Blog - Preview

In:
26 Dec 2019

It is time once again to pack our bags, stock up on sunscreen, and get ready for our next Royal Caribbean adventure.  We are headed back onboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas for a 7-night Southern Caribbean sailing.  Each day, I will be LIVE blogging to share with you what it is like to cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship over the New Years Eve holiday.

This particular sailing happens to be a RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com Group Cruise, which means we have just about 90 blog readers joining us on this sailing.  Group cruises have become a semi-annual tradition and I absolutely relish the opportunity to share the cruise experience by having a large network of friends onboard.  It really enhances the fun onboard!

The Cruise

I picked this sailing to go on because I have always wanted to try a cruise over New Years Eve. Every year I have seen photos and videos posted on social media from other cruisers who were having a great time during a holiday like New Years, that I thought it would be so much fun to try it out myself.

Our seven-night sailing will depart on Sunday, December 29th and take us to four ports. We will visit St. Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao.

This will be my fifth time on Freedom of the Seas, and it is also one of the last sailings before Freedom gets a major $116 million amplification in Spring 2020. I think I booked this sailing prior to the amplification announcement, but I am still looking forward to one more sailing onboard before it all changes.

Stateroom

One of the booking mantras I always preach is booking as early as possible (December 2017), and thanks to that strategy, got my family a Two Bedroom Grand Suite on the aft of the ship.

This is my first time staying in this type of suite, so I am very much looking forward to seeing not only the room, but the aft views it provides. 

Itinerary

Going on a Southern Caribbean itinerary was a major factor to choosing this particular sailing. It has been a few years since my last time to the Southern Caribbean, and I have not sailed out of San Juan since 2013!

Speaking of San Juan, we will head down there a couple of days early to spend some time in a favorite city of mine. We fly down tomorrow, and get to enjoy two nights and a full day there to walk around, eat, and explore at a more relaxed pace. Since it is late December, I am hoping for far more moderate temperatures than we had on previous visits this year, where it felt like the surface of the sun.

For the ports we will visit, time spent at or near the ocean is going to be a common theme.  After all, the beaches I think are what draw most people to the Southern Caribbean.

We made plans for two of the ports we will visit, Aruba and Bonaire.  I will be renting an ATV in Bonaire and we booked a hotel room in Aruba in order to gain access to the resort's facilities.  I think in Curacao we are going to do more a potpourri approach and try to work in a few different things.  No plans for St. Maarten quite yet, so this may be "let's wing it" type day.

What's Next

Our Freedom of the Seas cruise begins on Sunday, December 29th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

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