Freedom of the Seas Live Blog

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

In:
05Jan2020

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:
03Jan2020

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:
02Jan2020

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:
01Jan2020

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:
31Dec2019

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:
30Dec2019

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:
29Dec2019

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:
26Dec2019

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!

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog Day Seven - Sea Day

In:
10Sep2016

The last day of any cruise is bittersweet and waking up today, we all felt a sense of tempered happiness knowing our 7-night cruise was nearly over. Still, we have a full day onboard to enjoy.

We all slept in after a few days straight of waking up early, and did not get up to the Windjammer until 10am.  It was quite refreshing never having much issue with crowds in the Windjammer on this cruise.

My oldest daughter went upstairs to Adventure Ocean for part of the morning session, while the rest of us strolled the Royal Promenade before taking time to record a live podcast episode with everyone in the group cruise.

It was fun sharing stories from our week together and I think it is safe to say we all had a lot of fun on this cruise together.

For lunch, we all had something different, with my wife and youngest eating in the Windjammer, my oldest daughter having take-out Johnny Rockets and I opted for a couple of sandwiches from Cafe Promenade.

The take-out Johnny Rockets was a new experience, and I walked into a very busy restaurant and placed a take-out order. Twenty minutes later, my food was ready to go in a bag.

In the afternoon, the weather improved and the sun came out and turned into quite a nice day.

I also noticed this one day drink package option.  And for those wondering, no drink card spotted on this sailing.

I also noticed in the casino that Royal Caribbean has its own brand of scratch-off lottery cards for $5 each.

To wrap up our cruise, I will share some final thoughts on the experience based on different aspects of the cruise.

Crew

The crew were outstanding.  Truly great all around and offered the kind of service Royal Caribbean is well-known for.  Many thanks to them for making us all feel like part of their family.

Specialty Dining

I managed to dine at 2.5 specialty restaurants (take-out Johnny Rockets counts as a half) and greatly enjoyed it all.  Sabor was my favorite of the lot, but Chops Grille is a solid experience all around.

The Izumi Express was a good option to have, although they seemed to run out of the popular rolls quite quickly. Do not wait if you want to enjoy some yourself.

Entertainment

My wife saw most of the shows onboard, but I thought the activities and shows were quite good. The Cruise Director (Cuddy) had a great personality and I enjoyed hearing and seeing him around the ship.

The top two shows on Freedom of the Seas remain Once Upon A Time and the Freedom-ice.com skating show.

Ports

We visited four ports and other than Falmouth enjoyed them greatly.  Falmouth suffered from bad weather (rain), so not much that be done about that.

While I love Cozumel, our private yacht in Grand Cayman made that day my favorite day of the cruise and we had a blast onboard!

Drink Package

The question I have been asked a lot is if buying the drink package was a good idea.  I feel I broke even financially in terms of drinking enough per day, although that number is skewed by the fact that having the drink package I would order more drinks than I might have had otherwise.

That being said, I really enjoyed not having a bar bill at the end of the cruise and I think the real value of any drink package is pre-paying your drinking tab ahead of time. I will strongly reconsider the drink packages for future cruises because of that reason.

Conclusion

Overall, we had a great time onboard and I really enjoyed this cruise.  Enjoying a Royal Caribbean cruise with friends from Royal Caribbean Blog was a lot of fun I cannot believe how quickly the week went by.

Freedom of the Seas offers so many great things to do that I really believe it is one of the best ships in the fleet and an equally great value.

Thank you to everyone that followed along with this live blog and I cannot wait for my next cruise already!

Freedom of the Seas Live Blog Day Six - Cozumel

In:
09Sep2016

Today is our last port stop and it is in Cozumel, Mexico.

We were scheduled to dock at 10am, so we took it easy this morning and got ourselves going and to the Windjammer for breakfast prior to our arrival in Cozumel. 

We dropped both kids at Adventure Ocean and then my wife and I went to see Cozumel. 

Immediately, we took notice of the weather because it was very hot and humid, with little to no breeze.  Unlike any other port stop on this cruise, it was plain hot outside without much relief.

We took a taxi downtown and had breakfast at a bakery just a few blocks from the main street area. We each had a pastry for $1 total.

Next up, my wife went to get a massage and I opted to grab a bite to eat and beer to drink. 

Usually I do more exploring while my wife gets her massage, but it was so hot and humid, I could not even think of walking around.

Eventually I had to leave to meet up with my wife, and we tried to do some walking around but again, the heat was so tough on us that we decided to eat lunch and return to the ship.

We wanted to try a new spot for lunch but they were not open for lunch, so we ended up returning to our favorite restaurant in Cozumel.

After lunch, we took a cab back to the ship and bid farewell to Cozumel until next time.

Back in the wonderful embrace of Freedom of the Seas' air conditioning, we got the kids and decided to enjoy an afternoon ice cream break at Ben & Jerry's on the Royal Promenade.

We returned to our staterooms to relax and get ready for our evening.

Following a well-deserved nap, we got the kids dressed (it was PJ night) and up to Adventure Ocean just as our ship departed Cozumel.

The pre-dinner entertainment for this evening was in the Schooner Bar, trying out the take-out guacamole from Sabor.  The other day, we spotted that guacamole was available from the Schooner Bar, so I wanted to try it out. For "research."

All you have to do is go to the Sabor desk and order guacamole and/or margaritas. Believe it not, this was a single serving of guacamole and salsa and it was $10.

Our dinner plans for the evening were to try out Chops Grille.  I struggled to remember the last time I ate at Chops, so we made a reservation earlier the cruise.

Chops was packed, and deservedly so.   The food was terrific and I really enjoyed everything I ordered.  Another lovely meal at Chops!

It was 70's night tonight, but we were all tired from our Chops adventure (Chops Grille is an adventure), so we called it a night.

Tomorrow is our last day and it will be a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • Best bet for a taxi in Cozumel when there is any kind of line is to walk next door to El Cid resort and pick one up there.  Done that twice now and no waiting.
  • If you want to find great restaurants in Cozumel, walk at least 2 blocks away from the main street along the ocean. In my opinion, if you can see the ocean, you are too close to it.
  • Debarkation was very quick, despite the late docking time. The crew really has debarkation down to a science and it makes things very efficient.
  • Saw this on the elevator randomly today
  • I noticed this deal on future cruise excursions. Other than this, I am not aware of any discounts on Royal Caribbean shore excursions

Drink Count

2 drinks and 2 coffees

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