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Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
15 Nov 2021

The second day of our Odyssey of the Seas naming ceremony cruise brings us to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Before I could get to the island, there were a few meetings I had to go to. As part of a media cruise, there are immersion sessions for the press to learn more about the ship, as well as opportunities to meet with different executives.

My morning began with a question and answer session with Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley, where he answered questions from the press.

There were questions about protocols, restart, plans for the future and many things inbetween.

I'm working on summarizing the more interesting questions asked in a post that will go up later today. I will update this post with a link once it is published.

After that, it was over to the SeaPlex to meet with Royal Caribbean Group Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider to talk about the role technology plays with a ship like Odyssey.

Mr. Schneider talked about the importance of balancing tech with the guest experience, but not having tech just for the sake of having tech. Moreover, he shared how spaces like Zone Zero, Adventure Ocean, and interactive kiosks on Odyssey are a step forward for the cruise line with new offerings.

By now it was lunch time, so I headed back to my cabin to get changed and then walked off the ship to visit Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Freedom of the Seas was docked with us today.

I knew today would be an abbreviated visit to CocoCay, so I went right to the Coco Beach Club to have lunch. Since this was a media cruise for us, admission to the club was complimentary.

Once again, the food did not disappoint and I loved it. Filet mignon was another home run.

I managed a little time in the infinity pool before heading back to the ship to get ready for more sessions this evening.

One thing I had to take care of was getting another Covid test for my cruise tomorrow.  I'm staying onboard Odyssey for her 5-night cruise, and I had to get an antigen test.

Royal Caribbean provides tests for back to back cruisers (along with anyone that needs a test before getting off the ship) at no additional cost.  

Guest Services brought me down to the medical center to get my test.  Clearly the crew members were also getting their weekly test while I was there.

First up was a talk with Royal Caribbean International Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, to talk about the new Giovanni's Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar.

Mr. Tamis not only talked about the new refresh to Giovannis, but also introduced the master pizzaiolo behind the new menu, Chef Renato Viola.

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean reimagined its signature Italian restaurant

Next up was Royal Caribbean International Senior Vice President of Entertainment for Royal Caribbean International, Nick Weir, showcasing the technology behind Two70 on Odyssey of the Seas.

Before dinner, I went down to Casino Royale to say hello to Chris Wong, who is not only the casino host, but a great YouTuber.

Chris shares his experience as a crew member on YouTube, and is a really nice guy.  I encourage you to check out his work.

Speaking of nice people, this event allowed me to reconnect with friends I had not seen in a long time, as well as meet new ones.

I even got to meet Odyssey of the Seas' Godmother!

Among the many people I was able to see this weekend, none topped having a minute to say hello to Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain.

I told him I wanted to thank him for all of us hard work, especially over the last 2 years, and he was gracious enough to pose for a photo with me.

Last but not least, I wrapped up my day with a great dinner at Izumi sushi.

After dinner, I made my way to Music Hall to check out the rock band performing there.

This concludes my two-night media cruise on Odyssey of the Seas, but the live blog fun continues this week when Jenna shares a live blog from a two-night media cruise on Navigator of the Seas from Los Angeles! The fun continues on Wednesday, November 17!

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
14 Nov 2021

I'm back on Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship for her official inaugural sailing and naming!

Odyssey of the Seas has been sailing for a few months since the summer, but Royal Caribbean is celebrating her official welcome this weekend.

This is a 2-night cruise open to just members of the media and travel agents. Royal Caribbean invited me to be their guest on this sailing with a complimentary sailing.

I drove down to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and tried a new hotel near the cruise port, Hyatt House Fort Lauderdale Airport - South & Cruise Port.

I got a good rate for it, and I liked the hotel.  I'll have a review of it to share later, but I think it makes my list of recommended hotels for a pre-cruise stay.

My check-in time was 1pm, so I took my time on Saturday morning before heading over to the port.

The embarkation process was fine, and I was able to get onboard the ship just as quickly as I could make it through the various checks.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing all the check-in steps in advance on the Royal Caribbean app to make it all super quick at the terminal.

My room was ready when I boarded, so I headed there first to drop off my belongings.

Royal Caribbean provided me with a a balcony cabin for this sailing on deck 9.

Balcony rooms are always a great room, and since it is just me on this sailing, I have more than enough space.

This room is close to the forward elevator bank, which means a short walk to my room.

With my stuff squared away in my room, it was time to head to lunch at the Windjammer.

I could quickly tell this was a celebratory sailing, because Royal Caribbean spared no expense with the lunch offerings. Filet mignon, lobster tails and a lot more to choose from across the different stations.

Next up on my agenda was to check out a few of the suites.

On these 2-night media cruises, Royal Caribbean opens up certain cabins for travel agents and media to look at so they can get a better sense of what is offered.

There are rooms across all categories, but I really wanted to see the suites.

I saw the Royal Loft Suite first, and in case you were wondering, yes it is an amazing room.

This is a Star Class suite, which means it is a top-tier suite offering with so much space. 

There is just about everything you could want in this room, spread across two decks, with even a hot tub.

To compare, I looked at a standard loft suite and I am always impressed with how much space you have in these two-deck layouts.

I think the views off the aft of the ship are really nice, and an underrated aspect of these cabins.

Next up, each of the specialty restaurants was offering tasting samplings so everyone could stop by and get a taste of what it offers.

Far be it for me to pass up on quick bites!

The big event today was the actual naming, where Royal Caribbean officials and the ship's Godmother will name the ship.

The event was held on the pool deck, and the timing and weather could not have been better.  As the sun set, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain and Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley spoke before Godmother Erin Brown performed her duties of christening the ship.

A ship naming is an important occasion for any cruise line to celebrate all the hard work that it took to get the ship from concept to reality, but this particular ship naming had extra significance because it was the first ship to join the fleet since the pandemic.

Both Mr. Fain and Mr. Bayley's speeches centered around celebrating not just Odyssey's arrival, but the return of cruising. In fact, Mr. Bayley at one point was choked up talking about the road back to this point.

In addition, this was one final public event for Mr. Fain as the CEO.

After the speeches were made, a giant bottle of champagne was smashed across the bow of Odyssey, and she is officially part of the fleet.

In celebration, Royal Caribbean shot fireworks off near the ship, while we were still docked in Port Everglades. 

Dinner tonight took me to Teppanyaki, one of my favorite restaurants on any ship.

I love hibachi, and it certainly did not disappoint.  Everything tasted good, and the chef put on a great performance.

After dinner, I went down to the Royal Theater to see the adult comedy show, featuring Simeon Kirkiles. 

Between Mr. Kirkiles and the other comedian, there were some really good laughs.

Tomorrow we will be at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Sea Day

In:
11 Sep 2021

The last day of our Odyssey of the Seas cruise concludes with a sea day, and I had a few big things to try.

Any good day starts off with a nice meal, and I went to Solarium Bistro for breakfast.

Solarium Bistro is an underrated spot for any meal on Odyssey of the Seas because I think a lot of people are unaware or forgetful it exists.

They serve a traditional American breakfast, along with pastries, cheeses, eggs and more.

Next up I had to take time to find the man that has sailed the most with Royal Caribbean, Super Mario.

Mario has cruised the most on Royal Caribbean, and has well over 8,000 Crown and Anchor Society points!

He and I sat down for a interview on our YouTube channel, which you can watch here.

At 10am, I had an appointment for a virtual reality experience at Zone Zero.

Zone Zero is a new offering for Royal Caribbean, and currently only available on Odyssey of the Seas. It is a fully immersive virtual reality event. It is complimentary, although beginning next week Royal Caribbean will begin charging $18 per person.

Groups of four guests put on a head-to-toe VR suit and then hop into a virtual reality world.  Royal Caribbean designed a space where you can literally walk around this virtual world, and see your teammates and interact together while engaged in a fight against pirate monkeys and a big bad boss at the end.

Simply put, this was incredible and unlike anything I have done before.  I've played VR games, but this an untethered experience and the closest thing I have seen yet to a Star Trek holodeck. 

Our team had a lot of fun and I would gladly pay $18 per person to do this again.  

Lunch today was back in Playmakers for one more round of bar food. Great as always, and ever since cruises restarted, I have become more of a Playmakers fan.

In the afternoon, we did a few trivia sessions in the Music Hall.  Didn't win, but good fun.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we packed up our belongings so the suitcases could be put into the hallway to be delivered to the cruise terminal the next day.

Dinner was in Wonderland, which is somewhere I have dined a few times, but was new to a few friends onboard.

The premise of Wonderland remains unchanged, where your waiter escorts you down the experience with various foods and drink that look unconventional. Some taste great, others are perhaps just a passing sensation.

Wonderland may never be my favorite specialty restaurant, but it's a fun time and I think a restaurant everyone should try once because it is just so different.

Overall, I really liked Odyssey of the Seas a lot.  More so than the other Quantum Class ships I have been on, because Odyssey has just enough tweaks, enhancements, and add-ons that make it stand out from her sisters.

Odyssey reminds me a lot of when I went on Harmony of the Seas following my Oasis and Allure sailings, where a newer ship stands out from her predecessors because Royal Caribbean takes the opportunity to add so much more the older ships did not have.

I think the SeaPlex overhaul, pool deck makeover, and Izumi split (separate sushi and hibachi locations) make Odyssey easily my favorite Quantum Class ship in the fleet (full disclosure, I have not been on Ovation or Spectrum) that I have been on.

We had a fabulous time on Odyssey, and I hope I get to sail on her again soon.

Thank you for following along this live blog.  Our next live blog will begin in October when Jenna sails to Alaska on Ovation of the Seas!

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Cozumel

In:
09 Sep 2021

Our final port of call brings us to Cozumel for another day of fun in the sun.

Odyssey of the Seas docked quite early (7am), but we decided to walk off the ship 9:30 since a lot of places are closed earlier than that (along with my need to sleep in).

Joining us in port today was Adventure of the Seas and Carnival Vista. It was nice seeing a few ships in port again at the same time.

Our plans today were to visit Nachi Cocom, which has usually been one of the best all-inclusive beach resorts in Cozumel.  I wanted to check it out again now that cruises have restarted.

We took a taxi ($23 one way for 5 people) on the 12 minute ride.

The check-in process was the same as I remember it in the past, where they take a group photo as you walk in and then get escorted to whichever beach palapa you would like.

The weather was great again, with a gentle breeze and clear skies. The ocean was cloudier than I recall seeing, but water temperature was plenty warm.

Your admission ($59) gets you all you can eat and drink during the day.  The menu includes a mix of Mexican and American food.

The alcohol menu has all the usual favorites, with beers, mixed drinks, and everything inbetween. The service is great, with waiters roaming the beach to take orders.

My favorite spot is to sit at the swim-up bar in the pool, which was my home base most of the day.

There were more people at Nachi than I expected in the morning, but after lunch it started to really clear out.

I thought the experience at Nachi was just as good as I recall before the cruise industry shutdown, and was pleased with everything.

We took a taxi back to the ship where I promptly took a much needed nap so that I could recharge my batteries for the evening. I thought it would be a power nap, but it may have gone a little longer than I anticipated.

Once I was awake, we went to the wine bar at Giovanni's Kitchen to check out their menu.  They have a different menu from the restaurant that has a few items you cannot order at the restaurant.

The lasagna bites and mini-meatballs were some of the changes I noticed.  Just like the restaurant, the food was excellent and I think the pizza was even better tonight.

Tomorrow is our final day onboard, and it is a sea day.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Costa Maya

In:
09 Sep 2021

The second port of call on our sailing brings us to Costa Maya, Mexico.  

Our arrival time into port was scheduled for later in the morning (11am), so there was basically a built-in option for everyone to sleep in.

As we arrived to Costa Maya, Odyssey of the Seas was greeted by Symphony of the Seas, which was already docked there earlier in the day.

Our plans for the day were to go to Maya Chan Beach Resort, which offers a limited number of day passes each day.

Prior to the cruise industry shutdown, I always went to Maya Chan when visiting Costa Maya because of the great service and food they had.  So with the opportunity to try out Maya Chan again since the shutdown, I wanted to see how things were now.

Maya Chan had been shutdown for 17 months, and had only re-opened the day before we arrived.

Just like in the past, we disembarked the ship and walked down the pier and through the maze that is the Costa Maya cruise port.

Maya Chan is an excursion booked independently and not through the cruise line, so you need to walk out of the cruise port and down the street to find a representative from the resort waiting to check you in.

We hopped in a taxi and took the 20 minute or so ride to the resort.

Upon arrival, things looked exactly as the last time we visited Maya Chan.

Guests get taken to a dedicated palapa for the day, where have a hammock, chairs, and a beach bed to enjoy. 

This is an all-inclusive excursion, which means all the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, food, and beach amenities (snorkeling, kayaks, etc) are included.

Maya Chan is situated right on the beach, and they have a pool too.

Costa Maya regularly deals with a sea grass problem, where the beach can be inundated with the stuff due to seasonal flows. On our visit, there was not much sea grass at all on the beach, but neighboring beaches had a build up which meant there was sometimes an odor in the air (depending on the breeze).

At check-in, the staff offered anyone a full refund if this issue concerned them, but since I was more of a pool person anyway, that did not bother me.

I think the appeal of Maya Chan is the excellent service and food and drink the resort provides. Basically, a fun day to hang out by the beach.

Luckily, the weather was absolutely perfect with mostly clear skies, no rain, and a very strong breeze that never left us feeling overly hot.

Because of our ship's late arrival time, by the time we got situated at Maya Chan, it was time to eat lunch.

They offered a buffet of freshly cooked tacos, including chicken, beef, fish, and pork.  The food is all cooked that morning, including a selection of corn or four tortillas.

The food did not disappoint, and the various toppings you could put on the tacos really made the meal for me.

After lunch, it was pool time, and I walked over to the pool to hop in.  I thought perhaps I might go there for a little bit, but we ended up spending the whole day relaxing in and around the pool.

The staff came by regularly to offer us drinks, and it was exactly as I remembered my previous visits to Maya Chan: a super relaxing day with excellent service.

As with any great shore excursion, the time to head back to the ship comes all too quickly, and we hopped in our taxis to return to the ship.

Back onboard, it was time to shower and get ready for dinner.

Originally, we were booked for dinner at Coastal Kitchen (the suites only restaurant), but the menu did not entice us (it changes daily), so we decided to go to Chops Grille instead.

Chops was able to seat us despite not having a reservation, and we had a great meal. 

What I love about Chops is how consistent it is across the fleet. 

After dinner, it was time to head to Two70 to see one of the signature shows on Odyssey of the Seas, The Book.

The Book is divided up into chapters, where the protagonist in the show explores different chapters of this magical book. Each chapter features a unique style of music and dance.

As with all shows in the Two70 space, The Book relies heavily on visual effects.  While music and choreography are at the heart of any stage performance, the visuals in The Book are equally important.

I liked the style and spacing of the show, and thought it was a fun idea to use book chapters to help organize the show.

While I would have liked to have stayed up after the show for a drink or two, I was wiped out from all the fun that day, so it was bed time.

Tomorrow, we will be in Cozumel.

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

In:
07 Sep 2021

Our first sea day on Odyssey of the Seas means a full day of exploring the ship.

I started off with breakfast in the main dining room, and I picked to eat there because of how good the main dining room looks.

Food was great, and Chef Shamar cooked up perhaps the best omelet I've had on in recent memory.

Next up was the customer loyalty event in Two70 for Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members, which featured live music, drinks, and a showing of Oceanides.

I appreciate that the company takes time and resources to say thank you with a special event for its top tier cruisers, and the venue was full with plenty of other cruisers who felt the same way.

I decided to head outside to walk the upper deck, and I took advantage of the low crowds to try out the SkyPad without any wait.

The SkyPad is a bungee trampoline experience where you can wear a virtual reality headset and bounce along as you play a video game in the headset.

It was a really interesting idea, but afterwards I felt a little nauseous so I think next time I would do it without the headset just to enjoy the trampoline.  Luckily, a half glass of ginger ale and I felt fine.

I booked a spot on the North Star, which has an extra charge on sea days (complimentary while ship is in port).  When on a sea day, the North Star not only goes up, but extends over both sides of the ship.

We had perfect weather for viewing.

One of the protocols for the North Star is there is only 4 passengers allowed at once.

For lunch, we decided to try El Loco Fresh.

When I eat at El Loco Fresh, I get a make-your-own burrito so I can load up with veggies.

In the afternoon I did some work on the blog, and then took a quick nap.

Tonight is formal night, so we decided to head up to the Suite Lounge and check out the venue.

 

The suite lounge on the Quantum Class ships have the best view, and it is also a massive space.

While it is a bit of a walk to the lounge (it is located at the end of deck 13), once you get there it is all worth it.

Dinner tonight brought us to Giovanni's Italian Kitchen.

After dining at this restaurant on Freedom of the Seas, I was instantly hooked on this new take on Royal Caribbean's Italian food.

We had a sampling of everything, and it did not disappoint. I recommend the caprese salad, meat and cheese platter, chicken parmesan, and any of the pastas.  They make the pasta every day and it was terrific.

Following dinner, we headed to the Royal Theater to see Showgirls: Past, Present and Future.

It is a great mashup of classic and modern music, and the new Royal Caribbean shows are so well put together that I enjoyed the spectacle of it all.

Tomorrow we will be in Costa Maya, Mexico.

Stray Observations

The casitas on Odyssey of the Seas have an extra cost to rent ($199 for the day on sea days, $149 on port days). I saw at least 4 or 5 casitas rented on just one side of the ship.

Here's a look at the suite area of the pool deck. I like there is at least part of the area that is shaded.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
06 Sep 2021

Our first port of call on this sailing brings us to Perfect Day at CocoCay for some beach time at Royal Caribbean's private island.

There are a few different groups of friends on this cruise, we got a floating cabana at the Coco Beach Club. This turned out to be a great decision since it makes coordinating our plans together much easier.

Joining us in CocoCay today was Adventure of the Seas, although I read they had between 400-500 passengers, so hardly a difference in the overall capacity of the island.

We took a short tram ride to the Beach Club, where the staff escorted us to the cabana.

The weather today was hot with a gentle breeze, so it was the kind of day where you want to enjoy a lot of time in the water.

The decision to book a cabana at the Beach Club was partially driven by the opportunity to eat at the Coco Beach Club restaurant. This time around, we had the food delivered to the cabana. 

Once again, the food was delicious and I standby my previous opinion that the filet mignon at the Coco Beach Club is the best on the fleet right now.

 The rest of the afternoon we spent at the cabana, as well as taking a short swim to the floating cabana.

All aboard was a bit early at 3:30, so we got back to the ship for a shower and change.

After a day in the sun, we were all feeling a bit run down so we decided to have a casual night in Playmakers.

Odyssey of the Seas is the first Quantum Class ship to have a Playmakers location, and they added it to the revamped SeaPlex area.

Royal Caribbean redesigned the SeaPlex, with a new layout that I thought made better use of the space.

Playmakers itself is quite large, taking up the entire side of the upper part of the SeaPlex. Lots of different kind of seating is available, including the most impressive Owners Box I have seen to date.

The Owners Box is a corner of Playmakers that is designed to be a private spot, with an elevated feel.  I believe the concept was to offer the Owners Box as an extra cost venue that groups could rent out, but I have yet to see it priced out.

Since no one was using it, the manager at Playmakers offered us if we wanted to try it out.

The Owners Box on Odyssey has leather seats, enormous televisions, and even a Playstation 5.

After watching a few baseball games, we decided to have dinner and ordered one of everything. 

The food was fantastic, and once again the nachos and campfire cookie stood out as very, very good.

After dinner, I headed down to Casino Royale to meet Chris Wong, who is the casino host there and has his own YouTube channel.

Chris vlogs regularly from ships, and during the pandemic, he showcased what crew members were going through.

He was very friendly, and we talked about cruises for a bit.

We rounded out our evening with some live music in the pub.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Stray observations

The Captain announced a medical emergency this evening and that we would make a quick stop in Fort Lauderdale to offload the passenger. Medical evacuations like this are not uncommon, and there was no mention of Covid.

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
05 Sep 2021

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship is Odyssey of the Seas, and I managed to get onboard for a 6-night Western Caribbean cruise to check it out for myself.

When Royal Caribbean began restarting cruises, I was excited to get back to sea and once more ships started sailing again, I became more strategic with which ships I wanted to sail on.  Being a brand new cruise ship, I did my best to book something as soon as possible on Odyssey.

For this sailing, my wife and I drove down to Fort Lauderdale to hop aboard Odyssey of the Seas. We spent a night in Boca Raton, and then drove down to the terminal for our noon check-in.

This was my first cruise sailing from Port Everglades since the restart, and Odyssey of the Seas is departing from Terminal 18. This terminal has the easiest parking of any port I have been to, because it has a surface lot right across from the terminal.

Check-in was super easy. We arrived at noon for our check-in time, and got through the process very quickly. We had to wait a few minutes in the terminal prior to the ship beginning the boarding process.

Luckily the cabins were ready as soon as we boarded, so we headed up to deck 8 to our room. For this cruise, we have a two bedroom Grand Suite booked.  Why did we book a two bedroom suite for just me and my wife? We were in a balcony room originally, but the price for a two bedroom Grand Suite was cheaper than a Junior Suite one day and I decided to hop on the special.

The room looks great, and has way more space than we really need, but it's certainly nice to have!

Something this cabin has is a digital control for the blinds and lights, which means you can open the blinds and lights from the panel in the room, or the Royal Caribbean app.

With our things in the room, we headed to the Windjammer for lunch.  We have the unlimited dining package and and access to Coastal Kitchen, but I just wanted something quick and good and the Windjammer fit the bill.

Being a new ship, we spent some time exploring the ship and walking around. Odyssey looks really impressive because of how beautiful everything is, which is quite striking as you check everything out.

I thought the design of the main dining room was especially striking, and I will be going there for breakfast or lunch just for the look of the venue.

We also toured Adventure Ocean, which has the new updated children's programming onboard.

Next up was a tour of the Vitality Spa. The spa staff offers complimentary tours of the spa, and it is nice to see the various venues and offerings they have.

Walking around Odyssey, I had to check out my favorite spot on any Quantum Class ship, Two70.

I happened to be there while they were testing out some lighting, but I love this space for how many different things they have in this one space.  My advice for anyone sailing on a Quantum Class ship is when in doubt, go to Two70 to see what is happening there.

Dinner tonight is at Izumi Teppanyaki.  On Odyssey, there is a separate restaurant for hibachi and a separate restaurant for the sushi.  

Something I really like about the Teppanyaki on Odyssey is the view of the ocean from every table. And of course the amazing food.

Dinner was fantastic, and we might have had the best hibachi chef I can recall in quite a while.  

After dinner, we headed to the theater to see the welcome aboard comedy show with Cary Long.

Tomorrow we are going to be at our first port of call, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Stray Observations

The elevators have an air purifier device that I have not seen on other ships yet.

Speaking of the elevators, the elevator buttons are all "touchless" buttons where if your finger gets close, it activates without actually touching. Most of the time it works, but it's aimed at avoiding physical contact. 

Here is a look at the dining choices for embarkation day.

The internet speed on Odyssey is fantastic.  Very fast and responsive.

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