Monday, June 29, 2015

Exploring Freedom Of The Seas

  Royal Caribbean Freedom of The Seas is the 3rd largest ship in the world, and is absolutely stunning!  There are 15 decks to navigate. The deck levels of a cruise ship are inverted to that of most hotels. On a cruise ship, you go down to get to your room, and up to go visit the outdoors and swimming pools. The lower decks are where you go to access some of the main venues, like main dining room on decks 3-5, and the promenade on deck 5, Casino on deck 4.
  There are plenty of elevators on the cruise ship, both forward and aft. I recommend taking the stairs whenever possible though, especially when there are so many wonderful dining options! The stairs are a great way to burn calories, plus there is some interesting things to see on each deck level.

   The Freedom of The Seas makes use of every inch of the ship. Entertainment happens constantly. They have a beautiful Theater in the forward section of the ship called Arcadia. We saw everything from magic shows to comedians in that theater, and all were fantastic. The only complaint I had was the fact that I couldn't get much info on the schedule from prior to the cruise. All venues schedules were delivered to your stateroom the night before. They printed the schedule on a paper called "The Compass" and was subtitled "Day 1", "Day 2" etc.. That can be a tiny bit confusing as you have to remember if Day 3 is Tuesday or Wednesday, you have so much fun it is easy to loose track of it all.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Our stateroom

Our state room was an ocean view on deck 3. The location was excellent as it was expertly chosen for us by Trish at All About Cruises in Burlington NC. When we first arrived aboard the Freedom of the Seas, we wanted to familiarize ourself with all of the pertinent locations. Naturally, finding the location of our room was early on the list. Our room no. was 3602, so we made our way to deck 3 to find our room. What we found was closed doors that would lead to the hallway where our room is located. They do not open the doors until the rooms are ready. Smart move, this reduces traffic and allows the room attendants to quickly get all of the rooms aboard the ship ready for the massive influx of passengers.

  When the time finally came, we excitedly rushed to our room to see what magnificent domain awaits our arrival! We open the door and walked into a closet with a port hole. I tried to find the rest of our room but was never successful ;-)

   The bed is two doubles pushed together to be a king. It is the only bed, so where is my Son going to sleep? Well, above the bed are two hidden doors in the ceiling that let down a bunk bed! Clever!

Storage is abundant in the very small room, it seemed that every nook had a drawer or shelf, even some that looked hidden. 

The bathroom is really really tiny! And special in its ways. The toilets are similar to an airline toilet, it uses a vacuum system to flush. You cannot use the popular moist wipes that I can't live without! But luckily it is only 2 steps to the shower and just lean over for the sink :-) 

  The shower is like being in a tube, there isn't much room. Don't drop the soap! There isn't any room to bend down and get it, it helps if you are proficient at Yoga, and I am not ;-)

Getting on the Freedom Of the Seas

Getting on a cruise ship that has just disembarked 4000 people and is now embarking 4000 people has got to be a daunting task! However, somehow Royal Caribbean has figured out a way to do it in a manner that does not emphasize the complexity of the procedure. As long as you have your Passport, have completed your checkin procedure online, and have it all organized, embarkation will be a breeze.
  Your luggage is dropped off when you exit your shuttle service, so bring necessities in your carry on luggage. We didn't need much, just our cameras and a few other items. If you are swimming, be sure to bring swimwear. Just remember that you will not get to your room till sometime after lunch and you will not have luggage until sometime that evening.
  Checking in was a very long line, as you can imagine. But it was a very fast moving line as well. Show your documentation, your boarding pass (called a SetSail Pass) you completed online, and your passports. The very nice people at the counter will take pictures of each of you then issue separate seapass cards. She will tie your credit card account to the seapass card so that everything you spend onboard will just require this roomkey/seapass card.
  Get or bring a lanyard! The ones they sell onboard are nice but the plastic pocket can fall apart easily. We had them punch a hole in our seapass then attached it directly to the lanyard.
  Now, go eat and explore! Get to know the ship now and be prepared to battle for your spot in the dining area for lunch. Just remain calm and patient.

Patience is the key to enjoying your trip! If you don't let the little things get to you, you will be very pleasantly surprised at how you feel inside!

Cocoa Beach Pre-Cruise

  After arriving at the airport, we rented a car from Budget and drove to Cocoa Beach. We stayed at a local hotel and prepared for the next day. The car was a Jeep Commander and cost around $50 from the airport rental, pre-reserved. This allowed us to explore Cocoa Beach and see where the cruise ship terminal was located. Port Canaveral's cruise terminal is very nice, and has many venues near it. We ate at a nearby restaurant that was very good and had a view of the terminals. Now time for a good nights rest.

On The Beach!
Sunset Cocoa Beach

 The reason we chose Budget was because they have a shuttle running constantly to and from the cruise terminal, we were able to checkout of the hotel, return our car and catch a ride to the terminal at no extra cost. Very easy!
Waiting for the Shuttle
Tip: don't get there too early, the shuttle will be shuttling from the terminals for exiting cruisers, to the terminal doesn't start until around 11am.

  When we were returning our car, we got to watch the Space X Falcon 9 rocket launch and subsequent failure! It was amazing to see and hear!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Airline tip

  Southwest allows you to check in two bags per person. We made sure to be mindful of the limit and brought 4 check in bags for three of us, two under the limit. The checked bags have a size and weight limit, one of our bags was over the weight limit. In hindsight, I think it is better to bring your max number of luggage and distribute the weight amongst them, thereby avoiding a $75 fee for being just 12 pounds over.

Well, after all that, we made it!

For Beginers and Noobs

This is our very first cruise. So I thought maybe I will share the experience of booking the cruise for the very first time and without knowing squat about cruising. In the beginning we had many questions, so naturally we visited a travel agent. All About Cruises in Burlington NC helped us out tremendously and answered a lot of questions.
  Booking through a travel agent did not save us any money, at least not at first. It also did not cost any extra, the fair was the same as it was on Royal Caribbean's website. But there were major benefits with booking through a travel agency and utilizing their vast experience. They knew what type of family we were and what we wanted to achieve. For example - we have one teenager that is 15 years old, he is very laid back and loves to experience new things. So Disney was not a choice because it would have been too many very young children not his age. Trish (our travel agent) picked Royal Caribbean for us based on what our adventure expectations were. She was also very familiar with cruise ship state rooms and their locations. She chose a location that was away from the casino, not near a dance floor, or places that would have high traffic and possibly be annoying at night. This is something we didn't even think about! Trish also kept abridge of any sales that were going on with the cruise, and a month later she emailed us to say she saved several hundred dollars on our booking, awesome!!

  Now that the cruise is booked, it was time to figure out the rest of the logistics, like how in the world do we get there! After doing some research, I think I came up with a plan. I will let you know how it works out. Here is the short of it, we are flying into MCO Orlando the day before the cruise. From the airport I am picking up a rental car and driving to Port Canaveral. We made reservations at a local hotel to stay the night. The rental car company has a facility in Port Canaveral that will allow us to return the car the next morning and will shuttle us to the ship's terminal. I think this will work out well because it will allow us the freedom to explore the area the night before. The return trip from the cruise will be the same, we are picking up a rental car, driving to Orlando, exploring then staying at a hotel near the airport.

Now that we had our travel plans together, it was time to get our documentation ready. Traveling on a cruise ship to the Caribbean does not require a passport, but it is recommended and is supposed to make checkin go faster. There are two types of passports, a passport book and a passport card. The passport card is pretty cool because it was designed to be used specifically for cruise ships, and is only $30! But wait, there are restrictions. You can only travel on a ship with a passport card, so if something happened in port and you missed the cruise ship, you are stuck until the next ship comes by. A passport book allows many more options like land and air, so it is definitely a safer options, even though it is much more expensive. So we opted for the passport books. If you plan to do that, get it done early in case there are any anomalies with your application.

Now that the planning stages are complete, it is time to plan the fun stuff.. We looked at tons of options like excursions, shopping, beaches, etc.. But because we are inexperienced with the Islands, we decided to book our adventures on the ship so we can get the advice of more experienced members. For St. Thomas and especially St, Martin,  I think we are just going to explore the Island. I would hate to miss the adventures on land and in stores while we were doing something else somewhere else.

Well, we will let you know how it all works out!!

Bon Voyage :-)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Caribbean Trip

06/26/2015 - This year is our 25th year of being in a very happy marriage, and to celebrate we decided to book a cruise! We are all going on a 7 day cruise to the caribbean aboard the Freedom of the Seas.

This is an Anniversary trip 25 years in the making! We will be leaving tomorrow to begin our adventure, and visiting Cococay Bahama's, St. Thomas, and St. Martin. Hopefully with regularity, I will be posting about our trip here.