Hi everyone! 1st time cruiser here. Review of Freedom of the Sea's
New here and it seems like everyone here likes reviews. I'll be honest, I also posted this elsewhere but thought you might enjoy a newbie's perspective on my first cruise on FOS 06/16/2011, eastern itinerary.
First of all, let me just say I have never been on a ship in my life and had no idea what to expect except to say, that everyone I have ever talked to about cruising has said that they treat you like a king and that the food is plentiful and to die for.
Day 1 on Freedom of the Sea's:
I had visions in my head of checking in at some sort of desk, walking a gangplank straight into the Royal Promenade, being handed a drink with an umbrella in it (free of course), beautiful women welcoming me on the ship, then walking up to the top of the ship and waving goodbye to all the poor suckers stuck on shore as we started to cruise into the open sea and sun! Ahhhh,,,,,,,
You go through much the same as going through airport TSA screening, including the lines and waiting. You better have your documents in order and ready or you go back the the end of the line. As my nephew was getting his picture taken at the registration desk, evidently I was too close in the background and wow, did that old woman let me know! Pretty rude! We then walked onto the ship and I must say, I WAS impressed! The Freedom is a gorgeous ship! We meandered looking for our room and after figuring things out we finally made it to our staterooms. I was impressed with what I thought was going to be a bed in a box. Although I was still pretty irritated at the "old lady" at the registration desk I thought things were looking up. Although everyone in my party seemed to have their luggage waiting for them, mine was late. Then we were called for the emergency "muster". I had seen this in the movie Titanic lol. I had really romanticized this visioning myself on an outer deck with a bunch of people in our float vests laughing with drinks in hand. Well, I was called to my dining area to watch the waiters show us how to don the vests which were in my stateroom. I did see others on the outer open air decks donning their vests and partaking in the emergency drill but my daughter and I were sitting at a table INSIDE the ship in a dining area. I asked one of the staff if that a catastrophy really happened, are we really supposed to come into the dining room and sit here. He said yes. Ummm,,,, ok.
Next, we walked around the ship. It was very confusing until we figured out how to use the "What to do now" monitors near every elevator on the ship. THOSE made things MUCH easier! I was looking forward to the highlight of the night, the thing I heard most about from everyone, DINNER! I will admit, I was still irritated by the woman at registration and the few other things. I got there and we sat down. The first thing that came out of our waiters mouth was "Please bear with me, I'm new". WHAT?! No! I don't want a new guy! I want the best guy! I was talking to my daughter at that time and I missed the drink waiter asking everyone as a group what they wanted to drink. He did not get a response from me because I didn't know he was taking drink orders. Well, I didn't get a drink until after appetizers. Even then it seemed to take foreeeever. Then we were served dinner. OF COURSE, ONLY MY DINNER WAS THE ONE THAT "SOMETHING HAPPENED" TO AND WHILE EVERYONE WAS EATING I WAS WAITING FOR MY DINNER. I must admit, my expectations were dashed and I was a bit pissed. When it finally arrived, I finished half of my meal quickly and excused myself and went to my room (thank God, my luggage finally made it there!). I know it seems picky but a few other things before happened that had nothing to do with the cruise didn't help things. Not a good start! I stayed in my room, drank some beer and went to bed.
Yep! Like you all said, it's about attitude and I chalked up the 1st day to me being in a new situation with a few wrinkles. I will say this, I was nothing but respectful to the crew all week and all but 1 back to me. Anyway,,,
I woke up at 9:30 promptly per my wake up call. I decided right then and there that this wasn't going to get magical for me without some input from myself and was determined to make the best of it and have a good time! Breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes with OJ and coffee arrived at my door soon after I woke per me filling out a breakfast order card the night before. I cannot tell you the name of the person that brought it because it was a different person most days. I tipped 3 dollars every time room service came. They were very nice and very prompt.
Time to go ashore. We were tendered to Cococay. I found it impressive with how they used your "Seapass card" for just about everything on the ship. They swipe it everytime you leave or come back on the ship. They always know exactly who is on and off the ship at any time. The Island was nice. We didn't do a lot of the excursions today as everyone just wanted to get in the water and get some sun by the beach. We did buy a few trinkets at the little stands and walked the Island. Near noon it was time for lunch and I am sure it would have been great but at the exact time they rang the lunch bell someone must have danced a rain dance because it started to rain. I'm not talking sprinkles here and there or a quick 10 minute little shower. IT RAINED! It lasted for about an hour with everyone huddled under any roof they could find. I found this odd because I was having a good time in the rain. There was no thunder or lightning, we were already basically wet and the rain was warm. I pretty much put my baseball cap on to keep the water out of my eyes and continued having fun. I ate a couple of pieces of chicken and a few BBQ'd ribs. They were actually very good although wet! lol At least a quarter of the people made a beeline to the tenders to go back to the ship when the rain started coming down in force leaving us with even more room on the Island for the last few hours of sunshine. I DID make one decision at this time, I along with most everyone else "signed out" a beach towel from the ship. If you lost that towel, they would charge you $25. I decided that my bathroom towels were just as nice so I used those the rest of the cruise for any offshore excursion.
About 6:30pm, we tendered back to the ship. It really is quite impressive as you get closer and closer to the ship. Just the size of the ship when you are at the 1st floor gangway and right next to the ship. We went back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. We had a late dinner call because by the time we booked, all you more experienced cruisers knew to hurry and book the good times. Our dinner time was 8:30 and I never eat later than 7pm. It really didn't matter to me much though. Our waiter was Tyrone. He couldn't have been nicer. Our group of 8 ordered just about everything on the menu so we were able to try everything and what we didn't, Tyrone made sure to bring so we could. Let me say this about the food. In the dining room I found it "VERY GOOD". Some of it "GREAT" and some just "GOOD" but nothing was "BAD" tasting. Presentation was great on just about everything though. I had absolutely NO complaints with the food in dining. Our drink waiter DID have our drinks right in front of us before we could even order them. I was pretty loaded with all the food we ate and how late we ate it. It's not a negative comment, it's just how I personally eat and decided that from then on I would have my dinner in the Windjammer/Jade but still make the dining room to be with my family and friends and nibble on a few things that I wanted to taste. I know there was an "Eat at your time" thing but it was a little confusing and it didn't seem worth it to ME to mess around with when I could just eat in the Windjammer at MY whim and convenience. No biggie.
The Windjammer: I found it very convenient! There was a diverse and large selection to choose from. The food there was mostly "GOOD". I would find a few things that were "VERY GOOD". I don't know if the reason is that I am from northern Indiana but I found the Sushi at Jade to be "VERY GOOD" and rival some of our better Sushi restaurants here at home. Nothing in the Windjammer in my opinion was not very good. I enjoyed it very much! I had not tried Portofino's or Chops mainly because, it just was not in my budget as I had already had to entertain my DD17 in Orlando 2 days before we shipped and would have to again 3 days after we got back off the ship. Like I said, no biggie to me, the food everywhere else was more than satisfying!
Let me put this out there, I am a drinker so I knew there was going to be some drinking going on.
Anyway, there were many things to do this night and before our dining time, most of my group went to see the "Marquee" show. I skipped that to get my bearings on the ship and explore. I got an understanding of things and how to get around pretty quickly. Like I said, the Map Monitors next to every elevator were wonderful! Oh, also, if you are claustrophobic at all, those elevators will cure you of it! lol During the day and after most dinners and shows, you will be squeezed in with a full car so get close and get to know your shipmates! Once I got the layout of the land, I felt much more comfortable and at ease.
DD17 decided that she was going to stay in her cousins stateroom everynight. 3 teenage girls in 1 room? Hmmmm,,,, Well, I didn't really mind as she is almost 18 and a pretty responsible kid. Gave me more room anyway. I did keep a good eye out on them though. It seemed like they're "hangout" most nights after the shows, dinner and family time was Ben And Jerry's Icecream shop in the Royal Promenade. After the first night, they had already made friends there and hung out watching the boys stroll by.
This night we (brother, his wife and a female friend) checked out most of the bars and clubs. My favorite was the Schooner Bar although we did have fun dancing at The Crypt. I did find it odd the theme of the disco club The Crypt. Everywhere else had a lite, fun feel but the Crypt had a dark undertone like it was Dracula's Lair or something. Not that it bothered me at all, I just found it odd. Anyway, it was the place to dance and stay out late. While everyone else in my group had gone to bed (@1:30 or so) I stopped by and checked out the Casino to lose about 20 bucks in Texas Hold'em Poker. I had a certain amount that I would be willing to lose in the Casino per day so as long as I was having fun I didn't mind. Day 3 will be a full day at sea so I stayed out fairly late because I could sleep in (if you call 9:30 sleeping in) lol.
I am sure I am forgetting a thing or 2 but will try to remember the main points. I kept all of my Cruise Compass' to jar my memory. I found this invaluable too! Great way to plan out a day or evening.
The last point here I will bring up is the room cleaning staff. I hardly ever saw them other than a few quick times of me running in and out of my room as I was hardly ever in my room this day and night. Although I do know they came in twice a day, cleaned, straightened up and refill towel bars and such. Around 2 am back in my room, I noticed none of the famous towel animals I have heard about so many times. (This changed the next night for the rest of the cruise though) Having a great time!
Disney Fantasy - 2013 [pending]
Disney Dream - 2012
Royal Freedom of the Seas - 2011
HAL Eurodam - 2011
Royal Grandeur of the Seas - 2010
Carnival Dream - 2010
Grand Princess - 2002
Royal Voyageur of the Seas - 2000
Royal Sovereign of the Seas - 1999
Carnival Ecstacy - 1991
I had to wake up a bit earlier than I had planned because I had remembered at the last minute that we had the Cruise Critics Meet and Greet. I hurried, brushed my teeth, threw some clothes on and went up to the meeting. The blond asst. cruise director was there and offered everyone coffee and donuts. There were probably around 15 people there and everyone sitting apart from one another. Now, I am not shy so I started talking to everyone. I finally saw Rev there and said hello. The female asst. cruise director (who was Australian and really cute!) introduced herself and welcomed everyone. She then suddenly just left. I thought maybe she would go around the room with her microphone and have everyone introduce themselves to break the ice. That's what I would have done. Anyway, some mixed and mingled for a bit and it was all over in about 30 minutes. Everyone I spoke with were really nice! BTW, we had name tags we filled out but no way to stick them on our clothes. So they were pretty useless.
On the Freedom for a full day at Sea!
The first time I really paid attention to who the Cruise Director was. His name is Graham Seymour. I turned on my TV one morning and there he was with his morning show. The guy is literally off his rocker and extremely funny! I don't know how much he gets paid but he could probably make a decent living as a stand up comedian. Anyway, I forwent my room service breakfast and decided to try the WJ breakfast. It was fine. The usual, scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage and omelets made to order. I heard later that you could ask for eggs over easy but I didn't know that at the time that I could do that or I would have. I will say this, the biscuit gravy left alot to be desired. It honestly was not very good, at least not compared to my neck of the woods. It was watery with not alot of flavor. Still, it's breakfast and it was fine.
Of course this is the day to do the pool stuff. I got in my swim trunks, lathered in 30 SPF and took my camera, Seapass card and sunglasses and we headed for the pools! It was exactly what I had expected. Full of people drinking, sunning and having a great time! The Poolside band called Vybes 4 I believe, was very good at the "Island Music". I was under no delusion thinking that I could go out there at 11am and find poolside deckchairs open and available. I would however have had no problem moving a towel if one was sitting there with noone around for over an hour. Surprisingly though, I found open chairs a couple rows back from the pool and on the second deck. I was satisfied with that and this day I got a bit of a Tan ummm, I mean burn in! lol There was a TON of things to do on ship this day but I just wanted water, sun and lady watching.
They had plenty poolside stuff going on as well. This day was the Sexiest Man Competition which I stayed out of (wanting to give the younger guys a chance you know ) And they had the Ice Carving Demo which was pretty cool (pardon the pun) because I've never seen anyone do it before. My ugly mug actually got some camera time as the ships crew were taping the ice carving. I am the guy at the very end of the video on the upper left hand side. At about 3 or 4 I went back up to my room to shower, cool down and take a quick nap as I was tired. Caribbean sun really takes it out of you. At no time around the pool did I ever need or use the sign out blue towels. After I got out of the water the sun and wind would dry me right off. I kind of noticed the ship was somewhat sectioned. The rear of the ship (Aft?) was mainly for the noisy things such as the kids zone, teen activities, sports and such. Middle was mainly geared toward shops, family activities, restaurants and such while the front (Fore?) was for the quiet things. The quiet lounges, adult pool and such.
After a quick nap a friend and I then went to dinner in the Windjammer. During my meal a waiter asked if I wanted anything. I told him that I heard people on CruiseCritic.com rave about a dish called Honey Stung Chicken. He left and returned with a chef. The Chef said that they were making that tomorrow night but would make me one NOW. I told him he didn't have to do that but he insisted. I honestly have no idea what some of the people who have raved about this is talking about! It was honey breaded chicken breast with a thousand island type of dipping sauce. I found it average at best. *shrugging
I and a friend were going to see the Big Show which happened to be the musical stylings of the rock band Foreigner's ex guitarist Domenick Allen. He played all the old hits and some others. He brought his wife and his 10 year old daughter up to sing with him. His wife is a Broadway singer so I was not surprised at her talent, the daughter had a few solo's and she was really good! Shocked me! The show was very good! We then met my brother and the rest of our party at their dinner time to sit with them and try some of the deserts. I really did not mind having to meet up with them while they ate at 8:30pm for some quality family and friends time. Afterwards at around 10:45 the Cruise Directors and staff had a big show in the Royal Promenade called Rock Britannia Street Party which was a big festival featuring them dancing and singing to british rock music. It was a great show!! Some drinking afterwards and everyone went to bed around midnight to be up early for St. Thomas the next day. Everyone except me!
I went to the Casino and played 20 bucks worth of slots. After losing around 11 bucks and after trying different machines, I HIT $138.00 ON A QUARTER MACHINE!! YeeHawwww!! I then stopped and went to bed! Great day! When I usually go back to my room, I usually have another beer and relax for a bit before hitting the pillow. This night I watched the channel where it shows all of the ships directions, weather and heading. I noticed the last 3 days we were pretty much a steady 18-20 knots. I mention this only because it is interesting later in this thread about how and why we slowed down.
Ok, be sure to tell us why the slow down in speed? Just curious....All, in all, sounds like you are enjoying your cruise, feel like we are all cruising along with you...enjoy St. Thomas, you didn't say what the plan is for this great port??
It's St. Thomas today! We pull in about 11am and a great day to get on deck and watch us pull in to port! Well, everyone but me! I woke around 10am and my alone, quiet time after I awake is very important to me so I watched the docking on the TV's webcam. It was pretty cool. I won't bore you with the details of breakfast and getting the gang together to actually disembark. Let's just say it happened and we made it outside the ship. No tendering this time, we stepped right out onto the pier. Looking around, what a beautiful island. We passed the gates and we were BOMBARDED with taxi drivers! "Where do you want to go!?" "Taxi here!!". It was pretty overwhelming since I have never been here before, I have no clue where I want or need to be, I just know, we need to get to a water ferry to catch a ride to Tortola because we bought an excursion to "Swim with the dolphins" (yes, I know some people are against these things. Please spare me!) Well, I told a few of the taxi drivers what I wanted and that we need to go to a water ferry service. They looked at me like I was crazy! Finally, one driver, his name is FITZ, gave me a smile and said "Get in! We'll take care of you Mon!" So, we got in.
Now, This is St. Thomas and it's in the midst of other Caribbean islands. I can actually see the Island that we had to be on. I thought hell, we could almost swim to it it looked so close. I am sure some of you know where I will be going with all of this soon.
Things to keep in mind: 1. We booked this through DolphinDiscovery.com, not the cruise. 2. I checked and rechecked everything, including transportation with the dolphin company. I specifically asked, "Is there transportation from the ships port area to Tortola?" I was answered by the representative, "Yes, you can get a water ferry there, it's about $40 per person 'round trip." She made it sound like they were going out by the hour, every hour. We had to be in Tortola by 2pm. The excursion lasts 1 hour and we are supposed to be back at the ship by 6pm. PLENTY OF TIME! I think you know where I am going with this now.
Fitz drives us to the water ferry company that seemed to be across the island. We finally get there and are told the last ferry left at 8:30AM! The next one would not leave for Tortola until 3:30pm! I checked and rechecked, I explained to the man that the dolphin company said that the ferry's were going out all day and maybe they had a "special" ferry that worked for the company. He sympathized with me but said no. FITZ saw my dilemma and quickly was on his phone. He said he knows where they go out on water "taxi's". He said it might be a bit more but there's a good chance we can catch one. Well, time is running out so we all boarded back into FITZ'S taxi. Back across the island now and we get to the water taxi service. The taxi's are there and they have an older woman working the desk. She says yea, we have taxi's but no available Captains right now. We're sunk. FITZ during this time is on his phone talking to someone. He says, there's another ferry service and they have a 1:30 leaving. Not enough time to make the 2pm and the service is across the island but we could make it. This might work if we could move our swim time back an hour! We all get back in the taxi (8 of us) and head for that part! I am on the phone with the dolphin company trying to move our time back and FITZ is on the phone for some reason. The company moves our time back, we have a ride there! Only 1 problem! A ride back by 4-5pm. That ferry isn't going to just wait there for us. Times getting tight, we're on the move and looking for a ride back from Tortola! FITZ happened to re call the water taxi service and was able to get a number for a water taxi Captain. I spoke on the phone with him and he WAS AVAILABLE! This is going to work I am thinking! We line everything up and now one last hurdle. HOW MUCH FOR 8 PEOPLE MR. WATER TAXI CAPTAIN? He said $120.00 per person. Wow! No can do! The whole excursion cost me for 2 $240.00 total. Now I'm looking at $90 for 2 for the ferry there on top of the $240.00 and then another $240.00 for 2 for the ride back and that's not mentioning the money for a land cab on Tortola to get to and from the dolphin company and then, who knows how reliable this water taxi Captain is? He could be late, not in the spot we need him to be and we are cutting it tight. I got him down to $100 per person but it was too much, too late. We decided to scrub the whole dolphin thing (happy crazy dolphin lovers? ) I'd rather be out $240 than miss the ship and be stranded on foreign soil. Also in the back of my mind, there's a Discovery Cove in Orlando that does the same and we have to spend a couple more days there after the cruise so it's not like we can't do it then.
Well, there really is no Plan B except the obvious. Find a beach and play in the water for the rest of the day. We're all getting pretty water-logged and was looking for something more. We have been riding around for 2 hours in a frantic and were pretty down. FITZ TO THE RESCUE! ANY cabby in the states would have already charged us a ton of money for the ride so far. FITZ turns to me and says, "No worries Mon! I give you the FITZ tour of the island! I charge you $25 per person! We'll all have fun Mon!" Let me just say, I have never kissed a Jamaican Taxi Driver smack dab on the lips but I was tempted from relief! We accepted FITZ'S generous offer and off we went.
We have decided to accept our taxi driver, FITZ'S, generous offer to give us the "Grand Fitz Tour" after he seen all of our plans unravel.
The first place he took us was to a tourist place on top of one of the highest point on St. Thomas named (I believe) Banana Margarita's (or something to that effect). It had an absolutely beautiful view. I knew it was a tourist trap but I loved it. Very relaxing, good drinks and fabulous view. We stayed there for a while. Then off to downtown because some in my group wanted to do some shopping but before that, FITZ took us to some other parts of the Island and told us stories and facts. He was very knowledgeable and very funny. After the shopping in which he left us and was back right where we asked him to be at the time we wanted. We were getting very hungry. He took us to a place called Cuzzin's for some authentic Caribbean cuisine. It was a little hole in the wall, bar kind of place. I told the waitress to choose my late lunch/early dinner for me. She came back with a spicy chicken dish with rice. It was awesome and better than anything I ate on the ship! We met 2 African American females there, one named Raven. They were very vibrant and fun loving, laughing and having a great time! Raven explained to me that she missed the cruise ship and flew from Florida to St. Thomas to meet up with her friends and the ship. (There's a later reason I am pointing this out). We were done eating and went to meet up near "Little Switzerland" with FITZ to take us back to the ship. FITZ showed us a lot of things we may have missed and generosity in our time of need and we made sure he knew it when it came time to pay him and tip him! Back to the ship. No problems getting back on. The crazy scene that was out there when we disembarked was now quiet with cruisers slowly meandering back to the pier.
BACK ON THE SHIP,,
It was now around 6pm and we had to hurry to get showered and ready for the 7pm show tonight which was the FREEDOM-ICE.COM Ice Show. We got there early enough to get some decent seats at the Studio B Ice Rink. They were awesome! It really is amazing what they can do in such a smaller space. Obviously, the rink is not a regular full size rink and every time one of the skaters did a triple or double, I would swear they were going to run out of ice but nope, they elegantly pulled it out at the nick of time. There was one skater who was a bit larger than most and bald (think "Mr. Clean") who's skating partner was a waif of a girl. The highlight of the show was his throwing her all over the rink while seemingly floating all around the ice. They were great! After the show, my party made the 8:30pm dinner. Again, like I said, I was not using my official dining time as my dinner time. I would always eat dinner earlier and just meet up with my party here for social time with them. They all ate and then we all went back to our respective rooms to get ready to start the drinking night! We all met at one of the pubs for a drink and then near 10:45pm it was time to make the Arcadia Theatre for the "Love & Marriage Game Show" hosted by our Cruise Director, Graham Seymour. He chose a newly wed couple, a couple that had been married for approx. 10 years and an older couple married 60 years! Wow! Graham had a lot of fun with the older gentleman! The whole show was HILARIOUS! So much so that I literally and ACCIDENTALLY spit just a little of my beer on the young (25'ish) female sitting next to me. I apologized profusely!! And she was a good sport, took it in stride and said that she'd probably do the same and didn't blame me. (Graham! I believe you owe this girl an apology for being so funny! )
After the show, off to the Crypt and then to the Casino. Once at the Casino (alone), I had every intention to play the slots for about 10 bucks and then go get some sleep because we are in St. Maarten early tomorrow. That's when I found "Beverly" sitting at the Roulette table. This older woman seemed to be having so much fun and she was doing pretty good too by her chip stack. Now I had never ever even considered ever playing Roulette because it's well know that it has some of the worst odds and I had no idea how to play the game other than to know to put your money on a number and hope the ball lands on your number. I started watching Beverly play and learned there's a lot more to the game than what I knew. More than that, it actually looked kind of fun. I went and got 10 bucks and began to learn better how to play by actually playing. Beverly and then couple of other men sitting at the table were great! They were so funny! I won a little but it took about an hour to lose the 10 bucks. I didn't care, it was a wonderful time, I learned something new, and I found that this is not a game where I will come into thinking that I will ever win big. It's the game where I can have some fun with and not spend to much doing it! Off to bed!
DAY 5 NEXT! IT'S GOING TO BE A GREAT DAY! PLANE AND SIMPLE!
Like a poster said before, on the 4th night before I went to bed, I noticed we suddenly slowed from a steady 18-20 knots to a turtles 9 knots throughout the overnight. I am not sure about knots but I thinks I may be able to actually row that fast. I found this very odd at first but after seeing the GPS location on my TV map it was clear. It was because St. Thomas and St. Maarten are so close to one another. One would think that the crew would want to get there as fast as possible to conserve fuel and to be able to relax from driving the ship all night but I have to assume maybe it costs the cruise line more to dock overnight than to just stay out at sea. Anyone know better, let me know.
We got to St. Maarten very early (around 8am) and I was excited about this day an knew exactly where I wanted to be. The rest of my party was going to Orient Bay Beach for a day of jetskiing and parasailing. I WANTED A PLANE TO LAND ON MY HEAD! lol I was bound and determined to be at Maho Beach by 11am as that was the time the big planes would start arriving. My party and I separated about 9:30am and after a taxi ride with a couple of younger guys going to watch the same thing, I was on Maho Beach, north of the Port, by 10:30am. There it was, a nice little Caribbean beach butt-up next to airport landing strip with only a very small road and a chainlink fence separating the 2!
The only thing I regretted after getting there was that I did not have breakfast and I was not in the mood for the heaviness of lunch food. As soon as I arrived I found the beach to be a small pretty little beach with a bar right next to it. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the bar. Anyway, it was a very nice little open air bar. I noticed in front of the bar, at the entrance what looked to be a surfboard stuck in the sand. I looked on the other side of the surfboard and it was actually a billboard showing the times of the incoming flights to the airport. First flight arriving, 11:15am! That gave me about 45 minutes to wait. There were about 8-9 people that I did not know at the bar so I was pretty much alone and hungry. I asked the bartender if they served lunch. He said not until 11:00am. I thought, well, I can wait a half hour. I then went up a level on the mutli-leveled wooden deck where their were tables and chairs and had a seat. About 5 minutes later, a waitress came to me and asked if I wanted anything. I said that I will take a Pepsi and I was waiting for them to serve food since I missed breakfast. She said, "DO YOU WANT BREAKFAST?" I said yes, I do but the bartender said no food until 11am. She said, "No, we start serving lunch at 11am, but right now we are serving breakfast!" HELL YEA!! What I wanted to begin with! I got a menu and ordered my favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict (I was very surprised they had it on the menu). I was a little leery about how good Eggs Benedict would be made from an open air Caribbean bar. I waited for about 10 minutes with my Pepsi and out she came with my breakfast. She put down the plate and it looked like Wolfgang Puck just cooked it! Nice poached eggs on top of Canadian bacon and a lightly toasted English muffin covered in hollandaise with chunk roasted potatoes and thick sliced bacon! It was beautiful and better than any breakfast I have had so far on the ship! Now I am not badmouthing the ships food because their breakfast's are fine, but this bars breakfast was just THAT good!
After breakfast, I decided to walk the beach. Take off my shirt and sneakers and get in the water. I put my shirt and shoes about 15 feet from where the water was breaking onto shore and got in to wait for the planes. Right on time, a smaller plane was in the horizon and about 5 people and myself ran to the road where the landing strip started. I could tell this was not one of the "big" planes but a medium sized double prop plane. As I stood there, it looked as if this plane was headed straight for me. It came over our heads and I am sure there was about 50 feet of clearance between us and the bottom of the plane but it seemed at the time that if I jumped just high enough, I could touch the tires. This was not true of course but it seemed that way! I then went back into the water and waited 30 minutes for the next one. Well, here it comes! One of the larger planes. Maybe a 737, I don't know, I just know it was a medium sized passenger airliner. In it came, slow and steady. All of the sudden it seemed to be coming in at great speed! I truly found it difficult to stop my instinct to duck! It was incredible! Right over our heads! You could feel the heat from the engines as it came down onto the landingstrip! WOW! I stayed for about another hour and a half watching all kinds of planes come in icluding one more "larger" plane. One Leer jet type plane came in and it seemed to bank at the very last minute to line up with the runway at great speed and land halfway down the runway! The first large plane was now taxi'ing the runway to takeoff. By this time, quite a crowd was gathering now. Many of the guys ran to the fence to hold on for dear life. I stood up on an approx. 2 foot high curbed barrier right behind them. The plane taxied towards us and the co-pilot opened his window to wave at us. Everyone excitedly waved back and the plane lined up at the runway with us approx. 75 yards directly behind it. While the plane was just sitting there idling, you could feel the heat coming off the engines! At the other end of this runway were mountains so the plane has to get up to speed quickly and up! The engines started to roar and the blast was quite hard. I thought, well this isn't so bad. Ha! Then they REALLY HIT THE ENGINES! Incredible force of wind and heat hitting us like a tornado! This is where I learned, it wasn't the heat or force that blew most everyone back to the beach, IT WAS THE SANDBLASTING we were getting! Truly incredible and worth the trip! I went back to my shirt and sneakers and found them soaking wet because I did not put them back from the shore far enough! lol DOH! Well, off to find the next taxi and get to Orient Bay Beach where my daughter and friends were! My brother was going to come with me to Maho Beach but his wife talked him into forgoing it even though he was interested in coming. Boy, did he miss out!
I went back to the bar to wring out my shirt and dump my shoes of the water. After I dried off a bit, a taxi arrived and I asked, "How much to Orient Bay Beach?" she said 30 dollars. Wow! It only cost me 6 to get from the port to Maho Beach! I then realized that I was north in the english side and Orient Bay Beach was south of the island in the French part. Ok, well, I won over a hundred at the casino so I thought, no biggie and off we went at about 1:30pm.
Taxi ride clear across St. Maarten and a day at Orient Bay Beach next.
HEADING BY TAXI FROM MAHO BEACH TO ORIENT BAY BEACH,,,
I had a local lady about in her mid 50's as my taxi driver. She was very knowledgeable about the area and loved living on the Island. She was very nice. One of the first thing she said to me was that I was lucky that it was not the busy season right now. I asked her why and she said that during the busy season, I would have found it hard to find a taxi willing to take me, ALONE, clear across the Island as they are all so busy with bus loads of people. Where I come from, summer IS the busy season with everyone vacationing and it never occurred to me that summer was the slow season for the Islands. She drove me to some absolutely gorgeous countryside. in between mountains and explained to me that they have had a more than usual rain fall and this was why everything plant and tree on the Island seemed so lush and green. She said by now, things would be more drab and brown. It was beautiful! After crossing over to the French side, she drove me to the main area of Orient Bay Beach. The beach was lined with shops, restaurants and bars. I had to walk through one of the bar area's where I found an outside table. I sat my shoes on top of one of the tables while wiping my feet from the layered sand that was still covering my feet from Maho Beach. A waiter with a french accent stopped by me and politely asked me to take my shoes off of the table. I had heard of the french being rude but this was NOT the case as I was embarrassed by my negligence and I apologized. He smiled and left. I then got my things together and started to walk on the beach looking for my friends and family.
Uh oh! I never realized that Orient Bay Beach was very long. With so many people here I came to realize that I may never find my party! Well, I started walking on the beach and decided that I would just find a chair ($7 for the day) and relax, have a late lunch, jump in the water a couple of times and then head back to the ship early.
I walked about 50 yards and joila! There was my brother, his wife, my nephew and his girlfriend all in line to parasail! Talk about luck! They were happy to see me and pointed out where they had chairs and that my daughter and my niece were jetskiing. I went to the chairs, took my shirt off, put some SPF on and sat back. About 5 minutes of me sitting there, I noticed a very attractive woman nonchalantly walk by me. I looked, looked away and my neck snapped back to her! SHE WAS TOPLESS!!!
Not that I as a healthy American red blooded single male minded! I just didn't realize Orient Bay Beach was semi nude. I put my sunglasses on and watched the show until I came to realize that there was no upper age restriction. I've never been to a semi nude beach before but I must say, after about, ohhhh,,,, 15 minutes, I was over it. No big deal. My daughter and niece came back to the chairs and were having a blast. My, almost 18 year old, daughter said she too was "over it" concerning half nude women walking around. We decided to go to one of the beachside restaurants to eat a late lunch. I was surprised at the affordability. My medium sized pizza was 10 bucks and the girls had burgers for 6 bucks each. I was thinking they would have been more expensive. My daughter explained to me that she and her cousin were walking further down the beach and it became FULLY NUDE!! Ewwww!!!! lol After eating my daughter found a little t-shirt stand selling St. Maarten t-shirts for 4 bucks each. Great deal even if they weren't of the highest quality. She bought all her friends left back at home a t-shirt. We then went back after our party was done parasailing and played in the water and took in the sights and sun! Great day! It just didn't last long enough since we were supposed to be back onboard by 4pm. Everyone agreed, St. Maarten was the nicest of the 3 we visited! We then took a taxi back to the ship. While walking back to the pier from where the taxi dropped us off, there was a lady giving out free samples of a coconut daquiri that was out of this world! If you go there and see this, definitely get one! Awesome!! Best drink from the whole trip!
BACK ONBOARD FOR NIGHT 5,,,
By now we were in a routine. Get back onboard, I go eat my dinner, we all go to whatever show was being put on at 7pm, then go with family to their dinner for family time and then to the later adult show whatever that might be and wherever it may be held at.
The first show this night was the "Now you see it" magic show that starred some guy that was a contestant on the TV show "America's Got Talent". I'm not a magic fan but the show was good and entertaining. He did the usual stuff, levitating a woman and himself, make a woman disappear and reappear, making himself disappear and reappear etc... Like I said, it was entertaining. Now off to meet the family at their dinner. By this time, my waiter Tyrone knew I was just there to socialize but always asked me if I wanted anything. Each night I explained to him that I ate dinner earlier. He always brought me a little something that he thought was a little special on the menu anyway. That was very nice.
After the dinner, we all went to our rooms and freshened up. We then went to meet at the adult show this night which was "The Quest Adult Game Show". I had no idea what it was about but knew it was MC'd by our Cruise Director Graham Seymour and that was enough for me to make sure not to miss it. Basically it was a big scavenger hunt with the audience as teams and team Captains. We had a young female and young male (both in their 20's) as team captains and they were the ones that were supposed to collect an item that Graham would call out from the audience members, and as fast as they could run, get that item to Graham for points. IT WAS HILARIOUS!! At first it was just common items like a hat or a shoe but then Graham started to get creative. He started asking for things such as a womans bra, underwear, our male captain in full lipstick. The highlight of the evening was for the men captains to put on 5 pieces of woman's clothing including bra and in full makeup and to start prancing around the floor for everyone to see. It was really funny! Our team Captain was a very good sport. Our team got 4th place out of 7 or 8. Very good time. Finished the evening off with bar hopping and a little roulette in the casino. Best day yet but now looking at 2 full days at sea.
Notes: Every show and performance (supposedly) lasted 45 minutes each. By now I am completely familiar with the ship and there was no need to even have to look up where things are. I could feel the ship move now and then especially in the rear of the ship like in the Windjammer and the theaters. They always had the main shows twice a night, one at 7pm and one at 9pm. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were really good. I was mesmerized by a certain thin blond dancer who just absolutely stunning to me. She was so graceful. I was constantly looking for someone with a watch on as I often loss sense of time. The fastest way to the rear of the ship to the front was through the stateroom corridors. You people with the Royal Suites are SPOILED! I was able to sneak a peek a few times when the cleaning ladies would be cleaning. They were beautiful! There was art everywhere! If you had to go 2 flights or less up or down just take the stairs, it's not worth the wait for the elevators. Speaking of the elevators, if I ever would have found the kid/kids who were pushing ALL the elevator buttons at once and then running, I would have rung their necks! Santonio's Pizza on the Royal Promenade could really use more variety (I know, it's free!), I can understand no cellphone use ($$) but no free WiFi? Come on!, The beers cost $4.89 a piece, not that bad really. I found my $3.50 waterproof wallet invaluable! By day 4 my skin was peeling! By day 7 everyone in my party had swollen ankles and feet. The best I could figure so far is lots and lots of salt that northerners are not used to. The most abundant thing on the ship was not booze or water, it was hand sanitizer! I never once met, heard or seen the Captain, not that I really cared, as long as we got around safely. The sheets, blankets and pillows were great! Everything was very clean! I forgot to ask but I was surprised to never see any security personnel with a firearm. There was a comedian that performed for just part of a show but I never saw him again. You can drink the faucet water, it tasted really good. It took me 3 days to find the "Do Not Disturb" card right on the back of my door. Duh! lol You have a phone in your room and all you have to do is dial your parties stateroom number to get them. Those little walkie talkie's don't help much, just my experience.
I was thinking that this was going to be difficult because 2 days on the ship would have me confused but as I think about it. The first day was an "inside" day mostly because we were so burned and water logged from the beach and pool days. The 2nd day was an outside day once again.
We woke up late knowing that there was really no place to go but somewhere in the ship so why the hurry today?!
There really is a ton of stuff to do on the ship and it's all happening all the time. The things that were going on this day that I had absolutely NO interest in was, well, just about everything to be honest. Yes, I am just THAT boring! lol Things they offered were a ton of fitness stuff (Yea, right! lol), cooking lessons, adult scrapbooking (WTH is "adult" scrapbooking? Pasting pictures of nude people? ), movies in the Screening Room (why on earth would I want to watch a movie in a theater on a cruise!?), Trivia (I am not that smart!), Seminar on "How to plump your lips & smooth your wrinkles" (I kid you not! lmao), Bingo (no, I forgot to bring my card dabbers! ), Introduction to Acupuncture and Cellulite Solutions, both separate seminars respectively (ummm,,,, no). The ONLY thing in the morning that I was interested in at all was the $1 and $2 Texas Hold'em cash poker game BUT at 10AM!? Poker is like a whiskey and coke, I can't handle it before 5pm! lol
Well, I just did my own thing pretty much. Walking around the ship, checking things out. Finally walking through the ships stores and people watching. I was alone mainly because the daughter and niece was still in pool and sun mode and my brothers wife had crazy sun burns on her legs and her feet and ankles looked like stumps due to swelling so he stayed in with her to nurse her back to health. I really didn't mind because I knew we would be all together for dinner, the show and the late show. I needed some alone time anyway. At 1pm, I did go out on deck to check out the Men's International Belly Flop Competition hosted by Graham Seymour. I got there just a tad late and Graham had already picked out the contestants and judges. He picked out 4 young and attractive females as judges. By the time the competition was in it's finals, there was 2 big, fat guys left and 1 skinny young and attractive guy left. They performed a belly flop-off for the judges to pick the winner. The smaller of the fat guys did the best overall belly flop in my opinion but who do you think the young girls chose? Yep, the young skinny good looking guy after he was waving his tush in front of them. RIGGED I TELL YA!
I did lunch as usual in the Windjammer. I made it a point to eat with my back to the counters and facing the windows. What a great view! It was a very reflective time, I think I may have come up with a cure for something in my contemplative state but by dessert I forgot. After lunch I forwent learning to make mousse, Latin Line Dancing, a seminar to relieve joint pain, learning to make Thai Beef Salad and a lecture on how to improve my memory (damn! maybe I should've taken that one before lunch! ). I also had no interest in Acupuncture for weight loss, Children's Puppet Show (actually, I may have enjoyed that one!), Pathway to Yoga, and Advanced Napkin Artistry (I mean, I didn't even take Introductory to Napkin Artistry yet!) lol I may have been interested in the "Informal Singles Get-together at the Sky Bar" since I AM single but I stopped by one of those already and found that it's no different than a normal day there since it was Informal and you couldn't tell the single girls from the married ones. Oh well. I just checked out our pictures in the photo shop. Which I swore I would never buy a picture that the company took because it would be a waste of money since I can take my own pictures BUT I broke down and bought a nice one of my daughter and I from the first formal night. Speaking of Formal Night, this was day 6 and our final Formal Night. Before that though, we made the 7pm show this night. It was a Production Show called "Once Upon A Time". It was a great show! I'm not one of those "broadway" loving type guys but this was a great show. Also, my lovely blond dancer was in it! Time for our last formal night and then to see our Cruise Director, Graham Seymour's Standup Comedy Show at 11:15pm. He announced this show a couple of times during other events and shows and made it a point to suggest NO kids. Adults only!
I didn't eat dinner before hand in the Windjammer because this night they were serving lobster and I wanted plenty of THAT action! I had Prime Rib and 2 lobster tails! I found it odd that we had to request drawn butter. Hmmm... It was very good. Then off we went back to our rooms to change out of the stuffy suits and ties and meet back up for Graham's comedy show. I got there in plenty of time to get good seats but as usual, my brother and his wife were dragging a,, I mean,, a little late. By the time they got there, it was STANDING ROOM ONLY! Grrrr!!! Well, we did find 1 seat for his wife and us men stood. I really didn't mind, it was hilarious and a great show. Remember this people, this is the most popular show on the cruise (other than maybe the ICE Show) so get there early for good seats. Graham only does this show once unlike the other shows which usually have 2 showings, one at 7pm and one at 9pm. After the show, my brother and his wife called it a night due to her feet and legs (this woman is only 40!). I sympathized with her though. I then went to see what was going down in the Crypt Disco Dance Club. Most nights there they have a DJ playing dance and techno until very late. As I sat at the bar, I noticed a guy that ran out of money on his Seapass card, he was already pretty drunk and started having words with the staff. He was then cut off and he left in a huff. Cruise ship or local nightclub, the problems are the same I guess. lol I met a chubby slightly older woman that I was not attracted to but was nice to talk to who bought me a shot of tequila. She pretty much let me know she was interested, if you know what I mean. Well, THIS was my chance! My chance to have a crazy story of a wild night on a cruise ship having sex in the Caribbean with someone I have never met and will probably never see again! You know, a "whatever happens in Vegas, stay's in Vegas" type of story!!!
I pictured this moment many times,,, except the girl in the story was in her late 20's, we hit the hot tub first and I was 30 pounds lighter and more drunk!
I went to bed.
DAY 7! LAST DAY ON THE FREEDOM OF THE SEA'S COMING UP!
I honestly thought that it would not go this fast. Amazing! Last night I received luggage tags to disembark and was to have my luggage tagged and outside my door between 7pm-3am. I must have preregistered for luggage tags because I automatically got a 7am tag. Heck no! I was bound and determined to be the last person off of this ship so I went to the service desk and got later luggage tags! Keep in mind that you need to leave out a change of clothes and everything that you may need out of the checked luggage. They also only serve breakfast really early and in one part of the ship. I don't remember because I knew I was not waking up that early.
Anyway, I had 1 more day on the ship to look forward to so we wanted to make the most of it.
Today was a sun and water day! The Cruise Compass looked about the same as yesterday even with the poker game at 10:45am. Wish they would move that to the afternoon. Oh well. All I knew was that they had a big show in the Royal Promenade called Dreamworks Move It! Move It! at 5:45 so we had 6 hours to get re-burned by the sun and get our fill of water at the pool. The last 2 days at the pool were, of course, pretty crowded. Surprisingly enough, we found 3 deck chairs next to each other right near the pool! We enjoyed one more day by on deck 11! I even went to the Windjammer and made me a lunch plate and took it back to my chair by the pool to eat not wanting to waste the sun! It didn't take long for the sun to win our war of who stays out the longest and I went back to my room about 4pm or so. I just relaxed, showered and changed for the show. My party all gathered in the Royal Promenade around 5:30 and people were already lining the "street". The last show we saw in the Royal Promenade was the Britania Rock Show and we stood right in front of Ben & Jerry's and couldn't really see things that well so we knew to stand more near the center of the Promenade this time. THE BEST PLACE TO SEE ROYAL PROMENADE SHOWS ARE RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE "BULL & BEAR PUB" (either side of the "street"). It was basically a very entertaining musical parade with stilt clown walkers, cast and crew in costumes and featuring Dreamworks characters such as Shrek... My favorite part was my blonde dancer muse up on the bridge in a either princess or good witch costume. It was a fun show especially for the kids!
I then went to dinner as usual in the Windjammer and for the first time, everyone in my party came with me. They must have been hungry. We then hurried and made the Farewell Show Spectacular in the Arcadia Theatre all the way across the ship but like I said, by this time we really knew how to get around fast and just shot through the 10 floor stateroom hallways and bam! We were there. Graham Seymour decided he was going to sing a song. We all thought it was going to be some kind of funny song or he was going to make it funny. For the life of me I can't remember what the song was but I do recall it was a serious song and he sang really good! Then the show's comedian came out and he was really funny. His set wasn't very long and I was very surprised he didn't have his own main show on the cruise. This was the first I ever seen or heard of him. Graham rounded out the show with everyone singing and dancing and wishing us all a grand farewell. This is when it really hit you that this was coming to an end. We all made the last dinner in the dining room but we all ate very little. We mainly made it to say farewell to our waiters and staff.
We had every intention to making the late show, "Majority Rules Game Show" in the Pharoahs Palace but for some reason we all decided to hit the hot tub. We gathered some beers and drinks and spent a nice time in the hot tub until around midnight or soand called it a night. After I went back to my room, I figured I'd go make one last stop in the Crypt since I was not planning on waking up early. I only went for about an hour and back to my room. I started to fill out the Customs Card they sent to my room earlier but then decided that I didn't need to since I had nothing to declare. Mistake! Make sure you fill that card out ahead of time. Anyway, I set a wake up call for 9:30am (HA!) and went to bed.
DISEMBARKATION,,, FIRE!!!!! (at least that's what it seemed like).
I will be the first to admit, I am a big grump in the morning. I like things to go nice and quiet for about an hour after I wake up. HA!
My phone rang at about 8am with a real live person cheerfully saying it's time to disembark. I said ok and hung up. Back to sleep. KNOCK! KNOCK! I ignored that. Then I heard knocking on other doors outside. KNOCK! KNOCK! I got up and answered the door. There's a smiling cheerful guy, (I don't know) saying it's time to disembark! Ok, I said and closed the door. Not 2 minutes later RING! RING! My daughter on the phone, "Daddy, where are you? We are in the Windjammer and they called our number!! It's time to go!!!" Good God! I wanted to break something! Instead, I calmly brushed my teeth, got into my clothes (no shower, no coffee), gathered my things and headed one floor up to the Windjammer where my whole party was sitting and waiting. I asked them all, Where's the fire?! My lovely daughter just said that they called our number and her aunt made her call me to leave. Ummm,,,,ok. The staff was nice! Cheerful! Respectful! But they sure as hell was going to get you off that ship!!
After waiting for about 20 minutes, we were lined up near Customs ready to leave the ship. That African American girl I mentioned earlier, the one that was having such a great time at Cuzzin's in St. Thomas, was sitting with her friend in a corded off section of Custom's both crying their heads off. I had no idea why but they were detained for some reason and I wasn't going to ask. We got to the Customs agent and he asked me for the Declarations Card that I decided not to fill out the night before. I told him I had nothing to declare. He said, back of the line and to the desk where they had the cards. Well, evidentally you have to fill one out anyway. As I read the card, it looked to me be filled out only if there's something to declare. There is nowhere on the card that said "nothing to declare".Oh well, I thought. I just put my name in the space and left the rest blank. I got back to the Custom's Agent and handed him the card and we went through. Well, that was pointless I thought. We then went to the baggage area and retrieved our checked luggage. We then had a short walk to where the shuttles and taxi's were and waited for a Thrifty Car Rental shuttle to make it there. No problems except my nephew's girlfriend left her suitcase on the shuttle parking area as we would find out later at our hotel in Orlando. We tracked it down and they were shipping it home to her. lol
All in all, a great experience. Yes, there were bumps here and there but that is to be expected on a first timers cruise. I took it all in stride and had a wonderful time! Hope you all enjoyed it and Happy Cruising!
Thanks for taking the time relive and enjoy it with me!