I know it’s been a while since my last post but I’m pleased to be back and now have lots of travel tales to fill your adventurous souls with!
About a month ago Sanjay and I went on our first cruise! Through the eastern Caribbean on board Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. This ship is seriously huge, the photos don’t reflect how big it actually is…
A few facts about the ship:
- Guest capacity of approx. 4500 and also houses 1500 crew
- 15 passenger decks
- 1817 staterooms
- 3 main dining rooms
- 10 pools including an adults only pools
I read a few cruise horror stories leading up to ours so was feeling a little apprehensive about potentially being struck down by gastro and the likes and not to mention my motion sickness…but it’s not every day that I get the chance to cruise through the Caribbean for seven nights so I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass me by!
The first day started at 4pm when the ship set sail from Port Canaveral near Orlando. The check in process was smooth and hassle free, this could’ve been because we checked in reasonably late and after the masses (we decided to visit the Kennedy Space Centre that morning).
We were quite eager to checkout our cabin (which was on the 8th floor), so made our way through what seemed like an endless narrow corridor to it. The room was reasonably spacious with a king bed, it was clean and tidy, the bathroom was as big or as small as we’d expected and best part a balcony with a gorgeous view of the ocean 🙂
I have to say that it was pretty much chaos for a couple of hours after we’d got on board, there were people everywhere, checking out the ship, in the pools, waiting in line at guest services and of course eating… I guess if we’d checked in earlier perhaps it wouldn’t have been as mental!
Deck four was where it was at that afternoon, the Promenade, imagine a mini Las Vegas strip with the neon lights but instead of casinos, it’s lined with eateries and shops and a faint smell of chlorine from all the people coming back from the pools.
After the first days dust had settled, there was a planned emergency evacuation familiarisation to ensure all guests knew what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency – I was quite stunned by how people just dawdled to the mustering stations, stopping to try and get snacks and drinks along the way…I certainly hope they react differently if they’re ever in an actual emergency situation!
I made sure to take my sealegs prior to getting on the ship and it was so far so good, I didn’t actually get sick at all. I did however feel a bit strange, I had a heavy feeling in my head and also felt as if I was being pulled in one direction. This went on into the evening but after a few drinks during a hilarious evening I stopped noticing it and it was gone the next day. I think it was just my body getting used to being on the water, I didn’t stop taking sealegs morning and night though…Just in case!
We had read that the dining rooms are chaos on the first night so had pre-booked a murder mystery dinner package. We had the best night, the entertainment was hilarious, we had a lovely three course meal and the company was great. It was the day after my birthday and our table found out (Sanjay decided to tell everyone) and they insisted on making it known to the entire restaurant, which of course meant everyone singing to me (it never gets any less embarrassing) but it meant I got a delicious chocolate mousse cake for dessert 🙂
We tendered on three days of our cruise, stopping at Coco Cay (which is an island owned by Royal Caribbean) St Thomas which is part of the US Virgin Islands and St Maarten.
The great thing about cruising is that you get a taste of multiple destinations in short amount of time the bad thing however is that it really is only a taste…The longest amount of time we tendered was 7 hours and that isn’t enough to truly experience any destination and what it has to offer.
Keep that in mind when booking a cruise, you should be doing it for the cruise experience over the places you will visit along the way. Some people won’t even get off the ship when it tenders, instead they’ll make the most of the ships amenities while everyone’s off exploring. (The travel addict in me would never allow me to do that though!)
The sea days are just that, days where you’re at sea and don’t stop anywhere. If you think you’re going to run out of things to do…think again! Every night your room attendant will leave a cruise compass in your cabin (as well as cute towel animals), this has all of the next day’s activities listed on it, in time order. This is on top of the ships usual amenities such as the 10 pools, flow rider, rock climbing wall, golf course, outdoor movie theatre (you can sit in one of the hot tubs and watch if you like), ice skating rink, jogging track (yes I did get up early and use it) a casino, an art gallery and a whole lot more!
A typical sea day for us consisted of waking up and watching the sunrise – the captain would announce the sunrise time the night before. Sometimes if weren’t feeling overly lazy we’d go and use the jogging track before breakfast. Breakfast was served the dining room (a la carte) and also offered some basic buffet options such as cereal and toast etc and at the Wind Jammer which is the ship’s buffet restaurant, we tried both places but preferred the dining room as we thought the food was better.
After breakfast there was always a plethora of activities to keep us entertained, I did Zumba, tried Salsa dancing, we explored the boat, Sanjay went rock climbing and tried the wave rider (I just watched!) we basked in the sun, went swimming, watched contests such as Mr Freedom of the Seas and the guests VS the crew pool volleyball match, decorated cupcakes (not very well!), made our own soft serve ice cream and of course we’d have lunch in between all of that!
Again, we chose to eat in the dining room, which is grand to put it plainly, with lush carpet, velvet chairs and beautiful chandeliers. It’s la carte and they also have salad and pasta bars available, lunch is three courses including dessert 🙂
After an afternoon of lounging around in the sun and eating, dinner time would roll around quite quickly. We had dinner at the same time each night, (this was pre-booked) so we had a guaranteed table when we turned up each night.
There are formal nights on board where you should dress up for dinner, there were two on our cruise. We weren’t sure on the extent of formal, so we didn’t go too hard out – I wore a semi formal dress on the first evening and a nice skirt and top on the second, Sanjay wore a shirt and some dress trousers. While some people dressed to the nines, tuxedos and ball gowns others didn’t really bother, so we didn’t feel over or under dressed at all!
Normally you will have the same waiter and server each night, this is awesome because they get to know you and vice versa and they remember your drink and bread preferences which is really lovely too! Dinner is three courses but you can basically eat as much as you want, we ordered four desserts one night and convinced the mother daughter duo sitting next to us to do the same!
Drinks are not included in the price you pay. You have the option of charging to your cabin and paying on checkout or purchasing a drinks package, this is best done prior to your cruise as it’s cheaper, which is what we did. Sanjay and I aren’t really big drinkers so just purchased one beverage package which included unlimited bottles of water, soft drink, juice and coffees (or chai tea lattes in my case) from the Starbucks on the Prominade. It also gave us a giant fountain soda cup, so whenever we felt like a soft drink, we could just take the cup and help ourselves at one of the many Coke machines located throughout the ship (refill as many times as you like).
Note: There are various packages you can purchase prior to your cruise including internet, onshore excursions and speciality dining, so you’ll pay an extra fee to eat at one of the restaurants that are not included in your cruise ticket.
There is always something to do no matter what hour it is, after dinner entertainment includes, karaoke, the casino, movies, shows, quizzes and of course you can hang out at one of the many bars. The adult only quizzes are usually hilarious and they really are “adults only” if I child happens to walk past you’ll be making “ca-caw” sounds to warn the rest of the group and that itself is worth seeing!
So in conclusion… I think a cruise is something you should definitely experience at least once, the boat itself is its own destination, a tiny city full of things to see and do! You’ll meet some interesting characters and some genuinely lovely people and you can eat as much as you want, whenever you want!!! You’ll take away some fantastic memories and a few extra kilos from all the eating too! 🙂
Happy Travels, Priti X