Freedom of the Seas Cruise Review by wolfganghowell: Ok - it's LONG but should have lots of info
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Ok - it's LONG but should have lots of info
JUST THE FACTS MA'AM: DINKS. First cruise as Diamond Plus. Age irrelevant as it does not match maturity level on cruises.
PRECRUISE: Flew in Saturday. Did Snooze & Cruise with Courtyard. Worked well - mostly. Explanation to come.* Waited about 10 minutes for Travelynx. Courtyard was fine, simple, easy, convenient. Met our buddies and spent dinner time at Fishlips. Very nice night. Fairly early to bed. We requested a 10:30 shuttle but it was delayed in traffic. So they put us on the 11 am bus. Shuttle showed but since we were on bus and luggage loaded we were trapped. *Hindsight, had the 10:30 shuttle worked, we probably would have been further up in the Evil Line. Arrived at port around 11:30 ish. Computers down - sea pass issues. two long hours later, we are boarded. As usual, port personnel not the greatest about communicating what the heck is going on.
CHECK IN/FIRST DAY: Quick and painless. But GLITCH. We had linked our reservations with our friends for dining. We met 4 More
cruises ago as tablemates and have linked ever since. Every single time, Royal manages to screw it up. This time was the WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER. We checked online pre-cruise that we were linked - both of us saw it with our very own eyes. So you can imagine the reaction when we see that we are at table 306 and they are at table 307! COME ON ROYAL - HOW HARD IS THIS? I truly understand boo boos but when you SEE IT and they still get it wrong for the third freaking time!! ACK! So we stomp to the maitre'd who fixes it. He was probably afraid of my red hair bursting into flame from the look I gave him. Lunch in the Windjammer - same old same old. Food was fine - no surprises. Honey stung chicken freshest I've had. This is usually the only Jammer meal we do. However, we had dinner in there on St Thomas night - more on that later. Rooms open at 1:30. SCORE! Luggage is already there. We unpack quickly - priorities people. We have pinacoladas to drink. Pool Bar - mustard drill - Pool Bar. We end up at a Solarium table by the time Sailaway comes since Pool Bar was packed.
The evening is kind of a blur. NOT because of pinacoladas. Just can't separate it too much from the other nights. Predinner in Concierge Lounge. More on CL and Willie later - all good. Our waiter Raymond and assistant, "I never got his name and was too blind to read his nametag but he was awesome". He had been promoted to waiter, but didn't like fighting with the chefs so he went back to being an assistant. So we reaped the benefits of having an overqualified assistant! They were both outstanding. Since our table for 6 seated 4 comfortably, we asked if they could find a bigger table for us. We had gone through this before so we knew it was possible. Not only did they make it happen, but we found out that they switched out tables every single night for us between seatings (we had late seating.) Now THAT is service. Plus Mr Wolf tends to eat like well, a wolf, some nights. We hopefully showed our appreciation both vocally and financially. Post dinner, we hung out at Bolero's, taking turns salsa dancing. It wasn't a late night since we were doing CocoCay the next day.
To be continued....Next up: CocoCay. Still to come: The Adventure of the Snorkel Bag left on the taxi in St Thomas and Yes We Got a Tour of the Bridge!!! Added Bonus: Too many jokes to mention regarding the Cruise That Came Next. No we will not stay on next week even if you pay us!
DAY TWO - COCOCAY
We stayed in a Grand Suite. We blame our friends since we used to do Junior Suite but they do GS. We had exactly one cruise in the Concierge Lounge as Diamonds before we got the boot. So we took the leap and now are very spoiled by the perks. In addition to a bathroom that you both can actually use at once, there are lots of special ways to be spoiled. One is the expanded room service menu. So we had breakfast on the large balcony which also forced us to get up. Note - we were in 1268, just aft of the cantilevered hot tubs. Good location and we had a tad deeper balcony because we were on a curve. We had a nice table with 2 chairs and 2 loungers which could go lengthwise. Brian was our Suite Attendant - he was OUTSTANDING. Loads of fun, took great care of us. We sat around talking and laughing the first day with our friends.
After breakfast (average - only time we did room service), we loaded up for CocoCay and went to the Concierge Lounge so Willie could get us on one of those lovely priority tenders. Regarding this - Willie and I had emailed a few times the week before the cruise since we wanted to reserve a cabana. He arranged it, promptly sent me a confirmation. The day before the cruise, he emailed me that he had just been told the cabanas were damaged by Sandy and would not be available. We conferred with the friends and got two cabanettes (clamshells). We were going ahead and having our friends meet us on the beach. Willie walked us down - actually he put a magic card in the elevator which took us straight to deck one and we stood in a corner until we were told to blend in with the line. I'm sure the "line" adored us for it. Tendering was well...tendering. We then took a tram to our beach.
Once we saw the cabana location and then saw Barefoot Beach where the cabanettes were, we were very pleased that things turned out the way they did. Plus we saved $150! The cabana was $200, cabanette was $50. It came with bottled water, a fruit plate, 2 floaties and an uncrowded beach and bar. Linda, the local who worked the area, was delightful. Coco Locos and buckets of beer on a quiet beach - yippee. The water was cold! Murky and lots of seaweed - thank you Sandy, you hag. Eventually we dragged our carcasses up and walked over to the main area where lunch was served - amidst hordes of people. Standard bar b q fare. We ate and then walked back to our little slice of heaven. So very glad we had Barefoot. We enjoyed ourselves. As it came close to be time to go, I told myself it was required to get in the water. You see, our previous cruise in November 2011, the weather was so cold we never got in the water the entire week. I was determined this would not repeat. So I ventured out on the floatie, the initial 5 -10 seconds had some bad words in my head but once I was in, it was ok. However, the water was full of crud and I had heard some kids earlier shriek about jelly fish so I lounged on the floatie for about 15 minutes until I was satisfied I had indeed been in the Caribbean! Tendering back was easy and it was time to change for formal night. We enjoyed Concierge Lounge time and a lovely dinner. Escargot every night made me very happy! I will be living on salads for the next 3 months as penance. We changed into clothes we could breathe in and met up in the Schooner Lounge to experience Kory Simon. Much fun was had - he has a great energy and even though you know he does this week after week, month after month, year after year, he makes you believe he is enjoying it just as much as you.
NEXT UP - SEA DAY NUMERO UNO, or as we may call it. The only HOT sea day we had.
As I just mentioned Willie was great about the cabanas and the priority tendering. He was always friendly without being intrusive. He does go by the rules so don't think you can get friends or family in the CL. He was gracious when we heard people ask but it wasn't going to happen. We had late dinner and most everyone could take their "last" drink with them when leaving for dinner. He did play guitar and sing for about half an hour on Friday and Saturday. We enjoyed it. Had it gone on for a long time, perhaps not. But it was brief and a nice change of pace. Christopher our bartender was great. However they rotate the bartenders so everyone will get someone new.
Willie also did our luggage valet service for us and arranged a bridge tour. We also had a nice cocktail hour one night in Vintages with the senior officers that was just for suite guests. We enjoyed speaking with the Hotel Director and the Staff Captain there.
Diamond Lounge - not much to tell. I was not overly impressed with the glimpses we saw. NOTHING against Bertie. In fact, I thought he seemed quite nice. When we got back from Coco, we wandered for awhile and wanted to look in there. It was about 4:15 and we were still in beach clothes. We looked in and Bertie met us quickly. He was very apologetic but asked us to not stay since it was approaching 4:30 and the early seating people in formal attire were arriving and it might upset them. I could tell he hated saying something so we assured him we completely understood, that we were just taking a look see and weren't staying. He handled himself very well and we were not offended. We made 2 short attempts again but it was way too crowded and sorry, it looked like the waiting room at a retirement home. For those who are too young to be retired, we probably didn't see you so don't hate me. One time we turned around outside the elevator because there was a horde of octogenarians ahead of us. The second time, we got to the door and watched as a gentleman in his 70's grabbed the door as it was closing and "snuck in" with an inappropriate smirk of glee on his face. Evidently, he was sneaking in and was quite pleased with himself. The place was packed with nowhere to sit so we escaped to the relative tranquility of the CL.
ps - yes I know we will be octogenarians someday. Sooner rather than later.
DAY THREE - SEA DAY
This was the first cruise that we did not have a sea day on Monday. This tended to throw me off all week and maybe contributed to me feeling this was the fastest cruise ever. I understand the itinerary but have to admit I truly enjoy having that first day at sea. We ate breakfast in the Suite area aka Portofino. This was another perk that we loved and definitely utilized. Mr Wolf had eggs benedict and I had one of the best omelettes EVER. Then it was time to start the Cruise Book. One of my fave sea day rituals is to spend a few hours in the morning in the Solarium reading. This was no exception. Got there around 9 am and it was a bit challenging to find a lounge but I did. The Chair Hogs were plentiful both here and the main pool today. We did some lounging with the afternoon including more lounging, keeping the pool bartenders occupied, lounging and a vicious game of Phase 10. The evening consisted of Concierge Lounge, a good dinner, Schooner moment, Quest, another Schooner moment and Mr Wolf sneaking away to the casino.
DAY FOUR - ST THOMAS
We had planned the perfect day. With an 11 am arrival, scheduling was key. We planned on taking a taxi to Sapphire Beach, hang for awhile, then head to Paradise Point to get bushwhacked. But you know what happens to best laid plans. All started out well. We had snorkeling gear and beach bag. We got a shared cab to Sapphire Beach. We had never been but I researched. This was a great choice (if I do say so myself and my 3 amigos agreed so I don't have to pat myself on the back alone). It was lovely, uncrowded, not too touristy, gorgeous water with perfect temp. We got 2 chairs under a tree for shade, swam, frolicked, snorkeled, admired the iguanas and ducks that shared the beach with us, drank a bucket of beer and after about 3 hours went to get our cab back to Paradise Point. We had arranged a pick up with the driver, Richie. Richie was not the most personable guy but he seemed responsible. He was there and off we went to the Point. After dropping us, we went to get our tram tickets. WTH? It was closed for maintenance. NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! We had been dreaming of getting BUSHWHACKED for months!!!! MONTHS! Ok, I'm over it. I just refuse to let anything spoil a cruise for longer than 2 minutes. Plan B. We will go to Senor Frogs at the pier. Ah - but wait. Where was the second snorkeling bag???? Yep - on Richie's taxi. EGADS!
Well, I don't let things throw me. Can't say the same for Mr Wolf who starts obsessing. It's solution time. I remark that we can find the taxi dispatcher, we know it was a white shuttle van taxi and the driver was Richie. We will have him bring it back since it was 3 hours before departure and he will most likely have a fare back to the port anyway. I am pleased with the solution. We walk to the taxi area, find a cabbie who calls and locates Richie. Mr Wolf gets on the phone with him and explains the situation. Richie is not a happy camper - says he is at the airport and doesn't want to come back to the port. But he made the mistake of telling us it WAS on the cab. How can he refuse now? Mr Wolf says we will be at Senor Frogs for 2 hours and will watch for him. Apparently, Richie is not willing or able to pick up a fare but just brings the bag back in about 20 minutes. He refuses to speak or look at Mr Wolf and friend. They tip him for bringing it back. Had he not been such a meanie
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