Royal Carribean - Liberty of the Seas May 9 thru 16, 2010
Unless you've cruised, you can't imagine what it's like, but I'll try to help you understand ... Being pampered and being treated like you're a millionaire is just the tip of the iceberg (hehe, get the Titanic reference?).
Imagine the bluest blue ... to me the color of the sea is unimaginable! I can't describe how awesome it was. Picture the deepest blue sapphire you've ever seen and amplify it by 100, you may be close.
I think each person has a different experience on a cruise. For me, I found a missing piece of my soul in the Ocean. Each day was a new beginning; from the sea breeze in the morning as I watched the sunrise and had breakfast on my private balcony and as I said goodnight to the sea before turning in for the night.
Whether you spend the day exploring the ship's enormity, exploring a new destination, or just relaxing by the pool ... cruising is a whole new experience, which is now my passion. There was a veteran cruiser on our ship; this was his 297th cruise. I don't think I can match that number, even if I start now ... but hey, I can try!
At night, you have the casino, night clubs, shows, hot tubs, ice skating, onboard shopping, swimming, or gazing under the stars, the list is nearly endless.
When you're ready to turn in, you will find that your Stateroom Attendant has turned down your bed, closed your curtains, left you with tomorrow's 'Cruise Compass' (activities available the following day) along with a little surprise; our towels folded into various animals. First night was a dog wearing sunglasses, he transformed each night into a different animal (elephant, lobster, wiener-dog, turtle, penguin) ... what a delight, we couldn't wait to see what the next night would bring.
As you climb into bed you find the softest linens that you can think of, with a huge down comforter & big fluffy pillows to help you dream of tomorrow's adventures. One of my favorite parts was the laziness of "sail days" poolside; it's never too hot because of the breeze, and a little rum punch (or the drink of the day) certainly didn't hurt. There was always some kind of entertainment during the day and night. You can meet for a "seminar" on what islands you'll be visiting; find out what gems are "good buys"; what stores to stay away from because they do not guarantee your purchases. But if you're not buying "top of the line" items you need not worry (I bought a sterling silver ring from a 'stay away from' store and I love it).
So let's start at the beginning; after all the research and the blogs I read about boarding the ship, I expected to have to stand in line for a minimum of 1 hour. We never stood in line longer than 5 minutes, it was so easy!
Once we boarded, we looked for our staterooms, they were not ready for us, but our Stateroom Attendant (Lowell) allowed us to put our carry-on luggage in the room and change into our lighter clothing. We traveled with our 20 & 22 year old sons, their stateroom was not ready and they were told they had to wait. We wondered down to the Windjammer Buffet for lunch. It was early so the crowds weren't horrible, the food was decent and the views were already amazing. As the cruise went on I learned to dislike the Windjammer Buffet, (but my hubby enjoyed it). My dislike was because of the crowds, throughout the cruise if you went into the buffet during normal dining hours (breakfast 10-11, lunch 12-1) it was so busy that you had to search for a table, people were constantly cutting in line or reaching in-front of me. You would stand in line for your food, then inevitably loose your dining partner, then spend the next 10 minutes looking for him as your food cools. I found a solution to that problem ... Room Service & Formal Dining, or eat early.
There are other dining options such as Sorrento's Pizza (free & the kids & hubby loved loved loved it!) or a couple of 'specialty restaurants' - $25 per person fee for an Italian restaurant & a steak house (we didn't try them - didn't need to with the formal dining). There was also Johnny Rockets, the fee was $4.95 per person, but it was well worth it. All the food you want order off the menu, french fries and onion rings delivered as soon as you walk in. Each time a person enters or leaves ... everybody yells hello or good-bye.
We were signed up for Formal Dining at 6:00pm, but you could also have breakfast & lunch in the formal dining rooms (except hubby preferred the buffet for lunch). You can also have Room Service (my breakfast - no fee). I had an awesome balcony and most mornings woke early enough to watch the sunrise as I ate my breakfast ... there is no better way to start off your day.
Our first day was spent hanging out at the pool & exploring the ship. Our first dinner in the Main Dining Room was the first of many (we only missed one and had to fight the Windjammer Buffet crowds).
The second day was an "at sea" day. I got up early and watched the sunrise; it was cloudy but still well worth it. Showered and waited for my breakfast to be delivered & enjoyed it on the balcony. I took a walk on the jogging track on the top deck, but the winds were high and I was afraid of getting blown off the ship (not possible, but it was a good excuse not to exercise), I bailed & went back to my room to sit on the balcony, read a book and enjoy the early morning sunshine - while hubby slept and missed it all.
We later went down to the Windjammer for lunch, explored the ship some-more and hung out poolside. Ahhh, this is the life. I headed up to the spa to have my hair braided and met my hubby in our stateroom to dress for our first formal dinner.
Dinners were always good and included soup, salad and/or shrimp cocktail; main course of filet mignon, New York strip steak, tiger shrimp, mahi mahi, salmon, lobster, there were so many choices (and you could order as much as you wanted)! And then dessert ... they were so sweet to include gluten-free choices for me. Every night I was sent back to my stateroom with an extra dessert that was made especially for me.
We had the boys select an excursion each; one chose the Bob Marley tour in Jamaica, the other chose the All Terrain Xrails to Jade Caverns in Cozumel. We all thought snorkeling was a must (since it's suppose to be the thing to do in Grand Cayman) but my hubby wouldn't be able to see underwater so we picked the semi-submersible boat with ports so he could watch while we snorkeled.
Here are our Island Tours:
Labadee, Haiti ... we chose no activities for this island, just rest and relaxation. It was a beautiful port with an exquisite landscape. We enjoyed a barbecue picnic type buffet, hammocks, beach, and sunshine ... Upon boarding back on the ship, the length of the pier was filled with Haitian relief items (baby diapers, bottled water, drywall, many many other items). It was totally awesome.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica ... we took the Chukka Bob Marley Zion Experience. We rode in a Jamaican country bus through Claremont to the birthplace and tomb of the King of Reggae, Bob Marley. The bus ride was an awesome tour of Jamaican countryside. During the entire tour we rocked to the rhythm of Bob's greatest hits as our driver negotiated the narrow winding country roads to the Mountain Village of Nine Miles. Our guide told tales of the life and times of Bob Marley and how he grew up in the hills of St.Ann. We were able to view some of the culture of the Jamaicans through the mountain roads, their churches, schools, restaurants and homes ... nothing like America. Our tour guide, once in "Nine Miles", was Crazy Charley ... adorned in dreadlocks, the Jamaican accent and his unforgettable laugh will not be soon forgotten. This was an amazing tour. On the way back to port, we stopped at a small street-side resting place for an authentic Jamaican lunch with jerk chicken, jerk pork and rice and beans.
George Town, Grand Cayman ... we chose the Nautilus Undersea Tour & Reef Snorkel excursion. This, too, was a perfect choice that we all were able to enjoy. The Nautilus is a large semi-submersible boat which has ports under the water so you can view the activity under the sea. The tour guide brought us to the famous Cheeseburger Reef where a diver hand-fed the fish in front of our windows. Then we were able to snorkel and view colorful tropical fish first hand, under the sea.
This tour was early in the morning and there were only 2 other people on the tour with us (there are normally 30 people). The guide was able to answer any of our questions, give us more information about the area, and we were able to receive hands-on assistance with snorkeling, since we were all inexperienced. What a great adventure! We were finished before Noon, so we did a little shopping and visited the famous bars: Margaritaville and Senior Frogs before returning to our ship. Man, we had some fun.
Our last and final island was Cozumel, Mexico. For our final excursion we chose All Terrain Xrails to Jade Caverns. After a short transfer from the pier to the El Cedral, we boarded an ATV that seated two passengers. We drove for approximately 45 minutes through the jungle to the Jade Caverns. This was advertised as a "botanical oasis with orchids, vanilla and palm trees". I saw vanilla beans floating in the water in the cavern and palm trees in the "jungle", not so much a botanical oasis with orchids, but it was FUN. Inside the caverns there were stalactite formations. We swam in the caverns' emerald waters, and swam into a dark bat cave that had to be lit up with a flashlight.
We were urged to purchase bandanas to cover our nose & mouths because of the dust. (Well worth the $1/each.) Before entering a mud puddle, we were instructed that a photographer would be taking our picture and we could go as slow or as fast as we wanted to. I had hubby drive fast. We were eating and sitting in mud ... thank God for the bandana, goggles & helmet!
Following our excursion we were so muddy there was no way we could go anywhere other than back to the ship to wash up. We washed up and returned back to the pier for a little souvenir shopping and a cocktail at Senior Frogs - we had another wild time at Senior Frogs. Our nighttime entertainment included a game show where the audience participated in a scavenger hunt type game. It was so much fun.
As the end of our cruise was nearing, we enjoyed our final day at sea, in our favorite location - poolside. We played Bingo for a chance at a free cruise (didn't even come close to winning that!). Dinner service included a 'goodbye' song sung by our waitstaff. We returned to our room to pack as our luggage needed to be outside our staterooms before 11pm. Then went to the casino where it was one son's lucky night and he was able to pocket over $100 before the gaming was over. Hubby and I headed up to bed while the boys stayed up and enjoyed the nightlife until the wee hours. We arose early in the port of Miami and said goodbye to our lovely balcony, stateroom and Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.