Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 7

Where did the week go?  How can seven days speed by so quickly? This has been an AMAZING week for me and my family. I want to finish up with my list of things “not to be missed” for your trip.

The shows!  If I had to pick a favorite, maybe the ice show inched out everything else, but honestly, they were all so good!  Book online and don’t be closed out!

Eat a cupcake!  I tried the triple chocolate, lemon, chocolate with vanilla icing, vanilla with chocolate icing and banana.  I didn’t want to eat them all, but I did it for you guys…research!  They were all very yummy!

Make a photo book! Let the ship photographer take family pictures EVERYWHERE.  Seek them out.  The photo shop sells a great hard cover photo book incorporating those pics with ship interiors. You can edit, add, and delete. The finished product is beautiful and a perfect souvenir of your week onboard.  On day one check out the sample at the photo gallery so you can see what I mean.

Try the zip line!  Nothing to fear!  They do multiple safety checks of your harness. And remember to keep your eyes open!

Be at the 70’s Disco Street Party!   It’s late one night on the Promenade and so much fun!  I loved it on the Voyager class ships.  Now bigger and better, if that’s possible!

Check out the new parades!  But check the Cruise Compass because they’re no longer late night!

Dazzles!  Live music almost every evening and such a lovely place.  This is where hubby and I went every evening after the shows to wind down a bit.

Rendez vous at Central Park!  On a warm evening amid the lighted trees with a glass of wine…how romantic!

Sleep Late!  No need to wake at 7 to reserve a deck chair.  There are plenty!  I found one by a pool every day after I finished breakfast, regardless of the time.

 So much has already been written about the Oasis of the Seas. The purpose of these posts has been to touch on some of the stuff that doesn’t get talked about as much.  I hope I have been able to give you some practical tips to help you plan your own trip.  Have fun!"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 6

Cozumel, Mexico's largest island is nestled just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel itself was a sleepy little fishing community until 1961, when Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas of the world. Today it’s a mix of cosmopolitan restaurants, bars, hotels and shops set amidst astounding natural beauty.  It’s my favorite port of call.  On our last visit we did the excursion to the Mayan ruins at Tulum.  I have actually been there several times because it’s such a fascinating site.  If you want to visit Tulum take one of the several cruise line excursions that are offered as opposed to doing it on your own.  It’s quite a distance and you can include lunch and a beach break to mix up the itinerary a bit.

Since we went to the Mayan ruins at Costa Maya we chose a relaxing day at Passion Island. This too was a Royal Caribbean excursion and you can opt for getting there via catamaran or the Twister speed boat.  We went via catamaran and Alejandro was our “host” for the day, making sure our day on the beach was paradise.  It certainly was. Someone told me that the Coors beer commercial with the couple sitting between the palms was filmed here.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know it was the most beautiful beach I was ever at!  The trip includes full complimentary Mexican Buffet; complete with Mayan barbeque chicken, rice, deliciously grilled fish, salad, fresh vegetables, the guacamole, fresh fruits, sweet breads, chips, salsa, soft drinks, beer, tequila sunrise, rum punch, margaritas and so much more! Absolutely perfect! Returning to the ship with a couple hours to spare we decided to take a cab to the shops at San Miguel.  The cab stand is a three minute walk from the ship and cab fare is $7 for a carload. Finding a cab for the return trip is no problem, as they line the street.

Back on the ship we weren’t up to a second formal night so decided to eat at the Seafood Shack on the Boardwalk. Good decision.  It has an $8.95 per person charge but my goodness; there’s so much food! I was under the impression the entire menu was fried fish but there is so much more and that includes plenty of choices for those that do not eat seafood.  I had a bread bowl of clam chowder, the grilled catch of the day as an entrée, and fruit for dessert… a giant, yummy banana split!  I tasted my family’s food too.  The fried calamari was tender and golden brown, the ribs had a nice tangy barbecue sauce, and the seafood basket for two was huge!   If you have a chance to try the Seafood Shack I don't think you'll be disappointed.  It's a lot of food for lunch but it's a great casual dining option.  Maybe they should consider an a la carte option for those that just want a small lunch."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 5

This afternoon we pulled into the port of Costa Maya. Costa Maya is what Cancun was 25 years ago; a blip on the Yucatan peninsula that the Mexican government plans to eventually develop into the next hot resort area.  Over the past decade or so land has been purchased by private developers who sit back and wait until the government puts the infrastructure  in place and then the metamorphous will begin. For now Costa Maya is nothing more than a pier built to bring tourists in by cruise ship.  The Mayan Pavilion Park was built specifically for cruise line passengers and is a complex of shops, amphitheater, beach with loungers and umbrellas (but no ocean swimming) and a huge pool with a swim up bar. Many cruise line passengers never venture beyond this area! For many others, a port of call is only as good as the variety of excursions it can offer, and there were plenty of options for me to choose from for today’s visit.

 Having already done the “jungle tour and beach break” on a previous cruise, I booked a four hour excursion with a private tour company to Chacchoben.  This is a relatively new archeological site for tourists. It has only been open to the public since 2002.  The first people settled the area of Chacchoben around 1000 BC.  Evidence collected during excavations shows that most of the structures restored were built around 300-360 AD and were modified up to five times during the occupation period. A circular path of the area includes three excavated and restored pyramids, as well as many walls and staircases.  Excavation is continuing on several mounds which are known to contain more buildings.  The site was incredible; massive gray stone temple pyramids set amongst a lush green landscape of palms, banyan trees and draping Spanish moss.  With the right guide a site like this becomes a “live” history lesson!  Even the kids enjoyed it!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 4

People are often surprised to hear that my son still vacations with my husband and myself.  Many have told me that their teens have begged to stay home from about the age of fifteen.  They don’t want to leave their friends for even a week because what would they do?  All I can say is that maybe those people have never taken a Royal Caribbean cruise!  And can you imagine them saying there is nothing to do on the Oasis of the Seas! For starters, the teen version of the Cruise Compass that was left in our stateroom had a fresh new look. This one was for the 15-17 age group and because it looked enticing it was actually looked at.  My niece has been consulting it several times a day and is forever dragging my son here or there for some activity. It all begins the very first evening with a “meet and greet” in the teens designated space, “The Living Room”. What a great way for kids traveling without companions their own age, to find others to hang out with! Each day there is a schedule of events, almost one every hour, that is perfectly age appropriate for this tough to please age group.  Dodgeball, soccer, scavenger hunts, Rockband, ice skating, Flow Rider sessions, rock climbing, pool games…and that’s just a sampling.  Scratch DJ Academy teaches the art of how to DJ and I heard it was pretty popular. There are a few nights when part of the Windjammer is reserved for teen dinners and I think this is a great idea.  I had to make it a rule that we would always dine together as a family, or I was afraid I would never see them for the week!  Every night there is a themed party at Fuel, the teen only night club.  Tonight there’s a pool party that starts at 11pm that my son and niece plan on going to.  That leaves the night free for hubby and me to check out the music at Dazzles.  So far this has been an amazing week for all of us!  Wish you were here!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 3

A day spent at Royal Caribbean’s private paradise, Labadee, is always something my family looks forward to.  Said to have been discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, I don’t quite understand why he would have ever left!  Today it was a hot and steamy day (close to 100 degrees!) perfect for renting a mat ($12 each) and just floating about.  Certain areas of the island have a very rocky entrance to the water so you might want to pack water shoes for the entire family. There are no umbrella rentals, but they do rent cabanas and there is plenty of shade to be found beneath the palms. Get off the ship early and spend the day.  There is no need to return for lunch, as a complimentary BBQ is provided at several spots around the island.  The special island drink, a Labadoozy (not sure exactly how you would spell it), is a delicious concoction; I tasted coconut, papaya, pineapple and of course rum is optional. We shopped at the Artisan’s Market for tye-dyed beach cover-ups, wood carvings, and a painting that will look stunning once I have it framed!  FYI…bring cash to shop here.  It’s the one area you cannot charge to your sea pass.  We finished the day with the kids zipping down the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line ($85 per person).  Participants are transported to the start point 500 feet above the beaches and then glide over 2600 feet of awe-inspiring views. That may have been the highlight of their entire trip! We all had lots of fun today, but the sizzling sun really wiped me out! Something tells me tonight will be an early night!

 Below is a list of other activities available at Labadee:

Dragon Tail Alpine Coaster ($15 for 2 participants)

Kayak Adventure ($38 for 1 ½ hours)

Aquapark ($15 for 1 hour)

Walking Tour ($18 for 1 hour tour, and is quite informative if you enjoy history)

Hydro Highlight Express ($42 for 1 hour tour; this is like a speed boat)

Snorkel Adventure ($79 for 1 ½ hour trip)"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 2

Clients often ask us if it’s permissible to bring a bottle or two of their favorite booze onboard. Our agents reply with the cruise line policy that bringing liquor onboard is not permitted.  Will they really find it?  Will it be confiscated?  I truly didn’t know the answers to these questions…until now.  No, it’s not what you’re thinking!  Yesterday our bags made it to our cabin before we did!  Well, three out of four.  By 5pm the last bag still did not arrive and since it was my husband’s, he was not a happy cruiser! We alerted our cabin steward who immediately stated that if we had “accidently” packed booze or an iron it was probably down with security on deck two. Since we knew that was not the case my husband worried more. Where could it be?  I wasn’t really fazed because on past cruises our bags sometimes showed up as late as 6pm.  Truth be told, I didn’t care at all because it wasn’t my wardrobe that was missing and any excuse to revamp my husband’s closet was truly a blessing in disguise!  “Maybe they think we’re drug smugglers and they’re holding our bag”, he says.  I chuckled at such an absurd joke. “Did you count the pills we had packed?” he continued.  It looked like a pharmacy in my suitcase…men’s multi vitamins, woman’s multi vitamins, iron, calcium, CoQ10, veggie antioxidants, fruit antioxidants, 2 types of fish oil, and a prescription bottle of Lipitor!”  Hmmm…maybe he had a point.  So being a supportive spouse I followed him down to the “holding” room to see if his bag was held up there for some reason.  Well, our bag was not there but there were a staggering number of bags that were!  The room was divided into two sections; those with liquor bottles and those with irons. It should be noted that there was plenty that were labeled both! So in answer to the question, will it be found and confiscated, the answer is YES!  And if anyone is interested, by the time we made it back up to our cabin, the wayward suitcase was outside the cabin door waiting for us!

Last night’s production of Hairspray was amazing!  Very talented cast!  I saw the show on Broadway and have to say this rendition was every bit as good!  My husband said it was better, but he’s just saying that because it was shorter!  I have to say, plan ahead and book your tickets online instead of waiting until you board. You wouldn’t want to be disappointed if you could not get in to see it.  I pre-booked all my shows and My Time dining times.  They scan your Sea Pass card as you enter the theater instead of picking up tickets. Everything has gotten so high tech!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 1

When I was making our travel plans for this trip, almost a year ago, I was undecided as to whether we should fly in the day before.  If this was a winter trip I would not have hesitated but what was the chance of a hurricane in August?  Caution won out and we arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day early.  There are so many inexpensive, hotels available in the area that are convenient to both the airport and Port Everglades.  The one we stayed at included complimentary shuttle from the airport to hotel, hotel to ship and even breakfast in the morning. Best of all, the bathroom was immaculate!  All for under $100 for the night!  I would definitely recommend going in the night before as the small additional expense was worth not having to stress about flight delays and not having to wake up and begin traveling at some ungodly hour!

We were at the pier by 11am but couldn’t board until 12:00.  First on the “to do” list was rent the specially programmed iPhones for onboard use.  Wow, this phone is incredible!  I can’t believe that every cruise line out there hasn’t copied this idea! Not only does $17 per phone per week buy peace of mind in being able to track and contact friends and family, but it’s priceless when traveling with teenagers!  The front screen menu has options to “make a call”, “chat” (text) “guest finder” (tracks the location of the contacts you have in your phone) and “cruise compass” (the ship’s activity list).  As I sit in the quiet of the Solarium typing this, I occasionally take a peek to see where the “kids” are roaming or send a quick message to touch base.  This gadget makes the 2-way radios we used to travel with seem like dinosaurs!  You’ve got to try it. 

We had lunch at the Park Café on Central Park.  It’s the first time in 14 Royal Caribbean cruises that we haven’t had a Windjammer lunch!  I was dying to try the hot roast beef sandwich (with a bit of horseradish, please) and I’m so glad I did!  My husband loved the salad bar where you select the fixings and it’s tossed for you fresh.  The Panini list was better than the deli at home…turkey & avocado, vegetarian multigrain, tuna melt with muenster and Parma ham, brie & arugula! They had flavored water; sort of like those crystal lite drinks, or the old stand bys of lemonade and iced tea.  Desserts  too.  I hear the café serves a good breakfast so I’ll check that out later in the week.

Off to dinner and a show.  Don’t wait up.  There’s lots going on here and I don’t want to miss a thing.  See you tomorrow!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting Reacquainted With Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas….never before has a cruise ship debuted under such a spot light!  And rightly so.  She would be the largest cruise ship in the world, a floating metropolis to be sure!  Distinct neighborhoods were planned in order to encompass all the exciting innovation the designers wanted to include. I was onboard along with other travel agents in late November for a 24 hour whirlwind tour. Afterwards, endless reviews were written, dozens of pictures were posted, and thumbs up were given by one and all! Fast forward nine months later and here I am, sitting at the airport with my family, getting ready to depart for Fort Lauderdale.  Beginning tomorrow I will have the opportunity to get reacquainted with the Oasis at a slower pace, and discover all I missed on my first brief visit. I’ll be joined by my husband, seventeen year old son, and my seventeen year old first time cruiser niece.  I’d love for you to come along too…vicariously if it’s too late for you to catch a flight!  Each day I hope to post from the ship, (if the internet connection will cooperate), in order to give you a glimpse of the less talked about aspects of the ship and share with you my adventures onboard. Oh, they’re calling my flight…see you tomorrow aboard the Oasis of the Seas!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Art Tours on iPads

I’ve never really had an “eye” for art.  Oh, I can certainly appreciate a pretty picture; when my son was little my refrigerator was covered with them! But I have to confess that I’m absolutely baffled when I hear about million dollar bidding wars for a particular artist’s work! It also came as a surprise to me to learn that cruise lines spend exorbitant dollars for the art work aboard their ships; paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography, with some pieces specifically commissioned for a particular area onboard.

 With more than 14,000 works of original, contemporary art on its three Solstice Class ships alone, Celebrity Cruise Line is the holder of one of the world’s largest corporate collections of contemporary art.  Pair that with Apple technology and what do you get?  The first self-guided art tours on an iPad, at sea!  Exclusively on Solstice class ships, the iPads are programmed with the ship’s deck plans and select works of art are highlighted.  A guest simply touches the screen to learn more about the piece.  Full details including the title of the work, artists name, medium used, description and image are presented.

 This is a natural extension of the way Celebrity as been utilizing Apple technology and adding to the already extensive “Celebrity Life” program.  Earlier this year Celebrity introduced its Celebrity iLounge where certified staff presents a variety of courses on Apple product usage.   Also, the Celebrity Equinox’s specialty restaurant Qsine features a menu and wine list on an iPad. Guests that had the opportunity to dine at Qsine positively received the concept. The iPad art tour is yet another way guests can experience the latest in technology in an entertaining and enriching way."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

“Epicurean Discovery”

Food is your passion!  You demand great tasting meals prepared with the freshest ingredients. Cumin, cardamom, cilantro, coriander…I don’t know the difference but I bet you do!  Maybe you like to cook or maybe you just like to eat, but nevertheless, you love thumbing through a cookbook.  Food Network is your favorite station and nothing quite compares to the excitement of Iron Chef.  You, my friend are a “foodie”, and do I have a cruise for you!

 Royal Caribbean’s “Epicurean Discovery”, hosted aboard Freedom of the Seas, is a series of twelve Caribbean cruises dedicated to gastronomes like you.  Restricted to guests booking suite accommodations or higher, these are seven night cruises dedicated to cuisine and fine dining. Each sailing will have a renowned celebrity chef onboard for a variety of special events. Guests will be able to participate in exclusive culinary experiences such as a Q & A session, tapas & cocktail reception, and a private dinner with a celebrity chef.  Be a part of special wine tasting events, lectures and even a private galley tour. 

If you have an ardent interest in all things food related you would definitely want to be aboard Freedom of the Seas for one of these “Epicurean Discovery” cruises.  Sailings depart Port Canaveral, Florida on 9/19, 10/3, 10/17, 10/31, 11/7, 11/14, 12/5, 12/12, 1 /2, 1/9, 2/6 and 2/20.  Best of all, this unique experience is just one small part of all that is available on the incredible Freedom of the Sea!"