Posted August 1st, 2010, 12:23 AM
Embarkation Day (Saturday, July 24th)
Saturday morning we got up at 9am and got packed up for our cruise. We left the hotel at 10:30 after waiting 15 minutes for an elevator that wasn’t full to come by our floor. Keep in mind that the hotels will be full of cruisers, all heading out at the same time so it seems. Be patient. It was already hot in Miami, and when we got down to the moto-port where the bellman and cars came in it only took us 5 minutes to get a van-cab for the 5 of us. By 10:45 (and about $9 plus tip later) we arrived in front of terminal B/C. The porters are all lined up on a long concrete island about 50 feet in front of the terminal, and they directed our cab to a certain spot and immediately opened the doors to let us out, and also grabbed our 3 suitcases out of the back. After a short “interview” about things like passports, making sure the bags are unlocked, etc., I handed them a $10 tip and walked across the street to the terminal. At this point the curb was about half full, and there were plenty of racks full of luggage that they were rolling over to the terminal. A guard at the entrance of the terminal checked to make sure we had a ticket and passports, and then we went into a security checkpoint. The checkpoint is just like an airport, but a little more laid back. Same rules (no liquids, no metals on you, etc.), but the personnel were very friendly. Once through security we headed into a larger area where we were greeted by a cruise representative that handed each adult a health questionnaire that asked if you had any recent illness, etc. You needed to answer for your kids too, and sign the form. We then walked up to the empty check-in counter (have I mentioned that there were no lines yet?) and pulled out our ticket and passports for check-in. Of course we couldn’t make it easy on them. I asked if we could check in my son who was with us but registered to my parent’s room. Since we had the same last name and my son was there, with ID, it wasn’t a problem. He got his key for his room (14024) and the other 4 of us got keys for our room (14022). By the way, I’m convinced these are the best BA cabins on the ship, but more on that later. J The check-in took about 10 minutes as he checked the IDs, took pictures, registered my credit card, and produced the cards. We then walked past the counter and went up an escalator to a larger waiting area. By then it was maybe 11:15. There were several hundred people waiting patiently in this large seating area, and they had a station with water and OJ available. There was a VIP lounge for suite passengers, but since I was common folks I didn’t go in there. J At just about noon the first passengers boarded…the “VIPs”. Within 20 minutes we were on board, with the only bottleneck being where they wanted to route everybody through a couple of picture stations. My father, who we will call “mister patient”, complained that he didn’t want a picture and wanted to go through. They let me, but they seemed confused. He was proud of his small victory. J Our rooms were not ready yet so we toured around the ship, stopping for lunch at the grill above Spice H2O. It’s open to the public and it wasn’t crowded at all. It was hot out on the deck, but a cold beer with lunch made it ok. After lunch we signed the kids in at Recess and the teen club so we go that out of the way. We then took a tour of the Spa and the gym, and HOLY CRAP THESE PLACES ARE HUGE. Lol! My wife, who works out every day for at least 2 hours, decided that she didn’t need a room, she would just stay in the spa/gym all day. Hahaha. Well, I talked her out of that, but we did sign up for the couple’s spa pass. It’s $119 per person, or $199 per couple. They set a limit of 60 couples passes, and we found lat later they sold out by evening. At this point the water slides and pools were open, so the kids changed into swim suits (we carried them on) and headed for the pools. On the way we stopped at the Spider Web on the pool deck, and the kids all had a blast in it. My 15 year old was a complete monkey, scaling to the top a couple of times. It was hard work because all of the interior cords were giant bungees! Funny to watch the kids. My 13 year old sports freak was on the basketball court in minutes and shot for a while. Finally we got them to the pool deck for some wet fun. We DID notice that the pool water was FRESH, but probably only since we were in port. My guess is that it will be salt on sea days, but we will find out later.
Around 2pm they announced that all the rooms were ready for occupancy, and when we got up to 14022 our luggage was out front..sorta. You have to hunt around for the bags. We had 3 large samsonite suitcases in school-bus yellow, which is the ONLY color luggage to have when you’re trying to find them among a million black bags that all look alike. The hallways are narrow and a strange shape. Even without suitcases in the hall they are too narrow for two people to pass each other. With bags in the hall it was crazy. The hallway walls are flat opposite the cabin doors, but wavy on the cabin side. The doors are in the indent, and the bulge part of the wave provide easy access to the plumbing & AC behind each cabin toilet area. If you walk down the hall and someone is coming the opposite way, one of you will step into the indent to let the other pass. Not a pain, but narrower than my last couple of ships.
Now for information on the room
My first impression when I walked into my room was “HOLY CRIPES this is small”. Well, it is, but first impressions can be deceiving. They’re small, but very efficient. Once you get the hang of them and discover all of the unique attributes of the room, I actually grew to like them quite a bit. However, I WOULD recommend the deluxe family stateroom for the extra room. We had 11 people in three rooms, and it did get a bit crowded sometimes. We did this because we wanted a couple of connectors, but in hindsight this wasn’t necessary. In fact, I would recommend against connecting rooms because the connecting doors take some of your space away. For the rooms with bed by the balcony (the layout I’d prefer, but my parents have), there are shelves on the size of the closet that fold out over the connector door if you want. We left it down so we could go between rooms. If you don’t have connectors, you get another closet! We could have used an extra closet. J Why don’t you need connectors? Well, because you can open the balcony dividers! We were able to do it ourselves (yes, we are MacGuyvers), but your steward could do this too. We leave our balcony doors unlocked, and the 11 of us move freely between cabins using the balconies. I HIGHLY recommend this approach to connecting rooms instead of losing the storage space with connecting rooms. However, we made it work. The rules are simple too. If the curtains to the balcony are closed, you don’t go in. Works out great!
So, here’s what you need to know about the rooms. First, there is storage everywhere. Anywhere it looks like there might be space, pull on the front panel and it likely opens. After my initial panic of “where the heck are we going to put all our stuff?” we found a spot for everything, and it’s not even cluttered. There is a huge area under the bed for suitcases, plus all kinds of cubbies. I’ll give a rundown of those in a second. Each room also has a mini-fridge loaded with expensive mini-bar stuff. It’s tempting for kids, so my brother decided to have his emptied by his steward so he can use the space. The rooms also come with a tray with coffee-maker and ice bucket, and we stowed ours away underneath to give us more counter space. My brother had the steward remove his from the room. Each room has a 27” flat screen, a blow dryer, a touch screen phone, LED reading light next to the bed, and lots and lots of lighting options. The switch for the sink light is under the medicine cabinet. Otherwise you should be able to find the rest easily. There is an electrical outlet for razors in the medicine cabinet, and another outlet next to the stool and across from the hair dryer. It’s only 2 plugs (the coffee maker is using one of them), so you might want to bring a power strip for back there.
Here are some of the storage areas that might not be evident. First of all, you probably know there’s lots of storage behind and under the couch. In front of the couch you will find the only two drawers in the room. We used those for my son’s and daughter’s clothes. There’s also storage behind the back rests. We used that for all of our carry-on backpacks. The other “secret” place is in the ceiling unit above the bed. The first ¾ of this encased unit is for the A/C ductwork. However, the panels closest to the sliding balcony door open up for more storage. It’s deeper in the room with the bed by the balcony, but they both have it. It’s hard to open, but don’t give up if you need the space. By the sink there’s a small drawer that we’ve used for vitamins and medications, and underneath the sink is a multi-purpose plastic bin with a metal canister inside. We are using the bin for dirty laundry and the canister for trash. There are a lot of hangers in the closet, and like I said, almost every panel pulls open and has space behind it, even where the outlets are. You can pull that panel open too. You can also store things on various shelves, like on top of the TV. The medicine cabinet is huge and you can put lots of things inside. It also has water glasses in there, which is added convenience. Again, be creative and you’ll find a home for all your stuff.
A couple other observations. It’s easy to keep the sink from splashing. Just don’t turn the water on all the way. We have no issue at all with the sink. It’s shallow, but we’ve not experience “flooding” issues at all. You just need to be careful. The toilet area has a small trashcan inside, and the flush is very loud (airplane suction toilet loud). We don’t flush pee in the middle of the night. J The shower is awesome. Lots of space and great water pressure. The temperature fluctuates a bit, but not too bad. There’s also a line in there to hang wet clothes. They provide shower gel and shampoo in a dispenser, but if you need conditioner or want a bar of soap you’ll have to bring your own (or buy conditioner on board..but I didn’t see bar soap). Both the toilet and shower have air vents that run all the time. We’ve not had ANY steam or smell issues in the room due to the fan/vents. It’s unanimous from our group…we love the bathrooms! We don’t care about sound effects from the commode, and with the separate units we basically have 3 toilets, 3 showers, 3 sinks and 3 changing areas for the 11 of us. We can all be doing something different instead of all trying to share 3 bathrooms. Love it. Hmm..what else about the room. On the outside where your room number is there is a wheel that you can change between Welcome, Do Not Disturb, Please Make up Room, and Please Turn Down Room. That’s convenient. Your cabin steward won’t even knock if it says not to disturb. The A/C works great, but when it’s hot outside you can blow all of the cold air out at once if you open the cabin door and balcony door at the same time. You’ll get a 50mph suction gust that will take hours to recover from. J The ship has only a handful of channels, but all are commercial free. They have BBC, CNBC, MSNBC, ESPN, NICK, FOX and a few others. There’s also a channel where you can track progress, ship speed, etc. Overall, we are very, very happy with the rooms. We’d love more space, but you can never have enough space, right? We have 4 of us in two of the rooms, and while they are scary-cramped when the upper bed is down, you can still get along ok. Oh, that upper bed is built like a fortress. It will definitely hold you of you’re anything short of 250lbs. It’s got some serious structure to it. The main problem is that adults will have difficulty walking between this bed and the cabinet, and adults will hit their head on the bottom if you try to sit on the couch. Not a big deal because this bed is only down when it’s time to sleep, but it sure makes the room feel like a pillbox.
One more thing about the lights in the room – it’s bright in there at night! There are LEDs all over the place. Each reading lamp next to the bed has a small blue LED on the button. The phone is extremely bright at night. Even the small green LED on the AC control unit casts a glow around the room like a night light. We had to cover the phone with a black shirt, and the little blue lamp LEDs with towels. Some won’t mind this, but we wanted it darker.
Ok, enough about the room unless I remember something else. Let’s talk about what we did. The additional reviews will be shorter, mostly because they will be repetitive otherwise. J
We toured the ship for a while to get the lay of the land. You can do a ton of walking for sure, but almost everything you want is on 5, 6, 7 or 15. Things are clustered too, like the shopping on 7, and much of the entertainment on 6 at the front of the ship. We opted decided to see Blue Man the first night in case we wanted to see it again later in the week. So we had planned on arriving at getting in line at 6:30 for the 7pm show. We had dinner up at the buffet (it was very good for a buffet!) and got down to BMG at 6:30 as planned. Surprisingly we went right in and got 11 seats in the first two rows in front of the stage. Huh? How is this possible? Well, it’s not sold out the first night! It was sold out every other show except for the first one, which was great! No lines, great seats, and an awesome show! I’ve seen them a few times, as have the other adults in our group. They did much of the same stuff from their Vegas show, but it was always great to have their percussion-based music thumping in my chest. We laughed and had a great time. The first two rows are a “splash zone” where they provide ponchos and have plastic seats. I won’t spoil the show, but there are no bad seats in the joint. The theater is small for ship standards, and even the back row would have been considered premium seats in Vegas. We had a great time, and afterwards you can have your picture taken with the bluemen with the ship photographer. We got lucky and got a couple of pics with our own camera. Yeah…as stated before..ship pictures are about $20 each, or you can get them all on CD for …gag…$349! We’re going to take as many pictures as possible, and if we manage 30 or more J we might consider the CD. Lol
After BMG we all went our separate ways for a while. My daughter went to Recess, whose two entrances are just about 100 feet from our cabin next to the elevator bank. Very convenient. My boys went up to the Entourage teen club to hang out with other teens. We picked up our daughter at 10:30 when the “late night” fees would have started. From 10:30 to 1:30 it costs $6 per hour to have your kid in the program. If you have 2 kids, the second is $4. Curfew is 1am for all kids unless accompanied by an adult. We had our boys check in with us at 11, then we let them go back out to the “teen crib” until closing. At 10:30 my wife and daughter and I went to O’Sheehans for a late bite. We had the spinach-artichoke dip (don’t bother), a Newcastle draft (oh yeah) and hot brownie sundae’s (also, oh yeah). We were sacked out by 1:30am and slept like babies. The beds are all comfortable, and the calm seas made for a very restful night. In fact, we didn’t wake up until 10am Sunday! J
Oh, I said I would let you know why I think this might be the best set of rooms on the ship. Here goes. First off, we are directly under the buffet area. It’s very, very easy to just go upstairs and grab a quick bite, coffee, or soft serve ice cream (the kid’s favorite). We hear a little extra noise at night as they clean up upstairs, but this only lasts an hour or so from 10 – 11. Not a big deal, you can just occasionally hear some piece of equipment roll by. However, here’s the main reason I love this room… the extended ceiling over the balcony! Many of the rooms on the 14th floor are underneath an extended protrusion of the 15th deck. This provides increased protection from the hot sun and, as we’re finding out on Monday, rain! We are still able to go out on our balcony even though it’s been raining almost all day, and we enjoy watching the big white-capped waves and the frothing water the ship pushes out to the side. Any other balconies would be wet and too windy. In the sun they would be too hot, keeping the room too hot. Love this setup.
Oh, one more thing, my daughter (9) danced at the sail-away party for about 2 hours. She’s in the ship videos and had crew and everybody else joining her. It was a great moment for her and she was the life of the party. I watched us leave port from the comfort of our connected balconies, waving at people that stopped along the causeway in Miami. I also posted a half dozen times on cruise critic as we were leaving, and I couldn’t believe how long I had my ATT signal for my ipad.
Ok..as I type this (Monday evening) the ship is really rocking and rolling in gale force winds. It’s a very, very stable ship considering the conditions. A lesser ship would have people barfing over the side. More on this later.
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
RCI Anthem of the Seas - NYC/Bermuda/Caribbean 2016; NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994