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Got Out There

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  1. Thanks for the great idea. On our return flight one bag was over 6lbs , glad we checked in with outside skycap. A quick twenty to him and problem solved.
  2. The ship. Hard to believe the Allure is headed for its amplification...the ship was in outstanding shape and actually seemed new to us. There is so much to do on this class of ship and not enough days to see/do it all. Out doors we only used the pool area and CP/BW area. We did not even see the sports deck area (flow riders/basketball/rock wall/ min golf). really enjoyed the CP area and grabbing a class of wine at vintages. In the evenings always seemed to be some sort of live entertainment in CP. The two story lounge (Dazzles?) was nice in the evening that had a great cover band and dancing. Attended most of the shows and they were all good to great. Enjoyed Momma Mia, great performers, great music and singing. Thought the lighting was a little off but that was a minor detail. The aqua show was entertaining as were the production shows. We had a JS cabin on the hump, with an extra large balcony. There was a small table and two chairs along with two lounge chairs. We typically sat on the balcony late in the afternoon for sunset. The room was plenty big and there was more than enough storage. Only issue we had was it was on deck 14 under the pool area. There was a strange clicking noise when the ship was moving that kept me up at night. I for what ever reason can not tolerate ear plugs, makes me feel claustrophobic, yeah I know its weird. But we are on a ship and when it moves there are generally sounds to be heard. Overall this was a great trip. Glad to answer any questions that have not been previously asked.
  3. Ports... We enjoy sailing from PE which is very close to the FLL airport. Not sure there is a port and airport that are closer than these two. Our stops were St. Thomas, San Juan, and Labadee (substituted for Coco Cay). St. Thomas we debated to either take the ferry to St. John or go to Magens Bay. It looked like it might rain on and off so we opted for Magens Bay. We have been here many times over the years and it is simply one of the nice beaches period. What we had not factored into our decision making was the number of other cruise ships in port that day. We were off the ship within in 30 minutes of the ship clearance and headed to Magens Bay. I think it was $8 per person each way plus a $5 fee to enter the national park. We rented a couple of chairs and were ready to enjoy the day....or should I say the crowd! by noon it became difficult to navigate from the beach chairs to the water......we have never seen it this crowded before. There is only one restaurant and one bar on the beach, the line for drinks was at least twenty minutes and the take out at the restaurant lines were ten deep. We were miserable, not sure if they cap the number allowed in the park, perhaps they should. It was wall to wall people. We did walk the entire length of the beach on both directions and it did thin out at the very ends of the beach. A little after noon we left and took a taxi into town to grab a bite to eat at the Green House restaurant in Charlotte Amalie. It is open air and we had a table with a direct view of the water. Nice drinks and some fresh seafood, we highly recommend this place. I have made this comment in the past, these ports are being smothered by too many cruise ship passengers and it simply is not sustainable. After lunch we roamed around the downtown shopping area, not sure of it was because of the last hurricane but it actually seemed rundown not what we remembered. Perhaps with all of the shopping at the cruise ship piers, the downtown is not the attraction it once was for shopping. We were back on board around 4pm. The San Juan stop was only fro 7:30 to 12:30. We did not get off because of the short port time. I have worked in San Juan over the years on business and to me it is not a vacation destination, always reminds me of work. Beautiful island and old town but just not enough time to head out to a beach to make it worth while. Our last stop was Labadee. We were scheduled for Coco Cay however due to weather they switched to Labadee. We arrived around 10:00 and we were some of the first off the ship. We headed to Nellie's Beach. Quickly secured beach chairs close tot he water and rented and umbrella for the day ($10). It was really windy and this beach protects you from the wind. All activities in the water were cancelled as was the zip line due to the high winds. Funny little story... mid-afternoon a man came up to me in my chair and asked if he could put a chair between myself and the next group of people along side of me, I said sure no problem. There was not enough room for two chairs but there was plenty of room for one. To my surprise he put a chair immediately next to mine, like touching my chair. He was apparently looking find some shade and wanted to get under the umbrella with me. Now I consider myself a very friendly person but this was uncomfortable at best. I shared with him that the umbrellas are for rent and where he could go to rent one. His response was that he wasn't planning on stay too long so it would not be worth it for him to rent an umbrella. My wife was sitting in the sun and wanted to get in the water to cool off, I joined her and we both did not know to be stunned or to laugh. We ended up laughing about it and true to his word he was gone in about an hour. We really enjoyed the beach time at Labadee and the food at the buffet was good. We ended up staying at the beach until the sun started to set. Great day!
  4. Drink package thoughts..... this was the first cruise after the NYE cruise and we felt that the bar staff was a little under par the first two days. We chalked this up to they probably worked real hard with the NYE cruise where the crowds typically drank more and stayed out later than on typical cruises. We sailed the prior two years on a NYE cruise and that was our experience. We enjoy martinis before dinner and generally will order something pretty simply...like vodka martini with a twist. For whatever reason, the bartenders kept offering a "twist" on the martini, how about some sour apple or other flavor. I would restate that I wanted a simple vodka martini up with a "lemon twist"....often they had no lemons or they would put a lime wedge on the rim of the glass. It took me several orders over the first two days to get it correct, although I did drink whatever they gave me. This whole lemon issue we have experienced multiple times on RCCL....not sure why???/ After the first two days things settle down and bar service was very good with the exception of the pool bars. I miss the roaming bar waiters from the old days when they were what seemed to be constantly around. Now it seems rare to find one wondering around the pool deck taking drink orders. Generally we sit in the same location throughout the cruise and get 'adopted' by a bar waiter.....this cruise we did not. We tip $5 per round for the two of us and could not find a server to take our order until the last sea day. Perhaps it is just the size of the ship and fewer waiters per person. The lines at the pool bars were often five or more deep....I hate to wait in lines like that for a drink and generally will not. Overall I am sure that my wife did not come close to breakeven on the package but it was worth it for me. more to come on ports and the ship....
  5. Most of the specialty restaurants were open for lunch on boarding day and sea days, not sure about port days. We did use Johnny Rockets for lunch on the three sea days. The first day we took a break from the pool and went for a sit down lunch and it was good for what you can order. The other two sea days I did take out from JRs and we ate up on the pool deck where we sat all day. The takeout is nice, they package everything up nicely just had to wait about 15 minutes after placing the order (in person). I did hear from others that had lunch at Chops and Giovanni's that they really enjoyed it. We typically will sit out on the pool deck from 8/9 in the morning until 4/5. We generally don't like to leave the pool area and loose our seats.
  6. Recently sailed Allure on 1/5 to ST. Thomas, San Juan, and Labadee. Instead of a detailed review, I thought I would share a few comments/observations from the trip. We flew in the morning of the cruise and had a slight mishap with luggage. When checking in at the airport one of our bags was 15lbs over the weight limit....we spent several minutes moving items around until all three checked bags were under 50lbs; 50lbs, 48lbs and 46lbs. Two things here, first is why in the heck are we traveling with nearly 150lbs of checked luggage???? We are well seasoned travelers and on this trip we both over packed like never before. In fact, we came home with far more clean cloths than dirty, clearly poor planning on our part. Secondly, we no longer have FF status on American and the cost of one overweight bag would have been $100, so we quickly shuffled items around at the check in counter. In our haste the sun screen products were moved and when we retrieved our luggage in FLL it was evident that one of the bottles discharged during flight. Ended up with a $40 cleaning bill to have them laundered on the ship...oh well poor planning on our part. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:30 and were immediately on board. From the time we stepped out of the cab until we were on the ship we never stopped moving, guessing around 10 minutes! We booked a JS cabin which helped sine there was a separate entrance and no waiting for security or the roving check in process. Pre-purchased both the unlimited drink and dinning packages. We were assigned to Izumi for the first night and we really enjoyed this meal. The first evening we went to make our reservations for dinner and could not find anything between 6:30 and 8:00pm for dinner on day 2, but we were able to book specialty restaurants for the balance of the week. On day two we ate in Coastal Kitchen. Nice meal and we like the atmosphere especially the very high ceilings. The food was very good as was the service. During dinner we were seated next to a couple that had black sea pass cards, I believe that means they were staying in a top suite. During the dinner a gentlemen (fellow passenger) came and sat next to them and was completely involving himself in their business....I could go on but it was clear that he was attempting to develop a relationship with them for his own advantage. I felt sorry for the couple, not sure they fully comprehended what he was doing. Oddly enough on three other nights at different specialty restaurants we were seated next to another couple who had a Genie and let's say had very high expectations from their Genie..... They also felt compelled to share that they brought $30K in cash with them and were having a hard time spending it (casino, on shore and tips), but they were struggling with what to give to their Genie because he was not waiting for them after each meal.... We did eat in Chops, 150, Samba, Giovanni's, and a second time at 150. Chops was good, the service was efficient but very impersonal. The first meal at 150 was great while the second was just okay. The second 150 meal I recall signing a ticket for $0 and we left $20 in cash for the tip (standard tip from us for specialty dinning), but somehow on the last morning when I reviewed our sea pass charges, they ended up charging us over $100...still trying to sort that one out. We enjoyed Giovanni's. Samba was a big disappointment....they serve you eight different meats, we only made it through the first four. We actually split each of the first four portions and did not want anymore....most of the meat was flavorless. I would not recommend eating at Samba. more in a few minutes...
  7. We received an upgrade yesterday for the Allure sailing this Sunday. Booked BW balcony about 6 weeks ago, offered ocean view balcony, spacious ocean view balcony, and JR suite. We were confirmed yesterday in a JR Suite....our bid was "weak". Overall total cost was roughly 60% of the cheapest JR suite rate. We are very happy....THANK YOU Royal!!!
  8. Thanks!. I did want to also mention a change in departure procedures when you arrive back in Galveston. If you are doing self walk off (with all of your luggage), you need to be sure to have a departure flyer with a letter on it. We have not seen this before and on Saturday when we heard of it they were up to letter H, which the stated time was 9:30. They were not very accommodating when I asked for an earlier time to 'self walk off', however the concierge readily gave us a flyer with the letter A. They stated that you should meet in the designated departure lounge five minutes before assigned time (8am). We arrived at the main theater at 7:10 and they made sure that we had a letter A, not sure what they would have done if it was a higher letter. As we were anticipating they started early...guessing 7:20, we were in the car driving by 7:45!
  9. Sailed Liberty of the Seas 3/31 - 4/7 out of Galveston and had a great time. Little background, we are a couple in our 50's and have cruised far more cruises than our age ;). We are pretty loyal to Royal although we do stray from time to time mix it up a little. This was a last minute trip that we booked less than two weeks before departure. We booked thru a travel agency online, their pricing for an inside was nearly half of what the RCCL website was stating. There were only insides and a few ocean views available when we book, however on Wednesday before we sailed a balcony room became available for a very small amount, so we moved to a balcony. Interesting enough when we call the travel site we booked through, they could not see the rate that I could on their own website. We sent them a screen shot and they called RCCL and got us upgraded at the rate we wanted. It was then we realized that it appeared that we were book under a special travel agency rate for travel agents and friends. The only thing we could imagine is that these rates were loaded incorrectly for the public to see on some travel agency websites but not on RCCL. Regardless, they honored the rate we saw online, which was by far one of the lowest fares we have paid for a one week cruise on RCCL...especially during spring break season. We drove down from Dallas the night before and spent the night in Houston to avoid the longish (5 hours) drive the morning of the cruise. We were alerted by RCCL that I45 would be closed due to construction at some point in between Houston and Galveston. This allowed us to be adventurous and take a route through Seabrook and Kemah in highway 146 Sunday morning. From the hotel we stayed at by IAH airport, the drive took a little over an hour and we arrived at 12:30. Parked across the street at one of the private lots and walked to the terminal. Arriving at the terminal the security line was about 100+ deep lined up outside the terminal and another couple hundred deep once you got inside. The priority line for security at Galveston is now only for Suite, Pinnacle, and Key members....and there was no one in this line when we got inside of the building. In the past they also include D+, however with the addition of the Key program it appears that they have stopped this for D+. A little disappointing but the total wait for security was only about 45 minutes. They still have the priority check in lines available once you have passed through security, in fact there was no line for D and above, we walked right up. Check in was all of maybe five minutes and we were on board immediately. We ended up with a balcony room mid-ship on deck 7.......here's a tip, use the forward elevators throughout the week. There are two less elevators forward versus aft, but it seemed the vast majority of people used the aft elevators. The forward elevators were much quicker unless you hit them when a show was finishing in the main theater. Our room was in great shape and we received the usual excellent service from the cabin attendant. As a note the entire ship was in excellent share and constantly being cleaned throughout the day. Out cruise consisted of two sea days, Roatan, Belize, Cozumel, and a sea day. We were really looking mainly for some quality downtime together and time around the pool and beach. On sea days we were at the pool by 9 and stay to 4 or 5 in the afternoon. The first sea day was the busiest and by 11 most chairs on the deck above the pool were taken. The other two sea days there were always a few empty chairs on the deck above the pool available. As far as the chairs on the pool deck, these were generally taken well before we arrived. For comparison, there are really only about 150 pool chairs on the pool deck that get sun during the day, while one deck above around the main pool there are several hundred chairs. Additionally, there are all sorts of chairs around the kids area, sports area, solarium, even up by the miniature golf. We purchased the Deluxe Drink Package ($46 per day +18%) in advance, I think on the ship it was $66 per day plus 18% gratuity. We ended up spending all three sea days and two of our port days up on deck 12 above the main pool....they did have bar servers coming around taking orders, but it was not a frequent as in the past. No big deal, a short walk to the bar and we were quickly served. We did not get off the ship in Roatan and Belize, instead just stayed at the ships pool and pretty much had it ourselves (think less than 50 people for most of the day)! Roatan we typically go over to West Bay but decided to stay on the ship and really relax. In Belize we also stayed on the ship....if you have been here before you know it is a nice tender ride into the dock and there are no natural beached on the mainland. In the past we have take the ship excursions to snorkel and a small private island which was nice. One time we were very adventurous and tendered in, took a cab to a small airstrip, flew to Ambergris Cay, cab to small resort for the day and then the reverse. Fun to do and not too pricey, but the thought of not making back to the ship does stay with you most of the day..... Cozumel we got off around 8:30 and went to Paradise Beach Club for the day, $15 cab ride each way. We have been here countless times and probably will not be back anytime soon...we loved this place when it first opened and over the years, but honestly it has become a victim of it's own success....it is way to crowded and the service has really suffered as a result. They have added and all inclusive rate for the day, I think it is $63, or you can do the $3 and spend $10 minimum. They have a great setup for the water inflatables and the pool is one of the best on the island...just way too many people. The entertainment was pretty good throughout the cruise and throughout the ship. Comedians were very funny for both the main show and the late night adult shows. Saturday Night Fever was okay.....the first performance the stopped 20 minutes into the show due to technical issues and then cancelled that show and the late show....the rescheduled it to the last night of the cruise. We have seen this a few times before on the Liberty and this was one of the less talented casts...still good but just not as good as previously. They had a cover band that was really good one night as the main show and then the next night they sang/performed in the schooner with Phil Anderson, this was really fun. If you have been on this ship before you may know Phil, he does a great job keeping the crowed engaged at the schooner bar. Food was typically RCCL. This cruise we did not do any specialty dinning...we were going to but we ended up with some great table mates in the MDR. We had all of our dinners in the MDR, food was okay to really good. Windjammer we hit for breakfast and lunch and did the trick for us. Overall it was a great trip and an outstanding price. The Gift ....We are both fanatic hand washers and have never gotten sick on a cruise...well until now. Fortunately it was on the way home that one of us started to get sick and it was not on the ship....visit to the doctor yesterday and tested positive for the Flu, both type A and type B! Could have picked it up in Cozumel, but more likely on the ship. Anyway, I typed a lot and probably provided nothing new...but I would be happy to try and answer any questions you may have. Sorry about all of the typos :).
  10. I for one would really enjoy a cruise that stopped at both Coco Cay and Labadee.......we enjoy the downtime and relaxing on the beach. Even though we typically we do not use all of the extra bells and whistles on their private islands. Also, from a cost perspective....try taking a family of six to the Megan's Bay in St. Thomas; $60 each way transfer, entrance fees, chair rental, food and drink....we end up spending over $250 for our beach day versus as little as $0 for a private island beach day (with drink package).
  11. Guessing most of the Pins are probably retired which helps with flexibility. If our schedule was more flexible we would definitely cruise on lower cost cruises and those without a large number of children (avoid school breaks). Not that we don't like children, just tends to be a little more relaxing when there are not 1,000 on board. On a Christmas cruise a few years ago with our family, we ended up being the top cruisers.....we were very surprised when the Loyalty Ambassador reached out to us to let us know and asked that we please attend the top tier party.
  12. I actually like the food there, my wife likes Portofino's better, the service was just no there....perhaps I am a little better with change than my wife, I do not compare it to Portofino's. Did not know she was at the end of her contract, perhaps that was what we were seeing......at some point in their contracts it has got to get much more difficult to put that CD smile on 24/7.
  13. Actually I did say to my wife that I was thinking about walking over to them and asking if they were doing okay now that they found their chair, my wife who is very wise and had half the amount of rum in her that I did, offered the she did not think that would be a good idea....... just wasn't worth engaging. Ended up drinking more rum and something....life is good!
  14. They will make NYE formal night.....we have done a handful of NYE cruises and no matter what night it falls on they make it formal night.....including the first night, they actually sent email communication at least twice ahead of time letting us know the that the first night will be formal night and suggested that we hand carry on our formals.
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