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About bruzin_for_a_cruizin

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  1. We were on Freedom out of San Juan. Hopefully, it'll be better for you on whichever ship you sail, but get back to us and let us know!
  2. There was a loophole which allowed cash accounts to get USD from the casino cashier without paying the 5% vig, so I always used to set up my account on check-in as a cash account. Made it very convenient to get USD for use in ports. It was particularly great a number of years ago when they were taking CAD at par (I loaded up my account pre-cruise with CAD and withdrew it all in USD. Really subsidized that trip!). On our cruise last month, I learned that RCL has closed that loophole. The cage now directs you to the Purser's desk at Guest Services. They'll also give you cash up to your account limit, but they'll apply the 5% charge now. For future cruises, I'll probably just give them my credit card on check-in.
  3. Back this week from our cruise to the ABC islands and my dives with Happy Divers Aruba and VIP Diving in Bonaire. I just wanted to drop a note here to thank Harris for his recommendations and give my quick reviews of both shops. Happy Divers was a great, casual experience. Jeffrey picked me up in his truck with 3 other divers already collected from nearby resorts. We dove both Antilla and Arashi. We drove straight to his boat about 15 minutes away and the gear was already there. We were at the Antilla in minutes, and were the only boat at the site when we went into the water. The dive -- my first certified dive! -- was awesome. 40+ minutes all around, over and through the wreck. Saw a bunch of turtles, too! We surfaced to find several catamarans with at least 30 or 40 snorkelers in the water. Arashi was a nice reef dive with lots of different fish and more turtles. He had me back to the cruise ship by 12:30, which was plenty of time to have lunch with my family and then walk around the downtown area. BONUS! The next day, I got an email from Jeffrey with about 75 high-res photos from the dive! I didn't even see him with a camera, and there was no extra charge for the pics. That's a great touch, and will make for some great lifetime memories of my first 2 dives. VIP in Bonaire was very different. It's a much more polished experience; after pickup at the pier, we went to the shop for paperwork, a short briefing and gear fitting. As Harris mentions, 100 cf tanks were available, so I took those. There were only two of us in the group, myself and another passenger. It took about an hour, but then we were off to our first dive spot. Bonaire is amazing... you pretty much just pull over to the side of the road anywhere, gear up, and walk out into the water. We did our first dive at a spot called "Larry's Lair" and I was blown away by the reef wall and the variety of sea life. We surfaced about .75km away from the truck, so our dive master Aaron hoofed it back and came to get me and my dive buddy. After a short lunch (really great ham sandwich!), we went to our second stop, "Red Slave." This is a more intermediate dive than I probably should have done, given my limited experience, but Aaron was "impressed" with my skills and poise in the water during our first dive that he thought I could handle it. Red Slave has some moderate current, which was obviously my first time dealing with, but boy, am I glad he took us there. Barracuda, turtles, Spotted Eagle Ray and tons of fish against the reef wall. Truly otherworldly. We had to surface a bit further out from shore than I think Aaron wanted because the currents were too strong for both me and my dive buddy so we used up a bit more air than we should have, but I never panicked and felt like Aaron was completely in control of the dive. Anyways, thanks again to Harris for the recommendations. I would suggest anyone going to the ABCs and wanting to dive could do much worse than Happy Divers Aruba or VIP Diving in Bonaire.
  4. Any update on the state of San Juan following the protests/riots? We are sailing out on Freedom on Sunday. I'm not concerned about safety at all, as it appears all has died down, but is there any residual damage or vandalism? Any particular areas we should stay away from? We're flying in Saturday and staying at a Condado Beach hotel, so we're closer to the airport and PanAm cruise terminal.
  5. Looks like the Aug 25th Freedom OTS sailing out of SJ is totally booked. Less than 20 days out, and still no bid offer. We were hoping to be able to upgrade to a JS, but it looks like we're gonna have to make do with the Balcony.
  6. I just checked in for my August 25th cruise on Freedom. 90 days and counting!
  7. Here's a trick I learned from another post here many years ago: When we check in, I set up our on-board folio as a "Cash" account. They put a charge limit on the account -- $500, IIRC. You can then simply use your SeaPass to get cash from the cashier's cage. As Bob pointed out above, Cash accounts are not subject to the 5% fee. The downside to this is that you will likely have to visit Guest Services a couple times during your trip and on debarkation day to clear off your Cash account, if you exceed the limit allowed. I just drop by when it's not busy and pay off my tab (using my credit card!). It's a bit of an inconvenience, but it saves me from having to bring a wad of cash or having to use island ATMs.
  8. Shhhhhh!!! Stop telling everybody, or the best cabins on the high seas will all be booked! Seriously, Oasis class deck 8 balcony (if you can get something on the foreward "hump" especially) are the best. Central Park is special any time of the day.
  9. JS card does not let you in to CK. The hostess will have to open the door for you. We actually had an "incident" where we arrived at the CK for our reservation and this snooty older couple was inside already, waiting for the hostess. We knocked, and asked them nicely to please open the door. They acted horrified that this family -- freshly showered and appropriately dressed, mind you -- would deign to assume they would be admitted to the sacred chamber reserved only for the special people like them. We saw (through the glass door!) the disgust with which they ratted on us to the hostess. Who, of course, proceeded to open the door for us. The couple glared at us through the whole meal and I just smiled back.
  10. Last cruise on Oasis in a JS, I was only permitted to make reservations for dinner on the day of. I went to CK every morning first thing, and booked a table based on availability. We just worked around that schedule. Many tables were reserved, but every night the dining room was only half full at best. It seems to me many passengers book CK and wind up going somewhere else and don't cancel.
  11. Wow, thanks so much for the thoughtful and complete reply, Harris! I will definitely check out the places you recommend. I'm always very wary of private excursions. I have visions of being late back to the ship and being stranded. I know it's irrational, and these guys wouldn't have businesses if they couldn't meet the needs of cruise passengers, but it's still something I'm concerned about. However, a great experience is worth the "risk!" Thanks again.
  12. After getting a taste last year with our first dives in St. Maartin, my daughter and I are taking the Open Water certification course through a local dive shop and expect to be fully certified for our upcoming cruise to ABC in August. I understand that Bonaire is the best island of the three for diving. RCL offers a 2-tank dive for $149/person. Has anyone used this excursion, and would it be recommended? Or would we be better served -- as raw beginners -- with an outside dive shop?
  13. I have a now-19-year-old son. He skipped out on our last cruise, and will not come with us on our next one. 19-21 is a "dead zone" for cruising; aged out of the teen club, yet not permitted to drink. Drinking age in Ontario is 19, so he's learned how to responsibly consume alcohol (and after a year of university, also how to irresponsibly consume alcohol!). We miss him on our cruise, but I totally understand his position, as well as that of the cruise line. It's an unfortunate situation, but rules are rules and laws are laws, and we have to respect that.
  14. I've been on Oasis and Allure, and paid for the Thermal Suite on both. I really enjoy a nice steam before dinner, and the heated stone loungers are nice as well. Plus, I find the added bonus of a larger second shower to be priceless; I can get ready for the evening at the same time as my wife, and we don't have to fight over the shower and/or the sink. I don't find the placement of the spa to be an issue at all. It's just a walk down the hall and down a couple flights of stairs. I actually think the Oasis-class ships do an excellent job with facility management and passenger-traffic flow -- except for the elevator lobbies 10 minutes after a show lets out, but that's another post.
  15. UPDATE: I booked last night for August 2019 over the phone with Costco Travel (I believe that to be the aforereferenced "Ketchup Store"). The rep was extremely helpful. In the end, he had to connect with the Club Royale booking department at RCL, and I was billed the full amount of the cruise. Also, even though I'm in Canada, the trip needed to be booked in USD. I've redeemed the MyVegas loyalty points for the 10% discount, and I've followed the redemption instructions (had to send a bunch of info to Club Royale). I should hear back from them in 48 hours to confirm the discount, but I'm not really concerned it'll all go through properly.
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