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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. 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?
  12. It's been a while since we last cruised (Oasis, some 3 years ago), and we're booked on Allure in August. I like to leave the in-cabin showers to my wife and kids, and use the showers in the gym each day. Not that I'm using the gym... but the showers are always nice and roomy! On Oasis last time, I signed up for the Thermal Suite and really enjoyed the steam/sauna access (which used to be free on Freedom, as I recall). Am I better off pre-paying for the Thermal Suite, or is it likely to be less expensive once on-board? And does this go for other purchases as well like dinner packs etc.?
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