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About TotallySophia

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Tampa Bay Area
  • Interests
    Cruising and Disney
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Royal Caribbean
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. Funky Buddha is one of our favorite breweries. We were on their first group cruise on Independence earlier this year and they were talking about how they were going to try and create a better working relationship with RCI. We're booked in February on the next group cruise (again on Independence), and seeing this makes me super excited!!!
  2. My husband and I did unlimited dining on Independence in February 2018, and didn't feel like it was worth it. With the limited options available we felt like what we were eating was redundant. I know you get the credit now at Izumi and Playmakers, so having lunch at those venues could have broken up the monotony for us. We decided though to only purchase unlimited dining on Oasis class ships. I know that our experience isn't too recent, but figured I'd share anyway 🙂 Enjoy your time on Independence, we've been on her several times and have always had a great time!
  3. Maggie is beautiful!! We have two goldens, Gaston and Sven, they're the best!
  4. That's how they did it when we rented one about 2 years ago. Obviously the earlier you get to the beach, the more options you have. They stagger them so you're not just staring directly at the back of another one. We really enjoyed it and would definitely do it again.
  5. We went on this excursion May 2018 and booked it through MSC Seaside. The water was pretty choppy when we stopped to snorkel, so that part wasn't too great, but the crew onboard was so much fun. After snorkeling drinks were plentiful and they had sandwiches. We sailed to Mullet Bay, and there was another catamaran there for a little bit at the beginning of our visit there, then it was just us. I know it was more than a year ago, so I'm not sure how much has changed, but we had a great time!
  6. My husband, myself, and my mom sailed on the Seaside May 2018, and we loved it. We're all Diamond on Royal so we were able to get the loyalty status match on MSC to their Black Card. My husband and I were in an Aurea balcony room and really enjoyed spending time in the Top 19 area and also used the steam rooms daily. We loved the food, especially the pizza, and thought the steakhouse was delicious and a nice change in appetizers/sides from Chops. When we first boarded we started chatting with one of the bartenders at the Seaside Bar who was super personable, and spent plenty of time there throughout the week. I loved that there was gelato at many bars and everything at the chocolate place, it was amazing that it was included in our drink package (I know they've made changes, so I don't know if this is still the case). The ship didn't seem dirty or smelly at all, despite what we had read in reviews. We didn't like the lack of storage in the stateroom or how tightly configured the bathroom was. These are things that I read about several times in other reviews prior to boarding, so we were kind of expecting it. We initially thought the booking was confusing with all the different types of experiences, but figured it out quickly. There was also a lot of frustration with getting names spelled correctly, they had my middle name as my first on their Voyagers Club and it took many phone calls to get it straightened out.
  7. I'm glad a lot of people enjoyed my feedback on the ship. I know she just came back from overseas so I wanted to help give a perspective now that's she's back here in Tampa.
  8. Like Bob and cruisinfromtampa clarified, they do the hot rock, but not during lunch. I also don't eat sushi, but my chicken yaki udon was delicious!
  9. We got off the ship easily around 10 in Grand Cayman. I'm not sure how early we would have been able to after the excursions.
  10. My husband and I got off the Brilliance the morning so I thought I'd share some thoughts. We live just outside of Tampa, but rarely ever cruise out of the port here. We found a good price on a hump balcony and figured we'd go for it! I didn't save any compasses, but I can try and answer any other questions you may have. Embarkation/Disembarkation: we both had some work to wrap up Monday morning before boarding, but we requested our Uber around 11 and were in the solarium with drinks less than an hour later. The staff at the port was super friendly. Disembarkation went smoothly too. We always do self assist and left our cabin around 7:30. Per the paperwork, we should have been allowed off the ship approximately 7:45, but when we were waiting for our elevator we heard the announcement that we were cleared. We didn't stop walking from the time we stepped off the elevator on deck 4 until we climbed into our Uber home. About 45 minutes from leaving our cabin, we had already picked up our dog from boarding and had laundry going. Cabin: we were in cabin 7092, a hump cabin on the port side. The large balcony was a bonus for us, but I didn't realize that we wouldn't have a straight view down to the water as the lifeboats were under us. Another thing we hadn't taken into account was that being the second door down the hall we heard a lot of noise from the centrum each night. Both of those things could have easily been found out by doing more research, and neither were deal breakers, just some observations. When we came back to the cabin after our day in Cozumel our attendant had changed out the door cards for "do not disturb" and "please make up room" to a new double sided magnet. Food/drink: we had the deluxe package, but did notice a coffee card being advertised. The first two days onboard we didn't see any bar service out by the pool, but the last few days they were prominent on the pool decks, with service consistently in hot tubs too. We purchased a 3-night dining package and used it to dine once at Chops and twice at Giovanni's. We had a much better experience at both restaurants than we had on the Independence back in March. The food and service were both great. The vegetable ravioli at Giovanni's was especially delicious. We ate breakfast once in the dining room and it was just alright. Dinner in the windjammer has gotten better over the years, and breakfast/lunch there was to be expected. The Indian butter chicken was a standout. We did lunch in Izumi the last sea day and it was great as well. Grand Cayman: we grabbed a $5/each cab to 7 mile beach. We walked about 5 minutes away from the drop off at the public beach and enjoyed the serenity of the beautiful blue water. We had lunch at Calico Jack's which was not so good and overpriced for what it was, but the view was great. Cozumel: we aren't ones to do several beach days in a row (read: we burn easily, haha) so we stayed onboard until lunch time then grabbed a $4/each cab to Crazy King Burrito. We found this place earlier this year on Yelp, and it is delicious. It's just a short walk past the Centro shops and downtown area, so after eating we meandered a bit before heading back to the ship. We were in port with 4 other ships and enjoyed watching some of the runners make their way back to their respective ships. Misc: we hadn't sailed on a ship this small in awhile, but went in with realistic expectations and had a great time. There were a few things I missed from other classes, but all the windows and views of the ocean made up for it. The ship is in great shape and while our next few cruises are already booked, we wouldn't count her out for another quick trip. There was a large variety of movies being shown in the cinema and poolside. Sailing under the skyway bridge is a very unique and scary thing. We made sure to be up on deck 12 and there was a huge crowd. The casino always seemed smoky, despite half of it being non-smoking.
  11. In St. Maarten we were with the tour, so our meeting time in the theater was 8:10 and they guided our group off the ship by 8:15. By the time everyone got their wristbands and walked to the catamaran we were setting sail by 9. In Nassau we were there 9a-7p, and we didn’t disembark until around 4 (since we didn’t disembark the bar the night bar until very late ;p) so we were able to walk right off.
  12. After reading everything I could on the Seaside before we cruised, I figured I'd share my thoughts about our last week onboard. On this cruise was myself, my husband, and my mom (32-60). We all used the loyalty status match from our Diamond status on Royal Caribbean to Black Card members of the Voyagers Club. As you read in another post, there was a crew member that went overboard during this cruise and it was a somber day. We didn't save any of the daily planners, but I can try and answer any other additional questions. Pre-Cruise: my husband and I drove down to Miami the day before and stayed at the Hilton Downtown Miami. The room was a great size, clean and had ceiling to floor windows. We walked a few minutes to have dinner at Mike's at Venetia. The ambiance was as expected and food was fine. Nothing special, but not bad either. We had the buffet breakfast at the hotel, and there were plenty of options. Embarkation: we arrived at the pier around 11:15, parked in garage G then walked our suitcases over to terminal F. After dropping our stuff off with a porter, we got inside and only had 2 couples ahead of us for security. Once upstairs we walked right up to a checkin desk (thanks to Black Card priority embarkation) and got our cards and bands. They didn't let us onboard until noon, but it was a quick and efficient process. Cabin: we had an Aurea experience balcony on deck 14 and my mom was in a Fantastica experience balcony on deck 11. The cabins were identical in size and comfortable to what we're used to. The colors weren't as obnoxious to us as the initial photos we saw, so that was a positive. However, we agree about the lack of (or poor arrangement of) storage. The couch was too large and so close to the closet that it was awkward. The closet doors didn't open fully to access all our hanging clothing, and there were only two drawers of storage (three I guess if you count the small one in the desk with the hair dryer). The bathroom layout is tight as previously mentioned, both the toilet and the shower. Our entire deck didn't have a wooden top on our balcony railing until the last day since it was being refinished. We rarely saw our room steward, but he always made up our room and replaced towels so no complaints. He was friendly when we did see him and fulfilled the one request we had quickly. Ship: the ship is gorgeous! The layout was different that what we're used to, but it was easy to navigate. Yes there are a few decks where you can't walk forward to aft, but it's not an annoyance. We enjoyed all the outside seating at the buffet and never had trouble finding a table. Only twice during the week did we have a full elevator, about half of the time it was just us. Some of the elevators were warmer than others, and some public spaces are colder than others. With the Aurea experience we had access to the thermal spa, and it was beautiful and relaxing. As well as Top 19, which we found to never be crowded. There was always a crew member cleaning something, and there was nothing that stood out to us as being dirty or needing to be replaced (shy of the previously mentioned railing). Despite the volume of people onboard we never felt overwhelmed as there are many bars/lounges. We never experienced any foul smells nor had difficulty finding loungers near the pools. Food/Drink: I loved that there was gelato at all the pool bars and that it was included in our drink package. We had dinner at Butcher's Cut the first night and everything came out timely and delicious. We were able to request substitutions to the included menu items and be graciously accommodated by the servers. Another evening we did Teppanyaki which was also enjoyable. Our chef was funny and the experience met our expectations. We were also able to swap out a menu item here with no issues. We returned to have sushi one sea day for lunch as well. Most meals we ate were at the Biscayne Buffet and we never felt there was a lack of options. The pizza was better than any other cruise line and I loved the daily pastas and carving station in the back. We had one of each meal in the Seashore Restaurant, but on different days. The breakfast service in the dining room was "worse" than the others. At all of our sit-down meals we appreciated the attentiveness of our servers and that they actually had the time to chat with us for a few minutes, something that was lacking on our previous Royal cruises. The bar service call button in the buffet were efficient and the servers always came quickly. We spent most of our time at the Seaside Bar, and Justin was the epitome of great bartender. He was personable, always called us by name, and made the best mojitos. Entertainment: we didn't attend any of the theater shows, so I can't comment on those. We did enjoy the shows that were performed in the atrium. I went down two of the water slides, but not the slide board, and only ever saw one person on the zip line. We both enjoyed our Aurea included massages. Our therapists asked if we were interested in purchasing any products, and weren't too pushy when we declined. Ports of Call: as an anniversary gift my mom coordinated for us all to go on the Golden Eagle catamaran in St. Maarten. The crew was friendly, but unfortunately the snorkeling wasn't so great because it was so windy that the water was cloudy. Afterwards, the catamaran went to Mullet Bay for some beach time before heading back to the pier. The three of us took the water taxi over to Front Street for some lunch at Pirates in Paradise then lounged beachside before heading back to the ship. Nassau has never been a port that appeals to us, so we were only on land for about 40 minutes and just walked the first block. Disembarkation: we always do the express walk off, and this was the fastest experience we've had. From being in our stateroom to getting into our car was about 15 minutes.
  13. Hey everyone! My husband and I just returned from the Independence so I thought I'd share some thoughts. A little background: We are 32/33 with only a couple fur babies to leave at home. We live in Florida so we try to cruise whenever we can. We've been Diamond members for years since we were both lucky enough to start cruising around 5. On this trip we had the deluxe drink package and the Ultimate Dining Package. We didn't purchase Voom, just used our free days. I didn't save any Compasses, but can try and answer any questions :) Pre-Cruise: we drove over the night before and stayed at the Hilton Marina. We have stayed here several times previously, but we're very disappointed this time around. The view from our room was amazing, but there was mold all over the balcony and obvious water damage in our room. When we called the front desk to see if we could change rooms we were told there were no other options, and the best they could do was refund us. Needless to say we won't be returning. Embarkation/Disembarkation: we utilized the Park n' Go again, and it was efficient as always. We got to the pier around 10:30 and checking in went quickly. Only one person in front of us for security and walked right up to the counter to get our Seapass cards. We were onboard in about 20 minutes from drop-off. We always do self assist when we disembark and were in the Park n' Go shuttle back to our car from our stateroom in about 20 minutes as well. Cabin: we stayed in 7710 which is an aft balcony room, with 2 loungers plus a table and 2 chairs. Our attendant, Totok, was great! He has the back suites and up one of the halls. Due to our room location we hardly walked by his assigned cabins, however we still saw him often and he always came by to say hi and chat. We asked for some champagne glasses when we boarded and he had them waiting there shortly after. We got towel animals 4/5 nights too. Food: like I said above we had the ultimate dining package, so we had specialty dining every night as well as lunch on sea days. We purchased this during a promo sale since it was cheaper than a 3-night dining package, but decided on this type of ship it wasn't really worth it with there currently only being 2 specialty options. The food in both Chops and Giovanni's were delicious. We miss the chocolate mud pie and the red velvet was a little dry. The biggest thing that was different was the service. On 4/5 nights we saw servers literally running to keep up, and the hostesses bussing/setting tables. All interactions with the staff were pleasant, however there was no time to say anything but order our food quickly. They are clearly overwhelmed and we made sure to note it on our survey. We had breakfast 2 mornings in the dining room and service there was quick and friendly. The other mornings we ordered omelets in the Windjammer with minimal wait. In all of our cruising this has been the most flavorful Sorrento's we've had. Also, we never noticed or had anyone ask us about purchasing specialty dining throughout the ship. Bar service: as previously mentioned we had the deluxe package. I did notice the 10-drink card, coffe card, and draft beer packages show up (I believe on day 3), but don't recall the price. There were consistently bartenders present in the solarium and we were able to order both from the hot tubs and in the pool. Service at all the bars we visited were quick and efficient. Spa: we did a 50-minute couples massage after our day in Costa Maya. We walked up to make an appointment and got one about an hour later. My husband got a bamboo massage (no thank you, haha) and I had a Swedish. Both therapists were great and we didn't get any sales pitch at the end. Ship condition: there were definitely some parts of the ship showing wear, but overall we still thought it looked great. The carpets in the hallway by our cabin had obvious high traffic marks, but that is to be expected. The worst part of the ship was the mini golf course, which is being removed soon anyway. Entertainment: we enjoyed the ice show, Freeze Frame, and Grease was fantastic! During our all access theater tour we got to take pictures in front of the Rydell High wall and I was very excited about that. Rondell Sheridan was the comedian and we saw his family friendly show which we enjoyed. We opted out of the adult comedy because it was last night and we knew we were going to up early for our drive home. Costa Maya: we took a 5-minute, $2/pp cab ride to Mahahual. When you leave the port, walk just past the shuttles and out the gate to get a cab. We spent the day at Tropicante and it was wonderful. We didn't email ahead or anything but had our choice of loungers around 11. Rafael called us by name all day and was quick to bring us food and drinks. Our only complaint would be all the beach vendors, every few minutes we were saying "no thank you". Cozumel: we aren't ones to spend all day everyday at the beach and having been here many times before, we decided to just grab some lunch. We found Crazy King Burrito highly rated on Yelp and had some delicious burritos. It was a$8/pp cab ride there and afterwards we strolled the nearby Centro shops. Misc: we found out the day before that this was a Steelers Legends cruise, including 20 former/current players and about 1000 fans. We don't follow football so we had no clue who anyone was, haha. They had organized private events for that group, but we saw the players hanging out all over the ship and chatted with a few in the bars and elevators. Everyone we talked to was really nice and we didn't feel like it was overwhelming onboard.
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