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Everything posted by RockHoundTX

  1. Unfortunately, the cheap ones from CVS, Sam's Club, Costco, etc are not valid for RCL. Exact same test but not proctored. You have to buy the expensive ones from eMed that include someone physically watching you do the test via Internet/smart-phone.
  2. Not true. I was on the inaugural 11 Day Ovation Alaska Cruise in 2019. Beautiful ship, but just too big for Alaska. Done Alaska several time starting with the Carnival Jubilee back in 2001. While the big ships are great for the Caribbean, the smaller ships are much better for Alaska. Because of size issue, the Ovation basically had to be in open water (outside passage) versus the inside passage that the smaller ships tend to take. This SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the amount of wild-life watching time that was available. Now, if you don't care about scenery or wild-life viewing, then go on the Quantum class. You will enjoy yourself. However, if scenery/wild-life is your main draw (like it is for my family), then smaller ships are much better. Given a choice between Quantum and Radiance, I would go Radiance (assuming they are doing inside passage).
  3. Yep. That was exactly the one. You must have not spent much time in the WindJammer 😉 The MDR was pretty normal but the WJ was fantastic. We had early dinner and would rush through that so that we could run up to WJ to see what they had. The rack of lamb was on a different day than they had it on the MDR. They had shrimp in the WJ on at least 3 nights but on the "sea-food night" the entire sea-food section was loaded. That cruise also had a ton of curry dishes that I have not seen in my 5+ cruises on the Liberty since then. They seemed to be "cleaning the freezer" since we noticed several of the dishes changed through the evening. On at least 2 occasions we went back for seconds on something and they had replaced the dish with something else. Guess you just did not make it at the right time 😉 Couldn't beat that cruise. Ended up being $720 for a family of 4. We like to walk so spent two days on Cabbage Beach. Would go from the ship, up to Queen's Staircase, see the fort, over the cause-way, feed the ducks at the pond, and then go to the beach.
  4. Fine was $798 per person that you would have to pay. I would expect a ton of paperwork and hassle on top of that. Definitely not worth it.
  5. The problem with the buffet is that the quality can change drastically from week to week even on a B2B. Been on Liberty about 10 times. Had 1 trip on the Liberty around 2017 where the buffet was AWSOME. Rack of lamb, huge shrimp, all kinds of exotic dishes, etc. I would call that trip a solid 9/10. Buffet was equal or better than MDR. Nothing has ever come close to that since. This was a "ship repair" trip with only half occupancy so probably had a lot to do with it. On one B2B the first week was about average or a little better. Would call it a 6/10. However, something happened the 2nd week and it was terrible. Bland food, hard to get condiments or drinks, a lot of the "regular" dishes were missing, etc. 4/10 at best. After about the 3rd day I talked to the head WJ manager and he indicated that their was a "crew change" and someone dropped the ball so they were "short a few items". Generally speaking, I can always find at least 1 thing I like at every meal. In the evening, my wife and I usually go from MDR directly to WJ just to see what they have (and from there directly to the gym to work it all off).
  6. Don't know about Cartier, but on previous trip on Liberty my sister was looking to buy an Omega for my BiL. Price on the ship was about the same as what it was at the Caribbean jewelry stores after a little haggling (all the jewelry stores started at MSRP and you had to haggle from there). I think we were offered about $100 less than the ship at one store but that was about it. After the cruise, she ended up buying the exact same watch at Sam's Club for about $350-$400 less than the ship's price. Definitely check out the price at Sam's Club and Costco before you go as a comparison. In my BiL's case, he just wanted the standard Omega diver so those are absolutely everywhere. However, the one benefit of the ship and the jewelry stores in the Caribbean and Alaska is that they have exclusive models that are hard to find anywhere else. If you want one of those, you just have to pay up.
  7. When people talk about mask-wearing in Asia, it is usually evident that they have never lived there. I lived in Taiwan for several years and routinely traveled to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. While cloth masks are an every-day item sold at the local 7-Eleven for about the equivalent of US$1, they are for smog, not viruses. Everyone has 3 or 4 of them stuck in the seat of their scooter. Prior to Covid, if you saw someone wearing a medical mask it meant they were sick or thought they may be sick (since many will still go to work when sick). Of course there was some government mandated mask wearing when Covid appeared, but generally speaking wearing a mask inside is considered impolite (kind of like wearing shoes in the house). Talking to my in-laws in Taipei, things are pretty much back to normal (and few indoor masks in one of the largest and most crowded cities in the world).
  8. Since you have a 7 YO, check the weather and waves before going to the beach (Cabbage Beach in particular). My 10YO son absolutely LOVED the beach and thought riding the crashing waves was the funnest thing ever. My daughter, not so much. If the wind is coming from the North, a wave will go from nothing to a 6+ foot monster in about 10-15 seconds (I am sure there are some good videos of this on Youtube). There were at least 3 rescues on one of the two days I was there and it was a "moderate" day. People would be walking in calf-deep water and 30 seconds later they are being washed out to sea!!! Perfectly safe if you are a good swimmer and ready for it but probably pretty frightening if you are not. I will say that it is some of the strangest feeling sand I have experiences (you would have to experience it to understand). Nothing like a Galveston, Destin, or other Florida beach.
  9. If you can find a way to get your luggage directly to the airport, you can easily burn 6 hours walking around Nassau. Was on the Liberty a few years ago when we had to spend 2 days in Nassau to get the thrusters fixed (Great trip. Only $700 for a family of 4 and they had the best food ever. Even had rack of lamb in the Windjammer). Nice walk from the ship, up to Queens Stairs, up and over the cause-way, and to the free beach access. About a quarter mile from the beach access is a fantastic little pond with tons of ducks, song-birds, and tons of fish waiting to be fed. Was with the wife and kids and never felt unsafe. We walk fast and I think it took about 90 minutes to get to the beach taking the long way so more like 2-3 hours for most folks. Right at the free beach access is where all the taxis hang out so no problem going from there to the airport.
  10. Not sure about direct from airport to cruise dock, but I can speak to normal city transit from airport to old downtown (a short walk to cruise ship). The bus was cheap and fairly nice but was definitely on "Island time" and had a ton of stops. It was more than OK for vacationing on the island for 2 weeks, but would not rely on it for a cruise. You definitely want to have something that is pre-arranged.
  11. Your biggest problem is likely getting your son to actually want to be with you. Typical evening with kids is that they want to rush the MDR service to get to the evening kid's club activities. We then meet up with them at Sorento's at 10PM. From there (assuming they don't want to hang with their friends for another hour talking or playing games), there is usually a movie on the pool deck, night-time activities in the promenade, or there are always family games available in the "Library". As already mentioned, the first night is the most important for making friends.
  12. "Only" been on Liberty 9 times so still a newbie (there are many that are in the 50-100+ range). Only thing I can say is that the Liberty is consistently inconsistent. What is great one week may be terrible the next (and vice-versa) even on a B2B. Bring a baggy for when they have the white chocolate cranberry cookies (especially if you have kids). For some reason these tend to be better on Liberty than some of the other RCL ships I have been on. Been on some Liberty cruises where they had them 6 of the 7 days (either at the buffer or at Sorento's) and other cruises where it was only 2. Same with the soft oatmeal cookies which only occasionally show up (maybe once a trip versus he hockey-puck oatmeal cookies that are always out). Even if you eat at a specialty restaurant, make sure to cruise through Windjammer as well. At least once a trip you will go "what the heck is that doing in Windjammer?". Some of the best rack-of-lamb I ever had on Liberty was in the Windjammer (and it was not the night it was served in Main dining). For what-ever reason, the quality of food is definitely dependent on which main Chef is on that trip (the Jamaican Chef is consistently good. The French and Indian one from the last 3 years, not so much). Finding out who the main Chef is is pretty much the first thing we do when we get on the ship. Ice show varies from decent to good depending on the performers. You have to see it at least once regardless. The "in the air" is a do not miss just for 2 acts: the samba dancers and the aerialists. The rest of the acts in "in the air" are ho-hum. There have been 2 different couples for the samba dance and they have both been amazing. The aerialist from the Ukraine is world-class (my wife follows her on Facebook). I absolutely hated Saturday Night Fever the 2 times I saw it but others (who are into the 70's) actually enjoyed it. Strictly a preference thing. Make sure to bring long thick socks and pants to go ice-skating. It used to be "just show up" but the last few cruises they started making you get a ticket before-hand. Who knows what it will be now. Enjoy your trip.
  13. iFly has been limited to 1 time per customer for a while. Did an 11-day trip on Quantum and still limited to a single time (cost $$ if you want to do it again). As for North Star, you can sign up once but can do that as many times as you want. There will be a line for reservations and then a second stand-by line. Probably did North Star a dozen times in Alaska. That being said, there are times when North Star is "reserved" and only for Suite guests or has to be rented out for $$. Of course, RCL does change their policies frequently so just because it was that way pre-Covid there are no guarantees it will be that way in the future.
  14. Both my kids will turn Diamond on our next cruise (originally planned for next month but cancelled 😞 As previously stated, the meet-n-greet on the first night is probably the most important. The teen-age kids tend to break into two groups: one that follows the Teen activities and the other just break off (usually in groups of 3-4) and do their own thing for the entire cruise. At 15, they can pretty much do what-ever they want but have to be back in the room by 1AM (curfew for anyone under 18). They can also use the gym but have to sign a waiver for anyone under 16. Whether a teen-ager can stay on the ship while a parent is on a shore excursion is debatable (if with other adult supervision). This happens all the time but supposedly is against RC rules (unlike Carnival where it is 100% OK). Had a not so nice conversation with RC on this one. As for wrist-bands, yes, you will need one. There are actually two types: one for younger cruisers that is specific to muster station and a second one for sports activities. One of the first things you will so when you get on-board is go to the sports complex, sign the waiver, and get a wrist-band. They will punch the wrist-band to designate if the child is under 13 (if so, a parent/guardian is required for them to do activities such as rock-wall, slides, etc.) or 13 and over (can do what-ever hey want without supervision). My kids love cruising and can't wait for the next one. As long as it is one of the bigger ships (Liberty or bigger), teen-agers have no problems finding someone to hang out with (and they have their own hang-out room on the ship). If it is a smaller ship during a non-holiday, then the number of kids (and teens) is drastically reduced. Hope that helps.
  15. We did an over-night at Nassau on Liberty of the Seas (they were fixing the thrusters) and really liked it. We like to walk/explore so had a great time. It is an easy walk to the Queen's Staircase and old Fort. Great views from there. We also walked to the beach near Atlantis (a moderate distance walk). The view from the bridge is pretty nice and is a great place to take pictures when there are a lot of cruise-ships in port. Just pass the bridge is a really nice duck-pond with a TON of different ducks (domesticated) and fish. Bring some bread since the ducks/fish/turtles are waiting for you to feed them. If you don't like water, stay away from the beach near Atlantis. If there is any wind/waves, it is SUPER dangerous (or Super fun, depending on what you like). A 1 foot tall wave can become a 6+ foot tall wave in about 10 feet as it gets close to shore. At least 3 people had to be rescued the day I was there (but for my kids, this was their absolute favorite beach in all of the Caribbean).
  16. Liberty has Saturday Night Fever. Good dancing and decent singing (depending on cast) but overall REALLY hated it. Just not a good show (not into the 70's thing even though that is when I grew up) and far from being family friendly. Typically would go in just to see the salsa number and then leave. Saw three shows on Ovation 2 years ago (inaugural Alaska trip). The high-tech show (Pixel) started out great (cool robotics) but then turned into the worst production I have ever seen regardless of location (cruise or on-land). Singing was not very good and to say that most of the dancers were "over-weight" was an understatement (several were full-on obese). Just painful to watch. To quote my kids (9 and 12 at the time): "Wow. That was just gross.". Evidently they were at the end of their contract and were to be replaced the following week. The show likely would be better with a different cast but overall was just disjointed. However, the other major show on the Ovation (The Beautiful Dream) was absolutely incredible. By far the best show I have seen on any cruise. Fantastic, heart-felt story that flowed well. Given a choice, I would pick it over just about any Broadway production I have seen. Pretty sure there was one more "variety show" on Ovation but it was pretty unremarkable.
  17. As a general rule, you buy jewelry on a cruise due to selection and "memories", not price. I am an avid gem/mineral collector and was previously in the gem/mineral trade. I like to browse the stores while on a cruise, but have pretty much never seen a "normal" style diamond ring that was cheaper than what I could get it for here in the US. If you are going to buy in the Caribbean, then go to an online loose diamond website (there are a ton of them) first and create a simple spreadsheet of size/quality/color. While not perfect, it will at least get you in the ballpark to know if the port dealer is even in the ballpark on price. I have seen more than a few people bragging about their "great deals" all while knowing that they probably overpaid by 50%-100%. As for real-world experience, I did a cruise with my sister 2 years ago where she wanted to buy a new watch for her husband. We were primarily looking for a Tag Heuer so checked the price of a few models at Sam's Club before we left. We found those same watches at over a dozen stores across 3 ports. My sister is actually a good negotiator but even with all the "you will never see a deal like this ever again. I am losing money on this watch...." from the dealers, not a single one came within 30% of the price of the same watch as Sam's Club even including US State tax (and in most cases the "best price" they shouted to us as we left was typically 50%-75% more than Sam's Club). Just person experience from about 9 different ports (however, St Thomas was not one of them).
  18. I asked my wife. She said the steam room was only in the Spa and not attached to the gym/bathroom like it is on the Liberty.
  19. My wife loves going to the gym and steam room as well. Based on sailings last year, steam room on the Quantum class has a cost (but gym is open until 1AM). Compare that to the Liberty class where they are free (but gym closes at 11PM). Just our personal experience (but seen RCL change policies on things week-to-week so always have to ask).
  20. Been on the Liberty quite a few times (about 9 I think). Usually try to drop off the wife/kids and then park the car around 10:30-10:45. Line at that time takes anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes depending on how quickly they are getting people through (or 2 hours for the one time that the computers broke down. aaaaugh). Most times get on the ship between 11:15 - 11:30 via the priority pre-board (add about 20-30 minutes if you don't have any status). I think they do periodic Coast Guard inspections but have never had one on Embark day (but did hear them say they were having one on one of the days we were leaving the ship). Sounds like this delays everything by about an hour. If it were me, I would still try to park about the same time (10:30-11:00). Most of the local parking spots don't like if you get there too much earlier than that since it interferes with the folks leaving. Worst case scenario is that you make it through security and just have to sit in the embarkation area for an extra hour. If they delay boarding until noon, then you can expect to be onboard between 12:30-1PM assuming you are not D+ or Key.
  21. Actually, I would be VERY surprised if there are only 100k cases in the US by this summer. It is basic math. For any given area (South Korea, Iran, Italy, Germany, US, etc.), the number of cases doubles at an average of every 4-5 days (easy enough to Google this since lots of website tracking the numbers from WHO and CDC). In the beginning, both China and Singapore also followed this trend but seem to have slowed it down due to draconian measures that likely would not work in the US. While it would be easy to point to China and say "but China only had 80k cases and they completely stopped it", if you read Chinese and are following non-filtered posts from China, it is easy to speculate that China likely under-reported its numbers by up to 10x (and they have absolutely NOT stopped it). Based on a doubling every 5 days (or even 7 days), you easily have 100k+ cases by May here in the US. There are also estimates from many leading "Education Health Experts" (Harvard, Hong Kong University, etc.) that 40%-80% of the world population could contract the virus within the next 18 months. With a population of 330 million in the US, that equates to 132 million cases (just not all at once) even at the lower estimate. R0 (the average number of people each person infects) varies from 2.6 to 6.7 depending on which scientific paper you read (and which outbreak is being examined by that paper). As a comparison, the common flu tends to have an R0 of 1.2 - 1.3 This is not social media hype, just basic math based on the numbers as provided by WHO, CDC, etc.. Of course, the R0 and doubling rates may change based on the actions taken by the government, but given the current statistical trend, things will likely get much worse before they get better. Most people just don't understand the power of compound doubling (goes back to the old question, "Would you rather have $1M now or $.01 that doubles every day for a month?" ). Safe travels.
  22. As previously mentioned, 300 seems to be the norm. However, I have seen other weights listed (I think it was either 250 or 275). Not sure why there was a difference. Regardless, there is no problem with 190. The size of the Pullman (and getting up and down) will be more an issue than weight.
  23. If I understand correctly, lets use the example of normally there would be $100 in a pool that goes to 10 people (so $10 each). Let's say on the next cruise there is only $90 in that pool since someone did not pay automatic gratuities. It is assumed that the cabin steward/waiter/what-ever of the person removed the automatic gratuities was paid by hand. Thus, the $90 is spread across 9 people (each still getting $10) and the one person is skipped. If that one person that was skipped was given a $20, then he is happy. However if he was given $0, then he somehow has to prove he was given $0 so that the pool is re-allocated (now everyone gets $9). That all being said, my personal belief based on my observations is that there is a list of people that have paid gratuities as of the last day of the cruise. If a person is on that list, then the cabin steward keeps the tip. If the person is not on the list, then the cabin steward is forced to turn in the money and it goes into the shared pool.
  24. To add another wrinkle to the discussion, here is a nearly direct quote from the MDR waiter on a recent 7-day cruise: "You will be getting a survey once we get pack to port. We hope our service was great and you give us a 10. Just realize that if you don't give us a 10, then both myself and my assistant waiter will be taking a pay-cut.". I couldn't believe that I heard him actually say that so asked him to repeat. He said the exact same thing again. On pretty much every cruise we get the "please give us a 10" speech but this was the first time to hear the "we take a pay-cut if you don't" part. Based on this, it seems like the amount paid to waitstaff via the credit-card paid gratuities (pre or post) is variable based on survey performance. That then brings up the question of "so where does the money go if it does not go to your waitstaff?". Is it re-pooled and goes to waitstaff that does get a 10? Goes to a larger pool for everyone? RCI keeps it? Just don't know.
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