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LittleMissMagic

2013 Christmas Cruise on Royal Princess - A Photo Review!

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Hello, Cruise Critics! Welcome to my 2013 Christmas Cruise trip report!

 

I’m Victoria, a fourth year (last semester!) architecture major and travel and tourism minor at Clemson University. In addition to architecture, I enjoy photography, traveling, and sharing my experience with others. This is my sixth photo review on Cruise Critic – you can find links to my other photo reviews in my signature below. And if you enjoy my review, you can read more travel writings on my travel blog, victoriaonvacation.blogspot.com.

 

I feel the need to start every cruise review with a little ‘disclaimer.’ This review will be told in a journalistic style with lots of photos. With the exception of this first post, there won’t be a lot of posts with paragraphs and paragraphs of text – I rely a lot on photos to tell the story. I also don’t take myself too seriously, and you shouldn’t either. There will be a lot of fun-poking and maybe a little sarcasm, and you’re all invited to join in on the fun! I encourage you to post comments to share your thoughts and experiences, or just tell me who you are!

 

My Traveling Party

 

My dad, Boyd, is a funny guy - if you aren't laughing at his jokes, you're laughing at how bad they are (and I am told by my boyfriend that I have the same sense of humor)! Dad is a nuclear licensing engineer who is always in need of a vacation.

 

My mom, Sharon, is always trying her best to bring order to this group of crazies. Before leaving for vacation, she straightens the house - "In case someone breaks in while we're gone."

 

My sister, Rachel, brings along even more laughter. She has an outgoing personality and will do crazy things just to make people smile. Rachel is a civil engineering major at Clemson University.

 

Choosing the Cruise

 

Since 2009, my family has left the Christmas tree and stockings behind (and taken miniature versions with us) to celebrate Christmas on a cruise in the Caribbean. What started as a rather last-minute cruise deal five years ago has evolved into a family tradition. This year, we wanted to spend our holiday doing a cruise out of Florida so that after we could go to Walt Disney World after, since we had purchased annual passes when we were at Disney in October. We like taking longer cruises – our first few were 8 or 9 days, and last year, we took a 10-day Panama Canal Partial Transit on the Island Princess. However, this year, there wasn’t much available in the way of 8 or 9-day cruises. The Independence of the Seas has an 8-day itinerary which I had my eye on for the longest time, but it seemed rather overpriced for a balcony stateroom and never really dropped. We thought we could find a better value, so we started to consider other cruises which we narrowed down to the Celebrity Reflection, Norwegian Epic, or Royal Princess which all sailed 7-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries. Of these, we ultimately chose the Royal Princess because though we loved the Norwegian Epic and would love to sail on her again, the Royal Princess included a stop to Princess Cays which we had never been to before (Reflection was Coco Cay and Epic was Nassau… meh).

 

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Cruise Route by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Choosing the Cabin

 

We were first considering an obstructed view balcony on the Royal Princess. We were going to book a forward-facing cabin until we realized that you couldn’t go on it unless the ship was in port (and after this windy cruise, we understand why!), so it was essentially a glamorized oceanview stateroom. We were twiddling our thumbs and debating on whether to select the obstructed view balcony or upgrade to a standard balcony when my dad found a promotion on an online booking site which allowed us to secure an aft balcony for about $200 less than we were going to pay for that forward-facing balcony (with onboard credit) – hoorah!

 

Pre-Cruise Planning

 

Ha! What pre-cruise planning? The benefit of visiting ports that we have already sailed before is that we already know what’s there. We are beach people (and when I say 'we,' I mean Rachel), so I knew that for Princess Cays, we'd just find a nice spot on the beach. In St. Thomas, we'd go to Sapphire Beach, and in St. Maarten, we'd head to Orient Beach. No excursions for us this cruise - just cab rides!

 

My Camera Bag

 

For about two years, I've owned a Nikon 1 J1 and the 10-30mm and 30-110mm Nikon 1 lenses.

 

I have been planning for a long time to upgrade my camera body and lenses, but I didn't have the time to purchase until a few days before vacation. So I did one-day shipping through Amazon and got everything Thursday evening (we left on Saturday) thanks to the hard-working UPS and FedEx holiday workers.

 

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Nikon D7100 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

So in addition to my Nikon 1 J1 and Nikon 1 lenses, my camera bag includes the Nikon D7100 camera body, Tamron 17-50mm lens, Tokina 11-16mm ultra wide angle lens, and Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight, as well as a MeFoto Backpacker tripod and a wireless remote.

 

I thought there would be some situations in which I would want to use my Nikon 1 J1 over my D7100 either because of size or in risky shooting scenarios. However, I actually only used my J1 two times during the entire vacation - in the hotel room the morning before embarkation and at Epcot shooting the Candlelight Processional because I needed the longer focal length of the 30-110mm Nikon 1 lens. For the rest of the vacation, it stayed locked in the safe.

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Hi Victoria,

 

Always love seeing your reviews with the tons of pictures. I would say 'Good Luck' for your team in tonight's game but I'm rooting for the other side. So instead I will wish you a fun evening watching the Orange Bowl.

 

Go Bucks!

 

-Matt

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December 21, 2013 - Let's Get Out of Here!!!

 

We planned to leave our home in Anderson, South Carolina at 12:00 PM.... so naturally, we left at 1:40 PM. I actually thought we were going to make it this time. Rachel and I packed Friday evening and were ready to go around 11:30 AM. Usually Mom is the one dragging behind, but she also got a pretty early start on packing. This time it was.... DAD! That morning, I awoke to hear Mom asking him what he wanted to pack because apparently since he had delayed it so long, she decided to do it for him. He also waited until noon to take our dog to the kennel. So we couldn't even start loading things into the car because he had taken that one (we have five cars at our house... our driveway looks like a used car lot... and logically, he takes the car we need for vacation).

 

And then an hour and a half later, the car is finally loaded, Rachel, Dad, and I are in the car..... but where is Mom? We find her inside tidying up the upstairs (because Rachel and I came home from college like a wrecking ball). "Mom! Why are you cleaning? We're leaving!" "Oh, you know - just in case someone breaks into our house while we're gone." "Ah, I'm sure that the robbers will really appreciate that you left the home so clean for them."

 

We fought a lot of traffic. Dad had said that we'd probably stop in Orlando and just get up early tomorrow since traffic was so tough. But we drove past Orlando.... and kept driving... and driving.... until finally, an hour and a half later, we found a hotel! We spent the night in a Fairfield Inn about an hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale. I forgot to figure out what city we were in. I'm sure I can find the Fairfield receipt that will tell me if anyone cares to know.

 

December 22, 2013 - Embarkation Day

 

Since we were so close to Port Everglades, we got to sleep in!

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

You wouldn't know by her beautiful smile, but Rachel gets annoyed by my constant photography and tells me often that I'm embarrassing her. Inducing embarrassment a sister's rightful job.

 

Our lovely view from the Fairfield -

 

11734322794_8f457bfc69_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

Edited by LittleMissMagic

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11655193274_1495a2c2e8_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655193164_90afb6abc3_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

We didn't get to the port until around 1:00 which is a little late and unusual for us, but we had no worries. We were at Terminal 2 - made sure to make note of this after we left from Terminal 2 and returned to Terminal 19 without knowing we were at a different terminal last year on the Island Princess (it took us a long time to find our car.....).

 

11655192274_000c8f6a23_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

We were in port with a lot of big ships, including the Allure of the Seas. It actually didn't seem too incredibly big in Port Everglades.

 

11655087313_7af2db9ec6_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655086483_d01c638f02_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

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Embarkation wasn't too terribly bad. Security was a breeze. I was actually told not to take my laptop out of my bag... she freaked out when I started too, as if that was an unusual thing to do. It was rather unorganized at the check-in desks, though. Instead of having one large line and pointing you to a desk when it became open, it was a free for all to choose to line up at whatever desk you wanted. Which was a jumbled mess because then it was difficult for people to leave the desk after they were ready to board because so many people were bunched up behind them.

 

I was issued a gold card, and everyone else had blue cards. My dad of course asked why. "It's because she's taken one Princess cruise." Well, we all had. I didn't tell my dad that a few weeks ago, I had realized that my Captain's Circle account number wasn't synced with the cruise, and I had called Princess and asked them to link the two. I didn't have Rachel's Captain's Circle number and had meant to find out so I could link hers too, but forgot with other things like final projects and grad school applications taking over my life. My dad wanted the guy to reprint them new ones right there. "How many cruises does it say I have taken, then?" The crowds made me snappy, "We all know that everyone in the family has taken one Princess cruise, so let's just settle this at the Loyalty desk onboard!"

 

We took awkward close-up photos before boarding the ship. I wasn't sure if it was weirder to smile or not to smile... so I just kind of opened my mouth in a dumbfounded expression. Thank goodness I never had to see that photo!

 

11738116274_09654de4a4_b.jpg

Embarkation Photo by vshingl, on Flickr

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We headed straight to our staterooms on a packed elevator.

 

Rachel and I were in D731, and Mom and Dad were in D729. This is the Dolphin deck, also known as deck 9.

 

11655600186_0e7026d312_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Our beds were in the twin configuration. There isn't much of a difference between queen and twin in the layout except where they put your nightstand... one doesn't give you more usable floor space as it did in our oceanview stateroom last Christmas.

 

11655085893_81ae6d1764_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11654829215_b214b18128_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

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The open closet configuration is a little strange, but it actually works quite nicely.

 

11654828635_04242e0e60_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655181294_8ec84e369e_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

I complained about the small size of the shower on the Island Princess. There is much improvement in the Royal Princess showers. There is plenty of room inside - it really isn't tiny at all. And there is a little shelf to put your bottles and prop your leg on for shaving. LOVED IT!

 

11655084473_913964b343_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

And finally.... the balcony!

 

11655598276_2d86e1de69_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

I highly recommend getting an aft balcony on the Dolphin deck. Sure, there is a little more vibration and ship noise in the rear of the ship, and you feel a lot more movement, but the balcony itself is spectacular, especially in comparison to what they consider a "deluxe" balcony on the Royal Princess (aka just enough room to squeeze in two chairs, and ottoman, and a table). Ours was partially covered and partially uncovered. We could look onto the balcony below us (deck 8/Emerald - completely uncovered and half the size of our balcony) and the balcony above us was setback and looked down on us (deck 10, also smaller than the deck 9 balcony).

 

11654827725_c12aece578_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11654827785_355292829b_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

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I'm really enjoying the photos you have posted so far, also great photos of Disney World on your blog! By the way, did you have any issues with soot on your balcony?

 

Thank you!

 

I never saw visible soot on the balcony, but I went on it barefoot at night after it had rained, and when I came back inside, my feet were black! That was the only time I had a problem.

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I never saw visible soot on the balcony, but I went on it barefoot at night after it had rained, and when I came back inside, my feet were black! That was the only time I had a problem.

 

Thank you for responding so quickly! That's good to hear the deluxe cabins on dolphin don't seem to have the issue.

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After checking out our staterooms, I left the camera behind while we went to Horizon Court for lunch. While there, I bought the soda package for myself because I'm a Diet Coke addict. We sent Dad on the beginning of the goose chase to change our Anytime Dining to the 8:15 late seating.

 

11655180884_164094917d_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

I was the only one to get a welcome back letter, but my Dad did go immediately to the Loyalty desk, and they reprinted everyone else's card in gold.

 

11654827405_d40f0cf818_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

We also each got this odd credit amount from the online travel company that my dad booked through. A lot of agencies (as well as Princess) offer online credit incentives, so be sure to check all of your options before booking!

 

11655598366_7cc33cf0da_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11654826735_ba7c870c9a_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

We then got mostly unpacked before the muster drill began. We mustered in the Vista Lounge.

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Time to sail away! Rachel and I headed to the top deck for the party.

 

11655187544_f425acd971_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Bon Voyage, Ruby Princess! I hear that teenagers had a schwasty good time during your sailing... :D

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Goodbye, Giant of the Seas - we'll see you again, soon!

 

11655596046_bc3a292525_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655596006_23efef18fc_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655595816_362e61da40_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

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11654824905_975f504260_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655080143_31ac915e07_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

My dad decided to bring along his Canon Rebel so that we could "have a competition."

 

11654819885_01d0b3b2aa_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Goodbye, Fort Lauderdale!

 

11654823955_0ec74fde71_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

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12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Let's get this party started! We bought a bottle of champagne, and my dad became obsessed with filling up these little cards with punches that entered him into a competition to have his bar tab paid for. You got six punches for a bottle of wine or champagne.

 

11655184084_1c8209d6a3_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

We sat down on the pool deck (well, not literally on the deck... in chairs on the deck with the pool) to enjoy our champagne and watch perhaps the most epically entertaining competition to be held all week. After the band had finished playing and the entertainment crew stopped dancing, a little girl (and by little, I mean she was anywhere between 8 and 10 and not really at all little for her age) got on the fountain stage and started entertaining us with her elaborate dance moves, becoming more and more exuberant with the cheers of her large fan club. Some little boys decided to join her and dance which ticked her off because she was the star. The boys flipped around the stage but she'd always make sure to put herself in front of them. A man walked by and heard our shrieks of the crazy dancing, "She's Beyonce and those are her back-up dancers."

 

Well, a little blonde girl had been watching the competition break out on the side and decided to settle it once and for all. She hopped up beside Beyonce and started popping her back and twerking like a dancer in a Miley Cyrus (post-Hannah Montana) video. This girl obviously had at least some training... probably the star of her hometown dance studio... and she was cute and she knew it. Her mom was quick to race up and put a t-shirt on her bikini-wearing daughter because as everyone knows from the "I Need Fabulous" pool scene in High School Musical 2, if you're going to dance provocatively, it can't be considered sexual as long as you're dressed modestly. The little dancing monsters were all kicked off the stage by a crew member preparing for the fountain show, so we'll never know who the last one standing would be. But I think what everyone watching learned from this entertainment is that children these days watch way too much MTV!!!

Edited by LittleMissMagic

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I remember your previous reviews and I am so excited to see that you did one for the Royal!! You and your sister are BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!

 

I love the way you write and your pictures are awesome. I can't wait to read the rest. :D:D

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LOVE your picture reviews!! I'm going to enjoy popping in here every once in a while over the weekend to see your updates. :D

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These pictures are beautiful! Can't wait to see more. Thanks for posting!

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After sail away, we went to the Allegro Dining Room in hopes of changing our Anytime Dining to the 8:15 PM sitting.

 

11655592616_83b7839c9b_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Like I said earlier, I didn't do much research or preparation for this cruise. I was just too darn busy. So if I had, I might've learned that the Royal Princess dedicates two of its dining rooms to Anytime Dining and only the Allegro dining room to traditional seatings. One of the reasons we chose Royal Princess over the Norwegian Epic is because we wanted a "traditional" cruise for Christmas with assigned dining, as opposed to freestyle cruising.. However, I think with the Royal Princess, Princess is trying to make a transition to Anytime Dining and a more "freestyle" approach. While I did enjoy our freestyle cruise, I also like having the same wait staff each night and getting to really make a connection with them, especially at Christmas time.

 

11655592936_486a3d99cc_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Princess does post the dining dress code at the front door, but as we learned from the group of people beside us, they don't really enforce it. To our shock, we were seeing lots of ball caps and shorts at dinner.

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I remember your previous reviews and I am so excited to see that you did one for the Royal!! You and your sister are BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!

 

I love the way you write and your pictures are awesome. I can't wait to read the rest. :D:D

 

Welcome, and thank you so much for your kind words!

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Our request for 8:15 PM dining was successful, and we went back to our rooms to get ready for dinner.

 

11655592436_145bba7423_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655078213_43bcbb4e80_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11655182894_43a9136526_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

They put a sticker with our new dining information on Dad's card, but not on anyone else's.

 

11655588776_7c5eb3c56b_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

11654822555_94784d743e_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

We were seated in a smaller room in the Allegro dining room containing two booths for four on each side (could be configured into four tables for two) and one large round table for 8 in the center). Of these tables, the large round and two of the booths were occupied by a large party which consisted of several families. They communicated with one another in Spanish, though most of the adults all spoke a little bit of English to communicate with the waiter. They were also Jewish and were eating Kosher. I have been seated by a family eating Kosher before on a Christmas cruise, so I've observed that scenario before. I mention those two things only because they are important in later situations. The problem.... was their children! They ranged in ages from toddler to teenager, and they were the loudest, rowdiest bunch, and they would climb on top of the table and chairs and chase one another around the large round table like they were running laps in a gym. While it was annoying that we struggled to hear our waitress because of their volume (she apologized to us over and over about the noise), safety was my top concern. It's not safe for a toddler to run around a dining room because not only could he fall and hurt himself, but waiters are carrying big trays of hot food above their head, so their vision is limited. If they tripped over a toddler, they could spill the food and not only make a mess, but possibly burn the child, themselves, or other guests. And the teenage boy annoyed me because he wore the rattiest baseball cap to dinner every night. Eww.

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You and I get annoyed by the same things, I see. I too, like a more traditional type of cruise most of the time, and out of control kids really irk me. :D

 

I can't wait to see all the different outfits you and your sister brought to wear to dinner - I've enjoyed that in your previous threads. I hope you got all new dresses for the cruise :cool:

 

Congratulations on your new camera. I had planned to get a new one for my birthday in April, but a really good sale at B&H Photo last week convinced me that I must have it NOW :o So, my new Canon 70D and 18-135mm lens will be accompanying me on my Jewel/Allure B2B in a couple weeks. I can't decide if I want to get a lens just for wide angle shots though. I hate changing lenses 'cause I'm always afraid of dust getting in the camera :o

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You and I get annoyed by the same things, I see. I too, like a more traditional type of cruise most of the time, and out of control kids really irk me. :D

 

I can't wait to see all the different outfits you and your sister brought to wear to dinner - I've enjoyed that in your previous threads. I hope you got all new dresses for the cruise :cool:

 

Congratulations on your new camera. I had planned to get a new one for my birthday in April, but a really good sale at B&H Photo last week convinced me that I must have it NOW :o So, my new Canon 70D and 18-135mm lens will be accompanying me on my Jewel/Allure B2B in a couple weeks. I can't decide if I want to get a lens just for wide angle shots though. I hate changing lenses 'cause I'm always afraid of dust getting in the camera :o

 

Haha, you might see a few outfit repeats! I like to think that my cruise dinner wardrobe lasts a long time because almost nobody on the cruise knows that we've worn those dresses before.... but I can't forget about my review readers! :D Rachel made sure to have all new smart casual outfits since she was rewearing two of her formal dresses.

 

And congratulations on your new camera! Changing lenses is definitely a bit annoying, but I knew that I wanted that ultra wide angle lens because I really enjoyed my 10-30mm lens for my J1. I didn't think that I would really need a longer focal length zoom lens, but now I'm deciding otherwise.... I think that will be my next purchase! I'm afraid I am susceptible to becoming a gear junkie! :o

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Love the photos...hope you take some time out tonight to watch the Clemson football game!

 

Oh, of course I will! It was kind of painful to be in Florida earlier this week and not get to go to the Orange Bowl... but it just didn't make sense to drive from Disney World further south to Miami. Besides, I had a terrible experience at the last Orange Bowl that Clemson played in.... Train for halftime!? Are you kidding me? :D (kidding... the last Orange Bowl definitely falls under the category of things to never mention to Victoria.... ever!)

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Hi Victoria!

 

Another fantastic review. Thanks for taking the time once again.

I enjoy them so much. :)

 

Hope your time in Italy awhile back was excellent.

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I've never really photographed food before, but I gave it an ambitious start on this sailing. I forgot a lot of courses and brought heavy doses of embarrassment to Rachel (Who was she trying to impress - ratty ballcap boy?). Also, note that I am very inexperienced with the exterior flash. This was a learning experience!

 

11655074663_327d6b387b_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Egg rolls as an appetizer

 

And I guess I was too hungry and devoured my entree before photographing it... or maybe I was just frazzled by the lady at the table next to me (not related to the large party of obnoxious people) who looked at me photographing my appetizer and said, "Oh, that's a girl thing. Girls always photograph their food." No, it's not! It's a nerdy travel blogger thing! Am I really more normal than I think??

 

So here's dessert!

 

11655076583_8214579651_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

If you can't win, fight back! Rachel found it hilarious to take a bite of the food I was photographing - whether it was hers or mine.

 

11655179924_31d92a9b5c_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

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11654821175_f27af98c84_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

 

Rachel had worried earlier, remembering that she didn't pack a tote bag for the beach... then she remembered that Princess gives you totes to use! And they came through! My parents only got one tote bag... I guess because they're married? But Rachel and I got two (on both Princess cruises).

 

11655193834_054f875e50_b.jpg

12.22.13 by vshingl, on Flickr

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Look at the Sigma 18-250. It's a great short to medium range lens... My current travel arsenal consists of the Sigma 18-250, the f1.8 18-35 and depending on how much I want to carry and where I am going, the Sigma 50-500... But I would say the 18-250 is on my camera 90 percent of the time.

 

 

You and I get annoyed by the same things, I see. I too, like a more traditional type of cruise most of the time, and out of control kids really irk me. :D

 

I can't wait to see all the different outfits you and your sister brought to wear to dinner - I've enjoyed that in your previous threads. I hope you got all new dresses for the cruise :cool:

 

Congratulations on your new camera. I had planned to get a new one for my birthday in April, but a really good sale at B&H Photo last week convinced me that I must have it NOW :o So, my new Canon 70D and 18-135mm lens will be accompanying me on my Jewel/Allure B2B in a couple weeks. I can't decide if I want to get a lens just for wide angle shots though. I hate changing lenses 'cause I'm always afraid of dust getting in the camera :o

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Great review and pictures so far. You have an amazing talent for putting this review together. If you ever got into the travel / tourism field, I'm sure you would be very sucessful at it. Good luck in the future after graduation. We were on the Royal Princess the week of Nov. 3rd and loved it. Looking forward to more of your review.

 

Cheers - Ken & Darlene

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