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EmpressofPurple

(Not) Live from the Explorer of the Seas, March 2014

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Greetings Cruise Critic Friends!! Welcome to my (NOT) live posting from the beautiful Explorer of the Seas 8 day cruise to Nassau, Bahamas and exotic Port Canaveral, Florida!!

 

Those of you who are familiar with my style of cruise review know that it will be a blog-diary covering the minutiae of my cruising day, activities, food, exercise, excursions, entertainment – and often those of my traveling companions as well. I describe the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful in close detail… often offering some opinions along the way, but hopefully providing an accurate enough description that you can decide for yourself whether you would enjoy (or hate!) something that I dislike (or love!)

 

I started this journal by writing a daily email to myself on my tablet, since I didn’t lug along my (outdated, heavy and slow) laptop… however, typing on the tiny travel keyboard was definitely a challenge, especially since the spacebar is recalcitrant, so by day 2 I started making notes by hand (which of course slowed down the posting of this review, since I had to actually type everything up when I returned).

 

Also slowing down the preparation of this review was a BUSY month upon my return: catching up on work, buying a new (er, 2001 with 118k miles) car, running the Cherry Tree 5K in DC with my family… and doing all the laundry from that 8-day cruise!!

 

"New" car:

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Cherry Tree 5K w/DD Ariel (she was on the cruise with me) and DS Jason

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Anyway, enough introduction – on with the cruise. Welcome aboard :)

 

DAY 1 - Friday, March 21 - 4:25pm

 

Sitting in the cabin for a few minutes... let's recap the day so far:

 

8:35, check in with friend from NJ who is coming in to pick us up and drop us at the port (we will pay gas and tolls).

 

9:00 drive down in our car to pickup DD's boyfriend Tom and his bags, so we can leave straight from our house when our friend from NJ arrives.

 

10:00, having breakfast shake and coffee... when I get a call from our friend from NJ: he has broken down on the NJ Turnpike, no idea what happened! Worried about him, but no time to waste, we start calling other friends to see if anyone else can take us to the port… but in NYC, not many people have a car, or are free on a Friday morning to drive us even in our own car! Fortunately, it turns out Tom has a friend with a cab, who gives us a discount on the trip. Nice!

 

10:45, on the way to the port we encounter serious traffic... we see emergency vehicles, smoke... by great good fortune (to us!) the issue is on the opposite side of the highway -- a truck engine caught fire. Entire road is shut down on the other side! Miles of traffic piled up behind. We thank our lucky stars and keep heading to the port.

 

11:30 - arrive at port, hand off big bags to porter, use bathroom (!) and head in to checkin. Tom's corkscrew is confiscated! : ( Ariel and I go through together, and the security guard looks at our SetSail passes to confirm that we are indeed in separate cabins, since we are each carrying on two bottles of wine. (I don’t drink, so my allotment will be for Ariel and Tom to enjoy.)

 

Arriving at the tent, er, port with DD Ariel and her BF Tom

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We check in thru priority boarding while Tom goes thru regular checkin (it's his first cruise!) – and he also carries on two bottles of wine, which are not questioned since he and Ariel are checking in separately. We meet up in the waiting area, where they take a boarding photo (and I take some of them too while they’re posing for the photographer), and we head out to the jitney to the cruise ship.

 

"Sneaking" some boarding photos

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We saw the same garbage truck with the engine fire and that was around 12:30PM - still slow traffic at that time.

 

Hmmm....Interesting on the confiscation of the corkscrew. One of our traveling partners had one in her carry-on and it was not an issue.

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By 12:30 we're onboard! We walk up from 1 to 5, walk through the Promenade to the back of the ship-, and take an elevator to 11. Windjammer is packed as usual. We find separate seating (Ariel and Tom at a table for 2, me at a group table that kindly makes room for me. I enjoy meeting the 95-year-old on her birthday and her caregiver, plus talking with a lovely young lady (age 11) and her equally lovely parents from North Carolina. We continue to run into each other several times on our first day at sea, as often happens on a cruise.

 

Lunch: Raw baby spinach, Greek salad, chick peas, tuna salad... carved roast beef with horseradish, green beans... cold cuts (salami, olive loaf, swiss cheese) + brown bread. Drink water and mango-flavored water. Then get apple strudel and coffee... and take green apple, red apple, orange, two cookies and a coconut macaroon for the cabin. (ooh, cookie, think I'll have one right now... mmm)

 

(Hmmm, wonder why I have no food photos from first day in the Windjammer... oh yeah, I think my battery died...)

 

1:30 - head down stairs to cabin, they're open now. Unpack carryon, call Ariel & Tom in their cabin. Meet up at 2 to go on spa tour and enter raffle.

 

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In addition to relatively-new acupuncture and medi-spa injectables (eww!!) they offered an unlimited haircare package for $189, you could get blowouts every day, updos for formal nights, etc. Very nice spa presentations from seaweed massage to facial to ionithermie to the above-mentioned acupuncture and medi-spa offerings.

 

Medi-spa... forgive me, you ladies (and gents) who choose to do this, however I just can't see injecting myself with toxins and plastic just to look younger... maybe to help me with seizures or something critical... but that's about it! But if you want to do it (and on a cruise?!? where you can't follow up with the provider if, G*d forbid, something goes wrong???) well, they now offer it...

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Unlimited hair care... hmmm, seems to be different prices than they promoted during the tour... still, a good idea for those who enjoy this sort of thing... Myself, I just cut off the end of my ponytail when the split ends get too bad, I'm kind of low maintenance in this regard...

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I met the fitness center staff too, Alen (sic -- meaning that is indeed how he spells his name) and Tom. When I asked if they offered any multi-class discounts (e.g., I’ve seen classes regularly priced at $12, if you buy three they’re only $10 each) – and they said they could offer four classes for the price of three (an even better deal: $36 for four classes = $9 per class)… and you could even mix and match yoga, pilates and cycling!!

 

As it turned out, I never took advantage of this offer – a first for me not to do paid classes while onboard. I did, however, make the free classes every morning except for when we had 7am passport control. I picked up a fitness center schedule and was surprised to see that this cruise offered no afternoon fitness offerings at all, paid or free… just the product promotion sessions, er, health seminars.

 

Fitness Center Schedule

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We saw the same garbage truck with the engine fire and that was around 12:30PM - still slow traffic at that time.

 

Hmmm....Interesting on the confiscation of the corkscrew. One of our traveling partners had one in her carry-on and it was not an issue.

 

Tom had a classic folding metal corkscrew with handles... Ariel had a plastic RCI corkscrew which I had won on a previous cruise at Trivia (a tiny plastic tube with a metal screw inside; remove the outer tube, stick it through a hole in the top of the metal screw piece to create a handle to use) which made it through fine.

 

From reading other posts, I also understand that you can request a corkscrew when you board.

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I met the fitness center staff too, Alen (sic -- that means he actually spells is name this way) and Tom. When I asked if they offered any multi-class discounts (e.g., I’ve seen classes regularly priced at $12, if you buy three they’re only $10) – and they said they could offer four classes for the price of three (an even better deal: $36 for four classes = $9 per class)… and you could even mix and match yoga, pilates and cycling!!

 

As it turned out, I never took advantage of this offer – a first for me not to do paid classes while onboard. I did, however, make the free classes every morning except for when we had 7am passport control. I picked up a fitness center schedule and was surprised to see that this cruise offered no afternoon fitness offerings at all, paid or free… just the product promotion sessions, er, health seminars.

 

Fitness Center Schedule

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Back to the stateroom for more unpacking until muster drill (my bag is here but Ariel's is still missing). Ariel and Tom come to get me for Muster Drill at 3:15, and I’m afraid I dawdled a bit, used the, um, facility, until suddenly it’s 3:30 and we're "those people" at muster, running the length of the deck to get to our station (with everyone making snide comments as we flew by, asking why we couldn’t get there on time). Sorry, folks! (Yeah, I was embarrassed, and I felt bad for exposing Ariel and Tom to that kind of criticism, especially on his first cruise.)

 

Teardrop Monument... given to the US by the Russian Government in 2006 "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism" as a memorial for the lives lost in the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center Attacks. One of my favorite things about sailing out of Bayonne; otherwise I'd never know about this.

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4:15 - back to cabin. Plug in my phone to charge before we pull out of port, and contact friend merionmom (Carol) who is also on this sailing (in fact, she booked it for us on her last cruise – under the old NextCruise booking rules, so we each got $100 OBC per cabin for this cruise).

 

Heading into New York Harbor

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Carol comes to my cabin -- we don't realize we're so far into sailaway... she heads up to see us pass under the Verrazano Narrows bridge from top deck, while I change into workout gear first.... suddenly cabin is in shadow and I realize I'm missing the bridge!! I run out onto balcony to take a picture as we're pulling past it. Sigh.

 

Missed the cool picture when you're right underneath and it feels like you can reach up from the top deck and touch the bottom of the bridge... oh well, I'll catch it in November!

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Now sitting here to write these notes before going up to fitness center to try out complimentary boot camp class! (That's a first. I paid for the boot camp a couple cruises ago, it was fun but HARD).

 

Okay, my notes have now caught up to the present moment! Going to head up to gym for spa raffle and class... then I don't know, relax a little, shower, sailway show at 7:45 followed by late seating dinner at 8:30... then I may turn in! We'll see, this is going to be the "relaxing" cruise. I'll catch up on my notes again after the next burst of onboard activity!:)

Edited by EmpressofPurple
added footnote

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The Day 1 Compass advertised the spa tour, sailaway party and parade on the Promenade (which most people miss because they’re up on deck watching sailaway from the pool deck)… Today’s screening room movie is “Grownups 2” and the evening’s activities included the Welcome Aboard Show (with comedian Dennis Blair), March Madness live in the Weekend Warrior sports par on the Promenade, Karaoke in Maharajas, and of crouse various casino events. (There was also a Music Challenge Classic TV themes trivia in Schooner bar, but that was at 8:45, so with late seating dinner I would have to miss that).

 

Day 1 Compass - page 1

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page 2

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page 3

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page 4

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Inserted in the Compass there’s a “daily offers” vertical half page promoting a liquor tasting event, shore excursions, spa upgrades, beverage packages, photo gallery offers, a 10% coupon at Ben 7 Jerry’s (just noticed that now while writing this up a month after the cruise!!) – and Next Cruise Sales (more on that later).

 

Insert front

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and back

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(Don't ask me why some of these images are loading tiny and some huge!!)

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Hi Ruth, nice to see you! :)

 

Can't wait till we're on the 2-week repo in November, the ship looks BEAUTIFUL. Enjoy the review.

 

Your review is going to make our looooong wait easier! Loving it already :)

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There’s also an insert introducing the officers and staff onboard, including the captain, hotel director, cruise director, food & beverage director, chief engineer and loyalty ambassador… and a note assigning Ice Show admissions based on your muster station (ours is Day 2/Saturday at 4pm).

 

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There was also a welcome letter for me as a Diamond member, with a list of the coupons on the back that are presumably automatically applied on our seapass card (these are what used to be in the printed coupon books, now gone). Be forewarned: on my Oasis cruise in December, these were NOT automatically applied – you had to KNOW what your offer was and ASK for it. Example: As a Diamond I’m supposed to receive one free photo. When I went to the photo desk with a single photo on the Oasis, they gave me a receipt showing the full price. I had to request the free Diamond photo, they had to void the receipt and ring up one showing the discount. I don’t know whether that would have happened on this cruise, too, since I always asked for the discount up front.

 

Diamond Welcome Letter

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And "automatic" coupons

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This letter notes that the old “ultimate value booklets” will no longer be accepted… that “internet, telephone, arcade and movies” are not automatically applied but must be activated by guest services… and that all offers are for one-time use only and valid only for this cruise. Gone are the days when you could stack up booklets and use them from cruise to cruise or share them with friends!! (In fact, that had stopped by the late days of the booklets, too, when they became very strict about checking that they were from that cruise, had you write your name and stateroom on each coupon, etc.)

 

I always found that level of control odd – after all, they’re issuing these coupons, presumably whoever receives them could use them all… what does it matter if they’re used by them or another cruiser, on that cruise or a later one? Are they planning that many people will not use some of them and they’ll simply go to waste? Well, no worries about that any more, there’s no way to save them up or share them in electronic form, so they will definitely go to waste if unused by the original offerree.

 

Another letter from the Crown & Anchor Society talked about the “experimental” 3 drink coupons during happy hour (5pm-8:30pm) good at any bar onboard (except the dining room, specialty restaurants or Windjammer).

 

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One thing this letter does NOT state is that tips are not included with these drinks!!! I learned this the hard way, as you will hear later on (or as you may have read already, in other threads on this subject where I posted my experience). I STRONGLY recommend that RCI/C&A add another asterisk at the bottom of this letter stating "gratuities not included with this offer."

 

On the back of the letter was a list of the types of beverages available on this program. (It doesn’t list soda, but I understand that fountain soda is included, although canned soda is not… nor does canned soda qualify for the buy one-get one or 20% off Diamond discounts outside of happy hour. Sigh.)

 

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I wonder how much longer they will be printing all this stuff up... I know most of us pre-book our excursions, whether through the ship or privately, and print out our own info... but I do love looking through these booklets to see if there's anything I missed, or even just reading about excursions I'm not taking but might want to try in the future.

 

I wonder if the day will come in the not-too-far future when we are each issued a tablet when we check in (or connection info for our own tablets or smartphones) and get sent all of this information electronically!

 

Also, although I didn't attend the "Save the Waves environmental lecture" which was offered on a later date in this cruise, I no longer ask for multiple copies of the Compass, so you will see my own highlighting, notes, etc. on these wrinkled and well-used papers (especially the Daily Compasses).

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(Written at 10:45pm - catching up on my notes again)

 

So, went up to the fitness center at 5pm for the spa raffle. Alas, we did not win (although they did give out $30-off coupons to everybody, good for the first two days… a nice deal, but none of us took advantage of this offer).

 

Setting up for the Spa Raffle

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They do create much more energy and excitement than shown in this photo, taken before the crowd arrives... as they raffle off the prizes, people cheer, applaud -- and if they win, dance! Alas, no photos...

 

$30 Spa Coupon given to everyone who attended raffle

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I stayed on after the raffle (along with 3 other hearty -- and much younger and thinner! -- women for the free "boot camp sampler". Yep, hundreds there for the free spa raffle, 4 for the free boot camp class.

 

Four mats laid out for the boot camp taster

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It was HARD; burpees, mountain climbers, squats, planks, and more challenging moves (lunges, pushups, stretches, etc.) I've taken the full boot camp program before (last time I was on Explorer, in fact, nearly two years earlier) -- I was expecting a 10-minute taster class, we were there for 20 minutes of a very challenging workout! How nice to have that as a free “sampler.” (One of the women was dressed in jeans, boots, a sweater and a bib necklace, which she wore during the workout! We actually became friendly and ran into each other several times throughout the cruise.)

 

Afterwards I did 10 mins. on the treadmill, enjoying the beautiful sea and sky views (there's nothing else like working out at sea). Interestingly, I was the ONLY ONE on the machines at this time; I guess everyone else was unpacking, enjoying sailaway, the drink of the day, early seating dinner, etc. (I’m actually sorry to have missed the parade on the Promenade at 5:45… oh well…)

 

Empty fitness center at sailaway (well, except for me)

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About 6:15 I went back to the cabin, stopping by Ariel and Tom's on the way. Tom was napping! I showered and dressed for dinner (purple pants and top, short black jacket, purple multicolored scarf I had bought at a promenade sale on Oasis in December, purple sparkly fake Toms-type shoes, plus my silver "cruise jewelry” with a ship charm from my first-ever cruise, the big red boat Oceanic, plus sparkly earrings.

 

Sunset from my balcony

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I picked up Ariel and Tom and we headed down around 7pm. Drawn to the Promenade by the rockin live jazz music, we stopped at the prom cafe and got pastries and mini sandwiches (ham and swiss on mini-croissant, salami on a poppyseed roll, mozzarella and tomato on olive foccacia… these were on offer nearly every day on this cruise, there seemed to be much less variety in the Prom café offerings than on other sailings). I also had half of a COCONUT RANGER COOKIE (my favorite, in case you couldn't tell). Ariel and Tom had some other pastries as well. I made us a fruit salad of banana and kiwi to share, and made myself an iced coffee (I asked for a cup of ice at the counter, then went over to the coffee machines where I filled the cup with coffee, milk and sweetener. Yum!)

 

We took our plates over to the Pub, where I ordered a jack and ginger for Ariel and Tom to share, using my Diamond drink coupon (3 coupons per day loaded on our seapass cards, available from 5-8:30pm at any bar).* I don't drink alcohol, so this perk is wasted on me; I'm so glad I'm traveling with someone who can use it. I don’t view this as “cheating” or “stealing” – this is a legitimate Diamond level perk, and I’m not using it for myself… I don’t ever drink in the Diamond Lounge or Diamond event (or other C&A events), either, so my drinks there just go unused. We then we walked down to the Aquarium bar, where I got them another drink to take into the welcome aboard show (I don’t think I ever used the 3 coupons on any single day onboard, and I never went to the Diamond Event on this cruise). I got an iced water in the Casino for myself.

 

At the Pub on the Promenade

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*(I later learned that the receipt which stated “15% gratuity is included in the drink” is not true for these free drinks! I felt really bad that for the first three days I took advantage of this perk and never tipped my bar servers. Once I learned about this, of course, I always wrote in at least a 20% tip on the “additional tip” line – although in this case, it was the only tip. I never carry cash onboard unless I’m heading to the casino; this may change now that I’m entitled to free drink service at various bars as well as in the Diamond Club/Event; I’ll probably carry at least three singles, so that I can easily tip the servers in the various locales for the three free drinks, whether I get a soda for myself or an alcoholic beverage for someone else.)

 

(FYI, these Diamond Drink coupons are only being rolled out on a “trial” basis right now for very limited dates. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I actually much prefer having a Lounge or Club where I can meet other highly traveled individuals who love cruising – I have made many friends this way over the years, and it’s one of the reasons I love the Diamond breakfast, too. This is different from a “suite” perk (although Concierge lounge access is provided for suite guests) – that’s for people who are dropping big bucks on a particular cruise, not necessarily people who have vast cruise experience. While I’m sure suite folk are happy to hobnob with their own kind – and indeed, there is often a lot of overlap between suite guests and D/D+/P guests – my shared interests are more with those who cruise often than those who cruise at the highest $$$ levels.)

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Greetings Cruise Critic Friends!! Welcome to my (NOT) live posting from the beautiful Explorer of the Seas 8 day cruise to Nassau, Bahamas and exotic Port Canaveral, Florida!!

 

Those of you who are familiar with my style of cruise review know that it will be a blog-diary covering the minutiae of my cruising day, activities, food, exercise, excursions, entertainment – and often those of my traveling companions as well. I describe the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful in close detail… often offering some opinions along the way, but hopefully providing an accurate enough description that you can decide for yourself whether you would enjoy (or hate!) something that I dislike (or love!)

 

I started this journal by writing a daily email to myself on my tablet, since I didn’t lug along my (outdated, heavy and slow) laptop… however, typing on the tiny travel keyboard was definitely a challenge, especially since the spacebar is recalcitrant, so by day 2 I started making notes by hand (which of course slowed down the posting of this review, since I had to actually type everything up when I returned).

 

Also slowing down the preparation of this review was a BUSY month upon my return: catching up on work, buying a new (er, 2001 with 118k miles) car, running the Cherry Tree 5K in DC with my family… and doing all the laundry from that 8-day cruise!!

 

"New" car:

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Cherry Tree 5K w/DD Ariel (she was on the cruise with me) and DS Jason

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Anyway, enough introduction – on with the cruise. Welcome aboard :)

 

DAY 1 - Friday, March 21 - 4:25pm

 

Sitting in the cabin for a few minutes... let's recap the day so far:

 

8:35, check in with friend from NJ who is coming in to pick us up and drop us at the port (we will pay gas and tolls).

 

9:00 drive down in our car to pickup DD's boyfriend Tom and his bags, so we can leave straight from our house when our friend from NJ arrives.

 

10:00, having breakfast shake and coffee... when I get a call from our friend from NJ: he has broken down on the NJ Turnpike, no idea what happened! Worried about him, but no time to waste, we start calling other friends to see if anyone else can take us to the port… but in NYC, not many people have a car, or are free on a Friday morning to drive us even in our own car! Fortunately, it turns out Tom has a friend with a cab, who gives us a discount on the trip. Nice!

 

10:45, on the way to the port we encounter serious traffic... we see emergency vehicles, smoke... by great good fortune (to us!) the issue is on the opposite side of the highway -- a truck engine caught fire. Entire road is shut down on the other side! Miles of traffic piled up behind. We thank our lucky stars and keep heading to the port.

 

11:30 - arrive at port, hand off big bags to porter, use bathroom (!) and head in to checkin. Tom's corkscrew is confiscated! : ( Ariel and I go through together, and the security guard looks at our SetSail passes to confirm that we are indeed in separate cabins, since we are each carrying on two bottles of wine. (I don’t drink, so my allotment will be for Ariel and Tom to enjoy.)

 

Arriving at the tent, er, port with DD Ariel and her BF Tom

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We check in thru priority boarding while Tom goes thru regular checkin (it's his first cruise!) – and he also carries on two bottles of wine, which are not questioned since he and Ariel are checking in separately. We meet up in the waiting area, where they take a boarding photo (and I take some of them too while they’re posing for the photographer), and we head out to the jitney to the cruise ship.

 

"Sneaking" some boarding photos

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Port Canaveral is exotic?

 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 using forums app

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Thanks for taking us along on another cruise! I'm really enjoying it!

 

The "Teardrop Monument" is a hidden gem that so few people know about. Thanks for including it in your review.

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Thanks for taking us along on another cruise! I'm really enjoying it!

 

The "Teardrop Monument" is a hidden gem that so few people know about. Thanks for including it in your review.

 

Thanks Wildcatfish, for having fairly pedestrian ports it actually was a wonderful cruise... always fun to re-experience the delight of a first-time cruiser who's having a great time.

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I actually just added links in my sig to my earlier reviews... except for the Oasis ones, they have no pictures... though I guess I could add an addendum to them at this point!

 

At any rate, on with the review! I've gotta at least get day 1 posted before I take a break for the night.

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Denise-Great review so far!! Another fellow Explorer repo cruiser subscribed!,:D

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As is our custom, we walked down and sat in the front row to give energy back to the performers who work so hard to entertain us by clapping and cheering to thank them for their work. Cruise ship entertainers have a hard life, singing and dancing and playing for a challenging audience: people who fall asleep, walk out in the middle of shows, have been over-served, etc. We sat next to a lovely father and daughter, Steve and Megan, who introduced themselves and started chatting away. We would encounter them in the front row on other occasions in the course of the cruise.

 

Beautiful curtain in the theatre

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The show was fine, cruise director Keith, activities manager Dre from Jamaica, a 9-piece orchestra that was kicking! and a comedian and musical satirist, Dennis Blair, who was pretty darn funny. We enjoyed the show, applauded and cheered as appropriate, and left right at 8:30 to head for dinner.

 

We had to try every ladies room between the theatre and the dining room before we found one without a line, and the pace both exiting the theatre, heading up to four to cross over to the aft of the ship to the dining room, was glacial at best.

 

Random beautiful decor... in one of the public restrooms!

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We made our way to our table (since when aren't we seated by a host??) and found a lovely couple, Peter and Barbara, waiting for us. They turned out to be HIGHLY traveled people, and regaled us with stories of cruises all around the world: Alaska, Panama Canal, Europe, Baltics, Transpacific, wow!!! We shared shore excursion stories, talked about different cruise lines, told them about our running,* and generally had a terrific meal.

 

*(As those of you who have read previous threads of mine, I completed my first full marathon last November in Philadelphia… Tom, Ariel and MerionMom were all there to cheer me on, along with Ariel’s brother Jason. Also running that day were Tom’s mother and sister, who completed their first half-marathon. Ariel, Jason and I have been running together since January of 2011, when we completed a Disney 5K, and we were hooked. We all ran the Cherry Tree race in Washington DC the weekend after this cruise – Tom, his mother and sister ran the 10-miler, while Ariel, Jason and I ran the 5K. That was a great trip, too… although it did contribute to the delay in preparing this trip report.)

 

Peter and Barbara (photo taken on our last night onboard)

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Oh yeah, and the food wasn't bad either! MOJO was the first-night menu. I had the thai coconut seafood soup, which was delicious with a nice little spicy kick, plus the eggplant and artichoke tart (didn't eat the crust, but it had a delicious port wine reduction couli). Dinner was the prime rib (excellent) with gravy, baked potato w/sour cream. Also shared the cod and celeriac mash with Tom (this is the only night the Cod is offered as the “anyday” fish, every other day it will be salmon… which was on the main menu tonight).

 

Dessert was the low-fat mango pudding (now with pieces of real mango!) plus I shared the blueberry-peach crumble with Ariel. Okay, I ate that by myself. Coffee with cream (plus my sugarfree salted caramel syrup that I brought on board!) Kumar and Juan were our servers. Plus I had a pumpkin seed roll and a savory bite, and asked for a cheeseplate for the next night. They brought two tonight at the end of the meal, and I put them together and brought them to the room for a midnight snack.

 

I forgot to take pictures of dinner, but here's dessert: Mango pudding

Explorer+First+Day+-+5

 

Blueberry-peach crumble (with melted vanilla ice cream on top... that's why I had to eat the whole thing, since DD is lactose-sensitive) (yeah, sure that's why I had to eat the whole thing)

Explorer+First+Day+-+4

 

Everyday BBB - Banana Bailey's (Creme) Brulee

Explorer+First+Day+-+6

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Denise-Great review so far!! Another fellow Explorer repo cruiser subscribed!,:D

 

Hey Claudia, welcome aboard! :) Glad you're enjoying it, and trust me, it only gets better over the 8 days... can't wait till our 14!!

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So, not only did I forget to take pictures of the meal... I forgot to take pictures of the menus! Fortunately, the internet came to my rescue, and I am copying pictures of the MOJO menu posted elsewhere.

 

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Dessert

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Again, reposting everything so you can read it... how I wish you could edit your posts for longer than just half an hour!

 

Fitness Schedule

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Officers & Staff

Explorer+Paperwork+-+72

 

Diamond Welcome Letter

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Diamond Benefits

Explorer+Paperwork+-+94

 

D/D+/P Drinks Program

Explorer+Paperwork+-+98

 

D/D+/P Drinks List

Explorer+Paperwork+-+97

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Okay, let's move this review along...

 

DAY 2 - Saturday, March 22 – At Sea

 

6:35am – woke up 10 mins. before 6:45 alarm, dressed for stretch/abs class – what a luxury to not have to dress in the dark, silently, trying not to wake a roommate as I slipped out for the early morning gym class!! First time I’ve sailed solo in a cabin, and this was one of the best perks.

 

No sunrise today; weather is grey and overcast. There were four people in the stretch class, four in the abs class (I think I saw five in the 8:00am paid Yoga class). Out of 3000+ cruisers. Ah, well. After class I spent 10 mins. on the treadmill (gotta get ready for that Cherry Tree 5K the weekend after we get back), then went back to the cabin to shower and dress.

 

I went down to breakfast by myself in the MDR by 8:35 and asked for expedited service so I could make the 9:15 Meet & Mingle in Maharaja’s (many of our CC group had complained about the early hour). The dining room staff tried to seat me solo at a table for two, but I asked to join a larger table. They added me to a full table that had not yet ordered, and provided me with my own server – I received my eggs benedict in just 5 minutes!! I explained to my dining companions that I had a meeting at 9:15 so they were kindly rushing my service.

 

When someone asked if I was on a business trip, I said no, and told them I was attending a Cruise Critic meet & mingle. “Oh,” he said, “Cruise Critic. I’ve heard of that. So, do you all get together and talk about how terrible the cruise is? Like Broadway critics talk about how terrible the play is?” Hmmm… interesting that the word “critic” only brings to mind negative critiques, not positive (or even just descriptive) reviews as well.

 

After my quick breakfast (coffee, prune juice, bran muffin with butter & blackberry jam, plus the eggs benedict) I walked up to the Promenade and went to the Prom café to bring coffee into Maharaja’s. I brought a coffee for myself, then asked staff for some soymilk for my daughter. They told me to go ask at the counter. I asked for it there, and was told I would have to pay for it. I explained that it was free in the Windjammer, and that I had been told it would be available at any venue onboard that served coffee. They finally gave it to me for free, but said they really should have charged for it.

 

(I later spoke with the Maitre D’ in the dining room about this, and they said that the Starbucks counter had their own special soymilk, but that he would speak to dining services about having regular soymilk available behind the Promenade Café counter for all guests.) Alas, as it turned out, the coffee I poured for Ariel was from the bottom of the pot, so it was undrinkable anyway!!

 

Fermi and Dre giving out prizes at the Meet & Mingle

Explorer+First+Day+-+8

 

When I walked into Maharaja’s, I explained to the organizer that I had not received an invitation to the M&M, but that I had stopped by guest services so I should be on the list. I received the standard giveaway notepad and pen, plus a couple of raffle tickets as well. Ariel, Tom, Carol and I sat together right up front (I had also brought a gift for the gift exchange) and watched the presentation.

 

Tom shows off his prizes

Explorer+First+Day+-+10

 

Tom won a nice fabric wallet and two free in-room movies in the raffle (usually billed at an exorbitant $12.99… we never watched them in our 8 days onboard, so we left them as a farewell gift for Carol who was staying on solo for the B2B).

 

Ladylikes2Cruise (Donna) with the gift exchange contributions

Explorer+First+Day+-+7

 

My contribution to the gift exchange: a door magnet/note clip in the shape of a NY taxi (with glitter inside), a sticky note pad, a taxi pencil, 4 ginger candies, and 2 pens from my business! My selection from the gift exchange: a red Hello Kitty gift bag with 4 Pez dispensers inside!! Buzz & Woody (who were the mascots for our first Disney race back in 2011, the Buzz & Woody Best Friends 5K), Ariel the little mermaid (you know who got that one!) and Strawberry Shortcake.

 

Posing with my favorite buddhas outside of Maharajas... notice the Hello Kitty bag on the ground!

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After the M&M, we ran up to Trivia at 10am. I had made us 3 necklaces, using previous Quest and Trivia medals (a blue ribbon with a gold, silver or bronze Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor symbol) onto which I had pinned several RC keychains, silver pens, Casino lucky slots and VIP keychains. (I had been inspired to create these by a gentleman I observed on the December Oasis cruise, who had created an entire VEST out of linked RC keychains, with “fringe” made out of the casino/vip keychains… he said it weighed over 18 lbs.)

 

We met up with our lovely dining companions, Barbara and Peter, to form a team of six – and yes, we won the first Trivia. Yay, another keychain!! Our only two wrong answers: 1) the most widely eaten fruit (banana, not apple, our answer); and 2) Fred Astaire’s first movie dancing partner (Joan Crawford!! – not his sister Adele, our answer). Impressive correct answers: What else is printed on an Oreo other than the word “Oreo”? (flowers, thanks to Carol) And we switched over our answer from Sleeping Beauty to Snow White (correct, thanks to me and Ariel) for “first movie in which ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ is heard.”

 

After Trivia, I ran into the Casino and jumped into the CC slot pull: 30 people total, $21 each for seven $3 (max bet) pulls on the Wheel of Fortune machine. We hit spit a couple of times and were VERY close to the $1,000 payout twice… but in the end, we just got back $20 of our $21 – good fun for $1, and the individual “high $$ rollers” got prizes (champagne, t-shirts, free match play coupons). Good times. (I noticed a turquoise Hello Kitty bag by the slot machine and realized I had forgotten my red one at Trivia… I ran back to the Schooner Bar, but alas it wasn’t there. I asked the bar staff, but they hadn’t seen it. I hope Carol picked it up after the game! She had commented on it; perhaps she kept it when I ran off to the Casino.)

 

I then stopped by the cabin (where I wrote up the morning’s activities on my little notepad) then ran up to the Windjammer for the 11:30 cooking demonstration, with watermelon carving demonstration by Jun (a beautiful rose). They told us that Jun was the only carver on board, so they took very good care of him.

 

Jun demonstrates his carving

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I was surprised; usually they had a big welcome carved fruit display in the Windjammer at sailaway, which wasn’t there on this cruise. Later I saw several carvings similar to the one that Jun did live for us, wrapped in cellophane, on display throughout the windjammer stations – but no big “welcome” display at the entrance on the first day. They also had a cook making seafood risotto and demonstrating the construction of the amazing Portofino’s seafood skewer, with crab, scallop, lobster tail (and other seafood which I forget).

 

Seating Section to view the cooking demonstration in the Windjammer

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There was a full section of chairs, filled when I arrived, in front of the demonstration area, within a small fence. I tried to lean on the fence, but was told by those seated behind me in the Windjammer that they couldn’t see. (Of course, once the demonstration started dozens of people came and stood there anyway, so nobody seated outside the area could see anything.) I knew this would happen, but nonetheless I went inside the fenced area and sat on the floor… luckily, in that position, I got to enjoy samples of all the foods: the seafood risotto was handed out in lovely shot glasses (which most of the guests kept; I kept two, which I washed as gifts for first-time cruiser Tom, who was thrilled)… we also had mini crab-cakes, tiramisu, and chocolate-covered straweberries.

 

mini crabcake

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While sitting on the floor, I noticed when a young woman (Maddie) seated in one of the chairs dropped something when she took out her camera, which I picked up and returned to her – it turned out to be her Seapass! We became friendly, she introduced me to her dad afterwards (Matt) who was waiting to have the cookbook he had purchased signed by the head chef. Maddie and I ran into each other several times over the rest of the cruise, in the Thalassotherapy pool in the gym, dressed up on our way to dinner on formal night, in the theatre, etc. I love how you meet people all over the cruise ship!

 

Vinnie, the charismatic cooking demonstration MC with the microphone

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The entire presentation was narrated by Vinnie from Jamaica – well, he’s from Jamaica everywhere on the ship except for in Portofino’s, where he’s Vinnie from Italy! (Ha ha) He was a lively, fun and engaging presenter, explaining what the chefs and carvers were working on, and what samples were being passed around to the audience. At the end, executive chef Gary Thomas came out and answered questions about food service throughout the ship, and on cruise ships in general. He was extremely knowledgeable and personable, and you could see that he really knew what was happening at every level in food service. He talked about everything from food preparation to cleanliness in the galleys to the types of toques (chef’s hats) worn by the staff, to the meanings of the different colored neck scarves and types of uniforms worn by different levels and types of cooks. I really enjoyed this presentation!!

 

Chef Gary comes out to close the presentation and answer questions

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Afterwards, I went into the restroom next to Portofino’s to wash up (since I had been sitting on the floor). This is a beautiful bathroom with large curved windows, beautiful greenery in potted plants, and ocean views. A staff member in the bathroom pointed out a pod of dolphins visible by the ship!

 

Windjammer Lunch

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Once I had washed up, I returned to the Windjammer for lunch: first, a layer of fresh baby spinach leaves on my plate… then some pan-seared fish, carved roast pork, chef’s steamed veggies, Indian vegetable vindaloo, plus a bowl of Thai sweet & sour soup. For dessert I had a tiny sliver of pumpkin pie (rarely seen in the windjammer, or anywhere onboard for that matter) and a cup of coffee. I ate lunch at a table with Judy and her husband Erin from Maryland. We talked about DC, with which I was familiar since both of my kids went to school there. They used to live and work there but retired to the mountains and now they hated the city traffic. They’re onboard for the B2B, like Carol.

 

I took a cup of soya milk (they always add the “a” after soy on cruises, don’t ask me why!) down for Ariel to keep in her room fridge. I called them to come over, they had just returned from the hot tubs, perfect timing. Ariel arrived, still in her swimsuit, took the bag w/2 bottles of wine (plus her sunhat and shoes), the soy milk and the shot glasses (which she said Tom would love). We’ll meet at Trivia in 10 minutes. I sure hope Carol has our gift exchange bag, or it’s gone!

 

At Trivia we got 13 out of 15 again, tying with another team… but they ran up faster for the tie-breaker question (name of Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – amazingly I was the only one on our team who remembered it was Holly Golightly, but by the time I wrote it down it was too late). Questions we got wrong: 1) What is New Holland? (Can you believe: AUSTRALIA!!) and 2) Which two stars died at age 27 within two weeks of each other in 1970? (Correct: Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.)

 

So neither Ariel nor Carol had picked up our gift bag; we figured it was gone. Carol encouraged us to check at Lost & Found with Guest Services, so we did… and sure enough, someone had turned it in!! It was listed in the “Lost and Found” book, and brought out to us as soon as we described it – and all of the toys and candy were inside, too. Thank you, fellow cruisers!!

 

While we were at Guest Services, Ariel transferred half of her OBC ($75) to Tom – so nice of her to share it with him – she had $100 from her NextCruise, which Carol had purchased for us on her last cruise… and $50 from our travel agent for being in a group. (I had the same amount of OBC for my cabin as a solo, plus an extra $50 as an apology for delivering my laundry late on my last cruise, which I wrote to RCI about afterwards and they provided the credit on this cruise as a kind consideration, which I truly didn’t expect – so I ended up transferring some to Ariel to help pay for her onboard expenditures.)

 

(As an aside about the midweek laundry bag: I didn’t bother using it on this cruise, since it was a driving port, so I just packed LOTS of clothes and planned to do a big laundry upon our return home. Otherwise, I always pack for 3 nights on a 7-night cruise, spend the midweek day in a swimsuit and coverup while my workout gear and sleepwear is being washed. On the Oasis they tried to convince me that the midweek bag takes TWO days to be returned, which I had NEVER experienced before… and indeed, when Carol used this service on the second week of her B2B, she got her laundry back within 24 hours!! – that despite the fact that the card now says it will be returned “within 48 hours” I guess just to be safe… although that does make it far less useful, especially on a 7-night cruise. At any rate, FYI, the bag now costs $30 before any C&A discounts, and is only for sleepwear, underwear, short and t-shirts – any other items will be washed and pressed and charged at regular prices rather than the wash-and-fold bag price. I have always included my capris and cover-ups and had no problems with them, whether they consider them shorts or sleepwear I don’t know, but they do get washed at the bag price.)

 

The midweek laundry offer (only valid one day mid-cruise... Day 4, not day 2, I'm just posting it here since I'm talking about it now)

Explorer+Paperwork+-+78

 

Ariel took the Hello Kitty bag back to her room, while I went to Maharaja’s to hear the 2pm presentation on the Pirates Democracy in the Bahamas by David Sisler. I took notes on the various pirate leaders, and other facts of interest during the presentation, but the presenter was a bit dis-organized… he would get started on a topic, then move to the next screen and distract himself from what he was saying… he didn’t have any notes, simply filling in details based on the pictures and titles shown on the screen.

 

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(He started by saying that the computer system wasn’t working, or he would have started with photos of his family, children and grandchildren… however, he did have a backup of the slideshow, so we did enjoy learning about Pirates in the Bahamas. I learned from Carol, who attended his lecture the following day, that apparently they repaired his computer… and she got to sit through 15 minutes of pictures and stories about his family. Sigh.)

 

Best quote from the presentation (which talked a lot about how hard the life of a pirate – or a sailor – was at that time: “If you went to sea for pleasure, you’d go to hell for the fun of it.” Quite a quote from a minister… yes, multitasking, he would also be leading the non-denominational service the following day, Sunday… and giving all of the other enrichment lectures, on women in the space program, the Bermuda Triangle, and Pirates of New Jersey. I did not make the effort to attend any of his other presentations, although I generally enjoy historical and cultural speakers.

 

After the program, I stopped by the Prom Café and picked up the mini-croissant ham & swiss, plus tuna on a roll (ah, something different!), kiwi and a banana, which I brought back to the cabin. I also ate a peanut butter cookie and some of the dried fruit mix from my Diamond welcome basket. I sat in the sun on my balcony (though it was still chilly outside). I sat in the cabin, updating these notes while I watched Batman: The Dark Knight Rises on TBS, switching back and forth to Land of the Lost on TNT during commercials.

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Denise, I'm really enjoying this review. You have a real talent for bringing others along on your cruise through words and descriptions. We are looking at an Explorer cruise before she leaves, so this is the perfect "preview". Thank you!

 

 

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while I went to Maharaja’s to hear the 2pm presentation on the Pirates Democracy in the Bahamas by David Sisler.

 

Great review, thanks for taking the time to write and post it.

 

I haven't yet cruised on Royal Caribbean. Is it still common to have a guest speaker on Royal Caribbean? Seems like most of the other mass market cruise lines have stopped this (except on TA's, perhaps). For example, on NCL it seems that they try to spin one of the art auctions as a lecture on art history, which I think is ridiculous.

 

Thanks,

-karl

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Denise, I'm really enjoying this review. You have a real talent for bringing others along on your cruise through words and descriptions. We are looking at an Explorer cruise before she leaves, so this is the perfect "preview". Thank you!

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

 

Thanks wind jamming, that's my goal... even if we don't share the same tastes and opinions, I try to describe everything in enough detail that you can judge for yourself if you would like it.

 

I appreciate movie reviews like that too... Don't just tell me "it's good" or "it's bad"... tell me WHY you think it's good or bad so I can decide for myself if I think it's worth going to see!!:)

 

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LOL glad you caught that, Babyrock! Nice to see you again:)

 

Lol.. yeah I cannot wait to hear all about exotic "Port Canaveral" <tongue squarely in cheek> :D:D:p:p:thumbup:

 

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We would much rather spend time in the cl. That said, what would stop people from drinking in the cl and then using their drink coupons afterwards (before 8:30 pm)?

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We would much rather spend time in the cl. That said, what would stop people from drinking in the cl and then using their drink coupons afterwards (before 8:30 pm)?

Nothing.

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Great review, thanks for taking the time to write and post it.

 

I haven't yet cruised on Royal Caribbean. Is it still common to have a guest speaker on Royal Caribbean? Seems like most of the other mass market cruise lines have stopped this (except on TA's, perhaps). For example, on NCL it seems that they try to spin one of the art auctions as a lecture on art history, which I think is ridiculous.

 

Thanks,

-karl

 

No, this is fairly uncommon... I was excited to see these! (Though as you may gather, a bit disappointed in the quality)

 

And don't be fooled on oasis, the "art lecture" is actually about collecting the (cr*p) art for sale on board. Now, if they actually gave an art tour of the millions of dollars of art on DISPLAY on board -on oasis or explorer for that matter - that would be amazing! The "garden tour" on oasis was like that, and it was great fun, even for a non-gardener city girl like me.

 

Also, I'm sure you know that the port shopping lecture is just that, a lecture about shopping, NOT the port itself.

 

I do enjoy when they have these enrichment lectures (they used to have them on Princess a lot, where you actually learned about the port, not just where to shop there)... but alas, I have yet to have a really good presenter, they're mostly kind of old and tired... surely there are some retired college professors or high school teachers with subject matter expertise and love who could give a stirring, interesting, interactive lecture?!?

 

 

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Nothing.

 

Exactly, and if you look at the fine print on the letter, they assured you of exactly that: you may visit the (in my case diamond event, in your case cl) and still get your 3 drinks at any bar. (Again, remember to tip your servers at whichever venue you choose, since gratuities are not included in this free happy hour drinks service.)

 

As you will see in the course of this review, even though I was giving my drinks away, I never used three on any single night, and I never went to the diamond event, so at least as far as I'm concerned, rci comes out way ahead... though I'm sure there are a couple hardy, hearty, two-fisted drinkers who more than make up for me!!:eek::D

 

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