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harryfat1

(Slightly less so) Cheapo dad's trip report on Independence of the Seas

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Greetings! This is my trip report from our family’s vacation on the Freedom of the Seas cruise to the Eastern Caribbean from December 21 – 30, 2017. I called this posting “trip report” instead of “cruise review” because in my opinion I am not qualified to do a professional review. This is just a summary of what our family experienced during our vacation time – Days of our lives, so to speak.

 

Keep in mind when I say “trip” report and not “cruise” report. Meaning you will be taken along for a ride for the entire trip process, not just the cruise portion. It’s the mailmen version of the vacation report, stopping off at each and every point, no matter how minor, I will talk about it. So skip sections that don’t interest you.

Just note that this was a 9 day cruise so it will likely be longer than the previous trip reports. If you are here expecting to grab some quick info for your next cruise, sorry, you are at the wrong place.

 

Background – We are family of 4 on this cruise consisting of my wife, 2 boys and myself. For those that have read my previous trip reports (shamelessly promoting my own work by saying you can read them following the link below), you will note that my in-laws did not accompany us on this cruise. Instead we are joined by my wife’s brother and his family (wife and 2 daughters). But due to privacy concerns, I won’t include their pictures in the trip report.

 

We live in California so we had to fly across the country for this cruise (I dislike flying as my flat butt is not contoured for the less than ergonomic seats on the planes). My wife and I are both CPA’s (aka bean counters – we have very boring dinner time conversations) so I will probably have more numbers related discussion than most people care to read. But since I am using the moniker “cheapo dad”, I do feel compelled to pass along any money related items I encountered on the cruise.

 

Bias – Everyone has bias on their preferences when it comes to cruises & life in general. The key is to identify the bias and discount the bias versus fact. Three years ago, I wrote a lengthy trip report on the Allure as that was the best cruise we had as a family. So you know we like the big ships, the bigger the better. You will see that bias in my report. That’s just our preference, but certainly will not be everyone’s preference so discount it anyway you deem necessary.

 

In following the same format as my previous report, I will throw in some random pictures from the cruise which I think are the highlights of the trip during the next few introductory posts – eye candy, if you will. Being a dork that I am, I am debating in throwing in a picture or two from my other vacations just to see who is actually paying attention – Hey, what is Arizona picture doing on a Caribbean cruise? We’ll play the kids’ game of “what doesn’t fit into this trip report?”

 

For those that have read the previous trip reports, you will note that I am essentially copying over my previous format and introduction. Just as cruise lines make cookie cutter ships in later installments, this trip report will be in essence a plagiarized copy of last report’s introduction. Same philosophy I use on my 20 year old Toyota – if it’s not terribly broken, don’t need to fix it. Duct tapes do wonders…

 

++++++++++++++

 

I can see some dude at the kitchen telling his wife:

 

“Honey, that fat guy is back at cruise critics writing a new gibberish trip report.”

 

“AGAIN? His Allure report was only so-so and the Freedom one totally sucked as all sequels do. He should just give up and go back to his day job.”

 

“Yeah, he promised to be even a longer non sense trip report this time and he is just shamelessly copying over his previous bad reports.”

 

“That does it. We just paid for our annual renewal subscription fee to cruise critics. We expect a better product than some rehashed work. We want to get our money’s worth when we read the forum. I am emailing them now and demand we get a 3 months credit for having to put up with this nonsense."

 

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To borrow a phrase from the Capitol One TV ad – what is in your cruise? To me, a cruise vacation is the ultimate buffet of vacations. There are many ways to enjoy a cruise vacation and just like eating a buffet, people will have different experiences even on the same sailing. It is just a matter of personal preference on how you approach your cruise.

 

For us, our preferences on a cruise are based on the 3 E’s:

 

 

 

  • Entertainment
  • Experience a new ship/port
  • Enrichment (not so much in Caribbean cruises but on Alaska cruise, the naturalist on board can educate you on many items

Notice that “relaxation” is not on the list. Being cheap, I want to maximize my dollar value when I go on vacation. I didn’t spend thousands of dollar and sat hours on a plane just to relax on a vacation. I can relax and sleep for free in front of TV at home on the weekend. I vacation to see and experience different things. So that’s the bias of this trip report.

 

If you read my previous reports, you will know we take a lot of pictures on vacation. It’s from something I read awhile back which has become my motto – the most expensive picture on the vacation is the one that you didn’t take. Basically the thought is you have spent a lot of money/time/effort to get to wherever your vacation spots are and you don’t want to go home and think – dang, I should have taken a picture ZZZ while I was on vacation. Even if you can go back later on, at the extra cost, the lighting/mood/people will be different and you may never be able to recreate the exact same atmosphere so when in doubt, take the picture.

 

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So it should come as no surprise to anyone that as cheapo dad, I have opted out of all the additional add on features such as (just to name a few of the popular items that RCI tried very very hard to sell to me):

 

 

 

 

  • Specialty Dining
  • Drink Packages
  • Internet Access

If you are looking for a trip report containing these items, sorry, I didn’t experience them.

 

What I will include are some tips to pass along the newbie cruisers from the mistakes I made as I don’t cruise often enough to know everything.

 

Also being a finance person, I will talk numbers all day and night. So be aware of that as we move forward.

 

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(Special Medical Emergency on last port day. We had to turn back to St. Kitts one plus hour after we sailed off)

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For this special section only, I am only uploading the pictures from our visit to St. Maarten. Much has been discussed on the damages from the hurricane in 2017 and I believe we were the second Royal Caribbean ship to visit the island after the hurricane put a halt to major cruise lines’ visits since September.

 

Even though you will see significant damages from the pictures, the island is recovering. The Dutch side is recovering much faster due to the way they process the insurance claims. Our tour guide told us the French side has a 6 to 9 months’ time frame to get the insurance claims processed.

For those who are familiar with Orient Beach, there is very little left from the old days. The tour guide took us to a section that is still allowed visitors. Other parts has been cordoned by the government. I will have more pics when we get to day 5 (Christmas Day) of the trip report.

 

But the pictures are just one sided to show the damage. The island is still a wonderful place to visit. I wouldn’t cancel the cruise based on the fear of what has been damaged. Maho Beach is still there with people looking for the plane landings.

 

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Following. Were you on the Freedom or Indy?

 

Indy this year. Freedom last year.

 

I haven't had a chance to update my signature yet for the current Indy trip report. Will do so later today.

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Indy- Looks like a typo- perhaps he C&P from his previous report? ;p;p;p

 

Hahaha, Ooops. I tried to go back and make the change but too late to make changes as the time limit to make changes is 30 minutes (thought it used to be 60?). So now everyone will be confused on what ship I sailed on...;p

 

Go ahead and email cruise critics to get extra month's of credit on your annual subscription due to this error.

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Harry, nice to see you and your family cruising again. Looking forward to a good read. As for corrections to a post, I have always gone with 15 minutes. It seems to be around 20 minutes it is too late.

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Harry, nice to see you and your family cruising again. Looking forward to a good read. As for corrections to a post, I have always gone with 15 minutes. It seems to be around 20 minutes it is too late.

 

 

Hi,

 

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, we just completed our annual winter break cruise as we can only cruise when the kids are out of school (more on that shortly). I am looking forward to share our cruise experience with everyone.

 

I tried to go back and make the change using the edit button but got the message that I exceeded the 30 minute limitation. Oh, well, I’m pretty sure people can figure it out sooner or later that we were on the Indy this year.

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So here is our itinerary in sailing the special 9 day eastern Caribbean holiday cruise. It’s not something the Indy typically sails on as she is usually on the short western route but for the holidays, Royal decided to sail her on the 9 day route.

 

It’s essentially the same as the 8 day Freedom route in reverse, plus one extra port.

 

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As all marketing people always do, they add an attractive young lady to the beautiful scenery. As per the Royal web site, here is how they promoted St. Kitts on their web page.

 

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Sorry to say you won’t get that view from my trip report. Instead you only get the generic shot. Believe me, I tried to look for her when we were there but she was nowhere to be found. Royal lied to me…

 

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Great photos! I really like the bow tie iguana eating lettuce! :D

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Love your previous reports and pictures. Your wife and you have a wonderful eye for composition, I marvel at your photos.

 

Looking forward to following you on another one of your journeys!

 

Rick

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Thanks for posting the photos of the damage in St. Maarten. While we can only see a little bit, it gives a sense of the destruction that wind and rain can leash on a tropical island. So glad that they are starting to recover.

 

I do enjoy your reviews, as it shows that one can have a terrific time and not do the "best of the best" excursions, dining and drinking.. Now.. no internet... YIKES.. don't think I could do it...

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Hi Harry,

Was eagerly awaiting your report :D and the iguana is just gorgeous :hearteyes:

Thank you for taking the time to entertain us, Dani

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Believe me, I tried to look for her when we were there but she was nowhere to be found. Royal lied to me…

Did you ask for OBC?

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