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MITSUGIRLYS FREEDOM OF THE SEAS REVIEW & PICTORIAL

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Time for a new review: Spring Break 2019!!!

 

We cruise the Freedom of the Seas out of Old San Juan this time (I just love cruising from here).

 

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Our ports would be:

 

Leaving San Juan: April 21  8:30pm

Basseterre, St Kitts: April 22  9-6pm

St Johns, Antigua: April 23   8-5pm

Castries, St Lucia: April 24    9-6pm

Bridgetown, Barbados: April 25   8-7pm

Sea Day: April 26  All fricken day long

Philipsburg, St Maarten: April 27  8-6pm

San Juan Arrival: April 28   6am

 

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This time around it would be myself, hubby and Sakari the Mermaid and Kendra's family (Billy, Brayden, Kambriah) and Billy's niece Shawna.

 

My last cruise in December is when I decided to "resurface" on the web with a new review of our cruise on Carnival's Horizon. So many things had happened in my family since that summer and things were very hectic in life.

 

Well....I have managed to FINALLY complete my bachelors degree (after dragging it out for years...we all know I plan school and "life" around my cruising lol) and I would consider this my "Graduation cruise". (Hey, any excuse used for a cruise is a good excuse right?). I was going out with a bang!

 

Since all of the "changes in life" before my last cruise (new grandbabies, youngest son buying a new house and moving out, schooling, selling one of our businesses, and some home remodeling) there have been a few more changes thrown our way. Our Christmas cruise...we (meaning my family and Kendra's) were set to cruise and Kendra's fiance got word that they didn't think his dad would make it to Christmas. The day we were to fly out, Billy pulled out of going on the cruise. His father did make it, but unfortunately, he passed away February 15th this year. Billy has not taken it well (his dad raised him and all of his siblings so they were very close). To make matters worse, Billy's best friend (along with another good friend and an acquaintance) were also killed in a vehicle accident the SAME DAY! It was a crazy day and he has been dealing with a lot. With all that behind him, he really needed this cruise. But wait...there's MORE! Like how can there possibly be more that can be put on this mans shoulders? Two weeks before the cruise, his Uncle passed away. Then his baby sister passed away the Friday before the cruise. 😞  Less than 2 months from his fathers and best friends death he was once again burying another family member. He was not only dealing with all the loss in his family, but also trying to arrange a funeral prior to leaving. I just feel so bad for him and we were also VERY close to his dad and best friend. It's been a living nightmare for all of us. We really needed this cruise and a break away from life in general.

 

I decided to pick a cruise that would have at least one new port we had never been to before. We absolutely loved cruising with Royal Caribbean last time and figured it was time to come back again for this cruise. Antigua is one port that I had never been to...so we booked.

 

Now originally we were going to go with an interior, especially since this is another port intensive cruise and we aren't the type to spend much time in our rooms anyhow. But we found the ocean views to be a great deal...then for some reason I took a look at an ULTRA SPACIOUS OCEAN VIEW, which happened to be located at the very front of the ship with 2 windows. Hmmm, it's my graduation celebration cruise right? Heck, why not? I was super excited and knew that any room bigger than any previous interior or balcony had to be awesome right? I booked and was super excited!!!

 

Kendra played it cheap and booked an interior for their group. Spring Break cruises are always a lot more expensive than other times and she didn't want the added expense...or at least that's what she thought at the time. lol

 

 

But before the review begins...just a few non-legal formalities heh heh heh.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We'll start with the "formalities" and get that out of the way. (Mostly copied from all of my other reviews, because things don't seem to change too much) with any updates we might have added/adjusted.

 

PLEASE NOTE>>> My reviews are LONG...as in VERY LONG, with a lot of details, A LOT of pictures and this is the experience of my family on the cruise, sorta like a blog.

 

*So, if you are not into long reviews and want something short, sweet and to the point...this review is not for you.

 

*If you expect this review to be done quickly and you don't like to wait...this review is not for you.

 

*If you don't like personal details of our daily activities, this review is not for you.

 

*If you expect me to sugar coat everything, this review is not for you.

 

*If you think I tell you about something that wasn't appealing or I didn't really care for or seen happen and you consider me "complaining" or unhappy...this review is not for you.

 

I'm open, I'm honest, we have a good time no matter what, but I report everything I see. It doesn't make or break my cruise or experience and I always manage to have a great time no matter what.

 

It's sad I feel the need to say these things with my reviews now due to certain people who like to come on a be rude in the past.

 

However, if you like to laugh, get a chuckle every once in a while, think of our family and some of the things we do that could be pictured on "the people of Walmart" and want details and pictures of places...you have come to the right place.

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My Cruising Experience:

 

As you can tell from my signature line, we used to mainly cruise with NCL and I have been trying to cruise the entire fleet but have been adventuring out over the last few years with Carnival and also Royal Caribbean. We love them all.

 

In the
80's and 90's I also sailed with NCL and Royal Caribbean.

 

This will make my 23nd cruise, my husband's 21th cruise I think? After a while, things are starting to run together.
and Sakari's 20th cruise...??? I've lost track to tell you the truth.

 

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ORGANIZATION FOR THE REVIEWS:

 

People always ask how I organize for my reviews and it takes A LOT to put together a review like this. Once I decided to post how I personally organize for my reviews and if you are interested, it can be found HERE-1ST HALF and the 2ND HALF HERE.

 

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CAMERAS:

 

I am constantly questioned about what type of camera's I use for my reviews.

 

Several years ago I decided to purchase my first Olympus point-and-shoot camera (not by choice, but because I had one of my many "bloopers" with my Canon cameras). I have loved the Olympus since that purchase that we actually have quite a few of them.

 

This entire review was shot with my Olympus Tough TG2 & a few with the 620. I take my model 620 & 830 along with me for back up because you never know what might happen and I would be devastated if I was without a camera. A few years ago, we also purchased Sakari her own camera (the 620 model) and she uses hers as well (which she managed to crack the screen on it during school camp last year so it's strictly a "land" camera now).

 

I'm a photography FREAK! Always have been. I do have a DSLR with tons of equipment, lens, and so on, but I find that I just don't want to lug it around with me on a cruise...and of course, it's not waterproof.

 

When I process my photo's, I do take it into PS (I have to get my watermark on there somehow) and I have an "action" that resizes the picture for a more appropriate posting size, and sharpens for web and I put my stamp on it. Every once in a while I'll get a really crappy picture that just needs something (like white balance) done to it and I really want to share it and I might white balance it. For the most part, I don't do much of anything...no one has time for all that with the thousands of pictures I take!

 

I take thousands of pictures on vacation and I do a lot of walking and snapping. Yes, I may get some outstanding photos and quality, but for every good picture I get, there may be 3 bad ones. You win some, you lose some. I've been known to stand in a spot and take 3-5 pictures of the same thing, using different settings on the camera, just to get what I'm looking for to share. That's just me.

 

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ABOUT MY REVIEWS:

 

I am a very open and honest person. Everyone has a different expectation and experience, but I report how I feel during mine. You may or may not agree with my thoughts or views, but that's the beauty of it...everyone is different and all thoughts and comments are welcome.

 

We are a fun loving and outgoing family that, for the most part, don't get upset about much and roll with the punches. We've had a lot of "bloopers" (especially when the kids come along=Kendra lol), but it is what it is and I have learned over the years that getting mad or upset doesn't solve the problem and only takes away from the fun, so I try not to dwell on bad things (although I will always report them...not to be a Debbie-Downer, but to show this is the experience I had and how it contributed to what was going on at the time) and I move on.

 

We are BEACH people. So, if you are the touristy type of person that likes historical stuff, seeing the sites, or likes to do the land tours, this review might not benefit you too much as far as the ports. If there's a beach, we will be there! I have to drag Sakari the Mermaid out of the water every place we go. So, to the beach it is for us.

 

Sakari decided in 2016 that she wanted to "be a scuba diver" and took classes and became a certified PADI Seal that year. In December 2 years ago, she finished all the PADI classes and became a MASTER PADI SEAL!! I think she was one of the first at her scuba shop to complete the program. They made quite a big deal over it. She went to class monthly and started repeating the classes for the fun of it. However, she has not been for almost a year now. The other kids in her class went on to get their Junior Certification and she was unable to because we were on a cruise during that time. So now, she just dives with us, doing the Discover Scuba, in one port each cruise.

 

So, you will find us doing some scuba diving in reviews as well.

 

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LAST BUT NOT LEAST: WHY I DO THE REVIEWS

 

My reviews are meant to be helpful to others looking for information. I'm a "picture" kinda girl and if I'm looking for information, give me a picture to help me understand and it will go 10x further in helping me with a decision. So many of you wonderful cruisers have helped me decide places to try out, shared your experiences with me, and even cruised with me....and this is my way of thanking you and continuing to help others the way they have helped me.

 

I'm keeping this "opening" a little shorter than normal. Most people around here know me and I hate to constantly repeat things...so if you want a more detailed "opening" statement, you are welcome to click on one of my other reviews (in my signature line) and it will give you more info on us.  HOWEVER, cc has changed things up and not allowing more to be added to signature lines, so a lot of information is missing from it. I have been working on a website (for years now) to try to copy and paste my information over there...hopefully some day I'll publish it and everything can be found there.

 

With that said...I hope you enjoy the review

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So on with the review....

 

When I first started doing reviews, I would carry a note pad and take notes during the cruise. Then that went to just taking a few notes about the day each night before bed. Then the world of technology convinced me to type notes into my phone during the day each day. This cruise....I DID NOTHING! Nothing at all. Oops. I enjoyed myself and hoped that I had taken enough pictures during the day to remind me of what we did. So forgive me if I have a few mess ups or forget things along the way. I'll do my best.

 

 

April 19: Friday

 

Flying to San Juan...one of my favorite ports to cruise out of. We always go down at least the day before...just in case of bloopers. This time, we decided to book 2 days ahead of time and enjoy at least 1 day in Puerto Rico (and also 1 day after the cruise).

 

We always fly with Southwest. Kendra, trying to be a cheap-o decided she would try something different and booked with Frontier this time around. Usually by the time the flights are booked and you have to pay for the multiple luggage charges (because Kendra packs for at least 3 weeks of vacation stuff, even though it's only a week + away from home), I find that it ends up being about the same. Also, other airlines don't give out the free drinks and snacks...hey, I can't pass up free drinks and snacks!

 

We had different flight times (hers left later than ours). We were to arrive in PR at 9pm that night. Kendra wasn't arriving until midnight. I knew we would be starving by the time we got there and wanted to arrive at a decent time to check in and be able to walk somewhere to eat dinner. Kendra...well, she was on her own with that one with such a late arrival.

 

We definitely like flying out later in the day. I don't feel as rushed and it gives us time for any last minute packing. Our flight left at 2: 55pm.

 

I always have to take a picture of us waiting on the shuttle at the airport...I think it has become tradition.

 

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As you can tell, it was a cold and dreary day. Typical Ohio weather. Cold one day and hot the next. I couldn't wait to get out of this weather and into some heat!

 

On our way to the airport...

 

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Our check-in was quick and simple and there was NO ONE in the security line. I don't think I have ever experienced this before. Things are starting out good! However, Kendra was not having as much luck. She got a notification that their flight had been delayed before they ever made it to the airport.  I did hear them make an announcement that all flights had been cancelled to Orlando that day (which is where they were flying to). I have no idea what it was all about.

 

Our plane left on time and we were excited!

 

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We did have one flight change, in Baltimore,  and encountered no problems other than a 15 minute delay (which they said they were waiting on the crew to arrive). We were on our way to Puerto Rico!!! It was a long 4 hour flight there.

 

We sat by the wing (Sakari's favorite place to sit) and I noticed the plane had their logo flashing on the outside of the plane. I was on a mission to capture this red flash of advertisement...but it must have taken me a good 10 tries to time it right. Persistence paid off.

 

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We had made it! Puerto Rico was all lit up and beautiful.

 

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One thing different about this flight was that they now offer free instant imessaging. This meant that I could still communicate with the family and get updates on their flights. Well, Kendra was still having issues...their flight had been delayed and delayed and delayed again. I believe they ended up flying into another airport and then down. Remember they were supposed to arrive at midnight? Well, I could only imagine what time it would be now...

 

I just had to keep rubbing it in that she should have just paid a few extra bucks and booked with us like she was originally going to. Oops.

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After collecting our luggage, we headed out of the terminal to catch a taxi to our place. Puerto Rico is organized and they have a line, with someone asking where you are going, and they give you a piece of paper with the pricing to hand to the taxi driver, and then get you a taxi. Super easy and no surprise charges.

 

Puerto Rico taxi's do charge $1 extra per bag...so if you travel like my daughter, Kendra, does...be prepared.

 

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It was a $23 taxi ride to the Condado area where we were staying.

 

(More on where we stayed later).

 

We arrived and checked in to our place and immediately headed out in search of a place to eat.

 

Right on the corner from where we stayed at was a Chili's. Normally I like to eat someplace authentic to the area we are staying at...but at this point, we were too hungry to explore until finding that certain place and just stopped at the first place available.

 

(picture taken the following day in the daylight).

 

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Hey, at least I decided I wasn't just going to eat a cheeseburger and instead opted for the quesadilla. It was super yummy and hit the spot.

 

 

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After getting our bellies full, we decided to walk on down the street to see other options for eating for tomorrow. There really wasn't a lot of people out in the area...especially for a Friday night.

 

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Updates from Kendra: they had finally left out of Columbus at some point after their 5:03pm flight delayed until 6:03pm, then went to 5:38pm and then to 7:15pm. I looked up the weather in Orlando and took a video of the weather app on my phone (which showed thunder and lighting and severe weather) to show her what was going on...only to get the response... "is that really showing you every time the lighting goes off? I didn't know our phones could do that". Good Lord...this child! Even Sakari knew better and laughed at her.

 

I got a text from her saying they were leaving on the plane now....but it was 9:13pm. Now that's what I call a delay! The next text was them landing in Orlando and racing to the next plane (which was scheduled to actually LEAVE 2 minutes after their plane had landed.....).

 

One thing I forgot to mention about Billy as well...in January, we had a huge snow fall and everything was covered. Well, he was walking in a parking lot and didn't realize there was a parking block under the snow (which looked like even ground at that point) and he stepped sideways on it, twisted his foot/ankle and broke it! He had to have surgery with plates and screws put in his foot/ankle/leg and has been rolling around on a knee scooter since surgery. Poor guy! But this comes with benefits when flying...you get on first. However, racing from one plane to the next, trying not to miss their flight, didn't go so well. They got off the plane and rushed him over to the next...but then sat around forever waiting on the old plane to bring his knee scooter to the new plane. They pulled out at 10:33pm and was finally headed to PR.

 

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Meanwhile, we decided to head back to our place and relax for the rest of the night. At that point, I had no idea what time Kendra would be coming in and I was tired from the long flight. We ended up falling asleep before I ever heard from her again.

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Hooray! Welcome home and Congrats on being done with school. Can’t wait to read your review! 🌺

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WHERE WE STAYED PRE-CRUISE.

 

Since we have stayed in the Old San Juan area several times, and explored a lot of that area, I decided I wanted to stay somewhere close to the beach this time.

 

I ended up booking an Airbnb place that I thought looked interesting and it was right on the beach. It also had a pool and I knew that would be a big hit with the kids. It was a condo community and several people rent these units out on Airbnb. It was much easier to find 2 places in there (one for us and one for Kendra) than trying to locate 2 houses that were close enough to each other for us to hang out together.

 

Like I said, I was on a celebration cruise...so I picked the "more expensive" place, which consisted of a 1 bedroom "mini" penthouse at the top floor with a view of paradise. Kendra booked just a regular studio room on the 12th floor.

 

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Now the weird thing was that this place was completely surrounded by a concrete wall, iron fencing, and EVEN BARBED WIRE! This place was locked down like Fort Knox...or a prison. I couldn't decipher if they were trying to keep us in or others out. You needed a key to do anything at this place! What kind of neighborhood did I pick??? I thought I had read that the Condado area was a nice area and have read that others stay in this area...but being on lock down was weird!

 

There was a security gate at the front entrance, which checked you in and out.

 

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Parking was also in the front for the residents while I believe there was some type of "underground" parking for others (according to my directions from my booking).

 

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Here was the entrance to the building.

 

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Nothing fancy at all. It just looked like an apartment complex...a very old one at that.

 

There seemed to be a lot of construction going on as well. There was no mention of this in our booking before or after.

 

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I have to say the outside of the building was not very appealing at all, but hey, we were only staying there for 2 nights anyhow.

 

There was also another gate entrance that you had to have a key to exit or enter to get out of. It was located on the side where Chili's was located. If you left out the front, you had to walk down a block first...but also NEEDED A KEY to leave or get back in (even though security was there).

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Following,,,I'll be in a cab to my hotel in 3 weeks!!!!!!! 

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At the front door, there is another security guard to check in with. Once you get your keys you have to use them to get inside.

 

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We were instructed "no luggage on the elevators"...wait what? We are on the 21st floor! Then were told we had to use the service elevator located in the hall across from there (which I might add was super small and I can't imagine having to use that elevator to haul furniture or anything of a large size in it for those that live here).

 

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They did have a small vending area, which I took full advantage of while we were here. I swore they would end up running out of pop (or "soda" for those of you that don't understand the pop terminology) from all the drinkage I did while staying here. It's a known fact...Mitsugirly is a popaholic to the full extent! It was only $1 for a rather tall and skinny can and it managed to "only" rip me off twice while here. The only frustrating thing was it did not have diet pop in it and it was only Coke products. Although I can drink either Coke or Pepsi, I prefer Pepsi MUCH more than Coke. I would soon learn that I would need to get used to this change during our entire cruise... +1 Coke vs -0 Pepsi. +1 Coke vs -0 Diet Coke. UGH!

 

 

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hi Kim, happily following along. Sounds like a much needed time away for all of you. 🤗

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Now we'll get to the building inside...I hate to say it, but it felt like a prison. Well, at least from what I've seen in movies and such. Even Sakari said "are we in jail?" LOL The rest of the family would say the same thing when they arrived. (I can assure you none of us have been in prison before...so just putting that out there lol). It just had this "feeling" to it...especially the hallways upstairs.

 

The building was worn and tired and needed a facelift. (Cracks in the walls, floor, broken tiles, chipping paint and so on).

 

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There was a lot of open space when you entered and I'm not sure if this was equal to a sitting area like they have at motels. They had a few pieces of wicker furniture there.

 

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The advertisement said the condo's were loaded with amenities...here's their amenities (not exactly what I had pictured).

 

Here's the library

 

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There was a game room with ping pong and pool tables...the only problem was, they didn't provide you with the pings or the pongs or anything to play with. Kinda like a party with BYOB...this was a BYOstuff if you wanna use it.

 

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Outside there was a tennis court...again BYOstuff to use it. (Last time I checked, I don't pack this kinda stuff for vacation).

 

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I discovered a basketball court...only it was located in an area that was blocked off by orange barrels from the other side and no entrance from the other.

 

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The workout room

 

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Just to be clear...none of this bothered me at all. We didn't come or stay here for these amenities...we can for the ocean and pool.

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Posted (edited)

Now out to the most important area of this place...the pool. 😄

 

They had a HUGE pool and a small toddler pool with waterfall. Oh...and of course more construction. I felt right at home with the orange barrels and orange plastic fencing...(we have it non-stop in Ohio with construction on the freeways and streets from all the repairs after the winter months).

 

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Now this pool was DEEP!!! 9' + deep! The kids loved it.

 

There was an area along the side that was lined with grape trees and it provided a lot of shade from the blaring sun and a great place for our group to hang out at.

 

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There was also small areas off to the side with tables and bbq pits.

 

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Now the entire time we were here, there was a sign up that said the baby pool was closed. I'm not sure why. It had water in it and at some point during the day it also had the water fountain going.

 

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There were also signed up saying to swim at your own risk because there was no lifeguard on duty....but the entire time we were there there must have been an imposter dressed in red and white with a logo on the back of his shirt that said "lifeguard". lol

 

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The pool was open 24/7 and lit up at night. As much as Sakari wanted to swim at night, I just wasn't in to it the first night we arrived and well the second...we had a full day of sun and pool fun that it didn't happen either.

 

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They did have outside showers. If you are coming from the beach, you could wash off before going in or entering the pool.

 

 

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Of course the place would not be complete without a gate out to the beach area...and of course a key to go in and out of it. At least they left it unlocked during the day.

 

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Edited by mitsugirly

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A view from outside the compound...wall and fencing...there's no getting in for sure. If you look on the left side of the picture, you'll see some barbed wire at the top.

 

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Ok, on to the hallways leading to the rooms. It was a hodgepodge of different types of doors along the way with most being the iron doors in different designs.

 

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Since there's no carpet in the halls and they are very long hallways, everything echoed. When someone left their room, the iron gates slammed and echoed down the hallway.

 

"Guards, please open cell block 2120". (Just kidding). We were at the very end of the hallway and our door faced the hallway, so when you turned from the elevator to go down the hall, ours was straight ahead.

 

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WOW you are a VERY good sport. I keep looking at it thinking it reminds me of an old Soviet Bloc apartment complex from the 1940s thru 60s!!  I feel as if last time you sailed from San Juan you were in Old San Juan not that long after the hurricane and that had its own set of issues.  But thanks for posting. I am definitely rethinking Air BnB (not in a  good way) for next year.  Hilarious about the table but no "ping or pong".  SMH laughing.

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On to the room....

 

Now I have to say I was a little shocked when I walked in and seen the living room. There was not any "living" going to be going on in that small room. It was so dinky small. Like pictures make it look bigger than it is for sure. This picture I am standing in the corner and taking a picture.

 

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Now this small 2 person couch pulled out into a sofa bed...maybe like a futon I guess? The only problem is that there's no legs to hold up the end part to it so you are sleeping with your feet hanging down.

 

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This place did come with a lot of "extras" for your stay...including games for the kids to play and some odd dolls and weird stuff in the lounger couch that the top lifted up to put things down inside.

 

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But hey, we had a view of the beach from the living room.

 

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The owner did provide us with plenty of pool toys and supplies including beach chairs, noodles, surf/boogie boards, puddle jumper and towels (none of which we used during our stay).

 

 

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At the entrance, the owner had plenty of brochures on things to do (and also an entire folder full of stuff).

 

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I believe the kitchen was bigger than the living room, but we didn't really use much of anything, so it was ok.

 

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It did have a full stove/oven (Kendras only had a cook top).

 

The "tile" was...um...fake and stick on. LOL

 

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But I did love the beach decor

 

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On to the bedroom....there were a set of sliding doors (4 individual doors) that were mirrors. You slide them and it opens up to the bedroom. You don't know how many times this messed with me and I ran into them. LOL

 

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Then BAM! The biggest most amazing room yet! It was HUGE! It had a huge couch in it as well.

 

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Both tv's in the home had cable, wifi, Netflix and movie stations...free of charge. Kendras...well although it had some stuff, it was all in Spanish and she never did figure out how to switch it to English. Kambriah spent the morning watching cartoons in Spanish and had a weird puzzled look on her face. I told Kendra she needs to watch more Dora!

 

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From inside the bedroom, you could reach the only bathroom and the small hallway to it had additional closets full of extras (like ironing boards, extra blankets and pillows and linen), then another closet had a washer and dryer.

 

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Ok, it's my granddaughters 4th birthday (my youngest son Kolins daughter Kynzi) and we are going out to eat to celebrate today and a party next weekend). So, I must go for now.

 

I will pick up when I can.

 

I hope you are enjoying it so far...even though it takes me awhile to get to the ship. LOL

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I remember reading your last review on the jewel out of San Juan ?  Please look at alternatives for your next pre cruise  stay. I wouldn’t feel safe in a building with thses kinds of security doors on them. Do you check reviews before you book?

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Looking forward to the rest of your review! Sounds like your family really needs a break

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So many ports, I’d be exhausted and need a vacation after that cruise! Looking forward to your review. Thank you for doing this.

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Yah...I always get excited when I see you are doing a review.  And great to hear you're back on Royal.  Never been on Freedom but have been on Independence which is same ship class.

 

Congrats on your graduation!  That's lots of hard work..excellent!  I'm so very sorry to hear all that Billy and your family has been through.  Horrible.  This cruise sounds well needed.

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