Tag: oasis2017

Oasis of the Seas 2017 Cruise in Review

Oasis of the Seas 2017 Cruise in Review

 

Looking at pictures from any of my trips is a fun way to remember all the fun we had, but even better is seeing a slideshow! Of course I couldn’t resist making one for this trip, since so much had happened on this vacation. There was scuba diving, snorkeling, epic concerts, an incredible ship, and we can’t forget about that little solar eclipse… Go for it, check out the video!!

Hurricane Harvey and My Return to Austin

Hurricane Harvey and My Return to Austin

The hurricane known as Harvey made landfall on the Southeastern Coast of Texas just before I was due to fly back from my cruise, so it certainly made for some last-minute travel headaches. Thankfully I’ve made it safely back to my home in Austin, but even as I’m writing this the storm is still wreaking its havoc on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Having lived through hurricane Sandy a few years back, I would never want to wish anything like this on anyone, so my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the storm’s former and current path.

Since I was flying on United, my return trip from Orlando was going to connect in Houston. I like flying United; they’ve done fine by me despite the bad press they’ve received over the year. My only complaint is their lack of a direct flight between Austin and Orlando, but since I don’t fly that itinerary regularly, making the connection in Houston isn’t that big of a deal…unless there’s a hurricane in my way.  I was first notified of the storm on Friday, and some of the news sites were setting expectations for the worst. I hadn’t heard from United as of yet, but that changed on Saturday morning when I woke to find an e-mail showing my flight had been canceled.

I called United and was then rerouted to a later flight, also connecting through Houston. A few hours later, this flight was also canceled, prompting me to call back again. I was then given the option to reroute through Chicago O’Hare or Washington-Dulles, since I’d learned that Houston airports were closed until further notice. I chose to fly to Washington DC, and closely monitored the situation since getting those plans set up.

It’s reasons like this that I strongly recommend having the internet package (if only on one device, at least) while on a cruise. If I’d found out about all of this after returning to land, I may have been delayed further if I couldn’t take action as quickly as I had. Since I was delayed, I booked a room at the Hyatt within Orlando Airport, contacted my manager at work to notify her of my plans, changed my ground transportation in Austin to reflect my new pickup date, and even requested Monday off from work so I wouldn’t have to call out and use a sick day. Getting the internet package is great for posting quick selfies on vacation, but it also can really come in handy to prevent further travel headaches when plans change at the last minute.

Certain members of my family were understandably concerned about my plans to fly directly into the path of a hurricane, and adamantly insisted I fly back to NJ with them to spend a few days up there before returning to Texas. While I understand and appreciate the concern, I did not want to fly any farther out of my way than I had to, and I wanted to minimize the additional time off that I may have to take from work in order to get back within a timely manner. I also put my full faith in the airlines knowing that they will get me back to Austin safely, even if it means reroutes and potential delays. If they were offering a flight that went near the hurricane but not over it or through it, they are doing so because they have the knowledge and experience to know it can be done safely. I’m not a meteorologist, so I’m not going to pretend to know more than the professionals do in this scenario.

Using FlightView Elite  I was monitoring Airport Delays for both Washington-Dulles and Austin, and both were showing on-time performance throughout the day on Sunday. I also used United’s app to keep an eye on my flight, which remained On Time and On Schedule throughout.

Sunday was an uneventful day, which mainly consisted of me relaxing in my hotel room at the Hyatt, sampling the fabulous food-court cuisines of Orlando Airport, and getting a drink with a friend who lives in Orlando and was kind enough to drop by the airport for a few hours to catch up. My flights went off without a hitch on Monday, and I made it back to Austin by around 4pm CST on Monday.

The big takeaways from this whole experience:

  • Wherever you’re traveling, whether it’s on a cruise or traveling abroad, stay connected. If you’re on a cruise, make sure you have access to the internet; even if it’s not on your own device (someone in your room with you, etc.) – If you’re traveling to another country, speak with your phone provider to have some type of international plan added to your account. You never know when that can save you!
  • Have a core set of Travel Apps on your smart phone, and know how to use them. Use apps to monitor Airport arrivals/delays, have your airline(s) apps on your phone, and know how to access your reservations or the customer service phone number for your airline.
  • Have enough room on an “emergency” credit card to cover unforseen expenses; If given the choice of being stranded somewhere with no food/shelter/means to get home, or getting home safely after having a safe place to stay and a meal but having some extra debt, I’ll take option B hands-down. Sure, it cost me a few hundred dollars to have to stay overnight in Orlando, but I was able to mitigate most of that with credit card points so it didn’t severely affect my bottom line.

 

Cruise Day 7: Nassau

Cruise Day 7: Nassau

It’s the last day of the cruise… the one before disembarkation. I don’t know what’s worse; the day before you have to leave the ship, knowing that it’s all over in one day, or actually getting off the ship itself.  You be the judge and post a comment… which is worse?

We had an early breakfast in the Windjammer and headed down to meet the rest of our tour group in the Opal Theater before going ashore When I was last in Nassau on Majesty of the Seas I did a great snorkel excursion called the Rainbow Reef Snorkel, and knew that I just had to show this fabulous place to my cousins. I’ll have video of our visit to the reef up on my YouTube Channel soon, but in the mean time you can check out the video from February’s visit to get a small glimpse at the aquatic life we spotted there earlier this year. Today’s visit was different, so be sure to be on the look out for the video that’ll be coming soon!

Once off the ship, there was minimal organization, so it was a bit chaotic to try to find our respective tour operator. I included some of this in my feedback to Royal Caribbean after the cruise, but I think we should have been kept on the ship until the tour operator had arrived and was in a clearly visible spot for us to meet them. We eventually did meet up with the woman from the tour, but it wasn’t as smooth as some other experiences I’d had in the past.

The excursion was great – I highly recommend the Rainbow Reef Snorkel on your next cruise to Nassau – the tour operators definitely make the experience memorable, as well as give some fun an interesting tidbits on the boat ride back toward the cruise ships, pointing out some celebrity houses right on the water.  It’s a great value for the price – I don’t remember it being more than $40 a person for the whole thing.

After arriving back on land, my cousins Jen and Lindsay decided to walk around before getting back on the ship, but I wanted to get back to the Oasis so I could throw some dry clothes on since I was meeting up with a few folks from one of the cruise fan blogs that I follow that happened to be sailing on Majesty of the Seas, which was due into port around noon. As I was walking back toward the pier, I did my little check to ensure I had everything I needed to get back on board:  Photo ID… check. Wallet… check. Sea Pass Card…. Nope.

As it turns out, my cousin Jen had my SeaPass card in her bag and I’d forgotten to get it from her before we had parted ways. I knew there had to be some sort of procedure for those without their cards to get back on board, and I was about to find out what all that entailed.

Upon arriving at the pier, I was told to talk with a guard in a military uniform, who wasted no time making me feel stupid for having lost my SeaPass card. He then verified my name on the manifest, and let me on to the pier via the crew access gate. Once there, I realized it was a very long walk back to where the Oasis was docked; we were docked all the way on the end, since we were the largest ship in port that day. Also in port with us was the Disney Cream, Carnival Somethingorother, and the Majesty of the Seas.  Since my clothes were almost completely dry at this point, I opted to just wait for my friends on the pier rather than go back to Oasis, and get off again later. Majesty had just finished docking at that point, so I knew it wouldn’t be long.

I had a fun meet up with some other folks from the RC Periscopers group, which is a cruise enthusiast group of folks who perform live streams via Periscope from whatever ship they are traveling on.

You can tune in to my broadcasts via Periscope any time, and join the group via rcperiscopers.live. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some wonderful people from this group, as well as the Royal Caribbean Blog, an unofficial fan blog run by a friend of mine who lives in Florida and gets to cruise more often than I do! It was on his podcast that I was featured a few weeks ago talking about travel credit cards.

After I’d met up with the guys from Majesty, I started heading back to the Oasis and heard my name being called from behind me. It was my cousin Jen, who was on her way back as well. Thank goodness! I didn’t have to deal with trying to board without my SeaPass card!

We made it back on and proceeded directly to the Solarium for our departure from Nassau. The cantilevered hot tubs are my favorite spot on Freedom and Oasis class ships; I love being able to look down the side of the ship, especially while pulling away from port. I’m always amazed at how effortlessly these massive ships can move, and with pinpoint precision.

Dinner was at Chops Grille tonight, a fun way to end this fabulous trip. The rest of the family had such a great experience on their first visit to Chops, the night Jen and I went to Izumi, they wanted to revisit once more before the trip had finished. I’m not a steak person, so I went more for the experience of dining with family than the food itself. Dinner was good, and we headed up to Deck 16 for some impromptu family portraits taken by yours truly; we wound up saving a good bit of money by having me take our pictures instead of going with a ships’ photographer.

By then it had gotten dark, and it was time to do that which I dread at the beginning of every cruise: Pack and put my suitcases outside of my door. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. As much as I hate that saying, I just tell myself that the end of one cruise means it’s one day closer to the start of my next one.

We went to bed around 11pm, and ended yet another fabulous day, on a fabulous vacation.  Thank you for following along on my trip; I was having so much fun, that I wasn’t blogging “live” as much as I thought I would. A little confession; I’m actually just finishing this up about 4 days late… but reliving the memories are part of what brought be back into blogging in general. I love being able to go back at a later time and think about all the fun I had on this trip.

I saw a legend perform one of her iconic songs on the same day as a once-in-a-lifetime full solar eclipse, that I even got to photograph! I spent time with incredible people, and I got to perform a full-on scuba dive. That’s just a few of the amazing experiences I’ve had on this trip, and why I’m always humbled and blessed for the opportunity to be able to take vacations like this, and share them with all of you.

I do have a number of cruises on the horizon, so be sure to stay tuned, because the next one just around the corner… granted, it’s a fairly big corner, because it’s not for a while, but stay tuned!

 

Cruise Day 6: At Sea

Cruise Day 6: At Sea

Today was another lazy day, since we were at sea and thus had the ship as our destination. It’s hard to believe the vacation is nearly over! This is the first cruise I’ve been on where our final day was a port day. Usually the cruises I’ve taken have ended with the last day being a sea day, and the following be disembarkation day.

Breakfast was in the Windjammer again – my family and I have never been ones to do the main dining room for breakfast, not sure why. The buffet always gives a nice variety of offerings to get your day started.  We then made our way to the pool and spend a majority of the day hanging in or by the pool, and this is where I was introduced to one of the bar staff named Lindell, who had his own twist on a Rum Runner drink that had come to be known as the “Lindell Special.”

Oh…my…goodness it was delicious. I asked him what was in it, and he explained it in his very thick Jamaican accent; sadly I didn’t catch much of what it was, since I’d already had about 4 of his Specials in me when I asked him. I probably should have written it down, because I know I can’t get on another Royal Caribbean ship and ask for a Lindell special, since they’ll have no idea who Lindell is and what’s in the drink. I tried ordering a Rum Runner from one of the bars at a litmus test, and it tasted kinda close, but not close enough. All I can remember was Mango, Pineapple, Banana, and Rum, but I’m not sure if there was more to it than that. The only solution: Go back on Oasis of the Seas ASAP and try to track down Lindell again! Or, those going on Oasis soon, find him and ask him about his special drink! Trust me, it’s very well worth it. It’s lighter and more refreshing than a Rum Runner… perfect for those hot days by the pool.

Dinner this evening was in the Main Dining Room, and I have to say compared to past cruises I’d been on with Royal, I wasn’t as happy with the service in the dining room this go around. Food wasn’t as good, and the waiters seemed like they had far more to do since there were no dedicated bar staff. Our primary and assistant waiter had to also juggle drink orders in addition to our food orders, so it slowed down service time and had us waiting for drinks more often than previously. I heard some talk that this was a decision made by corporate to cut costs, but I’m hoping this is revisited some time because it’s certainly detracting from the overall customer experience. Our servers were very nice and pleasant, but the overall experience wasn’t the highlight of the trip for me by far.

 

After dinner I had another brief visit to the casino, but then decided I’d had my fill since I was up quite a bit from the night before. Always good to quit while still ahead, right?

One of the really fun events on board was called “60 Seconds or Less”, which had contestants doing silly things within a 60-second timeframe. I’d arrived before my family so I tried to find a seat, and heard someone calling my name off to the side. I looked around and made eye contact with someone who looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place who it was. He was doing the “I know I know you” look, as was I, and it then hit me: It was a guy named Chris, one of my pals from Berklee, someone I went to college with!  What are the odds???  We chatted for a few minutes before the event started, and made plans to catch up again tomorrow after setting sail from Nassau – I wish we’d connected earlier in the cruise, but it was so much fun to see a familiar face on the ship.

The game show was hilarious, as it ended with Joe (one of the hilarious members of my group) having 41 shoes hanging from/stuffed on his person!

Tomorrow’s Nassau…the last port day, stay tuned for more fun stuff coming!

Cruise Day 5: St Thomas

Cruise Day 5: St Thomas

 

We didn’t have anything planned for this day, so we took it easy on this port visit. We woke up late and had a quick breakfast in the Windjammer before heading off the ship. The port of Charlotte Amalie was built just for cruise ships, much like the one in Costa Maya in Mexico, so it’s very “Tourist trappy” when you first get off, and you have to take a taxi of some variety to get to where all the shopping and attractions are. We opted to just take a little stroll around the surrounding area, and then get back on the ship to change into swim clothes and head to a beach of some variety, since we’d gotten most of our shopping done in St Maarten the day before.

We decided on Emerald Beach, which was only a $4 taxi ride from the pier. This beach came recommended by a few folks that had gone to St. Thomas before, and it really was a beautiful place. It’s a small secluded beach tied to a nearby hotel of the same name, so it wasn’t packed but it certainly was crowded. The water was crystal clear, and my cousin and I decided to do some impromptu snorkeling. I’ve got some video of that which will be up on my YouTube channel some time soon. We saw lots of tiny fish, as well as a few surprises along the rocks. As it turns out, we swam quite far away from the swimming area, but it was well worth it given the sights we’d seen.

We headed back to the ship around 2:30pm, and made our way to the Solarium, where we enjoyed the refreshing pool in the center. It had spray jets in the center which my cousin and I nicknamed “The People Washer” – clearly this had become my new favorite pool on board. While I love listening to the Caribbean band playing “Hot, Hot, Hot” and other soca hits, I also love my serene quiet peace time as well.

While the rest of the family dined at Chops Grille, my cousin and I decided we weren’t in the mood for steaks so we had our dinner that night in my favorite speciality restaurant: Izumi. Since we’d done the Hibachi experience already, we decided on doing the regular sushi menu, and I couldn’t resist revisiting my meal from my last Izumi experience on Anthem of the Seas. It was amazingly delicious, and I honestly can’t recommend Izumi more highly.  For those mildly curious, we had the Chicken Karan-Age and Spicy Miso Ramen appetizers, and I had a Snow Crab California Roll. I’m not an overly adventurous eater, but this hit the spot beautifully and I recommend all of those if you’re unsure what to try when visiting Izumi.

After dinner we visited the casino, and I made a few more donations before calling it a night early.  Stay tuned for more about the last 2 days of the trip!

 

 

 

Cruise Day 4: St Maarten

Cruise Day 4: St Maarten

St Maarten: Such a beautiful place! Now I know why so many love this island.

The weather was, in a word, perfect.

We woke up early and had breakfast in the Windjammer around 8, and met up with family shortly thereafter for some morning shopping. We rode the water taxi to the downtown shopping area (Front Street) where my cousin and I scored some incredible deals on some bling! (Yes, I said bling…)

I’ve never been much for jewelry, but I got a nice chain and titanium ring, which I bought for far less than the respective shops’ asking price. We then headed back to the ship to prepare for our SCUBA adventure.

The SCUBA dive was an incredibly fun experience! I loved it, and want to go for my certification. I think it will be a great thing to have for getting into underwater photography. Our instructor was incredible, and if you ever get to St Maarten, you must dive with Scuba Fun. Our instructor was Max, and with a group of only 4 of us gave us individualized attention and really made the whole experience memorable and safe. I can’t recommend it more highly.

I have (almost) the whole dive on video from cameras that my cousin and I had, so I’ll edit something together and post that after I get home.

After Scuba we had dinner at Giovanni’s Table, which was delicious. We had an early night since we had walked a lot and done the epic dive, but tomorrow we’re in St Thomas for more fun, and perhaps some snorkeling!

Thanks for following along, and if you want to catch some in-the-moment fun be sure to follow me over on Periscope to see live video streams from wherever I am.

Cruise Day 3: At Sea

Cruise Day 3: At Sea

Ah, day 3…

The eclipse has come and gone, but the memories will surely last forever.

We slept in and headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast around 9 or so, and met up with family poolside. Most of the morning was sitting by the pool and relaxing, fitting in some time in the Solarium as well.

Lunch at Johnny Rockets was tasty – greasy and tasty! We missed the Belly Flop competition, but that’s okay because there will be more cruises for sure!

We played some Cards Against Humanity again in the afternoon, and after a brief rest had a nice dinner in the main dining room.

We wanted to see the Aquatheater show, but it was canceled due to the movement of the ship, so we wandered around and found our way to some Michael Jackson trivia – which we aced, of course. We called it a night early since we had a big day planned for St Maarten and wanted to get some rest.

Having a wonderful time so far and can’t wait to share more with all of you!

Cruise Day 2: At Sea on Eclipse Day

Cruise Day 2: At Sea on Eclipse Day

Day 2 was truly unforgettable, in that there was a lot of fun mixed in with downright awe…

We started with breakfast in the Windjammer, and then proceeded to the sports deck for some morning Flowriding. I’ve got video of that which I’ll post after I get home, for bandwidth reasons.

Jen and I took two turns each bodyboarding, and just thinking about it is making me want to go back and do some more.

We then headed to the Aquatheater for the DNCE and Bonnie Tyler concert, which I went into with mixed expectations – I was blown away. I knew nothing of who DNCE was, and didn’t know much from Bonnie Tyler other than “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out for a Hero” – both acts were incredible. I did a few Periscope broadcasts of the concert, and found both acts were full of energy and had incredible stage presence. It was amazingly fun.

Then, came the highlight of the day: The Eclipse

I took about 300something pictures, my favorite of which being the following, which I’d posted to my Instagram account:

I’ll be posting the rest of the pictures after I’ve had a chance to go through and edit them, but that one is certainly up there as one of my top favorites.

After the eclipse, was dinner at Izumi. My cousin Jen and I opted for the Hibachi experience which was a lot of fun. The chefs were very friendly and engaging, and really got into the spirit of how much fun that style of cooking can be.

After dinner, I went to the casino and made my obligatory donations… blackjack and craps… they were fun, and it took me a while to lose my initial investment so I don’t call that a complete waste. We then finished the evening with the comedy stylings of two fantastically hilarious comedians: Phil Palisoul and Kivi Rogers – find them on YouTube, they are brilliantly hysterical. I’d actually seen Kivi Rogers while on Majesty back in February, and he was even funnier this cruise.

That was it for Day 2… Day 3 is coming soon: anther sea day!

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Event

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Event

Here’s a shot from today’s eclipse… I’ve got lots more to go through, but wanted to share this.

I’m truly humbled and blessed to have had this opportunity and will always be grateful to the incredible family with which I’m traveling; thanks for bringing me along and letting me enjoy this incredible experience with all of you.

Cruise Day 1: Embarkation

Cruise Day 1: Embarkation

It’s here! The first day of what’s to be an epic cruise!

My apologies for the live blog coming late, but here it is!

We stayed overnight at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, by far my favorite place to stay before a cruise out of Port Canaveral. We met up with the group before 9, and were en route aboard our private bus transfer by 9:30.

We made it to the pier about an hour later, and there she was: Lady O herself… the Oasis of the Seas. I couldn’t believe what a massive ship she is. I thought Freedom and Anthem were big, but this is a whole new level of big.

The size being what it is, security and embarkation were smooth and well-executed, as I’ve become accustomed to with past cruises on Royal. They are wonderfully consistent.

We had lunch in the Windjammer, hand headed poolside to verify that our drink package was functional – my wonderful margarita confirmed this! I even managed to fit in a live stream on periscope here!

Then we explored a bit and found our way to Central Park, where we had another verification of our drink package (Margarita #2, the drink package officially works on all decks!).

Rooms were ready promptly by 1pm. My cousin Jen and I are in an ocean view balcony on deck 14 – definitely smaller than the room I had on Anthem but enough for the 2 of us to be comfortable and not tripping over each other.

Afternoon fun consisted of a gut-busting game of Cards Against Humanity while we relaxed in our room… I won’t write specifics here, but let’s just say we’ve come up with a truly tasteless idea for a musical that would even make Mel Brooks cringe.

Dinner was in The Grand, and was fine. We then explored a bit more, and found our way to a general knowledge trivia, that didn’t go so well, then a Movie Themes trivia, where we did much better.

We ended the evening with karaoke in On Air, followed by an epic Eclipse-Day-Kickoff party on the Promenade. So fun.

Having a great time so far!

Be sure to tune in on Periscope for in-the-moment live video streams, and stay tuned for more fun from the Oasis of the Seas!

Stray Observations:

  • The ship is big, but surprisingly easy to navigate. The abundance of signage everywhere really helps.
  • Ship motion is very comfortable but felt more at the rear of the ship than anywhere else.
  • Staterooms and some public spaces feel smaller than on other ships; On Air, Schooner Bar both felt larger on Freedom.
  • Ship doesn’t feel overly crowded, despite my concerns it’s quite pleasant.