Tag: travel

My Guest Appearance on the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

My Guest Appearance on the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

There are many things I love about taking cruises, but there are also three things I really don’t like:  Getting off a cruise, having to wait until the next one, and the worst being the whole “having to pay for them” thing!  It’d be nice to be able to cruise for free (someday, right? #goals), but thankfully credit card points can help ease the burden, if even just a little bit.  This week, I was graciously invited by my good friend Matt Hochberg over at the Royal Caribbean Blog to cohost his latest podcast episode in which we talk about the Royal Caribbean Credit Card and its points and perks, as well as a few other options.

You can check out the podcast episode here:  https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast/episode-209-using-credit-cards-save-cruise-vacation

You can also check out past episodes of Matt’s podcast here:   https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast

Matt has a lot of great info there – I highly recommend checking out the content.   He also does Facebook Live sessions on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and Periscope live streams on other days of the week.

I’ve been dabbling in the credit card points and miles game for a while, and have certainly learned a lot in the process. I’ll be putting together some content about that in the coming weeks here and on my YouTube channel, so be on the lookout for that as well.


Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Getting weight loss surgery was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. It’s improved my life immensely, and it’s been an incredible tool to help me with living a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been able to experience things I never thought I would be able to do before, and cruises were my perfect opportunity to try things previously impossible.

Back in February, while on Majesty of the Seas, I climbed a rock wall.

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be able to go rock climbing!

On this most recent trip on Anthem of the Seas, I tried the Flowrider for the first time doing some bodyboarding!

It was so much fun!

I also participated in a scuba “Try Dive” experience on Anthem, in which a PADI-certified instructor taught another gentleman and I the basics of diving with scuba gear. After a brief orientation, we put on all the equipment (tank, weight belt, and all) and swam laps underwater in the ship’s pool for about 20 minutes. It was such a great experience, and I didn’t even think I’d get past the stage of putting all the gear on. I thought I’d be too big and wouldn’t be able to proceed, but everything fit, and I even had room to tighten some of the straps. I finally felt like a normal human being. 

Before I started my journey toward being healthier, I would often stand on the sidelines and think “I’m too big to do that.” I then would take pictures of a lot of these activities, as a way to kind of live vicariously through those participating, but I just didn’t want to do that anymore without having those fun experiences for myself. It’s time I “YOLO’d” because after all, as the saying goes, you do only live once.

There are some unavoidable considerations though that those of us with smaller tummies will have to keep in mind:

1. There’s food everywhere.

If you’re easily tempted by a little cupcake here, or a piece of bread there, your temptations may very well have a field day with you on your cruise. But, don’t let that get you down. Always remember that being on vacation you can still follow your budget, and if you want a cookie or two, have them, but don’t have them at both lunch and dinner, for example. Let yourself enjoy food within reason, and be sure to account for it in your budget. Also, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking on ships since they’re quite big, and you’re burning off calories just getting to and from your stateroom!

2. Crew may not be sensitive to those of us who don’t eat as much.

Most crew members may not even be aware of weight loss surgeries, how they work, what they involve, and how it changes all of our lifestyles. To them, we’re just average-looking people who appear to not have much of an appetite, and then are baffled as to why our plates are still mostly full when we tell them we’re done. Don’t let that get in your way; I found the best approach was I would tell servers when they pushed, that “I don’t eat very much.” Most of them understood, and let it go after that. However, be prepared to hear it more than once. In their defense,  most of them may interpret a half full plate as coming from someone who didn’t enjoy their meal. I found that making it clear (and sometimes borderline overdoing it) helped to ease the tension there.

3. Provide feedback (don’t complain) if you don’t have a good experience.

This is a big one.  No change can, or will, be made unless those making mistakes are informed that something is wrong. If a server makes a comment, or does something inappropriate, provide that feedback to the head waiter. Bear in mind the difference between a complaint and feedback; you always catch more flies with honey. Feedback is constructive, where as a complaint is simply stating a problem and expecting something in return.

Complaining really doesn’t get anywhere at the end of the day.

I’d like to share something that happened on my last cruise. This is a paraphrased excerpt of the feedback I provided to Royal Caribbean via their survey:

“Except for dining in the buffet, whenever I had a waiter waiting on me, they would always interrogate me as to why I had food left on my plate when I was finished with my meal. I’d had stomach surgery, so I no longer have the option to eat the same amount as any normal person. I decided to do this for the betterment of my life…I chose to be happier and healthier rather than be able to stuff myself. The crew should be more sensitive to situations like this, and if a passenger says they are finished, they should not be continually pressured to eat something else, as it made for some very uncomfortable situations. In one of the dining rooms, my waiter told me I could eat anything I wanted because “He has a big kitchen.” – I’ve been a big person my entire life (weighing almost 400 lbs at my worst)… I am used to people making comments, but I shouldn’t have to deal with or hear things like that when I’m on a vacation. I’m simply going to dinner to order what I want and enjoy it, and I should not have to explain my situation to someone, or hear their commentary on how big the kitchen is. Statements like that are just unnecessary and inappropriate. I know a big part of going on cruises is enjoying foods one may not be accustomed to eating, but food is not the be-all/end-all part of a cruise experience. It would be nice to see crew be more attentive to and respectful of people when they’re done eating. Even if they take one bite of their food and say they’re done, we’ve all paid the same price for our cruise an we should be able to eat as much, or as little as we choose.”

4. Enjoy yourself: You deserve it.

Cruises are very much a vacation in which you’ll get what you put into it. If you want to go on the ship and sit by the pool while drinking an ice-cold glass of water (who are we kidding…I meant an ice-cold margarita!), do it. If you want to go on and do every activity under the sun, do it! There will always be plenty of choices for activities, and foods as well.

You may have to explain your situation to those unfamiliar with weight loss surgery, but it’s not their fault they’re untrained or unfamiliar.

I recently made a video about this very subject over on my YouTube channel which I’d highly recommend checking out. (Feel free to subscribe if you enjoyed it, as I have lots of other content there and coming soon!)

The most important thing I can say is this: Don’t let anything detract you from taking part in experiences that may have been impossible for you in your old life. You deserve it. You put in so much hard work; weight loss is a lifelong war, not just a battle. A battle can be fought and won (or lost), but a war is ongoing. Think of this as one of many battles in which you were victorious.  Go, and celebrate your victory!

June 2017 Trip Photo Highlights

June 2017 Trip Photo Highlights

I definitely had a great time on this trip, but not just as a ship-going passenger. The photographer in me always loves the chance to snap a great photo, so here are some of my favorites from the whole journey.

I took most of these pictures, with the obvious exception of the ones of me which were taken by the photographers onboard the ship. Since I don’t often like to take the time to set up all of my studio gear and get all dressed up for a selfie, I enjoy taking the opportunity for a nice professionally-shot image like the ones I can get onboard.

I got some great shots of a few guys up on the Flowrider too. I got a chance to chat with them, and made sure to get their e-mails so I could send them the shots after I’d gotten home.

Enjoy these shots – there may be some repeats from the live blogs, but there may be some new ones you might not have seen. Either way, thank you all again so much for taking this trip with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you on my next trips!


My Next Cruise: Oasis of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean

My Next Cruise: Oasis of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean

Having just gotten back from a cruise on the Anthem of the Seas, what better way to celebrate than going on…another one!

Last year, when we sailed on Freedom of the Seas, we were planning to visit the Eastern Caribbean, but were diverted to the Western side due to weather. Instead of visiting St. Thomas and St. Maarten, we went to Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico. I had a great time, but some folks in my group would have preferred we didn’t divert.

Here’s where we’re heading this time:

In addition to this being a cruise with a great group of people, it’s also a special cruise since it is occurring during the full solar eclipse that’s happening in the month of August! I can’t wait to photograph this event, and hopefully get some great images. I’ve never taken pictures of an eclipse before, so it’s a good thing I have time to learn how best to prepare.

This will be the largest cruise ship I’d ever go on, holding just over 6200 at full capacity. The Anthem holds just over 4100 fully loaded, and Freedom which I was on last year holds almost 3800 fully loaded. Majesty, which I got off of in February, held just under 2800 passengers. These numbers don’t include crew. Basically, the Oasis of the Seas is more than twice the size of Majesty.  It’s almost like combining Freedom and Majesty together on one vessel. Wow.

The design is pretty interesting, in that the ship is divided into what are referred to as “neighborhoods”. These areas have a distinct theme, and are a significant part of how a single vessel holding so many people doesn’t feel as crowded.  I look forward to seeing how this pans out, as the idea of having so many people in one place is somewhat daunting.

I know many folks that have gone on ships like this (There are currently 3 in this same class; Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and the 2016-released Harmony of the Seas, and the fourth of this class, Symphony of the Seas is coming next year) and absolutely loved it. I’m sure I will too. I’ll definitely write about my experiences here.

I’m counting down the days until embarkation day!

Trip Day 6: Last Sea Day – Cruise Day 4

Trip Day 6: Last Sea Day – Cruise Day 4

The last day of a cruise is always a weird one, because the whole “getting off the ship” is just around the corner. Tomorrow I will get off this beautiful ship which I’d just gotten on on Thursday for what was a truly incredible long weekend cruise. Still, the day was a great one, and very eye-opening. I’ve found the best vacations are the kind where you get to experience something that’s not a part of your daily routine, and to shake things up a bit.

I had to get up early since my first scheduled activity was moved from Friday to this morning, so I had to be up by the pool for 8:00am. I did a “Try Dive” – which basically gave me the chance to experience what it’s like to scuba dive without expensive gear or a multi-day class. This was a little glimpse into the underwater experience of donning all of the gear and breathing underwater.

It was myself and one other gentleman and the instructor, so it was almost like a private lesson. The instructor showed us the basics of setting up the vest, weight belt, regulator, and air tank. He showed us how controlling our buoyancy helps make it easy to just float underwater without rising to the top. I had no idea how any of this worked until today, and it’s piqued my interest into what it takes to become certified as a scuba diver. It sounds like a fun hobby, for sure.

Right after that was one of my “cruise traditions” – the behind the scenes tour. I always love seeing how stuff works, and seeing what it takes for a ship to run seamlessly. Though many of the facilities and their operations are similar, or exactly the same from ship to ship, there are plenty of differences that make each tour all the more interesting for me. We saw the engine control room (not the actual engine room, which honestly wouldn’t be as interesting), the laundry facilities, food storage, food preparation area (galley), and of course my personal favorite, the bridge.


I highly recommend taking this tour if your cruise allows it!

After the bridge tour, I headed to the Windjammer for lunch, and found that they had baked a massive “farewell cake” for all the guests, thanking them for eating in the Windjammer. What was even better, was that this was the best, moist and flavorful chocolate cake I’d ever had; it was made exactly the way I like it. I was half-expecting it to be some exotic crazy cake with flavors I’d never even heard of, but it was my personal favorite and made perfectly.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and relaxing, exactly the way a vacation should be, but I couldn’t pass up my opportunity to have my picture taken with Gigi: Anthem of the Seas’ very own big giraffe.

Gigi evidently weighs the same as 4 Mini Coopers, and is sporting a pink polka-dotted inner tube. Who doesn’t want their picture taken with an inner tube-wearing giraffe?

For dinner tonight I decided to head back to Izumi once again. The food was so good last night, and was just as good again tonight. The food, the service, a fine example of quality and consistency that I’ve come to expect from cruising with Royal Caribbean.

After dinner I picked up some of my pictures that were taken; being a professional photographer I don’t often get a chance to take good pictures of myself without setting up all of my studio lighting and gear. I like getting shots done while on cruises since the pictures usually come out fairly well and don’t take that long.

The last event I attended was another cruise tradition called The Quest, which is an adult game show where the audience is split into a number of teams, and the host requests actions or items to be brought up in order to get points. These items can range from a shoe, to a sock with a hole in it, etc. Occasionally the host will ask teams to bring members of the team up and act out a certain scene… like “re-creating natural childbirth” for example. Needless to say, with a room full of adults and plenty of booze, it sure made for a fun evening.

Looking back on this cruise, let’s take a look at a few of the highlights and lowlights:


  • The Royal IQ app really helped me stay on top of what activities were going on around the ship, and the ability to plan stuff in that day really helped me with attending everything I wanted to do. That being said, having notifications appearing when certain things would start, or possibly a companion Apple Watch app would be a nice addition. The app itself does need some work, but I’m sure improvements are coming our way.
  • Bermuda was so incredibly beautiful.
  • Two70 is, by far, my favorite venue on this ship. Technologically speaking, it’s chock full of innovative features to give live shows new dimension and wow-factor.
  • Izumi & Jamie’s Italian – Two excellent speciality restaurants which helped me really open my eyes to responsibly treating myself  to a nice meal.
  • The Flowrider & Try Dive experiences were a lot of fun, and something I can’t say I’d ever have been able to try if I hadn’t come on a cruise.


  • Wikipedia indicates that Anthem of the Seas’ passenger occupancy listed as 4,180 at double occupancy, and 4,905 passengers at maximum capacity. That means that, in theory, there are 4,905 people on this ship because it’s completely full and sold out. The ship feels way too crowded, especially in high traffic areas– Windjammer buffet, Elevators, Poolside, Theaters/etc.   If the maximum capacity was reduced I think it would improve everyone’s experiences onboard.
  • The layout of the ship is very different compared to others I’ve been on. It doesn’t feel as open as other ones, which may be a contributing factor to it feeling overcrowded. The ship is designed to sail in both cold and warm weather climates, so maybe it’s all related.
  • The layout of the Windjammer needs an update; it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and the signage doesn’t always correspond to what’s being served there.
  • This one is more specific to cruises in general:   Waiters should be better trained to be more sensitive to those who do not clear their plate.  This is a topic I’ve been meaning to cover in detail. but on this voyage I noticed it most. Rather than go into it now, I’ll just say to stay tuned and watch for either a blog post or video (or both) on this topic in the coming weeks.
  • Cruising solo has its benefits, namely the freedom to do what I want when I want to do so, and having my own room; it’s just not the same as traveling with someone I know. Even if its just one person… I mentioned in another post, I don’t regret taking this trip solo, but I don’t think solo cruising is for me, at least not now.  Perhaps I’ll try another solo cruise on a different ship to see if my opinion changes? We’ll see, but in the meantime I’ve got cruises coming up where I’m not going solo and I’m definitely looking forward to those. It was nice to be able to stay connected with people via social media, but it isn’t the same in the end.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed my trip and do want to sail on Anthem again in the future.  I appreciate everyone who followed along and commented, and watched my live streams on Periscope. You all definitely made my solo cruise feel a little less “solo” and I’m grateful.

I’m going to head to bed, and let the gentle motion of the ship rock me to sleep one last time.

Trip Day 5: Bermuda – Cruise Day 3

Trip Day 5: Bermuda – Cruise Day 3

Every day… every hour, every minute…we get just a little bit… older.

Today I’ve officially started my 36th year of existence, and I can’t think of a better way to have spent my birthday than on the island paradise called Bermuda.

We were docked by just a little after 8, and local officials cleared us shortly thereafter. We were joined by the Celebrity Summit, which was docked just behind us; they had arrived shortly before we did.

The plan, at least in the beginning of this trip, was to pick up my scooter and hit Horseshoe Bay before the crowds, then explore the island and end up in Hamilton. This trip is something of an an homage to the last time I was in Bermuda with my mom, and something fun happening on that trip. You can read all about that trip in this post from some time ago.

My day didn’t start off all that great, if I’m honest. I got off the ship around 8:30am, and according to the cycle shop I had my rental booked through, I’d see someone there with a blue sign who would then transport myself and anyone else with a reservation to the location where the cycles were, for us to go from there. Well, that…never actually happened.

I was one of the first few people off the ship, and I saw no indication as to where to wait. I also wasn’t told a time to meet the rep from the bike shop, so I assumed getting off early would be better than missing this person entirely. I checked with a few of the locals and was directed to the spot where people from this particular bike shop usually are, so I waited there….and waited some more….and then, just to vary things up a bit… I waited even more.

I waited about 90 minutes, and never saw anyone from this bike shop. I did see a few thousand people get shuttled off onto various excursions, which immediately got me second-guessing my plans that I’d made and making me wish I’d gone with a preplanned shore excursion. However, I stuck with what I’d planned to do because after all, I’m on vacation and I really don’t have to be anywhere. I mainly came to Bermuda to take pictures, go swimming, and scoot around the island whilst driving on the left. (That’s the really streamlined version…) Luckily, I did get to do all of that, but keep reading for the full details.

Finally, someone from the bike shop came to pick up the cycles that were left there from the previous cruise, and I asked him if someone else was coming and what I should do in order to get my rental. He kindly offered to take me to the bike shop in his truck, but another couple emerged with reservations, so he arranged for us to have a complimentary taxi from the pier to the cycle shop.

We arrived at the cycle shop around 10am, and I was shown to my bike.

I was expecting something along the lines of a “Okay, you’re on Bike #351, be back by a X O’Clock, return it with a full tank of gas, and by the way drive on the left. Have a good day.”  The experience, though, was far better. I met the owner of the shop who, gave me a full 20 minute training session and did a “follow me” type of ride all around the property where the bike shop is. It was incredible. He told me about some of the common mistakes first-time riders make, and how best to avoid them. He was a great teacher, and I will be happily writing positive reviews for the company when I get back home. If you ever want to rent a scooter in Bermuda, go through none other than Elbow Beach Cycles.   Follow all of the instructions on their website to ensure your reservation is booked and confirmed, and get ready for something far better than just an average vehicle rental. Part of my training was to smile! He kept telling me to smile and relax because I’m in Bermuda – he wasn’t used to my normal resting serious-looking-but-totally-happy face. 🙂

After my introductory training, I set out on my way to Horseshoe Bay. For those considering visiting Bermuda, if you’re comfortable riding a bike, driving around on a scooter is something you’ve just got to do. Driving on the left is pretty easy once you get used to it; it took me about 10 minutes.  I found that I just had to think a little harder about intersections, and making right turns into the left lane, etc. The traffic wasn’t that bad, either, so I didn’t have any trouble getting accustomed to it.

Thankfully there were a number of turn off spots from the main road which looked out to beautiful views, much like this one:

After a few obligatory photo op stops, I made it to Horseshoe Bay.

It was crowded and busy, but not annoyingly so. I was able to get a lounger and an umbrella, so I had a spot to lay my stuff down.

It is said that this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world… I can totally see why.

I swam for a little while, then spotted a number of folks that had hiked up on top of the large rock formation shown on the right side of that picture. The photographer in me figured it might be a great spot for picture taking, and I was not disappointed by any means.


After the picture taking extravaganza, I hopped back on the scooter and decided to head towards Hamilton. I didn’t have a turn-by-turn GPS available, since the apps I have don’t have turn-by-turn for Bermuda. I was, however, able to periodically pull over to a safe spot to check my map. After a few wrong turns and some fun exploring, I found my way into downtown Hamilton, the capital city of this beautiful country.

Hamilton is very nice, but very expensive. A menu outside a local eatery showed a burger was around $22, and I found a shop selling a polo-type shirt for $299! I had to double-check the price tag… $299 for a polo shirt. Geez!

I should also mention that once I’d parked my bike, I didn’t have any way to secure my bag in the basket on the back of the bike, so I had to carry the bag with me. I should have thought that through better before taking this trip, because with the stuff I had with me (snorkeling gear, camera, towel, 2 bottles of water) was quite heavy and my back was starting to hurt.  Combine that, with the fact that I was wearing a semi-damp bathing suit and sleeveless shirt I didn’t exactly feel like I was dressed appropriately to be there. I’m sure it wasn’t an issue, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I opted to head back to the ship since I hadn’t had lunch yet, and it was at least an hour’s drive back to where the ship was docked. I’d done what I wanted to do and had a great time. I didn’t see everything, and that’s good, because I do want to go back to Bermuda and spend at least a few days there to see more of the sights. It had been 15 years, or so, since I’d last been there, so I now have a better idea of how best to plan for my return trip so it goes even better than this one (not that this one was bad by any means).

I returned to the ship and got cleaned up, and grabbed a few small slices of pizza from the onboard pizzeria. I had missed the lunch buffet, since it stopped at 3 and I was back on the ship around 3:15pm. I went to the Schooner Bar for what I thought was an afternoon trivia, and it turned out to be a group Pictionary game. I always enjoy those team types of games, since you can interact with other guests. We played a round of trivia shortly thereafter, and then it was time for dinner.

I had a reservation for Izumi, which is Anthem’s onboard Japanese restaurant. One of the guests I spoke to earlier in the day had mentioned that Izumi didn’t have the hot rock dish I was looking forward to ordering. Basically, a hot rock would be placed in front of you on which you’d cook your own food at your table. I’m told it’s quite good, so when I learned they didn’t have it I was bummed, and was second-guessing my choice for dinner. I was considering going up to the Windjammer, or possibly trying to squeeze in another night at Jamie’s Italian, which was an incredible meal last night.

I decided to stick with my original plans, and got changed for dinner.

I must say, I think I looked quite good in my Diesel jeans and Tommy Bahama linen shirt. I had the ship’s laundry press the shirt, and I now see the benefit in owning and learning how to use an iron… so that’s on my to do list for when I’m back in Austin… but we’re not going to talk about that right now.

I went down to Izumi and figured I’d try something off the menu, and worst case scenario I can always go to the buffet. I figure it doesn’t hurt to live a little… or “YOLO” as the kids are saying these days…. well, kids and some cruise-blogger Floridians I know. 🙂

I couldn’t be happier with my YOLO’ing. My taste buds were having an all-out epic party like I’ve never experienced, and I was loving every minute of it. It was the most delicious meal I’ve had on a cruise ship…ever. Hands down.  I might even go back again tomorrow.

I had Spicy Miso Ramen soup to start with, which was jam packed with flavor. That was followed by Chicken Kara-Age, which seemed to be a breaded chicken served with a spicy dipping sauce… so yummy… and then I had a snow crab California Roll… just writing about it is making me want more!


I rounded out my evening with a visit to Two70 for a Royal Caribbean-original production called “Spectra’s Cabaret.” This was a unique show, in that it blended the technological elements of the room (robotic video monitors, large rear projection screen, moving stage elements, etc) with acrobatics and dancing similar to that which I’ve seen from the likes of Cirque du Soleil. It was a very cool experience.

I’m really enjoying this trip… and it’s kind of sad to know tomorrow’s the final day of the cruise, but I’ve got another great leg of this vacation coming up once I get back on land.

I wanted to thank everyone who sent me warm birthday love today, whether in the form of texts or posts on Facebook. I even had crew members on the ship wishing me a happy birthday while ringing me up – I guess it had me flagged in the system as the “birthday boy.”

Either way, it was an incredible day, and I’m so glad I could share it with all of you. Even though you’re not here with me physically, you’re all here with me in spirit and I’m truly grateful and blessed to have all of you in my life.

On that note, see you tomorrow!

Trip Day 4: First Sea Day – Cruise Day 2

Trip Day 4: First Sea Day – Cruise Day 2

One of my many favorite things about cruising is the sea days. It’s one of the times you get to enjoy the ship and all of its amenities, and believe me Anthem does not disappoint in any way.

I started out with a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer buffet, and then decided to walk around since I had some time to kill before my first planned event. I’m going to deviate for just a moment, and call out something totally new to me in the way of cruising: An App that Royal Caribbean calls Royal IQ.  For me being the “planner type” this app is a godsend. It’s not the greatest app, but it really helps. It’s in dire need of an update, but it does what it does nicely. It allows me to view the Cruise Compass from my phone, and add things to my calendar!  I’m definitely not the “get on the boat and figure it out type” – I need stuff planned in advance.  I even spoke to people who had missed out on certain activities because they didn’t plan in advance. As much as it sucks, for those who don’t like to plan, you may want to open your minds! Anyway, the moral of the story:  Royal IQ is great and I wish it was available on more ships. It seems to only be on Quantum class ships (Anthem, Ovation, Quantum of the Seas) and Harmony/Symphony of the Seas… but I’ll throw a party when they bring Wow Bands and Royal IQ to Majesty. It’s probably not going to happen, but one can dream, right?

So after breakfast I walked around and did a morning Periscope while looking out over the wake. I’m a firm believer in that the wake view truly is the best view:

I then spent some time checking out the Flowrider, which is something I’d been interested in trying but never got up the courage to do so when I was on Freedom last August. They were doing stand-up surfing, and most of the folks who were doing so were quite good. A few were obvious first-timers, but none with any overly hilarious wipeouts. I chatted with a few nice people there, which is another great benefit of cruising. It’s very easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I mentioned thinking about trying it, and one of the guys encouraged me to do so. More on that later.

It had come time for my North Star experience, and this was really neat. The North Star is an observation pod that extends up about 300 feet above the top of the ship, and gives you panoramic views all around.

The experience was neat, but not something I feel the need to have to do again right away.

When the pod is fully raised, being so high up, the movement of the ship causes the capsule to shimmy quite a bit and it can feel strange. If you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to sit this one out, or ride it on a port day when the ship is docked. Plus, the ride only goes up for about 10 minutes then back down, and doesn’t lower down over the side of the ship. Royal had to cut the rides shorter since so many people wanted to do them. They took the ride length from 30 down to 10 minutes; I think it’d be interesting to be hanging off the side of the ship, that would be very cool. Perhaps some day they’ll offer different options for longer ride experiences.

After the North Star, I decided it was time to try the Flowrider.

Let me just say… I am glad that I did.

What a blast.

Granted, the bodyboarding is the easier of the two options (the other being stand-up surfing). I figured it best to start easy and go from there. After my flow riding experience, I headed to the pool and Solarium for a quick few dips, and had lunch in the Windjammer.

I then headed up to the pool area for the belly flop competition. Even though this is a standard activity on all of the cruises I’ve been on, it’s still fun to see how different cruise directors host the event. There are similarities, of course, but every single time it’s been different, all of them equally enjoyable in their own way. I’ll gladly ride the Flow Rider all day, but don’t think you’d ever catch me belly flopping, especially on purpose.

At this point I’d been outside for most of my day so far, so I wanted to get out of the sun for a bit and decided to partake in the “Battle of the Sexes Trivia” which, I’m told, is a toned down version of a more full-on game show of men vs. women. Evidently things had gotten fairly raunchy on past cruises, so they’ve turned it into a trivia event instead. It was still fun, and the ladies definitely had the dirtier minds on this cruise. Needless to say, while their minds were in the gutter, us gentlemen actually pulled through with the win, and we all received our obligatory Royal Caribbean gold medal.

This cruise marks my first as a Platinum level member in the Crown & Anchor Society, so I was invited to a special “Top Tier” event over in Two70, so I headed there right after trivia. I couldn’t miss this, since Two70 is one of my favorite rooms on the ship. If you are looking for a cruise, be sure to give Anthem (or any other Quantum class ship for that matter (Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, or Anthem of the Seas)) a good look, if nothing else for the experience of the entertainment in Two70. Trust me on this.

The Top Tier event included a cocktail hour with a little meet & greet with the captain and his officers. They also recognized the top cruisers on this particular voyage. There was a guy who looked to be around my age who had done, I believe, around 130 cruises with Royal so far.

Not 130 nights, 130 cruises. All I have to say, is “hashtag goals.”

In reality, I don’t know if I’ll ever take 130 cruises in my lifetime, because as I’m realizing it I don’t love the idea of cruising solo. Cruises are definitely better with at least one person along with you. I have absolutely no regrets about my current trip, and am having a fabulous time, but I now know from my firsthand experience that cruising definitely is better with friends.

After the top tier event, I realized I was running late for dinner and needed to get back to my room to get changed. Tonight’s dinner, was at Jamie’s Italian. It was delicious, and I really enjoyed it.  After a few quick professional photos taken, since tonight was formal night I was dressed up some of my new duds I had to take part, I headed to the Schooner Bar for some music trivia.  I met two sisters who were traveling together, and we did pretty well as a team scoring a 17/20.

I finished out my night by catching the headliner comedienne, Michele Balan. This was her first performance of the night, which on cruises is usually the “family friendly” version. I enjoyed her set, but it consisted mostly of humor about/geared toward middle-aged women. She didn’t say anything that got the crowd in a wild uproar, but she kept us chuckling for sure.  Her late night performance is coming up in about half an hour, but I don’t think I’m going to make it since I’m getting all the telltale signs that my body is saying “Dude, go to bed.”  I’m an early riser, and thus an early sleeper as well.

Tomorrow, we arrive in Bermuda, and I’m definitely excited to get off the ship and explore one of my favorite places which I haven’t visited in at least 15 years. We’re only in port for half a day, so I’m planning to make the most of the day.

On that note: So long 35, it’s been real.  Here’s to another year and new experiences. What better way to turn 36 than on a cruise visiting an island paradise?

Anthem of the Seas Cabin 11198 – My Home For The Next 5 Days

Anthem of the Seas Cabin 11198 – My Home For The Next 5 Days

Welcome to Cabin 11198, a Category D6 Ocean View Stateroom (with Smaller Balcony)





For some reason you have to put your SeaPass card into this slot in order for the lights to turn on. However, I was able to get them to work with a Dave & Buster’s card, and everything stayed on when I didn’t have anything in there… so not sure what the purpose of that is anyway.











Another view:




Trip Day 3: To The Ship! – Cruise Day 1

Trip Day 3: To The Ship! – Cruise Day 1

What a great day.

I wasn’t sure what time to leave the shore this morning, so I figured I’d best be early rather than be in a rush. My rental car was due back at 9am, and with traffic from the Toms River area to Newark Airport being an unknown I decided to play it safe. I wound up arriving at the car rental dropoff quite earlier than I was expecting, and I was even able to push my transfer to the cruise terminal earlier as well, so it all worked out.

I wound up getting to the cruise port at around 9am or so. This gave me ample time to take some pictures, and I couldn’t have asked for a better area to do so. As it turns out,  Cape Liberty is also the home of the 9/11 teardrop memorial, so I was able to take some pictures there as well.

But, turning around from this beautiful sight, is another beautiful sight:’

This ship is big, and beautiful. I couldn’t wait to board.

I walked back to the terminal around 10:15am or so, and found they had already started checking people in. I went through security, and proceeded to wait. This is my first cruise as a Platinum status member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program, so I was able to board in group #3.

There were 9 groups showing that I could see, and a bunch of chairs (the white ones) with no group number that appeared to handle the overflow. The room appeared to seat quite a few people or so; needless to say, having status does have its perks.

Once getting on board, I headed to the Solarium, which is the adults-only pool area. I know kids can be cute, but not when they are running around causing quite the ruckus. I like my serenity when it comes to relaxing on vacation, and the Solarium is the perfect place to do just that.




After taking a dip in the pools and hot tubs, the announcement was made that the rooms were ready, so I headed down to find my cabin. I’ve got a separate post about my cabin which you can check out here.

I then went exploring the ship for a bit, and taking some pictures.

We had our muster drill which, on this ship being so big, consisted of everyone gathering in their respective stations and then watching a video with some safety information in it. The captain gave us the all-clear just a few minutes before 4pm, and I had just enough time to get outside for sail away!

One downside to large cruise ships, is that they can occasionally be a bit…crowded at the elevators, especially just after the muster drill. Such was the case here, so I opted to just go out by the lifeboats and watch from there. Turned out to be a great spot.

I eventually made my way up to the top deck and started snapping some more pictures. (Do you see a theme here?)

After my picture-taking extravaganza, it was time for dinner. I headed down to Deck 4 where I enjoyed Royal Caribbean’s “My Time Dining” option. Unlike the traditional dining, which has pre-set times, My Time allows you to choose when you’d like to go for dinner.

One of the most impressive experiences I’d had on the ship so far was a venue at the rear of the ship called two70.

As its name implies, one can have a 270-degree view directly out the 2-story floor-to-ceiling windows. This room is a technological wonder, in that it can be transformed into an incredible live performance space. I attended an introductory show there tonight called The Two70 experience, where the cruise director gave us a little sneak peek at the capabilities of the room.

The windows along the back can be covered with white screens to create a huge projection surface, with an astounding 12K resolution.  There are also 4′ x 6′ LED monitors mounted to robotic arms, and these screens (called Roboscreens) can be positioned into many different configurations to suit the show.

To say that I was blown away is quite the understatement. It was an unbelievable show, and it was just little snippets of whats to come. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a good bit of time catching more shows in there over the course of this cruise.

After the Two70 experience, it was time to catch “We Will Rock You” – a musical set to the music of Queen. I enjoy Queen’s music; I’m not a superfan by any means, but I know the words to half a dozen or so of their songs. I was more curious to see what they were going to do with it as a musical.

Well… I got my answer.

Let me just say this…I’d have been perfectly happy with a simple concert setting, because the talent was out of this world incredible. Royal Caribbean does an amazing job with entertainment; they didn’t have anything to do with writing this show, it came from London’s West End. Evidently it did very well, but I didn’t care for the storyline. It was ridiculous, and completely inane. It was like 1984 meets The Wiz, with a little bit of Tenacious D’s “The Pick of Destiny” mixed in. It was also presented without an intermission, so over 2 hours it was borderline torture to sit through. What kept me in my seat, though, was the incredible talent from the performers. From a musical performance standpoint, I’m sure Freddie Mercury would be proud.  From a dialogue and story writing standpoint… I don’t know who would be proud of that.

I finished my night by heading back to my room to see a fun surprise:

There was also a pack of Red Velvet Cupcakes waiting for me as well – thanks to Eric for the thoughtful gift! Definitely made me smile, and made me glad to be on this trip celebrating another year.

I’m definitely tired so I’m going to wrap this one up… but thanks to all who had tuned in on Periscope today – see you all tomorrow for more fun!