Friday, July 29, 2016

Link Up Reminder

Happy Friday All! Just a quick note to remind anyone who wants to link up with us, next Thursday (the 4th) is the next What's New With You link up.

We hope you'll join us!

What's New With You

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Royal Caribbean 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise Recap

If you would like to see all my travel posts, including recaps, tips & recommendations and packing guides, please visit my travel page.

I have mentioned a time or two that I am quite obsessive about planning, especially when it comes to travel. I like to do a lot when I travel, and the planning is one of my favourite parts. However, because I plan, I plan everything and cram as much as possible into our trips. That's fine and all, but KC requested a more relaxing vacation where I didn't plan our every move, which is why we chose a cruise.

We booked the cruise through Casey at Road Less Traveled Vacations. I'd been following her blog for ages so I felt like I knew and trusted her, and I highly recommend her for any type of vacation. She was extremely helpful.

But on to the cruise! We went on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Oasis of the Seas. We left out of Ft Lauderdale and went to Nassau (Bahamas), Charlotte Amalie (St Thomas) and Basseterre (St Kitts). We also had 3 cruising/sea days. I chose this one because a) KC wanted to go back to Nassau, he went on a cruise when he was 17 and liked that port, and b) I thought the sea days would help me not plan our every waking moment, whereas I would probably over-plan if we had more ports.

So, we left on a Friday afternoon. No direct flights from Louisville, so we stopped in.... Baltimore I think. and we missed our second flight. Yep. Completely my fault/the result of miscommunication. Thankfully, even though the next flight was full (and it was the last flight of the night) we were put on standby and were able to get on and sit together.

Segue, I love Southwest so much. We have a rewards credit card with them, so we haven't had to pay for a flight in a couple of years, but you'd never know from the way they treat us. I used to have a rewards program with Delta, I flew from Sydney to Louisville many, many times, and barely racked up enough points to fly my mum over here for the wedding (we had to buy more miles). They changed the flight a million times, the layovers were like 12+ hours and we had a few other issues. I have nothing against Delta and don't mind flying with them internationally if need be, and though they denied it (naturally) I really do believe they punish or at least put people at the bottom of the priority list when they book with miles. That's just my personal experience, and I will avoid flying with them using miles again. Anyway - point is, we have used miles with Southwest for like 10 flights in the past few years and never once have they changed our flight or given the impression that we were the lowest on the priority list because of that. Plus, they are cheap.

Moving on. We stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66. We'd asked for a king bed, but when we arrived, there wasn't any. No big deal, but they offered us complimentary breakfast regardless. Sweet, thanks. We had no issues with them until we were trying to check out and they charged us for the breakfast. We told them we were given a voucher, they took the charge off. We got home, they had charged the card. Ugh. I had to call several times to have it refunded (it was honestly outrageously expensive, otherwise I'd let it slide) and the staff kept giving me different answers. Anyway! I hate to sound like I am complaining, I would still recommend this hotel, just don't take their 'free breakfast'.

The hotel has a shuttle, but it's a separate company and is like $7 each I think? I forget. There was a bunch of people waiting, so we just decided to catch a taxi, and it worked out cheaper. Plus, the driver was super friendly and fun. There was a bit of a line when we got there, but it moved pretty fast and the staff were helpful. I was honestly still stressing and thinking something had to go wrong soon, I wasn't going to feel comfortable until we'd checked in and were on the ship. There was a bit of a hiccup with me and my green card/passport, but nothing like Dublin thank goodness. I think the whole process took less than an hour.

Then we were on the ship! It was probably the only time you really felt like there were 6,000 passengers on the ship, there were a lot of staff everywhere trying to help/sell you stuff, and all the places to eat were completely spilling over with people. We had our priorities straight and got some alcohol first.

Then the staterooms were ready. I don't know anything about the process of getting your bags, I assume you check them in kind of like an airline and then they show up in front of your stateroom anywhere between boarding and like late evening. We heard people saying they hadn't got their bags yet as we were leaving for dinner. Obviously we didn't deal with that as we carried our bags on - I was worried that I would have to 'check' them with the cruise, but nope. No issues.

Once we had dropped our bags off and snagged our soft drink cups, we went exploring. We also grabbed a few more cocktails because why not.

That night we went to our only 'specialty restaurant'. We went there because they give discounts on the first night, and because we had an onboard credit to use. I was told the dress code was pretty fancy schmancy, so I dressed up, and made KC wear a button down. Unfortunately, we were definitely overdressed! Maybe it's because it was the first night. The food was great though, and the servers were really awesome. We ate at Chops Grille, I believe it's on most Royal Caribbean ships, but that's a total guess so don't hold me to it.

The next day was Nassau! We originally had a shore excursion booked to the Atlantis waterpark, which I was SO excited about. But - we were only docked from 7am-2pm. The waterpark didn't open until like 10am. You have to be back on the ship by 1:30pm. I'm a worrier, so I'd want to be on the ship by 1pm. So that leaves 3 hours at a waterpark that was almost $400 for the both of us. Add that to the accident and insurance deductible we had to pay a week before we left, it just didn't make any sense. I'm really glad we ended up cancelling it, as we spoke to several people who did it and said that the time crunch really ruined the experience and you didn't get to do much. We ended up just walking around Nassau. We got off the ship at like 8am or something, so lots of things weren't even open, plus it was a Sunday and lots of things were just closed. We had fun though, stopped at a few bars and whatnot. Had way too much to drink!

^ That instagram sign made me laugh. We got off the ship pretty early and I thought it was funny. When we were walking back to the ship, the line was so long! Like 50 people at least.

Once we got back on the ship, several cocktails and beers later, we did what most drunk people do. Got burgers and milkshakes followed by a nap (because we felt so sick after the alcohol and burgers!).

That night was our first formal night, and thankfully we were not overdressed this time.

After dinner we hit up the pub on the ship. They didn't have any cocktails that looked good to me, plus I'd been drinking all day so I said no thank you. The bartender wasn't having any of that, so he asked me what I liked and whipped me up a fun and delicious bubblegum cocktail.

The next day was a cruising/sea day. We did pretty much nothing except lay by the pool, drink, nap, read and eat. It was pretty fabulous.

That night, we were going to see the Oasis of Dreams show, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to weather (after we sat there for 45 mins, no big deal).We consoled ourselves with ice cream and an early bed time.

The next day was our favourite, we had a shore excursion in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. It was called  'FastCat' 2-Island Snorkeling Safari and Beach Getaway. It was I can't even fully explain how much fun we had. First off, we all knew we'd get wet, but we had no idea we'd be getting absolutely utterly drenched on the way out there. Thankfully, I'd put my phone in my waterproof case (seriously best $10 I ever spent, not an affiliate link!) and we were wearing our swimming stuff. Some people were not prepared though and their bags and stuff got soaked. Some people were super pissed about it, but KC and I couldn't stop laughing.

^ The photo on the left is when we were pulling out of Charlotte Amalie, and the photo on the right is like 10 minutes into our journey. The boat was moving super fast and water was flying everywhere so it's not the best photo, but it was hilarious. My tank top was sopping wet and KC just took his shirt off. So funny.

We got to our first destination, one of the two islands, and we all hopped out and snorkeled. I'd never snorkeled before, I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty scared. But it was beyond fine. I took my phone with me in that little case, I didn't take any underwater photos, but it took above water photos fine, and I shoved it in my life jacket floaty thingy when we were swimming and it was totally fine. We saw sea turtles and lots of fish. The turtles were so freaking cool.

After that little adventure, we got back on the boat and went to the next island. There was food and whatnot, but we weren't there for very long so we just chilled in the water and kept drinking 'painkillers'.

As I'm sure you can deduce from the photos, we'd had quite a bit to drink, though we had an absolute blast. We had another nap before dinner.

^ See those 3 desserts in front of me? ALL MINE. Also, note KC's 'omg stop taking photos face'.

The next day was our stop at St Kitts. We had another shore excursion booked, but this one wasn't until later in the day, so we walked around Basseterre, really just the port, for a bit.

They had a few shops there, and I assume because they are part of the Commonwealth or used to be a British Colony, they had tons of English aka Australian goodies, as in food. There were tons of chocolates and such, but I behaved and only got a (huge jumbo) bag of chupa chups. Chupa chups are just lollipops but they are legit everywhere in Australia, and you just grow up eating them all the time. Things might have changed since I moved of course, but these were such a huge part of my life (calm down Kristen, they are lollipops) that I knew I had to buy some when I saw them.

The second shore excursion we did was a rum tasting at an old plantation. I have basically no photos of the rum tasting because it was very dark, but the plantation itself was beautiful and the views were gorgeous. I really like rum in cocktails and such, but I'm not really a fan of anything straight, though they had a bunch of flavours (vanilla, coffee, lime) so that was fun.

After that, we were back on the ship. We definitely enjoyed the rum tasting and the little history tour the driver gave us, but nothing topped St Thomas. It was just too much fun.

That night we had another dinner with a couple of desserts, and we went to see the ice skating show - it was called Frozen or something, but it was a bunch of Hans Christian Andersen Fairytales. I am always in awe of people who can do things like ice skate and all the flips and whatnot. It was extremely entertaining.

As I'm sure you can tell, KC doesn't share my love of a million photos. Didn't even see him making the face until I saw the photo. I made him take another one after that, but this one is definitely more 'us'.

After that, we had 2 more sea days. Lots of relaxing, eating, etc.

Second last night was the second formal night. People definitely didn't take this one as seriously, one couple (that entertained us every night, but they didn't know that) turned up in their swim stuff.

^ This is legit my new phone background. I don't know why I find it so funny and adorable, but I do. KC says I make the funniest/cutest faces when I don't like something (his example: when I drink Guinness) but his faces are just so 'womp womp, this sucks' and it made me laugh far too hard.

The last full day was another sea day, and I think we were both ready to be home by then. It's hard to know how long you will want to spend anywhere, including a cruise, but I think 7 nights might have been a bit much for us. We had another lazy, relaxing day.

^ They had fish n chips & pavlova on the last night. Guess how many pavlovas I had? hahaha. The table next to us were like wtf why are you so obsessed, what is that stuff? Then they ordered it and were as obsessed with it as me. Delicious.

Funny story, there were like 4 groups of 6 (or 8?) elevators, and every time we got on one we saw the 'name' on the floor. We thought all the elevators had different names, named after different days of the week. We were like oh we haven't been on Wednesday before! It took us until Saturday, the last day, like literally the day we got off the ship, to realise they changed the insert thingys each day. I assume it is to remind you what day it is. When we realised what idiots we were, we could not stop laughing.

Another funny story, I've never seen a legit sunrise. I mean, I have seen the sun rise. But I've never like sat and watched it somewhere I could see it properly. I kept saying to KC that we should get up one morning and watch it, but we didn't. I also thought maybe we'd sleep with the blinds open, but our next door neighbours kept their light on all night so it was annoying. Plus the sun was rising at like 5am each morning and I was too lazy for that. Anyway! So we had a bit of a spat on the last night (as you do) and the next morning, he woke me up as a surprise to go see the sunrise! At 4:30am! Which would have been sweet! Except because we were pulling into Ft Lauderdale, the sun didn't rise until like 6:30. Again, when we realised this, all we could do was laugh. I mean, if you can't laugh... what's the point, right?

It eventually caught up to us though, so I took plenty of photos. There were people out there with legit hardcore cameras and I'm over here with my iphone. No shame in my game.

The views really never got old. I mean, look at that!

I know this was beyond a ridiculously obscene amount of photos, but one of my favourite things about having a blog is recording my travels. I love looking back on my travel posts a few months or even years down the line, they never fail to make me smile. The other day someone asked me about Paris and I was looking at that post thinking to myself holy cow, you went to Paris! KC mentioned the other day he'd love to go back to Italy, and I started thinking about Rome. Of course, whenever I want a dose of home, I look back over my Australia post. I love looking back on my travel posts, and I certainly don't expect other people to get the same joy from these posts, so you'll have to forgive me for oversharing. Some of these things are once in a lifetime for me, and I love that I can record them and look at them any time I want.

I did want to mention a few things because some people asked me or I spoke to them about it before we left:

1. We did have wifi on the ship. You have to pay for it, obviously, but when we booked, there was a special that gave you 'free' wifi for one device. KC and I could both use it (they give you a code) but not at the same time. I'm not normally a fan of being on the internet or social media all the time on vacation, but I do like the ability to check work emails and send pictures to my mum. KC also likes to keep up with sports, because there always seems to be something important going on while we are on vacation.

2. We got a drink package. You don't have to get one of these, you can either drink what is included every day/night, or just pay for what you drink, but I know what KC is like and I used the same logic when we got the Disney dining plan. I'd rather pay for a package of some sort upfront, and not have to worry about anything. That's just my personal preference. Everything was included for us -bottled water, specialty coffee (not starbucks), soda, wine, beer, cocktails. They do specials on the drink packages as the cruise goes on, either discounted or things like 10 drinks for $70, so you could just wait for that.

3. You'd have a hard time falling off the ship. I was legit worried about this. There are barriers everywhere, and KC explained something about how they are taller than your centre of gravity, so the likelihood of you falling by accident is slim. Of course you could probably still jump or whatever, but yeah. If you are clumsy and trip over things all the time, like me, you don't have to worry that you'll trip and fall off the ship.

4. Open water is not that scary. Okay, this is a weird one, but again is what I was worried/scared about before we left. I am not a fan of open water. The thought of being out in the middle of the ocean if something happens (thanks Titanic and Poseidon) scares the crap out of me. Here's a trick I learned to keep my fears in check: don't stand anywhere on the ship that you can see both sides, or both ends. Actually, it's pretty hard to do that anyway. If you are on the left side, you can't see the right side. Front, you can't see the back. I was not really this delusional, but it's like my brain forgot we were out in the middle of the ocean if it couldn't see both sides. I could pretend there was land on the other side. I wasn't scared once. Again, this might seem silly to those not afraid.

5. You can't really feel the ship sway. Sometimes you can, and one night at dinner it was very noticeable. But for the most part, you couldn't feel it at all. It stormed every single night while we were sleeping and we didn't feel a thing.

6. It doesn't feel like you're in a small space with 6,000+ people. Apparently we had over 6,500 passengers, and like 2-3,000 crew. It never felt that way, it was very busy when we got on the ship, and the shore excursions process wasn't super organised so there were a lot of people standing around, but in terms of other things - waiting for elevators, getting food, finding a table or pool chair, it was fine. I mean, it was still a bit crowded, but not so crowded that you couldn't move or go where you wanted to go.

7. Royal Caribbean was great. The staff were fabulous, the ship was clean, the food was good, there is tons to do etc etc. I highly recommend. I also think they are very family friendly, well really any age friendly. We saw tons of families, babies, teenagers, seniors, whatever. I think they cater to everyone.

Okay, that's it. Thanks for scrolling through this entry for longest blog post ever. Wink.

What's your favourite dessert?