Sunday, February 17, 2013

Travel Review: Royal Caribbean 4 Night Cruise on Liberty of the Seas

Last week my boss and I escorted 50 people on a 4 night Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas as part of their office incentive.  This was the first cruise that I have ever been on and I enjoyed it, more than I thought I would.

The Liberty of the Seas is in Royal Caribbean's second class of ships.  The fleet is broken in to different classes of ships and the higher in class, the more amenities and bigger ship.  When comparing this to an all-inclusive resort, think about it in terms of stars.  A 5 star resort is going to be nicer and have more amenities than a 3 star resort.

We left out of Port Canaveral and had one port, Cozumel, on the 2nd full day in.

Just as when you go to an all-inclusive or Disney and use their shuttle service, we gave our luggage over to Royal Caribbean when we boarded their shuttle bus at Port Canaveral and they took it to our individual staterooms.  
Tip:  If you know that you are going to want or need something, put it in your carry-on luggage as it may be several hours before you see your checked luggage.

My first impression upon seeing the ship was "Holy cow, that is huge!"

The check-in/boarding process was fairly easy and only took about 10-15 minutes from getting off of the shuttle from the airport to being on board.  Guests are invited to start enjoying the amenities of the ship right away even though the ship doesn't embark until around 5:00pm.

One of my favorite parts of the entire cruise was that people actually come out and waved when we were pulling out of port.  This totally supported my little girl dream of someday being on the Love Boat so it made me really happy to see that everyone really does stand out on deck and wave back to the people on shore.  People came out of their houses and out on to their balconies to wave us off.

Because there is so much to discuss and review, I am going to break it down in to different categories.

Amenities and Entertainment
The Liberty of the Seas is part of the Freedom Class of ships.  There were a lot of activities and things to do on board this ship.  On the pool decks (11 & 12) there were constant activities such as:  salsa lessons, bingo, belly flop competition, White Party, Disco Party, Make-A-Wish one mile walk, Caribbean steel drum band, funk band.  There was constant activity when it came to the pool sections including a waterpark for the kids.
In addition to all of the activities below, this ship also had the Flow Rider, miniature golf course, sports complex that included volleyball/basketball court, and a rock-climbing wall.

There were activities inside, as well.  In the Promenade, there were always Dreamworks characters walking around such as Shrek, Fiona, and Kung-Fu Panda.  There was also an arcade and a casino.  There were tons of shops and bars inside, as well.


I really don't have any complaints or cons on the amount of activities on board this ship.  I know that the Oasis Class ships (one step higher) also has ziplining on board.  Also, this ship does have a Kids Club and babysitting available but I had no reason to use it for this trip.

Jeanne and I were in a Promenade stateroom.  There are different levels of rooms on the ship ranging from Inside staterooms all the way up to Penthouse Suites.  The Promenade staterooms are in between the Inside Staterooms and the Oceanview (small window looking out).  The Promenade rooms allow you to have some natural light and a window seat looking out on the balcony.

 Closet with safe

 Bed can be separated in to 2 twin beds

   Looking down on to the Promenade

There aren't a whole lot of "good" things that I can say about this stateroom other than the fact that it was very clean and we had a good room steward.  It was very tight quarters.  The shower was like a tube in which I felt like I was in an airport bathroom.  
Tip:  If at all possible, I would highly suggest upgrading to a balcony stateroom.  When on vacation, I really enjoy waking up early in the morning with my coffee and sitting out on my patio/balcony to drink coffee and read and just to look out at the scenery.  While it may not seem like it, that extra little balcony would have really opened up the space by allowing us the room to sit outside or to just open up the patio doors to let a lot of natural light in.

We had the chance to go view a junior suite.  WOW!  These junior suites were just like being at an all-inclusive resort.  There was so much room including a sitting area, walk-in closet, and full bathtub.
 Queen-sized bed with sitting area

 Walk-in closet

 Extra storage space with lots of drawers and shelves with a safe

 Balcony with 2 chairs and 2 lounge chairs

 Bathroom with full-sized tub

 Coffee maker in the room

Food is very important to me and I have always heard that the food is amazing on cruise ships.  I am sorry to say that I just did not find this to be the case.  In the buffet I would say that there was a lot of food to choose from but the quality wasn't that great nor did I think the selection of food was that great.  

We chose to do the "My Time" seating for our dinners meaning that we could eat at whatever time we wanted to rather than eating in the same dining room with the same people at the same time each night.  While there were 3 formal dining areas, I found it interesting that all 3 restaurants served the exact same menu each night.  Instead of them being "restaurants" I would say that they were dining rooms with different names to ensure that all passengers on board knew where to go for dinners each night.

Even our sit down dinners were not very impressive.  There is not one single meal that stands out to me as memorable when it comes to the food in the dining rooms/restaurants.

The last night on board, Jeanne and I decided to try out the specialty restaurant, Portofino.  Portofino and Chops Grille are not part of the dining and there is an extra cost to eat at these specialty restaurants.  Portofino cost us each $20 and it was probably the best $20 I have ever spent on food.  It was absolutely amazing.  I had the shrimp risotto, mushroom pasta, and filet and it was all so incredibly good.  This one meal is what stands out to me when it comes to food on board.
Tip:  Absolutely take one night and try one of the specialty restaurants out.  I promise you that you will not be disappointed in Portofino and I heard the Chops was equally great.

Bars and Nightlife 
There are several bars onboard.  There is a great piano bar (not dueling pianos) called the Schooner Bar right as you are walking in to the casino.  Matt is amazing and definitely worth checking out.  There is a nightclub that is always packed night after night.  They have the casino that really gets busy after 10:00pm.  In the Promenade there is there is also a "pub" (read more below for that).
  My favorite bar/lounge was the Viking Crown Lounge.  It is located at the top of the ship and has amazing views.  Jeanne and I went straight up to the 14th deck as soon as we got on board to really take in the view of the entire ship.  My only complaint about the Viking Crown Lounge is that they needed to offer some type of appetizers or food rather than just bar peanuts.  I just received an email this week, though, that said that they are going to offer some light appetizers up there.

The Hoof & Claw "pub" was located in the Promenade.  This was a great place to sit and people watch on the Promenade.  My complaint about this pub is that there were only 2 beers on draft and they had a very poor selection of bottled beer, as well.  There were more vodkas than whiskeys and they definitely needed some kind of snacks or appetizers.  I actually went back to our room and grabbed some Pringles that we bought in Cozumel just to have something to snack on. 
The Promenade was beautiful.  It felt like we were inside of a mall and not out at sea but it was still very bright and airy.  There were tons of specialty shops such as Ben & Jerry's and Starbucks, a Cupcake shop, and several stores.  There were also several vendors set up through out the Promenade selling watches, scarves, hats, etc.  The Dreamworks characters were always walking around the Promenade and happy to take pictures.


 The patio at Ernesto's.  My kind of place=hole in the wall

I'm not really going to go in to great detail on the port because every port will be different.  We were in Cozumel and we had a great time and some fantastic margaritas and nachos at a little restaurant called Ernesto's.  Ernesto's also offered free Wifi.  If you happen to port in Cozumel, just walk through the little shopping area all the way out onto the street.  Make a left and walk about 1/4 mile and it will be on your left hand side.

Random Pros/Cons
Ok, so now that I've gone in to some really good detail above, here are a few rapid fire pros and cons.

1. Buy the Drink Package!  Royal Caribbean has started offering a pre-paid drink package (there are a couple to choose from) that starts at $55/day/person.  If you drink alcohol, buy this upfront.  It WILL save you money.  If you drink a total of 5 drinks per day including a mimosa in the morning, maybe a beer for lunch, and 2-3 glasses of wine for the rest of the day . . . you will have paid for this package.  A glass of wine costs $9!

I am used to going to all-inclusive resorts in which I never have to "think" about how much money I'm spending because everything is already paid for.  I did not like the fact that every time I wanted/needed anything, I had to use my Set/Sail pass and sign my name.  It was a constant reminder of how much money I was spending and it really took away from the relaxation portion.

2. You are allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine on board per person. Once again, if this is important to you, I would take advantage of this and leave it in your room for when you are getting ready or in case you want to come home after dinner and have a drink.  Otherwise, it is $9!

3. Be prepared for unforeseen costs.  Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, the specialty restaurants, and the Cupcake Cupboard are not included in your dining plan.  All of these will cost extra and you will have to use your Set/Sail pass to add them to your account.  Once again, it will be a reminder of how much you are spending.
  Unless you do the pre-paid gratuities, remember that you will have to pay tips the last day of the trip.  These will definitely add up, as well, so be prepared for that additional cost.

4. Disembarking is a hassle.  Unlike an all-inclusive where you just walk outside with your luggage, get on a shuttle, and head to the airport getting off the ship is a hassle.  Don't make the mistake of taking your own luggage.  Do as they ask you and leave it out in the hallway the night before and leave the ship at the time they give you; otherwise, you will be waiting in a huge line to get off the ship and through customs.

5. Take advantage of the amenities and the entertainment, you paid for it!  There really is a lot to do on board so make sure to walk around and take everything in.  On this particular ship the show In the Air was a fantastic show and I am so glad that I didn't skip it.  

I hope this review has helped you if you are thinking of cruising.  I would gladly answer any specific questions that you might have about cruising and, of course, I would love to help you book your cruise.  I can help you no matter where you live.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Climbing the Rope

For the past 9 months every time I have walked in to our CrossFit box (gym), a rope has been hanging from the ceiling, teasing me.  I have attempted to climb that rope dozens of times but for some reason I just couldn't get past the first 2 or 3 feet off the ground.  This was especially frustrating for me as I climbed ropes in the Army and I don't remember it being that hard.  

Yesterday, though, I was watching some You Tube videos and came across WOD Technique and the lesson climbing the rope.  I couldn't wait to get back to the box and try it.

And . . . guess what I did this morning?

I know it sounds silly but I was/am really proud of myself.  Another goal down.  Another milestone hit.  

Have you met one of your fitness goals for 2013?  I'd love to hear about it.