Thursday, 13 March 2014

Freedom of the Seas 2013 - Sea Days

I love sea days. I could just sit and watch the ocean for hours. They are also a chance to indulge in Johnny Rockets. TWGH doesn't like the one in Toronto, but the one on the Freedom suits him just fine. So we go, and have burgers, and way too much deep fried stuff while enjoying an ocean view.

This was the second formal night, so after a leisurely day, we got dressed up, ready for a night on the "town".

We were a bit early, so we had pre-prandial cocktails in the sports bar.

Our towel animal tonight was a monkey, I think.

Tonight's entertainment was dancing in the solarium. They have twinkle lights over the hot tubs. It is quite lovely.

The cigar bar is nicely decorated, but a little cozy if you aren't a smoker. We took a bit of a tour on the last sea day.

Bolero's is a nice bar to hang out at.

Sadly, tonight was the night we had to pack. Early morning debarkation comes way too soon. Once again, we had a wonderful time, and the Freedom continues to be our favourite ship so far.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Freedom 2013 - St Martin

Thursday was Sint Maarten/St Martin. This is one of my favourite places in the Caribbean so far. I love the temperature of the water in Orient Bay and the seafood, and the weather, and... anyway.

If it's Thursday, This Must be St. Martin

Look at That Water

It's easy to get a shared cab to Orient Beach
Cabs to Orient Beach are shared, and leave frequently. They are shared and are not that expensive. The drive is quite scenic and crosses the unprotected border between the Dutch and French sides of the island.

This Obelisk Marks the Point Between the 2 Countries

Orange Fever

We like to go to Orange Fever at Orient Beach. They have the same deal for chairs, umbrella and drinks as everyone else, but the seafood is really amazing.

Orient Bay is Beautiful and Warm

A Hotel Bar in Phillipsburg
After we had had our fill of sun, seafood and surf, we took a cab back to Phillipsburg and wandered the town a bit. The downtown is very friendly to pedestrians and there are lots of things to look at. Eventually, we stopped for cocktails at the above pictured bar.  They were a bit pricey, but very tasty. 

Having had our fill, we took the reasonably priced water taxi back to the pier and got dressed for dinner.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Freedom 2013 - St Thomas

We did not arrive in St Thomas until after lunch, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning around the ship. Our plan today was strictly to get off the ship, and wander around Charlotte Amalie. We are not shoppers, so really it was just to soak up some atmosphere.

Ships already in port

It is quite the hike from the ship at the end of the pier to the taxi stand, so we contemplated the SeƱor Frog's.  It was, however, quite noisy. Instead, we happened upon a lovely little place playing island music. I was charmed, and just on the off chance, asked the bar tender if he could make a lime daiquiri. He asked if I wanted it frozen, or on the rocks. Rocks, please! As a side note, I do not understand this obsession with frozen daiquiris to the exclusion of real ones. A finely crafted daiquiri, is infinitely superior to a rum slushee, and I wish they would find another name for those frozen things. My daiquiri was tart, and refreshing, and a colour found in nature. Thus endeth the sermon. The World's Greatest Husband enjoyed a Red Stripe.

After that, we took a taxi into town. It should be noted that taxis here are shared, with the prices per person, and scaled depending upon the number of passengers, and are usually vans instead of small cars. The route is established, and we were dropped off at a standard drop off point. From there, we wandered around. We looked in a pirate store, and then randomly wandered through various malls and walk ways. Eventually we came upon a sign advertising a Beer Garden with free Wi-Fi. Since we were both feeling a bit out of touch, this seemed ideal.

We went up a garden path (really), and found a lovely outdoor bar, which was quite homey, with reasonably priced beer, and the aforementioned contact with the outside world. We enjoyed cheap beverages, and caught up with our friends. Then we wandered again.

A gentleman noticed TWGH's necklace, which he got in Kenya, and dragged us to a store selling African style artefacts. It was awkward, because we buy African style artefacts in Africa, not the US Virgin Islands. We made our escape, and did some more exploring.

Finally, we decided we could do with another beverage, and found Greengo's. It was a lovely place with a Day of the Dead decor, and Dos Equis Amber. We also decided on a little snack, and shared some pork nachos. Very nice. 

After this, we returned to the ship in a purple taxi van. We were late leaving St. Thomas, so we got a beautiful view of it all lit up at night.

We spent a leisurely evening, and hung around the champagne bar, since it had terrific service, and properly measured pours, instead of the 5-1 ratio of alcohol to mix you normally get in cruise ship bars.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Freedom 2013 - First Sea Day

We didn't really do much for either the sea day or St. Thomas. The first sea day we were a little tired from all the dancing on formal night, so we took it easy.

The helipad, at the front of the ship.

We did wander around the ship a bit. This is a great ship, with lots of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Hanging out at the Pub
The promenade is a great place to watch the world go buy, so we did a little of that.

Crown and Anchor Party
The Crown and Anchor party is ostensibly a thank you to returning cruisers, but they use it as an opportunity to shill their next project. I don't mind. There is entertainment, meetings and greetings from ship's officers, and, this time, a sneak peek at the new ship Royal Caribbean is building: The Quantum of the Seas. Oh, and free cocktails or soft drinks.

Towel Animal
We really just had a relaxing day, with a lot of reading, and some hanging out in the hot tub, and when we got back to our room, the above creation was waiting for us.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Freedom 2013 - Coco Cay and First Formal Night

We woke up in the morning to a view of the Bahamas. We had been a little late departing the night before, so we were a little late arriving at Coco Cay. It was a little rainy to begin with, but promised to clear shortly.

One small thing I really enjoy about the Freedom of the Seas is the Day of the Week carpet tile on the elevators. I tried to take a picture every day to help me place my pictures.

Once the rain ended, the water was beautifully clear, and not horrifically frigid. I was told there was a stingray at the beach, although I missed it. I did catch a glimpse of the 3 foot sand shark swimming around while I was in the water. He was cute. Sadly, I did not have my camera at the time. I did get some shots of other wildlife, both in the water and out.

I have normally gone to the snorkel beach, but we left our gear at home this time, so we tried a different beach. The water was nicer, with less reads.

After we had our fill of fun and sun, we tendered back to the ship to get ready for formal night.

The View of the Ship

Sailors Beware!
 We love getting dressed up for formal night, and so here we are. We had a lovely evening, and ended up dancing the night away in the Crypt. I did change into less formal clothes half way through the dancing.

I am a very lucky woman.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Freedom 2013 - Embarkation Day

We woke early, and had the buffet breakfast at the hotel. It was okay, although it was nice eating poolside. Afterwards, we went for a walk around the grounds, and enjoyed looking at the turtles in the pond.

The World's Greatest Husband with Breakfast Al Fresco

We decided to leave around 11:00am, so we got everything ready and checked out. The front desk kindly called us a cab. In my last post, I think I mentioned the new flat rate system. It worked out to our advantage, kind of, this time. The cited price was $15 (usually the metered fare from slightly more distant port is around $12). Okay, it's not worth the hassle to argue, and it turned out the drawbridge was up when we got there, so the wait would have probable made the fare over $15. However, I handed her a $20, and she left immediately, without any pretence of making change. I know what you're thinking, but she didn't help with the bags, so a 33% tip was definitely not warranted. On the other hand, you have to give credit for big ones to someone who can rack up a $750 bar bill by herself on a 4 day cruise and is willing to admit it. I certainly couldn't do it and wouldn't brag about it if I could.

Our first look for this cruise at our Beautiful Ship
The line to go through security was very long. It took more than a half an hour. Of course, after we had gotten through, we noticed a second shorter screening area around the corner of the building. Once that was out of the way, it was smooth sailing, so to speak, through check in, and onto the ship.

We wandered a little, and then made our way to Sorrento's for the no-crush lunch. The pizza there is good, and it is never as busy as the Windjammer.

Sorrento's was not busy
We wandered about a bit, and stopped at Bolero's for a beverage, and then went up to the pool deck to walk around outside. Soon, it was time for our stateroom to be ready, so off we went to have a look.

The sofa is large

The bed is large, and comfortable.

The front Balcony cabins have an extra bubble on the balcony

The theme for this trip seems to have been wildlife, for me. While I was looking down from the balcony, I saw a manatee. Later, looking down, I saw a sea turtle and a jellyfish. Sadly, I couldn't get my camera up quickly enough to catch the turtle.

We hung out in the Solarium for a while, and then got dressed in time for muster drill. Our station was in Pharaoh's Palace.

At sail away, we were supposed to meet people from our Facebook cruise group, but we only met a few. They were nice, though. After this, was dinner. We went to the main dining room, and discovered that our table was for two. We don't mind table mates, but this was okay, too. The service was a little rough the first night, but we believe it was because there were latecomers in our section who weren't sure they wanted to be there, and kind of threw things into an uproar.

We spent a relaxing evening, and enjoyed the sunset and moonrise from our balcony.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Freedom of the Seas 2013 - Day 1 (Travel)

We flew WestJet to Orlando. I did the upgrade to nicer seats and "free" meals. It is not very expensive to do so on WestJet, but the seats aren't as nice as first class on other airlines, and don't have the fancy meals and unlimited drinks. The luggage service was fairly efficient, and we didn't have to wait long after we landed to find our bags.

At Baggage Claim

Our driver, from Spaceport Transport, met us at the luggage area, and things went fairly smoothly to the hotel (Country Inn & Suites near the port). We got a whirlpool suite, since they are not expensive.

The Whirlpool

Window View
The hotel is not expensive, and includes a free hot breakfast, but it does not have some of the amenities we are accustomed to, such as a bar, and onsite restaurant. Both of which we would have had if we had stayed at our normal Radisson. But, the pool area was under renovation, so we decided to try something different. I believe we will go back to the Radisson in the future.

I had done some research before this trip, and decided to try one of the restaurants which face the port and ships sailing out. I chose Rusty's because it has a "pirate" theme, and outdoor seating. It is nice enough, and we had a good view of the ships du jour. We arrived during happy hour and treated ourselves to some cheap, but tasty, raw oysters.


Suitable for Happy Hour
We spent some time here, relaxing and watching the ships sailing out.  There was a Carnival ship, and the Disney Fantasy. We were just on the Fantasy last December, but none of the pictures we took of it this time turned out very well.

Carnival ship sailing away

There were a lot of birds at Rusty's, and almost as many signs admonishing you not to feed them. This is very important, since feeding them causes them to become a nuisance instead of an entertaining guest.

We had dinner at Rusty's, and I would have to rate the food as fair to good. Andrew's mahi mahi sandwich was very nice, but the Cajun scallops were small and disappointing. Next time, I think I will have the fish.

There is one thing we found kind of annoying this time. The taxis seem to have instituted a flat rate system, instead of metered fares around the port. They did not have this two weeks prior when I was there to go to the Bahamas. Also, some of the cab drivers seem to be taking advantage of this. The driver to the restaurant wanted to charge us $10 for the 2 minute ride. When we protested, he knocked it down to 8, which is still too much. The driver on the way back charged us $6.  I am not a fan of this. More about cabs tomorrow though.