Whats better than getting on a plane to take a vacation, for me it’s setting foot on a ship.
Sunday morning in Florida. I was awake at 7-something checking emails and posts on Facebook. I think Mom had been awake too, but Brian and Kristin who had arrived later in the night understandably weren’t as ready to stir. We had a 10am shuttle to catch to Port Everglades. Complimentary breakfast was being served in the hotel’s restaurant. Groggy with needmoresleepitis, we made our way over to the small buffet and food selection for breakfast. [I should mention that when you check in, you’re given passes for this, otherwise you need to pay for it.] There was some decent food to be had. Toast, bagels, pastries, hard boiled eggs, fruit, use of a waffle iron. You can have coffees, teas, juices, and water. Expect people to not want to follow the line, and mostly bruised fruit. All else, good, except for one big thing. They have this staff who walks around as a “captain” or “cruise director”, making bad jokes about politics and all sorts of stuff. Not a lot of laughs. His magic tricks were decent, but to be honest, when people are waking up and having their coffee, they do not want this. This is why there is no longer a comedian doing bits during brunch on Carnival ships. Please shut-up and let us wake up. There was news on TV, and given it was Sunday morning in Southern Florida, it was somewhat religious in content. Not a problem, just an observation. A local, rather heavy-set reporter was interviewing Marco Rubio at a car dealership and the cameraman was using the worst angle ever, focusing more on the cars in the background. I’d have been pissed if it was me they were interviewing. Especially for presidency.
After an interesting breakfast, we headed back through the lobby. We stopped for a couple last minute things, including an extra bottle of wine. The lobby area was already a little busy with guests waiting for cruise port shuttles to start. Back in the room, we finished getting around and shuffle our luggage. It was a rather windy morning with a slight chill so we dressed a little a little heavier than usually for a Florida departure. I pulled up the Marine Traffic app and saw that Navigator of the Seas was indeed in port and being serviced by terminal 29. Cool. Lets get this show on the road, errrrr, sea!
A little before 10 we headed over to the hotel lobby to check out and wait for the shuttles. Good thing, because within a minute of being there, they began loading them. First call was a Holland America ship, Then Carnival Conquest. Then came “NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS.” Cool! We handed our gear to the staff who loaded everyones luggage into a trailer and climbed onto the bus.
The trip over to terminal 29 was a fairly short one. We pretty-much crossed a bridge and were in Port Everglades. We could see the Allure of the Seas, Carnival Conquest’s funnel, and even Navigator’s “crown” from said bridge. Terminal 29 was the longest distance and we wound up driving past the aforementioned ships to get to it.
The terminal was just as I remembered it from 3 years prior. More of a warehouse with chairs than a cruise terminal. No biggie. We’d only be there for a short while.
Arriving at the terminal, the shuttle unloaded our bags with the porters. We stepped off and made sure to claim what we needed and make sure ours were correct. The entrance was around the corner. At shortly after 10, there wasn’t much of a line to get inside. We were directed to enter the left side of the building. Inside is where they separated us (Suite/VIP/Priority guests) from others. We had a shorter line and two dedicated check in staff. Occasionally one of the regular check-in agents would invite one of us from our line over. When we did check in, the agent was really welcoming. She thanked me for coming back to Royal Caribbean before taking our pictures and information. I asked when she thought boarding would commence and she said that because debarkation had taken longer that morning, that it would probably be closer to noon.
Once checked-in with our sea passes, we took a seat in the VIP waiting area. Nothing special really, except a roped-off area and we were allowed to board earlier.
At just past 11:30, we were given the wave and call to begin making our way aboard. Wohoo!!! We made our way past the main part of the terminal (I thought it was odd they weren’t using it instead), up the escalators, and paused for an embarkation photo before crossing the walkway to the ship. Ahhhh yea! On board another great ship! We all took in the sights of the promenade as we made our way inside.
First thing on our minds was ditching our luggage in our suite. On Carnival cruises I had been on, suite guests were allowed to do this once onboard. This was not the case this cruise as the hall doors were shut. An employee informed us that the cabins would not be ready until 1pm. No biggie! We headed up to deck 11 scope out lunch options in the Windjammer Cafeteria. As usual, it was busy, but we didn’t have too hard a problem finding a table for 4 by the windows. As we placed our items table-side, Windjammer staff Andre came by, introduced himself and asked if we would like anything to drink. I didn’t remember the same staff doing that on Independence. We each headed off to the food stations to get our lunches together. I was happy to see that Royal Caribbean catered to those like myself who needed to limit gluten intake (I have IBS, sorry if TMI) with one side of an island dedicated to gluten-free. There were many options available though or everyone. One thing people complain about on Carnival cruises is the lines for the buffets. Here and on Independence, fellow cruisers come down with Standinthewayofeveryoneitis. Literally, people just stop right in the middle of where you’re walking and stare. Once again though, not a biggie. After lunch, we stopped by Giovanni’s Table to see about a reservation. Looking at the menu, everything looked awesome! We made a reservation for 6:30 that evening. We’d get a discount for dining that night, and the time would allow us to watch sail-away.
After lunch we checked out the pools and walked around a little. Peering through the sliding glass windows, we could see a submarine tracking back and forth just off the coast. Brian and Kristin wanted to jump into the hot tubs and changed into their swim gear. It wasn’t too much longer before cabins were supposed to be ready.
When 1 o’clock came around, we headed down to deck 9 to check out the suite. We were really excited as we had been up-graded, BIGTIME, by our awesome travel agent, Shelien. When I booked the cruise initially, I selected a Grand Suite. Well, Shelien upgraded us to Suite 9694, a Royal Family Suite. Walking to the back of the ship I told Mom that since it was her trip, she would be the one opening the door. We found it nearly center, aft, complete with it’s own doorbell (how cool!). Opening the door with excitement we stepped inside and checked out what was more of a small apartment we’d share for the next 6 days.
The Layout of Royal Family Suite 9694 was great. Upon entering, was a short hallway with a mirror. To the right was the inner bedroom (that Brian and Kristin would share) that was more like an interior cabin without a TV or bathroom within. This room could hold 4 guests if the overhead bunks were lowered. A little further down the hall to the left was an even shorter hall. This was were a regular bathroom was with stand up shower. Opposite of it was a walk-in closet. At the end of the hall was the main entrance to the large main bedroom. The large main bedroom would have its beds split and its were Mom and myself would sleep. It had it’s own bathroom with a tub and fancier touches. This bedroom also had it’s own flatscreen TV and very large vanity. On the opposite end of the room from the bathroom was a huge window that looked out onto our balcony. On this side of the room as well was the sliding door and curtains that connected to the “living room.” Here there was a small table with 4 chairs. Beyond it were two comfortable chairs and an ottoman, then a couch that would fold into a full bed. Also in the living room was a very large TV and the large sliding door to our balcony. The balcony was the width of two normal size balconies with added length since it was aft. Because of this there was a large glass table with 4 chairs on one side and two loungers with a small table on the other. Man! What an awesome place! We all took a few minutes taking pictures and thanking our travel agent for the upgrade. How awesome!
After scoping out the room, Brian and Kristin decided to hit the hot tubs while watching a football game on the big screen TV. I wanted to walk around and scope things out a little. Mom decided she wanted to walk around the ship and take some photos. Luggage hadn’t arrived yet so we each went off to do our own bit of exploring.
I headed over to the spa to inquire about one of my favorite cruise things… a pedicure. They did have some embarkation specials, but unfortunately the only times they had either interfered with dinner or were too early the next morning.
Not being able to book anything, I set off checking out more of Navigator. It was much like Independence, but a little shorter and minus a few extra things the Freedom Class ships had. Things that in all honesty weren’t missed all that much. I was still on a cruise ship and would get my fill of whatever my choices there were that my heart or stomach desired.
Back up on Deck 11, I decided to treat myself, Brian, and Kristin to some pina coladas. I purchased them from the rather empty at the time Solarium bar, then walked over to the covered hot-tub they were in. Not in my trunks, I sat on the ledge with my legs in the tub while we relaxed, talked, and watched some of the game. I saw Mom walking around up on Deck 12, taking pictures. Some French Canadians joined us for a little while before moving over to the other tub after others left it.
After hanging out poolside for a while, I really wanted to change. I went back to the suite to find Mom relaxing in a chair on the balcony. Within a matter of seconds, our luggage was delivered. Soon after, Brian and Kristin joined us back in the suite as well. Soon after they arrived, so did their luggage. Sweet! We all hung out in the suite enjoying each others company and looking at the book of perks left for us. I popped the bottle of Moet champagne I had pre-ordered and poured each of us a glass. We were all happy to be here.
After a champagne and a short nap, it was nearing time for muster drill. I had noticed that the wind had picked back up again and there was also a chill in the air. I changed from my shorts back into pants.
Muster drill on this ship was not ideal like on Independence, which held it in lounges. Instead we were lined up on deck 4 below the lifeboats. Our muster drill time was later than the other ships as we were to be the last one to leave. Once at our muster station, we could see other ships, departing. It seemed to take an eternity for our drill to begin. During muster, Carnival Conquest left. Not too long after, Allure of the Seas did as well. The Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess ships had long gone.
After what seemed like a fairly long muster, our side of the ship was excused first. With it now being fairly breezy and chilly, I told the others to head up to the bow for sail away, I would grab jackets or sweaters for them since I could walk fast. On the way to the bow from the suite, I passed Kristin in the hallway who said she would meet us back there after sail-away. Out on the bow, I met up with my mom and brother who were standing there as we had already begun to slowly pull away. There weren’t as many up there as usual due to the weather, but we stayed put knowing that we’d get picked up by the webcam as we sailed past the condos and hotels in Ft. Lauderdale. I waved as we did, still not sure where the actual cam itself was.
Making our way inside quickly afterwards because of the chill, we went back to the suite and met up with Kristin. We changed and unpacked a little before dinner. On the way to Giovanni’s Table, we stopped by the Concierge Lounge. There we met our concierge, Amit. He was very welcoming yet getting over a bit of a head cold. We just bumped fists instead of shaking hands. We found some seats and had a couple hors d’oeuvres. Our new best friend Lipang or “Li” as we would refer to her. She poured us lots of wine, and mom some soda. The benefits to being in a suite, was that it was all complimentary, but only over certain hours. Needless to say, the Concierge Club became one of our favorite places on the ship.
Dinnertime came and we arrived for our reservation at Giovanni’s Table. We were seated at a table for 4 next to the window. It was very nice as we could see us sailing past Miami and points south over dinner. Service was a tad slow this evening, and the head waiter even came over to apologize. It was really no big deal though as we were just having a decent time. When the food came, it was wonderful. While I can’t remember what each of us had, certain dishes did stick out in my memory. The Gnocchi, Veal Scaloppine, and Pappardelle all delicious! The desserts as well. The food was amazing! This was probably the best meal we had on the ship and to be honest, there wasn’t a bad one. As a matter of fact, it was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had on my 9 cruises!
Dinner wrapped up a little before 10pm. We walked around a little before food coma set in. You could tell there was some motion to the ship. The seas were probably a little choppy due to the wind. Once back in the suite, it made falling asleep for me easy.