PLEASE NOTE: At the time of our cruise, vaccinated passengers were not required to test before boarding the ship. However, as of this writing, ALL cruise passengers on Royal Caribbean regardless of vaccination status must present a negative Covid test and be tested on board. Protocols keep changing and all the cruise lines have their own testing requirements. It is imperative to keep in contact with your cruise line and travel advisor for the most up-to-date information or risk being denied boarding.
My last blog post I wrote all about what it was like to be on a cruise ship while I was sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. I was fortunate enough to be on back-to-back cruises on that ship in the first month that the cruise line (and the cruise industry) sailed out of the United States in 15 months. I got off that ship last week after a glorious 7 nights on it and I have to tell you, cruising is indeed back and I can’t stop talking about it.
If you want to take a cruise, now is quite possibly the best time to book one. Our ship at one point was considered the largest in the world and normally carries over 4,200 passengers. However, we only had 1,100 guests with 1,100 crew members. That’s one crew member per passenger. It was almost like we had the place to ourselves. While cruise ships are slowly increasing capacity, they are not ready to start sailing full, so you will see emptier ships for the foreseeable future. We were told the Freedom will stop at around 1,600 passengers and sail that way for a while, though I’ve not been able to verify how accurate that is.
The Freedom of the Seas is an outstanding ship to take if you are new to cruising. It’s not overwhelming like the mega-ships can be (and I love those ships), but has enough bells and whistles to satisfy the entire family. This particular ship sails 3 and 4-night itineraries to the Bahamas which I highly recommend if you are new to cruising or just testing the waters in terms of traveling again after a year and a half. I learned new things about myself, such as that I am still not too old to enjoy a good waterslide, though I didn’t dare try the FlowRider surf simulator. With only 1,100 people on board, there was never any issue getting a choice seat on deck.
The multi-national crew could not have been more welcoming and happy to be aboard the ship if they tried. Many of them work on the ships to support families back home and while being home with their families for 15 months gave them much-needed family time, they were essentially unemployed. So they were thrilled to be back working – some crew members we spoke to have been with the cruise line for over 20 years and feel more at home on a ship than on land.
It was obvious to the seasoned cruiser that it was a quieter experience than the usual – there were fewer rounds of trivia, fewer games of bingo, fewer onboard sales than normal. Guests could view an ice show or sign up for ice skating lessons, but there was no large group free skate as in the past. But all that is minor and will return in time as capacity and staffing levels increase.
Ports were quiet. Nassau was hit particularly hard by the pause in cruising and was like a ghost town. You absolutely must be vaccinated to get off the ship on your own (Bahamian law), but there is not much to see right near the port. Sadly, most shops are closed up. Resorts, however, are selling day passes and tour operators are eager to provide excursions for snorkeling, diving, dolphin swims, and parasailing. A brand new port is being built and when it is ready in about another year, will be an outstanding place for ships to dock and guests to congregate.
Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, is a place I can spend an entire week visiting. It normally has 2 ships in port, but with only one at a time, we had our pick of seats near the Oasis Lagoon, the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, or on any beach. There wasn’t a single line for the tallest waterslide in North America or the ziplines. It was a dream come true! We purchased passes for the Coco Beach Club which gave us access to an infinity pool, elevated dining experience of lobster and filet mignon, and a beach with sandbar that was to die for. Why we haven’t done that before I have no idea. Have a group of friends? Then consider splurging on a floating cabana with a waterslide for the day. That’s what I plan on doing in the future.
Probably the most beautiful thing about being on a cruise ship last week was seeing other cruise ships sailing. When docked in Nassau for our second stop there, the majestic Celebrity Edge and her fabulous captain, Kate McCue, were docked right next to us. At one point, the Allure of the Seas – one of my absolute favorites in the Royal Caribbean fleet – pulled up at CocoCay to switch out crew and I could barely contain my excitement at seeing her. The brand new Carnival Mardi Gras, Royal’s Odyssey of the Seas, and the Symphony of the Seas (largest ship in the world) all set sail as well. Few things please me more than sitting on my balcony at night listening to the sound of the ship sail through the ocean, but the sight of cruise ships lit up in all their glory almost beat that.
We made new friends. We felt safe. We had our vaccinations. We followed the protocols, and the crew did not mess around when it came to guest health and safety. In fact, we felt so safe that we now have 2 more cruises booked for November.
Want to join me? Just give me a call to start planning your cruise vacation (or any vacation). To get you started, I have some deals for you.
Book any Royal Caribbean cruise between August 12-15, and receive up to $300 onboard credit, up to $150 instant savings, and 60% off the second guest. But wait, there’s more! Exclusive only through One World Family Travel LLC – book between August 12 and August 26, 2021, and receive up to an additional $100 onboard credit! That’s money to spend any way you want onboard the ship. Sound good? Call me today and let’s talk about your next cruise vacation.
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