June 22 – June 29 2008
Western Caribbean Itinerary (Labadee, Haiti; Ochos Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel Mexico)
Background Information: I am Michael, a 15 year old from Virginia. This is my first cruise ever as is the first one from my parents, Jean and Tom. Our inspiration for this cruise came from watching Samantha Brown’s special onboard Freedom of the Seas. I planned when and where we would go, what we would do, and everything else about this cruise. I was called the “Cruise Director” by our travel agent. We had been anticipating June 21/22 for 160 days. After we went on this cruise, we are already planning on booking one. In preparations for the cruise, we took ginger tablets once a day everyday for 2 weeks prior to the cruise. I think this helped but then again I have never been on another cruise and not taken it so I don’t have experience. My mom was the only one out of the three of us who took anything while we were on the ship (she took Dramamine one night).
Day 1: Saturday- Miami
Today was the day that we left for Miami. The three of us got up at about 4:30/5 am and we were out of the house by 6:15. We got to the airport and checked in and went to our gate. Here is something really funny. A girl that is in my class from high school was on my plane and they were talking about a cruise. I was thinking that she would be on Freedom, but I later found out that she went on Liberty. Wouldn’t that have been funny if she was on my cruise? Anyway, so our plane left at 8:15 and we landed in Miami at around 10:30. Boy that airport is huge! There were over 100 gates just for American Airlines. We went to baggage claim and saw my cousin, Brian, who we were staying with for the night. So we packed our bags into his car and headed off to South Beach for lunch. We went to Mangos. The food was really good but it was so loud and there were so many dancers. If anyone has been there you know what I mean when I say ‘There was a lot of booty action” as my dad would like to say it. After lunch we went back to the car and headed to Brian’s apartment in Miami Lakes. We went in, watched a little TV, and eventually all 4 of us took a 2 hour nap. Once we got up, we headed to the Hard Rock Café and Casino Seminole in Hollywood. There was a boxing match going on so it was packed and it took us 15 minutes to find a parking place. After we parked we headed inside the hotel and put our name down for the Hard Rock Café for dinner. My parents went off to gamble and I stayed with Brian. Then the buzzer rang and we ate. I got this berry pina colada drink in a HRC cup, which I got to keep. It was really good. Anyway after dinner my parents and Brian started taking turns of who would stay with me while the other two gambled. It was 10:30 and we headed back to Brian’s apartment and went to sleep. Tomorrow is the cruise!
Day 2: Sunday- Miami/First Day of Cruise
The day has arrived!!!! We got up and headed off to the ship terminal. Two other ships were in port with us, which were two Carnival ships. I believe it was Valor and Imagination. We got to the port at 11:00 and were group 14 to get on the ship. My parents and I got on the ship at around 12 and we went straight to the Windjammer. The food there wasn’t as bad as everyone says it is. It was actually pretty good. After we had a bite to eat, we went exploring a little and then it was time to go check out our stateroom. We were on deck six in room #6592 which was a balcony stateroom. It was very nice. At first we were wondering, “Where is Michael’s bed?” Then we saw that it was a bed that came down from the ceiling. We hadn’t gotten our luggage yet, but our stateroom attendant, Abdel, came in and greeted us and already was asking if we needed anything. Then we went to the Sky Bar to meet some people from Cruise Critic. We kept running into the honeymooners, Katie and Jonathon, throughout the whole cruise. We went back to the room and watched the ship leaving Miami from our balcony. So many people were pulling on the side of the road to take pictures and others were honking their horns and waving to us. Then it was time for dinner so we had received some of our luggage, but not all of it so we changed and headed to the Leonardo’s Dining Room on Deck 3. We actually were in the Terra Dining Room which was in the front right corner of the main dining room. We had main seating and were at table 232. We were really hoping for a teenager at our table but instead we got a couple from Australia, Trish and Bill Ryan. They came on the cruise as a week of relaxation after their 7 week trip all over the United States. Our Waiter was Das and our Assistant Waiter was Reyna. They were both very nice and helpful and they also knew our names after the first night. Dinner the first night was very good. I don’t quite remember what I got, but I know I got Caesar Salad as my appetizer. After dinner we headed to the “Welcome Aboard Show” where we met our Cruise Director, Richard Spacey. He was a phenomenal and hilarious Cruise Director! I really liked his entrance and exit of each show. Anyway the show was very good. There was a comedian and an acrobatic act performed by Laetia and Artol. They were amazing! After the show, I went to the Mix and mingle in the Fuel and Living Room. This was my first and last time there. I really didn’t enjoy it at all. I met some people but there was nobody that I want to hang out with during the cruise. All of the kids were jerks or people trying to impress everybody else. Then I met my parents at Sorrento’s for a quick bite to eat. The pizza was great, which I had heard it was horrible on Cruise Critic. I went back to the room and went to sleep at around one am. Tomorrow is a day at sea!
Day 3: Monday- A Beautiful Day at Sea
Today was our first of two days at sea. We got up and sat on our balcony for a while and then went up to the Windjammer for breakfast. The food was very good again. There was a wide variety of breakfast foods including doughnuts, omelets, French toast, yogurts, etc. etc. After that we went back to the room and threw on our bathing suits and went to the Meet and Mingle. We saw all the people that we saw the day before at the Skybar with a few new faces. After the gathering was over, my dad and I went to the pool while my mom went to the Slot Tournament that she was entered into. First my dad and I went to find a chair (it wasn’t that much of a problem finding a chair but that may have been because we were on the deck above the pools) and then headed over to the Flowrider. I watched about 20 people go and then headed back to the pool. When I arrived, the Men’s Sexy Legs Contest was just about to start so I watched that. Let me tell you, THIS WAS HILARIOUS. There was an old, overweight man and his dancing was outrageously funny. He was getting on top of the chairs and pretending to give the girls lap dances. My mom came back midway through the contest and she didn’t win. After the contest was over, my parents and I headed to the Promenade for a snack. I think we went to Sorrento’s but I can’t remember. Then we went to bingo. Unfortunately, we didn’t win. Sad I know… After bingo, we headed back to the room, took showers, and got ready for dinner. Tonight was a formal night so my dad and I wore our shirts, ties, khakis, and jackets on, while my mom was wearing a dress. We all ordered filet mignon for dinner and it was delicious as were the mashed potatoes, which are my favorite food. After dinner we went to go take formal night pictures and went back to the room to change. Then we headed to the show, Marquis. This was Broadway themed show which had songs from 7 or 8 different Broadway productions, including A Chorus Line and Phantom of the Opera. The show was very good. The singing and dancing was very well rehearsed and amazing. Once the show was over we went back to the room and sure enough we had our first towel animal! It was a bunny and it looked fantastic! I wish I knew how to make these remarkable towel creatures. It was around 11 pm so my parents went to the casino while I watched Vantage Point, a movie I have been dying to see ever since it came out. My parents came back to the room at around 1:30 announcing they had lost again! Tomorrow is Labadee! Zip line here I come!
Day 4: Tuesday- Labadee, Haiti
Today is our first port of call, Labadee, Haiti, RCI’s private island. We woke up and went to the Windjammer for breakfast (we did this everyday). Again the food was really good. After that we went back to our room, sat on our balcony, and watched the ship roll into the waters of Haiti. This island is beautiful, and it is so sad knowing that it is one of the poorest countries in the world…Anyway, we took a tender to the island. I always thought that these boats were smaller but you would be surprised at how many people the can or will fit on to one tender. Once we got on the island, my parents and I headed over to the local market. Let me tell you one things- the people trying to sell their stuff at the markets were so annoying! They kept saying, come here little boy I have the perfect thing for you. One guy tried to put a bracelet that matched my orange shirt on my wrist and I was like “no thanks!” and walked away. Anyway I got my friend, Audrey, a really nice painting of Bob Marley there because she is obsessed with Bob Marley! After we bought a few more souvenirs, we went to the beach and someone saw my shirt and came over to us and asked where we were from in Virginia? We are from Richmond and they were from southwestern Virginia. They told us the name of the county but I can’t remember it. After some time lying out on the beach, my dad and I headed to the Dragon’s Breath Pub. This is where we were supposed to meet for our excursion. The excursion my dad and I were doing was the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line, otherwise just the zip line. This zip line is the longest zip line over water in the world! My mom didn’t partake in this excursion because she really wanted to film us and she is kind of afraid of heights. Once it was 10:30, the time our excursion began, we headed into a briefing room. This is where we put on our helmets and then we were off! We walked down a path that led us to the smaller zip line. I think it is called the “Little Dragon.” This is where they taught us all of the different body positions for the real thing. There were four body positions, torpedo, starfish, mini starfish, and normal. Torpedo made you go faster, while the starfish made you go slower. After our test ride we hopped into jeeps and rode up to the top of the hill. We crossed a little bridge and then we arrived to the platform where we took off. There were many jagged rocks below us and some people were freaking out. Then the rides began. Five people went at a time and the first girl was screaming at the top of her lungs the whole way down. My dad went before me because they based who went on bodyweight. He went down and then I was in the next group. Once I got down my mom told me that she missed video taping my dad and me! She was making a really big deal about it, but I didn’t care that much about it. After this we headed over to the barbeque lunch, which was held on the island. The food was okay. There was a dancing and fire eating show while we ate lunch. The dancers were very good, but the fire eater was the best! He kept eating all this fire and then he stepped on the fire! He was insane! Once the show was over we headed back to the ship. It was around 2, so we headed to the rock wall. I was the only one that climbed, but I climb once a week at a rock climbing gym close to my house. Later on that evening, we had dinner at Chops Grille. Dinner was phenomenal. It was the best filet I have ever had. My mom and I got the filet, but my dad got the T-bone steak. For dessert, my mom and I both ordered the Passionberry Duo. This was fantastic! It was really sweet though, but I like sweet! After dinner we headed to the show. Tonight it was the Nelson Brothers. They were really good and a lot of their songs that they sang were in tribute to their father Ricky Nelson. The show was very good! Once it ended, my parents and I got a picture with the brothers. When we got back to the room, another towel animal was there to greet us! Tonight’s animal was a dog. My parents then went to the casino while I stayed in the room and watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was always on so I watched that a lot. I think I fell asleep during it, but I don’t remember. Tomorrow is Ochos Rios!
Day 5: Wednesday- Ochos Rios, Jamaica
Today is our second port of call, Ochos Rios, Jamaica. We got off the ship right when we docked and headed over to where our excursion was meeting. Our excursion was called “Cruise to Dunn’s River Falls” and the name explains it all. Around 9:30 am, everyone participating in this excursion boarded a boat and then we took a little tour on water. We saw many buildings but the most interesting structure would have to be only Christian church in Jamaica. Anyway, as we traveled to Dunn’s River Falls, the employees on the boat handed out fruit punch, in which some included rum. Obviously I couldn’t have one, but my dad did and he said it was very strong! After a 20 minute scenic boat ride, we arrived at Dunn’s River Falls. For those of you who don’t know, Dunn’s River Falls is a 600 foot waterfall in height and who knows how long it is but I can guarantee it is longer that 1 ½ miles. Anyway we got into a group and started to climb up the waterfall but there was just one problem. My dad realized his balance would be good for climbing after my mom and I kept yelling at him to get off (seriously, his balance isn’t that good… no offense), so he climbed back down and waited for us. Luckily we were only 40 or so feet into the climb so it wasn’t that hard. Trust me when I say this but I do NOT recommend this for people with bad balance. I have really good balance and I fell in a couple of spots. So now it is my mom and I climbing. I have to say it was a lot of fun and it took about 1 ½ hours to climb the whole waterfall, or atleast the part that we are allowed to climb. I must say that this was a really good bonding experience for my mom and me. I am really glad I got to have this experience with her and it will definitely be a lifelong memory. Once our climb was over, our group gathered together and headed back to the dock where we embarked. There were dancers and a fire breather that entertained us on the way back. This is really funny- my mom gave a tip to the fire breather and once we got off the boat she realized the she gave the man a $100 bill. She was pissed, but to make a long story short, my mom found the hundred dollars two days later. After the excursion ended, we went shopping a little bit and then headed back to the boat. Let me forewarn you- the clothing in Jamaica was the worst that we found out of the four ports of call. When we got home to Richmond, we realized two shirts were messed up. One had a small stain on the sleeve and the other had ruined letters and it smelled horrible. Now back to the cruise. Once onboard, my parents and I headed to the Windjammer for a quick lunch thewe just hung around the ship for the rest of the day. The Ice Show was that night so my mom had gotten tickets for that on our day at sea. This was spectacular. The dancers were just phenomenal! After this my parents and I went to the Love and Marriage show. This was one of the best shows of the cruise. It was hilarious and Richard Spacey made it even better! The newlyweds were the funniest couple, just because their answers were very funny and entertaining. After the show was over, my parents headed to the casino for a bit while I went to the computer lounge to go on Facebook and chat with my friends. Just to let you know- it costs 55¢ a minute. After I caught up with my friends, I headed back to the room and watched tv. Soon enough I fell asleep. Tomorrow is Grand Cayman!
Day 6: Thursday- Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
Today was a day in Georgetown which is located on Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Island. Our plans for today were to go to Seven Mile Beach and just relax. We arrived to Grand Cayman around 7:30 or 8 a.m. and were off the boat by 9. The boat couldn’t dock so we had to take a tender over to the mainland. Then we joined our excursion group and headed to the beach via bus. On our way we passed a Subway, Burger King, KFC, Papa Johns, and Mcdonalds. Once there were receive a lounge chair and complimentary drink. We also bought an umbrella which was five dollar more, but it was worth it because it was so sunny outside. We also rented some snorkeling equipment for ten dollars (originally we were going to do a snorkeling excursion, but we felt that it would be cutting close to the time we were supposed to be back on the ship. We later learned that our excursion swam around and under the ship, so I kind of wish that we did it). When my dad and I went out to swim around, we saw a school of fish which was very interesting because they were swimming around a treasure chest looking object. After snorkeling, we went up to see if there were any openings for parasailing, but there weren’t any left for the rest of the day so we couldn’t do it. My mom and I then walked down about ¾ to a mile down the beach and then back. After we left the beach, we did some shopping and passed by Margaritaville. We were shopping for two hours because I was trying to find a shirt for my friends, Julia and Diana. After having no luck, we headed back to the ship and it was probably around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. Once we were back my mom ordered jewelry (bracelet and ankle bracelet). Then we headed back to the room, changed and went to dinner. Tonight was the second and final formal night. Tonight’s show was Tony Pace, who was an impersonator. He was very good but one thing annoyed me during the show – there was an obnoxious, most likely drunk, couple in the front row who kept screaming and jumping up and down. After the show we went back to the room and a stingray towel greeted us. Then I got in bed and watched some TV while my parents went down to gamble.
Day 7: Friday – Cozumel, Mexico
Today was Cozumel, a small island off the coast of Mexico. Our excursion today was swimming with the dolphins. We arrived in Cozumel around 7:30 (I think we docked at the International Pier) and we got off the ship at around 9:30. Our excursion was swimming with the dolphins, which didn’t occur until 11 so we went shopping. We bought A LOT! Such things included many shot glasses, t-shirts, coffee mugs, bags, and ceramics. By the time we finished buying all of these things; it was time to head to Dolphinaris. Dolphinaris is a nice place with twelve stations for standing. I think there were about 20 dolphins at the place but we only had two in our group. They were A Mis Clare, which was the largest dolphin there, and Sparta, a baby. Our trainer was Carlos. There were eleven people in our group and we all received a kiss, hand shake, and belly ride from the dolphins. The dolphins also swam around us, clapped, sang, danced, and flipped. I am surprised the dolphins aren’t fat because they are given a lot of fish during each session. Haha. We got out of the water and went to the store and bought pictures and a video of the excursion. I really enjoyed this excursion! Dolphins are such amazing, majestic creatures and I hope I have the opportunity to swim with them again. We went back to the pier and did a little more shopping and then got back on the ship. We went to dinner and then headed to the show, which was Once Upon A Time. This was amazing. All of the backdrops, settings, singing, characters, etc. were just fantastic. We went back to the room for a few minutes and found two swans making a heart as our towel animal. Then we went to the quest which was very hilarious. Some of the tasks were just really out there and everyone in the room had a good laugh. Then we went to Sorrentos for a slice of pizza and then it was back to the room where I watched another movie and then went to bed.
Day 8: Saturday – Day At Sea
Today was our last day at sea, as well as the last day of the cruise. We got up at 8:30 and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. Then we went to morning Bingo. My dad and I left early thought because I wanted to do the teen speed climbing competition. There were about 25 kids there. I ended up getting first with a time of 29 seconds. I beat the second place person by 10 seconds. After they announced first, second, and third, a few people came up to me and were saying that I was very fast and asked if I had any prior experience. In fact, I climb every Monday at a local rock climbing gym. Then my dad and I watched the bellyflop contest. The fattest guy there didn’t win or even come close to winning. He was from Virginia. My mom found us and told us that she had won the slot tournament. She won $347, a polo which she gave to my dad, and a trophy. She was very happy. Then all three of us watched the guests vs. staff pool volleyball game. The staff won every time and Richard Spacey was pretty good. Then we had lunch at the buffet and headed to the last bingo where the jackpot was $5,400. The woman who won didn’t show any excitement or happiness. All she said was “I got it” in a very dull tone. I climbed the rock wall one last time and then we went back to the room and started packing. We went to our last dinner and said our goodbyes and then we went to the Farewell Show. The comedian, Max Bottichelli was so funny! Richard Spacey did his own Evolution of Dance which was very entertaining. The acrobatic couple, Artol and Laetia gave a stunning performance. Then the last song was from the Poseidon Adventure. We then went to sleep at 1:30 am.
Day 9: Saturday – Disembarkation
We got up at 6 and waited for our number and color to be called. It was called and then we went to the Café Promenade for our last meal. We said goodbye to Reyna, our assistant waitress who was working at Café Promenade, and then we got off the ship. It was a really easy process just some waiting. My cousin, Brian, picked us up at around 10 am and we went back to his apartment and took a nap. Then we went to Tony Roma’s for lunch, which was a good American style restaurant. Then we went to and walked around the University of Miami, which is where Brian went to college. We arrived at the airport at around 4 pm and then we went to our gate. There was a confrontation between the gate attendants and some passengers because their sixteen year old son couldn’t get on the flight because it was full, so the boy and his mother ended up staying Miami for the night while the rest of their family boarded the plane to Richmond. Our plane was supposed to leave at 6:30, but left at 7:30. The flight attendant on the plane was not very friendly to my mom because she didn’t have her bag under the seat all the way and the attendant said “you need to put in under all the way – what are you going to do if there is an emergency and we have to get out?” She also told my mom to put her pocketbook under he feet which it was. W arrived in Richmond around 10 pm and my friend, Cam, and his step-dad came to pick us up from the airport. We got home around 11 and went to bed
- Antibacterial hand wash all over the ship (mainly near the dining room and Windjammer)
- Service was phenomenal
- Ship was beautiful
- Ate the mint chocolate everyday when we got in our room. It was really good
- Went to Sorrentos a lot at night
- AAA/Helen (our Travel Agent) left us a bottle of wine for us as a thank you for booking with AAA. Coincidence because Saturday was the day my parents started going out 28 or 26 years earlier.
- We kept running into a family of three in the room next to ours
- Also saw a honeymoon couple from Meet and Mingle a lot
- Had room 6592 on Deck 6. It was a balcony
- My Pullman bed came down from the wall and was over the normal bed
- Person in Windjammer always said Good Morning when you walked in.
- The bathroom in our room was pretty small and the toilet was very loud
- I think my parents gambled every night.
- Lost two contacts in the bathroom and I couldn’t find them
- Food: There was never a bad meal during our cruise. It was all very good and the presentation was beautiful. I ordered Caesar Salad every night. I also had Strawberry ice cream every night except Friday when I got the Apple Pie a la Mode. My mom never finished her meal. Haha. The Bar Service woman during dinner wasn’t very good though because she kept getting Miller Light and Merlot mixed up. She blamed in on her Bulgarian accent. Our waiters were Reyna from Peru and Sabydashi aka Das from India. Our waiters at Chops were Supra from India and Carlena from Bulgaria. All four of them were just wonderful.
- Service: The service was impeccable. Abdel, our stateroom attendant, was very helpful and thoughtful. He did a great job with our towel animals. We never encountered a rude or inconsiderate crew member on board.
- Entertainment: The entertainment was also wonderful. Every show brought its own style to the cruise and there was never a show that me, my parents, or anybody else on board disliked. My favorite show was Once Upon A Time. Quest and the Love and Marriage Show were very funny and nobody left them with a frown on their face.
- Activities: There was so much to do on board. Rock climbing, surfing, ice skating, mini golf, basketball, ping pong, volleyball, swimming, running, etc. etc. We didn’t try the surfing or skating but we sure did watch a lot of people on the FlowRider. I am more of a adventure person not a water person so I stuck to the rock wall. Bingo, the Sexy Legs Contest, Belly flop contest, and all the other activities on board were a joy to watch.
- Ship: Freedom of the Seas is amazing. All of the public facilities were very nice and locations were good too. I really liked the Royal Promenade and top decks the most because that is where most of the action. One thing I did notice were the water stains on the floor, but it didn’t bother me because there was nothing the construction workers could do about it unless they took up all the carpet and replaced it.
- Labadee was very beautiful, but the locals were very pushy in wanting us to buy their things. The zip line was very fun! The “barbeque” on the island for the passengers had a lot of food options which I thought was very good. The entertainment for when we were eating was also very good.
- Ochos Rios was very nice and it wasn’t what I expected. I had read that the locals were also very pushy but I didn’t see that at all. I really liked the landscape of Jamaica. If I even go back to Jamaica I am definitely going to do the zip line through the forest excursion because I have heard so many good things about it.
- Grand Cayman was probably my least favorite spot, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. Seven Mile Beach was beautiful but I am not the kind of person to just relax on the beach. My parents really liked it though.
- Cozumel was very fun. There was a lot of inexpensive shopping to do and this is where we found most of our souvenirs for friends and family back at home. The water here is crystal blue and swimming with the dolphins was one of the highlights of the cruise.
All in all, this trip was one of the best vacations I have ever had. There was never a dull moment. The food, crew, entertainment, activities, and ports all added to the enjoyment of the cruise. We are already planning to go on Oasis of the Seas and I really hope that happens. If that doesn’t happen I am going to make sure I go on another cruise with my family. I truly see why people say that cruising is the best type of vacation. It is all relaxing and carefree and everything is just spectacular. Thanks for letting me share my trip with you and hopefully there will be another review coming from me in the future