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About chicagopaul

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  1. Regarding payment this could not be farther from the truth. On the Edge cruise I was approached by the hotel director who said they had been reading my live blog and asked if I would be willing to talk on camera for a bit to give a testimonial of sorts that they could use in an ad. I said no problem and happily agreed. I asked what they wanted me to talk about and they didn’t give much direction except they’d like me to talk about the Edge. So I simply started talking about the time from when we booked the cruise to our time walking on the ship for the first time. There was no talking points, nothing. As a matter of fact they barely edited what I said. Afterward they offered to comp a specialty dinner for us for my time. I told them it wasn’t necessary and I was happy to do it. This didn’t really matter either way as we already had our specialty dinner comped due to a room mix up on the first day. Ever live blog I post and even the little website I run with our cruise photos etc has never earned me a penny from Celebrity. I’ve never been given a free cruise, on board credit, or even an upgrade due to my posts. Though I know the ships and corporate read them as they read many live blogs and trip reviews on here. Last summer Celebrity had an independent blog contest. Some of you may remember that as many on here reached out to me and told me to enter. The contest was to describe your ideal Caribbean cruise on Celebrity. The prize was to be nothing more than posting the blog on the Celebrity website. But after some “professional” travel bloggers complained they shouldn’t work for free they made the prize $1,000 for the top three winners. In full disclosure As you may remember I won this contest and even told everyone here on CC about the prize. I did not hide it. I understand many bloggers and Instagram people are paid influencers. It’s a massive business and a huge marketing source for many companies. With this being said I totally understand your skepticism along with others when this video aired. I don’t fault anyone for thinking that. But please do know that I am not one of those. At the end of the day I’m not overly concerned what people think of me but thinking I was paid, in my eyes, diminishes the positive experiences I have written about and the amazing crew I rave about. So please know I was more than happy to give this testimonial free of charge. Hanging out with Damian and the production crew while they set up the lighting etc was more than enough “payment” for me. Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  2. No incentives for doing the ad or "testimonial." They offered after I agreed to do that to comp a specialty dinner but we already had that comped due to a room mix up when we boarded so it didn't matter either way. Honestly the best "payment" and at the end of the day the only payment I received was the ability to chat with the production crew and cruise director when making the video. It was fun watching them set up the cameras during the day in Eden and chatting with Damian about his job, etc. I was approached by the hotel director who was contacted by someone in the Miami office. They asked if I'd be willing to speak on camera a little bit for something they could use for advertising for a 60 second promo. They said it was to be a testimonial of sorts. They said no pressure whatsoever if I said no. I was more than happy to do it. What they aired in the video was actually I was spoke about, straight through, on the first take. I asked them what they wanted me to speak about and they said "whatever you'd like." So I figured I'd speak about what I was doing when I booked the cruise and our initial thoughts when boarding. I spoke on a few other things as well such as the restaurants I visited, etc. I do have to chuckle a bit about the way people look in the ads though. Before we boarded the ship we were talking with our friends about how everyone looks so beautiful and well put together in all the Celebrity ads, especially the Edge ones. Everyone's hair looks amazing (no wind is blowing it), everyone looks like they work out 7 days a week, etc. But I guess at the end of the day that is advertising. Just like car commercials or anything else I suppose. At the end of the day (and my live blog mentions this too) I found the ship absolutely beautiful. Are there flaws and quirks? Of course, but that is the case with everything. Overall I was highly impressed by the aesthetics of the ship and as I mentioned at the end of the video and this is true with every cruise we're on, the staff make us feeling as if we're coming back home.
  3. Wow! Thank you everyone for all the responses. I've been skimming them throughout the day but will take time this weekend to carefully read them all. All of you did mention how much you enjoyed Vancouver so we did finalize our plans there. We've decided to fly in two days before the cruise and stay one day after. We ended up using points to book the Shangri La (only 25k points per night including tax) for the two days before the cruise and the Hyatt for only 12k points for the day after the cruise. We would have booked Hyatt for all given the crazy point redemption but they're fully booked that first weekend. Thank you for all the tips and pointers regarding Vancouver, we definitely look forward to the visit. For airfare we went through Celebrity and booked Air Canada non-stop from Chicago to Vancouver. It's on their CRJ 900 but it will have to do! Tried booking my seats this evening. Air Canada charged by credit card but said there was an error. So it looks like I'll have to call them and deal with it tomorrow, fun fun! In addition to taking into account all of your recommendations above for the cruise I'll also visit the Alaska boards like many of you mentioned and take some notes from there as well. Also thank you for the packing tips. We have plenty of winter clothes but not too much "outdoorsy" type stuff, so I think a trip to REI will be in order at least for some good hiking shoes and a proper rain coat with hood too. If it does get really cold at least I'll be able to wear my Canada Goose jacket in Canada! Seriously thank you all for your advice but even more so for your enthusiastic replies. It has us even more excited for the trip and reinforces the decision we made to book this cruise.
  4. Happy almost weekend everyone! Edward and I decided to jump on a somewhat last minute cruise. We just booked the Celebrity Eclipse for May 19th out of Vancouver for their Hubbard Glacier Cruise. We ended up getting what I believe is a great deal on a Celebrity Suite at $5,378 total including the Go BEST promotion and a total of $975 OBC (this is from Celebrity, Celebrity booking on board - we moved out August cruise - and from out A). This will our first Alaska cruise so I wanted to reach out to get some tips and tricks from all of you as we are starting to plan and on this cruise will definitely book some excursions as well as some tips of where to be on the ship for the best views. Here is a quick breakdown of the itinerary. Port out of Vancouver Icy Strait Point Cruising Hubbard Glacier Juneau Ketchikan Cruising Inside Passage Back to Vancouver We're currently looking at flight options. Not a ton of non-stop from ORD to YVR but there are a couple options on Air Canada (operated by Jazz on their little CRJ 900) that are non-stop as well as one on AA and I think United has one as well. We will definitely spend 1 night before and 1 night after the cruise. We might flight in 2 days early into Vancouver if most of you think it is worth spending multiple full days in Vancouver. Any advice on Celebrity excursions would be appreciated so we could use the OBC. Also packing - any tips and tricks on really what to expect weather wise at the middle to end of May in this area. Also if any of you have stayed at hotels in Vancouver that you highly recommend or even just a specific location of where we should stay I'll take all advice! As always thank you so much for all your advice, thoughts, comments, etc.!
  5. Same issue on our end. We have 5 currently booked on the Equinox. We've been checking prices daily for our August and November cruises and have not been able to pull them up for a couple of days. It looks like nothing after the scheduled dry dock in May is appearing until roughly the same date in 2020. I'm sure they're just trying to update cabin info and its their typical website technology not working right.
  6. Hello Everyone. OK let me once and for all post the final recap here of my final thoughts on the Edge and our overall experience. First, I'd like to thank all of you for following along. It was, as always, great fun to hear your questions, debates, concerns tips, and general comments. It always helps make my trip better when I get to interact with all of you. As you know in this cruise we stayed in a suite. The Retreat area of the ship was beautiful. We enjoyed having a quiet bar to sit at in the morning, a quiet space to grab a lounger, eat lunch outside, etc. Celebrity did a great job on the Edge, at least I think so, trying to market the Retreat. From logos on all the cups to the towels in the cabins, etc. it was well done marketing and design. I really enjoyed all the staff in the Retreat and in Luminae. There are some fixes which I hope happen in the suites. For instance I hope that the furniture additions I spoke of (coffee table for instance) are added. However, the lack thereof did not ruin my trip by any means. The shower in the cabin still has some leaking issues. I am sure there is a fix on the way at some point, at least for the sake of the cabin attendant since he or she is really the one dealing with the issue. Celebrity did ask me to make a quick testimonial / promotional video while I was on board. John Paul the hotel director came up to me one night, introduced himself and said that someone in the Miami office was following this blog and wanted to know if I could say a few words on camera that they could edit down to roughly 60 seconds or so. Damian the cruise director helped arranged this and it was a fun experience. All the staff, including Damian could not have been nicer and more appreciative of my time even though it did not take long at all! So the question that I know I need to answer is: Would I cruise I on the Edge again? Of course I would! It was a beautiful ship with lots of great new options. The fact that everything is shiny and new is probably the biggest draw to me. Would I cruise on the Edge even if I was not in a suite? Yes, I would. However....well, knowing what is behind those retreat doors would be a bit of a bummer if I was not in a suite. Having experienced it I feel it would be one of those funny scenarios where I'd want back in; almost like a Seinfeld episode. However, if I wasn't in a suite I'd have more time to experience the rest of the ship during the day which I imagine I would have fallen in love with too. Do I feel like I NEED to cruise the Edge? One of my fears in taking this cruise was I was going to experience the Edge and that the Edge would become the new baseline for our travel. That after cruising on a brand new ship we would not be able to go back to the S Class or M Class ships. When we booked a Royal Suite last year that was one of my concerns too...we'd only want to have a Royal Suite and therefore our ability to travel as often as we do would drastically decline. I feel about the Edge like I do about the Royal Suite. It was lovely, it was fantastic, it was an amazing experience...but I don't NEED it. As beautiful as the ship was and as much as I loved trying the new dining venues there is one simple thing that brings us back to Celebrity and that is the people. The staff is the one common bond across the entire Celebrity fleet that makes us feel at home. While we would of course prefer to be in the biggest cabin on the newest ship, it is not a necessity. The baseline level of service that we receive on Celebrity is something we are more than happy with. When we first boarded the Edge there was this tremendous excitement of checking out a new ship, but also some worry about not knowing much of the staff, not knowing where things are. All that went away after realizing we ended up knowing a handful of staff on board. After day 1 we made new friends with staff we never met before and it felt like home. The sadness of leaving the ship on debarkation day had nothing to do with missing the "new ship smell" but it had to do with what it always has to do with, leaving behind those we consider friends. Whenever we get back from vacation friends of ours always ask what was our favorite part of the trip. Was it the food? Was it the ship? What was your favorite show? Was it the amazing ports that made the trip wonderful? Sure, we had incredible food. Some meals still make my mouth water when I think about them. We did have incredible weather and stopped at some beautiful places. But in 5, 10, 25 years I probably won't be able to tell you which dessert was my favorite, or exactly how the weather was on this trip. I might not even remember the exact ports we went to. But I will remember the people. I'll remember some of the conversations I've had with passengers of all backgrounds and demographics. I will remember the staff. I will remember those wonderful times when I'm just sitting back, observing everyone around me in complete happiness where (as I said once before) you find yourself falling in love with life all over again. It is these moments why we go back time and time again. So don't be afraid to try to Edge. Don't "think" you'll like the modern look? So what, give it a try. It's too expensive? Well, maybe just wait for prices to drop (if they ever do, haha). There may be some things you won't like about it, but there may be some things you will love. Sometimes those things you will love may have nothing to do with the ship itself. We have 5 more cruises booked. Our next is currently booked for August on the Equinox, but we may move that up sooner and book something last minute in June, we will see. For certain our cruise after that will be a b2b on the Equinox, Nov 2 and 9th of this year. As always it was an absolute pleasure to share our travels with all of you. Feel free to continue to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer. For all of you cruising in the near future I wish you all very safe travels and wonderful experiences that make you fall in love with life all over again.
  7. OK, Well I need to get caught up on the remainder of my final review, especially after my Fine Cut comments, I can't just leave you all with that! Let's talk about the other food. Ocean View Cafe: We only ate there once during the cruise and this was for lunch. The food was pretty good with great variety as usual. I love the new layout of Ocean View cafe. It felt easy to move around and with the pizza and pasta station positioned in the back it gives more room in the main buffet area. We had multiple drink servers ask us if we needed anything as soon as we sat down. The views from the tables in Ocean View were beautiful. I loved the floor to ceiling windows and extra tall ceilings. It did not feel like a buffet at all but much more like a fine restaurant or a high end food hall that we're seeing pop up across the county. Raw on 5: We were very much impressed with the food at Raw on 5. You can see in my blog the photos of what we ate. Everything was very fresh. What impressed me most was an item they actually did not have. I saw the Toro Nigiri on the menu which definitely peaked me interest, especially at the price. However, we were told they were out. When the manager came over to check on everything I mentioned this and he had said that they did get their shipment of it but over the past couple of weeks the quality has not been great so they chose to remove it of the menu. I very much appreciated that. That is how it should be, plain and simple. We found service in Raw on 5 to be fantastic. Our waiter, even though I could tell he was very busy, never rushed when he was with us, always explained all the items and told us of his favorites and was practically force feeding us wine. His name was Alvin, very nice guy and great waiter if you happen to be there. Le Grand Bistro: Again I'm not going to go over each item, but all I can say is wow. We ate here for lunch and the food was fantastic. Great lunch menu with daily specials. Excellent service. The food all tasted extremely fresh. It was the best lunch we had on board and one of the best lunches I've had in quite some time. I wish they served their lunch menu at dinner time. The cost is $20pp for lunch and it is worth every single penny of that $20. Eden: We ate at Eden on a non show night, though there was a small show going on near the bar with two of the characters having some sort of a "pillow ceremony" that we kept joking about. Anyway, the food was very good. The menu is of course quite limited so be sure to check it out before you book to make sure it fits your tastes if you're not very adventurous. Every item was cooked extremely well and of great quality. The ribeye was my favorite and a great quality piece of meat. Our waiter was Ignatius who was a phenomenal server and could not have been nicer. The menu at Eden is eclectic and unique. As Johnnyt on here had said before there really is no "theme" with the food in Eden so if you have a taste for a certain "type" of food then you won't get your fix because it is a mix of types and treated as a tasting menu in a way. However, it was a great experience. Go on a non show night if you won't want to experience the show. Eden Cafe: We ate here for lunch one day. They offer different soups daily and some great sandwiches and wraps. The food was fresh, the service was great. There is a nice space to eat outside. Plus it is FREE! No upcharge. Definitely check it out. Don't skip the desserts either, the brownie was incredible. Very dense and moist, not dry like many brownies can be. Rooftop Garden: It's a cool setting. But it can be very windy. We were lucky and caught it on a night with no wind at all and a great view of the garden area. The brisket was OK, but the wings and the ribs were out of this world. The ribs you could eat with a fork and the wings were some of the best I ever had. We had the spicy ones and they were spicy but not overkill. The wings themselves were smoked so the meat had great smoked flavor in addition to the spicy sauce they were tossed in. The service was a bit slow to start but there were several large tables (8 people +) that were all ordering at the same time so I can forgive that. Once they had that sorted out service was quick and the food came out in good time. The maitre d checked in on our table multiple times, offered to bring us more wings noticing how much we loved them, and asked us how everything was throughout the night. Luminae: Since we had a handful of specialty evenings we were limited on our Luminae experience, but we did enjoy it very much. The build out is beautiful. As we ate with 4 several nights we loved the large round tables that were placed sporadically throughout the restaurant. The food was what you'd expect in Luminae. Presentation was always very nice. I loved the Retreat logo on all the luminae plates. The filet mignon was excellent, better than I've had before in Luminae. My favorite dish in the restaurant is always the halibut which was on the menu and very good as always. We would dine around 8:30 / 8:45 so service was always good. We never had to wait long at dinner. I can't speak for the 7pm seating, but I was very pleased with our service. On day 1 we had lunch in Luminae and had great service. Did not feel like they were rushing or we were being rushed (some of the comments I've noticed on CC about Luminae).
  8. Thanks so much for following along and for your thoughts and comments. And with regard to moving to Chicago I’m a real estate broker here and live Streeterville so if you have any questions at all feel free to reach out! Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  9. Thank you so much for the kind words Dawn. It’s rare to find people who you travel well with and actually like each other more after the trip! It was a pleasure to spend our vacation with you and Lisa. We can’t wait to do it again! Love you! Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  10. More to come regarding food, service, specialty restaurants, etc.
  11. Martini Bar - Ah the Martini Bar. What did I think? Well....it took me a while to get used to it. I love the look of the bar and the entire grand foyer lounge area. I do wish there were more seats at the actual bar. As some have mentioned on here I think there is space to make the bar one large circle and add more seating and still have a small standup area for those walking up to get drinks to take away. The different levels of the bar, while aesthetically pleasing proved to be a little difficult. For instance the "shorter" section of the bar, where the seats are very short is difficult to have one person sit and another stand behind you since you're essentially towering over the person. However, the nice thing about the taller section of the bar (the left side of the bar when facing it) is that the bar is tall enough (much taller than the S Class martini bar) that you are able to stand and lean against the bar while waiting for a drink or simply staying to have a drink. That aspect I really liked. My thinking is that this design is forcing people to sit in chairs in different areas of the grand foyer. It keeps the bar from looking too crowded. I can appreciate that. However, I still only sit or stand at the bar. That is where I am most comfortable so I hope going forward on the Apex, etc. they make some changes to add more seating to the bar itself. Getting a seat proved difficult. We ended up standing at the end of the bar most nights but because the bar was higher I still found this comfortable. The bartenders were fantastic. I have no complaints there. I really liked the new martini glasses they were using and never heard anyone complain about the consistency of their drinks; a complaint I've heard occasionally in the past. Yes I do miss the ice on the bar. That was fun. But this has a classier look. I think given that this is essentially the "main" bar for the evening as there is no passport bar, then not having the ice was probably a smart move. However, I do miss it.
  12. Final Recap: I ended up typing a full description of the ship, but I started thinking that many of you have seen plenty of photos and reviews so there really isn’t a need for me to describe in detail every nuance of the ship. Instead, lets just make this simple and focus on my thoughts, my perspective. I loved the aesthetics of the ship. I found the new decor throughout to be absolutely beautiful. From the interior hallways, to cabin corridors, to the outdoor decks. I found the hallways on the common decks to feel wider. This definitely helped when large groups were walking through. But just as important it gave the ship a nice open, airy feeling. Now I know some people were complaining about the colors and clean lines; saying it felt too modern. When I was looking at some of the renderings and even photos, I did have a similar feeling. It might feel “cold.” But in person that is not the case. The grays used are not harsh grays, they’re warmer than you might imagine. The 3 story atrium where the Martini Bar is located looks beautiful. Some may think the tall ceilings above the bar make the space feel too open, but I didn’t get this feeling. I loved our cabin look. The colors were beautiful. The bathroom decor was gorgeous in my opinion. I felt like I was in a very nice hotel. A few things I did not like about our cabin. There was no coffee table. While we didn’t order breakfast or any other room service this cruise, if we did, there definitely would not be a place to eat it if it was just dropped off. Our butler could easily roll in a table for room service, but if you just want something quick, the lack of a table presents a problem. The bathroom had wonderful storage throughout. There is a nice little vanity section on the side. While I’m not putting on makeup, I can see how this is nice for those who do. Personally I used it to place items while I was getting ready such as clothes, watch, ring, etc. What I did not like about the bathroom was the shower curtain. We did experience some leaking onto the floor. They put a plastic strip on one side of the shower, but the other side still has a leak. The shower curtain was also looking stained at the bottom since it is relatively long. I loved all the space in the shower, but they need to figure out a long term fix for this. While it is a bit annoying for us, it’s not that big of a deal. It is a bigger deal for the room steward and ongoing maintenance of the bathroom. I wish they would have just done away with the tub and made a large walk in shower with a bench and a glass door. This would be great for someone like me, but especially those who have mobility issues and don’t want to step into a tub. Though I will say the tub height was better than stepping into the tubs in the S Class sky suites. Staying in a suite we definitely appreciate the Retreat deck. It was absolutely beautiful. While the layout took a little while to get used to, I did love the retreat dipping pool and the bar area. There were not a lot of places for shade, but plenty of sun. The bar however was shaded and there were some tables by the bar in the shade and a few couch areas fully shaded. We had one day when it was very windy up there, but besides that it was not too windy. The views when pulling in and out of port are incredible. So if you’re in a suite this is the place to be, especially when sailing into San Juan. The Retreat Lounge is much larger and brighter than Michael's that is for sure! It never felt crowded. There seemed to be plenty of bar servers but we didn't spend much time in the lounge. They always had small pastries and cheeses in the morning for breakfast. The coffee machine always seemed to be working. While there is a bar outside, there was no bar inside to sit at and I do wish there was one, especially for the evening. Though the bar servers can get you anything you need. The best part of the retreat lounge were the large windows. I loved the new main pool. I think the set up, with some loungers in the water is beautiful. It was very crowded on the last sea days with most if not all the loungers completely full. What I did like about the area is while it was very crowded, it did not feel overly crowded. I think it’s because there are different heights to some of the decks. For instance you need to step up to get the pool bar and pool area, etc. It helps break things up a little and in turn I think makes the space look larger?? More to come…..
  13. It was at 8pm every night and it coincided with the light show. Each night they poured the martini flights. I know there was another light show at 10pm and perhaps a martini show then too. I know there were some complaints on Cruise Critic of very little flair bartending and martini flights, so maybe they listened and made the change.
  14. Even if you'd like an upright lounger for the balcony, ask for that. The room doesn't look so empty when you're there in person, I think because the drawers open up pretty far a rocker sitting in the center might block that. The biggest complaint I had, if anything, would be the small table by the couch. They really should have those replaced with a long coffee table and I think it would fill up the room much more plus give you a place to eat breakfast, etc.
  15. There actually was a lounger on the balcony when we first entered the room, but since we never use it (and it took up some space) we had the butler remove it. I know some people were moving the rockers out onto the balcony to use, but from what I heard the rockers were not all weather and not meant to be exposed to the elements. We had friends in another suite who had no loungers out there, but they requested them from their butler and they were put out on the balcony right away.
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