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About CruisinChills

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    Disney, Royal Caribbean, NCL
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  1. Thanks again for all of your answers. You've all helped convince me that this is the right cruise for us -- booked it today! I notice that there is plenty of stuff available to book online already (dining, beverages, and much more), but almost nothing for onboard activities, except for 3 or 4 things (ship tour, brunch, etc.). Is this likely to mean that all spots for pre-reservations for iFly/North Star are already booked, or that they haven't been listed yet? Same goes for shows (WWRY). Are these things just things that will go up closer to the cruise?
  2. Thank you all so very much for your feedback so far. This is looking like a great change for us to make as I'm tired of being at the mercy of school-vacation airfare hikes! And, you know, there is not much point now worrying about weather in 6 months. It will be what it will be, and they will make the necessary adjustments. (And cruising out of FL means still being at the mercy of Mother Nature since we always seem to get snowstorms on the day we're supposed to fly out!) None of us are prone to seasickness, so a little rocking doesn't bother us. Another quick question, the "deluxe" beverage package several of you have mentioned presumably includes ALL drinks? We don't drink soda, pretty much just water, and then I am curious about alcoholic beverages (mostly "cruise cocktails" for me and beer for the husband). What's the average cocktail price? Beer? Might make more sense to buy as we go but I really love not having a huge bill at the end ...
  3. We were planning to be sailing on NCL Epic in February from San Juan, but have been floored by the sky-high airfare for our (school vacation) week. Every year this problem gets worse and worse and I've sort of reached my breaking point! It got me thinking about cruising out of NY (we live in MA, so no flying necessary), which I did several years back in late April. NCL Bliss is one option out of NY, but then I saw this cruise on the Anthem, same itinerary except one more sea day (so 8 days on Anthem vs. 7 days on Bliss), gives us a chance to experience the revamped CocoCay (my only trip there was many, many years ago), and is CHEAPER than the current Epic sailing we are scheduled on. We have sailed Royal several times, but the most recent was about 7 years ago. I love cruising and am not going to be super-critical when I'm on vacation, so I've been equally happy in the past on whatever cruise line I've been on. In the past 7 years we have done mostly NCL (helped by a couple of particular cruises that got us to Platinum status quickly), as well as two on Disney, but there is no reason I would not want to try Royal again. I'd love some opinions on the following from people who have experience with either Anthem, sailing out of Bayonne, or anything else: - It's February, it's NJ, I know it will be cold for the first day or day and a half (and the last one as well). I realize the main risk of sailing from the Northeast in the winter would be a blizzard or other storm; presumably the ship will do what they can to stay ahead of or behind most difficult weather. Anyone care to share any personal experience on sailing in the winter from NJ? - What's the parking situation at Bayonne -- availability, price, etc? - Alternately, I've seen some mention of Yankee Trails bus from upstate NY, any insight on that (cost for the trip, cost or availability of parking wherever you leave your car)? - As I said, it's been a while since I've been on RC, so I'm not familiar with their eateries. NCL has built a brand around offering a huge quantity of dining options, but many of them are fee-based. Are the complimentary dining options on RC sufficient or are there specialty options that are "must-do's"? (And, can anyone point me to menu links for RC or for the Anthem specifically?) - Speaking of fees -- I haven't booked a NCL cruise in many years that DIDN'T include "free" beverages. What does it cost to purchase a package on RC? - My teen (14) is extremely curious about what activities or areas the ship offers specifically for her age group. I see a "Teen Disco" on the deck plans, but can't tell if that's it? She is one that loves to hang out in the clubs and is extremely bummed to have aged out of the age where they can do art projects and science experiments in the younger kids' labs. ;-) - Presumably the popular activities (the sky bubble thing, the iFly, etc.) book up; when does the booking window open for these things and if it has already opened (and is therefore possibly already booked up), what's the best way to try to reserve once on board? I probably have more questions but am hoping for some feedback on the above so I can make a decision fairly quickly! (And on that note, any idea how long the buy one, 50% off second guest offer will last?)
  4. SUMMARY: In short, we loved it. I read many reviews both before and after booking, and so was prepared for a “different” type of cruise. I love cruising, I love sea days, I love nice dining and good service, and I had some concerns that the POA might not provide that, based on some of what I’d read. So it WAS a different type of cruise. But it was great! FOOD/DRINK: We had NO problems with food or service. I mentioned a couple of menu changes, but that was just because I’ve done so many, I was surprised by any changes. All service, all week, was uniformly excellent. There was one bartender at the Key West Grill who was not super friendly, but I don’t NEED to be friends with my bartender. SHOWS/ACTIVITIES: Going back to the “different” type of cruise, we didn’t go to, or even ATTEMPT to go to, any of the main-theater shows. We went to one game show, the “Not-so-Newlywed Show”, and enjoyed it. We were able to attend trivia contests 4 times — there were many more offered, but most during the daytime when we were in port. We really enjoyed the trivia (and remain undefeated) and the cruise director’s staff was really friendly. I wanted to do the Canvas by U but it was on Friday at like 2pm and that is really the only afternoon of leisure on the ship! So I decided to wait and do that on some future cruise that has sea days. I did mention I would mention the daily trivia sheets again before this review was over! I am sorry to report that the daily trivia and sudoku sheets, which we picked up in the library every day, are the same ones that were on my last NCL cruise 2 years ago ... and the year before that ... and the year before that. On the plus side, I apparently have a very bad memory so I still got plenty of the trivia questions wrong.[emoji23] But really NCL — look into changing these at least once a year fleetwide. It’s trivia. There are MILLIONS of questions out there. Find some new ones. SUITE: Our room was beautiful and spacious. The balcony was wonderful, the bed was comfortable, the shower was great. Only downside I would say is that the “second” bathroom, which has a toilet and a small sink, has ZERO storage, so you can’t even keep toothbrushes/toothpaste in there for anything. So all 4 of us had to use the big bathroom for getting ready for bed or getting ready to go out. And of course, the aforementioned issue with the heat (or lack thereof) of the hot tub. But none of this is anything that can ruin a vacation! When we are on vacation, we are not looking for stuff to get annoyed about, so it wasn’t a big deal. Just an observation. As far as Suite service/perks, we were fortunate to have a FABULOUS room steward in Lyn, and we also thought the butler, Susana, was great. We saw her every day and she did everything from getting us off the ship quickly, changed reservations if necessary, brought afternoon snacks, and was just generally very helpful and nice. The concierge on the other hand — I *think* his name was Chris, but I never spoke with him all week. I saw him at embarkation when we jumped into the group he was about to lead onboard, so we didn’t hear his spiel, and I believe he called my husband later that day to find out what liquor we wanted for our suite perks. After that, we next saw him at breakfast on disembarkation day. [emoji12] It’s the first time I’ve ever traveled in a suite and NOT felt inclined to tip the concierge, but truly, he was a non-entity for us. I was very happy to give his tip to Lyn, who really deserved it. We loved Hawaii and it was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so we wanted to experience as much as possible in our 12 days there. The POA really allowed us to do that! Once you get past the 12 hours in airplanes to get there, the last thing I’d want to do is have to airplane hop to each island, so cruising is the perfect solution. And the pre-cruise stay on Oahu gave us the chance to adapt to the time, relax a bit, and get a feel for the Hawaiian lifestyle. Both parts of the trip were equally awesome. Hope this helps some people who are planning future trips and I’m happy to try to answer any questions. I apologize to anyone who cruised between when I started this (with good intentions) and finally finished now. Aloha! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  5. A quick note about Oahu: I know some people are sensitive to the inclusion of non-cruise-related info in reviews, so I really didn’t discuss our 5 days pre-cruise on Oahu. If you object to non-cruise stuff, skip this entry. We LOVED (loved, loved) our 4 nights on the North Shore at Turtle Bay. We stayed at the hotel but they also have Airbnb units there. The hotel location is gorgeous, the ocean-view rooms have, well, amazing views, and the north shore location is ideal for exploring. My husband golfed at one of the Turtle Bay courses while the girls and I enjoyed the beach at Turtle Bay our first day, then we all went exploring down the island’s East side, using the Shaka guide (Circle Tour) for our return trip since it only goes counter-clockwise. Once again, I can’t recommend Shaka guide highly enough — it’s affordable and we found some spots we never would have found otherwise. Won’t list all our north shore activities but they included: the Byodo-In temple, PCC and luau, Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, Dole plantation, “Lost” location hunting (Others’ village!), and a fabulously lazy day at the wonderful (huge) Turtle Bay pool. We stopped twice at Laie Beach Park which was a great beach, awesome waves, no crowds at all (when we were there), and we just loved the North Shore “vibe”. People just stop by the beach and take a dip on their way home from wherever, and we did too. We spent our final two nights on Oahu at the Marriott Waikiki Beach — one night free as a Free at Sea promo. We paid to upgrade our room on the “free” night so we could stay in our same oceanfront room both nights. We had a fabulous view down Waikiki Beach. After the beaches on the North Shore, Waikiki was nothing to write home about, in terms of a swimming beach — the walled section prevents swimming in the area of the Marriott so you need to walk further toward the Hawaiian Village to swim past it. There were few waves and it was very shallow. I guess it’s perfect for small kids though, or beginning surfers, although most people I saw were waiting for waves, not riding them! That said, the location was great for the few things we wanted to do on that part of the island — namely, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Duke’s. Two nights was plenty though, and in the future I’d spend the whole week up north! For people considering Aulani, we also made a stop there for lunch on the day we moved from the north shore to the south. The resort is beautiful, as you would fully expect from a Disney property. It is also ENORMOUS, as you would also expect from a Disney property. Having considered Aulani in our booking process, I am SO happy to have chosen Turtle Bay. We just really appreciated the slower pace of life on that part of the island, and it felt more authentic somehow. Also while Aulani itself is beautiful, Ko Olina is on the dry part of the island, so it was like Aulani was this lush paradise plopped in the middle of the desert. Just a very different landscape. However, if you have the time for a visit and lunch and Aulani (we ate at Ama’Ama, right overlooking the beach), it was very nice. Cruise wrap-up will be next! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  6. Last day is sadness day on a cruise! We were up early and went to Cagney’s for breakfast — a suite perk we never used until the last day, due to the ease of just getting room service. In fact the waitstaff there was all like, “I haven’t seen you all week”. ;-). Breakfast was good and reasonably quick but I advise against ordering grits — as noted somewhere upthread, they’re really not good. After breakfast we returned to our room, collected our hand luggage (big bags were put outside the door before midnight), and called Susana for disembarkation. She walked us right off the ship and into the terminal, where we had to collect our bags. Another piece of advice — if you purchase airport transfers, as we did (for “convenience”), do NOT use the Priority tags they give you at Guest Services! When I purchased our transfers we were given pink/yellow tags to use, which said Priority. Susana also distributed tags to us later in the week which ALSO stated “Priority”, but were gold. We used the ones we were given when we purchased the transfers, which was a MISTAKE, as only one of our 4 bags was actually located in the Priority section. So after starting to freak out after searching for 10 minutes, we finally got someone who suggested we look in a section for “untagged” (or something like that) luggage, where we finally found our bags. A bit of a scare but fortunately we didn’t have a tight flight time so not TOO traumatic, just aggravating. For planning purposes, NCL transfers are $25/pp. Probably makes most sense for singles or couples, as I’m sure I could have gotten to the airport for less than $100 some other way, but it was convenient and easy. We didn’t feel rushed all morning and were still at the airport in plenty of time for our 1pm flight (which was then delayed). A word to the wise: pretty sure I got food poisoning from purchasing lunch for the plane from PGA Grill in the airport. If, like me, you have two lengthy flights ahead of you, you might want to avoid it. It was for sure my worst travel day ever. 🤢 Trip wrap-up/summary (and maybe a few more photos) still to come. Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  7. Our helicopter Jurassic Falls That coastline! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  8. On Friday, our last full day, we finally ventured out of the cabin for breakfast — well, my husband and I did. We headed back to the Aloha cafe and checked out the buffet offerings. There seemed to be a lot of choices, including a custom-made omelet bar and some savory dishes. The best part about breakfast though was finally getting to sit outside at the stern and enjoy the beautiful morning! If I did not have my own balcony, for sure I would have been very happy to eat out here every day. It was beautiful and very pleasant. We took plates back to the room for the girls. This was our latest ship departure all week! We headed down to the pier at 9:45 for our helicopter excursion. I had considered booking directly with Blue Hawaiian but when I compared costs with the NCL excursion (which also used Blue Hawaiian, I verified before booking), it was almost exactly the same, PLUS I didn’t have to worry about getting transportation to the airport if I booked through NCL since it was included. (The reason the costs were the same was because one of our free at sea promos was $50 off shore excursions in each port.) Our shuttle bus left at 10:00am for the airport. When you arrive you have to weigh in (all very private, they don’t even tell YOU your weight) and watch a safety briefing, and then they distribute life jackets (that fit in an unobtrusive pouch at your waist). One lady in our group was one of those “front-of-the-line” people — jumping in front of people to get on the bus first and off the bus first, etc. — and I was laughing to myself b/c I didn’t need to be told to know that ALL SEATING on the helicopter would be assigned based on weight/height etc. And sure enough, at the end of the safety briefing you are assigned a seat number and instructions about boarding. The helicopters carry 6 passengers in addition to the pilot — 2 passengers up front, and 4 in the back. Yes, this means that you are not guaranteed a window! But as one of the passengers placed on an inside seat in the rear, I can tell you that I still had an excellent view and got many excellent pictures. I’ll post some in a separate post below. Our pilot, Brodie, was excellent — a native of Kauai, his love for the islands was evident in his narration. The flight lasted about 45 minutes and was breathtaking. They film the flight from multiple cameras (one interior and a couple exterior) and you can purchase it on a USB after you land. It is well worth it! We were back onboard by 12:30. Dropped our things in our room and headed to the Key West Grill, which was just steps away from our room but which we’d only visited for drinks so far. They have a small buffet there with burgers/dogs/sausages, some spicy potato salad, French fries, etc. Had a couple of drinks too — Bahama Mama for me, Bushwhacker for my niece. They were both really good. After lunch I packed my second suitcase and then we headed to the bow for a Latitudes sailaway party. (There was no VIP bridge tour on this journey so I guess this took its place.). Let me offer some advice if you attend this gathering. DON’T forget your sunglasses — the white paint up there GLARES like you would not believe! DON’T forget sunscreen — it’s like being in a baking oven up there until you actually start sailing away and get a slight breeze. DO remember a camera for a few photo ops. There was a seemingly limitless supply of champagne and mimosas as well, so there’s that. ;-) Packed our last bag after the party, then enjoyed some relaxing family time on our balcony playing cards and doing the daily trivia sheets (which I will mention again in my summary, haha). At 5pm we we headed up on deck and over to the port side for the Napali coast sail-by. Having already seen it from the air earlier, it was equally if not more impressive seeing it from the sea! I don’t know how many photos a person needs of cliffs, but I probably pushed the limit. It’s just so impressive. The ship made a full turn by 5:55pm and headed back with the coast on our starboard side. However, I don’t recommend passing up the chance to go over to port side to see it the first time, if your balcony is starboard like ours was. The starboard sail-by is noticeably farther away from shore, so somewhat less impressive, and the ship turns out to sea a bit so really you do not get the same experience on the starboard side. Leave your cabin and go to port! There are a lot of great upper decks forward and if you’re worried about not getting a spot at the rail, just go a bit earlier than 5. Our last dinner was at Skyline and once again we had no complaints at all. After dinner we were able to pick up our confiscated alcohol (my niece bought a little skull bottle souvenir with vodka and didn’t realize she couldn’t bring it to her room), and then we stopped by the photo gallery to choose and buy photos. It was predictably chaotic on the last night, but somehow we seldom get our act together to purchase them any sooner! A package of 10 photos was $149 and with the Platinum discount $105. So the ship was moving a bit and we had to indulge one last time in our new favorite past time — sloshing around in the big pool when everyone else is done with it for the day! I was surprised by the size of the waves in the big pool every night when we were moving, and this was the third time we visited after dinner. We were almost alone — just a couple of small kids there as well — and we enjoyed being sloshed from one side of the pool nearly to the other with each wave. I was actually shocked that the pool remained open on these nights — for us it was really fun, but I can see that it could be dangerous, particularly as you could (and did) easily get slammed into the stairs. Now, my kids found this hysterical and entertaining and did it on purpose, but I think we were lucky to be out there before the pool was closed down! We finished off our last night on the hot tub on our balcony — one of the main reasons we booked that room. I should really just refer to it as the “somewhat warm tub” because it never approached hot, but it was still nice and relaxing to be out there enjoying the evening and the sea air. Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  9. It was very windy as we sailed into Nawiliwili, Kauai on Thursday morning. I was convinced there was rain hitting the windows but when I got up to check, it was dry. But perhaps I was prescient as when the captain announced we were cleared to disembark, he mentioned we might have some “weather challenges” over our two days here. They started as soon as we disembarked (after breakfast on the balcony, again). As we waited to see a Hertz shuttle to the airport, the rain began. It was not too heavy but more of an annoyance. Hertz finally arrived and we picked up our car at the airport with no line or waiting (a benefit of signing up to be a Gold member in advance). We had decided to try our best to fit in the Shaka Kauai North Shore driving tour before our afternoon Mountain Tubing excursion (which we had booked independently as NCL no longer offers this tour). We had to be at the tubing location by 1:30 but we had our car by 9am and felt we could do the better part of the Shaka drive if we didn’t stop at every site. “Weather challenges”, remember? I got a text at 9:30am, as we drove to our starting point for the Shaka tour, that our afternoon excursion was CANCELLED due to high water levels from the rain. Now, again, it really wasn’t raining much! In fact as we headed north we were very quickly out of the rain completely. However, as you may know Kauai was inundated with historic levels of rain this past spring and they are still suffering the effects of that deluge. So despite the fact that the rain was short-lived and the sun returned, our excursion was cancelled very early and there was no mention of “check back later if weather conditions improve”. They offered to try to accommodate us the next morning but we had another excursion already scheduled. This was. a huge disappointment to our group, particularly the girls. This was one of the things the had most been looking forward to (the other being our helicopter tour on our second day in Kauai, which I did not even fair to suggest might also be cancelled due to these “weather challenges”!). However we now did not have to rush through our Shaka tour so we stopped when we wanted to and enjoyed the ride. We stopped at several beaches and enjoyed the towns of Hanalei and Kapa’a. Unfortunately the highlight of this particular driving tour (and the reason my niece chose it) was the “secret caves” at the end of it ... and the road was closed just past Hanalei due to the flooding back in April. There is a note about this on the email I received when I downloaded the Shaka tour but I did not realize it when I BOUGHT the tour. And I didn’t open the email until AFTER we came upon the “road closed” sign. Sigh. On our return to Lihue we stopped in Kapa’a for lunch. There was a place called the Olympic Cafe which was on the second floor of a building with souvenir shops, and it was all open air overlooking the street below. They had a huge menu with lots of interesting choices and my niece, who was the only one supposedly not hungry for lunch, couldn’t even decide what to get! If you’re “not hungry”, I don’t suggest the Monster Burrito, which is what she chose — it was ENORMOUS! But she said very good. I had a special, it was a salad with a piece of coconut-crusted ono (local fish) and a yummy papaya dressing. Very much enjoyed this meal! While we were at lunch, knowing we had no afternoon excursion, we decided to download another Shaka tour and see a little more of Kauai. We did the Wailua Valley and Waterfalls tour, which was actually much better than the North Shore tour. We did it a little bit out of order since we did not plan to return to our starting point in Kapa’a at the end, but we worked it out and saw everything we wanted to see. This tour highlighted 4 heiaus and several big waterfalls, and it was very scenic. I really enjoyed it. We returned the car to the airport around 5pm and got right on a shuttle back to the ship. Dinner tonight was at Jefferson’s Bistro — used one of our Platinum dinners here and one credit from our meal plan. (My daughter was attending a “teen club dinner” and didn’t join us.). We finally opened one of our free bottles of champagne for drinks on the balcony for dinner, and then got a free bottle of wine with dinner, so not having the unlimited drinks package didn’t hurt quite so much tonight. As always, we really enjoyed our meal at the Bistro. Service is definitely at a more “leisurely” pace in this venue, but we were not in a rush. I can highly recommend the pan-seared scallops and I always love the chocolate fondue with fruit for dessert! I packed my first bag after dinner — thanks to the efficient laundry service I had LOTS of clean clothes to take home, I figured I’d pack all the clean stuff that I wasn’t going to wear again! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  10. Forgot the picture of the Shave Ice! Mango Paradise indeed. Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  11. Wednesday we arrived at Kailua-Kona around 6:30am, or at least that’s when I was awoken by the tenders being lowered to prepare for the tendering operation. It looked like a very pretty town — really the first non-industrial port (the only one, as it turns out) of the trip. Breakfast on the balcony again, and then we took advantage of another suite perk — priority tendering. This was a big one today as there were some lines of people trying to get off at this hour. Tendering itself is not much fun as the boats are hot and airless and crowded, but finally the boat was filled and the ride itself was just 5 or 10 minutes. Of course there is an ABC Store directly across from the dock so we made a quick pit stop for provisions (water and Maui onion chips, our new favorite), then we continued through the building to the Marriott to collect our rental car. We rented from Hertz which has a location in the hotel, VERY convenient as opposed to going to the airport. I had read that Kona is the one port where you really don’t NEED a car, and I’d agree with that if your goal is just shopping, beach, and/or dining. That said, we were very happy to have rented the car as the first place we drove to was Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge). We got there before any of the tour buses did, which meant we had plenty of uninterrupted time to explore the heiau (temple) and, even better, walk across the ancient lava flows and explore the tide pools. The pools offered an assortment of sea life, from sea urchins to colorful fish to a sea turtle! The girls (and us) loved our time there. The buses had arrived and the place was getting busier just as we were leaving. We then drove to Kealakemua Bay Historical Park, where across the bay you can see the Captain Cook monument. It’s a pretty spot but there was no beach to speak of, just crazy big rocks you had to cross to get into the water (we watched some people struggling to get OUT of the water, it looked painful and kind of scary!). We moved on. Stopped at Greenwell Farms, a coffee farm. They do free tours and have a little stand with free coffee samples, and some coffees and gifts for sale. Finally we made our way to Kona Brewing Company, where we saw plenty of other cruisers having lunch. We waited only about 5-10 minutes for a table (and bought souvenir t-shirts and glasses while we waited). It’s a pretty big outdoor patio and it was a nice day (hot, but nice) to be there. They have a big menu and lots of interesting choices. My husband and niece both had beer flights to try some different flavors, and we all had lunch. I can tell you that the pizza with Kailua pork and pineapple salsa is about 100 times better than any Hawaiian pizza I’ve ever had before! My niece and daughter both had sliders mainly because they’re served on taro rolls which they had been craving since our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center in our pre-cruise stay on Oahu. Turns out taro rolls were not easy to find on the rest of our journey, so this was the only other time they got to eat them! After lunch we returned the car and did some souvenir shopping on Ali’i drive. Lastly, before returning to the ship I had promised my daughter a shave ice. I couldn’t remember the name of the place everyone raved about on here, but the place she saw and wanted it from was called Kona Wave Cafe. They had a “Mango Paradise” shave ice, which was actually a scoop of ice cream, with shave ice around it, and then popping boba bubbles filled with lilikoi (passion fruit). It was beautiful and very yummy! I’m not a fan of ice with artificial sugar on it, but Kona Wave uses real fruit juice for the shave ice and what a difference. I’ll try to include a picture below, or if not in another post. We tendered back by 4pm. There was a long line for tendering but I was surprised to see a “suite guests” entrance which essentially let you line-jump. Felt kind of guilty but used the perk anyway! The main pool wasn’t yet crowded so we had a bit of a swim upon our return, and read on the upper deck by the pool. Dinner tonight was at the Liberty MDR. Once again we had a good meal and excellent service. For some reason Liberty has a different dress code than Skyline, which is funny because it’s essentially the same dining room. That said, I always wear something a little nicer for dinner so it wasn’t an issue for me — just something to be aware of if you plan to go there. If you don’t feel like dressing up a bit, choose Skyline. The menu is the same! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  12. It was raining lightly as we approached Hilo shortly after 6am, but it cleared up as we docked. Enjoyed breakfast on our balcony, which we did every day except for two. For us, this is a great suite perk which was especially beneficial on this port-intensive itinerary. Having to get 2 younger people out and out early is not easy! Much easier if you don’t have to add time for hunting for food and seating. I noticed the in-room breakfast card had a few less options than in the past but for us it was still just fine as we usually had cereal or an omelet. Had a tour today with Ken from Marylou’s Big Island Guided Tours. It was the 4 of us and another couple, also from the POA. Given the closure of HVNP, the tour was not what I had originally hoped for, but Mother Nature happens. We visited Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, a farmer’s market (where Ken bought us non-acidic white pineapple, which was great), a coffee farm, an orchid farm/nursery, the Mauna Loa nut factory (gift shop, really), and a black sand beach near the cruise port. We had lunch at some hole in the wall in the Red Zone, and while I was eager to see the volcano, I was also eager to follow all safety precautions and rules in place. (Particularly since one of the kids with me — while now an adult, I realize — is not my own!). All we were able to see from where we went was a smoke plume from the volcano, and then a second steam plume from the lava flow entering the water. Fortunately we did not have any major earthquakes while we were “in the zone”. I believe the other couple on our tour were disappointed we did not “push it” and go even farther, but that’s what happens when you go on a shared tour. My favorite parts were the waterfalls and seeing the orchids. Unfortunately the beach was saved for last, so not only was it shortly before all aboard that we got there, but also it was very crowded at that point. It would have been nice to avoid the crowds and actually perhaps get to swim earlier in the day. I felt the tour was slightly haphazard (“where do you want to go?”) instead of an organized plan, but that said, in writing the paragraphs above I realize how much we did get to see, so perhaps there was some kind of organization. The price for the tour is very fair, and was even slightly reduced after HVNP closure. We returned to the ship just after 4pm very ready for a swim! My daughter had activities she wanted to attend at the teen club so the rest of us went to the Oasis (adults-only) pool. It’s rather shallow but NO KIDS so kind of worth it if you just want to get wet/cool and chat. As today was our anniversary, we HAD planned to enjoy a special dinner (just my husband and I) at Cagney’s and let the girls fend for themselves. However we learned about the timing of the lava flow sail-by the night before and decided to cancel our dinner plans. We can go to dinner anytime — how many times in our lives would we get a chance to see an active volcano?? I hope it might help a future cruiser to know that the lava sail-by started just before 7pm and we watched for well over an hour and a quarter before we lost good views. So I highly recommend that you make a dining reservation not earlier than 8:30pm on the Hilo departure day, OR eat early to be done by 6:30. We were able to walk in to Skyline main dining room at about 8:45 with no reservation. We actually had a very good meal and I did not regret missing out on Cagney’s. Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  13. Had our first real chance to sit by the pool after lunch. It was not HUGELY crowded but still more crowded than I personally enjoy (which, honestly, is just to be by myself [emoji23]). I have a tendency to get somewhat annoyed when rules such as “no jumping”, for example, are posted but not enforced — either don’t post them, or enforce them. Because I’m the mom that doesn’t let my kid jump but then she gives me that look when every other kid is cannonballing into the pool. [emoji849] We found it very easy to find several seats together on the upper deck above the pool, for those that are worried about that sort of thing. We had a dinner reservation at Teppanyaki. On this ship Teppanyaki is quite small, just 4 tables of 8, so if you want to dine here, definitely book reservations as soon as your booking window opens. We had an entertaining chef and I always really enjoy my meal at Teppanyaki, particularly the rice. I did note a couple of changes in the menu from my previous experiences at this venue on other ships. The ginger dressing (the best part of the salad) was very different and not nearly as good as in the past. Also, the two sauces for the meats were different — one was not bad, the other I didn’t love, and neither was as good as the ones I remember. Additionally, I noted another menu change from what the iConcierge menu showed and the actual menu showed. In this case, iConcierge showed dessert as Green Tea Cake or the Fruit Sashimi, but in reality, they now ONLY offer the Green Tea Cake (which is a big “no thank you” from us, having experienced it in the past). This was the second time I noted that iConcierge is just really not up-to-date. (Which reminds me, I don’t understand why it can’t show you the daily menus for the dining rooms as well. They don’t change from week-to-week.) After dinner my daughter went off to the Teen Club (which she LOVED) and the rest of us went to the Mardi Gras club to see the “Not-So-Newlywed Show”. This is basically the same on every cruise we go on but it’s always pretty funny so we like to see it if we can. I made sure not to mention we were celebrating our 25th anniversary, as I have no desire to ever appear on that stage! Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  14. Since we were back on board in time for a late lunch, it seemed like a good opportunity to check out the Cadillac Diner. Have read plenty of reviews from people who love it and people who hate it, so had to try it for myself. Ironically the food is not what I remember most about our visit there — we were seated about 6 feet in front of a sliding door which went out to the outside deck. There did not appear to be any tables or diners or anything outside, but every couple of minutes a different server, cook, or other staff member of some sort would go out the doors, stand outside for a few seconds, and then come back in. So essentially we sat in a wind tunnel and most of my meal was spent picking up napkins, papers, and keeping my hair out of my food! Right, the food. My niece had the meatloaf and LOVED it. My daughter had a hot dog, no review on that but it was a hot dog so I guess it was OK. They both had milkshakes and my daughter’s review of her orange creamsicle flavored one is “it was AMAZING”. My husband and I shared the sliders and the “mild” wings. The sliders were OK, the wings were good but really quite spicy. If you have a low tolerance for heat, I don’t think even the mild will work. I’d hate to think what the spicy ones are like! So our food was fine but none of us said “we have to go back” after our visit. Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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