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About 3dogsrule

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Central AR
  1. [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]Background: I am 45, my BF is 50, neither of us have kids. We have cruised on NCL twice (and I once on Carnival a long time ago), but we wanted to try some different ports, within a specific time frame, and without having to drive too far, so that pointed us toward the FOS on April 8th going to CocoCay, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We only booked about 5 weeks out and got cabin 6340, center of the hump on the Starboard side. We’re not much into dressing up on vacations (well, anytime, really) and have really liked the NCL’s Freestyle concept, but wanted to see what RCI was all about.[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]We drove to Cocoa Beach (1600 miles!) and stayed at the Hampton Inn. We really liked the hotel, it was clean, all rooms had a good view, short walk to the beach, nice pool, friendly staff and decent breakfast included. We arrived Friday night, and spent most of Saturday around the port, watching the dolphins and manatees going through the lock, had lunch at Fishlips, then down to Jetty Park for a while, then back to Fishlips for dinner and to watch the ships sail away. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]We did the Park & Cruise with Hampton Inn, so we took their shuttle (contracted through TraveLynx) to and from the port. We caught the shuttle leaving the hotel Sunday morning around 11am and were at the port a short time later. We left two bags with the porters and took our two carry-ons and started the security process. Although there were a lot of people around, I was really amazed at how quickly everything went. I had some juices/waters in my carry-on, but the screener didn’t say a word, we got through Security very quickly and in no time were in a very short line to get checked in with RCI. The line moved quickly and before I knew it, we had our sea passes in hand and were heading on board.[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]Nice wow factor! [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3][IMG]http://i887.photobucket.com/albums/ac71/kareninar/RCI%20FOS%20cruise%20April%202012/Small-RCIpromenadeentrance.jpg[/IMG][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]We made our way to Sorrento’s on the Promenade and had a leisurely slice of pizza, taking in the beautiful surroundings and coming out of the whirlwind embarkation. The Promenade is really pretty, but we decided to hold off exploring until we could dump our carry-ons. For now we decided to go check out the pool deck and pick out a place for sailaway. We hung out around the Sky Bar for a bit, then decided to get closer to our room for when they opened them up. We weren’t the only ones with that brilliant idea, it was pretty crowded around the elevators/stairs. However, it wasn’t long after 1pm when they opened the rooms up and we finally got inside the hump cabin I’ve been anxiously waiting to see.[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]I’m quickly impressed with two things: storage options and balcony size. As I unpack the items in my carry-on, I discover the storage in the vanity in the bathroom, the storage on either side of the mirror at the desk, storage in nightstands, desk, closet, everywhere I look there seems to be a cubbyhole. And the balcony, wow, nice size! We didn’t bring a measuring tape (packed almost everything else though) but it seemed to be around 7’ deep and over 9’ wide if not closer to 10’. Now, while overall I have been plenty impressed and happy, I will have to interject an occasional disappointment. My first one of the cruise thus far is the crappy pole-frame chairs with the plastic straps on the balcony. Rather uncomfortable, your skin sticks to the straps, and then you get up and have those lovely strap marks on your legs. I won’t even get into the "it’d be nice to have loungers" argument, I would have happily settled for more comfy chairs.[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]And then my only other gripe about this big beautiful balcony would concern the dividers. They remind me of sliding shower doors. They are glass, they don't do much to muffle noise (heard all of my neighbors’ noises [talk, bodily functions, etc]), and they rattle in their tracks. As someone who is bothered…badly…by repetitive sounds, such as a ballpoint pen being clicked on and off, this became a large problem for me. The doors were locked, but the little cushions inside the tracks that the doors closed into were missing, so the doors were rattling within the tracks, ALL the time, and when the wind blew hard, the rattling got worse. As the cruise went on the rattle would wake me up at nights. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I left my awesome room attendant Darrel Cummings a long and desperate sounding note. By that night they were fixed. Ahhh…peace on my big beautiful balcony, finally![/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]I was kind of excited to find a speaker with a volume control in the room on the desk, but it didn’t seem to make any difference, we never could hear any announcements. We asked Darrel to have the mini-fridge emptied out. He said that he couldn’t do that any longer but would ask the minibar girl to do it. She never did, so we pulled out some of the stuff and left a note inside the fridge. The round shower is nice but not the easiest to shave your legs in, but at least it’s a solid door and not a curtain. Shower pressure could have put your eye out, whereas the sink water pressure took 2 minutes to fill a glass of water. Overall though, quite pleased with the room, the layout, the space, and most especially the balcony! Awesome view on the hump!![/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]Anyway, we attended the muster drill. We’ve been used to names being checked off a list when we muster with NCL, but this didn’t seem that organized. They did the typical demonstration, and tried to keep people quiet and off their cell phones; the whole process went pretty quickly and in no time my BF and I were at our pre-chosen spot at sailaway, with a DOD in one hand and the other hand waving madly at the folks at Fishlips and Rusty’s (and our friends at home watching the port cam, one of them captured a screen shot of us). After we were almost out of the channel we ran down to the helipad and hung out there for a bit, great view! Then we went back to our room, and our luggage was there, yippee! We unpacked and decided to go eat dinner since we hadn’t had much for lunch.[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]It seems from threads I’ve read on the RCI board that most people are firmly planted in either the love-to-dine-with-strangers camp or in the prefer-not-to-socialize-while-stuffing-my-face camp. We are of the latter. We usually cruise with a group of friends and love dining with them. We’re not unsociable, we just don’t like to make small talk with unknown people while dining, nor do we typically enjoy spending two hours eating dinner (as some MDR meals can take with a full table of slow eaters/big talkers). And we don’t really like having to adhere to a particular dining time and having to work the rest of our schedule around a meal. We had tried to get My Time Dining but even the wait list was full. Therefore, we decided we wouldn’t bother much with the MDR on this sailing. So for dinner this first evening we went to the Windjammer.[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]We were actually quite pleased, with pretty much every aspect of the experience. The food was attractive and hot, the individual stations kept there from being a big bottleneck of people, the variety was impressive, the quality ranged from decent to outstanding, and the seating in the area was quiet (at dinner anyway!) and had a wonderful view. We never had trouble finding a seat during the whole week, except for breakfast on port days but even then it was doable. I somehow missed the honey stung chicken I’d read so much about, but did manage to fill up a plate with a little of a bunch of different items and definitely walked away full and happy. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]After dinner we explored the ship more. We decided last minute to do a wave runner excursion at CocoCay so we hit the excursion desk and booked it, no trouble and not much of a wait. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]Monday was a very nice day at CocoCay, good weather and easy tendering. Did the jet ski thing, it was a nice tour of the area (ocean was emerald green in some spots, sapphire blue in others, gorgeous), saw a beautiful starfish that someone dove down and retrieved (and he was placed back when we were done admiring him). [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3][IMG]http://i887.photobucket.com/albums/ac71/kareninar/RCI%20FOS%20cruise%20April%202012/Small-CocoCay6starfish.jpg[/IMG][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]After that we had a hot dog/hamburger/ribs lunch (decent, but [/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]nothing to write home about), then went snorkeling (we bring our own equipment). Snorkeling was nowhere near as pretty as in some spots we’ve been but we did see some really cool fish, so close we even touched some. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3][IMG]http://i887.photobucket.com/albums/ac71/kareninar/RCI%20FOS%20cruise%20April%202012/Small-CocoCay9prettyfish2.jpg[/IMG][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]Oh, and we got to touch a manatee that came up to the jet ski dock. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3][IMG]http://i887.photobucket.com/albums/ac71/kareninar/RCI%20FOS%20cruise%20April%202012/Small-CocoCay5manatee.jpg[/IMG][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]Of course there are people everywhere on the island but we never had trouble finding loungers as we moved about. We decided to catch a tender about an hour and a half before last-on-board, and very quickly the line grew [B]long[/B], we were glad we got in line when we did. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]We came back and cleaned up and had an early dinner in the buffet. I had chicken, some (tough) steak, asparagus, some little potato thing that was like they took mashed potatoes, made a cheese-stick sized roll of some, rolled them in cornmeal and fried them (yum!), had a good salad, and even some lobster bisque. Stuffed!! [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]After dinner we went out on the Promenade, it was packed but they were having the Captain's Gala (and it was formal night). It was pretty cool how they did the reception, they had a live band playing on the main Promenade and then on one of the bridges that goes across the Promenade they had singers. Then the bridge rose up into the ceiling and took the singers with it. Then we checked out a few shops and next thing we knew, the bridge was back down above the street and the captain, Tor Isak Olsen, came out (or rode it down, not sure, missed that part). He introduced the senior officers and he seemed really cool, he’s a funny guy. Anyway, it had a street party feel to it, it was pretty neat. [/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3][IMG]http://i887.photobucket.com/albums/ac71/kareninar/RCI%20FOS%20cruise%20April%202012/Small-RCICaptainswelcome.jpg[/IMG][/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Tahoma]Later we wandered out by the pool, they were playing a sing-along version of Grease on the big screen and everyone sang when a song came on (they had the words on the screen), it was kinda fun. Then we played some ping pong, then watched some older teens do the Flowrider, and THEN we went to the Crypt! We managed to stay out until around 1am, a new record for us! [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3]More in next post...[/SIZE][/FONT]