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harryfat1

Cheapo dad's trip report on Freedom of the Seas

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Day Minus 1(From this point forward, all the pictures will no longer be random. They will follow the story line)

 

We are not morning people. We typically don’t wake up at 6 AM or anything like that. As such, I seldom opt for early flights out of SFO. There was a Virgin America direct flight at 9:30 to FLL but that would mean we had to get to airport at 7:30 and then leave home on weekday bay area traffic crossing the bridge and one accident could mean back up for hours. Wasn’t willing to take that chance given we are not early people. So I opt for the later 3:30 flight. The trade off was that we would get in later at midnight but that’s skew would go to sleep and then wake up with entire day to explore FLL. Or at least that was the plan.

 

In theory Jetblue had the best time of 12:30 in the afternoon departure but they kept heir prices high for months while Virgin and united were better value and many people were already booking the seats. I waited as long as I could to book the VA flight as I didn’t want the 6 of us to be in the last row next to the bathrooms.

 

So we left for the airport after lunch. Oh, almost forgot to mention a cost saving tip. If you have to do long term parking at your local airport, check out some long term parking options that may be cheaper than what you currently use. I have been using this site called airport parking connection (just Google it). Looks like they have affiliation with 50 airports around the US for decent parking prices. What you do is pay ahead of time and then bring a print out to give to the toll people when you leave. Much cheaper than the standard rates. Check it out for your airport as it might save you few dollars that you can use for your annual CC membership fees!

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When we checked in at the airport, we were informed the flight would be delayed due to bay area and east coast bad weather and then stupid VA sends me the text to say the flight is delay after we arrived at the airport – oh, thanks for the big heads up in texting me AFTER we got to the airport. Yes, I know it sucks, but bad weather is part of life in winter time and as long as we get to FLL and we have an extra day of buffer, we are still good.

 

That brings up a bad flight story - I won’t get into too much detail but in summer of 2013, our red eye from Oakland on JetBlue for our New England cruise was canceled after 2 plus hours sitting on the tarmac in having plane problems and they canceled it a 3 AM AM and we had to deplane and be on the phone with JetBlue at 4 AM to book a new flight to Boston. We ended up having to drive to another airport 30 miles away the next night in San Jose to take another red eye. That was bad. Human body is not meant for2 back to back red eye flights.

 

But we were not that bad off as we found another flight departing 24 hours later that got us to port in time for the sailing since I had a buffer day. There was another big family of maybe 10 people that was trying to catch a HAL 14 day cruise that next morning. Since there’s no plane, they will miss embarkation of their cruise and have to fly into the next port to meet up with the ship and they were trying to call HAL on one phone and calling JetBlue on another phone trying to coordinate where to fly to at 4 AM from the airport. What a nightmare. Lesson learned there is never fly into the cruise the morning of, unless you are close enough. If you are flying across the country, always arrive at least one day early, if not more.

 

Anyway, I digress. Bad habit. But just remember you get what you paid for in reading this.

 

The guy in the kitchen is calling for his wife again “Honey, this guy rambles on way too much. He sucks. We need to ask CC for 3 months of refund on the membership.”

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As luck would have it, another cruiser posted a comment on my previous Allure trip report that morning and I mentioned we are off to the airport for a new cruise, and then various old friends from the previous trip report came online as well. As a result, I was doing a “live” report for a day or so on the previous trip report. It was fun but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. I found myself spending too much time looking down at the phone typing instead of looking up and walking around to see what to photograph.

 

At any rate, our flight originally was supposed to land in FLL at midnight. Now the projected time to land is 2 AM. Dang. So had to text the hotel to let them know we will be really late in coming in as well as calling the shuttle company to let them know we won’t be there at midnight.

 

After that was done, there’s nothing to do except sit and wait and play with the phone. As SFO and San Jose are the central airports for the high tech crowd, the 4G speed is incredible at the airport. Check out the speed on this test. Never seen anything this fast before. There was free wifi as well with numerous charging stations and tables for the laptop crowd.

 

 

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As we got closer to the revised departure time, they said the plan is landing and they’ll board people ASAP after the plane landed and cleaned. 15 minutes later, they made an announcement that they are giving that plane to people going to Chicago. The FLL people had to move over to another gate where those passengers have just arrived on a different plane. So that meant more delays. That’s just great. More cow herding time as everyone moved 100 feet over to another gate and lined up once again.

 

So with these various delays, we were originally scheduled to take off at 3:40 PM, we didn’t push off from the gate until around 6:40 PM. Discounting the delay, I like Virgin America as they have individual touch screen TV for every person and that makes these long flights more bearable. VA and JetBlue are two of my favorites flying out of SFO to FLL as they both have direct flights and individual TV’s.

 

 

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We still like OAK better than SFO. Fewer weather delays, cheaper parking and no bridge to contend with. We have found a very nice budget park/sleep/fly hotel for SJC as well. (2 weeks parking):)

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I watched the NBA game for awhile and then switched over to the Star Wars 2 movie (side note: very sad to hear about Carrie Fisher’s death). Another thing you can do on VA is you can invite others into chat room with a build in keyboard on the back of the remote to say hi to people but the keys are too slippery and hard.

 

 

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Looking at the real time GPS, I was doing OK in the beginning but my back & butt started to go numb and I was in pain somewhere over Texas. I closed my eyes and tried to take a nap and somewhere in my semi conscious state, I wonder why are we doing this? I mean, you spend thousands of dollars for vacation for fun/relaxation/whatever reason but in the process of achieving that goal, you are stuck in this little old chair for hours in discomfort.

 

In theory those chairs are supposed to be ergonomically contoured for the passengers, but you wonder whom they used as a model for the ergonomics chair? Danny Devito?

 

 

 

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If people complain about size of bathrooms on cruise ships, try to turn around in the airplane bathroom without hitting something.

 

Only saving grace is the flight is direct so we didn’t have to worry about connecting flights. If there was a connecting flight involved, we would be hosed with the 3 hour delay. As much as my butt complains on the 5.5 hour direct flight, I wouldn’t book any connecting cross country flights in December if I can help it. Chances are somewhere somehow, there will be bad weather in one of the airports and the plane you will be on will be likely be coming from that airport and you will be late going wherever.

 

So we landed in FLL at 3:06 AM per the time stamp of this picture. As expected, there’s NOBODY at the terminal except for our flight at that time of the morning.

 

 

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We still like OAK better than SFO. Fewer weather delays, cheaper parking and no bridge to contend with. We have found a very nice budget park/sleep/fly hotel for SJC as well. (2 weeks parking):)

 

Yeah, cheaper parking at OAK as well with less fog and wind problems . $7 per day parking using the Parking Connection web page instead of $9 at SFO, but hard to find direct flights out of OAK or SJC to FLL on VA or JB.

 

The ADHD in me needs the TV to be entertained. :p

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Hi Harry,

 

Continuing to enjoy your report. I fly everywhere out of MSP (Minneapolis Saint Paul). I quit taking chances with connecting flights whenever possible as well. I also leave a buffer day. We get some wicked weather. I really like SFO. Daughter lived there for years. We got spoiled by a free first class upgrade once and now we just go that way. As I said, I am a reformed bean counter spending my children's inheritance.

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Following along again enjoying your reports and photos, particularly interested in this years report because I was on the Nov 12th sailing and was not a happy camper at times due to all the cut backs.

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It's RCLDining@rccl.com.

 

On the Allure, I emailed them too early and they said they can't take any requests until about 50 before your sailing. This time, I emailed them around day 49.

 

Who's counting, right?

 

Thanks for your help! For sure, I will email them 49 days before we sail!

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Very nice......................as always.

 

Your pictures really have the WOW factor.

 

Looking forward to more.

 

Thanks so much

 

Sea Ya

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I can barely contain my excitement for the rest of your review. It's like I was there myself, I swear my behind is getting numb from those plane seats too

 

 

Cindy

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Hi Harry,

 

Continuing to enjoy your report. I fly everywhere out of MSP (Minneapolis Saint Paul). I quit taking chances with connecting flights whenever possible as well. I also leave a buffer day. We get some wicked weather. I really like SFO. Daughter lived there for years. We got spoiled by a free first class upgrade once and now we just go that way. As I said, I am a reformed bean counter spending my children's inheritance.

 

Haha, that’s a good way to look at how you are spending your money.

 

Sometimes one would save money for a whole life time and then when they pass away, the kids won’t appreciate the effort and sacrifices to achieve all those savings and they will squander them away quickly. It's better if you spend some of it...

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Following along again enjoying your reports and photos, particularly interested in this years report because I was on the Nov 12th sailing and was not a happy camper at times due to all the cut backs.

 

Hi, James,

 

Good talking to you again. I see you are still posting in the wee hours of the night as before.

 

Yes, sad to see the cut backs, but from various reports I was reading prior to the cruise, I was expecting them so we lowered our expectations so that might help a little.

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Thanks again for everyone’s compliments. Glad you find this report useful/entertaining.

 

I think that the pictures this time is better than the Allure, especially for the indoor. But it’s not like we took extra photography lessons or anything. It’s just the cell phones take such good pictures indoor without any adjustments or playing with the controls; it’s easier to take nicer pictures using the default settings than the camera.

 

A good photographer can take any camera and take great pictures. The rest of us need a good camera/cell phone just to make things look presentable.

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(OK, onward and forward with the trip report. I wasn’t kidding when I say this will be the mailman version of the trip report making a stop everywhere or using cruise terms, it’s like an elevator stopping at every deck between 2 and 15.)

After gathering our luggage, I called the shuttle for pickup. One tip I learned from CC report many years ago is either program the shuttle company/hotel shuttle phone number on your phone or calls them from the origination airport such that their number will be right there when you turn on your phone again upon landing as the “recent” call so you don’t have to fumble for a number.

 

This will come as a shock to some but we actually didn’t take any pictures while we waited for the shuttle to come at the benches by the curbside. Way too tired and groggy and we felt and looked like something the cat dragged in. On top of that, coming from the cold of SF storm, we are not ready for the heat and humidity even at 3 AM outside the terminal. We were still dressed in sweat shirts and jeans in the 75+ degree FLL heat even in middle of the night.

 

For the shuttle to the hotel, I used All Services. Not all the shuttles operate after 11 PM and they have decent price of $8/pp plus mandatory 20% tip. In theory we could have taken 2 cabs but we have had bad experiences with 2 cabs in previous cruises where the second cab driver always think he knows a “short cut” and then goes another direction and the family gets split up without knowing where the other taxi is. From then on, it’s always one shuttle for us.

 

By time we checked in at the hotel, it was 4 AM. Technically this should be on the next day’s report but it makes sense to finish it up here. By time I showered to wash away the icky feeling of the Florida humidity, it was closer to 5 AM by time I went to bed. Happy and thankful we finally made it to FLL but knowing we will feel like crap the next day and whatever plans I had made for the morning is now down the toilet but at least we made it to town and didn’t have to wake up early to get on the ship the next day.

Edited by harryfat1
Still learning how to type with my toes...

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Day 0 –

 

So you must be wondering by now which hotel we stayed in? If you read my previous Allure trip report, after the cruise, we stayed one night post cruise with the plan to take the water taxi but we had to cancel it because my older son wasn’t feeling well. Naturally, you then would expect I would book the same hotel again and try the water taxi this time.

 

Actually, stepping back for a minute. I had originally booked the Hyatt Place at Dania Beach 11 months prior as I saw a great rate at $143 per night for 2 queen bed that includes free airport shuttle and free breakfast (cheapo dad like the free word). The plan back then was just to fly in the night before and sleep and head for the ship so just any good hotel by airport with free transport and breakfast will do. But with the revised plan of 2 nights pre cruise, I went back to the GalleryOne by Double Tree.

 

Just as many price conscious people know, keep an eye out on the hotel room prices for changes. Sure enough, less than 2 months after my original booking, the price took a nose dive and I jumped on it with both feet. I booked the 2 bedroom/2 bath place with living room and small kitchen and balcony for total area of 935 square feet of goodness for less than $240 per night (that includes tax). On a per room basis, that’s less than $120 out the door. That’s a steal in FLL when you consider the view/space/balcony/kitchen.

 

Here is the view from the balcony and the bedroom window. In my reservation request, I asked for a high floor room and was granted the highest floor in the hotel – 14th floor (technically it’s 13 but we all know the numbering system for some places):

 

 

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There’s a supermarket – Publix – where all the cars are parked on the darker paved parking lot and a Galleria mall across the street.

 

 

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Pardon the mess, but didn’t have time to spruce up for the picture. Just wanted to show you what the living room looks like taken from the balcony.

 

 

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I love the draw bridges at Fort Lauderdale. Don’t see any of these from our neck of the woods.

 

 

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Looking over at the ocean, which is a 3 block walk to the east

 

 

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This is a similar view of the water way but it’s taken from our bedroom window – so you will know the color is a bit distorted when taken pictures through the glass but just wanted to show what the view looks like from inside the bedroom:

 

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Here is a closer shot of Publix, it’s the green sign building on the right. We would soon walk over there.

 

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So if you read my previous trip report, you know that I love the miniature effects from the camera (also call Tilt Shift). Works well when you take pictures from high above to the ground below:

 

 

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For this cruise, I upgraded my Canon SX30 to the newer model of SX60. I wasn’t really looking hard to upgrade but Canon had a Black Friday sale on their refurbished cameras just right before the cruise so I just upgraded. The zoom is now 65X optical from the old 35X. Over 130+ digital but image quality begins to degrade at that point. But the most part, this camera is for outdoors/nature shots. Indoors with dim lights and fast moving scenes, it will struggle.

 

Here is an example of what 65X can do. First picture is the regular wide angle shot. Then with each zoom, you see more.

 

Impressive but scary/creepy also as there’s not much privacy if you are outdoors as you never know who out there has a mega zoom camera aimed at what you are doing. Nikon has the best zoom out in the market now at 83X but cheapo dad not willing to pay the premium. I am good at the 65X range as less than half of the cost.

 

 

Normal wide angle zoom - I am going to focus straight own the middle of the picture to the yellow house:

 

 

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Closer zoom…

 

 

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Even closer:

 

 

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Bang. I can see who comes in and out of the back yard door from way way out. Scary good…

 

 

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So if you read my previous trip report, you know that I love the miniature effects from the camera (also call Tilt Shift). Works well when you take pictures from high above to the ground below:

 

 

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I love this feature and its effect. Harry, what is the camera that you were using with it?

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I love this feature and its effect. Harry, what is the camera that you were using with it?

We are Canon family so we typically stick with Canon products but everybody should have that feature. Even cell phones have free apps to do this. Just search the app store for miniature effects and you should find some.

 

For the Allure, I was using the old Canon SX30 from 2011 which we bought for Disneyworld. That had a 35x zoom on it. Now the zooms are much more. When I saw black Friday Canon had a sale on the SX60 for $250 refurbished by them, not any old dealer and they give you the same 1 year USA warranty, I jumped on it.

 

These bridge cameras have limitations. The high for stop means they are not very good indoors but outdoors for wildlife or Alaska cruises, you get a lot of bang for the buck. I just slung this thing around my neck to take outdoor port tour pictures and used the cell phones indoors. Between the 2, you will have most of the situations covered.

 

If you are in the market for one, Panasonic also has one at 60x zoom for $250 brand new at amazon as well as on the Freedom's camera department. Yes, I had a lot of time to wonder around the camera area as my wife and the in laws tries to decide on which on board pictures to buy.

 

Sent from my SM-N920V using Tapatalk

Edited by harryfat1

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Sorry, was trying to edit my previous post for typo but not familiar enough with Tapatalk on the phone and made a double post instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my SM-N920V using Tapatalk

Edited by harryfat1

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Dear Harry

after a crazy week at work, I only found out today that your new report is up. I was worried I might have missed something, but you have not yet even boarded which is great!

 

Thanks for the particular photo of Freedom aft; it is showing our aft cabin (no 1700) for our Transatlantic cruise next spring (I was not able to quote the photo).

 

Looking very much forward to rest of your story! Thank you!

 

Miryam

 

 

 

Edited by Miryam1234

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