Day 4 – Niesenbahn and Lake Thun day

Tavis woke up 5:30 and read for 75 minutes before going to the house. Then Tavis and Sandra enjoyed their coffee and came up with an itinerary for the next 10 days while the rest of us slept.

At 8:00, Ari and I went to the house and at 8:30 we had breakfast on the balcony. We had hard boiled eggs, bread and cheeses for breakfast. Then we packed our bathing suits and towels incase we ended up at the lake.

Niesenbahn

We caught the bus at 9:36 to Spiez then transferred to the train that took us to the base of Niesen mountain. There we took the Niesenbahn (cable train) up to the peak. The view was amazing! The cable car reminded us so much of rides at Disneyland. The cart has been running for over 100 years! You go through tunnels and half way up you switch trains and catch the next one to the top. The other interesting thing about the track is that it is a single track except a short spot in the middle where the 2 carts pass each other. The pictures just don’t do it justice. Then when we got to the top the view was breathtaking. We walked around the peak, then past a restaurant and over to another peak on a think trail. We walked through gates to keep the cattle out because the cattle just roam around all summer up in the mountains. We could hear the bells as they walked around. The bells are used so the famers can find their cattle.

Lake Thun (tune)

Just after lunch we decided to go back to Krattigen to eat. We picked up some fresh bread and a few groceries and made some sandwiches, Then we put on our bathing suits and walked down to the lake. It was a 15 minute walk down a steep gully to the water. The public beach was a grassy hill with a metal structure in the water with a diving board. The kids were jumping off the diving board before we even had our towels down! It was a gorgeous day and we all enjoyed cooling off in the crystal clear lake. We spent 2 hours relaxing and enjoying the sun and water.

After we had enough of the lake we walked back up the hill to the house and had burgers for dinner. We then spent the rest of the evening working on our plans for tomorrow.

Day 3 – Germany to Switzerland

This morning I woke up at 7:00am, showered, and got ready for the voyage ahead. Tavis and I went down for breakfast at 7:30. At 8:00 we woke up the kids and brought them down for their last breakfast in Germany. When they finished eating we decided to take a tram to central station to see if we could find a fridge magnet and we were in luck. Before long we found ourselves back at the hotel retrieving our bags and checking out. Then we made our way to the bus station. We arrived at 11:25 and our bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:03. We were pleasantly surprised when our bus finally pulled up. It looked very impressive. We were even more surprised when we discovered that our seats were the entire top front row! We were sad to leave Munich but excited to see Terris and Sandra in Switzerland.

The bus ride was really interesting. Everything here looks so different in some ways but in other ways it is just the same. The trees, grasses, and construction along the road are very similar to at home. Tavis learned that you do NOT take photos at the border. The bus driver came up and talked to Tavis but it took a bit before another passenger told us. Luckily it was just a warning.

When we arrived in Zurich, Terris and Sandra were waiting for us. We then walked to the huge train station and bought our train passes. From there we made our way to a double decker train. Sandra directed us to the lunch car where there was a huge table for all 7 of us to sit at. The train ride was just over an hour through Bern and Thun to Spiez. Then we picked up some freshly baked bread and took the bus to Krattigen where Terris and Sandra live.

When we arrived, the first thing I noticed is that all houses look like chalets. It feels like we are up Mt. Washington in the summer. The apartment is large and spacious but only has 1 bathroom so we rented the neighbour’s studio aswell. We had potato salad and hot dogs for dinner. Then Addison and Ayva slept in the spare bedroom while Ari slept in the studio with Tavis and I. We were all quite tired so we went to bed quite early.

Day 2 – Munich

Tavis and I slept much better lastnight! We woke up around 7:30 and had breakfast before waking the kids. Then we came up to the room so Tavis could get some emails done and I could work on my blog. At 9:00am we woke up the kids and I brought them down for breakfast. We are going to miss these morning buffets!

Olympiapark München

Around 10:00 we decided to begin our day at the Olympic Park. We caught the 53 bus from just outside the hotel, then transferred to the 144. It took about 25 minutes. When we arrived we thought we would try to purchase tickets to walk the roof of the stadium but it took us an hour of circling the park before we found the ticket booth. Then we were told that all the tours for the day were sold out so we decided to go up to the top of the Olympic Tower and check out the view instead. The elevator travelled 7 m/s up to 190 metres. It was quite an amazing view! We all enjoyed pointing out landmarks and trying to find places we knew.

BMW Welt

As we were walking around the Olympic Park the boys kept pointing out the BMW Museum and the huge production facility next door. We decided to walk across and check it out. Unfortunately they were not doing tours of the production facility this week but the Welt was open to the public free of charge to check out their cars and motorcycles. Even though it was the boys who showed the most interest in this experience, Ayva and I decided it wasn’t too bad either. We especially liked hopping up on the bikes. There was even a track around the middle for people to take cars for test drives!

The Englische Garten

Next we decided to check out the English Garden. It is one of the largest Urban parks in the world with over 78 km of path and it was highly recommended in our walking tour. We didn’t arrive to the park until after 1:00 so we knew we would not see the entire network of trails on foot today. We looked into renting scooters which were scattered throughout the park. Apparently they are rented by the minute. The problem is that we only had 1 working cell phone and there is an age restriction so the kids couldn’t rent one anyways. As we carried on by foot we did manage to find some of the highlights of the park. We heard about a surfing wave that we just had to see with our own eyes. It is true! There is a fast flowing stream with a wave that people were lined up to surf. It was amazing watching as each person took their turn on the wave. There were actually 2 different spots we found, one seemed to be for beginners. There were even people swimming in the rapids and floating down the river. We contemplated getting our bathing suits but it was getting too late in the day so we decided to move on. We also came across a large beer garden (there are many of these in Munich) and a Chinese tower with a band playing up near the top. This park reminded me in some ways of Central Park. It was absolutely beautiful.

Deutsches Museum

After leaving the park we thought we would try to see the German museum before it closed at 5:00. We arrived at 4:15 and since it was almost closing they let us in for free. It was huge and extremely impressive! The focus was on technical achievements and it included everything from sailing ships, models of atoms, windmills, space probes, diesel locomotives, industrial robots, organs, astronomy and so much more! We could have spent all day here but we were glad to have experienced the small amount that we saw. We stayed right until 5:00pm, then we all used the restrooms before making our way to the next adventure.

Peter Skirche

While on our walking tour we were told we had to climb the 299 steps up St. Peter’s church. It closed at 6:00 so we hurried over and arrived at 5:30. There was a huge line but eventually we payed our 9 euros and began climbing the overcrowded and extremely narrow stairwell up to the top of the church tower. The view itself was nice but not nearly as impressive as our viewpoint from the Olympic Tower. However, the journey up the stairs was memorable and the view was still beautiful. Once the tower bell struck 6:00pm and rang 18 times it shook the whole tower. It was a littler unnerving but that just added to the experience. What an amazing day.

Opatija

Next began the hunt for a good restaurant for dinner. We walked several blocks looking for a suitable establishment. As it turns out, if you are looking for more than just beer, pastries, or sandwiches your options are quite limited. After 30 minutes of walking in circles we finally decided to go to the train station and grab something from the food court when Addison spotted a sign that read burgers, pasta, and steak. BINGO! We found our way to Opatija, a little restaurant on a second floor patio. The prices were reasonable and the meals ended up being HUGE! Be bought a litre of “lemonade” which tasted like flat sprite but actually didn’t taste so bad. As it turns out, drinks that are not beer are extremely heavily taxed at 19%. Anyways, the waiter was great, our tummies were full, and as we were leaving a couple police officers were ordering their food so we knew we found a great spot.

After dinner we walked around the streets looking for a place to buy souvenirs . This is when we learned that most of Munich shuts down at 6:00pm! The only shops open after 6:00pm sell mostly just beer. We walked around for 30 minutes looking for anything but had no luck so we hopped on a tram and came back to the hotel. After walking over 30,000 steps the kids had earned their screen time.

After getting the kids packed (we are leaving tomorrow morning) and ready for bed Tavis and I went out to find a geocache in Munich. Tavis found one about 650 metres from the hotel and scored when it had a travel bug in it. We picked it up to take with us to Switzerland. Then we found a scooter so Tavis rented it and we both rode that scooter back to the hotel. Those things go quite fast! What a great way to end our last day in Germany.

Day 1 – Munich

Today was officially our first day of our vacation. Although we had a very comfortable bed and we were both very tired, Tavis and I did not sleep well. I guess I was still very excited about yesterday’s travels and even though I was physically exhausted, my mind was going like crazy wondering what Germany would be like. I think Tavis felt the same way. Atleast the kids all had a good sleep.

Finally at 6:30am Tavis and I decided to get up and check out the breakfast buffet. It was amazing! They had so many tasty pastries, fresh fruit, eggs cooked the way you requested, pancakes, sausages, bacon, toast… and so much more. The orange juice tasted fresh and the hot chocolate was actual Swiss chocolate and warm milk! Needless to say, we stuffed ourselves full.

We let the kids sleep until 8:00am before waking them up and getting them downstairs to enjoy their breakfast. They too enjoyed their meal and overstuffed their bellies. Before long we left the hotel with a backpack full of water bottles and some bars, in search of the bus to take us to our “Free” walking tour. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the bus was leaving but it was only a 10 minute wait until the next bus arrived. Each bus station seems to have a digital display that shows which busses will stop and a count down of minutes until they arrive. It was very easy to navigate as long as you could figure out which direction to travel.

After getting to Marienplatz, we had a slight breakdown in communication (the first of many to come I’m sure). We knew the general area but couldn’t figure out where Mary’s column was. We did eventually stumble on the correct side of the building and found the column about 10 minutes before the tour started. We discovered that today is actually a national holiday in Bavaria… Assumption Day! What this meant for us is that all the little stores and restaurants were closed which made today a bit more quieter with respect to the number of people around, but apparently much louder with the sound of bells being heard all day long.

Sandeman’s Walking Tour

We learned that the Sandeman’s free tours are actually by donation. However, our tour guide, Ailene was very good. She told us many stories as we walked around the streets and she also pointed out how to eat a few delicacies and what to check out while we were in town. We were especially thankful that she pointed out all the free water fountains where we could fill our bottles. You are not supposed to throw coins in the fountains here. We learned about the history of Munich and the importance of beer. We also learned that even though the buildings look hundreds of years old, most of Munich was destroyed in World War II and has since been rebuilt to look as it did before. The oldest part of Munich is actually newer than the new city! One of the highlights of the tour was watching the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. This miniature knight show, begins every day at 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and lasts 10 minutes. The watch tower chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. Our tour lasted about 2.5 hours and the weather was nice up until the end when it started to drizzle. Overall, we were impressed with the tour and would definitely recommend the tour to anyone visiting Munich who is interested in learning about the history and culture.

After the tour, since the weather wasn’t great we decided to make our way to the Dachau Concentration Camp. This was about a 25 minute commute on the metro and another 5-10 minute bus ride. As we were waiting for the bus Ari had to go to the washroom. Luckily there was a McDonalds right at the bus stop but it was .50 Euros to use the restroom. In order to unlock the door you had to put coins in, kind of like a locker at the pool. I had never seen anything like this but I guess it kind of makes sense. We figured since we had to pay, all the boys took their turn. Apparently it wasn’t very clean. We were told to use the free restrooms at the museums because they were clean and free… Now we understand!

Dachau Concentration Camp

A few months ago, Addison learned about the Holocaust in school and it was important for him to come and see a Concentration Camp. We were a little concerned about bringing Ari but it is a part of history and something he will learn about in a few years so we felt it was important for all of the kids to come and experience it. Dachau Concentration camp was a model camp that others were based on. It was built in 1933 and held prisoners until they were liberated in 1945.

As we got off the bus there was a nice large path with signs along the way setting the scene with images of what the area looked like during the war and describing what we were about to enter. No matter how much you’ve heard or read about the holocaust, nothing can prepare you for the feelings you get as you walk through the gates. Although the grounds are now quite serene and peaceful with luscious green grass around a large open gravel area, you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sadness as you walk through the small entrance.

The buildings that were once built by the prisoners themselves and where so many were treated so inhumane is now a museum describing the history of not only what was happening in Germany but what happened to the hundreds of thousands of inmates who entered the camp. It was a very emotional day for all of us. I think the hardest thing for me was walking through the gas chambers. Although these chambers were not proven to be used, it was still emotional as you walk through and read in detail what the prisoners were told as they entered each room. We ended our tour at the crematories where the bodies were disposed of.

It was a long day and we were ready for dinner so we went back to the beer garden at Marienplatz to experience a German dinner. However, as we sat down to eat outside, the rain started to pour. We squeezed into a table under an umbrella with a nice young couple from Alabama. After enjoying an interesting meal made up mostly of various sausages we decided to go back to the hotel for some rest. Tavis fell asleep almost instantly and the kids were all relaxing and watching tv so I decided to go for a run.

Around 9:00, the kids went to bed and I woke Tavis up to go and explore the town in the evening. Since the weather wasn’t great we went to Central Station and walked along the underground mall area. There were lots of food vendors and we had a look at some of the trains. Then we decided to go back to the hotel and get ready for another long day tomorrow.

Our Journey to Munich

Today we began our first ever European adventure with the family. This was by far the furthest we’ve ever travelled with the kids but they did great!

We began our trip by car as we drove almost 3 hours down to Seattle to catch our first flight. When we arrived at the airport we decided to eat as our 4:00pm flight did not include a meal. After our tummies were full we filled our brand new Costco water bottles at the neat water bottle station. I was extremely disappointed to find out that Ayva’s bottle was defective as the seal was broken so it did not close at all. It didn’t help that half of the water in the bottle ended up all over me and my bag. Oh well, atleast it is just water. We made our way to our departing gate where our plane was waiting to take us to San Jose. This would just be a short hop on what I thought looked like a regular plane but apparently it was a 737.

As we boarded the plane we all sat together in a row with the kids on one side of the aisle and Tavis and I on the other side. I offered my window seat to the nice woman sitting between Tavis and I. Tavis likes to book us a window and an aisle as the middle seas fill up last, but this was a full flight. After we got in the air I was handed a chocolate and thanked for being a Gold member! It took a few seconds to realize what had happened but Linda (the Gold member who was not me) saw my face light up at the sight of the chocolate and she said I could have it. My wet clothes and the water bottle were now forgotten! The rest of the flight was uneventful and quick. As we were preparing to land we met a couple from Alberta who were also on our next flight as they travelled through to Paris. It was nice talking to fellow Canadians who were about to embark on their own journey.

After arriving in San Jose we had about an hour layover which gave us time to visit the washrooms and find our next gate. The boys were all drooling when we arrived and they got their first glimpse of another plane. This is a huge difference between girls and boys. Ayva and I are at the Airport with lots of planes because that is the purpose of the airport. Some big, some small, some colourful, others not. Most of them look the same to me. But the boys walk down the halls gawking at different aircrafts as we pass pointing and going on about different numbers as though it is the most exciting thing in the world. I guess I will never understand. Anyways, we arrived at the gate, got photos of the plane and then we boarded our 787-9 Dreamliner just before 8:00pm.

Photo: Boys in front of plane
Our aircraft is getting prepared for our trip across to Heathrow.

I don’t know much about planes but this was big. It had 2 aisles! The kids were super excited to have the first middle row (premium economy) all to themselves. They were greeted with their own TVs and a nice little care package (a thick blanket, pillow, headphones, pen, fleece socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a sleep mask). They were also each given a kids travel bag with an activity book, crayons, and a few other things. Then they were offered a beverage in a fancy cup and a menu for dinner and breakfast which would be served later. The kids were beyond excited. Tavis and I took our seat behind them and watched their expressions as they explored all of their items and were greeted by the attendants. Shortly we were all settled in for our 9.5 hour flight.

Photo: Tavis with candy
Tavis receiving our gift from Ayva.

After we took off Ayva surprised Tavis and I will a special treat she bought us with her own money the day before. I received a package of 10 small mars bars and Tavis received a package of sour patch kids. I spend most of the flight finishing my novel but I did manage to get a few hours of rest. The kids watched lots of TV but also fell asleep through breakfast.

When we arrived at Heathrow we were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and overall appearance of the airport. It was easy to navigate. We made our way through customs and found some seats to sit at while we waited to find our next gate. The one difference I noticed is that gates don’t get assigned until 40 minutes before departure. Before that it just posts the time that the gate will be displayed. Once our gate was assigned we walked over and boarded almost immediately. It was now just before 5:00pm and we were all tired.

When we boarded our plane we again had all the seats in 1 row. This time it wasn’t a full flight and Tavis and I had an empty seat between us which made it much easier to sleep. It was only a 90 minute flight but I think we all slept through most of it.

Photo: Kids sleeping on plane
Everyone fell asleep during the last flight. Of course it was the shortest flight.

By 8:00pm we landed in Munich. We went straight to the metro guest services and purchased a 3 day family pass. Then we walked straight onto the metro and caught the S8 which took us toward the hotel. We got off at Hackerbrucke station and walked across a bridge that went over the train tracks. There were people all along the bridge sitting on a platform just above us who were watching the sunset. It was such a neat setting and it reminded me of a play we watched at the Chemainus Theatre. I wanted to take a photo but it was getting dark and we were on a mission. It took us about 10 minutes to reach the hotel.

We were happy to get settled into our rooms around 9:30pm. The kids all shared a room and Tavis and I took another at the end of the hall. It didn’t take long to say our goodnights and finally sleep in a real bed!

Tomorrow we will get to learn more about Germany!

What’s included… and what’s not! (Food)

When cruising with a new cruise line you never really know what to expect. Having gone on 3 Carnival cruises we typically know what is included. On Norwegian we were shocked at how many of the activities required an additional charge. When we booked Royal Caribbean we picked the cruise based on the ship and its amenities but the website is quite vague on what is included in the price you pay. This article outlines venues that are complimentary (and semi-complimentary).

Complimentary Food Venues

The Wind Jammer Buffet – Deck 15

This buffet is located on Deck 15 aft (back). It is 100% complimentary and well stocked. The Wind Jammer includes a buffet on the port and starboard (right and left) but they both have the same food items. The menu changes daily but they always have certain foods (burgers, hotdogs, fruit, etc). One of the benefits of having the buffet available on both sides is that it allows the staff to close one side at a time when turning over the menus. Therefore if you arrive between meals, food is still available. This is similar to Carnival’s buffet.  However, the Wind Jammer is not open 24 hours. If  you are looking for a midnight snack you have to head down to deck 5.

Wipeout Café – Deck 15

This little cafe is located next to the sports court. We didn’t discover this complimentary restaurant until later in the cruise. It basically has all the food that the kids (and myself) love… pizza, hot dogs, burger, fries, and sandwiches.

Here is another tidbit of information that I didn’t know until after the cruise…  The Wipeout Cafe is an omelette station until 11:00am!

Park Cafe – Deck 8

This little cafe is located in Central Park. It includes a salad bar and bistro. We didn’t discover this hidden spot until the last day of our cruise mostly because it is quite an expensive part of the ship. This is the only complimentary venue in Central Park.

Boardwalk Dog House – Deck 6

Just as you enter the boardwalk you will pass by a small little hot dog joint. If you like hot dogs then this is the place to visit. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of hot dogs! They also have all the fixins’. 

Sorrento’s Pizza – Deck 5

Sorrento’s was my favourite venue on the who ship. Complimentary pizza served fresh between 7am and 3am. Yes, you read that right. It was only closed for 4 hours a day. They always had the classic cheese, pepperoni, or veggie available. Then they also rotated between a chicken and another supreme which didn’t interest me so I can’t comment on those.  But the cheese and pepperoni were awesome!  And you could ask for as many pieces as you desire. The line was rarely long but even with a line out the door it still moved steady. I don’t think I ever waited more than 5 minutes for pizza.  They also offered salads and complimentary flavoured water. In the rare occasion that you got the munchies after 3:00am, you could head across the street to Cafe Promenade.

Cafe Promenade – Deck 5

Café Promenade offered complimentary food items 24 hours a day.  In the morning you could get pastries and in the afternoon they include sandwiches. The menu didn’t seem to change from day to day but the items were delicious.

For those with the Refreshment Beverage Package or Deluxe Breakfast Package you could also order any beverage free of charge.  For me, this meant I could have my large chai latte with extra chai every morning! Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until a few days into the cruise.

Semi-Complimentary Venues

How can a venue be semi-complimentary? This is what I was wondering when we were on the the cruise. The answer is simple. You cannot go at any time of day and order anything on the menu. The following venues offer the following:

  • complimentary food items at certain times of the day
  • certain food items at an additional cost

Main Dining Room – Deck 3-5

This dining room spans 3 levels of the ship. Each level has a different name and when you book your dining option you will be assigned a level based on your selections. When you are ready to eat (or at your specified time) you line up at the appropriate door.  The main dining room offers complimentary breakfast (with buffet option), lunch, and dinner.

If you enjoy being served, you can eat at the main dining room for every meal without having to pay a penny. However, you can also order specialty items above the general menu such as beverages and some dinner options. If items are not included they will have a price next to them in the featured section.

Solarium Bistro – Deck 15

During the day, guests can enjoy a catered breakfast or lunch up in the Solarium Bistro. The Solarium is the adult-only area of the ship so all guests in the bistro must be 13 yeas or older.   In the evenings, however, the Bistro becomes a paid venue with a cover charge. 

We had the opportunity to dine at the Solarium Bistro one night without paying the cover.  We had a show booked and there were no seats available in the Main Dining Room so they kindly referred us to the Solarium Bistro. While we were not impressed with the service up there, the steak was probably the best we had all week!

Johnny Rockets – Deck 6

This is a popular burger joint with a cover charge, but there a few ways that you can eat here without paying extra.

  • Breakfasts are complimentary to everyone.
  • Those who book a stateroom with a balcony get a complimentary dinner for up to 4 at Johnny Rockets. 

We ate here one evening. It was the worst burger I had all week. It was basically a rock hard hockey puck that tasked like leather. The onion rings were good and so was Tavis’ milkshake but I am so glad we didn’t pay for our burgers!

What’s Included… and what’s not ! (Beverages)

Complementary Beverages

If you choose not to spend money on a beverage package, you still have access to complementary beverages throughout the week.  The basic water, tea, hot chocolate, coffee, and orange juice (not freshly squeezed) are offered at most of the food venues. Some even had large containers of flavoured water which was complementary to all guests throughout the day.  The flavours seemed to change regularly.  That’s about it though! No bottled water for you!

Water Bottle Package

This package only includes bottled water. You might think this isn’t important but having bottled water does come in handy on days in Port. You like having water that you know is safe to drink.

Soda Package

This package ONLY includes soda. It does not include bottled water.  Along with this package is a souvenir cup that you can use at the refillable soda stations.  The stations have a variety of options to choose from beyond the classics. They have caffeine-free sodas, and fruity options.

Note: if you book a balcony stateroom you get the soda package included, as well as 1 free meal at Johnny Rockets.

Refreshment Package

This was my preferred package. It can be used anywhere on the ship. I got it for 2 reasons.

  1. We were able to get a 40% discount on our drink packages.
  2. If an adult purchases an unlimited beverage package, all other adults in the same stateroom are forced to purchase a package as well. If an adult does not drink alcohol this is the best alternative but you have to phone and order it.

This is a great option is because it basically includes everything except alcohol. That means you can have bottled water, vitamin water, red bull, gatorade, soda, fresh squeezed orange juice, premium coffees, lattes, non-alcoholic cocktails and frozen drinks. I gained a lot of weight on vacation and I am sure this was a contributing factor.  Below is the official list according to Royal Caribbean’s website:

  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle® beverages

Deluxe Beverage Package

This is the ultimate drink package. It includes virtually any drink my the glass. That’s right, you can only order complementary wine by the glass (not the bottle).  The other caveat is that it only included drinks under $13.00 which still included most beverages.  This package includes everything in the refreshment package plus the following:

  •  Cocktails / Spirits / Liqueurs / Beer
  • 1 milkshake at Johnny Rocket’s if you order a meal
  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle® beverages

Embarkation & Dis-embarkation

Going on a cruise is one of the most stress-free vacations a person can book.  However, when cruising with over 6,000 other passengers, getting on and off the ship can be quite overwhelming. In this post I am going to go over our experience on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.

Dis-Embarkation

I am going to jump a bit here but I want to note that dis-embarking the ship is extremely well executed (once you figure out the right deck).  We had our last breakfast up in the Wind Jammer around 8:30am. We turned on our phones and rented a car through Costco while eating our breakfast. This was a cheaper option than getting an Uber or airport shuttle. Then went back to our stateroom to pick up our bags and do a final check to see that we packed everything. Always check under the bed! 

We instinctively went down to deck 3 (which is the deck used at all other ports of Call.  However, when in Orlando the passengers embark and dis-embark on deck 5. Once we arrived on the deck we just followed the crowd off the ship, bypassed the luggage pick up area (because we prefer carrying our luggage off ourselves), and queued up for customs. The line moved constantly and before we knew it we were on our way out the door… Simple and painless.

We always pack a carry on suitcase each and do not bother with checking our bags through so I cannot comment on that process.

Embarkation

The first thing I noticed right away was the lack of communication at the terminal.  In fairness they have to funnel over 6,000 passengers off and another 6,000 passengers on all within a fairly short window. We arrived at 9:30am and were told not to return until 11:00am. We decided to go to Walmart and pick up a few last minute purchases. When we returned just before 11:00am there was already a huge line up ahead of us.  (Note: It doesn’t hurt to arrive earlier than they suggest)

We queued up in line relatively quickly for security and even though there were hundred of people in front of us, the line was constantly moving!  Once we went through security, we were ushered to the next area where we lined up to check-in and get our Set Sail passes. Again, the lines here were constantly moving and in no time we had everything we needed to board. However, this is was just a tease!

You cannot just board the ship when you want. Instead, you are given section number and told to wait until your number is called.  However, you are not told where to wait or approximately how long the wait period will be.  There were people scattered everywhere and they all seemed to have the same bewildered look. It seemed like everyone was just as confused as we were. Eventually our section did get called and we slowly followed the crowd toward the gangway. 

Once we were onboard we wanted to drop of our bags and get some food. However, this was not the case.  No one can enter the halls where the staterooms are until 1:00pm. We managed to find a seat upstairs in the Wind Jammer buffet and enjoyed the first of many meals while waiting for our room. Then Tavis found a lounger on the deck and he sat with our luggage while I went off to explore! Our vacation has officially begun!

I understand that the staff needs to have time to clean the rooms but with my past experience on Carnival we were at least able to drop our bags off in the room before heading out to explore the ship. 

My first post!

I have decided to start a blog. I am not sure what I would like to write about but as topics come to mind I will post them here. My next post will be on teh things I learned from my latest Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.