I am a travel agent who has traveled extensively, but I had never cruised until just a few months ago when AAA Northeast sent about 20 agents and myself on a week long training aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Oasis of the Seas. Although this was a work trip, the majority of our week was spent enjoying all that RCCL had to offer. Until this trip, cruising was something I was convinced wasn't for me. I'm all about exploring the 'landscape' and getting up close to the sights, and a cruise just wasn't on my radar. Well...that was until I actually experienced it. Now, my thoughts on an ocean vacation have changed! For starters, a cruise is an immersive experience. The ship is its own city with shops, restaurants, entertainment, outdoor areas, activities, nite life, and people from all over the globe. There is so much to do, explore, and take in, that I guarantee you won't get bored. I was really fortunate that AAA treated us right, and all the agents had balcony rooms. My cabinmate, Silvia, and I spent our late afternoons on the balcony, just sitting, talking, and laughing. It was perfect down time before getting ready for dinner with our RCCL guide, Mike, and our team of agents. #RCCL #RoyalCaribbean #Cruise #OasisoftheSeas #Caribbeancruise #CapeLiberty #AAA #AAANortheast #Travel #travelagent #travelgoals #vacation #travelblog #travelcommunity #adventure #worktrip
In the pics above, you can see the drop off point, the inside check in, and Dave happy to have some peace and quiet for the week.
Now, before I even begin talking about the fabulousness of this cruise, a very special thank you needs to go out to all the room stewards on the ship. Your prepaid gratuity charge on your invoice is the tip for your room steward. You can pay pre or post cruise, but you will pay. This person is in your room multiple times a day, cleaning, tidying, replacing towels, and making sure you have the best cruise possible. They are hardworking, thoughtful, helpful, and do the little extras, all while keeping a smile on their face. If you're lucky, you'll have a collection of the coolest towel art by the end of the week. Arno, our steward, was wonderful and even shared his favorite book, Division X, with us. How thoughtful! (This is an inside joke..for those of you who cruised with me!)
Best room steward ever! Give this man a raise!
Day 1: Boarding
Dave did me a solid by driving me to the Cape Liberty, NJ Cruiseport for my seven day Caribbean cruise. The check in process is easy peasy! I have no idea why the airports can't move things along as quickly as they do at the cruiseport; it's a fast process. There are a great deal of personnel and very organized checkpoints. It's a well oiled machine that runs smoothly. Upon boarding, I was in complete awe. Like...really, my head was spinning. The boat is both huge and beautiful! After checking out my cabin and meeting my cabinmate, Silvia, we set off to explore. It's a bit overwhelming at first, but so so grand at the same time. The open spaces include the Promenade, Boardwalk, and Central Park. We walked around each area...which was fun...but actually, the first thing you want to do when you check in/board is to get on your cruise app and reserve your on ship excursions/shows because they book up quickly. Even if you've seen the Broadway musical being showcased on your cruise, do not miss it. You will be impressed...I promise. My cabinmate had to twist my arm to see Cats (my third time), but I was delighted we went.
Recap: The minute you get onboard, book your on ship shows, spa treatments, and dining if you didn't do that beforehand.
**Precruise: Get an early check in time, so you have first dibs on cruise shows.
The balcony cabin is wonderful! Ship signage is a helpful guide.
In the afternoon, we had a meet and greet with our host, Mike, and team of agents at Blaze Lounge and were treated to very tasty Caribbean themed cocktails. In the later evening, we all met for dinner in the main diningroom. After dessert, Silvia and I walked around and did our best to learn the lay of the land. It ended up being an early nite, as we were both exhausted from travel and all the general excitement. Our cabin's beds were pretty comfortable. No complaints. The bathroom and shower were tiny, but we survived. We had a cute sofa/seating area, desk, and, of course, our amazing balcony. The wifi works fine on the ship, so I was able to work on my pc at nite (all while keeping the balcony doors open and listening to the ocean waves.) This was a work trip, so we were given unlimited wifi, which was a nice perk. #Balconycabin
Take Note: Before you make deposit on your cruise package, make sure you go over all the details, i.e. promos, beverage package, specialty dining, shore excursions, wifi, prepaid gratuities, and on board credits per person. Confirm each guest's perks.
Dinner with new friends in the gorgeous diningroom. And check out the decorated cabin door! This is a thing on the ship...people decorate their cabin doors!
Partners in crime: Started Day 1!
Our day began with breakfast in the main dining hall, which was fabulous. Main dining offers a full American sit down breakfast. There was no wait and plenty of seating. There are different dining restaurants that are included/complimentary in your cruise pacakge. We had a seminar at sea from 9a - 1p, and after that we were treated to Giovanni's Table, one of the specialty dining restaurants, for a delicious Italian meal with our team of agents and RCCL host, Mike. If you are someone who enjoys fine dining, I highly recommend the specialty dining restaurants. Then it was our own free time to explore. Quite honestly, even by the end of the cruise, I was still trying to figure out what deck I was on. I would look at Silvia and ask, ''What floor is dining on or where the heck are we," lol. The ship is enormous, but there is signage, thankfully.
Seafood Pasta dish at Giovanni's Table
I booked a spa treatment for late afternoon, major treat and not overly priced. It's a good idea to take advantage of on ship treatments when at sea. Once you're docked, you're going ashore. Of course, there are people who stay on board, but I'm not one of them. Dinner included a bunch of us getting to know one another. As the week went on, friendships formed quicky. Atleast that's how it went for me. Silvia and I had a great week together and laughed non stop. #specialtydining #Giovannistable #spa
Geeez...this book really made the rounds on the ship!
Today we were docked at Port Canaveral, Florida. I should have slept in. Instead, Silvia and I purchased transfers (thru RCCL) to Cocoa Beach. I personally thought it was underwhelming. Your transfer drops you off at Ron Jon's (enormous and kinda famous surf shop) parking lot and from there, you make your way to the beach. The walk to the shore is an easy 10 minutes, but it isn't a pretty beach, and the dock is very lackluster. There are loungers and umbrellas for rent that will cost you about $20 p/p...not horrible. I feel like my time would have been better spent checking out a new restaurant on the ship, people watching in the Royal Promenade or Boardwalk, trying out the waterslides, or even working on my laptop. We had another lovely dinner in the main dining room and later in the evening, a few of us decided to try out one of the whirlpools on deck 15....relaxing!! #Cocoabeach #CapeCanaveral #RoyalPromenade #Boardwalk #RonJons #surfshop
We dressed up every nite for dinner...so fun.
Christina and Becky at Coco Beach chatting up a lifeguard (we think??) On the Promenade, posing with the fancy car, and a pic of Silvia and Tracey on the track.
We docked in CocoCay, Bahamas - Perfect Day at CocoCay - for a day of fun on the Royal Carribean owned island. After a tour of the grounds and facilities, we were given access to the waterpark and everything the island provided. They have rides for both young and older, and I will say that some of those rides are fierce. The buffet lunch featured a nice variety to please even the pickiest of eaters. You want to make sure to eat when the food comes out and is fresh. There are outdoor retail booths with sundries and every kind of touristy souvenir. In addition, there is a VIP beach section that costs extra, very exclusive, and floating bungalows for rental purchase (nice luxury.) You need to reserve those well in advance.
Our group of agents in CocoCay Bahamas
The private, luxury bungalows at CocoCay, Oasis Lagoon (the largest salt water pool in the Caribbean), and one of a few massive water slides
After lunch and some lounge time (tons of beach loungers and towels available) at the beach, I went on my 'Swim with the Pigs' excursion, booked with RCCL on the ship. This cost me about $100 and was a big mistake. Although I look happy in my pic, it was pretty gross, and I do not recommend. The piglets are adorable, but there is poop on the beach, and it's just nasty. The guys working the area do not allow you to take pics with your camera. They take pics and charge you. It's one big tourist trap. Spend money on swimming with the dolphins, a private island tour (like Silvia!!), or a snorkel trip. What was I thinking??? Back on the ship, Silvia and I made reservations at specialty restaurant Izumi for hibachi. Our chef made a delicious meal and put on a great show. I definitely recommend. Book reservations
Dinner at Izumi, our marvelous chef, and you can guess the last one.
Today, we docked in Nassau, Bahamas. I was excited to walk through town visiting the markets and shops. The Straw Market was definitely one of the highlights of the day. There are tons of stalls selling various Caribbean art, jewelry, clothing, and more, and if cigars are your thing, they are sold everywhere! I bought Dave a few from one of the street vendors. We walked all around town, past the governor's mansion, ventured into cool artisan shops, and got to explore a museum with locally featured art. It was a pleasure to take in the beauty of Nassau and the lively people that make up this city. #Nassau #Thestrawmarket #Caribbeancrafts #Caribbeanart
Division X in Nassau & at the Straw Market with this queen.
It would have been nice to enjoy the beachy Caribbean waters, but as luck would have it, the day was overcast and rainy. If the weather had cooperated, I would have considered reserving a day pass excursion (thru RCCL) at the Atlantis Resort. I've vacationed there before and know it's worth the money. For those not wanting to spend extra on excursions, the closest beach to the cruiseport is Junkanoo Beach. You'll find outdoor tented dining there and plenty of boozy drinks with umbrellas! #JunkanooBeach #Atlantis #Atlantisresort #RCCLExcursion
Today was a full day at sea. We took advantage of free room service and placed our orders for breakfast the nite before, enjoying our meal on our balcony. We had another half day of comprehensive learning from 9a - 1p, discussing and reviewing more about the RCCL brand. After lunch, it was more free time to explore the different levels, shops, pool areas, children's facilities, and inclusions offered on the ship. We had a reservation for Cats in the late afternoon, and it was as sensational as the first time I saw it on Broadway. So glad Silvia made me go! #Broadwaymusical #Cats
Broadway Spectacular Cats
Dinner in the main dining room with my group of agents was phenomenal. The menu changes daily and includes a nice assortment of appetizers, entrees, and dessert. They also offer gluten free options. After dinner, and this quickly became our nightly ritual, we walked over to the Promenade and engaged in the nite's themed dance party. Oh, that's right...make sure to check out the themed nightly schedule on your app before you cruise, so you are 80s ready! The Village People were fun, and the music did not disappoint!!
The Casino, Promenade at nite, and the Boardwalk
Central Park open area
Today was our last day at sea. We started our day by having breakfast outdoors in a new location...The Solarium Bistro. It was perfectly fine fare and the company made it better. Then we were back in the conference room for a week's worth of cruise wrap up. Earlier in the week, we were paired up with partners and given a mini project that would be presented to the group. My presentation covered the baby - teen programs on the ship, which was a good learning experience. My partner and I visited all the kids' facilities, and I'm happy to say RCCL takes childcare and security very seriously. I feel very confident in admitting I would trust them with my own children. #SolariumBistro
Very happy AAA employees enjoying our last day at sea!
Our afternoon was our last chance to enjoy all the open-air areas, slides, pools, zipline, FlowRider, etc. So, most of us engaged in as much as possible. #flowrider
After a nice buffet dinner at Windjammer, which offers beautiful views of the ocean, we made our way to the Aqua Theater for one of the most spectacular water shows I have ever witnessed. Seriously. This was an extrordinarily choregraphed water show that features dancing, acrobatics, and gymastics, all being performed with awesome 80s music!! This is a DO NOT MISS event. We were unable to get reservations any earlier in the week and were lucky to get one on the last night. The pictures don't do the show justice. #Windjammer #aquatheater #OasisoftheSeasAquaTheater #Aqua80
Aqua 80 at the Aqua Theatre
We woke up docked at Cape Liberty, NJ. Check out was just as easy as boarding. We put our suitcases outside our cabin door the nite before, and our bags were on the ground level in a big open warehouse area, where we collected them on our way out. Once you leave the building, there will be different areas for transfers/taxi. Very easy process.
Our nightly ritual, taking a pic in the big chair