Ruby Princess – Day 4 – St. Martin

I went up on deck, with my camera this time, as we sailed into St. Martin/ St. Maarten.  I had forgotten how hilly and beautiful this island is.        

As we came closer to the pier, I could see the other ships in port, including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.  It was next to one of the Carnival ships and it is HUGE!            

I tried to get a shot from the side, but could not fit it into on frame.  We had decided to go to Orient Beach because Pam wanted to do some parasailing.  I remembered Orient Beach from my first trip toSt. Martin years ago.  When you exit the port area, there are waiting areas for the various destinations you might want to visit while on island.  You just find the appropriate sign, get in line, and soon you are in a taxi or little bus and on your way.  Very well organized.  The drive was about 30 minutes through the countryside and neighborhoods of St. Martin.  I always enjoy seeing the local houses and businesses along the way.

The taxi dropped us by Bikini Beach and we headed off to get some chairs and umbrellas – $18 for 2 chairs with an umbrella which I think is pretty reasonable.  Pam was anxious to get to parasailing, but I wanted a beer or 2 first.  I got a bucket of beer, and by the time I had half Pam had convinced me to just go check it out.  We went over to the closest Parasailing place and were told they only had room for 2 more that day so if we could pay now we’d be next out to the boat.  We understood that to mean that they were booked up for the day, and if we wanted to go we had better go now.  So we went back for our money and got the life jackets on and were told that we would be taken to the boat by jet ski.  Alright!  Parasailing and a jet ski ride with a hunky guy for $50 – seems like a deal to me.  It was really windy this day and the waves were pretty big.  Pam got motioned out for the first jet ski and she managed to get up on it and one big wave hit her, she rode that one out, when the next wave came in the ski had turned sideways and over she went.  Oh, boy, it’s funny when it happens to someone else, but I’m going to be next.  Finally both she and the driver were onboard and headed out to the boat.  Another guy motioned me out and he got me on the back, gave it a little gas while he pulled himself up, which seemed to work a little better.  It was a pretty bumpy ride out to the boat, but having owned my own jet ski years ago, I always enjoy the ride.

When I got to the boat I realized that there were about 3 parties ahead of us still to parasail.  Ok, so we get a little boat tour along with our jet ski ride and parasailing excursion.  It turned out to be fun though because everyone on the boat was happy and fun, and we got to watch several people before our turn which made me a little more comfortable.  Unfortunately, our friends who were taking pictures from shore had no way of knowing when it was our turn so the pictures are of random people parasailing. 

Pam went first, I felt it was a good sign that she was still smiling when she came back onboard.  Finally it was my turn.  I’d been told by a friend years ago that parasailing is fun going up and coming down, but kind of boring when you’re up there.  That is pretty accurate.  It an interesting sensation going off of the boat – a little scary.  When you get up in the air, it’s interesting to look around at the surrounding islands and you can see a lot.  I felt sort of suspended in the air – like I wasn’t moving, but I could see the boat moving below.  Then they are reeling you in.  This is a little nerve racking because you can hear the harness creaking, it makes you think about what you’ve been hanging from for the last 10 minutes or so.  The 2 guys running this operation liked to give us a little dip into the water before bringing us all the way in.  There was a father with his teenage daughter who went a couple of people before us who lifted their feet and ended up going almost under the water.  This seemed to encourage our guys to dip us all a little more than they had been doing.  I definitely got wet – but it was fun and very refreshing.  Finally I was back on the boat and before long back on the jet ski heading back to shore.  My driver this time was a little better at threading his way through the waves so it wasn’t quite so bumpy most of the way in, but when we turned towards shore it got pretty rough again.  Getting off that jet ski was a challenge and I even hit the edge a bit with by behind as I got into the water.  I’m glad I finally parasailed, but don’t think it is something I need to do again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the water, drinking beer and relaxing.  There were quite a few vendors on the beach.  I did buy a blouse that I could use as a bathing suit cover up, but I have plenty of tote bags and island jewelry from previous trips.  There was a water trampoline a ways out.  Pam and I swam out to it.  My niece and great nephew soon joined us and she commented that she hoped no one came out to collect their $5 (or was it $10?).  What?  On the side of the trampoline in big letters there was a $ sign with either 5 or 10 after it so apparently at some time someone was charging for you to use this.  We hung out there for awhile, but it got a bit hot, and I basically rolled off back into the water and headed back to shore.  That was a pretty good swim with that rough water, but I LOVE the Caribbean water.  This was a great day – just what I want when I’m cruising theCaribbean.

Eventually we decided we should head back to the ship.  No problem getting a taxi (in fact, we had 2 drivers almost come to blows over us). 

We did not do any shopping, although the driver did stop so people could get off and go intoPhillipsburgand shop.  We opted to go back to the ship, rinse the sand off, and enjoy the ships amenities.

What’s New with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines?

As part of my continuing travel education, I attended a breakfast seminar this morning put on by my local business development managers for Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club cruise lines.  Wow!  Do they ever pack a lot into 1 ½ hours.  There is a lot of cool, new stuff happening with RCCL and I’m happy to be able to share it with you.  I’m only going to hit the highlights. 

If you are into cruising, you probably have heard of the new Oasis class ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.  RCCL is doing Royal Enhancements on all of their ships, and so far have completed 3.  They will be rolling this out onto the rest of the fleet over the next 3 years until all the ships have the most popular features.  They even upgraded the Oasis of the Seas with the Dreamworks Experience which was previously only available on the Allure.  Plus they added a 3D movie theater. 

They have upgraded the Freedom of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas with the following:

  • Dreamworks Experience (this does not include as much as the Oasis & Allure, but still a fabulous experience for the kids.)
  • 3D Theater with First Run movies.
  • Outdoor, Poolside movies.
  • The Cupcake Cupboard
  • Vintages Wine Bar
  • Royal Babies & Tots Nursery (for 6 mos. – 3 YO, babysitting for $8 per hour, 3 – 1 ratio kids/staff.  You know you want a romantic evening without the kids!)
  • Enhanced Wi-fi throughout the ship.
  • Digital Wayfinder System (touchscreen system – type in your room # and find out the quickest way to get there.  Find out what’s happening & where right now.  What restaurants have no waits and much more!)
  • Chefmakers Cooking Academy– classes such as Knife Skills, Small Bites & Cocktails, Quick & Easy Fish, Wine & Dine, Spa Cuisine, Kids with Kids Baking and more.  (This is one of my favorite enhancements, right after the Digital Wayfinder)

The next ship to be done is the Radiance of the Seas.  It will have many of these same features, but it will also have many new dining venues such as the Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse, Rita’s Cantina, Giovanni’s Table, Quill & Compass Pub and more.  They will also have a Chef’s Table experience for a maximum of 14 guests where the chef will create a 5 course meal paired with wine.  They’ve also added a few new cabins.  Next will be the Splendour of the Seas – and then the rest of the fleet. 

Azamara Club Cruises doesn’t have the dramatic ship upgrades that their sister Royal Caribbean does, but they WOW you with the experience.  They offer unique itineraries offering cultural immersion and experiences; an informal, country-club atmosphere; fabulous regional cuisine and wines; more overnight stays; 45% of their port stays are until 8PM or later; 694 passengers to 408 crew members with 70% of the rooms having balconies; few children because there are no childrens programs, and more inclusions and amenities in the price such as:

  • Gratuities (dining, bar & housekeeping)
  • Bottled water, sodas and specialty coffee & tea.
  • Select vintage red & white wine at lunch and dinner.
  • Self service laundry
  • Concierge service.

Suite guests get even more inclusions including Butler Service and Complimentary Specialty Dining.  They have some incredible new itineraries for 2012, and some fabulous specials including discounts for booking air with their Choice Air program (same, or better, rates as you will find published on other sites); 50% off select shore excurisions; some great single occupancy discounts and more. 

Azamara also offers great Golf  Themed itineraries where they have paired with PerryGolf.  You can play spectacular, challenging courses in countries such as Spain, Italy,France, Portugal, Wales and Ireland.  They even have a cruise planned to coincide with the 2013 British Open.  The Golf Package includes too much to list here, but some highlights. 

  • Green fees & Confirmed starting times (including cart and gratuities)
  • Practice range & range balls where available
  • All golf bag handling between ship & golf courses and onboard club storage in a secure location
  • Full time Golf Manager throughout the voyage
  • Cocktail parties, Golfer’s social events onboard, 2 special onboard dinners, and special events for non-golfing guests.

The package offers one price for golfers, and a reduced price for their guests who can still attend all the social events onboard.

Azamara also has cruises for Carnival and New Year’s Eve in Brazil, the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and more special events.  They will take care of tickets and transportation for you for these events.

Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises really can take you to the world – Caribbean, Europe, Asia and more.  Let’s get cruising!

Oasis of the Seas – Fast Facts

The Wall Street Journal had a great piece on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Oasis of the Seas on Wednesday, March 3rd. It had some incredible facts that I wanted to share with you. 

During a one week cruise, guests consume up to 20 gallons of Marischino cherries; 80,000 bottles of beer; over 20,000 towels, table cloths and sheets are laundered (I worked in a laundry when I was 16, I don’t envy the people who have this job); 2,000 – 3,000 doses of meclizine, a sea sickness medication, are dispensed; at the beginning of each cruise 750 pallets of supplies are loaded; there are 3 doctors on board, and it has it’s own intensive care unit; about 200 crew members are dedicated to entertaining passengers – this includes performers, lighting & sound experts and child activity planners; Corona is the most popular beer, and beef is the favorite meat – unless there are a lot of German passengers in which case it’s pork;  there are 26 kitchens for 24 restaurants plus the crew cafeteria:  there are 86,111 square feet of exterior glass, most of which is washed by hand but the more hard to reach areas are washed by robots:  there is a jail onboard, a helicopter landing pad, and the 2 smokestacks can retract to let the ship pass under bridges. 

One thing that concerns a lot of people with a ship this large is the impact to the environment.  One of the things I like about Royal Caribbean is their commitment to the environment.  Since 1992 they have had the “Save The Waves” program which started as a program focused on waste management and has evolved into a company-wide philosophy of social responsibility and environmental protection.  I also admire that they conduct their business above and beyond compliance with existing laws & regulations.  You can learn a lot more by visiting their website.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

I attended a breakfast seminar this morning to learn more about the new Oasis of the Seas.  I will admit, I have been a bit of a skeptic about this new mega-ship.  After the presentation this morning, I can’t wait to see this ship for myself (not just see it, but sail on it!).

Oasis of the Seas is a destination in itself.  Her current Itinerary is the Eastern Caribbean, sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale and visiting St. Thomas, St. Martin and Nassau, Bahamas.  The ship itself consists of 7 distinct “neighborhoods”, each will appeal to different tastes. 

Choose a balcony stateroom overlooking Central Park with its upscale restaurants including 150 Central Park, Vintages Wine Bar and the more casual Park Café.  Shop in the upscale shops such as Coach, or get your portrait taken at the photographers studio onboard. 

Or maybe you’d prefer to be where more of the action is.  You might choose the Boardwalk, where you’ll find the aqua theater, casual dining including Johnny Rockets, the Boardwalk Donut Shop and the Seafood Shack.  Ride the Carousel (that’s right, a full size carousel at sea!), or watch people flying overhead on the zip line. 

The Royal Promenade is another great choice with shops, restaurants and bars including the Schooner and Champagne Bars.  Stop in for a beverage at the Rising Tide Bar and ride between Decks 5 & 8. 

You can also hang out in the state of the art Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, choose some healthy fare at the Vitality Café, get in your daily workout, or pamper yourself in the incredible Spa, which includes a special area with treatments designed just for teens.  The pool deck has 4 unique pools – you will always be able to find a lounge chair and a place to cool off onboard.  There are actually 7 pools altogether on this ship, including one in the adults only Solarium.

The Sports Deck may be more your speed with its 9 hole mini-golf, full size basketball court (also used for volleyball), two flow-riders, in-line skating and more. 

The incredible Youth Area includes a Family Theater, art room, science programs and of course activity spaces divided up by age.  This ship also includes a nursery for children age 6 months to 3 years.  For only $8 per hour, the staff will care for and entertain the youngest passengers – and yes, they change diapers!

Not only is there something onboard for everyone to do, there is a stateroom category to fit every need.  From the basic Inside, Oceanview and Balcony staterooms, you can also choose the Presidential Family Suite which sleeps up to 14; one of the fabulous Loft Suites, sleeping up to 6; Aqua Theater Balcony staterooms; Promenade staterooms where you have a window overlooking the Royal Promenade; Owners suites, Junior suites and more.  There are over 30 stateroom categories to choose from!

Did I mention that there are 24 dining options and numerous bars & lounges; entertainment including Jazz on 4, Comedy Live, a Mardi Gras type parade, Studio B ice shows, Dazzles nightclub and more; Club Royale Casino; the H2O zone water park – there are too many great things to list here.

In case you are concerned about getting lost, this ship has a state of the art system to help you find your way around.  Touch screens are located throughout the ship.  You can touch “Room Finder”, put in your stateroom number and it will tell you how to get there; “Venues Around the Ship” to find any venue; “Dining” to not only find the restaurant you want, but also see if there is a wait; and even “What To Do Right Now” which will list the activities going on at the time and direct you to where you need to go.  There are also signs next to each elevator with a diagram of the ship and of the deck you are on, as well as a deck listing of what is on each deck.This is an amazing ship with so many unique features pretty much anyone could enjoy themselves onboard. 

And from what I hear, you don’t feel at all like you are on a ship, so for those who don’t cruise because of motion sickness or because they think they will be bored onboard, you might want to reconsider and try the Oasis of the Seas!