Friday, March 18, 2022

[ROYAL CARIBBEAN] Freedom of the Seas

I booked this cruise on a whim, and then the stress that followed that because of conflicting visa requirement info from various websites, both from the government of the Bahamas and not, has been following me around for almost two weeks. But let’s not talk about that anymore. Bottomline, what Royal Caribbean will ask you during boarding if you are a Philippine passport holder are your passport, multiple entry US visa, COVID-19 vaccination card, and negative antigen test (up to 2 days prior to sailing). There is NO passport control at the Port of Nassau AT ALL when you dock.

So yeah, if you are going on a cruise to Bahamas coming from and going back to Florida, you don’t need an effing visa. Nassau is a busy port, the government assistants there will just ask for your sea pass card from the ship as well as a photo ID. You will not pass immigration. You will not pass customs. You just show them those two and then you can head out to the street. Plain and simple. Make sure you are back onboard before call time. But let’s talk about Nassau in a separate entry. For now, cruise ship!

Anyone who tells you that a cruise ship is a floating hotel is correct, although I feel like it is more like an entire floating village, to be honest. There’s an ice-skating rink, a gym, a jogging path, various swimming pools and Jacuzzis, restaurants, sunbathing decks, several theaters, an art gallery, a library, multiple shops, a gaming arcade, a casino. I can go on and on enumerating the countless facilities, but we will just run out of space. Suffice it to say, you will have one heck of a great time here.

Now, the lowdown. I paid $400 for three days and three nights. At first, I thought it was expensive, but let’s do some computations here. 400/3 is around $130 a night. Considering that you don’t have to pay for accommodation fees and flights, and you also get free breakfast and dinner included in that amount, then I believe it’s already a good bargain. A return flight ticket to the Bahamas will already cost you upwards $200 during low season on top of your hotel and Airbnb fees + food.

This Royal Caribbean ship is called Freedom of the Seas and plies the Miami > Nassau > CocoCay > Miami route. This is one of their shortest itineraries at 3 days and 3 nights. There is so much to do on the ship itself that I found the activities contending with my day itinerary onshore. You are not obliged to go onshore, actually. If you love the ship that much and what it has to offer, you can just stay onboard. But I guess that is just the feeling during your first time. It must get boring pretty fast once you get on succeeding cruises. Imagine what the crew who must live here for 8 months would feel about that.

More than half of the crew members are Filipinos, so I haven’t really found the necessity to speak any other languages aside from Tagalog that much while onboard. Drinks are not included in what you paid for, but you can order an unlimited drinks package. The only free drinks for dinner are bitter iced tea (they provide sweetener), lemonade, and drinking water. A glass of coke will cost you around $6. Free breakfast is served from 7 AM to 11 AM. That’s the case for Windjammer at the 11th deck at least.

If you wake up early and have your breakfast at 7, you can come back for early lunch at around 10:30. It’s buffet and you don’t have to swipe your sea pass or anything. Continental breakfast can also be brought to your room for free, but options are limited. American breakfast costs around $8. Not worth it, just get your ass into that buffet room. They have a wide variety of selections from unli-bacon and cold cuts, rice, lots of various bread types, milk, orange juice. Take advantage of it.

Internet connection is NOT free and monopolized by the onboard provider VOOM. I am on vacation leave, so I really don’t need WiFi, but I had to test it for future reference in case I decide to sail and work at the same time. My verdict? Don’t risk it. While the company advertises their service as the fastest at sea, it is slow as fuck and intermittent. It takes 10 minutes to upload a 5-second video clip on Facebook stories. Wait to dock somewhere and then just find a cheap internet cafe onshore if you need to go online. The 24-hour package costs from $14 to $26 depending on whether you pre-purchase or buy it onboard.

Overall, am I enjoying this? Hell yeah. I didn’t expect it to be this fun. They even have karaoke night at Star Lounge! I am enjoying this so much that I am already planning on booking more trips, perhaps to Jamaica and the Dutch ABC islands. Remember that you have several cruise lines to choose from, not just Royal Caribbean. Norwegian. Princess. Even Disney has its own. Shop around for routes and book early for big discounts. This is probably the best way for us to explore the Caribbean without having to apply for visas.

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