Freedom Sails…Day 3

Sunrise over Labadee, Haiti

Today is Tuesday.  Day three of our Freedom of the Seas cruise.  Today we are docking at Labadee, Haiti.  It is commonly called Royal Caribbean’s private island, but that is a misnomer as it is not really an island but the tip of a peninsula that has been gated off for Royal Caribbean’ s use.  Royal Caribbean has built its own little enclave here for its passengers, its kind of a “free” port.  Your seapass cards work here and there are no local excursions to go on so it does not do much for the local economy, but it is a nice beach day.  The last time we were here, OD and TJ did the AquaPark (which they did not like at all), and the Dragons Tail roller coaster (which they loved!).  This time we were just going to hang at the beach and relax with some island drinks, but first we had a special breakfast to attend…THE CHOCOLATE BREAKFAST!

The Chocolate Breakfast is an event (mostly) geared towards the younglings.  The entire menu is chocolate: chocolate donuts, chocolate pancakes, chocolate milk, chocolate shakes, chocolate sauce for dipping, and on and on.  It is a chocoholics dream.  My kids were pretty excited about it too!  Fortunately for those who don’t view chocolate as a food group, there is a selection of “standard” breakfast fare as well.  The other big draw for this event is the appearance of the Dreamworks characters.  Towards the end of the meal, a group of three Dreamworks characters come out and interact with the younglings for dancing and pictures.  Each Character breakfast has different characters that come out to play and there are two character breakfasts on each seven day cruise…we had to go to both, of course!

So there we were, bright and early in the dining room with a gaggle of other weary eyed parents and excited children that had just been promised chocolate for breakfast!!  The younglings could barely stay seated and wolf down chocolate food, they were so excited about seeing the characters.  FINALLY, King Julian, Alex and Gloria from Madagascar came out to meet and greet and dance and sing.  Once KT had seen all of the characters, gotten stickers from all of them and subsequently placed those stickers all over her body, we were ready to go.

Freedom docked in Labadee early, like 8am or something like that.  We were not planning on getting off the ship until 12 or so, so M and I headed to the casino where we both entered the next qualifier for the slot tournament later that afternoon.  We left the ship at around 11:30am and caught the tram to Nellie’s Beach to look for some chairs, hopefully in the shade.  The good thing about leaving so late was that there were people there that had been there for hours already and were headed back to the ship so we were able to grab a group of loungers under the shade of some palm trees.  Overall a great spot…close to the bar (still working that drink package!), and close to the water.

AquaPark in Labadee, Haiti

We promptly headed for the bar for some famous Labadoozies, but they were out of the mix and waiting for someone to bring them some more so we settled for cold beer in the meantime, vowing to return shortly for the signature drink.  We slathered everyone up in sunscreen and headed into the water.  August in the Caribbean is HOT and the water was only slightly cooler, but mostly clear and completely calm.  KT has entered a phase where she will not touch sand, at all.  But she loves being in the ocean.  So we pretty much stayed in the shallower water so I could stand and still hold her without too much trouble.  The roped off swimming area was crowded, but manageable.  There are other swimming areas available, but we ended up at this one and it was fine.  There are no real waves to speak of so it is fine for little ones.  A bit on the boring side for teenage OD, but relaxing just the same.  Feeling suitably waterlogged, we headed back to the chairs to relax…and of course check on the Labadoozie!

After slurping down a couple (all right, a few) of the signature beverage, we headed back to the ship to get some lunch at the buffet.  Then it was time for some serious napping.  After all, fresh air and sunshine will wear you out!  KT and TJ went to relax and watch a movie, but it was time for M and I to head to the casino for the slot tournament qualifier!  P joined us as our cheering section.

There were several qualifiers throughout the cruise and the top scores would then all compete in one of three semi-finals with the winner of each semi would move on to the finals on Saturday.  If you got knocked down the list of overall qualifiers, you could enter another round and try to better your score.  P was ranked 5th overall, so he was not worried at this point.  The way the qualifier works is the casino sets up specific slot machines, you find the one with your name, when the bell  goes off, you push the button as fast as you can in order to get as many points as possible in the five minutes allotted.


The starting bell rang and bang, bang, bang, bang.  I started pushing that button for all I was worth.  It seems so simple, but by about three minutes in, my hands and arms were burning and my freshly painted manicure was shot!  The crowd was cheering behind me, but I could only focus on my placement on the big board.  At the end of the five minutes, my arms felt like wet noodles, I needed a drink like no one’s business and…I WON!!  I came in first place in the qualifier and into second place overall.  Not to bad considering I had never touched a slot machine before my Allure cruise two years ago, and I hadn’t touched one since until this cruise.

After all that excitement, we went back to the cabins to change for dinner, had more wonderful cocktails at the Champagne Bar before dinner and FINALLY, had a very good dinner in the Main Dining Room.  Our waiter, Norbert, was finally on point, KT got some AWESOME “green pasta” (spaghetti with pesto), and overall it was a very relaxing dinner. Exactly what we had come to expect on the Freedom, now we wondered what we would get for the rest of the week, hopefully this was a sign of things to come more so than last night!  We ended the night in the Casino as per the norm and headed to bed.

Tomorrow…Falmouth, Jamaica.


Alluring Travel on the Open Sea…II

Trying to do a “quick” tour of the Allure of the Seas, is really an impossibility.  This is the largest ship on the water right now, getting around takes some planning…and comfortable shoes!  One of the new “wow” features of this class of ship is the boardwalk.  The back of the ship is open to the sea.  Its a pretty cool concept.  I decided to book a boardwalk balcony cabin since it is only available on this class.  It is also a cheaper option to booking a standard balcony, but you can still get that balcony feel.


I really liked the boardwalk balcony cabins.  For this trip, we booked 2 adjoining cabins so that we could have the two bathrooms.  Really not a huge issue, since it is three guys and me, but something we really like to have.  On the exterior balconies, if you have adjoining cabins, the divider on the balcony can be removed to make one big balcony.  This is the same on the boardwalk balconies, our stateroom attendant was able to do that with no problem when we requested it. Depending on where your cabin was, you could see the ocean as well as the activity going on at the boardwalk.  We were towards the aft of the ship and had a fantastic view of both the boardwalk and the ocean. If I were ever going on this type of ship, I would certainly book there again.

Certain floors had a “secret” public balcony where there were lounge chairs and such and from there you could see everything going on in the Aqua Theater as well.  Every morning, I would get some coffee and go sit on the aft balcony, there was never anyone else out there.


This is your view from that balcony:


The Aqua Theater is another cool new concept on this ship.  It hosts things like a diving show and the ever popular Belly Flop Contest.  They can also cover the aqua part of this and it becomes a regular theater venue with large screens so everyone can see what is going on. It also hosted one of the dreaded muster drills, which was nice for those folks that had that station, with all the seating, it eliminates that wonderful tradition of standing crammed next to people you have never met to listen to a recorded safety briefing.


The boardwalk has many cool features and new restaurants. There is a hot dog stand with a bunch of different choices of styles and toppings, a donut house that supplies your donut fix all day long, a Johnny Rockets, and a Mexican style restaurant called Rita’s Cantina.  I never ate here, but it looked like most folks were enjoying it, especially the margaritas if the crazies dancing on the patio in giant sombreros are any way to judge!  That may be due to the fact that if you purchased their meal package, THREE margaritas were included!  I am allergic to tequila, I break out in pregnancy, so I never touch the stuff anymore!


Also on the boardwalk is a real, working carousel.  There is no charge to ride so the “kids” can ride over and over if they want!  There was rarely a line, so it was never any problem getting on.



Some other highlights of the boardwalk are the Pets at Sea, the candy store, and the Ice Cream Scoop Shop.  On some days, they have a boardwalk party where they have face painting, balloon animals, popcorn, cotton candy, and all sorts of other cute games and activities for kids and kids at heart.


The diving show in the AquaTheater is nothing short of spectacular.  Think Cirque du Soliel in water.  If you take the ship’s “All Access” tour, you will get the behind the scenes of what it takes to produce a high dive show while on a moving ship on a moving ocean.  It really is a marvel.  I did not take any pictures of the show because they ask you not to…not that I am usually one for following rules, especially if it involves getting a good picture, but I certainly did not want any sort of flash from my camera to be the cause of any diving mishaps.


Royal Caribbean has partnered with Dreamworks so there are multiple references around the ship.  I thought it was a pretty good balance of being visible, but not in your face.  If you had no interest or have kids that are nervous around huge, walking animals then you could certainly go the whole cruise avoiding them.  However, if your kids are like mine and have to meet every character they come across, there are plenty of opportunities to do that as well.  There is a Dreamworks character parade, a meet the characters breakfast with a chocolate theme (my kids really liked this!), and various other “meet & greets” around at different times.

That’s all I’ve got for the Boardwalk on the Allure, but that is only one of SEVEN different neighborhoods on this mega-ship.  I will try and finish this up pretty soon, because in a few weeks, I am leaving for my next cruise on the Freedom of the Seas!

Bon Voyage!!