Friday, February 21, 2014

2013 Royal Princess Christmas Cruise - Day 7 - At Sea

December 28, 2013 - At Sea

Today, we got up early and sat in the pool chairs which are on risers. We were able to watch The Proposal on the movie screen.

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I couldn't get close to the ice carving demonstration, and I never figured out what they were making.

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I'm fairly certain it was that giant family of 23 whose children were playing The Quest. Rachel said they had two family t-shirts made for this cruise. The other looked like a Scrabble board. I'm really hoping that those numbers are for the entire group together which would mean that each of them average about 6.5 days per cruise... perhaps the young ones didn't go on all? The math is funny. Anyway, a day didn't go by when I didn't see this t-shirt.

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In the afternoon, our shares became shaded. We were relaxing and reading on the deck when there was an announcement from the captain that we were approaching storms and should take cover. That's all I needed to hear to get up and take my camera bag under cover. We got burgers and hot dogs from outside but had to take them into Horizon Bistro to eat for lack of tables outside due to everyone taking cover from the rain.

We were sitting at a table inside when a large group of teenagers comes and sits at the table right beside ours. Horizon Bistro was practically empty, and they choose the table right beside us - WHY? Well, one of the boys (clearly their leader) pulls a chair from another table and places it at the end, with its back to our table and completely blocking the way of traffic. "That's not going to work," my dad said, "you're blocking the traffic and the wait staff isn't going to be able to move through here." The boy turns around and says something to us in another language. It was probably dirty. "Oh, that's really funny," Rachel told him. This guy proceeds to carry on conversations loudly in English with his new friends.

Groups of teenagers on cruises are quite typical. There is a group of them (sometimes several groups), anywhere from 5 to 9 teens. They're all loud and obnoxious, but there is one who is more loud and obnoxious than the rest, and he or she is their leader. They follow this person around and laugh at his jokes because he is nice to them and makes them feel good about themselves. And because the leader makes them feel awesome, they think that they are awesome and that everyone cares about what they are saying and thinks that they're really funny. So they talk really loud so that everyone can know what they're saying because everyone cares about what they're saying and wants to be them. And they do disrespectful things like block the staircases and sit down in the elevator and sing as they ride for fun and not to get somewhere because they're really cool and everyone thinks they're hilarious.

I don't know this type of teenager because I used to be one of them. No. Quite the opposite, actually. I was the shy, nerdy teen who would rather hang out with her sister and parents than meet new friends. Or maybe I just really wasn't good at making friends. I remember walking into the teen club once on the second day and realizing that everyone had already separated into cliques on the first day and that I was out of luck. And then our next cruise, I was sure to go to the teen club on the first day, and I still didn't make any friends. Teenage years were very bad for me, but that's okay. Because I don't think many people look back to when they were 17 and say, "Dang, I was awesome. I wish I could redo high school all over again."

After our terrible encounter with the obnoxious teens, the rain had stopped, so Rachel and I managed to squeeze ourselves into a hot tub... which more people managed to squeeze into. The guy beside me was way too close for comfort (like we were shoulder to shoulder... when his arm accidentally grazed my leg, I had had enough). We went back to our room and read on the balcony. Dad came over around 6:00 and told me that he just got some really great photographs of the fountains. That's when I remembered that I never got the long exposure photos I wanted of the blasted fountains.

I assembled my tripod and raced to the top deck.... to catch the very last seconds of the fountain show. Not on camera.

For a while, I was super annoyed. But then I figured that I might as well take some shots while I was up there and had my tripod out. Enough people had seen me with my tripod that I didn't care that they thought I was a complete freak (this is why I never had friends).

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And I'm really glad that I came up there because I had so much fun with the Skywalk.

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Here is Horizon Court set for dinner -

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We packed as much as we could before dinner. Rachel put out her suitcase, but I wasn't quite finished with mine.

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Watermelon and Feta... I really just wanted the Feta

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Princess's Baked Alaska is the best I've seen. They do the parade with cakes that have fake flames and then torch the cake in the kitchen before serving. Angelika said that they used to do real flames for the parade until it became a safety concern.

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Another thing that I love that Princess does - they give you a copy of the log of the cruise. It includes the time arrived and departed from each port, the weather, and more. It's a really unique souvenir.

NEXT: Day 8 - Disembarkation

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2013 Royal Princess Christmas Cruise - Day 6 - At Sea

This post is a chapter of my 2013 Royal Princess Christmas Cruise Photo Review.

This cruise review was originally published on Cruise Critic beginning January 3, 2014.  You can read the original review here.

December 27, 2013

One of my goals for this trip was to take long exposures of the ship at night. This is something that I kind of started on my Epic cruise with a gorillapod. This cruise, I brought my travel tripod and remote with me. I knew that I wanted as few people as possible in the frame, and like I said before, the key to that is patience..... or getting up remarkably early. I set my wake-up call to 5 am, and while I did not want to get up, I knew that the photographs would be worth it, and I'd regret it if I didn't.

I started with the pool deck.

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This part of the ship always started to remind me of a shopping mall. I think it's the tile floor.

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This is the first ship that Princess placed the spa not by the gym, but by the lobby. The idea was so that people would walk through. I need to ask Rachel how she felt about that.

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5AM is a fun hour because you run into two different types of people - those who still haven't gone to bed, and those who are early risers. It's pretty easy to tell who is who based on what they're doing and what they're wearing.

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In Club 6, I ran into people who hadn't gone to sleep. They were just chilling and talking on the sofa. They noticed me and asked if they needed to move. I told them no. It turns out that they were aimlessly wandering the ship. I ran into them again in the Princess Theater where they were trying to get into all types of doors marked "Crew Only." Go to bed!

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Rachel said that when she was walking to the spa early the other morning, she passed the Princess Live theater. You could tell that the crew just got out of some sort of morning meeting, and they were all standing around the door because something was going down. "I'm just telling you what needs to be done!" "But I don't see why we can't do it this way!" Everyone else was really interested in this argument and Rachel walked by unnoticed until someone yelled, "Guest! Guest!" And everyone went silent. She kept walking, pretending she didn't see, and then she heard someone say, "Okay, we're good!" And they went back at it.

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he Wheelhouse Bar is no longer all nautical-themed.

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Here is Crown Grill.

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They took down this Christmas tree the night after I took this photo, so I was glad that I decided to do my photo tour when I did. However, the morning of our departure, I noticed that they had put the tree back up. They took it down for two days... and then put it back up!

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We didn't play the wake-up-early-and-get-a-pool-chair game today, so we were stuck in the smoking section! Yuck.

It actually wasn't that bad, and it was pretty quiet in the beginning. But it was so hot! Rachel and I went to watch the Mr. Sexy Legs competition to take a little break from the sun... (but we were still outside... we put shirts on)

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The competition was hosted by Fabio on the entertainment staff. I would like to take a moment to commend the entertainment staff on the Royal this week. They were fabulous! They were really good at making things entertaining. They're all energetic and funny and great at their jobs.

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The Mr. Sexy Legs competition is entertaining in a somewhat disturbing way. I feel like you have to be really drunk to enter this competition.

Now, my dad had been complaining earlier about a guy smoking weed. I rolled my eyes because there was a guy who was obviously smoking hookah (it was like strawberry flavored, too, so you could smell it), so I thought he was talking about him. However, it was later confirmed that there was indeed a man smoking weed, and after we got back from the Sexy Legs competition, he was high as a kite. He had finished an entire bucket of beers by himself, and he would offer others a doobie. One man took him up on it, and he told him how he flew here from Costa Rica and bought the weed in Miami for the trip.

I knew everything about this man because he talked very loud and told everyone he encountered his life story. He owns a fishing company in Costa Rica. He also owns a yacht. He agreed to come on this cruise because his daughters who are in college (one at NYU) asked him to, and he wanted to spend time with them. They make all As in school, but they sleep until 1 or 2 in the afternoon on vacation, so he really only sees them at dinner. He didn't know where they were or what they were doing.

Later, he started getting rowdy and yelling, "The mountains are blue!" And singing songs loudly. And loudly offering people marijuana. I'm really surprised that he didn't get in trouble, so blatantly smoking weed on the pool deck.

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For a late lunch, we decided to check out Alfredo's. It was Rachel's idea. I had honestly forgotten about this restaurant.

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This pizza was seriously good. Princess, you can have your chosen superlative of "best pizza at sea."

We were getting really sick of the dining room and had tried to get a reservation for Sabatini's or Crown Grill but were placed on waiting lists. We should have made those reservations earlier in the cruise, but didn't realize that was going to be something we'd want to do. Now we know!

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Our dining room situation became even more awkward tonight. Tonight, there was some Jewish ceremony going on (Sabbath Meal). I tried to Google it with no luck, so maybe someone knowledgeable can fill me in!
They needed it to be quiet and were constantly "Shhhh" "Shhhhh" one another. It was the quietest that room ever was. The wait staff provided them with all of the things they needed. Part of the ritual involved them passing around a glass of wine and everybody drinking out of it, children included. I know this is a bratty insignificant complaint here, but with all of the carding and age harassment I go through just to get a drink and they're allowing children to drink in the dining room!
They also all had to wash their hands at one point. The wait staff had provided them with a little cart which had a bowl and pitchers of water, and they all washed their hands in the bowl of water by pouring the pitcher over their hands right there in the dining room.
I'm just not sure how I feel about this. I think it's great that Princess is accommodating of things like this. That's wonderful. But we were the ONLY other family in the little room with these people (the other non-related table beside us didn't show that evening). Couldn't they have given these people their own private room? Did it have to take place in the dining room during dinner? Could they have maybe moved us out of that room with them? Because the entire time, I was fascinated that I had this interesting show to watch, but I was also really uncomfortable because I felt like I didn't belong there and couldn't talk. The wait staff knew that this was going to happen because they had all of the things there for them when we arrived.

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At least I had escargot to eat during this period of silence.

My entree was lobster, and I forgot to photograph it.
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My dessert!

That night, we did what the people beside us did the night before and told them that we needed to be out of the dining room by 9:15. And apparently a deadline is all they need. Because this is the fastest we were ever served. We didn't have to wait 10-15 minutes between courses like we had been. It was wonderful.... and what our dining experience should have been like all along!

The reason that we wanted to leave dinner early was so that we could go to the Princess Live theater to watch the Marriage Match Game Show. This is a very popular event, and there was a line out the door. Very quickly after the line started moving, it was standing room only. I honestly think that this is a bad venue for this event. I understand that they wanted to film it for the cabins and perhaps there isn't always this much interest in the show, but it really belonged in a larger area - perhaps the Vista Lounge or even the Princess Theater.

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If you've never seen the show, it's like the Newlywed Game Show except they play it with three different generations of couples - the just married, married for a while, and married forever. Every cruise line seems to have their own version of this show. They get really personal really quick with these questions, and it can start to make you uncomfortable. It's definitely not a show for the easily offended, and they warn you in the beginning that they have no control over what anyone could say. You might be able to take your children, because I know that when I was a child, I was too naive to understand what any of the questions meant (I know this for fact because although I did not go to the show, I found it rather easily on our stateroom TV when we sailed the Radiance of the Seas when I was only 9 years old).

For our show, the younger couple always seemed to make it super awkward. The in-the-middle couple actually did a really good job. I thought the man talked way too much and gave too much detail in everything, but they were actually really really in sync with the way they thought and answered the questions. I was impressed. And then the longest married couple did okay - they were funny. If they were actually tallying the points, I think it would have gone to the couple in the middle for sure. However, when they announced the winner, it was the longest married couple in first place with the other two tied for second (yeah, right). Of course, the prize is the same for everyone - a bottle of champagne!

After Marriage Match was The Quest. Now, I am a Quest Champion on Royal Caribbean, so I knew that I liked their game, but I had no idea what Princess's was going to be like. The concept was similar, but the things that they had us doing were completely different.

This is (in my opinion) really not a game for children. People will do crazy things when it's late at night and near the end of vacation. The clothes just fly off. They made several announcements at the beginning of the show that this game was rated PG-13 and that children may only be there if they are accompanied by their parents.

There were a lot of kids. There was one team comprised completely of children. It was five boys all under the age of 12 and a cute little girl who was four-and-a-half. We know this because at one point in the came, the host asked her age. Well, she was the only girl on their team, so whenever they asked for a woman, they sent her up. And she always seemed to get extra points because of her cuteness. While most people laughed about this, there were some people who were visibly annoyed that children were playing. The children also had a major advantage because although the teams were limited to six people, they had their parents there giving them things, and they just ran up with them. It was really like a team of 12.

I can understand why someone would let their four-and-a-half year old play a game where men put on bras and women put on men's pants (it is way dirtier on Royal Caribbean, but I think that the hosts on Princess may have been tailoring it to the very young audience) - she's young. She probably won't remember it. And this is really funny to watch. (But it is kind of weird that one of the little boys who was around 8 years old put on his mother's bra.)

On the other hand, I can completely understand why there were some adults who were not happy about kids playing. It is listed as an adult scavenger hunt. It is held at a late hour (11:30). They wanted to come and have a tipsy good time, and the game was completely taken over by children. There are very few organized activities for adults. An adult can't just walk into the kids club and be like, "Hey, I came for holiday crafts!" They would be told to get the heck out because that's not allowed. One of the only activities that is actually intended for adults was overrun by children - I see why some adults were annoyed by this.

In addition to that, the kids were cheating. They would cut people off in line or get on the stage before they actually had their item, and they got away with it only because they were cute kids. The hosts were actually being really strict on other people and wouldn't give them the point for things like bringing up four pairs of shoes instead of three or coming to the stage when they weren't dressed.

The team of all kids won a bottle of champagne for their parents (who were really playing and sending their kids up on stage). They should have given them a bottle of sparkling grape juice instead since none of the kids were legal.

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If you cruise Royal Caribbean and wonder how the games compare, I'm not going to tell you everything we did so that if you ever do go on Princess, you'll have a nice surprise. Just know that there is a lot of running around the ship and really no need for a cheat bag.

NEXT: Day 7 - At Sea