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Freedom of the Seas, Caribbean

Saturday, January 19, 2008
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I promised to do a post on my holiday cruise so here it is.

This was my first time cruising, but I'm already wanting to go again. If you haven't gone before, you really should try it. We sailed on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas to the western Caribbean with stops in Labadee, Haiti; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico before returning to Miami.

Our ship was the biggest on the seas although I'm sure another will be along to take that title shortly. Since I haven't cruised before, I can't really comment on how a big ship compares to a smaller one. There were several things that we didn't take advantage of such as the flow rider surfing on board, the climbing wall, the amazing gym and spa, the nightclub etc. We did attend dinner in the formal dining room every evening and see most of the shows. The ice show was my favorite (yes they even have an ice skating rink on the ship).

The food was amazing. Contrary to what I'd heard, you really can't get food and drink at all hours though. We had an especially hard time finding something to drink during non-meal hours. There are, of course, always options to buy, but next time I will purchase the soft drink plan. You buy it on the first day of the cruise, and it entitles you to "free" soft drinks all the time (which would come in handy when the free restaurants are closed).

We didn't see our stateroom attendant much, but he did come in and clean up our room all the time. I'm not crazy about people messing around with my stuff too much, but it's their job. They expect a big tip at the end of the trip so I felt like I had to let them come in and do their job. Each evening while we were gone to dinner, he came in and left a chocolate on our pillow and a towel animal on the bed. Those were kind of fun, but again... I'd rather not have it and not have to pay. The tips for the attendants, servers, etc at the end of the trip were a big expense.

We had a room in the center of the ship, and next time I want a balcony or at least a window. It's fun to see the arrival/departure from the ports and to see the sunsets. If you're inside the ship then it's harder to know when to go up on the deck, and I missed some of that. I really wanted to see some nice sunsets, but the ones that I caught were blocked by clouds.

We had great weather on the trip. The top deck was very windy while we were sailing though. The first and last day are spent at sea so that's when everyone's around the pools. It was hard to find seats near the pool so we ended up out in the exposed areas, and it was rather chilly in the wind.

After we returned from the cruise, we spent a few days in Miami before Marcus's family headed home. It got downright cold while we were there, and I was glad that our cruise had been the week before the cold front. Our hotel was on the beach, but we didn't even go down to the water because we were so busy and then it was cold. In Miami, we spent a day each at South Beach, The Everglades, and Key West. Key West was really too far for one day, and we got there too late to do much of anything before returning to Miami. I've always wanted to go there, but I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to see/do more. The Everglades were really neat. We walked a couple of trails and saw a lot of alligators as well as crocodiles, turtles, birds, fish, and a snake.

I just didn't want to try to keep a big camera safe during our shore excursions so we used Marcus's point-and-shoot mostly. In Jamaica, my mother-in-law and I watched as everyone else climbed up a waterfall. In Grand Cayman, 4 of us went out to swim with the stingrays and do a little snorkeling. In Cozumel, I snorkeled with my husband Marcus and my brother Andrew. We saw a lot of really cool fish and an eel, but you'll have to just take my word for it. We had purchased an underwater housing for Marcus's camera so that we could take photos, but then we forgot to charge the battery before going ashore. I think that Cozumel was probably my favorite port, but Grand Cayman is definitely the most upscale. Unlike the other places where you're mostly surrounded by tourists, we saw a lot of poverty in Jamaica. The people seemed to have great attitudes though. Everywhere you go, you hear "No problem, Mon!"

Since my camera was in the safe for much of the trip, I didn't come home with a lot of photos, but here are a few.

The sunset over Haiti as we were sailing away and another sunset.
Cruise Wrap Up

Cruise Wrap Up

The sea of grass that is the Everglades (it's actually a very shallow and slow river)
Cruise Wrap Up
Mangrove trees and a slough where alligators like to live. Winter is the best time to visit because it isn't unbearably hot, and the mosquito numbers are down.
Cruise Wrap Up
This anhinga caught a fish that was too big for it to eat. Apparently the bird thought it was safer around people than in the swamp with the alligators. We watched for several minutes while it wrestled with the fish on the walkway railing.
Cruise Wrap Up
The little turtle followed the larger one around for a while and then climbed on its back. Visitors on the Anhinga Trail walk above the swamp on wooden walkways, but we were often only feet away from the wildlife (good for me since I didn't have a telephoto lens with me). Also, if you purchase binoculars and trek them around the Caribbean just so that you will have them when you visit the Everglades, don't forget and leave them at the hotel like I did!

Cruise Wrap Up

A view of one of the walkways in the Everglades and, just to be random, an art deco building at South Beach.

Cruise Wrap Up
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