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Pre- Cruise: Free....dom to Relax- Trip Report

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Freedom of the Seas docked in Curacao

So over the past 227 days, since I book this cruise with my DW and my brother and his wife, I have debated on whether or not I should give a live, semi live or whenever I can get to it trip report for others to follow. I have finally decided I am going to give this a whirl and see what happens. This is my first time doing this so please have patience.

So to start this out, I feel it is important to go back to the beginning. This all started in March of this year. I work for a small town police department and just finished up investigating the double murder of a well known elderly couple in our community. The  investigation and working short staffed during the period became extremely stressful. Having been in this line of work for 20 years, I knew it was time to get away but unfortunately circumstances did not allow that until December. So after some very lengthy discussions with my DW, brother and his wife it was decided, we would venture out to find a vacation that provide light at the end of the tunnel if you will. By my nature I am a planner when it comes to travel. I suppose I can thank my father for that. All it took was one car ride through South Dakota with five of us and no fuel in the middle of nowhere in a Dodge K car, for those who remember them. Yep not going to have that happen to me. Its all about plan, plan, plan.

So enough of that. So after perusing the many websites and deals that are to be had like a kid in the candy store, so many choices but which one to pick. I landed on what appeared to be a pretty good deal, RCCL FOS leaving from Puerto Rico on December 2, 2018 sailing to the beautiful Southern Caribbean. I contacted the group and explained what I found. After a week or so of back and forth and back and forth- kind of like a cruise ship but seemed more like a dingy in 15 ft seas, we booked the next adventure. This was going to be my brother and his wife's first cruise and my DW and I's 4th cruise, although first on RCCL. After I booked it, I sure hoped I didn't screw it up. So like any good planner and self proclaimed cheapskate, I watched and watched and watched the RCCL website to play the elusive game- "How low can you go?" After several weeks and getting our cruise fare down several hundred dollars, I felt pretty good and it helped smooth the waters for my brother so he knew it would be alright. The only problem was there were still over 200 days to go. Ugh why so long and will it ever get here.

So like any good planner, I started doing what any good planner does, I researched and planned. I know most of you are probably thinking oh heaven he would drive me nuts. Well I am pretty sure I did just that with my group. So if the trip report just ends, please send someone looking for me, they might have thrown me overboard. But I used my resources and researched as much as I could. I scoured the Cruise Critics message boards for ideas and advice. I asked questions and found answers.

I figured a good start to our journey would be to find out what Puerto Rico had to offer. I followed the advise of one contributor here and contacted Puerto Rico's Tourism folks and requested all sorts of maps and brochures. Within a weeks, I had bus schedules, maps, and everything I needed to start. I highly recommend that you take advantage of this if you can. You can contact them at this email if you would like: . 

Next up was to find a hotel for the night before we sailed. So many choices but also not an easy decision as Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Settled on the Courtyard by Marriot Isla Verde. Id near the airport, but it is right on the beach so who cares about a few planes overhead. Well maybe I will but I will let you know when I get there. I then set out in search of airfare. Search all sorts of airlines and travel sights and decided Southwest Airlines it was. Not a huge fan of not picking my seat, as a 6-3 lets just go with 250 plus man I like room. No I need room, small spaces and I don't get a long. Southwest Airlines was cheap and few all my luggage for free so winner winner. Now only 157 days to go.

If you haven't figured out I like to talk, so I will make the rest of this short. We looked at each port and decided what best fit us. So here is a preview of what is to come. Our first stop will be Curacao. We have rented a car and will be touring on our own. Looking to do the Hato Caves, Shete Boka, Willibrodus for some flamingos and find a nice beach somewhere. Also looking to spend sometime by the port and stroll over the Queen Emma Bridge. 

Next is Aruba. We have booked the Island Ultimate Tour (9.5 hours) through ABC Tours. Seemed to have good reviews and why not take advantage of being in port for 16 hrs, plus our next day is at sea so plenty of time to rest. Stop three St. Kitts and Nevis. We have booked the Valley of the Giants Rainforest Tour with  Greg's Safari. Last stop, St. Thomas and another car rental, Snuba- because who doesn't like to Snuba- well except maybe everyone in my group, a little more sun and some shopping. All excursion were booked though third party vendors so I will let you know how it goes.

I then pre-packed about four months out. Wanted to make sure I was going to have room before I left of course and then just waited, and waited, and waited. Most people dread December because of Christmas, but come on already bring in the snow and Santa. I spent the next four months watching RCCL's websites for some great deals. Scored a great deal on the Refreshment package $15 a day on Cyber Monday. Love Cyber Monday. Booked the Mystery Dinner as well, hoping the reviews are right and it is a good time.

Which brings us to today, pre-travel day. Stayed up until 1 am packing last night, realized that 58 lbs on my check luggage was not going to work. Completely rearranged the suitcases and got them to an acceptable level, Yippie! Managed to get everything packed into these. Now just waiting for the DW and brother and his wife to get off work so we can leave for our hotel. Will be staying near the airport this evening and then off to Puerto Rico in the morning with a 0630 flight. But in true Minnesota fashion there is an impending snow storm to send us off. Hope to land in San Juan on time and find the beach shortly there after.

Travel safe everyone and I will update the report as I can. #SanJuan #FreedomoftheSea #RCCL #Vacation

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