Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Still loving Labadee! 2/10/15

Back to our day at Labadee!

After Alex and Keith came back from the wave runner excursion that never was...they ate the lunch that we brought back for them, that by now was cold, but still better than nothing!

But, backing up just a bit, when we went over to the Dragon Coaster, we walked past all of the vendors in the Artisan's Market...

The vendors all stay back behind that stone wall and definitely call out to everyone passing to come in and check out their merchandise. For the first couple of yards its not too bad, but by the time you get to the end of the walk, it is a bit frustrating. If you are just passing through to get from one side of the area to another and have no intention of looking or buying anything, it's quite annoying. I'm not one to be rude and I do try to always say "no thank you". But how often can you say this on a walk? I can't imagine if I did want to shop, I would feel that it's much too aggressive of an environment for me to feel comfortable browsing. 

So then we walked back over to Columbus Cove to get the wristbands for the Aqua Park. Back when we were at the Dragon Coaster, I mentioned that when they rode the coaster, they removed the wristbands, but when I tried to get the timed bands at Columbus Cove for the combo price, they told me I needed to have already ridden the Coaster for the discount. It seemed none of this made any sense. So after the kids rode the coaster we stopped back at the desk to ask what to do, and most of the guys there had no idea what I was talking about. One guy did though, and just gave us 4 wristbands to prove we paid and wanted the combo pass. I told him only 2 of us rode the coaster, he said no worries. Ok.....moving on. Back to Columbus cove. Again, waiting in line, filling out the waiver forms, which I think would be nice to have one central waiver the way they do on the ship for things like the rock wall, ice rink, flowrider - you do it once and maybe could do it before you board and it's computerized? But anyway - you have to fill out another waiver for the aqua park. We got to the front of the line, showed them the bands and paid whatever the discounted price was and got the new wristbands for the aqua park. Just the kids and Keith were doing that. No way was I going to try climbing up on those floating masses! 

They had fun, but other than Alex, said it was HARD work! Even Keith looked a bit tired out there! And Megan had a tough time with a lot of them.

It was windy, remember - so some were closed off and they weren't allowed to go on those - mainly the tallest pyramid ones.

This is the water slide that is over on Columbus Cove, the Dragon's Splash Water Slide. I don't remember seeing many people, if any using it while we were there. I can't remember the cost, but it isn't very big looking!

This is how Columbus Cove Beach looks from the pier where I was waiting for them while they were at the Aqua Park

They spent just under an hour out there. I think it may have started drizzling a bit but nothing to stop them, and it didn't last. When they were done it was about time to head back to the ship anyway. So we went back to the cabana and started to pack up. 

You can get a pretty good overall view of the cabana itself here

We said goodbye to our butler and it was time to head back to the ship.

Some pictures from the walk back...

So Labadee....overall we loved it. I thought there was plenty to do to keep everyone happy. It was very clean and there was enough space for everyone. But as I mentioned, we were the only ship in port. If another ship docked, that may be another story because things like the buffet for lunch were quite crowded! I think the zip line is way overpriced, and it's too bad that they charge you for every activity - such as the coaster, the aqua park, the water slide etc, and that it's per use not per visit. It does generate a bit of that nickel and dime feeling.

As for the cabana....for us we didn't make use of it for what we paid. With two active kids, and with it not being so very hot, we just had no need to be out of the sun for any long period of time or time to just sit and relax! The day went far too quickly for that! The main advantage that we saw was a guaranteed place for our belongings all day that we knew they "should" be safe. And we knew we would always have a chair or two if we wanted them, be it in the sun or shade. The floats in the water were great too since they came with the cabana. But I don't know that those benefits were worth the cost. Our butler really didn't make his presence known let alone do anything for us. He never once asked us if we wanted drinks or anything - I'm not even sure what he was there for. But I HOPE that he made sure that our belongings were safe while we were not in the cabana. Aside from when I was in the water, I always had my camera with me so we really didn't have much other than our sea pass cards and beach bags, maybe a small amount of cash, a kindle maybe. Nothing I would want someone to walk off with. 

And the artisan's market....that was pushy....but it's totally avoidable. 

I would definitely love to go back! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Labadee, Haiti, continued - 2/10/15

So, Labadee....I just loved it! We were the only ship in port, and I have to say, I can't imagine another ship there with us! It certainly wasn't overcrowded, but the 6000 people on the Allure definitely took up the space! When you're on the ship, you're confined and you don't really notice how many people there are. But put that many people on a spread out area and WOW - that is a lot of people!

But, back to Labadee - it was beautiful!

These couple of pictures are from when we were still on the ship - looking out towards the beach area...and yes, it bugs me that they're out of order! But, what can I do now! 

So after hanging out in the water for a bit, we decided to check out the other activities. I knew the kids wanted to do the water inflatable things as some point, and they probably wanted to do the Dragon Coaster. I'm sure Alex had his eye on the zip line, but at $99 for one zip - not really happening unless he wanted to pay for it himself! Plus fitting it all in with the 1:00 wave runner would be tough! It was a little unclear as to how it all worked. I had read that you could get a combo ticket for the water inflatable things with the Dragon Coaster, but what they don't tell you is that you have to ride the Dragon Coaster first, then come show your wristband to purchase the inflatable tickets at the discount. They don't really make this combo thing public. So....after waiting in line for this ticket, no go - off to the coaster which is on the other side of the beaches. 

Get the wristbands there, which when you ride, they take off. So, how do you prove you went on it for the combo ticket?? on the Dragon Coaster...

Here is a picture of Adrenaline Beach, the beach over by the Dragon Coaster and the one that the zip line goes right by

Afterwards, we went back to "our beach" and the cabana...this was our view from there

It was about time for Keith and Alex to head over to the wave runners and Megan and I decided it was time for lunch.

Lunch at Labadee....if I had to pick one thing that I thought was the tiniest of issues there, it would have to be lunch. And this isn't even a huge deal, but it's sort of a combined mini-complaint.

First, we had the cabana. And there's been some back and forth as to if all cabanas get the upgraded lunch at Barefoot Beach, or just the Suite Cabin Cabanas. Currently, or at least recently the "regular" cabanas do say that they include the Barefoot Beach upgraded lunch. Which really isn't a huge deal except to say there can't possibly be the line that there was at the buffet that we encountered! We didn't ask if we got the upgraded lunch, mainly because our butler told us where our lunch was, and it was in no way the Barefoot Beach lunch. 

Oh well..... as for the buffet itself. It was very crowded. We stood in line for probably 30-40 minutes. There are a couple of different food buffets. There are picnic tables set up to eat at. The food is hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs - typical picnic food. It was fine. As we were walking back with our plates, several people asked us where the food was - they had no idea. So I think it could be better marked or even somehow announced when lunch is served. 

But enough of that.....we ate and that was that! So, Keith and Alex came back and wouldn't you know it - they got to the wave runners, did their "training video" of course had to get their picture taken on the wave runner

Only to be told after all that time - that they were cancelling all of the runs due to the high winds! Wow.....they were disappointed! And what a lot of time wasted since it was pretty clear that it was windy from the time they got there and there was probably no intention of them going out from the start! The zip line was also shut down for the rest of the day. So - if you plan on doing either activity - do it early, just in case!

Megan enjoying some relaxing time after lunch, what would we we do next? This was a pretty perfect place to be wasn't it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 3 - Labadee, Haiti! 2/10/15

Today was already day 3! Our first port day, Labadee. Of the cruises we'd been on before, this was the first time we'd ever been to one of the cruise line's own ports. I can't really say island, because Labadee isn't an island. But we were looking forward to today! Typically we're not beach goers on cruises. We're more of active excursion people. Not that we mind some time on a beach, and as you might guess, by Keith's missing day yesterday, he could spend an entire day parked on a chair at the beach, but when we're out at a destination, especially with the kids, we usually prefer a somewhat active type day. So this was a totally different type of day for us!

So, way, way back in the fall, or maybe it was late summer, I can't really remember when, I got caught up in the hype and booked a cabana for us. There was a super short window of opportunity to book them online and I was able to get a beach cabana. So, we were off the ship fairly early and ready to see just what Labadee had to offer!

It was a beautiful day, and we were ready!

Our first time really standing next to the ship - yup, this is one big ship!

Look out Labadee, here come the masses of people!

But before the fun....that's right, pictures!

I do love the shifty eye look that Alex is giving Megan here!

First up, Keith and Alex decided they wanted to sign up for the wave runners. So before heading to our cabana, they took care of that. They had a 1:00 slot available. We then walked over to where the tram was to take us over to Nellies' Beach.

It was a festive environment, and everyone around was just looking to have a fantastic day! 

We got to our cabana, and were introduced to our butler. He gave us the rundown of how the cabana system worked, and we went into the water. Here's a pretty shaded picture, but you get the idea of how the beach cabana looks.

Here are some Over the Water cabanas

the cabanas come with I think 6 bottles of water? Towels, which I had forgotten, which is why we carried our own, and also 2 of the water floating mats. We left our stuff and into the water we went!

You can get a good view of the beach cabanas here in the background

This is truly the life!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pool time, Ice Shows, Formal Night, and Broadway! Our first sea day continues! 2/9/15

So, we made our way out to the pools...we walked by the Beach Pool...which by the way, we loved! Just the whole set up there. The chairs, the umbrellas, the design...but no Keith. Ok....we went to the Sports Pool. Nope, didn't see him there either.

Was he by the family pool? Is that even what it's called? Nope. Up to the next deck....was he just sleeping in the sun? Didn't see him. We walked and walked and looked and looked. Maybe he went to the Solarium? I did a quick walk through, but didn't see him. Fine - he's on his own, we're going to the pool! 

We got towels, I got a chair and the kids went in the pool. To be honest, it wasn't the warmest or sunniest of days. There were plenty of open chairs to be found and before long I got a great spot right in front of the pool. For the most part, Alex and Megan were the only two in the pool.

There was some Caribbean music by the pool...very nice!

At some point the kids must have left to go get changed. We had plans to go see Ice Games at 5:00. I went to the Solarium for a bit, just to see if Keith was there, and hang out for a bit.

He wasn't there.....I assumed he enjoyed his day of peace and quiet, sleeping in the sort of sun!

So, just where was Keith for the entire day? Well, after I spent some time in the Solarium, I went back to the cabin and he was sitting out on the balcony reading. So, I asked him if he'd been there all day? He said, no, but he was up on the sports deck by the basketball courts. Why in the world was he up there? He said it was the only place he could find two chairs together and then he just fell asleep for the afternoon. Well, good for him! So, he had his day in the sun, and we had our day by the pool! 

The kids and I went to Ice Games which was at 5:00. We'd seen the ice show in the Navigator, so we were familiar with the style of the show and we knew just how talented the skaters were on these ships!

They try to make the theme a game type event based on the themes of the ship. I think it's a stretch to bring in the game aspect, but they do a nice job highlighting some of the venues of the ship. I've heard some people complain that it's just a big advertisement for the Allure, but I really liked the show and it does have to showcase something, so why not the ship?

After the show it was time to head back to get ready for dinner. Tonight was the first formal night, and our first night in the Main Dining Room! We had 8:00 reservations, so our timing was pretty good tonight!

Since it was formal night in the Main Dining Room....this meant Megan and I were happy about getting dressed up and Keith and Alex, well not so much! Keith is of the side that he's on vacation and shouldn't have to wear a jacket and tie, he should be comfortable. Alex, well - he's 15 and doesn't really care to impress his family with his attire! But Megan, well, you remember the nail crisis right? Extend that to dressing up! And me, well, I like to go out with my whole family for a night when we're all dressed! 

So, for me, I do like formal night. And remember, I was planning on trying to get the picture package too, so that meant I was going to get everyone to pose for at least one or two posed picture! Oh, they loved me tonight! We didn't have time for pictures on the way to dinner, but of course you get the lovely pictures at the table when you usually have food in your mouth! And the table is a mess! 

The meal itself? I can't really remember! There were no complaints. I do recall that our server was attentive and the pace that night was fine. We all enjoyed what we got to eat and while nothing was outstanding, nothing was bad. I'd say we were all happy with our meals!

Oh, looks like Alex got the souffle for dessert! I do remember that and that he liked it! 

Just a couple of the formal night photos

And the all squish together picture!

After dinner Keith and Alex split up from Megan and I, and Megan and I went to see Chicago. Yes by now it was late! I'm pretty sure that Keith and Alex went to the Ocean Aria show. Alex told Keith how good it was, and wanted him to see it. Megan and I had 10:30 reservations for Chicago.

Megan is a huge theater kid...she's a performer and dancer, so for her theater is 2nd nature. She knows all of the songs from Chicago, but was it her first choice, probably not. Did she love it? Absolutely! Since the topic always comes up about the appropriateness of Chicago on a "family ship", did I think it was appropriate for her? Sure, not a problem. It was no more than PG-13, and she has certainly seen that subject matter on tv and in the movies.  You can make your own decision about your family.... :)

As far as the performance itself, it was very good. The actors were great and if you are familiar with the story line, I think you would like it. We did!

So, it was a packed first sea day on the Allure! We loved it! Tomorrow would be our day in Labadee!