Friday, February 26, 2010

Coming Home DVD Twitter party is tomorrow! Join us!

At long last, tomorrow will be our Coming Home DVD Twitter party! I know there are still a few people who have not received their DVDs yet, and that sucks. But if you have, I hope you will push play with us tomorrow so we can all watch it together.

Here's how it works:
On Saturday, February 27, we'll all press play at the same time and tweet our thoughts while watching the Coming Home DVD.

Add the #cominghome tag to each tweet to make our conversation easy to find and follow, even if we're not following each other.

Also, if you're playing along, please ask @imnangl to add you to this list @imnangl/cominghome.

(THERE WILL NO ONLINE BROADCAST OF THE DVD. We'll just all push play at the same time and enjoy)
2:00pm PST
5:00pm EST
10:00pm GMT
11:00pm cont. Europe
(for other time zones visit

Hope to be watching with you tomorrow!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let the shopping begin!

The cruise is exactly 12 weeks away! Can you believe it? (Related: the final payment is due in 6 weeks!) We may have a foot of snow on the ground, but stores are filling with summer clothes, so we can start shopping in earnest. But what to buy? Here's my breakdown.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list. I assume you don't need me to tell you to bring a toothbrush. However, if you want an everything and the kitchen sink kind of list, there's a good one here from last year.
  • Three casual day time outfits: sundress, shorts and tanks, etc. Wear these to the sail away party, while you're on land on Saturday, and around the ship Sunday.
  • Bathing suits and cover ups. You'll wear these a lot. Many people wore only swim suits at the sail away party. I spent the better part of Sunday in my suit and cover up.
  • Photo op outfit. This may just be one of your casual outfits. Last year I bought a dress before finding out our photo session was at 10:00 a.m., so I felt a bit silly wearing it at that time of day. This year I'll just wear a regular sundress.
  • Theme outfits, whatever they may be. (Dear powers that be: I have a proposition. We get the themes at the same time we make the final payment. That's fair, right? I don't even have to know which day is what. They can just be announced one at a time as they are decided. Perhaps we can get one per month? Maybe you can start giving out cryptic clues. Or once a week tell us what the theme is NOT. I'm reaching here, but the point is: we would all appreciate as much notice as possible, especially for things that may take a bit more effort, like . . . 80s night as an example. Have pity on us girls trying to look our best for you. Thank you.)
  • Going home outfit for Monday. You won't do anything Monday except get up and get out, so pack something comfy to fly home in.
  • Pre-party outfit (optional), assuming it happens. Club wear.
  • Sweater or light jacket for nights on the deck.
  • Shoes: in addition to theme outfit shoes, flip flops, comfy walkabout shoes, and/or something to slip on after 3-4 hours of the deck party when you don't even want to look at heels anymore
  • PJs to sleep in that will not shock and offend your roommate or any unexpected visitors
  • Bras and underwear: please wear these
Aside from clothes and the normal stuff you'd pack on any trip, you may want:
  • Power strip or extension cord, as there is only one outlet in the room
  • Hair dryer, since only the very top suites have them
  • Flashlight or nightlight
  • Travel alarm (no clock in the room)
  • Walkie talkies. I've heard of people using these onboard but have no experience myself.
  • Over the door shoe holder to hold toiletries in the bathroom
  • Door decorations and tape
  • Sea sickness medication
  • Contraband alcohol
  • Travel steamer
  • Various methods of keeping your hair back in the wind and humidity
  • Books or something to do while waiting in line or laying out at the pool
Most 2009 cruisers will tell you that they overpacked. Even with just a carry-on, I still had two outfits left unworn in my suitcase. I just didn't wear as much as I thought I would. Sunday I had my photo op dress on for an hour or two, wore my bathing suit the rest of the day, and then the white dress at night.

What saved me from having to bring a larger suitcase was packing only two pairs of shoes: flip flops and a pair of heels that went with both theme dresses. I wore a pair of dressy sandals on the flight. It was plenty.

Hope this is helpful and the right amount of detail. If there's anything I didn't mention that's an important tip, please leave it in the comments!

Have a cruise question? Check out the FAQs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wait list calls trickling in

It's been some time since we've heard of wait list calls, but a few lucky cruisers have gotten the news this week. We should be in the 2450s now.

The last call went to Jen, and she got some good info out of Rose Tours during her call.
"I'm WL#2450. Got a call yesterday & called back this AM. I was offered 6C for $1199 or 6D for $1249, and took 6D! The cabins are exactly the same, one was deck 4 the other deck 5 so we took he 5th deck. Pricing seems to be the same as what they were before, I know some people speculated about same pricing for all wait list rooms and/or higher pricing from before. Doesn't seem to be the case though. When I called she said she only had these two options because of cancellations. We changed cc info and she said she'd let us know if there were any problems. Rumors of automatic cancellations are totally bogus. She said the only time that's happened is if they couldn't reach someone for a couple of months."
I hadn't heard rumors of automatic cancellations, but they must have been out there.

From waitlister #2449 I heard confirmation that $700 is due right away, with the remainder of the balance to be paid on April 1. Keep in mind also that these room prices Jen mentions do not include the $249 in fees and taxes that is added on to the total.

Will keep you posted if I hear of more calls.

Completely unrelated: Our DVD Twitter viewing party has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 27. DVDs have already started to reach Japan and New Zealand, so we are feeling good about everyone having their orders in 10 days. Hope you can join us!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cruise FAQs

Hope this is helpful. If you have a question that's not listed here, please post it in the comments and I'll add it. Past cruisers, if you see any answers that are just not right, please correct me!
  • What time should I get to the dock?
  • How do I get from the airport to the dock and back?
  • Do I need a passport?
  • Will I get seasick?
  • Can I bring drinks onboard?
  • Is there a safe in the room?
  • Is there a hair dryer in the room?
  • How do you pay for things onboard?
  • Do I have to make a photo group in advance?
  • How does the photo op work?
  • Do cell phones work?
  • How much is internet?
  • How much are drinks?
  • How does the seating work?
  • What did you spend total?
  • What excursions should I do?
  • When are roommates matched?
  • When do you find out the themes?
  • When do you get the full itinerary?
  • How much sleep did you get?
  • Should I bring my laptop?
  • Can I pack an iron?
  • Will there be a pre-party?
  • What time do you get off the boat? How early can I book my return flight?
  • When should I arrive in Miami?
  • What should I tip?
  • What about the door decorating?
  • What should I wear?
  • What are some odd things I should pack?
  • What else should I pack?

What time should I arrive at the dock?
Last year, boarding was from 12-4 p.m. However, people were lined up that morning. You'll be fine if you arrive by 2:30 or 3.

How do I get from the airport to the dock and back?
There are a few options for this. The easiest but not necessarily the cheapest way is to hop in a taxi. From Miami airport, this will set you back about $25 each way. From Ft. Lauderdale, I believe the rate is more like $70. However, if you are fitting 3-4 people in one cab, this could be the most cost effective. When you disembark at the end of the cruise, there will be a line of taxis waiting, so it doesn't require planning on either end of the trip.

Option two is to arrange a shuttle service. Last year, many BHs used SAS Transport. They charged $15 per person each way from Ft. Lauderdale. You must make reservations in advance either on their site or by calling 954-600-0240.

Option three is to book some sort of excursion (more on the Monday end) that will drop you at the airport. And there are other choices like driving or renting a car, but most people will probably choose taxi or shuttle.

Do I need a passport?
If you're not a US citizen, yes absolutely.

If you are a US citizen, not technically, but everyone (Carnival, Rose Tours, NKOTB) recommends it. If there was an emergency while you were in the Bahamas, you would not be able to fly home without a passport. If you really really don't want to get a passport, you need a certified copy of your birth certificate and your driver's license. If your name is different from your birth certificate, you may also need your marriage license (not sure).

Will I get seasick?
Maybe. I thought the boat was quite rocky, especially Sunday morning. Many people got behind the ear seasickness patches.

Anonymous tip: MythBusters tried out motion sickness remedies, including the pressure point wrist band and prescription pills. What worked hands down was the ginger capsules. No drowsy side effects, and might help with the stomachaches if you overindulge on the eating.

Can I bring drinks onboard?
Officially, when you board, you can bring one bottle (750ml) of wine or champagne, per person, only in carry-on luggage. You're also permitted a "small quantity" of non-alcoholic beverages. Unofficially, people got creative.

Is there a safe in the room?
Yes, a small one. It opens with a room key. But only one room key. That means one roommate can get in and the other can't (unless you borrow the key).

Is there a hair dryer in the room?
No, unless you are in one of the swankiest suites.

How do you pay for things onboard?
Everything is on your Sign and Sail card. You either attach it to a credit card when you board, or you pay some cash onto it and use it like a debit card. If you go over, they'll bill you and you can pay on the ship.

MDGirls: We used cash last year for the Sign and Sail Card and they not only bill you if you overspend, but if you put more on the card than you use they provide you with a check the last morning and you can cash it on the boat if need be :)

Do I have to make a photo group in advance?
No, but it will make your life easier. Just be sure to plan where and what time to meet before you even leave for Miami. It's tough to find each other without cell phones.

How does the photo op work?
Don't think of it as a meet and greet. It is a photo op. You will file in with your group of 10, pose, snap the photo, and file out. You get a free hi-res download of the photo.

Do cell phones work?
They WORK but they are outrageously expensive. I heard several stories of roaming charges in the triple digits on the next statement, and that's just to have service, not for any calls. Check with your carrier. Text messages can be $0.50/each and calls can be $4.50/minute and up. (There is a phone in your stateroom that costs something like $9.99/minute.) I kept my cell phone in the safe with the battery out just to be sure I wasn't roaming. See this post for lots more info.

How much is internet?
Depends on if you buy a 15-minute, 30-minute, or one-hour package. The one hour was $24. Each use was charged a minimum of 2 minutes.

How much are drinks?
$4 or $5 for a well drink or a beer. Up to $10 for a speciality drink. $2.50 for water or soda. There is an unlimited soda card you can buy for around $25.

MDGirls: They also have an alcoholic drink card similar to the soda card. I think it was $23, it was for 5 drinks. The only catch is you can only get whatever their daily specials are with it.

How does the seating work?
Suites are guaranteed the first five rows, and 6Es the first six. Seating is assigned based on the time of booking. So the first suite gets the closest row, the first 6E to book the first seat behind that, and everyone else by time of booking behind them. Aside from premium seat category rooms, having a more expensive room is unrelated to the seat you will be assigned.

What did you spend total?
In addition to the cost of my room, I spent at least $1500 last year. That's a conservative estimate. See more here.

What excursions should I do?
My personal recommendation is not to book anything in advance. Would you really want to be hiking if Donnie suddenly decided to have a hot tub party? Play it by ear and see what you feel like doing when you get there. In 2010, Rose Tours advised not to book ANY excursions.

nessa188: If you are flying out on Monday after 3pm, you may want to look into a Miami excursion. Hubby and I did this last year and it was a great way to pass the time. Plus, they drop you off at the airport, either MIA or FLL. We paid approx. $45 each for a guided architecture tour of South Beach. We booked the excursion on the ship.

When are roommates matched?
Rose Tours said they will match roommates after the final payments clear in mid-April.

When do you find out the themes?
Last year we got themes about a month in advance. That's also when we found out about the door decorating contest. 

When do you get the full itinerary?
Two weeks before sailing.

How much sleep did you get?
Very little. Of course it's up to you, but I think most people went on ~4 hours a night.

Should I bring my laptop?
Some people do to transfer photos. I did to tweet. Just keep in mind that it won't fit into the safe.

Can I pack an iron?
Iron, no. Travel steamer, yes. There are laundry facilities on board with at least a few irons/ironing boards.

Will there be a pre-party?
We don't know yet! Last year I don't think we found out till April.

What time do you get off the boat? How early can I book my return flight?
What time you disembark depends on what deck you're on and how much you've packed. It can be as early as 8:30 a.m. Rose Tours says not to book return flights before noon (Miami) or 1 p.m. (Ft. Lauderdale).

When should I arrive in Miami?
You can arrive the morning of the cruise and be fine. If you can arrive the day before, even better. Since you don't get much sleep on the cruise, it's nice to have a lie in and relax the morning of.

What should I tip?
You prepaid through Rose Tours for tips for dining and cabin staff. We also left a tip for our steward at the end of the trip.

What about the door decorating?
I haven't heard if this is happening again but my guess is that it will. We found out a month in advance last year. There was a theme, but it was very vague, and people did their own thing. Bring tape for the decorations, not magnets. The doors are 6'8" by 22".

What should I wear?
During the day, bathing suits/cover ups, shorts and tees, sundresses. It's very casual. For meals, as long as you're covered, you're fine. For dinner in the dining room, you can't wear bathing suits or be too disheveled. At night, dress for whatever the themes are!

What are some odd things I should pack?
Make sure to bring a power strip (there's only one outlet), a nightlight (or stub your toes at night), and a travel alarm (there's no clock). Since the bathrooms are tiny, an over the door shoe organizer is a good way to hold toiletries.

What else should I pack?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eating onboard (More than lava cake)

Thanks @GeminiTwisted for this topic idea!

What's my number one concern wherever I go? Eating. Not just because I really love food, but because I'm a vegetarian and I like to make sure I will actually have something to eat. If you're vegan, you might have more trouble, but I ate very well onboard.

Here's my rundown of the dining options on the Imagination.

With the drinking and all-night parties, nothing beats scheduled room service. Hang your order on your door at night, and you can get coffee, cereal, fruit, toast, or yogurt delivered at the time of your choice. However, I seem to remember the latest time being around 9:30, so you can't sleep in too long. We did this every morning to get coffee and juice. Otherwise it would have been difficult to get out of bed.

After we showered and dressed, we went upstairs to hit the breakfast buffet next to the pool. Breakfast buffets are my favorite kind of buffets. Scrambled eggs, pancakes, french toast, fruit, potatoes . . . I'm getting hungry writing about it. Of course they also had bacon and sausage if you're into that kind of thing. I believe this lasted until 11 a.m.

Inside near the shops there was a coffee bar that offered lattes and cappuccinos, but those were an additional cost.

We didn't get around to eating lunch until after 3 p.m. both days. There are two buffets: one next to the pool and a larger one inside. The one next to the pool offered hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. Not much for vegetarians.

The larger buffet had a full salad bar, a hot bar with various meats, sides, and apps, the pizzeria, a dessert table, and an ice cream machine. I was a big fan of the salad bar. I seem to remember some kind of broccoli slaw that was particularly good.

From room service, you could order deli sandwiches or salads. There was also a sushi bar near the casino, but I never saw it open.

If you managed to stay on schedule and eat at either 6 or 8 p.m. you could go to the dining room for multi-course waiter service. The portions were tiny, but you could order as much as you wanted. You get a choice of six starters, a couple of salads, and six or seven main courses.

The inside, large buffet was also reset for dinner. They seemed to have most of the same dishes as what was in the dining room, but in buffet form. They also had the pizza and ice cream. Unless you really hate getting up in the middle of your meal, I think the buffet is the better option. For one, when you're getting a fruit salad, you can give yourself more than half a strawberry. And the dessert table has the same chocolate lava cake you get in the main dining room. This was available until 9 p.m.

Room service was limited for dinner. Same sandwiches and salads they had at lunch. Still, if you're in your room getting ready for the night, it could be the way to go.

Late Night:
At midnight, they'd reopen the buffet near the pool. I remember Friday night was Mexican night. I don't know if the other nights had themes. Since I didn't get around to eating dinner till around 9 p.m., I never hit this buffet. The pizzeria and room service were available 24 hours a day.

The only problem with eating onboard is finding time to do it. You may find yourself stuck in line during meal times, and staying up all night tends to throw off your schedule. Still, the food is there and decent when you can get to it. Worst case, you eat pizza and ice cream for three days, and there's nothing wrong with that!