CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 7, Day at Sea

Our last full day onboard, bittersweet.

Mikey and Katie decided to sleep in, so Mike and I had an impromptu early breakfast date in the Main Diningroom. It was relaxed and delicious- we both highly recommend.

Breakfast Sweets
My breakfast veggie omelette and grits with a Diet Coke

The weather was a little gray as we headed north, I found a spot in the Solarium to read and nap for a bit. The ship was very relaxed all morning long which was ideal.

Early in the afternoon Katie and I headed to Izumi for lunch and it was SPECTACULAR.

I ordered the Champagne Lobster Roll and a She’s A Geisha drink- again, HIGHLY recommend both!

Ice Cream for dessert!

After lunch, the sun came out and it was GORGEOUS! We changed back into our bathing suit and headed for some comfy loungers in the sun on the pool deck. Lots of music, poolside games, a great time to relax in the sun before dinner.

After showering, we headed to Two70 for Robo Show, showcasing the giant screens that transform and trick your eyes into believing you are seeing amazing 3D images and video that are absolutely NOT 3D.

After that, we headed to the main dining room for dinner and then enjoyed Spectra‘s Cabaret back in Two70. After dinner, Mike and I closed the Schooner Bar with a few chocolate martinis while the kids went to bed.

Fried Shrimp
French Onion Soup
Cheese Tortelloni
Prime Rib
Apple Blossom
Some of our favorite cruise indulgences
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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 6, Day at Sea

Day 6 was at sea where we really enjoyed breakfast in the Solarium Bistro and really regretted not trying this spot sooner. I HIGHLY recommend this spot for breakfast- plenty of seating, service is spectacular, and you basically are offered most of the same items you would have been inside Windjammer – included made to order omelets!

Today there were some pretty amazing sales, so we went shopping a bit then we then found our Zen while coloring…

Sale crowds!
we decided on a few face masks to help our sunburns…

We attended Good Friday services, shot some more pool, more trivia, a few stops at the Bionic Bar, lunched in the Pub, saw the Easter Bunny…

Just before dinner, we took a ride in the North Star…

Then headed to dinner early (Lobster Night in the Main Dining room!)

Caprese Salad
Our servers actually brought us each out a second lobster tail once we finished our first one!
Molten Chocolate Cake
Baked Alaska

After visiting the Next Cruise desk to deposit our next Royal Caribbean vacation, we enjoyed a Virtual Symphony & “We Will Rock You” followed by the hysterical “The Big Music Gameshow”. We then enjoyed the Schooner Bar for a bit before finally heading to bed

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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 5, Nassau- a Day Onboard

Day 5, it was time to SLEEP IN! We were exhausted. We had zero plans in Nassau, and we truly had a lazy morning. We took advantage of our balconies and watched us pull into Nassau and then headed to Cafe TWO70 for a late breakfast, early lunch.

Pulling into Nassau

This was when my husband and daughter decided they wanted to get off and explore Nassau a bit and Mikey and I decided to stay on board for a few onboard activities. First, we went to Sports Plex and played some ping-pong before heading down to the pool deck & grabbing some loungers and try some Johnny Rockets. Mikey went to order a shake and some fries, as I settled into my lounger, ordered a drink, and waited for Mikey. It took a while for him to return with only a shake. He checked his receipt and he ordered fries but wasn’t charged and he didn’t really enjoy the shake (included with his drink package) but he was hungry and he was really craving cheese fries. So…. I went to Windjammer, filled a plate with fries, and poured cheese (assume it was meant for mac & cheese) all over them. *Chef’s Kiss*

After a bit we decided we needed a change of scenery. We went back to our stateroom, changed out of our bathing suits and headed to the Music Hall for Star Wars Trivia where we met Tricia’s husband as well. We thought we had a chance… but we failed miserably. Katie, my daughter, met us towards the end when Arnie had to leave to get ready for dinner. We decided to stay and shoot some pool and attend some of the Holy Thursday services onboard.

Holy Thursday Services

Dinner was back inside the Main Dining room after we thoroughly enjoyed a comedian in the Royal Theater.

Asian Style Pork Tacos
Garlic Tiger Shrimp- I have become OBSESSED with this dish since our January Odyssey of the Seas cruise
Tres Leches

After dinner, we played a few rounds of card games (pro tip, pack card games with you on your family vacations), & later enjoyed the piano player in the Schooner Bar and then a guitar player in Brass & Bock Pub.

We actually stayed up pretty late, well past midnight- enjoying the starlit view from our balconies before heading to bed.

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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 4, Jamie’s Italian

By 7:30pm, we had showered and watched the ship sail away from CoCo Cay and were anxiously awaiting our dinner reservation at Jamie’s Italian.

We LOVED our dinners at Giovanni’s Table onboard Adventure and Odyssey of the Seas on our previous cruises- in fact, those were our favorite meals of the entire trip. Yes, we ate at Chops and Giovanni’s was our favorite.

Upon arrival, we were promptly at in a booth and given our menus.

We ordered way too much- starting with the burrata, squid, truffle arancini, garlicky prawns (second time today!), garlic bread and bruschetta- yes, every appetizer but the meat plank (our daughter is pescatarian). Our favorites? They were all very good, but the standouts were the crispy squid, garlic bread and the arancini. Biggest difference so far, we noticed, from Giovanni’s was the portion size. These portions were much smaller than what we had at Giovanni’s- and our servers both times at Giovanni’s were INCREDIBLE. At Jamie’s, they were OK, they didn’t really stand out.

For dinner, we ordered the Truffle Tagliatelle and the Tagliatelle Bolognese with the Lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, short rib, and lamb chops. Everyone enjoyed their entrees-but again, fell short from what we enjoyed at Giovanni’s.

Dessert- well, it was amazing.

Mike had the tiramisu and Mikey had the epic brownie- which they both really enjoyed. My daughter, Katie, and I had the lemon meringue cheesecake and HOLY COW it was AMAZING. HUGE and couldn’t possibly finish it.

While it wasn’t the same experience we had at Giovanni’s, it shouldn’t be. This was different- be we did enjoy ourselves and our meal. If (more like, when) we sail on Anthem again, I am sure we will enjoy another dinner here. Or maybe we will try Chops instead… or both.

After dinner we could barely walk back to our rooms we were so stuffed and sunburned too from our incredible beach day. Tomorrow we dock in Nassau, without plans of disembarking. We wanted to sleep in ad relax a bit. It will be Holy Thursday- the beginning of our Easter celebrations and we were looking forward to a quiet day onboard.

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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 4, Coco Beach Club at Perfect Day at CocoCay

OK, my favorite port stop on a Caribbean/Bahamian cruise has got to be Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CoCo Cay. I have been here now 5 times, and 3 times we have now spent the day at CoCo Beach Club. Today being one of those 3 times- we booked the day for the 4 of us to spend the beach enjoying the Club- which is different from our prior two visits as we rented an over the water cabana and really didn’t spend much time enjoying the Club’s amenities. We were spending the day with quite a few of our CDT Spring Break cruisers as well, which was a big reason why we didn’t book an over the water cabana. Besides the expense of an over the water cabana, the capacity limit it 8 guests, making it difficult to socialize with everyone. We then decided this splurge might be best to save when the 5 of us can cruise together (my oldest daughter was home, her school schedule conflicted with this cruise vacation).

I also want to mention, twice I visited the island without visiting the CoCo Beach Club and it was just perfectly fine, there is plenty to do included with your cruise on the island, plenty of chairs and umbrellas, lots of places to find a great lunch, drinks, and snacks. There are also a ton of other excursions including zip lining, snorkeling and they do have an amazing water park with the tallest water slide in the Bahamas. Every cruiser is different, and we have come to realize the CoCo Beach Club is truly our happy place…

We slept in a bit, knowing we were the only ship in port we knew the CoCo Beach Club would have plenty of room for us. We were also wiped out from the day before.

Once motivated, we did watch the ship dock once we arrived from our balcony- which is always amazing. We were on our way to the CoCo Beach Club just before 10am. We walked to the tram stop- which was different from our previous cruises where they met us closer to the ship (I am not sure if this was because of our later start or the higher ship capacity). After a short wait, we arrived at the club, greeted with smiles and cool wash cloths, by 10:15am.

In short, Coco Beach Club is an exclusive beach experience for Royal Caribbean guests seeking premium amenities with a casual, authentic Caribbean feel. You feel that as soon as you walk in. You are greeted by smiling faces, an infinity pool and a priceless view of the beach. You will find in-pool loungers and beach beds in addition to traditional loungers and umbrellas, each with an upgraded towel waiting for you. There is an amazing, included, restaurant as well that is exclusive to CoCo Beach Club guests.

After we were welcomed in, we found our friends who were already set up in beach beds and in the pool- so we headed to the beach to grab loungers and umbrellas. We quickly noted the loungers had flags to alert the staff you were in need of their assistance, which is wonderful.

We then headed to the pool, ordered a few CoCo Locos (available with and without alcohol), and enjoyed our family, friends, and the amazing view. Before we knew it, it was time for our 11:30am lunch reservation.

Now, this was a different experience than what we were used to from our cabana experience. In a cabana, our cabana attendant would just bring us everything, family style.

Here, our group (there was 7 of us) was served all of the appetizers, but we ordered our own main courses and desserts.

After lunch we really just enjoyed the day. We swam a bit in the pool, napped on the beach, and really enjoyed the perfect beach day relaxing. Staff was wonderfully attentive to everyone we were with, we wanted for noting- except more time to enjoy.

Most of our friends had the early dinner seating and were on their way back to the ship around 3:30/4pm. We prefer later dinner, and tonight we had a reservation at Jamie’s Italian (specialty dining) at 7:30pm, so we left closer to 5pm.

Quick tour of the CoCo Beach Club
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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 3, Excursion to Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival!

Day 3 of our cruise vacation was jam packed!

I started my day early, with logging onto My Disney Experience around 6:45am to, hopefully, secure Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure for our family and Tricia’s later in the day. Just before 7am, I purchased Disney’s Genie+ for my husband and son, who were more focused on riding than the festival offerings- and that went pretty smoothly. My son asked for Test Track and Mission: Space, and I secured Test Track shortly after 7am. At 8:30am, when I could secure an Individual Lightning Lane for the rest of us- it was already sold out to those staying in a Walt Disney World Resort (we were still sailing towards Port Canaveral, obviously not an onsite guest, who could make that purchase at 7am). By 9am I could secure Soarin (granted, he didn’t ask for that- but I knew it would sell out), and then Mission: Mars two hours later. This was perfectly timed for the 4 hours we would be there:

While keeping an eye on My Disney Experience, we enjoyed breakfast at Cafe 270, seriously fell in love with this venue on this cruise…

and we really enjoyed time on our balconies approaching Florida & had some pizza before disembarking at Port Canaveral.

We secured transfers, via Royal Caribbean International, on sale we paid about $60 for the four of us. We were boarding a monorail by 2:40pm and comfortably in Epcot by just before 3pm.

The kids beelined for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and that nearly 90 minute wait time, while Mike & I enjoyed the Flower and Garden Festival before meeting back up with them.

We split up again- Mike and Mikey heading for their Lighting Lane reservations for Soarin, Test Track, and Mission Space (they must have a pretty great Travel Planner, eh?). Katie and I enjoyed more of the Festival- more food, drinks, shopping, topiaries, and butterflies ♥️

We made it back on the ship to freshen up and be welcomed into the Main Dining room for dinner (an advantage to a later dinner seating) before finally heading to bed…

Walking back to the ship
Tonight’s Menu
Baked Potato Soup
NY Strip
Apple Blossom with Vanilla Ice Cream
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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 2

We were really looking forward to an awesome sea day today!

We started the day with breakfast at Windjammer, it was very different then when we sailed on Adventure and Odyssey previously. It was more crowded and now the buffet was self-serve, which we expected. What we didn’t expect, was an announcement (after we sat to enjoy our breakfast) that seating was now full and those without a table should expect to take their plates back to their staterooms or outside the dining room. Pro tip- always head to the back of the dining room in Windjammer. More tables, less crowded (away from the buffet stations), and typically a more enjoyable experience overall. I did wait a bit for my omelet, but everything was delicious.

After breakfast we headed to trivia, failed miserably. The kids headed to the bumper cars and I headed to Deck 15 to enjoy the sun a bit- I met Tricia there (co-Owner of Castle Dreams Travel with me), and we enjoyed hours of catching up in the sun (and we came away with nasty sunburns to prove it!). We grabbed some ice cream and walked the deck- enjoying the beautiful blue water and securing iFly and North Star reservations for later in the week. Tricia and her daughter had pedicure appointments later in the afternoon, so my kids, Mike, & I had a late lunch in Sorrento’s and checked out the Silent Disco. We made it back to our staterooms to enjoy and absolutely beautiful sunset from our balconies.

Dinner tonight was in the Main Dining Room. I really enjoyed my calamari, beef tenderloin, and ice cream for dessert. Basic, but perfect!

After dinner we headed to The Royal Theater to see Frankie and the Dreamers- a fun Frankie Valli Tribute show with Ryan Malloy, (he was the original Frankie Valli in the West End’s Jersey Boys and for my fellow Gen X’ers, he is the lead singer in Frankie Goes To Hollywood). Our family really enjoyed this show- far more than we expected!

Tomorrow, we spend our first port day in Epcot to enjoy the International Flower & Garden Festival!

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CDT sails on the Anthem- Day 1

Nearly three years to the day of touring Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas with my Castle Dreams Travel Team in Bayonne, NJ- my family finally set sail onboard!

Now… why Anthem of the Seas? Location, location, location. Sailing from New Jersey- we were only just over an hour away drive to the port. Sailing during Spring Break- this saved us time and money not having to fly in the night before. Anthem is also a Quantum Class Ship- and our family, so far, really likes this class of ship. We sailed on Adventure of the Seas in August (Voyager Class) and Odyssey of the Seas in January (Quantum Ultra Class), and the Anthem was most similar to the Odyssey. Arriving to Cape Liberty was so easy and seamless. Once we arrived, we drove up to an area where they checked our luggage and then we parked the car ($175 for 7 nights). We then breezed through security and were on our way!

We spent the week across 2 ocean view balcony staterooms on deck 8. There were four of us sailing- my husband, son, younger daughter, and myself. Plenty of room for us. We were able to open the connecting doors from both the inside of our staterooms and also on the balcony as well.

We also added the Key service to our reservations that not only gave each of us access to WiFi, but we were one of the first to be able to board the ship (before 11am) and after some exploring, we headed to Windjammer Buffet for a very light lunch- really just to see our options and the difference between Adventure and Odyssey. We also them had plenty of time to explore the ship and even reserve specialty dining and activities before most guests have even boarded. At noon, we thoroughly enjoyed our exclusive lunch in the main dining room- a three course meal that included eggplant for our daughter and filet mignon for the rest of us.

After lunch, our rooms were ready- so we unpacked, freshened up for the night then headed to Boleros to enjoy some live music before that evening’s Welcome Aboard Show. After the show, we enjoyed dinner in the Main Dining room and ended the night with a visit to the Bionic Bar.

Tomorrow was our first sea day and we were so looking forward to getting to relax a bit…

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Back in the Planning Saddle! Next Up? Another Royal Caribbean Cruise…

So many trips on the horizon these next few months… first up? a weeklong cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. Castle Dreams Travel is hosting a group departing from Bayonne, New Jersey for Spring break this year. We are making stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau, and our favorite- Perfect Day at CoCo Cay.

Yup, you read that right- our favorite! We first visited in August 2021, and we set the bar pretty high as we heard how amazing Royal Caribbean’s private island was. We had two days to plan there and our first day the kids and Mike went zip lining, and we spent most of the day at Harbor Beach and enjoyed lunch at the Chill Grill and even checked out the Oasis Pool. We ended our day swinging on the swings and listening to music at Captain Jack’s. The beaches, food, drinks, and entertainment far exceeded our expectations- and this was only our first day there. We basically had the beach to ourselves, the food was delicious and so much more variety than what we expected, and Captain Jack’s was such a fun way to end the day. We truly didn’t want to leave!

Some of our day:

We were SO EXCITED on our second day at CoCo Cay- we were off the ship by 8:30am (for reference, on our first day, we were off just before 10am). Mike and I had surprised the kids with an over the water cabana for the day… which turned out to be, as our kids exclaimed, “The best day on a family vacation ever!” Now, we have taken dozens of cruises, visited Europe, theme parks… but this day was the most memorable for all 3 of them. Our cabana attendant SPOILED all of us- we wanted for NOTHING. Buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, steak, lobster… cookies! We had another picture-perfect day enjoying the water, amazing food and drinks, and each other.

Our Cabana:

We sailed again this past January and rented another floating cabana, and it was again- amazing. This Spring Break, it is only four of the five of us sailing- so we booked admission into the CoCo Beach Club- but are skipping the cabana. Truth be told, they were sold out before we booked the cruise. I am sure we will enjoy ourselves- the CoCo Beach Club has an amazing restaurant, pool, loungers and the same amazing staff. Not going to lie- we are really looking forward to it yet again!

Have you visited Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CoCo Cay? What is your favorite way to spend the day there?

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Traveling In Our “New Normal”

It’s been just over two years since we have begun living with Covid-19.

So many changes, so many adjustments to so many different parts of our lives that we have learned we are so lucky to still have two years later.

My last blog blog posts here were posted in October 2020 and I was thrilled to be looking forward to traveling again, very soon. As someone who craves traveling, to not have traveled for well over a year- 14 months to be exact- it was a very odd time for me. For 14 months my family and I never slept outside of our home, not even to visit a relative overnight. My last two trips before the Covid 19 Shutdown were business related, one I blogged about here and brought my family along. The other was a trip to Nassau, Bahamas and I went solo as it was all business- I was invited to be a part of a Travel Agent pilot program for the Caribbean Travel and Marketplace event, produced by the CHTA (Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association) January 21st through the 24th. The next time I stepped on an airplane was March 20, 2021.

My husband, son and I visited Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando for a weeklong Orlando stay that March of 2021. We needed the escape, quite frankly. It was a strange return with the same safety precautions as we have at home in New York (masks, distancing) but still odd to see the theme parks, that are so usually overcrowded to be nearly empty. We had fun, enjoyed each other and the parks so much so we were comfortable again when we returned 2 and a half months later with our entire family and even more family and friends with us (11 of us in total) back to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. Things had changed again on that second trip- but we all felt safe- and by then most of us were vaccinated which provided a sense of additional safety as well.

Summer of 2021 found cruise ships sailing again. Our family craves cruise vacations so much so we couldn’t wait to get onboard. Cruise ships require vaccinations and testing, plus (at the time) masks, distancing and very low capacity. We took our very first family cruise vacation onboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas from Nassau to Freeport, Cozumel, and their private island Perfect Day at CoCo Cay. We rented a floating cabana, and we all count that as our favorite day we have ever spent together, it was that glorious. The cruise was EXACTLY what we needed- we were relaxed, felt very safe on an incredible ship with outstanding customer service. We loved it so, instead of Christmas gifts, we booked a week onboard Odyssey of the Seas the week following New Years 2022.

Fall of 2021 brought me back to business travel- first to Disney’s EarMarked Owners Summit in Walt Disney World and then to Fort Lauderdale to attend the Naming Ceremony of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas. That seemed even moreso different as restrictions had lifted for such groups to be able to meet- but so great to be able to gather as an industry again and see so many smiling faces of colleagues who helped our industry survive the last two years.

In December, my husband and I boarded the brand-new Scarlet Lady, the first in the very new Virgin Voyages’ fleet, for five nights celebrating our wedding anniversary. A very different ship on a very different cruise line- and we LOVED every minute of it. It felt like date night every night with a new spectacular restaurant to try and entertainment to enjoy after spending most of our days napping in the sun- something I almost never have allowed myself to do on vacation before. Not sure if I was just exhausted from the last 20 months or just trying to find my happiness again…

Before March of 2020, everyone – or at least I did- felt happiness was trying to get as much pleasure as you could get from any and all situations. Right? What I learned from all of this, living through these past two years, and I hope you have too is, happiness is peace.

After not traveling for me, and then being able to travel- on that last trip in 2021- I was FINALLY at peace. I allowed myself to relax enough to allow for that peace. I relaxed enough to truly find my happiness again.

So, when we took that next cruise with my family in January of 2022- I spent some of my days napping again in the Odysseys of the Seas’ Solarium, on our floating cabana (that we had to rent again while we were docked in Perfect Day at CoCo Cay), and on the ship’s pool deck- even with the music and kids’ laughter, I still found my peace. I found I don’t need to be everywhere and do everything to be happy, I just need to be still and be at peace.

Now, this won’t work for everyone. Travel for me, has always brought me happiness- from seeing my parents more relaxed when we vacationed every summer when I was a child, to watching my kids’ smile and laugh while experiencing something new while we are on vacation. And yes, travel looks very different now- testing, vaccines, all sorts of new protocols that many find to be too much of a hassle, inconvenience, or even an intrusion. But for me, once you can embrace what you have to do to travel in this “new normal”, it has been worth it. Happiness is peace, at least it is for me. Travel, at the end of all of this… brings me happiness… and it brings me peace.

Have you found your happiness yet?

What are you waiting for?

Closing Magic Kingdom, March 2021
About to board Hogwarts Express, March 2021
Magic Kingdom, June 2021

Our Floating Cabana, August 2021
EarMarked Owners Summit with Tricia, November 2021
Perfect Day at CoCo Cay with Tricia, November 2021
Date night every night onboard Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady with my husband, Mike
Finding peace, Bimini, Bahamas with Scarlet Lady in the distance
Floating Cabana, January 2022

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