Author Archives: Carrie Burrows

Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas – 1st time cruiser recap

This recap/review is from first time cruiser and my friend Jodi. Its an overview of her experiences from a first time cruisers perspective. Give it a read, let me know if you have been on the Quantum of the Seas or other cruises you recommend. I can’t wait to book our next vacation!!

 

We had no idea what to expect on our first cruise, but it was everything we imagined and then some. For those of you wondering what it was like (not only for us as first time cruisers, but also because it’s a brand new ship that started sailing in November 2014 and is the most technology driven cruise ship to sail the seas), I thought I would share some points on the cruise. Apologies in advance for the long post.

 

Quantum of the Seas

 

As a ship that has technology at the heart of everything, Quantum of the Seas was the perfect first ship to sail for someone like me who is a tech geek at heart.

 

royal caribbean quantum of the seas

 

In addition to the regular SeaPass cards that are standard issue on other ships, the Quantum also gives passengers an RFID Wow Band that we wore on our wrists. We used it to open our stateroom door, to charge purchases to our room, for croupiers to track payers at the tables in the casino, to sign up for activities, etc. Very convenient and eliminated the need to carry the SeaPass around our necks (although the SeaPass did the same job as the Wow Bands, so passengers had a choice).

wowbands

 

A new app called Royal IQ for Android and iOS meant that passengers no longer need walkie talkies to stay in touch with family on board. It includes IM and VoIP features so calls and texts to one another is the standard way to connect. Plus, it includes a directory so you can even call the various onboard services, from Room Service, to Restaurants, to Guest Services, etc. The app also enables you to see your statement in real time, as well as your schedule of activities. You can also reserve restaurants and shows through the app. What’s best about it is that it uses the ship’s Wi-Fi system to connect and using all aspects of the app is free.

 

Thanks to a new satellite system for Internet connectivity that Royal Caribbean has put in place, they have been able to significantly drop the cost of Internet access on board. Unlimited Internet access for one device at a time (you can use the same login on multiple devices, but only one at a time) cost us $120 for the week. I thought that was incredibly reasonable. Downside of this is that the kids (and I) were online more frequently than I would have liked. Upside is that I could share photos throughout the trip.

 

Dynamic Dining is the name of the game on Quantum. What this means is that instead of going to a main dining room at a set (or flexible) time for dinners, and being at the same table and having the same waiter each night, you instead reserved to go to different restaurants every night (or you could choose the same restaurant every night if you wanted). There are around six or so restaurants that are complimentary for dinners and a few specialty restaurants that you pay for if you choose to go to them. Except for Japanese, we chose to do complimentary dining each night and the food was really good. The restaurants change their menus halfway through the cruise, so you have new choices if you decide to go back to a restaurant. Lunch options were also plentiful and the food everywhere was really good. You have to be patient to find a table at breakfast in the Windjammer (although there are other places to get breakfast as well), but I loved their oatmeal so it was worth the wait. Waiters in restaurants also use an iPad for tableside capturing and placing of orders.

dynamic-dining-quantum-of-the-seas

Unlike other ships that have one or two formal nights for everyone on board, you only had formal nights if you chose to eat in The Grande, which we did. I can only imagine that on traditional cruises it must be fantastic to see everyone dressed up on the same night. Whereas here, it was only those going to The Grande (where the food was outstanding!). The rest of the time, although it calls for smart casual for dinners, dressed up jeans were very common and acceptable.

The ship is spotless throughout with Purell stations everywhere. Before going into the Windjammer, guests are encouraged to wash their hands at the wash stations provided at the entrance. And as you finish eating, staff are standing by to remove your dishes and sanitize your table and chairs. Their primary focus for this is to prevent Norovirus on the ship. I’m not sure what it’s like on other ships, but I couldn’t be happier to see their focus on preventative measures.

Another place where technology was ever-present was in the Bionic Bar. A DJ plays music and robots dance to the music while putting together your drink order, which you place via an iPad.

 

BionicBar

 

bioic bar 2

Our stateroom was fantastic. We had a balcony stateroom mid-ship and on a higher deck (11). The main bed is a king and the kids slept on the couch that was converted to a double bed each night. The rooms are so well designed that closet space was plentiful – even though we had three very full suitcases between us (and lots of shoes!)

The gym on board is amazing. Tons of cardio equipment, state of the art weight machines, personal trainers if you want them, and classes you can sign up for. The mornings in the gym were insane, so if you plan to go and don’t want to wait for a treadmill, afternoons are best. As the treadmills are at a 90 degree to the ship, running on one felt very weird. Running around the track that circles the ship was much better – although unusable on the days when it’s either windy or rainy (which was three of our at sea days since we were doing the cruise in winter and it leaves from New Jersey). Classes are offers for TRX, yoga, spinning, etc. but the biggest issue is that it is first come first served, so those who got to the gym soon after coming on board pretty much filled up all available spots for classes running on each day of the cruise. They should offer more classes at different times of the day.

bumber cars

Quantum has some great activities on board, from bumper cars and circus school (trapeze – which my daughter did) to rollerblading. The SeaPlex is the venue for all these activities and more. Plus, there’s also the climbing wall, but since it’s outside is closed in poor weather conditions.

The FlowRider is a great experience. They offer everything from boogie boarding to traditional surfing, with different schedules for different levels. They also offer what they call private lessons (which my daughter did) but they are actually semi-private, with class sizes of up to 8 people. So within an hour lesson, you get to go four times – and each turn is until you wipe out.

Two very unique activities offered on the Quantum include the Ripcord by iFly and the North Star. iFly is indoor skydiving and included for each passenger is a 1 minute experience. It sounds crazy for it to be such a short period of time (you can go longer, but the prices are high), but believe me when I say that it was plenty long enough for someone that has never gone skydiving before. The instructor was amazing as was the experience. Truly unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Only downside is that you can’t take cameras into the waiting area (the wind tunnel sucks up everything!!) so unless you have another family member or friend outside, you aren’t going to be able to capture video of your experience. The North Star is a capsule (think London Eye) that takes you up and away from the ship’s deck so you can get a high up view of it. The lineups for this were always long 1.5 to 2 hours, so we never went on it. I suspect going on port days or for when it opens first thing in the morning is the best option for shorter lines.

 

The entertainment on board is truly amazing. Lots of singers/performers in the various bars and locations throughout the ship. Plus their featured shows (except for Star Water, which we though was bizarre beyond words) are incredible. There was a hypnotist, Mama Mia (brilliant performance that rivals Broadway), an amazing singer, and Sonic Odyssey (probably our favourite performance of the trip).

In terms of shopping, this ship is clearly aimed at passengers with money. Aside from the $10 t-shirt and accessory sales, and discounted watch sales, everything in the stores is priced for those that can afford high end jewelry, clothing, purses, and art. I would love to have seen some better priced items too.

As for our stops, here’s a quick rundown. Port Canaveral gave us an opportunity to spend some time at the beach. Definitely worthwhile to take the shuttle excursion for this. CocoCay in the Bahamas was fantastic. We rented foam floaties and pretty much relaxed on them in the cove the whole day. The only thing I wasn’t impressed with here is we wanted to rent a cabana for the day, but online it didn’t tell us that this option was for suites only. So when we went to try and book one within an hour or two of coming on board the ship, they were all already taken with a waiting list for those wanting one. I wish they would have been upfront on the website and told us that it was for suites only. In hindsight though, I’m glad it wasn’t available as there was really no need for it. The floaties were perfect. Also loved that lunch was provided by RC since it’s their Island. Nassau was a day we used purely for shopping. There are some free beaches, including one close to the port, but decided to see what the island had to offer instead. Going to Atlantis on Paradise Island is ridiculously expensive so we decided to give that a pass as it just wasn’t worth it in our opinion.

I loved the diversity of staff on board. Lots of crew from South Africa and other far away places. Although I know this is standard on other cruises too. The staff were amazing and couldn’t do enough for you.

Our cruise director, Ken Rush, is one of Royal Caribbean’s longest standing employees (30 years) and he was fantastic. Great sense of humour and did a really wonderful job of keeping us entertained in each of the activities he hosted. All were a ton of fun!!

Overall, we loved our first cruise experience. Coming out of NJ in winter is not ideal because of the iffy weather until you get further south. But I would probably do it again as there are so many activities on board that you never run out of things to do – even if they are indoors.

Elevators are plentiful, and there was generally never an issue to get onto one. Although we did try to use stairs where possible (that’s what happens when you wear a FitBit… I exceeded 10,000 steps on most days on board).

Based on conversations with people who cruise regularly, they liked the modern and high tech approach of the Quantum, but they prefer the Allure or Oasis (which is bigger and has more shopping options, among other features). We’ve already got Allure booked for December (that was supposed to be our first cruise until I decided to book a March break getaway), and are looking forward to experiencing that ship.

 

Thank you so much Jodi for such a great and detailed review. I can’t wait to book my next cruise!

You can follow Jodi on Twitter at @jodiechakowitz

Do you have a fitness bucket list?

Today’s blog post is all about your bucket list. I have written about goals, goal setting, to do lists, objectives, etc.  So, naturally, we should talk about a bucket list.

There is something emotional about having a bucket list.

Most people wont spend the time to sit down and write out their goals but they will put together a bucket list…they are very similar thing.  A goal is something you are striving to accomplish with a set time frame and measurable increments to judge your progress.  The bucket list is something you want to accomplish, before you die.

A bucket list is a list of things you want to do, places you want to go, people to meet…before you kick the bucket.

So many people pay lip service about “putting things on their bucket list.” But I always wonder if they have taken the time to write it down and visualize it.

Why is it so difficult to have goals…something to actually work towards??

Well I think you should have a few bucket lists….(here comes the fitness segway).  A couple or more bucket lists is a great idea.  Of course, I am going to talk about making your fitness bucket list.

This can be as intense as you want, as rewarding as you want or as simple as you want.

Here are a few to get your started:

  • learn to swim / or swim at a certain destination or a certain distance
  • take dance lessons
  • run a marathon or half marathon
  • do a one handed pushup
  • do 20 burpees
  • learn to rollerblade or ice skate
  • go hiking
  • try rock climbing
  • lose the weight and finally see your abs

The list is endless….its your list…build it and work your way through it. It is amazing what you can accomplish if you actually try, and not just talk about it.

Those things that you say “oh, I could never do that” are not allowed!  You have to , “Heck yes I can!!”  You just actually have to put effort in and TRY.

Do you want to live a life of what ifs or regrets or do you want to look back on your days with a, “Hell yes I did that!!!

“We do not remember the days, we remember the moments”

Life is meant to be lived. When you look back on your life will you say “oh, I wish I would’ve stayed at work longer” NO…you will say I wish I would’ve …

So stop wishing and start doing. Live with purpose.  Try new things, get experiences, have stories to tell your grandkids—stop being vanilla.

You are capable of so much, so stop living with limits.  Not to be cliché but live in color, live out loud, make some crazy memories. Try new things.  Love with all of your heart and stop holding back.

Now take 5 minutes and write out your list!!!

 

So true!

Make your own!

Oh yes!

Gonna fly now

Almost there!

runDisney 2015 Princess Half Marathon

It’s been a few weeks since the runDisney 2015 Princess Half Marathon and I am officially in withdrawl. runDisney events are always awesome and a highlight for me because I get to run somewhere magical. I get to run with so many friends who I otherwise only ‘see’ and talk to online at the runDisney events since we all see it as a bit of a tradition to ‘just keep going’ to them. Oh…also, hello, it’s Princess themed!

Glass Slipper Challenge

I signed up for the Glass Slipper Challenge which is made up of the:

The Enchanted 10k
PLUS
The Princess Half Marathon

2 days of running = 3 beautiful medals.

3am
All 3 of the alarms I have available to me are set go off! 3am is just not a cute time no matter what.

I scrapped my cute outfit for warmth. It was unusually cold in Florida (by Florida standards…I heard Canadians talking about going to the beach) and my running skirt was tossed aside for capri’s and long sleeves. Comfort over cute won the day. The good thing about the cooler, ah heck, let’s keep it real, it was cold. Cold temps encourage you to run faster so that is the upside.I also jumped the shark and gave in to my plantar fasciitis pain and got some KT Tape from the runDisney expo. Tapped up both feet, said a prayer and hoped for some pain relief. Im happy to report it did help. It wasn’t as magical as I had hoped for but it did take the edge off the pain!

 

runDisney 2015 princess half marathon

KT Tape

I had to warm up my selfie skills, first one of the day– check!

First Bathroom Selfie of the day at the Hilton Bonnet Creek

First Bathroom Selfie of the day at the Hilton Bonnet Creek

Before we started the run, I got to see my fellow Disney Parks Mom’s Panel pal @SusanPazera

Fellow Disney Parks Mom's Panelist @SusanPazera

Fellow Disney Parks Mom’s Panelist @SusanPazera

Donald you fix your hat and let me fix my hair before we take this pic, ok?!

Donald you fix your hat and let me fix my hair before we take this pic, ok?!

When you see Minnie Mouse while you are running… YOU STOP!
This is where I regret wearing all black.

Princess Minnie, look how pretty in pink she is!

Princess Minnie, look how pretty in pink she is!

Astronaught Goofy in Epcot!

Astronaught Goofy in Epcot!

Post Enchanted 10k Medal Pics!!

Post run with my princess pals @bamagirlruns  @jennyfren & Belle

Post run with my princess pals @bamagirlruns @jennyfren & Belle

 

It's not a party until you see @dave_mari

It’s not a party until you see @dave_mari

Back to my room at the Hilton Bonnet Creek to clean up and I look out the window and see this… it was a sign…literally, lol!

Thank you @bonnetcreek Hilton - I think I will take a break #viewFromMyRoom

Thank you @bonnetcreek Hilton – I think I will take a break #viewFromMyRoom

Day 2

3am…still not a cute hour. Taped up my foot and made it downstairs at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in time for the Runner’s Send off party! The staff was movin & Shakin’.  The energy was awesome and it was very much welcomed at that ridiculous time. I really appreciated having coffee, water, fruit, oatmeal, granola bars, bagels. They had everything a runner needs. This is how you do a race and this is how you get fired up to run 13.1 miles! Thank you Hilton for taking such good care of us runners!!

Hilton Bonnet Creek Runners Send off Party! woop woop!

Hilton Bonnet Creek Runners Send off Party! woop woop!

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Marathon Weekends at Hilton Bonnet Creek RUNNERS CONCIERGE – its nice to be taken care of

Time to get this race started…off to the corrals I go! Nothing better than a corral pic with my pals @iplandisney @grandmaryb @MsPrincessLeigh @vfreile @bamagirlruns

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Pre race corral selfie with my pals!!

Look at all the princesses ready to run!!!

Look at all the princesses ready to run!!!

Caution Runners - speed bump ahead - yay, we found it!!

Caution Runners – speed bump ahead – yay, we found it!!

First Character pic!

Time to Wreck it with Ralph & Vanelope

Time to Wreck it Ralph

First runDisney Bathroom Selfie...check

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Bathroom Selfie…check

Love seeing a friendly face while running!! Thanks for chEARing us on @dizthrubrwneyes

Hey hey hey - got to see my girl @dizthrubrwneyes Elantrice on Main Street USA - woo hooo

Hey hey hey – got to see my girl @dizthrubrwneyes Elantrice on Main Street USA – woo hooo

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.... we will just leave it at that

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum…. we will just leave it at that

Running through the Magic Kingdom and  Cinderella’s castle really is magical. If you don’t stop for pics then there is something wrong!!! #justsayin

Castle pic!!!!!

Castle pic!!!!!

They tried to look like the step sisters but these two are way to cute! Jen @runnerstrials & Heather @heatherslg

Love running into our pals @runnerstrials & @heatherslg

Love running into our pals @runnerstrials & @heatherslg

Tourist Genie is a must do pic AND the Mickey golf cart!! #winning

Tourist Genie is a must do pic AND the Mickey golf cart!! #winning

Fairy Godmother - wish I  could call upon her anytime!

Fairy Godmother – wish I could call upon her anytime!

So you can see, there is never a dull moment with us running and we are always having laughs!

Last runDisney bathroom selfie before the finish line

Last runDisney bathroom selfie before the finish line

Thrilled to see my Canadian friends just before the finish line @paramedic_mike & @karen5440 – love them!

Canadian friend on the course meet up!!

Canadian friends on the course meet up!!

I will call this picture the BEFORE picture.

Maybe I was wondering if I should put my hand on my hip or wave my hands in the like I just do not care, lol.

Major discussions going on with this picture

Major discussions going on with this picture

AFTER: we joined the choir!!!!! Boom…that’s how you have fun during a runDisney race!
Thanks to the choir and choir director for taking our pictures and letting us join in!

We joined the choir!! During the race! BOOM!

We joined the choir!! During the race! BOOM!

Finisher!! 2015 Glass Slipper Challenge in the books!!!

Finisher!! 2015 Glass Slipper Challenge in the books!!!

Best part is having my family there at the finish line waiting for me!! Love you guys!!!

YAY!!! my kids were waiting for me at the finish!!! #HappyMom

YAY!!! my kids were waiting for me at the finish!!! #HappyMom

Ahhhh hot coffee and cold water thanks to the Hilton Bonnet Creek

Ahhhh hot coffee and cold water thanks Hilton Bonnet Creek

Post run … I hit the pool! A little aqua therapy to stretch out those muscles!

Time to relax by the pool and soak up some rays!

Time to relax by the pool and soak up some rays!

After I cleaned up, we had to go to the Magic Kingdom to celebrate!
Main Street Memories princesses were there!

Magic Kingdom Meet Up with my princess pals!!

Magic Kingdom Meet Up with my princess pals!!

Obviously I am the only one who did not wear her race shirt after the race…duh! #fail

Team Canada representing!!

Team Canada representing!!

Main Street USA, balloons and my medals -woop woop!

Main Street USA, balloons and my medals -woop woop!

Thank you for following along with me!! Run with me next year!!!
Check the runDisney websites for dates and when registration opens up!

 

 

Big Thanks to the Hilton Bonnet Creek for providing me with a 2 night stay. I was not asked to write about my experience. It was such an incredible time and they really take care of their guests and runners during race weekends. I can’t recommend staying with them enough.

Pre Vacation diet

The winter blahs…we all get them. Day in and day out of grey skies and cold temps. We just want the beach, blue skies, warm air and palm trees.

sea-77737_1280

We book those warm weather vacations  and count down the days.  We say to ourselves, “This time, I am wearing that great swimsuit and I will look fantastic. I may even brek out my bikini”

We have it in our mind that we are getting beach ready! Then excuses and the winter blahs set in and out of nowhere we are t-minus 3 weeks away from hopping on that plane and you realize, your goals didn’t align with your effort-eeek!!

Here are some tips to get vacation ready fast:

-try on your bathing suit (you too men) – take your measurements so you can track your progress

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-take your pic in your bathing suit and keep it close, its a great reminder of why you are making changes!!

-put your family on notice … no more junk!

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-clean out the cupboards – the less temptation there is, the better you will stay the course!

-grocery shop and have your meal plan prepared. Make sure you are packing your lunches, you have healthy snacks ready to go. If you are stuck, you will look for the quickest option and that usually is fast food or a restaurant–no excuses, be prepared.

-plan your workouts – you need to workout everyday, end of discussion. No sympathy here from me. You put this off, so now its time to get hardcore!

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-enlist the support of family and friends – you dont want to be covered up your entire vacation or not be willing to take some pictures.

-drink water like it is your job – 3-4L everyday – no negotiations here

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-stay positive! your hard earned money has gone into this trip, so stick with this plan so you can enjoy your time off

-there are no deals – you can’t say “I will eat this muffin and not eat lunch” or “I will workout twice as hard tomorrow” no deals!

-speaking of muffins…no processed carbs…NONE. If it has a label, don’t eat it! JERF-just eat real food.

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-you know you will be happier if you feel better…so, do the work. Buckle down and commit to fit!

Once you get off that plane you will have all of the confidence in the world walking along the beach!

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Ahhhhhh…goodbye winter.

 

 

 

I’m Officially a Cruiser!

So, I’m officially a cruiser!

I’ve always wondered why people are so hooked on cruising and now I FINALLY GET IT…I finally get it!

After this short cruise, I can honestly say I cannot wait to get cruising again! #hooked

I’ve always been reluctant to try cruising. We were always all inclusive resort vacationers, which I still love but now my world has been opened up! You know, try new things; keep an open mind and all. I was always worried about not being happy on a ship or being bored. I was blown away with Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas. There was so much to do and I WANTED TO DO IT ALL! I wanted to wake up early and go to bed late…just so I could experience all she had to offer.

I was just like a kid, excited at every turn. I couldn’t stop saying “I love this” or “this is so awesome”.

I was in awe of the detail that is on and in the Freedom of the Seas. I was floored by all of the dining options but I was even more impressed and thrilled that there were so many fitness/athletic options!! #heaven

As a first time cruiser, every experience was new and exciting. It was great to meet experienced cruisers to get their insight and must do’s.

The Freedom of the Seas is newly updated and let me tell you, she is fantastic! Having really had nothing to compare it to except perhaps a hotel, I can say that the amenities, appointments and detail were just as good, if not better than many brand name hotels I’ve stayed at.

I looked at all of the options I could do while on board:

3D movie theatre – check

Outdoor movie screen – check

“Flowrider” Surf Simulator- check

Ice skating show – check

Rock climbing wall, mini golf – check check

Library – check

H20 Water park on board – check

State of the art fitness center – check

Spa treatments – check

Cupcake Cupboard, Vinteges Wine Bar, Sabor Mexican restaurant-check, check, check!

Character meet and greet with Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda characters- selfie check!

If you have not cruised then book one! I had such a great time! If you need a travel companion, let me know, I just can’t wait to get cruising again

Enough talk from me, take a look at a few of my pics and fall in love with Freedom Of The Sea’s.

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Promedade deck – turns into a street party at night!! woot woot!

 

Coffee...yes please!

Coffee…yes please!

 

Movie theater

Movie theater-I should’ve taken a better picture :(

Need to relax, head over to the library!

Need to relax, head over to the library! Shhhhh

This literally makes my heart rate jump!! Happiness!!

This literally makes my heart rate jump!! Happiness!!

Fully equipped fitness center #Love

Fully equipped fitness center #Love

Spinning class..yes please!!

Spinning class..yes please!!

Group fitness studio = awesome! #noexcuses #SomethingForEveryone

Group fitness studio = awesome! #noexcuses #SomethingForEveryone

Cupcake shop on board...come on!

Cupcake shop on board…come on!

Mmmmm

Mmmmm

 

Onboard water park for the kiddos...it was awesome!

Onboard water park for the kiddos…it was awesome!

Ice show - amazng talent, amazing show!

Ice show – amazng talent, amazing show!

Ice rink...ice rink on a ship--amazing!!! #impressed

Ice rink…ice rink on a ship–amazing!!! #impressed

Rock climbing = serious workout! Rock climbing while at sea...unreal!

Rock climbing = serious workout! Rock climbing while at sea…unreal!

Surfing, and wake boarding...really!

Surfing, and wake boarding…really!

Fore!!!!!!! Hitting the links before the sun sets.

Fore!!!!!!! Hitting the links before the sun sets.

I love these wild animals! Took selfies with them at every opportunity!

I love these wild animals! Took selfies with them at every opportunity!

New Mexican cuisine on board. Flavour explosion!

New Mexican cuisine on board. Flavour explosion!

Table side fresh guacamole...this is just the best!

Table side fresh guacamole…this is just the best!

Sunset on the open seas. Such an incredible experience.

Sunset on the open seas. Such an incredible experience.

Full Disclosure: Royal Caribbean provided this trip to showcase the Freedom of The Seas refurbishment. I was not required to write about my experience. I am writing about it because it was an incredible time and the experience has left me wanting more and sharing it with you.