I recently had the pleasure of sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. As you can imagine, I was elated to be back on board a cruise ship. After all, we disembarked from our last cruise on March 14, 2020(the day cruise operations came to a halt). Being an avid cruiser, I felt it was important to get back on a ship as soon as possible to share my experience with you.
Prior to Embarkation
First things first, I made sure the Royal Caribbean app was still on my phone(which of course it was). This app is where I managed our entire cruise. I linked my cruise booking number and proceeded to purchase shore excursions, beverage packages, dining packages and spa services. I then completed our online check-in. During this process I was asked to upload photos for all guests traveling, passport information, and add credit card information for onboard purchases. Once this was completed, I was able to select a boarding time and receive a mobile boarding pass.
A critical new step in the process was added since my sailing, so I’m including it here even though it was not required for my cruise. All guest ages 2 & over will need to provide a negative PCR or antigen test for Covid-19 during check-in. This test must be taken no more than three days prior to sailing and must be arranged by each guest at their own expense with an accredited test provider. The good news is Royal Caribbean just approved Abbott’s BinaxNOW at home Covid test for use. I have gotten a lot of questions regarding this test, so I ordered my own test for my next sailing. Once you have the results of a negative Covid test, make sure to print out the results to have with you along with your vaccination card(if vaccinated). If you are an unvaccinated guest, you will need to take an additional Covid test at the cruise terminal before you will be allowed to board the ship.
With all proper documents in hand, we boarded a plane to Miami one day prior. I highly recommend flying to your embarkation destination a day prior to your cruise. There are so many variables to consider when traveling(cancelled flights and lost luggage to name a few). Once we arrived in Miami, we checked into the Marriott Biscayne Bay for the evening. This is a great location that is close to the port. It was great to wake up in the morning and see the Freedom of the Seas in the distance.
We arrived at the port at 2:00pm(our arrival window was 2:00-2:30), we were greeted by a porter who assisted us with our luggage and then directed us to the check-in line. We stood in line outside the terminal for about 45 minutes. Once we reached the doors, we were directed to a terminal employee who checked our boarding passes, vaccination cards and passports. We were then issued wristbands that must be worn at all times so the cruise staff knows you are vaccinated. We were then directed to the next check point where again they checked all our documents and entered our information into the system. Next stop was a quick trip through the security checkpoint and we were on our way onto the ship.
As I write this blog, I can still remember the excitement I had when I stepped onto that ship. Not only was I excited but the crew was as well. We were directed to our muster station to complete our muster drill. The crew asked us if we watched the security videos in our apps and once we acknowledged we did, they gave us a safety briefing. They then handed us a sticker to attach to our seapass card which will inform the crew we completed this safety drill.Once the safety drill was completed, we decided to go to our stateroom. Our luggage was waiting for us outside our door along with our seapass card. We attached our stickers to the front of our seapass cards and went into our stateroom. Located on the desk in our stateroom we found 2 masks, hand sanitizer, and healthy sailing protocols information sheet. The TV had a safety briefing on(for passengers without a smart phone). I decided to unpack and get settled into our new home for the next few days. Once we were done, I decided to explore the ship before dinner.
Stay tuned for my next blog…Life Aboard the Freedom of the Sea!