Freedom of the Seas – Day Four

Internet connectivity aboard the ship has been very poor so I decided I would stay aboard the ship in St. Thomas.  Because St. Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands, there would be an AT&T wifi connection. I had four days of work to catch up.  The shoreside wifi connection was fast and I spent close to seven hours typing away.  At a minimum of $.37/minute using the ship’s internet, I was thrilled for unlimited wifi usage with my aircard.  The same is true for wifi connections in Puerto Rico.  Someday shipboard internet will catch up with the rest of the world.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Harbor
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Harbor

St. Thomas is a great place to shop, tour or simply relax at one of the beautiful beaches.  In particular there is Magen’s Bay, one of the most sensational beaches in the US Virgin Islands if not the entire Caribbean.  Only forty miles east of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas is a great island vacation destination, too.  With breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean on the north coast and the Caribbean Sea on the south, there is a hotel, resort or vacation rental for everyone. St. Thomas is a small island of only twenty-eight square miles so renting a car is an easy option, if you are a careful driver.

There are two cruise ports in Charlotte Amalie (pronounced ah-MAH-lee-eh) and both ports provide open-air trolley service to shuttle cruise passengers back and forth to town.  While there are many shore excursions to do, one simple option is to take the trolley into town and just have a walkabout for the afternoon.  Once in town, there are hundreds of shops lining old cobblestone streets once traversed by Blackbeard himself.  Take in some of the island’s rich and colorful history and stop for lunch overlooking the harbor.

Staying on the ship when a possible 4,100 passengers have gone away for

Freedom of the Seas Cantilevered Whirlpool, Deck 11
Freedom of the Seas Cantilevered Whirlpool, Deck 11

the day affords privacy and relaxation that isn’t possible when everyone is back on board.  Taking a break, I decided to relax in the cantilevered whirlpool which overhangs the side of the ship on deck 11.  I had the whirlpool to myself as well as the main pool and the adults-only solarium pool.  On Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class and Voyager class ships, the adult solarium is a great place to camp out for the duration.  Once in a while it’s tough to snag a lounge chair, but it’s never been a problem.

Deciding to work and not take part in some of the onboard daytime activities or head to the spa was a difficult decision.  There was a “Happy Hour” spa special; back, scalp, facial and foot massage, plus champagne and sauna/steam for only $99.  I also passed on the Caribbean Line Dance class and the afternoon trivia contest.

A quick nap (much-needed from all the non-activity), a trip to the gym, shower, change and off to the dining room for dinner at 8:30pm.  It was a very productive day for me and I was ready to say good-bye to my wifi connection as we sailed out of Charlotte Amalie harbor at sunset.

Royal Caribbean has implemented fleet-wide their new non-assigned dining time program, My Time Dining.  Instead of a 6:00pm or 8:30pm, simply show up at the entrance to the dining room (reservations are suggested, though.) You will be seated very quickly.  Norwegian Cruise Lines created this concept with their Freestyle Cruising theme years ago and the popularity of non-regimented dining has been steadily on the increase.  Most of the mass-market and premium cruise lines have a similar dining program, each with their unique name.  This is a great idea for those who want to dictate their own dining schedule.

Tonight’s menu was somewhat a mish-mash of entrees.  The choices were  “Wicked” Penne Pasta-chunky root vegetables and beef ragout over penne pasta; Roasted Free Range Chicken-marinated in ginger, soy, lemongrass, thyme and chilies; Foamie Falafels-chickpea patties, sautéed vegetable salad, eggplant “caviar” and spiced sour cream; Khooombi Bhonna-dry mushroom curry served with basmati rice, pappadams and tangy raita.  If this doesn’t get your mouth watering, there is always the alternate menu of pasta with marinara, broiled salmon, grilled chicken breast and black Angus top sirloin.

Broiled Salmon with Buttery Lemon/Dill Sauce
Broiled Salmon with Buttery Lemon/Dill Sauce

I’m a grazer…it’s more fun for me with several small selections from which to choose. I ordered off the appetizer menu and totally enjoyed the rich, creamy mushroom soup, Asian-influenced crab and noodle salad and a Caesar salad.  Dessert for me was a slice of fresh banana/chocolate pudding cream pie.

After dinner, the ship’s orchestra was playing Big Band music in the Pharaoh’s Palace, so my friends and I went to listen to the music.  Following that we made our way up to the Lido Deck to check out the Caribbean Pool Party and then call it a night.  Tomorrow is St. Maarten, one of my favorite Caribbean islands.  Weather looks to be warm and sunny with a gentle tropical breeze.

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