Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sweepstakes Cruise - Allure of the Seas

**** WARNING - This post is really, REALLY long!
Jez was even teasing me that it took longer
to blog it than it did to actually go on the trip.
You are welcome to stay and read it all,
or just skim through. It is more of a travel journal
for us and a way for me to share our pictures
with my family. ****

Back in July Jez met a chef in the Twin Cities.
Soon after he
met her she decided to enter a
competition to become the
chef for the
signature restaurant aboard the new

Royal Caribbean ship - Allure of the Seas
called 150 Central Park.

After making it through the first round of the
they asked the chefs to create a video
which the public
could vote for in a popularity poll.
The top 5 or 6
would be able to continue on
and compete in New York
for the final round.

The chef was Maureen (Molly) Brandt

and she sent emails asking people she knew to vote
for her.
Jez voted for her once each day when the
email came,
and about a month later we were notified
that Jez had
won the Sweepstakes prize for voting!

The prize included
a 3-day, 2 night cruise on the
Allure of the Seas in November
airfare and all food/beverages/gratuities and
entertainment included!!

We were so excited. We had never been to Florida
on a cruise, so we couldn't wait to go. We also found
that same day that Molly was the winner
of the competition so we would see her on the ship

We were able to have a friend of ours here watch our
kids so we could get away and enjoy some time together.
They have 4 kids of their own, so it was a full house for
them... and I found out she was called to be the new
Relief Society President that same week! (A very busy
church responsibility overseeing all the women of our
congregation.) Talk about charity!! :) We owe them a lot.

So our cruise was for November 21 (Sunday) and
there was
the craziest storm I had ever seen
Saturday night/Sunday morning.

It was so cold, but it was raining which made
for freezing rain
and roads made of black ice.
The rain was hitting the windshield
and then
turning to ice before the wipers could get it off.
It was crazy!!

We were supposed to get to their house at
5a.m. Sunday morning.
We left the house a little early,
but still got to their house late. I was
just happy to get there safe.

I told Jez when we were leaving our
to check how slick it was... when he hit the brakes the van

slid the rest of the way down the driveway.
We drove about 20 mph
the whole way to their house
(we take 2 freeways to get there).

On the interstate there were cars off the road
all over the place. I
grew up in Northern Utah and
I have seen a lot of black ice before,
but never anything
like that. We passed multiple accidents and

ambulances. At one point when we needed to turn
off the road we
were on our van slid sideways and
went up on the cement divider which

was scary, but I was glad it helped us stop as there
were other cars
around and it could have been
much worse. We finally got to their house

and we could not even pull up in the driveway.

Thankfully we had taken
the kids the night before since
we were leaving so early, and we were
going to their house
so they could drop us off at the airport. Monte

(the guy who was taking us) slid down his driveway to
get to the van.
I am so glad we were all safe and that
he made it back ok.

Then once we got to the airport and through security we
the plane and found out we would need to
wait for them to de-ice
the plane. I know this is a fairly routine
procedure... but I was
a little freaked out! I have never
had to wait in a plane as they
sprayed chemicals all over it
in hopes that the ice will stay off and
the plane can fly!
I kept thinking of that plane that crashed in

New York because it had ice on the wings.

Anyway, after the pilot
announced that it would take
an extra 20 minutes or so we found
out that it
was too slick for the plane to get pushed off out of the

gate and that we would need to wait for a bigger truck
with chains
on the tires to get us out. Our flight left about
30 minutes late which
wouldn't be a huge deal
except for the fact that our layover in Memphis

was only 40 minutes!

I knew if we missed that flight we would not

be on the ship in time before it left. I was hoping we
would make up
some time in the air. We finally took off
and I held my breath
as the plane soared into the
freezing rain and bumped around
in the clouds.

When we finally broke through the storm, the sun
just coming up over the clouds and it was bright
and sunny with
beautiful rays beaming into the blue sky.
It brought tears to my eyes
as I thought of President Uchtdorf
(a leader from our church) and
his talk about the blue horizon.
He is a pilot and he talked about
the fact that no matter
how bad the storm may be, there is always
a blue horizon
waiting just beyond. He likened that to our lives

and that we should never give up, and to look for that horizon.
I love him! Anyway, it was a peaceful and gentle reminder
that God is always there and I was grateful for it.

My hopes of catching up in the air were soon dashed as we
hit another storm system and the turbulence was as bad as before.
The pilot came on again apologizing for the weather and that
we were falling further behind because of the windy conditions.
The flight attendants assured everyone that they had contacted
the connecting flights to let them know we were coming and to
hold the flights if possible. We finally landed just as our next
plane was making their final boarding call. We ran to the gate
and were able to get our seats together even though the plane
was full and we were late. There was a pilot sitting next to my
seat who offered to trade with Jez. I was happy about that. :)

Then, we landed in Florida right on time. It was 79 degrees
out and it was absolutely beautiful! It was a little cloudy and was
pouring rain as we got to our shuttle bus, but we didn't even care.
We couldn't wait to get to the ship. It was a little windy and did
rain off and on until we left the port that night, but it was warm
so the other didn't matter so much. We were just ecstatic to have
made it there and to be having 3 whole days to ourselves!!!
(The last real vacation we had with just us was about 12 years
ago when we went to San Francisco for Jez's 21st birthday)

The security check and check in process for the ship went
pretty quick and finally, we were all checked in and ready to
explore our first cruise ship, which was HUGE!

(I believe it is officially the largest cruise ship in the world)

Everyone is given a SeaPass to use for getting on/off
the ship and also for any purchases while on the cruise.
It also has your picture attached to it so when they
scan your card they can see that it is really yours.
We were in room #12678

I loved that the elevator told us what day we were on.
I guess too many days at sea could do that to you.

Our stateroom was perfect... and the amenities were
amazing. I haven't slept that well in a really long time.

Jez couldn't wait to check out the balcony.

He was happy with the results. :)

The TV has an interactive menu that shows what is
going on around the ship and in the restaurants.
You can always tell which ones are open and how busy
they are. We hadn't had anything to eat yet all day
so we decided to go check out the Windjammer Cafe
on the 16th deck... it was the only thing open and since
it's a buffet we knew it would be pretty quick.

While we were on board they were filming the new
movie Jack & Jill with Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, and
Katie Holmes. The dressing rooms for the extras
were right across from our room. We also saw the
other dressing and hair/makeup rooms later on.

This isn't a great picture, but they have sparkly beaded
dresses hanging in a display by the elevators. Our
little Josie would have LOVED them! This is looking
out towards the Central Park neighborhood.

Looking out at Port Everglades.
It had been a little rainy and windy, but it was still
in the high 70's. It was so nice after being in the cold.

This is the H2O Zone for the kids.
The pool closest to us was like a whirlpool that would
send the kids around in circles. It looked fun.

Then we went to check out Central Park.
It was one of my most favorite places on the ship.
There are a lot of live trees and plants and
cute little bistro type tables along the path.
They also had a trellis and vines growing over things.
It was peaceful and beautiful.

150 Central Park is the specialty restaurant that had the
culinary chef contest. As part of the sweepstakes prize
we were supposed to have dinner there and also a cooking
demonstration with Chef Brandt (Molly). We got to see
her for two seconds on the way to get pictures of the
restaurant, but other than that we didn't have any luck.
The reservations were already full before we even had
our trip finalized, so they couldn't get us in. We tried to
call our contact person at the corporate office while we
were on the ship, but we just got her voice mail. I know
Jez was a little disappointed, but we were just happy to
be there. Maybe we will catch her on another cruise.

Check out the size of those chairs! :)
I don't know why but every time I see them it reminds
me of the Mad Hatter... like the table at the tea party.

My camera doesn't take great pictures, but the colors
were really pretty. It was like an eggplant.
Dark wine, plum and olive-y gold-ish green.
(Not sure what that color is called)

Back out to Central Park.
The bubbles on the ceiling changed colors.

Next we went to check out the Royal Promenade.
This is actually where we boarded the ship, but we were
just trying to find our room at that point so we didn't
really see what was there.

This is by the elevators. The blue stairs were a nice touch.

Jez on the blue stairs. :)

This picture is by the Schooner Bar. We didn't hang
out there because we don't drink, but it looked like
an old European tavern with heavy black iron and
candles in the windows. It reminded me of a place in
a book I read once. I liked the look of it.

These are the fountains that are underneath the
Rising Tide Bar. The bar moves up and down from
Decks 5-8. You can sit in the bar and see Central Park
and then the Royal Promenade. When the bar is up
these fountains play below it.

And a video for a more full effect...

Then we saw the main dining room that is on
Decks 3, 4 and 5. We always ate on Deck 4, but these
photos were from Deck 5.

This is the carpet underneath that chandelier above.

On Monday night they were filming for the movie at that
table right next to the piano. We were at dinner on the deck
above them, but I didn't get a picture.

Jez by the ship replica/map.
The TV screen behind him is an interactive screen
that you can check out schedules of activities or
restaurants. They had them throughout the ship.

Checking out the emergency vessels. I was surprised
at how big they are. They look tiny next to the huge
ships. These were just off of the running track.

Looking out to Ft. Lauderdale... we also caught glimpses
of Miami. I have never been to Florida so it was fun to
see the cities I always hear so much about.

Our response area for the emergency drill was to be
at section G1, which was at the Aqua Theater.
We decided to head there a little early, and we found
them practicing for their water show, OceanAria.
It was amazing to watch. I was literally holding my
breath on some of those dives. I took a few videos
but they don't do it justice. Those divers are serious
athletes. I couldn't believe their skills (and guts).

There's Jez sitting at the top in the green chair.
I went to get pictures of the city/port when the
sun came out for a minute.

See the guy about to dive off the platform
into the fountains?!

Not sure why it's sideways, but it's a great video anyway.

They have two rock climbing walls by the theater.
We were lining up for our emergency drill when it
started to rain. We had to move into the Boardwalk
where it was covered.

We ended up next to the carousel.

Once the drill was completed they were having a
"Sail Away" party at the theater so we went back
and Jez got us some non-alcoholic Pina Coladas.
For this preview cruise the entire ship had open
bars and all of our gratuities were paid for us so it
didn't cost anything for all of our food/beverages.

I tried to get a video of the fountain show that was
playing while we were waiting for the show to start.

They had the DreamWorks characters on stage with
them and if you look closely you can see Adam Sandler
on the right side of the stage in the white T-shirt.


Shrek and Fiona

The sparkly dresses at night...

We went to watch the ship leave the port.
It was a little windy and rained for a minute,
but it was fun to see the top deck anyway.

This part of the ship was by the Solarium and they
had multiple hot tubs. We didn't try them but
heard they were great.

It was fun watching the ship leave from the port.
A bunch of people were outside their houses waving,
screaming, whistling, cheering, flashing lights and
blowing air horns. The houses along there are huge
and they all have beautiful pools. I don't know how
I would like living right there, but they must love
seeing the ships coming in and out.

Out in the ocean looking back at the port...

Going back to our room to get ready for dinner.

There was a map by each elevator to show you where
you were and where you wanted to go.

Dinner in the Main Dining Room...

I had a Caesar Salad.

Jez had a crab cake.

I had a steak and potato.

Jez had pork loin with asparagus.

And for dessert we both had this pineapple
and pina colada cream pie.

It was a great dinner. Jez was a little more adventurous
than I, but that is usually the case. :)

We also got to see Al Pacino while we were at dinner.
He came into our dining room. Jez is much better
at spotting stars than I am... haha. I pointed out
the camera crew... he pointed out the celebrity. :)

I think he also spotted Katie Holmes and Suri when
we were leaving. They were about 10 feet away from
us in the hall. I just saw a pretty lady with a little girl...

Anyway, after dinner we walked around for awhile
and stopped by this Coke machine on the way
back to our room. It has 106 different flavors.
You touch the screen for Sprite and it comes up with
a whole bunch of flavors of Sprite... and Hi-C and Coke, etc.
I got an orange Hi-C... Jez got a Caffeine Free Vanilla Coke.

We had a fun day, but we were so exhausted!
We went to bed and this is what we woke up to!

It was a bright sunny day with a beautiful
view of the Ocean.

We decided to go to breakfast at the Main Dining Room
and then come back and get ready for the day.

Monday :)

Just in case you forget where you are going in the elevator...

Breakfast was great. We got sat by a couple of other
guests so I didn't get pictures, but we had a lovely chat.
They were both from Canada and had been on many
cruises so it was fun to hear their comparisons.

The menu offered a "Chocolate Buffet" where they
brought out chocolate covered pastries, chocolate
banana bread, chocolate mousse, and a few other
chocolate items. We didn't try any because we
left them for the other guests at the table, but
I am sure they were delicious. I love chocolate!

After breakfast we walked up to see what was on
the breakfast buffet. It was a lot of the same things
but some different. They had tons of fresh fruit
and everything we love for breakfast, so we decided
to eat there on Tuesday morning.

Jez posing by some glass jellybeans...

Then we went back to the room to get
ready for the day. Jez was in peaceful
contemplation most of the time I was
getting ready. The ocean is beautiful. :)

Then we decided to tour some of the rooms they had
open for the travel agents to look at. We started
with the biggest ones and worked our way backwards...
maybe that wasn't the best idea... ;)

I am not positive, but I think this one is the
Owner's Suite. It was beautiful.
This is the view from the bedroom!
(It was a two level suite)

and it had an elevator...

This next one is the Royal Loft Suite.
It is one of a kind!

Personal library and baby grand...

private hot tub...

telescope and patio furniture...

balcony overlooking the sport court and FlowRiders...

and mini-golf...

jacuzzi tub...

view from the bedroom...

and I didn't get a picture, but behind me is the bed
and over my head is a retractable screen for watching
movies on a projector. It was a HUGE suite!

Then we decided to take a break from the tour and
go see where the ice skating rink was.
It was on Deck 4 with the Comedy Live...

and the Jazz on 4...

and the Amber Theater.

This is the theater where they have the Broadway
Show CHICAGO, the Blue Planet acrobatics show,
and any headliner shows.

Advertising for the Disco Party

This is up at the Solarium Bar. It was closed on
Sunday night for a Private Event, so we wanted to
walk through today since Jez was curious to see out
from the front of the ship.

Then we went back to touring rooms...
I don't know for sure what this one is called but
it was nice. I believe it was one of the family suites.

All the stairs were so shiny!
It was fun to see all the different art throughout the ship.

Another family suite (I think) with a balcony.

This is another one of the lounges along the
Royal Promenade. I love how everything is lit up
and sparkles. I would love to live in a house
that is lit up and sparkly! Maybe that is why I love
the holidays so much. All the pretty twinkling lights...

We passed clowns in the elevator...

Then we decided to try out the Solarium Bistro.
It is up by the Solarium Bar we saw earlier.
They have a buffet that is all healthy (Vitality) food.
It was so peaceful and beautiful up there!
I could sit there all day and read. They had these
awesome round loungers with built in shades.

We had fresh broccoli, grapes, carrots, salad,
tofu wraps, pitas and hummus and flavored waters.
Oh, and for dessert I had a fruit bowl with melons,
papaya, and fresh pineapple. It was fantastic!

Then we decided to go to the ice show and on the way
we passed the Amber Theater...
(I love the frosted glass)

and I couldn't resist taking a picture of the sinks
in the ladies restroom. I loved how the sinks
were shaped like leaves.

The ice show was "How to Train Your Dragon"
I didn't get any videos because I don't think it was
allowed, but I wasn't sure about photos. I hope it's
ok that I took these ones...

I have never seen the movie, but their skating was phenomenal!
We really enjoyed the show and think it would be fun to take
our kids. So we decided to go check out some more suites.

This was by far my favorite one...

The Aqua Theater Suite!

Kids' bathroom

Master bedroom which had it's own bath, but I didn't
get a picture. There were a lot of people touring the rooms.

Kids' room... had a queen bed and then two fold out
Twin size beds. Our girls would take the big one
and the boys the fold out ones. It would be perfect.

It had a dining and sitting area

And a huge deck with one side that is peaceful/quiet
views of the ocean...

and wraps around with patio furniture...

to views of the rock climbing walls and the Aqua Theater!

It was amazing! You could watch the fountain and
water shows from the balcony and if you wanted
a more quiet/peaceful view you could go around to the
other side. I would love to take my family there for
a week. I think the kids would have a lot of fun!

Then after our healthy lunch at the Solarium Bistro
we decided to get some mid-afternoon shakes from
Johnny Rockets. :) From our table we could see
the zip line so we watched people go across while
we ate and visited for a minute.

Jez: Cheeseburger and Chocolate Malt
Trina: Grilled Cheese and Chocolate Shake

Then we checked out the arcade and kids areas

and went to the top deck to check out the FlowRiders.

They were filming the movie at one of them so it was all
blocked off and we had to go around the other way.
We got to see all their props and equipment. We also
got to see into the main dressing room where they had all
the clothing racks. It is incredible the amount of stuff
they need to film! I had no idea. I tried to get a picture
but I didn't get a very good one. They were filming just
on the other side of the mini-golf course.

The setting of the movie must be around Christmas time
because they have everything decorated with garland
and Christmas trees.

all the sound equipment was under those tents
and there was a clothing tent behind them so we
could see people coming back and forth to those.
Like I mentioned above, I don't know if I saw any
celebrities. Jez was watching the zip line and
the FlowRider.

FlowRider is a simulated wave pool where people
try to surf. I tried to get a picture, but I was too short
to get any good ones. This person had just wiped out
and was in the middle of the wave.

Here was more of the filming equipment...

Then we decided to go back to our room to watch the
sunset and get ready for dinner.

This is a picture looking straight down from our balcony.

And here is a picture of the sunset. Since our cruise
was so short, it was the only one we got to see
out on the water.

We read for a minute and then got ready to go down
to dinner. It was a more formal night so I wore my
black dress and Jez wore his suit.

This is a picture of us in front of the picture in our room.
I loved the colors of it.

It is called the Adagio Dining Room on Deck 4.

We had a lovely dinner. This was the night they were
filming at the restaurant so they had live piano music
playing and everyone was dressed up. I enjoyed it.

I didn't get any photos of dinner, but Jez got a pasta
dish and I went for the steak again. I am not a huge
seafood fan and the other option was lamb...
I think our server was disappointed that we were not
more adventurous. He kept asking if we were sure
that that's what we wanted. :)

I did go for his recommendation for dessert though.
It was a molten chocolate cake with caramelized pears on top.
It was pretty good, but super rich. I shared with Jez and we
still couldn't finish it. Jez got a mango sherbet and
angel food cake with strawberries. It was good too.

After dinner we went to the Royal Promenade for the
Parade. We had great seats next to Sorrento's Pizza.
They have pizza slices on hand til 3 a.m. and it is the
place with the coke machine. We got late night pizza
the first night and we got drinks again for the parade.
(Yes it feels like we ate non-stop for 2 days!)

Anyway, these are pictures before/during the parade...

The round sphere at the top opens up and this
catwalk extends out of it. They had characters and
dancers up there as well as on the ground.

At the end of the parade they had confetti and started
getting ready for their disco party.

We went down to the Amber Theater for the headliner
show, which was Ronn Lucas... a very talented,
and funny ventriloquist. We had a great time. There
were kids in the showtime we were at so it was great,
he kept it pretty clean. We laughed a lot, but didn't get
photos or videos because they asked us not to...
Here are some of the theater before the show started.

I liked the carpet

After the show we headed back up to the disco party
where the cruise director was dressed as John Travolta
and dancing to "Stayin Alive"

We stayed for a few minutes and then headed up to
our room. I had brought a new book I wanted to read
so I decided to spend some down time just reading.

When we got to our room they had come to
turn down the bed and we found this towel dog
with my glasses on it. :)

After we read for awhile we decided to try out their
24 hour room service (I know, more food!)

It was really good. We ordered some chips with
spinach artichoke dip, a turkey panini (YUM!),
and a fresh fruit plate. They had all kinds of things
you could order on the menu... and it is all at no charge!

Can you even imagine what it feels like having a break
from feeding 7 people at every meal to having all of your
food brought to you for two days??!! It was fantastic!

We read for a little longer and then went to bed.
Tuesday morning we woke up just as the ship was
getting back to the port.

It was so quiet still and we sat out on the balcony
and watched for awhile.

I realized I hadn't gotten a photo of some of the amenities

the ice tray...
(sorry I should've straightened the glass cover)

and the ipod dock...

our bathroom...

brand new top of the line bath robes...

100% Egyptian Cotton towels!...
(they were so soft and fluffy)

shampoo, etc... we never used cause we brought
our own, but we brought them home so I can try them.

Then we went to the breakfast buffet for something to
eat quick before it got too busy. We all had to be out
of our rooms by 8 and off the ship by 9.

We got a window seat. While out at sea it had beautiful
views, but this morning it was of the dock. I wasn't
ready to leave yet, but I was excited to see the kids.

It's a pretty big buffet. They had all kinds of eggs,
omelets, fruit, potatoes, hash browns, bacon, sausage,
turkey sausage, pancakes, pastries, french toast,
ham, Asian stir fry and juices. We liked their
croissants. They were so yummy!

After breakfast we went back to the room to finish packing
up and got this picture of people leaving the ship.

The big blue building is a customs/security check in
and all the buses lining up to the building were chartered
to take us all back to the airport.

After getting off the ship...

on the bus ride...

We got to the airport at 8:30 a.m. and our flight was
boarding at 12:40 p.m. That normally wouldn't be
that big of a deal because I like to find a quiet place
and read, but this airport was tiny! They only had
two sitting areas in our entire terminal for 9 different
gates! The first hour went by so slow I decided to go
get some trivia puzzle books. We sat and did Sudoku,
word searches, crosswords, etc. for the next 3 hours!
But it was fun, and I was most excited when Jez's
status went from Standby to a confirmed ticket!
AND we even got to rearrange our seats to sit by each
other for the 4 hour flight AND we got our own row
so I got the window and Jez sat in the middle. It was a
good flight home.

Last look at the ocean...

flying over the East side of Lake Michigan towards Chicago...
(we waved to Trinette and Landon)

Home to frozen Minnesota!!

We had so much fun! Thanks to Royal Caribbean for the
great trip, Molly for entering a contest and asking us to
vote, Mickalene and Monte for watching our kids,
and Desiree who gave me a lot of great tips to save
money. We spent a total of $40 since they even paid
all of our gratuities for us.

It was great and I can't wait to plan our next vacation!!
Who's coming with us?? :)


Kristi Rowley said...

That looks sooo much fun! Glad you were able to get away.

rebeccaV said...

Trina that looks like such a great trip!! I'm SO glad you and Jez got to do that!! You totally deserve it. That ship is so unbelievable. I've never been on a cruise but that makes it look so fun! We would love to go on a vacation with you two sometime :)