Category Archives: Onboard Activities

Lost treasures: The 3 well-missed cruise ship events

Every cruise vacation comes with forever cherished memories. Here, travel writer David Kriso enjoys his time on the flow rider on board the Oasis of The Seas.

No one can say that cruising is no fun. Everyone who comes home from their cruise vacation always have plenty to share. They brag about who stuffed themselves, who won the jackpot in bingo, who won big in the casino, and who spent the most in duty-free shopping. The list goes on and on. In the years past, things have changed. Cruise ships have evolved. New on board experiences have been added. Unfortunately, there are some on board experiences which have long disappeared. It’s these kinds of events which longtime cruisers remember to this very day. Many avid cruisers speak highly of them, and reminisce about the level of excitement drawn by them. Here’s the top three missed cruise ship events. They’re gone, but not forgotten.

Paired with the belly-flop competition, the Mr. Sexy Legs competition was a favorite poolside event for all ladies on board.

3. Mr. Sexy Legs Competition: Everyone’s heard the expression, “What happens on board, stays on board!”. There are so many fun poolside events held on board cruise ships. There’s bar games, swimming pool volleyball tournaments, and the belly-flop competition. The Mr. Sexy Legs competition is the one event which many young cruisers miss very much. The Mr. Sexy Legs competition was one of the most anticipated events on board ship. It was the second most favorite to the belly-flop competition. It was one competition which signaled to all ladies on board to get their cameras rolling. How did the competition go? Eight contestants danced before a panel of female judges (who are guests). They were allowed to make body contact, make crazy gestures, and so on. There was never any nudity. Third place was awarded to Mr. Chicken Legs. Second place was awarded to Mr. Hairy Legs. Then, there was first place-self-explanatory. To all men on board, anyone being crowned Mr. Sexy Legs was a happening. Not long ago, the event was done away with. Well, so we think! On most cruise lines, it’s been combined with “The World’s Sexiest Man” competition. If anyone’s ever participated in this competition, they should without-a-doubt savor the moment.

Without the cruise director and the staff, no cruise vacation would be possible. Here, the cruise staff performs the legendary show, “Fountains”.

2. Fountains: On every cruise, guests love a good show. Who doesn’t? There are headliner shows, special guest comedians, and Broadway musicals. There was one show which guests got a huge laugh out of. It was the show that starred the cruise director and his/her staff. It was called “Fountains”. How did “Fountains” go? “Fountains” would to start out very quiet, with the music starting. Depending which cruise line “Fountains” was featured on, the stage effects were always unpredictable, and gave the show that guessing feeling. Then, the performers processed on to the stage, wearing togas and laurel wreathes. Each performer carried a metal jug of water. Often times, the show was set to the music of Enya. How appropriate, no?

In “Fountains”, there was never enough anticipation. The guests laughed non-stop.

In “Fountains” the action would continue to build. The audience’s anticipation also began to build. Each of the performers would start drinking the water and filling up their mouths. Like fountains, they started squirting each other and the cruise director. Each and every time, the performers would get into different formations on stage. Just like those fancy fountains in a city park, they drank more water and squirted each other on cue. It was too funny. No one knew who was going to squirt who next, and how, and in what manner? “Fountains” was like a fountain in a European city impersonated by circus clowns. This iconic show sadly disappeared from the cruise ship stage. It wasn’t disliked by anyone. Unfortunately, it was discontinued for sanitary reasons. If anyone has seen this show before, let the memory live on forever.

Surrounded by so much mouth-watering food at all angles, the midnight buffet was the holiest of events on board.

1. The midnight buffet: Everyone has been on a cruise and heard the funny question, “What time is the midnight buffet”? That question still lives on to this day. The midnight buffet was once the most anticipated event on any cruise ship. Everyone looked forward to it. Dinner in the main dining room was never enough. The midnight buffet was looked to by guests as being the holiest of holidays on board. There were dazzling ice sculptures, handcrafted fruit platters, all-you-can-eat shrimp, all-you-can-eat crab legs, all-you-can-eat cold cuts, all-you-can-eat grilled meats, and best of all…all-you-can-eat dessert. One can imagine how much food anyone can consume in one night. One can imagine why they would hold a belly-flop competition on board. Unfortunately, the midnight buffet was done away with. Any food not consumed (meat, fruits, vegetables, etc), had to be disposed of. Nothing is saved on board a cruise ship. If a major buffet event is held, it would be some major event such as a wedding or a ship’s inaugural celebration. If anyone’s ever been to the midnight buffet before, he/she should savor the memory, and the mouth-watering aftertaste. Long live the taste buds!

Despite the popularity of the “Mr. Sexy Legs” competition, it was no match for the belly-flop competition.

Every cruise vacation has plenty to talk and brag about. Every cruise vacation features great shows, fun contests on the open decks, and exciting evening events. Everyone has something fun and amazing to talk about when they return home from their cruise. However, there are a handful of great on board events which avid cruisers will truly miss. They were events which they often looked forward to, and events they were always anticipating the moment they stepped on board. Guests would even ask the cruise staff when those events will be taking place. “Mr. Sexy Legs”, “Fountains”, and the midnight buffet will be sorely missed. They were the events that got the crowd going. As we all know, times do change. Things happen for a reason. “Mr. Sexy Legs”, “Fountains”, and the midnight buffet are gone, but will never be forgotten. If any cruisers out there have footage of these events on their cruise DVD, they should play them on repeat. It’s too easy to believe when they say “Great moments last forever”.

Quantum cruising: Royal Caribbean’s greatest leap yet

At 167,000 tons, Royal Caribbean's Quantum of The Seas is the world's first ever smart ship.

At 167,000 tons, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of The Seas is the world’s first ever smart ship.

For more than 40 years, Royal Caribbean International has had the pleasure of WOWing millions of cruise passengers. From its top-notch on board service, to its world class on board cuisine, Royal Caribbean has provided that unforgettable experience for all to treasure. From belly-flop competitions, to on board ice rinks, to having an aqua show at sea, Royal Caribbean has been exceeding the expectations of cruise passengers from around the world. This year, Royal Caribbean has pushed the envelope even further. The newly christened Quantum of The Seas has taken Royal Caribbean to unprecedented heights. Sailing out of Bayonne, NJ, the Quantum of The Seas is a ship not to be missed out on. What makes this ship and the new experiences she provides so special? Here are five key reasons why.

The Next Gen Embarkation system allows passengers to skip the check-in counter, except for ticketing and on board charge matters.

The Next Gen Embarkation system allows passengers to skip the check-in counter, except for ticketing and on board charge matters.

5) Brand new check-in system: Unlike the rest of the other ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, the Quantum of The Seas features a brand new passenger check-in process. New ship, new check-in system! Why not? Royal Caribbean’s “Next Gen Embark” system is a check-in system which will WOW cruise passengers inside and out. It is designed to get passengers from the curbside to the ship in ten minutes or less. When the passengers arrive at the cruise terminal door, they are met by a mobile check-in agent. Each of the check-in agents, inside or outside the terminal building, carry a wireless tablet computer. The passengers each have their own individual Set Sail cruise ticket. With a wireless scanner, the mobile agent scans the bar code on the Set Sail ticket. The Set Sail ticket contains the passenger’s security photo (uploaded prior to sailing), passport information, on board charge, and personal information. As the passengers are checked in, their Set Sails are marked with a green stamp. That green stamp indicates that they are embarked and cleared to board the ship without waiting on that long switchback line. The check-in counter is only for those passengers who have no Set Sail ticket, need to change their on board charge information, and so forth. No lines, no problem!

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The Quantum of The Seas’s signature feature North Star reaches skyward. Passengers are treated to a breathtaking vista of the ship and the ocean.

4) New on board features: The Quantum of The Seas, unlike the other ships in Royal Caribbean’s world class fleet, has some new bells and whistles which will definitely WOW cruise passengers across the board. The Quantum of The Seas features the largest recreation complex at sea called Sea Plex. It features roller skating, bumper cars, a floating DJ booth, and space for various on board events. The Quantum of The Seas also features a simulated skydiving attraction known as Ripcord by I-Fly. Further, the ship features virtual balconies. Video footage of the ocean outside is piped in and displayed on an LED screen, so passengers no longer have to fall in love with a wall view. Last, but not least, the Quantum of The Seas features the North Star. It is an observation arm that lifts passengers in a glass bubble three hundred feet above the ship. There, passengers get a view of the ocean like no other. It sure pays to see how Royal Caribbean goes the extra mile to WOW its passengers.

3) New WOWs in entertainment: Aside from the DreamWorks movie experience and other notable forms of entertainment, Royal Caribbean has added another Broadway show to its repertoire. Aboard the Quantum of The Seas, the hit Broadway musical “Mama Mia!” is featured. Also aboard the Quantum of The Seas, is a brand new bar called the “Bionic Bar”. This is a bar which will WOW passengers without any doubt. Not only is “The Bionic Bar” a bar, it is a bar and a form of entertainment all in one. Right before the passengers’ eyes, robotic arms prepare their drinks. With extreme precision, they prepare the passengers’ drinks to order. It’s more than just a Martini, it’s entertainment! It is a public place on board that cannot be missed.

Upon disembarking from their cruise, passengers can use the Royal IQ app on their smart devices to track the location of their luggage.

Upon disembarking from their cruise, passengers can use the Royal IQ app on their smart devices to track the location of their luggage.

2) She’s a smart ship! In the 21st century, our world has become far smaller than before. Things have become simpler and more advanced. With Royal Caribbean, cruising has become a “smarter” experience. The Quantum of The Seas is the world’s first ever smart ship. Much of the ship’s on board environment is highly interactive. All throughout the ship, passengers have access to WiFi everywhere on board. They can access their email at home as well. With their iPods, iPads, smart phones, and tablets, passengers can download Royal Caribbean’s “Royal IQ” app. The app allows passengers to manage their dining times, entertainment, and shore excursion bookings. Also, the Royal IQ app allows passengers to easily track the location of their luggage on embarkation and disembarkation day. That way, there will be no need to go on a never-ending scavenger hunt for luggage at any time. It’s a rather “smart” way to cruise, agree?

1) New on board dining experiences: Unlike Norwegian Cruise Line’s Freestyle Dining and Disney Cruise Line’s Rotational Dining, Royal Caribbean has added a little twist to its on board dining environment. Royal Caribbean has introduced a new and unique dining concept called Dynamic Dining. Dynamic Dining is the newest brand of dining for all cruise passengers to enjoy. Instead of having a main dining room, the Quantum of The Seas features a variety of themed dining rooms. Each dining room serves a unique style of food and flavors. Passengers can enjoy a variety of dining rooms such as the American Icon Grill, Jaime’s Italian, Chic, and Wonderland. Passengers with suite cabins are invited to eat in a special dining room called Coastal Kitchen. Formal dining is still available on board the Quantum of The Seas. For passengers who still wish to experience a formal atmosphere, The Grande is the dining room of choice. All of these themed dining rooms await the taste buds of millions of cruise passengers from around the world.

Royal Caribbean International, without a doubt, is a world class cruise line with great on board features and experiences. Every ship features a unique flavor and atmosphere for cruise passengers to enjoy. The Quantum of The Seas, along with her two upcoming sister ships, Anthem and Ovation of The Seas, provide a brand new and boundary-shattering experience for cruise passengers all around the world to behold. From roller skating, to bumper cars, to smart technology, to an all new WOW-inspiring dining atmosphere, the people at Royal Caribbean International have once again outdone themselves. Passengers, without a doubt, have greater and more dynamic on board experiences to savor in the future. Cruising is has truly taken an unprecedented “leap” in the travel industry. With so many new features, Royal Caribbean gives passengers the opportunity to ride the waves to the future. Royal Caribbean has changed cruising forever. The Quantum of The Seas, without a doubt, changes everything.

The Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition: A Royal Caribbean Must-Do

Yours truly, participating in the "Men's International Belly-Flop Competition" at the AquaTheater on board Royal Caribbean's Oasis of The Seas.

Yours truly, participating in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” at the AquaTheater on board Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of The Seas.

Royal Caribbean is one of the world’s best cruise lines.  There is something special for everyone to enjoy while on board.  There is ice skating, the rock climbing wall, enjoying some quiet time in the Solarium pool, and even attending the “Love & Marriage Game Show”.  The one event which is top of every man’s list is the one, the only, the “Men’s International Belly-Flop competition”.  Mark my words, everyone.  Coming out the champion in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” is  no easy feat.  It takes great preparation, sacrifice, and a substantial lacking of diet discipline.  Having participated in the Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” on four previous occasions, I wish to share with you gentlemen the most valuable advice you’ll ever receive from an experienced Royal Caribbean cruiser.  Do you have what it takes to make it to the medal stand?  Here are your keys to victory.

5) Pork Fat Endurance:

Each morning of your cruise, eat nowhere else but the Windjammer Marketplace.  At the Windjammer Marketplace, load up on all of the essentials.  Load your plate up with bacon, port sausage, and turkey sausage.  Along with the pork products, load up on fruit.  You can never have enough Vitamin C in your system.  Lastly, chase it all down with plenty of coffee.  When done cleaning off your plate, go back to the buffet for a reload.  After scarfing down the second load, go back for a third an fourth time.  Repeat this process every morning until the day of competition.  The Royal Caribbean restaurant staff will be cheering you on in no time.

4) Practice, Practice, Practice!

In between Royal Caribbean cruises, slacking off is unsatisfactory.  Striving to be on the medal stand in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” requires a substantial amount of practice.  Relentless practice is vital to making it onto the medal stand.  You have to be serious about participating in this prestigious competition.  Note: Do not practice while on board.  You don’t want to give away any secrets to any potential contestants.  Do you have an in-ground swimming pool at your house?  Use it!  Do at least half a dozen jumps per day.  If the life guards at your town pool or health club don’t mind, practice there.  Tell them it’s a top priority.

3) Take The Stairs!

While on your Royal Caribbean cruise, staying in shape is a must.  This is in no contradiction to #5.  While sailing, it behooves you to avoid use of the guest elevators.  Whether you’re going to breakfast at the Windjammer Marketplace, the pool deck, or the media center, you need to keep those calves well-toned.  In the belly flop competition, making a high jump is part of the process.  Your legs are your rocket boosters.  The higher you jump, the harder you land in the pool.  As they say, “No pain, no gain!”

2) It’s All About The Buffet!

Again, don’t get this confused with #5.  Every day, at lunch time, head to the Windjammer Marketplace.  At the Windjammer Marketplace, you must load up on anything that will put a few concrete pounds on the abdominal region.  Focus on the hot dogs, french fries, pasta, tortilla chips, peel-and-eat shrimp, and roasted ham.  When it comes to the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition”, maintaining a full stomach is key.  Remember, the medal stand is calling your name.  Load up on anything that will help you stick your landing.  After scarfing down the hot dogs, the french fries, and all the good stuff, chomp down on some cookies for dessert.  After the cookies, have some ice cream from the self-serve stations on pool deck.  Finally, wash it all down with a few specialty drinks.  I’d highly recommend the Fuzzy Navel and Long Island Iced Tea.  See the article, “Cruise Drinks: Straight Up, and Straight Down”.

Yours truly again, participating in the "Men's International Belly-Flop Competition" aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of The Seas.

Yours truly again, participating in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of The Seas.

1) WHATEVER RICHARD SIMMONS SAYS, DO THE OPPOSITE!

My personal advice to all of you potential belly-floppers: Forget what that clown with the big hair and funny shorts tells you.  The “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” is your moment to shine.  Remember to avoid the ship’s gym at all costs, give into temptation when a chocolate cake is in sight, and load up on the carbohydrates like never before.  Visit the Windjammer Marketplace religiously. You also must remember that footage of the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” will be featured in your Royal Caribbean “Cruise in Review” DVD.  Many men of all sizes and shapes have bravely stepped onto the “Hurt Box” and have shown the ladies what their abdominal regions are made of.  Do you have what it takes?  Do you believe that you belong amongst this band of dauntless legends?  Now, “Get Out There” and make your family proud!

The Oasis Of The Seas All-Access Tour: The Bridge, Galley, And All Scenes Beyond

The Aquatheater on  the Oasis of The Seas  and Allure of The Seas is the among the most sophisticated public areas on board.

The Aquatheater on the Oasis of The Seas and Allure of The Seas is the among the most sophisticated public areas on board.

The week of February 16th to the 23rd, 2013, my brother and I sailed on board Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Oasis of The Seas.  The Oasis of The Seas and her sister ship, Allure of The Seas, are the two largest cruise ships in the world.  Both ships are 1,187 feet long, 208 feet wide, and weigh a whopping 225, 000 tons.  We were among the mind-blowing crowd of 6,296 on board that week.  I’ve never seen a city of people on a single vessel like that in my lifetime.  The width, weight, and length may say a lot, however, seeing what goes into operating a vessel of immense proportion was another story.  My brother signed us up for the Oasis All-Access Tour, a three-hour tour of the ship’s  behind-the-scenes operations.  By the description, I knew it was going to be something good and something grand.  Let me tell you, it sure was!

The Oasis of The Seas All-Access Tour began early in the morning on the final day of the cruise.  The Oasis of The Seas All-Access tour is done three times during each cruise.  All three tours are conducted during sea days.  The tour began at one of the newest and most intriguing public areas.  The tour began at the AquaTheater, on Deck 6.  The Aqua Theater is located at the very rear of the ship in the Boardwalk neighborhood.  We were shown all of the bells and whistles of the aqua show production.  The stage manager showed us how cues are programmed, and how the fountains and pool floor are operated.  The AquaTheater is home to the deepest pool at sea.  The retracting floor in the AquaTheater pool can be lowered as far down as 17.9 feet, making it the deepest pool on board.  For the safety of the divers, the pool has to be that deep.  For further information, the Men’s International Belly-flop Competition is held in the AquaTheater.  It’s an event not to be missed, especially in a theatrical atmosphere.

The galley aboard the Oasis of The Seas and Allure of The Seas span not one, but three decks. The picture shown here shows one of the food preparation areas.

The galley aboard the Oasis of The Seas and Allure of The Seas span not one, but three decks. The picture shown here shows one of the food preparation areas.

Once done visiting the behind-the-scenes areas of the AquaTheater, we continued on to the ship’s galley.  The ship’s executive chef demonstrated to us the operations of the Oasis’s main dining room.  The Opus dining room on board the Oasis is no run-of-the-mill dining room.  It’s a dining room operation far more complex than Royal Caribbean’s other vessels.  The Opus dining room holds up to 5,400 guests, and more than 30,000 meals are served there each day.  The executive chef explained to everyone in the tour group how the kitchen staff prepares the food, how they manage the crowd during certain events, and how the menus are planned out.  I work with Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of The Seas in Bayonne, NJ.  The Explorer carries a city of guests too, about half the size at 3,600.  Imagine a restaurant crowd of nearly 5,000 guests and handling that twice each evening.  Things that make you go “Hmmmmmm!”.

The following photo is of one of the food and beverage storage areas on board the Oasis of  The Seas.

The following photo is of one of the food and beverage storage areas on board the Oasis of The Seas.

The next stop on the tour route was the guests and crew laundry facility.  Wow, was that an operation to behold!  You have to see the size of the washers, the dryers, and ironing machines.  They are nothing like you have at home.  Each washer holds up to two hundred and seventy-five pounds of soiled sheets or clothing.  Each washer uses up to fifty gallons of detergent per load.  In another area of the laundry area, we were shown where the soiled bed sheets, bath towels, and pool towels are sorted and folded after being washed.  We were then shown the area where the crew and staff laundry is handled.  Their uniforms are handled separately from the guests laundry.  After all, imagine the captain’s formal uniform arriving at your stateroom door by mistake?  That would be kind of odd, wouldn’t it?  That’s why they’re handled separately. When you do your laundry at home, you’ll wonder how minuscule your laundry load is as opposed to the Oasis.  The Oasis’s laundry load is large enough to bury your home completely.  Imagine that!

With dozens of systems and technical features to control, the Oasis of The Seas's bridge is the largest in the world.

With dozens of systems and technical features to control, the Oasis of The Seas’s bridge is the largest in the world.

The very next part of the tour was the ship’s nerve center, the bridge.  On the bridge, one of the junior officers showed us the ship’s radio communication area, the ship’s throttles, the radar systems, and the main navigational controls.  We were even shown the quartermaster, the little wheel which the ship could be manually steered.  If you could picture the steering wheel on a kiddy ride at an amusement park, that’s how small the quartermaster is.  I tried to hold in my giggling.  It was incredible to imagine a massive ship being manually steered in and out of port by using a wheel that size.

Lastly, the man himself came out to speak with us.  Captain Patrik Dahlgren, from Sweden, demonstrated to us many of the other technical systems on board.  He even welcomed us to ask questions.  Captain Dahlgren was a very young captain, only thirty-seven years old.  He’s been a master for seven years.  When he was done speaking with us, he welcomed guests to have pictures taken with him.  Meeting him and speaking with him in person was a great experience.  He was very personable and highly social.

The master in command of the Oasis of The Seas, Captain Patrik Dahlgren from Sweden.  At age thirty-seven, he is among one of Royal Caribbean's youngest captains.

The master in command of the Oasis of The Seas, Captain Patrik Dahlgren from Sweden. At age thirty-seven, he is among one of Royal Caribbean’s youngest captains.

Finally, we moved on to the last part of the Oasis of The Seas All-Access Tour.  We were taken on a tour of the crew and staff’s recreational areas.  Do you believe that the Oasis crew and staff have their own disco on board?  I kid you not.  We were shown the crew and staff disco, the crew bar, and the crew mess area.  Just like the guests eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Windjammer buffet upstairs on Deck 16, the crew and staff have their own dedicated Windjammer down below on Deck 2.  It wasn’t any smaller than the Windjammer on Deck 16.  It was about the same size, featuring very much the same amount of food selections.  While we were being shown the crew and staff’s Windjammer, we were each given a Smile-a-gram.  Each guest was to give that card to a member of the crew or staff who made an impact on their cruise vacation.  A guest writes that crew member’s name on the card, and hands it to the crew member at some point during the day.  The Smile-a-gram is a sign of the guest’s appreciation for what that crew member’s service throughout the week.

Though off-limits to guests, the crew and staff's lounge and disco is one place which tour participants wished they could have at home.

Though off-limits to guests, the crew and staff’s lounge and disco is one place which tour participants wished they could have at home.

The Oasis All-Access Tour is a tour experience not to be missed.  If you’re in good physical shape to handle steep stairwells and a long walk around such a massive vessel, then the Oasis of The Seas All-Access Tour is definitely for you.  Is the tour worth the money?  It sure is.  The tour is not cheap, at $150.00 per person.  Seeing and discovering how a monster ship like the Oasis operates 24-7 is well worth the three hours and the money.  Guests are welcomed to take as many pictures as they want, but no video taping is allowed.  If you enjoy cruising, and truly enjoy sailing with Royal Caribbean, signing up for the Oasis All-Access Tour is a must.  From watching laundry being handled, to seeing food being prepared, to seeing how the deepest pool at sea is managed, and to seeing how such monster ship is navigated, you’ll wander why the ship is called the “Oasis”.