Sunday, September 20, 2009

Freedom of the Seas

The newest, biggest ship in the world

Imagine a ship that can hold nearly 6,000 people

I was part of the "take out" team that hosted thousands of guests on one and two night press and preview cruises on this ship from April to June, 2006.  It was like being on tour.  Every night a different crowd.  Every few days a different port, a different country, and even different temperatures.   Imagine an open bar for every night for two months!  Scary... and exhilarating.  You never know who is going ot be in the audience.
Here's the story of the "take out" from the shipyard in Hamburg, Germany to Oslo, Norway, Southampton, England, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Miami and on the way a couple of parties with Oprah, Spike Lee, David Lachappelle, Chris Rock and The Today Show!

But let's start at the beginning, for me, anyway.  Here in Hamburg, Germany April 20, 2006.  I few from Hawaii to Los Angeles to London to Hamburg (uhhggg... talk about jet lag).  The port agent was waiting for me.  To my surprise, my friend Mark from the Stingrays Band was also there, so we got in the cab together.  This start our adventure...

It was a cold, overcast day when I arrived in Hamburg Germany to meet the newest, biggest ship in the world.  I had just flown a million hours from Honolulu to L.A. to London to Hamburg.  Plus add to that a 12 hour time difference, and you can imagine what kind of shape I was in when I got off the plane.  Still, I felt the excitement.  Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas was in dry dock, and there was press about her all over the place.  

This is how she looked when we arrived that day in April 20, 2006.

Imagine carting your four giant bags of boas, costumes and tiaras across this gangway!

When you looked to the right or left or down, this is what you saw

When you take a walk around the ship in dry dock, you can actually see things you'll never see again during an ordinary cruise.  Like the aft propellers and the machinery towards the bow of the ship

Here are some penguin sculptures waiting to be lifted to their new home

Let's take a look upstairs...  I love walking deck 12 at night from the H2O Zone to the mid-ship ool/Jacuzzi area to the back spa/club 20:

As we headed to the Norweigan fjords, you could see miles of deck chairs...

And during the day, you could take the same walk around the upper decks and see some of the newer additions to ship life

And then there's the flowrider at the back of the ship

Imagine the Beachboys playing, umbrella drinks and a cool summertime vibe, all at the back of the ship, while you watch your fellow guests surf and wipe out.

Yes, I tried it (with a wet suit on) while we were still in cold country.  And I had a blast.  I actually did it well the first time and was able to navigate the wave for a while.  The second time I wiped out and I took that as a sign to not press my luck.  Hope they washed that wet suit...

Now that we've had a chance to see what's outside, let's take a peek inside the Freedom of the Seas.  "Going down, deck 5!"

Deck 5 The Royal Promenade

Just before the ice rink there's the new On Air Bar for Karaoke and sports fans

Right next door is the broadcast booth for RCCL-TV, the state-of-the-art television facility

If you feel like gambling, there are lots of ways to play...

...and to cash out!

Dinner time!

Looks like it's time for a nap on my balcony...

After an evening of fireworks next to the Statue of Liberty, on a cold New York City morning, we all woke up to the TV cameras and pandemonium of NBC's Today Show, broadcasting live from Freedom of the Seas.

Here's proof that were were there: me and Matt Lauer!

The live feeds were all channeled through the onboard production room

Here's a lot of stuff you don't normally see on an ordinary cruise: extra security and lots of TV gear.

That evening we played host in New York City's harbor to the Spike Lee Tribute.  Talk about paparrazzi!  We're talking Oprah, Morgan Freeman, Wesley Snipes...

David Lachappelle and Chris Rock!

Here are some of the ports we visited during the take out of the Freedom of the Seas, starting with Oslo, Norway

Oslo was freezing, even in April.  Good thing I brought along my super warm "take out" jacket from the Mariner of the Seas.  I got that in Turku, Finland a couple of years ago and usually only wear it in Alaska.

Oslo is home to a world famous sculpture garden

Oslo is very expensive.  Lunch for two was over $120.  The nice thing is it's a very clean and accessible city.

On to Southampton, England

We asked touring advice from some friends on the ship who lived in Southampton.  They suggested a day tour/hike/walk to the New Forest.  It was a short train stop away, and utterly charming.  We walked six miles that day and ate fish and chips at a country inn (called the Oak Inn).  If we had more time we would have rented bikes and just biked around the Southern English countryside.  As it was, we were happy campers.

We also visited London for the day as well...

It's only a couple of hours away by train

Another fun day trip out of Southampton is Portsmouth, home of the HMS Victory.  It's been lovingly restored and you can smell the history as you go from deck to deck inside.  We kept comparing this ship in drydock to the Freedom.  So many similarities (like the acorn and the tree).

Of course, there's no place like home.  Click your heels three times and you're in South Beach, Miami, the Freedom's homeport every week.