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Monday, September 20, 2021

[Day 2| Part 2] Freedom of the Seas - Perfect Day CocoCay and Giovanni’s Kitchen

Guest Post by Rachel Shingleton

After spending the first part of our day at Thrill Waterpark, we ventured out around 2:30pm to explore the rest of the island.


We started off with the Oasis Lagoon Pool. Oasis Lagoon is the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean and features a zero-depth entry, in-water loungers, and a swim-up bar. We made our way in at the zero-depth entry.


We knew we wanted to use one of our Diamond Vouchers at the swim-up bar, so we waded over to order the CocoCay specialty – a Coco Loco. This is where it happened. I got bamboozled into buying the souvenir cup. The thing is, I knew the Coco Loco in a souvenir cup would not be covered by my Diamond Voucher, but the little devil in a hula skirt on my shoulder kept saying “just do it, Rachel. You need that souvenir cup. Think about how much dust it will collect in the back of your cabinet.” I’ll claim it was research, but I think I subconsciously wanted the dang cup. To be fair, I ordered the Coco Loco with no souvenir cup, but then the bartender got me with “it’s only $1 extra for the cup!” So, there I was $15 later with my vibrant orange cup and 4 Diamond Vouchers still to use.


After grabbing drinks, we headed over to Harbor Beach. I’ll go ahead and say that this was my favorite area on CocoCay. It had a great breeze, and the calm lagoon was perfect for swimming.


It was also the perfect backdrop for taking some glamour shots of my high-dollar cup.


I joke about the cup, but I’ve already used it twice since returning home. It’s actually a very nice cup – it’s double-walled, making it perfect for cold beverages. I like to manifest a Perfect Day by using it for my morning iced coffee 😊

One of our favorite things about Harbor Beach was that you could hear the live music from Captain Jack’s. We spent the rest of the afternoon here wading in the water and enjoying the music.


Around 4:30pm, a lifeguard came over to let us know that we needed to be back on the ship in 30 minutes, so we gathered our stuff and started to make our way back to the ship.


Brilliance of the Seas was hanging just off the coast, and it turns out she was there to pick up some crew members from the Adventure of the Seas who needed booster Vaccine shots. I don’t know any specifics, but there was a group of about 50 or so crew members lined up on the pier with suitcases waiting to board the Brilliance.


Has anyone else never noticed that the Freedom has a blue booty?


Angle inspired by Victoria -


Once we were back on board, we headed straight to deck 11 for a little Solarium hot tub time.


All of the hot tubs had these signs posted indicating that they were to be used by one party at a time. In the smaller hot tubs on the pool deck, I thought this made sense, but the Solarium hot tubs are huge. Judy and I entered an empty hot tub but positioned ourselves in one of the far corners. We were later joined by a couple who took the other corner. Everyone was very respectful of personal space, and we never encountered any issues with the hot tubs.


After watching sail away from the hot tub, we headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. Tonight, we were dining at Giovanni’s Kitchen. Giovanni’s Kitchen is sort of a hybrid between Giovanni’s Table and Jamie’s Italian Kitchen. We had dined at Giovanni’s Table on the Navigator in 2018, and at Jamie’s Italian Kitchen on the Harmony in 2019. We thoroughly enjoyed Giovanni’s Table, but weren’t huge fans of Jamie’s, so I was excited to try out Giovanni’s Kitchen to see how it compared. I’m going off memory of what our server told us, but I’m pretty sure she said Giovanni’s Kitchen was created by Giovanni’s son, which is why the menu features “Nonna’s Favorites”.


We had a 7:30pm reservation, but we were running a bit late and didn’t arrive at the restaurant until 7:45pm. The hostess was so understanding and joked that no one is on-time in Italy! We were seated at a table for 4 by the window, and immediately noticed that the restaurant was quite empty. I believe there were 4 other parties total.

A little bit of backstory – I mentioned previously that I had debated both the Unlimited Dining Package and the Chops+1 package. I eventually decided on Chops+1, but when I logged in to purchase on the Wednesday before our cruise, the package was no longer available. I did still have the option to purchase just Giovanni’s Kitchen for $40 per person. For reference, Chops was $50 per person and the Chops+1 package was $70 per person. I decided to go ahead and purchase Giovanni’s since it allowed me to choose my date and time online (for dining packages, you receive one courtesy reservation on the first night and you must make any remaining reservations once onboard). When you book a specialty restaurant, you can get 40% off any bottle of wine under $100, so we decided to pick out a bottle.


We had a very sweet waitress who echoed the hostesses’ emphasis on dining the “Italian way,” and encouraged us to order multiple things to share and to take our time between courses. We started with the Assorted Meat & Cheese Platter –


And then shared the Truffle Caprese Salad. I thought the flavor of the Caprese Salad was wonderful, but unfortunately, the tomatoes were past their prime, resulting in a mushy texture.


Our server recommended the Giovanni’s Pizza, and I was intrigued by the combination of honey + spicy salami. Judy thought it was kind of weird, but I liked it!


Now we really took our server’s Italian dining style recommendation to heart. We were taking our time between courses, sharing everything, and admittedly not doing a great job of finishing anything. Around the time that we were slowing down on the pizza and preparing to order entrees, we noticed most other parties were leaving, and as they left, almost all of them said “see you tomorrow!” It seemed like everyone else who was dining in Giovanni’s that night had the Unlimited Dining Package and would be eating at Giovanni’s more than once. Tonight was mine and Judy’s only opportunity to experience Giovanni’s, and given that we’d purchased the meal at what’s considered “full price,” we planned to order what we wanted. Based on the timestamps on my pictures, it was about 8:45pm at this point, and when our server returned to our table and we asked if we could order entrees, she seemed shocked. Based on a few things she said later, we now think she was under the impression that we, too, had the Unlimited Dining Package. And given that we’d already ordered two appetizers and a pizza, maybe it was fair for her to be thinking “wow ladies, you really need more food?” if we were going to be returning for another meal at Giovanni’s. Regardless, we immediately noticed a shift in her demeanor, and Judy looked at me and said, “we better eat fast.” I ordered the Osso Buco, which was noted as one of “Nonna’s Favorites” and was recommended by our server. I thought it was good, but it’s not something I need to order again. There’s an Italian restaurant in Austin that has incredible Osso Buco, so maybe I’m just spoiled.


Judy ordered the lasagna, which she hilariously called “death in a ramekin.” The reason? This thing was SO heavy. I mean, there was probably a pound of cheese and a pound of meat in this thing. If you like a saucy lasagna, this is not the dish for you.


At this point we were the last party in the restaurant. We were full, and we felt bad for the serving team, as it seemed pretty clear that they were ready to clean up and close shop for the night. So, we told our server we wouldn’t be ordering dessert. She insisted we get something (maybe she felt bad about showing her annoyance when we ordered entrees lol), so we told her to surprise us. She brought us the Tiramisu and the Pistachio Panna Cotta –


Once we finished dessert, our server brought our check, and this is where things started to get confusing. I had prepaid for our meal when I booked it online, but we had ordered a bottle of wine, which was not prepaid. We were brought a $0 check and our server said, “you have the package, so everything is included, I just need you to sign the ticket.” We didn’t have any packages – dining or drinks, and even if we had the drink package, the bottle of wine would not have been included. We told our server that we didn’t have the package and she corrected herself and said “oh yes, yes you prepaid. Still just need to sign!” She left the table, and mom and I tried to piece things together. I guess at this point we could have just signed the $0 ticket and left, but I was worried that our server would be responsible for paying for the bottle of wine if it was an error. We were also wondering if this was some sort of benefit that came with our upgraded stateroom, in which case we wanted to know so we could utilize it again! I flagged our server down and asked her if we owed her for the bottle of wine, and she immediately said yes and thanked me and brought an updated ticket.

Overall, we enjoyed Giovanni’s Kitchen and were glad we tried it, but for me it still falls short of Giovanni’s Table. I was also a bit frustrated about the seemingly instantaneous shift between “Dine like Italians! Take your time, order everything!” and “GTFO”. When I was making our reservations, I actually debated booking 8:30pm since we prefer to eat late, so given that we could’ve arrived a full hour later for dinner, the rushed ending to our meal didn’t make sense.

Between my souvenir cup snafu and our bottle of wine at dinner, we had a lot of Diamond Drink Vouchers left for the day, so we decided to go enjoy the pianist at the Schooner bar. Like most venues on the ship, it was quite empty, and the pianist was practically begging us for song requests. While the service on our cruise overall was outstanding, tonight we had our only encounter with a less-than-friendly bartender. We ordered a drink at the bar (from the rude one) and while we were waiting for her to make our drinks, another bartender encouraged us to go have a seat and he would bring our drinks to us. So sweet! After we finished our drinks, rude bartender comes by and asks if we’d like another. Mom says no, but I said yes, and I reached down and grabbed what I thought was my SeaPass card off the table and handed it to the bartender. She returns shortly with my drink, but before setting it down, she very rudely asked me “how old are you?” I was a bit taken a back, having no idea what prompted the question, but I told her my age. She then says, “Why did you give me your mom’s card?” At that point I looked down and realized my SeaPass was still on the table, so I apologized and said I must have grabbed the wrong card, and I asked her if she wanted to run mine instead. She told me it was fine, and she walked off.

Guys…I am almost 28 years old. Rude bartender had already served me a drink AND swiped my SeaPass card. How did me giving her the wrong card immediately turn into me being underaged and using my mom’s card to buy drinks? It was weird, and we avoided the Schooner Bar for the rest of the cruise because of it. Why deal with rude bartenders when there are so many nice ones?!

Despite the weird ending, we truly had a Perfect Day! Stay tuned for Day 3 at Nassau!

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