Going on a cruise for my vacation never appealed to me, but my sister in law talked me into it. I wanted to try something different and followed her recommendation. We cruised on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas 3/30 to 4/7. We left from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ.
Parking and unloading the luggage was a total breeze. Hubby left us to park the cars. We quickly navigated check-in, and before we knew it we were on a shuttle headed to the ship. Easy!
We climbed on board and headed to the excursion desk. I am a first time cruiser and I had no idea that excursions needed to be booked 4 days prior to sailing.
My #1 PIECE OF ADVICE: Book your excursions EARLY! We were cruising' during Spring Break and I soon learned that all excursions were sold out! So, I had us added to a wait list. We eventually got tickets, but it was nerve racking.
We headed to the Windjammer to grab something to eat before heading to our room. We were meeting up with our extended family group of 12. The ship is so easy to navigate and we easily bumped into them.
We headed to our room and our luggage was waiting for us.
We had cabin #1368 on deck 10. It's in the rear of the ship. It's a balcony room with a pull out couch. This being our 1st cruise, I anticipated the room would be a little tight. It was extremely tight, when the couch was pulled out into a bed, for 2 adults and a 5 and 7 year old.
My #2 PIECE OF ADVICE: 4 people in a balcony room with a pull out sofa, was way too small for our family. If I had to do it over again, I'd book a bigger room, or a family suite, or adjoining rooms.
We departed on Friday, March 30th at 5PM. The winds were so strong that you couldn't stand on the upper decks without holding onto the railings for dear life. Pulling away from Bayonne with the Manhattan skyline in the background, was breath taking.
Saturday morning I headed to the gym for a 9AM spin class and hubby took the kid's to Kid's Club. Now, let me be clear that my 7 year old little girl was not having any parts of Kid's Club. I think she thought going would seriously affect her pool time. The weather Saturday was horrible. High winds, choppy seas, and rain. She and my 5 year old little girl spent 9-12 in the Kid's Club. Hubby then headed to the gym and I headed to the room to shower and change. We then played bingo from 10:30-12. When we arrived at Kid's Club to pick them up, both girl's had huge grins on their faces and begged us to let them attend the afternoon session from 2-5. They were hooked!
We must have gone through some storm because the ship was a rockin'. I spent the afternoon in the library in the middle of the ship because I swear I felt more rocking reading in my room. HORRIBLE! People were miserable! The captain made a few announcements about having to close off the decks because of high seas and 65 MPH winds. It was pretty scary.
My #3 PIECE OF ADVICE: Bring sea sickness meds. Quite a few folks used those stickers that go behind your ear and Dramamine. Some folks spent the day and night in their room. Everyone is affected differently. My girls didn't feel a thing, but I did. I kept it together and did not let them see me sweat, but there were times it was rough!
We finally pulled into Nassau at 5PM on Sunday. It was a long trek, but the warm weather was worth it. Monday morning the Allure pulled in at 7AM and the Disney Dream pulled in around 9. Full house!
We headed to Coco Cay on Monday at 5PM. We arrived early Tuesday morning.
Coco Cay was wonderful BUT the captain forgot to announce that we needed cash for a few of the island activities. We didn't find that out until we were on the tender from the ship. Unfortunately, we did not bring any cash with us and our girls did not get their hair braided. Not a big deal. but a bummer. We did not snorkel on Coco Cay, but a few folks from our group did and it was amazing.
My #4 PIECE OF ADVICE: Snorkel in Coco Cay.
We left Coco Cay and headed to Cape Canaveral, Florida. We received a flyer 2 days prior stating that everyone on board had to be down in the promenade by 6:15AM Wednesday for immigration. We were not happy! We dragged the girls outta their deep sleep at 5:50. Let me just sum it up by saying THE PROCESS WAS A NIGHTMARE!
Imagine telling 3000 people to be in one place at one time with NO ORGANIZATION. Guests were not happy. Somehow we got through it in about an 1.5 hours, but people were not happy. We had to go through it because we entered the USA from international waters at a different USA port than we departed.
We had 6PM dinner in the formal dining room every night. Our waiter was Joseph and he was OUTSTANDING. Once he figured out what the girls liked to eat, he would bring it out shortly after we were seated. Every meal was delicious!
I debated over the 6PM or 8:30PM dinner reservation. We were the only one in our group with very young children. I wanted to be mindful of other passengers traveling without children and not disturb their 8:30PM dinner. I'm so glad I booked the 6PM. It fit our family's schedule. What was also nice was that other families with young children we seated around us. The kid's got to know one another from going to the Kid's Club during the day. The #1 question the kid's asked one another at dinner was, "Are you going to the club after dinner?" It was so cute!
#5 PIECE OF ADVICE: Utilize the Kid's Club. Look, I know we were technically on a 'family vacation,' but it was so nice to be able to have some down time during the day and after dinner. I can't say enough about how wonderful the Kid's Club staff and activities were for my children. They looked forward to going daily.
The 2 day trek from Cape Canaveral back to Bayonne was ROUGH! We hit another storm, experienced high winds, and rough seas. Imagine a rainy day at the beach, cooped up in a house with 3000 people. People didn't know what to do, they wandered around, teenager's were every where, and people just were plain miserable.
#6 PIECE OF ADVICE: Sailing out of Bayonne was great, but the weather is so unpredictable. If there are storms in the Atlantic, you're gong to be affected. I think I would bite the bullet and cruise out of Florida next time. Yes, you pay for the flights, but the weather is so much better. On an 8 day cruise, we had 4 solid days of good sun and pool swimming. Not a good $ to sun ratio in my book!
Overall, we had a wonderful trip and we plan to do it again!