We've been on 2 Disney and 2 Carnival in the past five years and now returning to Royal Caribbean. We have an 18, 15 and 7 year old, so quite the age spread. We love cruising because you know the kids are safe on board, are engaged in age appropriate activities and have all you can eat food. With teenage boys, this is a great deal. And I don't have to cook or clean!!
Our 18 year old shared a room with 3 other friends on the other end of the boat, so we could sort of chaperon. They had their freedom, and we made sure they got off and on the boat at every excursion, which gave us a great deal of peace for a senior trip. Must be 21 to drink on the boat so this also made sure it wasn't a drink fest. I highly recommend a cruise environment for senior spring break especially with some parents on the same boat. Very safe, very fun.
Had an Aft cabin on 7. I signed up for this room for the balcony and it was a great choice. Balconies can be beastly hot but because this is in the shade of the 8th floor balcony, it was always nice and cool. Only 7 seemed to have this shade. I also liked that the balcony was over the 6th floor Presidential balcony; you can't fall into the water off your balcony. That may seem strange but really, I just never needed to worry about the kids on the balcony. The view was vast with fantastic sunsets. The beam structure didn't feel in the way at all and with 2 loungers, a table and 2 chairs meant great relaxation with room service morning coffee and croissants, champagne sunsets, and oh yeah, drying laundry mid trip. The Junior Suite was fine, nicer not to have beds above us for the kids. Walk in closet held a lot and storing luggage under bed meant everything had a place to sort of keep it clean. Yep, shower curtain clinging but 7 year old took advantage of the small bathtub daily, also a plus for a family.
Ok, so the food was just better than Disney or Carnival, just as we remembered it would be. The dining room rocks, great selection and you are welcome to have multiple entrees'. The wait staff was fabulous. I did not enjoy Windjammer food unless I stuck to soup and salad. The view up there is very nice, but when possible, we ate in the dining room, including breakfast and lunch on sea days. Chops Grill a disappointment. With all the negative reviews, including this one, you would think this would become and area they really tried to improve. Food was very good, but the service was horribly slow and tables so close you can't really have a conversation. They apologized for our wait and bought drinks for us, but because I heard slow service and crowded setting was likely, I didn't believe it was just a mistake that night. We cancelled our dinner at Portofino at OUR expense so we could stay in the dining room where we knew we would have a fantastic experience.
For our kids, Carnival was very nice, the Disney new Dream boat has better designed kids areas, but our kids liked Royal Caribbean the best. The 18 and 15 year old had more to do between the sports areas, better pools, karaoke space, walking the promenade to scope out girls and more variety of entertainment in the shows. The seven year old felt more engaged in the Royal Caribbean space and my guess is because only 20 kids for her age group even though over 1000 kids on the cruise. I loved the pager on Disney and not as comforting to drop off here, but she was fine and really enjoyed having a carnival for prizes and figuring out with her team how to make an egg drop and not break. She just wants to go back to Adventure Ocean. The area does need some technology updating, but do I really want her in front of a computer or movie on a cruise? My shy girl played with other kids doing interesting things. Yes!
We did it right with excursions! We did the Zip Line (except 7 yr old, too young) and Aqua park. The Zip Line was good but we have been on better for the money because it was short, just one trip. Unique to be that long over water, but pretty pricey. My advice is to sign up ahead of time for the 2:00 aqua park for the kids (of all ages, I should have signed up myself too!) then gone to one of the other beach areas until 1:30 to enjoy a quiet setting than the beach by the aqua park. Undoubtedly, this was the busiest beach. Nice chairs, nice beach, good BBQ and good drinks so very enjoyable, but the Aqua Park was a huge hit and a little less crowded at 2:00 or 3:00 than first thing in the morning.
For Jamaica, we hired Phil Lafayette tours. See my review on Trip Advisor but Oh My Gosh, why would you ever go on one of those cattle car bus tours when you can have a private, air conditioned, at your disposal tour guide for the same price! We went to White River for tubing, climbed the Dunns Falls (twice, remember, no tour bus...) and to Scotchies authentic Jerk Restaurant for lunch, with no rush, yeah mon! Contact Phil Lafayette on line and ask for Tammy to be your guide! Order in advance!
Grand Cayman went to Moby Dick tours for a smaller group trip to stingray city and snorkeling for only $45. Our second time with Moby Dick and fun British guys keeping it real and small. You can also find them online but order at least 2 months in advance; they sell out.
We went on X Rails in Cozumel and it was disgusting - which means the kids LOVED it. Wear a shirt and shorts that you won't mind throwing away, dark colors if you are trying to save them. I would rent the crocs next time, your shoes are pretty messed up too and unusable for the duration of the cruise. We saved them by washing when we returned home. You swim in a nasty, sulfur cenote filled with bats. The kids will always remember being covered in mud as we plowed through the puddles in the buggies, but it is pretty smelly and totally dirty.
The entertainment was top notch. I liked the first production show the best and the singing throughout the cruise is very good. They had an acapella group 425 one night, very good. We missed a couple of boat parties that we should have attended. They are short and fun so my advice is to go to every entertainment at night that you can. Early dining means you can see the shows and be in bed by 11, because you do not want to sleep in too late; you'll miss something.
Never bored, loved the food, the aft balcony and the variety Freedom of the Seas offered. Well done! We'll be back to RC for our next cruise. We've grown beyond Disney, though it was lovely for families with kids ages 3-6, but now we are RC fans. Carnival 3rd place. You can't really go wrong with cruises, but for essentially the same price, why wouldn't you get better?