2005, Jan29th-feb 5th. We are a family of 4, traveled with a 6yo boy & 4yo girl. Was our second cruise (first RCCL), first for the kids. We flew from Montreal to Miami and took our own cab (21$US) from the airport to the pier (much much faster). We had received at home the wrong tags for our luggage but someone quickly change it for the good ones at our arrival at the pier. Had to wait in a pushy line an hour or so. Wait for the famous picture of departure. Kids were a bit cranky. Finally passed the gate. Wow! We had not enough eyes to see everything. We took the elevator to go to our room. The kids were delighted to learn that they were sleeping in bunk beds up in the air. The room was nice and roomy. Everything fitted.
We went on deck 12 to watch the departure and waved goodbye to whomever waved at us. The scenery of the Miami port is gorgeous and the warmth was very nice for us northern people. Then was the evacuation drill then we headed back to eat. The sea became rougher by suppertime. I had an empty stomach for quite a while so what had to happen, happened and they saw me run for bathrooms. I wasn't alone, we were almost pushing one another to enter bathroom. The sea stayed that way until the next afternoon. During the evening, we could walk 3 steps on one side then 3 more on the other side. So we paid a visit in the doctor station when we learned much about dramamine and co. With pills everything grew normal. It was even nice to sleep. My daughter went sick too mainly because of the orange flavored pill that she hated. (Next time I'll bring cherry!) The day after, it was history.
First stop: Porto Rico. We arrived in the afternoon so no beaching. We decided to walk around and found Senor Frogs, a genuine restaurant! It was amazing! The kids had hard time to understand why adults were all on their chairs dancing. Our side of the place even win a drinking contest and were greeted with a yummy drink right in our mouth. I took a Yard daiquiri and was quite surprised that I could drink all that. The food was great. (Don't order one meal each. It's WAY too much. Even kid's one.) It was delicious. They took our picture with sombreros and framed it for us for a decent price. It's now one of my greatest souvenir.
Second port: St-Thomas USVI. We decided to go on our own and took a cab for Coral World (don't remember the taxi fare but the youngest didn't pay on one way) He was very talkative and so we learned a lot about the highland. Hilly road that we had to drive on low 1 on a pickup truck to descend. They made us stop at Sapphire Beach to take pictures (which is now my favorite desktop picture. Can't wait to go back there for longer times). We visited Coral World for 3 hours. Great views of the sea bottom. We had pet a shark, touch sea cucumbers, starfish, anemone. The kids loved it. We ate at their fast food, bought real neat souvenirs at their boutique and finally cross the road for Coki Beach. There were not many people. The beach is small, great for young ones (bring shovel & pail). You could do snorkeling. Even without my son had a great experience with fishes. A nice local lady gave him a dog biscuit (my husband who doesn't speak english didn't understand at first) but you should have seen son's eyes when he realized how much fishes were sneaking a piece. We even had a visit of a pelican just a few feet from us, eating the fishes. We we're really sad to go at the end of that day. We left around 3h00pm just when the crowd started to overtake the beach.
Third and last port: Sint-Maarten/St-Martin. As french-speaking, we (especially my husband!) were delighted to speak french there and headed right away to Orient Beach. Think using US dollars as they take it as equal as Euros (bring cash because they charge you Euros on you credit card and it's much more expensive!). Orient Beach is a full nudity accepted beach. We were a bit surprised but not shocked and had to explain the kids. Naturally adaptive, they didn't even bother. I asked if they wanted to do the same and I had a prude NO from my 6yo and my youngest wanted to be topless. We settled on the long beach and swam with the kids on the shallow water. There were nice waves and my son's accidentally take a sip and "fed the fish". There was a nice little island boy who played for 3 hours with my son without never talking to him. We asked him several times his name (finally answered) and responded by shaking his head that he was speaking french and english. I thought maybe that his mom (who was selling hats on the beach) had told him not to talk to stranger. Anyway, they had fun and by 1h00pm, he disappeared as he came.
Onboard the kids had great time. At first, son didn't want to go but after seeing everything they had, especially video games we couldn't get him out of there before 10h00pm. My youngest who didn't speak english but was understanding it had a great time. Kids were going at her and she would follow and play. The beeper is a nice idea. We felt secure that we could be reached anytime on board but it never served. My son almost never ate with us. He'd prefer having meals with friends.
We still had some good family time especially on the water slide. (Remember not to lie down down there or you'll have your nose full of salty water. Great against sinusitis ha ha ha!) Sometimes they had to close pool and slide because of the wind and sea. Too much of a splash. The ice cream machine was our favorite snack and we used it quite often that week.
The food was good. We didn't go often to the main restaurant preferring more casual outfit especially with kids. I loved the goat cheese pizza. The buffet was nice. I missed the photo time of the midnight buffet but had a bite of it.
We thought of having the kids babysitted after 10h00pm one night but were too tired. Everybody was in bed by 10-11hpm and freshly waken up by 7 or 8. We managed to do casino while they were in childcare. I saw the magical show with my son and he was thrilled.
Everybody managed to have a real good time. A family affair for sure! There was lots of french speaking person. We even met someone from home. And by the end of the cruise, I found son crying in the bathroom because he didn't want to leave.
For departure: Don't forget to go at the departure meeting and if you are french-speaking don't miss the french one. Tricks for speeding departure are said and help quickened the process. Ask for a VIP exit tag if you leave early and again take a cab. We arrived 1/2 an hour before the buses and cleared airport process very quickly (less than 20 min!) Hard to go back in snow but we have to. Think of going back on another cruise next year. Cruising is the best and secure way to see the world with kids. Hope this will help you. Good luck to yours! Josée