My husband and I brought our 5-yr old twin daughters (and were also joined by my father and his wife) on Royal Caribbean's 7 day cruise from Panama City, and loved it! None of us speak Spanish well, but that was never a problem.
We spent our first night at Gamboa Rainforest Resort, and if I had a chance to do the trip over I would have arranged it:
A) so we could spend more time there and participate in some of the services they offer (butterfly observatory, guided nature hike, etc)
B) so we could book one room directly from Gamboa Rainforest Resort, instead of having to comply with Royal Caribbean's ridiculous 2-people-per-stateroom rule
C) so we could take the 7:30am scenic train from Panama City to Colon
The bus ride from resort to port was nice, we got a chance to meet fellow Cruise Critics, and discussed excursion plans etc. The scenery at Colon's port is depressing, and things got a little confusing in the jumble getting everybody on board. I More
think they might could use a little better signage there.
But once we were on the ship, I had no complaints! We loved our room configuration, since we have little kids we booked two adjoining rooms and thus during the day we enjoyed a roomy 2BR/2BA and at night we could put the girls to bed and keep our lights and TV on without disturbing their sleep. Also we arranged to keep the outer door to the girls' room locked for safety and only used the single door in and out to the hallway. The girls decorated room signs for us on brightly colored neon paper so we could quickly locate our rooms from a distance, and also their grandparents'. They loved the attention they got from Dior our doting stateroom attendant, she was just the sweetest. Everybody at the dining room was so friendly and wonderful also. The food is definitely better in the Vitality Spa cafe and the Gatsby than it is in the Windjammer, but the Windjammer is always open, so convenient, and does offer a rotating variety to choose from. We didn't plan to eat at any of the specialty restaurants but it was a special treat when we did go for Italian one night - the food was incredibly fresh and delicious (the only downside being the main dining room suffering so in comparison)!
Our 5 yr olds loved playing upstairs in Adventure Ocean, even though all the printed information about it was provided in Spanish, it was great fun for them and what's not to like about safe, clean, and free childcare!? As a family we loved the magic show and captain's gala, touring the islands, playing in the pool; we discovered board games in conference room C and a whole shelf of children's books in the library area. We were worried the kids wouldn't do well with the walking tour in Cartagena but they were troopers, and we all enjoyed it. I have to say all the pressure to shop (and the dearth of desirable merchandise) was off-putting. For the ABC islands we didn't bother booking RCI tours for the little ones, just took them by cab to the beach or specific destinations.
I was especially pleased with the selection of movies on TV in the room (saw Argo and Abraham Lincoln!). Every morning I was up before the gym opened, to enjoy a solid hour's workout without kids underfoot and then wandered around drinking my coffee in peace, that was heaven for me (tho I did find it strange drinking Seattle's Best Coffee aboard a Colombian cruise!). Also I loved being on a freshly renovated ship. It was my husband's first cruise and I wasn't sure how he would take to it but he loved his first experience snorkeling and paragliding and by day 6 he was investigating other ships and cruises online so it looks like we'll get to take another Royal Caribbean trip in a couple years, maybe Vancouver to Hawaii on an even bigger ship!! Less
Grandeur of the Seas Cruises to the Western Caribbean
Tour guide took us around Aruba by bus, very funny and informative guy. He took us to see the Aloe Balm Facility (fascinating), Ayo Rock Formations, California Lighthouse, the one and only single cow on the island (!), and Palm and Eagle Beaches. He told us all about Dutch citizenship and education and the island's push to become first to achieve fossil-fuel-free status. Our family were the only English speakers, the guide spoke many languages to accommodate the entire group.
This tour was exactly what my husband wanted: Kayaking and Snorkeling. Our guide was a talented multi-lingual Italian who was very thoughtful, caring and friendly. She answered all our questions about the island and also neighboring islands. We walked out about 10 minutes to a beach where 3 additional guides got us in our kayaks (with plexiglass bottoms so we could see the sandy sea floor) and we paddled our way out to a further beach where they provided us with a bottle of water, masks, snorkels, fins and some perfunctory instructions on snorkeling and a quick warning to avoid the fire coral (brown with white lacy edging which burns your skin on contact, for months!!). The waves were crashing and the shallows were everywhere so a lot of people got thrashed around a bit (like 3 out of our party of 4 got bloody scratches but luckily nothing fiery) and we were able to see so many awesome beautiful fish! After an hour we got back in to the kayaks and headed back. My dad and his wife were not expecting an excursion this rugged; be sure you know what you're getting in to!
Our tour guide Roosevelt shouted into the mic the whole time, causing feedback and a raspy sore throat. He told us about St Augustine and local slavery history, took us up to the fort where we saw the Captain Cook statue (one eye, one arm, one leg!) and got mobbed by venders, drove us through upscale Mango neighborhood, and walked us along the plaza and shopping district. Shopping shopping shopping shopping shopping shopping shopping. Ended with a nice panoramic view of the city.
Locals are definitely happiest in Bonaire, and more surly in Curacao, we found. Went by bus to a big hotel where we boarded an Atlantis "submersible observation center for viewing fish, coral and other marine life". Unfortunately, half our family got seasick mid-way through this tour, so we missed the scuba diving guide's fish feeding show.