Flights. We flew out the day before the cruise, had to book a 6am with a layover, which meant leaving our in laws house at 330am. This was a bit rough but turned out to be a blessing in disguise since winter storms hit later that day. Kids were up for our flight Pittsburgh to Tampa and were as good as can be. Our flight was overbooked and we had a chance at a $1600 voucher but didn't put us in ft. Lauderdale until midnight and weather would have made us miss the cruise...tragedy averted.
We booked hotel ocean sky on Priceline. Three stars. Room was $160. I can't say this was the best option but had its plus and minuses. First, cab ride was $60 for the 8 mile ride from airport to hotel. Driver plopped us in standing traffic and luckily I had my smart phone to call him out and he turned around and took an alternate route. I later found out ride should have been 45 dollars....so that plus $40 shuttle to cruise port adds $100 to hotel cost as the Marriott and other reputable hotels near the portwould have been $250. Hotel was a bit dingy and food was not good. However, it was right on the beach and had a Winn Dixie, dunkin donuts, liquor store for my rum runners, and kid friendly pizza shop at a short walk....umbrella stroller came in handy w the 3 and 5 year old occasional meltdown.
Kids had an awesome time at the beach, and at the heated pool so they were pleased. I don't believe you would have the beach access at the nicer hotels near the cruise port so with the entire day to spend this actually worked out well. I do have to admit before we got lunch and were a bit on edge we seriously considered getting a room at the Marriott but we decided to make the most of ocean sky and it worked out. I would say it was more of a college spring break vibe than families going on a cruise but again we got the beach which kids absolutely loved...even had a wings shop we went to for beach toys, reminded me of myrtle beach! We were spent and asleep by 830. I was up at 430am embarkation day twiddling my thumbs! But I didn't mind the kids were rested and ready for cruise day 1.
Got to port around 1045....didn't board ship until 1230.....there was some sort of hang up. Met Fiona from shriek and got some things scheduled before hitting the kids pool before muster drill. Jackson fell asleep during drill just like last year!
Ship is great...one thing I liked about jewel of the seas, however, is how open atrium is and elevators give you a great view of all action. Setup on liberty overall is much more well planned though. For example, specialty restaurants right off of windjammer, promenade, Etc.
Our daughter did the Barbie experience which is a new program, Tbd on value for the cost but she likes it so far . I noticed two camps in terms of adventure ocean usage....those whose kids want to be there and those who don't. For us, being the former, this is a great service that allowed my wife and I to have dinner alone first two nights. At labadee they even watch the kids on the island, but we did not use it.
Labadee was beautiful, the island was designed well, much more to offer than coco quay. White sandy beach with clear blue water and lush mountains in the background. We only spent a couple hours there swimming but it was great.
Thursday was Falmouth Jamaica...weather was not great, even had some rain. This is not a great port with little ones, we did some shopping and went back to the ship, but no close beaches. I do have to say the port is pristine and looks to be recently renovated....once you get beyond the port gates it is more what I would expect.
Friday at sea was nice, weather was sunny with winds, we spent a few hours at the pool. Dinners in Mdr were very good overall, and we often ordered an extra appetizer or main course to split. We also learned you could have your bottle of wine corked for the next night, which is more economical than buying by the glass at dinner each night.
I only showered in cabin once, rather took advantage of the nice amenities at the fitness center....workout, sauna or steam then shower. Much more roomy and towels, lockers, etc.
No need to bring beach towels....that was a waste of space.
We booked eastern Caribbean seven night for next year while sailing.....looking forward to oasis!
Call cruise line and find out what days they'll take kids for lunch dinner etc and plan accordingly