I'm a mom of 4 and love planning events and researching the best deals I can get. So when we decided to take our two boys (8 and 6) and our two teenage girls (13 and 15) on a cruise, I was determined to get our money's worth and milk every ounce of fun out of every minute so that we would arrive home totally exhausted and have a lingering "fun-buzz". Got home last nt....everyone exhausted with smiles still plastered on faces...Mission accomplished!
Royal Caribbean is almost the whole package. We heard from many folks RC is "more regal" than the rest. We are use to the "Disneyfied" cleanliness w/ us being from Orlando and RC has it down pat. They keep this ship so tidy. I'm a neat freak so I really loved this aspect!!
Food- I love food. I'm easy to please and enjoy the finer fare as well as a sloppy burger from a mom and pop shop anywhere. I don't indulge very often but when I do I make sure I get the most out of my splurges. The main dining room is where you will find your best quality of food, including breakfasts. The Windjammer is a quick place to sample a variety of sub par ethnic foods, make a quick salad or get an average burger. If you are looking for good desserts, you better fill up at the Cheesecake Factory before you leave...you won't find anything like mom makes. I got a banana split thinking "they can't mess this up, right?" It was literally a melted scoop of choc. icecream w/ a split banana. That's it. No cherry, no whipped cream, just a split banana laying under some thin watery ice cream. All of the rest of the desserts around the boat had the same fluffy texture. What's with all the fully stuff in clear cups everywhere? Bring some Dove chocolates if you think you might have a chocolate attack. Or maybe if you spend extra money for the specialty restaurants you can get quality treats?
My Time Dining- You have to pay gratuities up front to select this option and I hear it fills up so book this option before you leave if you think you want it. We liked this. We were even able to keep the same waiter and have our own private table each night. Loved it!!! Make sure you call them right when you think you won't make your time you chose. You may lose your table and have to sit somewhere else if you arrive too late.
Shows- We saw "In The Air" Kids liked it a lot. I liked half of the numbers. Some were good, some were "cruse ship style" corny entertainment...oh wait...we were on a cruse ship...lol. Well, then, it was great!
The Adventure Club- This was the bomb for our competitive little guys. Lots of games and activities. Our 6yo. cried when we picked him up the first evening cause he didn't want to leave. Yeah for "Ms. Biscuit!" She was the best!! No worries about security either.
Teen Activities- Teens are hard to please anyways. Especially if they aren't connected to a group. My hope was that they'd meet a few new friends but they really didn't. They said the events were "lame". I suppose that is fine with me since our goal was to build some family unity anyways. :) We did let them wander around the ship until midnight so that was fun in itself. Ice rink was full when they wanted to go so encourage your youth to get there when it opens. I think the girls just liked people watching and stalking the cute guys. :) They primped like it was prom night every night.
Staff- For the most part, the employees were great! Very accommodating and friendly that is until you meet the bar tenders at the pool bar. I think they need to take a cruse themselves and chill out. Consistently they were very rude and uptight. Everyone else was pleasant.
Drinks- Most fruity drinks will cost you $8-$9 each. Very little liquor in them. Beers $4. We will bring our own coozies next time as the beers warmed up quickly, or maybe we should just drink faster. :) We found a bottle of wine at the main dining room for $23 and brought it back to our room. You can do that and they'll even open it for you and give you glasses to take back. (most bottles are $30 and up)
Family Feeling- My hubby and I noticed there was no "college spring break" feel on this cruise. Ahhh... Even the "Best Biceps Contest" for women by the pool was 5 middle aged moms strutting their stuff. lol! (I was one of them...Got the highest votes for my belly dancing! lol!)It was so family friendly. Only one thong was spotted on the whole boat...unless my hubby saw another one and just didn't tell me....hmmm...
Decor-Sort of weird photographers self expression type expo. decor around the boat. Our 8th floor was decorated as a magicians theme. Pictures of Halloween pumpkins and witches, ghosts, magicians etc. lined the halls. Sort of out of place and confusing but not totally in your face. Just enough to freak my girls out. Boys were too short to notice.
Room Service- After our excursion days, we grabbed the phone right when we got in and ordered some munchies to eat while everyone took turns w/ the shower before dinner. (had coffee delivered and some breakfast foods for our early risers in the mornings too before we all headed to main dining room)
Bring an adapter to make more outlets in your space. Had I known the only outlet was under my mirror in the whole cabin I would have even brougt an extension cord just to get the girls out of our room. The primping was like Ms. America behind the scenes...curling irons, flat irons, make up, jewlery all over my desk. Geesh! Adapters also were great for camera and cell phone charging all at once.
Dollar Tree Organizers- Great to keep toothbrushes neatly stored on bathroom sink without being knocked off onto the floor or having to keep multiple over nt. bags in the tight bathroom space. Also used foldable organizers for desk top-stored sunglasses, cameras, sea pass cards...
Self Carry Check out- No hassle. Can keep your luggage with you. Not bad going thru halls or down elevators on way out. The 1st floor was packed like sardines but we only waited for 10 min or so to get out. Not bad.
Would Hire the Luggage Carriers to wheel bags through terminal on our way out next time...our bags were falling over on the turns, boys whinig, girls giving looks...my shoulders are still sore. Would have been worth the $5 or whatever.
Get up early to stake out your chairs by the pool. They say they don't allow it but everyone does it and your hosed if you wait too long. We put our towels from home down and then had brkfst.
Shampoo/Conditioner-bring your own. Its a combo mix in a dispenser they provide.
I.D. for little ones. They don't have I.D. tags for elem. kids in the Adventure club so I made necklaces that the boys wore for the entire trip. Walmart carries lockets in the jewlery making dept. that were pirate themed. I put in our boat info. and emergency numbers just in case we got seperated at any poiont.
Search ebay for Crown and Anchor society coupons. You can save $10 on photos, get a free bingo card or get free pull on some slot machines...etc.
Medicines-Bring anything you think your kids may need. Very expensive on ship and not a lot of selection.
Ft Lauderdale Later Flight Out- We hired "Another U Concierge Service LLC" to pick us up at the port, take us to Hollywood Boardwalk for a few hrs of beach play, and take us to the airport by 2pm. Beats waiting for 5 hrs at the airport for our flight. Best $50 we ever spent! (we all took quick outdoor showers at the beach before we headed to airport) They kept our luggage for us and even found some coupons we could use for lunch. We played in the fountains, rented some chairs, walked to a pizza place...it was a cool spot! Lisa and Bill are the bomb! I checked into FLL airport with my wet bathing suit and cover-up still on...we totally squeezed fun out of every minute we had on this vacation!
I think I covered everything and more. Hope this helps in your planning!! We can't wait for our next family cruise!