If cruising doesn't float your boat, don't sink the idea until you learn how to cruise like blondieonboard! Learn how to rock the boat and turn a cruise in your best family vacation EVER!
There are basically two types of cruisers, the all about the boat, buy the cruise family t-shirt, grab a pina colada and head for the conga line people and the people who use the cruise ship as a floating hotel and seek out adventure in destinations. The latter would be me!
With a family of five and growing kids who can easily pack away an adult meal or two, we gave cruising a shot. We could unpack once, my hubby and I had unlimited drinks, my kids have unlimited soft drinks, we had all the food we wanted to eat and could check out a different island everyday! What's not to love?
With five of us, we opted for an aft cabin suite on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of Seas. This was an older boat without all the bells and whistles but we were in it more for the destinations than the boat. Since our port was San Juan, Puerto Rico, we had a couple of days to explore the island before we set sail for St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados!
Before the cruise, I did my own research on each island with a combination of Trip Advisor, Cruise Critic and Get Your Guide. We are all beach people and I learned by searching beach clubs in various destinations, we could have the best of both worlds, a beach for my kids to play on and fabulous food and drinks for mom and dad.
Our first stop, St. Maarten. We grabbed a cab at the port and headed to Kontiki Beach Club on Orient Beach. Our driver was super friendly and pulled over so we could take a picture at the point where the island divides into two countries, the French side and Dutch side. Orient Beach has a reputation for being "the naked beach" but we did not see one topless or naked person. Turquoise blue waters and soft white sand, our kids were in heaven and so were we at the restaurant that served champs and sushi!
When got back on our ship, we showered and headed to dinner. The food on the ship ranged from very good to average. We did learn that you can order a steak at dinner (for a charge) in the main dining room and it's from the speciality steakhouse. One night our youngest son did not like anything on the menu and the waiter asked what he wanted, he said chicken teriyaki and they whipped it up and brought it to him!
The staff on the ship was incredible and everyone worked super hard to make sure you had everything you needed and were happy.
After our after experience on Adventure of the Seas, I do see why people book the bigger ships. There was literally nothing to do after dinner! At the time of this cruise, our kids were 10, 9 and 6 - so being on the younger side, we headed back to our room, they watched a movie and fell asleep, we had a glass of wine on our massive deck and went to sleep as well. With a port everyday, everyone was pretty tired from our adventures!
The next morning we woke up in beautiful St. Kitts. On my own, I booked Dolphin Discovery for me and the kiddies. It was much cheaper than the boat excursion and mine included all of our pictures on a free CD as well. On the boat excursion, people had to pay for their own pictures. We swam with the dolphins at Atlantis but this was completely different because they were in the ocean. We hugged and danced with our dolphins and got pushed and pulled across the water. Kids said best day ever and it wasn't over yet! Our cab driver in St. Kitts hung with us for the day and took us wherever we wanted to go for a very reasonable rate!
After the dolphins, we stopped at the iconic bar Shipwreck for a beer. It's a super cool spot for a drink, not much beach but the kids were hoping for a monkey sighting, we did see a couple! The next stop was Timothy Hill for some pictures, where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. Never in my life would I have expected mountains with hairpin turns and and cliffs hundreds of feet down but it was a nail biting ride to our next destination, Spice Hill.
A beautiful beach looking out to neighbor island Nevis, Spice Hill has amazing food and drinks. Our kids met some local kids and collected various sea creatures and hunted for conch. It was hard to say goodbye to this picturesque spot but our driver arrived right on time and delivered us back to the port.
Our third stop, Antigua. In Antigua, we set out for a day on the water on our private charter, Catch the Cat. Owned by a charming couple, Lushi and Margot, we instantly felt like family as Lushi let our kids drive the catamaran and Margot welcomed us with drinks. Their teenage grand daughter was also helping out. We stopped at some amazing snorkeling spots and saw tons of fish and coral. Lushi taught my older son how to dive for conch and he was soon certified, genuine island conch diver. Margot prepared a delicious lunch of salad and Lushi's secret sauce chicken. It was a fabulous day on the water and I would highly recommend Catch the Cat to anyone visiting Antigua!
The next day was our biggest bummer. Because they were dredging the port in St. Lucia, our cruise ship made a sudden adjustment and stopped in Martinique instead. To make matters worse, it was pouring rain. So with no plan and with no cruise excursions were being offered, we opted to sleep in, order room service and have a lazy day on the boat. Since we were on a smaller boat with not much to do, there wasn't much to do. We put the kids in kids club for a couple of hours and had a couple of drinks at the bar and watched the rain fall with St. Lucia in the distance.
Our final stop, I was very much looking forward to, Barbados! I booked Cooling Runnings, a group catamaran with three stops and lunch. The price was all inclusive including drinks and is free for kids under five. The crew of guys were so much fun and easy on the eyes which made for a super fun day. As we made our way to our first stop, snorkeling with the sea turtles, my 11 year old went to get a Coke and came back with a beer. He told us there was no drinking age on Barbados (correct!) and he was allowed to order a beer (correct!) and asked he could drink it (incorrect!) We let him take a sip and hand it over to dad, crazy the laws in different countries!
We snorkeled with the sea turtles, snorkeled a ship wreck and swam to a sandy beach. We sailed past Rhianna's house and Simon Cowell's house and jumped off the top of the catamaran. As the ship pulled back into the port, everyone was dancing including the crew, we had the best time ever in Barbados, or off the coast of Barbados!
That was our last stop, we had a day at sea and then back to Puerto Rico. As our first family cruise, even my "I can't believe you're dragging me on this cruise" hubby admitted he had a dang good time! In fact so much fun, he said let's book another one!
A special thanks to Sheryl Van Aken at Van Aken Travel - Dream Vacations for booking our cruise and getting us lots of onboard spending $$$.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS
AFT CABIN SUITE
* Loved our destinations, a different island everyday was super fun, especially planning my own days.
* Happy we booked a suite, first on and first off the ship, did not have to wait in the long cattle call lines at port.
* LOVED our Aft Cabin room, the entire back of the ship was our balcony.
* Dining at speciality restaurants was very good
* Not much time on the ship, we prefer destinations instead of days at sea
* Drink package totally worth it
* Kids could eat all the food they wanted (even adult entrees) and had unlimited soft serve ice cream
* A great chance to get family pictures from the cruise ship photographer
* A good value family vacation
* We are kinda food snobs so in my opinion food was very average aside from specialty restaurants
* Pools and slides were very crowded
* Ship was older and smaller so at night there wasn't anything to do
* Kids club was not very impressive, there was really nothing for kids to do
* On a cruise your ports can change at any time and on this cruise we missed out on one of our favorite ports
* Ship can use a good renovation
Looking for a more VIP Cruise Experience - stay tuned for my blog on Norwegian's The Haven, it takes family luxury cruising to a whole new level of luxury! Lobster Eggs Benedict for Breakfast Anyone?
Follow my travels on instagram.com/blondie_on_board/