I took my two boys ages 7 and 11 on their 3rd cruise and my 9th. We went the first week school was out here in Florida and went to Key West, Cozumel and Belize City with a day at sea over the 5 night cruise. I hope I don't bore you with the length. This is best read by referencing the photos I posted in the gallery last week.
Embarkation- We arrived in Port Everglades after staying the night at my sisters in Coral Gables. We were in the parking garage by 11 AM and found ourselves waiting in the large area with quite a few hundred other early birds. As I looked around the room I saw a roped off section just for Platinum and Diamond Crown and Anchor members so we went there and had a seat. There were about 20-30 people here. We were waiting for them to still clear the ship from the previous cruisers. We proceeded to sit on the steps and wait. I had told my kids we would be the first ones on the ship. Well, actually they told us to go ahead and go on upstairs after a few minutes. We were the very first ones onboard. The rest of the cruise I kept annoying my kids by asking, "Who were the first people on the ship?" They would reply, "We were, Dad". We got our sea passes and since we had filled out the info online, it took all of 2 minutes for us to go up the gangway and into the ship. We were onboard by 11:30. We couldn't get to our cabin right away so we went to the Windjammer for some lunch. I had my first beer at the pool bar at precisely 11:45 AM. We arrived wearing our flip flops, swim suits and were ready to be the first ones in the pool.
The ship- What can I say? The ship was beautiful and well laid out. I think the solarium is underused. I actually prefer the wide open pool decks of the Sovereign class. There was only one pool bar but it was always easy to get a drink. The Sovereign had two and the mast bar one deck up. Although there was a bar in the solarium, it was not always open and there was nobody there most of the time. The ship is well maintained and easy to find your way around.
Day 1- The first day was spent playing in the pool, the obligatory muster drill, exploring the ship and trying to scope out the single babes. The sail away party was great fun as always and we went down at 5:30 to get ready for dinner. Traveling with the kids, I opted for the main seating. This is good with kids since you are done by 7 PM or so and they want to go straight to the "kids room". I think it is too early for dinner myself as I would prefer to hang around the pool longer and usually don't eat this early but it seemed the better choice. The first night I drank at least 12 beers and still didn't get lucky. That came later in the cruise.
Our Cabin- As they say in real estate, location, location, location. Now if my budget allowed, it would be nice of course to have a balcony suite. But as a single dad with two kids I had to be realistic. We took an inside cabin on deck 8. This is the highest passenger deck and we were directly under the main pool. We were one door forward of the centrum on the starboard side. This was a great location right near the Crown and Anchor study and in the middle of the ship. As soon as we got into the cabin, I tipped the cabin steward $20 and told him I would give him the rest at the end of the week. I had brought a case of Budweiser (see photo album), 6 bottles of tonic water, 12 bottles of water and some limes. I bought a bottle of Vodka in the shop onboard and took it to my cabin to mix with the tonic and lime. I had also two soft coolers that he kept full of ice for my beer and the waters. They started to leak as the ice melted so I kept them in the shower or on the floor in the bathroom. The cabin had plenty of storage although as three guys, we lived out of our suitcases. I hung up the stuff that needed to be and the rest left in the suitcase until we wore it. I kept a laundry bag in the closet for dirty clothes. There were two singles on the floor I had Noell make into a queen and the kids each had their own bunk bed that came down from the ceiling. We did have towel animals every night to the delight of the kids.
Food- I have seen entire reviews dedicated to food. I eat to live not live to eat. Food is not a hobby. Suffice it to say the food was great, there was plenty of it and we had no complaints. I don't like to eat too much because it takes up room in my stomach reserved for beer. We had prime rib, filet mignon, lobster and shrimp, escargot and it was all good. We ate in the dining room every night for dinner and usually in the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch. The service was great and they brought my little guy a small birthday cake and sang happy birthday to him as he turned 7 on this trip.
Day 2 Key West- We arrived in Key West early and I went to the fitness center for a workout. I had a good workout and then ran a couple miles around the top deck of the ship. This was the last time I set foot in there the rest of the cruise. The facilities were very nice but I prefer the bar. We only had until 2 PM in Key West so we just walked around near the pier, the kids bought a few trinkets and we went back to the ship. I had been there before several times. The kids wanted to go back to the kids' room so I found myself a strategic location by the pool near the water and the bar and proceeded to work on my tan and a bucket of Coronas. I shared another bucket with a single mom I met and her teenage daughter. This was also the day of the famous belly flop competition. I entered and although I have great form and got a lot of air, was not fat enough to be considered the champion. I got another Royal Caribbean hat out of the deal and sat back down. (See photo gallery).
Cruise director- I had never really paid much attention to this before but had heard so much about Matt Baker that I had to see for myself. I introduced myself and as we are both big Austin Powers fan, we hit it off and become buds and hung out. He does a great Austin and I think he really believes he is Austin powers. The shows were fantastic, the quest game a lot of fun as I was captured on the "Cruise in Review" dancing in my Sponge Bob boxers and several other times. It was worth the $30 to get the DVD. My son was in it dressed up like a pirate taking over the ship.
Day 3 Cozumel- I haven't been to Cozumel since 1990 on my ill-fated honeymoon. We had planned to go to Chankanaab Park for the day but got side tracked by a guy handing out flyers to Paradise Beach. The kids wanted to go there since they had an iceberg and a water trampoline as well as kayaks, floats, chairs, umbrellas and a nice bar, showers and restrooms. It seems several of these beaches have popped up and cater to the cruise passengers. It was all free except the Dos XX's (see photo gallery). The cab ride was $12 each way. We bought more trinkets, some Mexican blankets and headed back to the ship. There were 3 Carnival ships, the Celebrity Century, us and one of the Disney ships there that day.
Day 4 Belize City- My 11 year old wanted to stay on the ship in the kids' room so I took the little guy and got a tender to Belize City. We didn't bother with any excursion. We just walked around the shopping area and got a nice hand carved wooden shark and let him get his mom a souvenir that was made in India. There was a nice little water front Tiki bar so we stopped for a beer and a soda and then caught a tender back. This was a smaller one that went very fast. We were got in a huge downpour that left some of us soaked but it was great fun. I spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool and the kids would not leave the kids' room.
Day 5 at sea- the last day was spent at sea. These are my favorite days. Everyone is at the pool having a great time. There was not really a problem I could see as far as reserving chairs. Yes, they filled up around the pool. I came out early and got my usual spot near the bar in the first row of chairs.
Fellow passengers- I met a lot of great people. The highlight was a group of 42 single girls from Central Florida who were a lot of fun and definitely there to party (see photo gallery). I had a lot of fun in the disco and since the kids were in the kids' room until 1 AM (by their choice) I had the cabin to myself in the evenings for entertaining. The Schooner bar is always a good place for after dinner drinks and piano music. The guy there was a riot. He was Phillipino but every time someone came into the room, he said, "Where are you from?" they would say Ohio and he would say, "Ohio? I am from Ohio". There were only about 200 kids onboard in the Adventure Ocean. One of the counselors told me there would be twice as many the next week. There was a girl from Hungary there that remembered us from the Sovereign of the Seas last year. They were all terrific and the kids had a wonderful time. This is one of the reasons I cruise. Royal Caribbean has a great program and a great staff.
In closing- This was a beautiful ship, a great itinerary, great fellow cruisers, the weather was great, I came back with a good tan and good memories, the kids had a great time and I can't think of one thing to complain about. I am already making plans for next May and debating between the Mariner and the Explorer. I am also considering this ship again on the alternate itinerary of Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman with two days at seas. You can email me if you have any questions.
Dave the Wave email@example.com