Having Fun With Kids and GrandkidsI admit it. When it comes to cruising, I am a snob. I love cruising on the luxury lines…Crystal, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea. But when we decided to take my daughter Elizabeth and grandchildren, Matthew, 11 and Danielle 7, on a cruise this summer, we were more concerned about activities and amenities that would appeal to our kids. After careful consideration, we decided on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas—the largest ship at sea—and a 7-night western Caribbean itinerary. This was the same voyage that Alice Travel had arranged for the Paula Deen family sailing—which presented a big bonus, enabling us to “play” along with all their fun stuff.
All I can say, we had a terrific time — not just the kids, but Irene and me as well. The ship, the staff, the ports…all of it greatly exceeded our expectations.
My suggestion, grab your kids and experience it—great accommodations, fantastic amenities—flow rider, ice rink, miniature golf, climbing wall, aqua shows, zip line, parades—to say nothing of good food and service and quiet time when you want it.
July 19, 2014 – Ft. Lauderdale. Our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale was planned like a military operation. Elizabeth, who lives in Rockville Maryland, flew from Reagan in Washington DC, while we flew from Newark. Elizabeth’s flight arrived 45 minutes before ours in a different terminal. She picked up her luggage and waited for a call from me. We picked up our luggage, hopped in a large cab, picked her and the kids up at her terminal and were on our way to Port Everglades to board the Oasis of the Seas. Check in was a breeze. We boarded the ship immediately, dropped our carry on luggage in our cabins, and went up to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. By the time we finished lunch, our luggage had arrived in our cabins. The kids wanted to go swimming immediately! We changed, went up to the pool deck and cooled off in several of the pools and hot tubs on that deck.
Our families settled in to our spacious connecting verandah cabins. By unlocking the door separating us, we were able to share connecting rooms and verandahs.
The Oasis of the Seas is really huge and the amenities and entertainment possibilities truly mind-boggling. The ship was built in 2009 and is 220,000 tons, and 4 football fields long. 5400 guests are onboard and, while it sounds hard to believe, we never encountered any lines on the ship or had any problems embarking or disembarking. It never felt encumbered by so many guests on board.
We had dinner in the main dining room each night. We signed up for the early seating at 6:00 pm, and had our own table of 5. We generally showed up at 6:30 and finished eating in plenty of time to leave the dining room before the 8:30 seating. Our waiters were beyond great, attentive and patient with the children. The food was surprisingly good with a terrific choices.
July 20, 2014 – at sea – Breakfast was always fun at several different venues on the ship. On days at sea, we ate in the main dining room where there was a choice of a buffet or a la carte dining. Other days we went enjoyed the buffet in the Windjammer Cafe, or found a surprising alternative in the Central Park area of the ship at the Park Café.
We thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon performance of the Broadway show Hairspray. We were completely blown away by the professional quality of the performance … beautifully-staged and energetic. Our grandkids enjoyed it as much as we did.
July 21, 2014 – Labadee, Haiti – Our day was in port at Royal Caribbean’s private island of Labadee, off the coast of Haiti. After an easy disembarkation we joined the Paula Deen group on the beach for the Deen Family Junior and Family Olympics—a series of fun games for children and adults. Chaise lounges and places to stay in the shade were readily available. Our children had reserved time in one of Royal Caribbean’s water parks and were totally thrilled. The buffet barbeque was very great. We swam and lounged before heading back to the ship.Late in the afternoon, we joined the Paula Deen group to decorate crazy hats. More fun. After dinner we attended the Aqua Show — an extremely professional presentation of diving and synchronized swimming.
July 22, 2014 – Falmouth, Jamaica – Before leaving on the cruise, I made arrangements to spend the day at the magnificent Half Moon Resort in Rose Hall, about ½ hour from Falmouth. Elizabeth and Matthew went snorkeling while Irene and Danielle enjoyed the surf. I went on a tour of the property with Arlien Dyer, the sales Manager of Half Moon resort. The 400+ acre property includes lovely beaches, swimming pools, a magnificent golf courses, tennis courts, horse stables, and gorgeous villas. After the tour, we lunched, took out kayaks and paddleboats, and more swimming before heading back to Falmouth and the ship.
July 23, 2014 – at sea – a busy day! Elizabeth, Matthew, and Danielle went skating on the ship’s ice skating rink. Oasis of the Seas presents their spectacular parades on the Royal Promenade several times during the cruise. They feature characters from Dreamworks Productions –– Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. Since the Promenade tends to get crowded, our family settled in at the Diamond Lounge to overlook the action from one floor above.
In the afternoon we joined the Paula Deen group for Paula’s Paint Party. Here the kids and grownups had their own paint supplies including canvas, brushes, paints and smocks. Examples of Matthew and Danielle’s masterpieces are displayed in my photo gallery.
That evening, we attended another one of Royal Caribbean’s fabulous shows … back to the ice rink for Frozen In Time, an ice skating spectacular.July 24, 2014 – Cozumel, Mexico – We decided before we left home to spend the day in Cozumel at Chankanaab Park, a 10-minute taxi ride from the port. It was another great day. While Elizabeth and Matthew went snorkeling, we spent time in the pool and the beach and took in the sea lion show. At the dolphin lagoon, we saw the dolphins playing, swimming and interacting with kids and adults (for a hefty fee.) That night after dinner, we joined the fun and surprises at Paula Deen’s Game Night.
July 25, 2014 – at sea – On this last full day, Danielle said, “I wish it was the first day all over again.” We certainly made the most of the day. Matthew went zip lining for the first time and loved every minute. We joined the Paula Deen group for autograph signings and photos, played miniature golf, watched another aqua show, more ice cream, and ended the afternoon with another Royal Caribbean spectacular show “Come Fly With Me”.
Did I mention that Matthew is a budding magician? He carries a deck of cards with him and thoroughly entertained the dining room staff with his sleight-of-hand card tricks.
July 26, 2014 – Ft. Lauderdale – After a leisurely breakfast, we hopped a cab for the short ride to the airport and uneventful flights home. It was a great vacation and, without any hesitation, I would highly recommend the Oasis of the Seas for a family vacation…it offers comfort, good dining, and fabulous entertainment. Trust me, the adults will enjoy it just as much as the kids.