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  1. We are a family of 5 (me, my wife, 2 sons (9,6) and daughter (3). We have been on multiple cruises to include Disney, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival at different points in our life. For our makeup as we are now this was an amazing cruise. While the food and decor was not quite up to the Disney standard (it was not far off, and definitely much more return on investment for the price). Embarkation:We arrived the night before and stayed near Houston Hobby airport at the Springhill Suites (we had Marriott points so it was free). The hotel itself was fine, but the area around left to be desired. Our flight home the following week was late at night so we rented a car for the week so that we would be able to explore after debarkation. We drove to Galveston (approximately 45 minutes). This is where I made a mistake: I decided to try to drop the rest of my family off and the baggage then park the car. The line to drive up took a long time with the kiddos being able to see the ship. In hindsight I would have parked and walked with them because we parked at Galveston Park and Cruise which was directly across the street from the terminal (closer to the Carnival ship, but still very close). This would have saved me a lot of "are we there yets". We had prebooked parking and it was extremely easy.We stayed in a Grand Suite so we had expedited boarding and check-in. This was a nice feature. We checked in and punched holes in our Gold Cards (different color due to being in a suite) and attached them to our lanyards that we brought from home. Lanyards were key for our family and we liked that we brought different ones for each of us, but don't fret if you don't bring them they are for sale in the terminal and on the ship. I would recommend them and punching a whole in it to attach it. Note: There was a cold front when we were in Galveston so there was light rain and a high of 59, so we did not do outdoor activities on the first day. I imagine this would have been a good plan as discussed in many other reviews, but not an option for us.Once on we explored the ship a little, and then went with the rest of the masses to the Windjammer Buffet. The food here was definitely tasty. I have read lots of complaints about bland food, but we did not find this to be the case at all. We thoroughly enjoyed the food here and ate multiple lunches, most breakfasts (got room service on two days we had excursions, but more on that later) and one dinner (they had sushi that night). Finding tables in Windjammer especially on the first day was difficult. Luckily since we had our Gold Cards we could eat in either Giovanni's or Chops (depended on the meal and the day) with our plates from the buffet or order of a menu. This was a great and underrated perk of being in a suite. We could always find a table that was quieter, but still enjoy the choices from the buffet. Next we went to sign the kids up at Adventure Ocean (kids club). There are three different levels: Aquanauts (3-5), Explorers (6-8) and Voyagers (9-11). Due to age ranges all my kids were in different groups. This was not an issue for our kids, and they each made friends that they would chat with and hang out in the pool or outside of the kids club as well. **HINT: There were two different areas to check in (Aquanaut and Explorer Rooms). The Explorer room had a ridiculously long line, but the Aquanaut room had no line. There is no real introduction or anything at either room just a form that must be filled out. For Voyagers you can sign for them to sign themselves in and out. We told my oldest that he could not sign himself out, but we signed that authorization so that he could sign himself in. This was a time saver and a few times the other kids didn't want to go to the kids club and he did so he could go by himself to sign himself in. After that we explored the Royal Promenade and made our way to our room. The room was great for us. The balcony had two lounge chairs with a little table, and then two chairs and a large patio table where we ate a few times and enjoyed coffee daily before the kids woke up. Inside the room was a pullout couch where the boys slept and our room steward (Edwin) brought in a rollaway bed that we put beside it for our daughter. Then we had a bed to ourselves on the other side of the room that could be separated by a curtain. We had LOTS of drawers (so many we even had empty drawers even with 5 of us)! We had two sinks in the bathroom and a bathtub which was great for the little ones.We changed for dinner. I put on jeans (like every night except formal night) because it said no short pants and I am a rule follower, but as stated in other reviews outfits ran the gambit and anything goes. We went to our table which was by the window as I had requested and met our waiter Michael and his assistant waiter Joenel. They were both awesome! Great service. Joenel had our drinks waiting for us the next night so we could have our martinis while we read the menu. The food at the dining room was good. Was it the most highend dinner...no, but it was good and if you take into account the number of people that are being cooked for during each sitting it was pretty darn good. Some of the presentation left some to be desired (shrimp cocktail is a bed of lettuce with 3 shrimp laid on it), but the flavors were good. We enjoyed all the meals we had there. My Family Time Dining: We selected the 5:30 seating so that we could utilize the My Family Time dining. I have not seen a good description of this in any of the other reviews so I wanted to explain this process. Starting the second night, you could tell your waiter that your kids were going to the kids club and they would ensure that they got their entire meal including dessert before they had to leave. Pickup was at 6:40 on the 4th deck (middle deck of the 3 levels of the dining room) outside the dining room. At 6:40 you take your kid(s) down to the counselor that was there and they check you in using a tablet then the parent can go back to their meal. We figured out that if we got to dinner around 5:40 this was about the perfect timing to ensure they got all their food, but not too much downtime after their meal before pickup. We also asked Michael to wait on our (DW and my) entrees until we dropped the kids off. This worked really well for us and gave us time to actually enjoy our meal too. If you don't use this pickup option, Adventure opens at 7PM.Adventure Ocean: All three of our kids loved their different areas. For the oldest group they seemed to play a lot of Gaga Ball (dodgeball, but you hit the ball instead of throwing it) and some other games. They were some more structured activities as well including facepainting and other activities. Having all kids enjoy themselves was a key part of us enjoying our vacation as parents. The boys did not enjoy their time at Disney in the kids club as much as they did here. Truth in advertising they were younger, but they all loved this so that is good enough for me.Pools: The pools were well maintained. My kids loved Splashaway Bay the best. It is a jungle gym with lots of spray and buckets and slides. This is right near the ice cream machine as well (my kids frequented this machine A LOT). There was a kid pool that was 2 feet deep, and it was great for my daughter to splash around and play in without a lifevest. There was a bar by all the pools so we frequented the Squeeze (the bar by Splashaway Bay) a lot. We had the drink package and for us we found it extremely beneficial. We definitely got our money worth. The two pools in the main pool area were too deep for my kids to touch, but we had them wear lifejackets that were readily available from Royal Caribbean by the towel stand. The screen here played the Final Four and a few movies, but most of the time it has videos from Chive TV (like youtube). The adult only area was good with two jacuzzis and a pool. This was a little crowded, but it was good overall. As previously stated by people: There is no food available on the pool deck besides ice cream so this was annoying, but not a major issue for us as we understood this limitation. Royal Promenade: There were lots of food choices at the Promenade Cafe (sandwiches, salads and baked goods) and Sorrentos (pizza, antipasto, desserts). The lines were long at Sorrentos, but they went much faster than they looked. There were different drinks at the different bars on the Royal Promenade. Note: Vintages has little to no choices that are covered by the drink package [you only have to pay the difference, but there are lots of other choices elsewhere that are covered]. My wife's favorite drink was at the Hoof and Claw Pub which was a mixed drink including strawberry, liquor and beer. It sounds odd, but it was delicious. Entertainment: We went to In the Air and it was amazing. It was really well done and had you on the edge of your seat at points. This was family friendly and my kids loved it as well. We also went to Encore (the ice show). It was also very good. It was fun and enjoyable and the kids also liked it. We chose to skip Saturday Night Fever as it is not for our kids and there were other activities we wanted to do.Other Activities: We did sports trivia at the Schooner Bar (where I got a great old fashioned and a brandy alexander), and Family Karaoke at On Air bar [where we had amazing service from Roger]. Roger always found us seats and ensured that my daughter had a martini glass full of maraschino cherries. We played mini-golf one day and it was fun. Cupcake Decorating Class: My wife and daughter did this class on one of the sea days. It was $30 per person, but since my wife was helping my daughter and not participating alone they only charge for one person. They had over an hour with the head pastry chef on how to decorate cupcakes and they made 6 cupcakes and were given two extras of different animals and colors. This was "the best $30 we have spent in a long time" according to my wife. Suite Lounge: This was a nice area to get away from the loud crowds. We went in there a few times during the day to play board games and relax with the view. Nightly there was a cocktail period with appetizers from 4:30-8. This was a great nightly routine to go get a drink and snacks (my kids loved the samosas so much they barely ate dinner on of the nights) and shirley temples for the kids. Excursions: We did excursions at Roatan and Cozumel. We chose to stay on the boat in Belize. We wanted to spend on day on the boat when it was in port to enjoy an empty boat. It was great. My kids were able to ride the slides continuously for roughly an hour without any lines. Roatan: We did Big French Key. This was a good excursion. It is a 20 minute bus ride to the boat that takes you to the island. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and we learned a lot about Roatan during the ride. Then it was a 4 minute ride out to the island. there are two different excursions out this way. Big French Key and Little French Key. Big French Key had signifcantly less activities than Little French Key, but seemed more mellow. They share a lagoon so you see the other group. I would recommend water shoes as there were a lot of rocks. Not required because we did not have them, but it would have been nice. The food was included, but drinks were extra. We wanted a relaxing beach day for the kids, and that is what we got with Big French Key but if you want more action Little French Key looked like a better option. Our kids just wanted to chase fish and ride the little zipline so this was great for our family.Cozumel: We went to Nachi Cocom. I had read all the reviews about how great this place was, but it seemed like it was too good to be true. I was wrong. It lived up to all the hype and then some. We got a taxi ($23 each way since we had 5 people) and it took about 15 minutes to get to Nachi Cocom. Upon arrival we had our picture taken, checked in and then were escorted to our Palapa (palm tree that grows big enough to be like an umbrella) and our 3 beach chairs and met our waiter Carlos. We rented a float that could hold all 3 kids for $20. Then we started playing in the ocean. Then the kids wanted to shift to the pool which was fine with us as there was a swim up bar with all drinks included so the kids got to have virgin Pina Coladas and Daiquiris, and we had margaritas. Around 1030 the kitchen opens and you can order off the menu. The food was very tasty and delivered to us at the table we found at the pool by Carlos. It was great. Perfect and relaxing day. They only let in 130 people a day so it is a big spread out area and it felt like even less people than advertised because of this. We paid about $130 for all 5 of us since our daughter was free. This was extremely well worth it, and we will book there again on our next cruise. In conclusion: This was an amazing cruise for us. Where we are in life we could not have asked for a better time or ship. It was large, but small enough to navigate with many options of activities and our room was great for when we wanted to come and relax. We booked again for next spring break this time in an Owner’s Suite and we have another family joining us too! I can’t wait. I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you are on the fence YOLO BOOK IT!
  2. While I am a new Royal Caribbean Blog poster, I have been a quiet voyeur on the page for almost one year! We booked our Spring Break family cruise back in May of 2018 during a Kids Sail Free event. Man, did we score an amazing deal! Oasis Class was not in our price range, but the sale was too good to pass up. We are anxiously awaiting (T minus 12 days) our first family vacation (excluding Disney with the whole extended family 2 years ago). About us: My husband and I are in our mid/late thirties, and we love to travel. We’ve been on vacation together almost once/per year since we started dating almost 13 years ago. We enjoy going to warm, tropical locations (since we live in a frozen-tundra: Minnesota). I cruised with my family when I was in college and absolutely fell in LOVE with cruising, but, ironically, haven’t been on a second cruise until August of 2018. We already had our March 2019 Spring Break booked and, Surprise! My husband earned President’s Club through his work, and we were treated to a 5-night Italian Cruise on Celebrity Reflection (ADP chartered the entire ship- it was an absolutely unbelievable experience). That was my husband’s first time cruising. He is a rather tall/big drink of water, and his hesitation with cruises in the past was the size of the room/bathroom and feeling claustrophobic. He had NO issues on our Presidents Club cruise and really enjoyed the experience (though it will be very different cruising on a 100% booked Mega Ship @ Spring Break). We have a seven-year-old son who will be celebrating his eighth birthday on the second day of the cruise, which he is rather excited about. We also have a five-year-old daughter who is an absolute joy, a social butterfly if there ever was one (don’t be surprised if she befriends you and your children at the pool or Adventure Ocean). We normally do adults-only vacations- when our kids were little it was imperative for us to take time to connect as a couple, and we are blessed with amazing parents who BEG to take their grandkids for the week! During our last AO trip in March 2018, I found myself missing the kids like crazy! They are not babies anymore, much easier to go out and do things with (plus SO MUCH FUN to hang out with), and decided that they are old enough to start taking on our “relaxation” vacations. We know this vacation will be more “work” than AO, and we will have times of stress and chaos, but I know we will have an amazing time as a family. We are flying into Miami on Saturday, March 9th. We booked The Key, so we plan to be at the port as early as possible to board/start enjoying the ship right away! We do not have any specialty dining plans (other than Chops with The Key), and only a beach excursion booked for St. Maarten (Orient and Maho beach). Other than that we plan to hang out as a family by the pool and around the ship, hopefully the kids will enjoy some time at Adventure Ocean, check out the cruise activities (my son is ALMOST heavy enough to try the zip line!) and eat, drink, and play! With The Key, we have internet access so I will try my best to post updates LIVE. If nothing else I will update you all when we get back. What else will there be to do in the remaining frozen months of MN winter (no more Cruise planning/daydreaming…might as well reminisce with pictures/write-ups of our adventures!)
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